Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing, its characters or its story line. But I do enjoy writing about them!

Pairings: 2x1
Rating: R
Warnings: It's life so be prepared for a bit of everything.

A/N: Written for the Moments of Rapture Fall 2003 pic for a fic contest. Inspired by a little late night conversation and individual takes on just what brought about the kiss. A super special thanks to Niamh — the best beta an author can have. Kisses and hugs to Pia — for being my support.

Dedicated to my number one fan — Amanda.

Midnight Chocolate
by Merith

I'm not sure exactly what woke me. It could have been the rain, but since I've made quite a habit of waking in the wee-hours of the morning, I doubt the gentle patter would have been the cause. Of course, waking and being aware are two different things, and at that moment, I had no earthly idea where the hell I was.

Using my senses, I started to gather information to help rectify that. From my limited vision, I could see a tangled lump of clothing and what looked like a folding closet door. I was lying on my side with Heero at my back, his arm draped reassuringly over my hip, fingers splayed on my stomach. We had been sleeping on a thick comforter or a sleeping bag, and a single light blanket covered the both of us. The room was dark except for brief flashes of light coming from the naked window, the spring's lightning and rain storm making itself known.

My confusion cleared and my mouth twisted into a grin. The fluttering bundle of nerves resting somewhere under Heero's hand decided it was a good time to show it couldn't sleep either and began to dance merrily. I was in our place, Heero's and mine, and we were spending our first night in it.

We hadn't planned to do so, since we weren't moving for another couple of days — our new furniture wouldn't be delivered until sometime the next afternoon. Shit, we didn't even have our stuff packed at the old place yet. But after signing the paperwork and picking up the keys, we had to stop by the apartment and walk through it one more time.

Heero and I spent most of the afternoon mapping where furniture would be placed and discussing the disposition of every knick-knack, picture, and item we owned. Compromises were made and as the sun began to set, we knew we had to stay. The old place was only minutes away, and Heero rushed back to pack a few items while I went to the corner cafι for sandwiches and pop.

When he walked in, he found me waiting, my hair down and wrapped around my shoulders pooling in my lap. Nude and posed, I'd draped myself over the banister, smirking at him suggestively. Immediately dropping the box he carried, and the duffel bag slung over one shoulder, he kicked the door closed behind him. We made love on the stairs leading to the second level of our apartment as quick and passionate as any we'd ever had, and when we were finished, I could tell by the look in my lover's eyes the fire had only been kindled.

The perishables had been put away, and our dinner left forgotten on the kitchen counter. We made our bed in a hurry, spreading the sleeping bag out on the bedroom floor and used the rest of the night to show how well we knew the other's body.

My grin widened and I gave the arm at my waist a squeeze. Easing out from under him, I started to rise, only to be pulled back by his hand. Murmuring reassurances in a low voice, I was able to release his grip, and stand. Heero had long since adjusted to my nocturnal habit and only offered a token resistance to my rising.

I found my pants by touch and slipped on the cool twill fabric. Feeling the chill in the air, I picked up my shirt as well. Not certain exactly how long I'd be up, I didn't want to risk waking Heero by returning for it. Being the master of stealth during the war had its advantages; I was able to leave the room, and make it to the ground level without causing him to stir again.

Knowing he wouldn't forget, I made my way into the kitchen and began unloading the box on the counter. I found the teakettle immediately and, after filling it, set it on the stove to boil. Pulling out my mug next from the box, I couldn't help but smile. I own only one, and I'd bought it the first morning after I'd moved into my studio apartment. It was a large, plain white earthenware mug you could pick up at any five and dime. Nothing special, but to me it symbolized everything I'd done during the war for, peace and domesticity.

The items packed wouldn't have raised brows, but it did seem an odd collection. The teakettle, my mug, his teas, his cup, a small container of instant coffee, some spoons, a couple of tea towels, a bowl, and my ... wait ... I couldn't find my chocolate. I looked again, but it was nowhere in the box or with the items that had been packed inside. He wouldn't, he couldn't have forgotten my chocolate, could he?

Feeling a bit miffed, and seriously thinking of running to the corner store, I fussed with the items on the counter, looking through them again. Seeing the unopened bag from the cafι still sitting where it had been left, I tossed the ruined sandwiches in the now empty box. My mood was spoiled by not having my chocolate. Heero knew I had to have it when I woke at night — it had become a ritual of sorts; it was one of the only ways to soothe my thoughts and bring me back to where I could sleep. Opening the refrigerator, I wondered what else he'd forgotten; if I was going to the store, I might as well get it all at once.

And there it was, the box containing the little foil envelopes of my favorite brand of hot chocolate. Oops. How the damned stuff had gotten in there, I didn't know. Of course, we were quite a bit distracted while putting things away. Grinning sheepishly at my attitude, I opened a pack and poured its contents into my mug. I gave a silent apology to the one who would never know how close he came to getting an earful, and waited for the water to heat. Fidgeting a little, I looked around the large kitchen before my eyes focused on Heero's tea and my small container of instant coffee.

Shaking my head ruefully, I could almost hear the indulgent tone Heero used when trying to convince me into another brand. Maybe it was a holdover from my youth, but instant coffee, cheap instant coffee, suited me. If I had time before I'd leave in the morning, instant made sure I could have my daily cup without the wait or waste of making a pot. If I didn't have time, a cup from the cafeteria would do - and usually tasted worse than the instant.

Since Heero enjoyed going to coffee houses to sip on his chai and talk with the other former Gundam Pilots, I would tag along and allow him to buy me a cup of whatever gourmet bean struck my fancy. And usually I'd enjoy it. But those infrequent times were treats to my tastebuds, and not a luxury I wanted in my house.

The teakettle began making noises, and I snatched it up before it could whistle. Busying myself making my hot chocolate, I wondered for the hundredth time when, exactly, this midnight ritual had started. I know it was after we'd become lovers once again, after we'd started communicating, but pinning it to a specific date was something I couldn't do.

Why it had started I have my theories about, but they change almost daily. It could have begun as a way for me to slip away from the steady companionship Heero gave, a way to be on my own without leaving him again. It could have been because my confessions to him dredged up memories I would have rather remained buried, and hot chocolate allowed that "inner child" in me a place of comfort to hide from the nightmares.

Of course it also could have been none of those. I might be nuts, and having hot chocolate late at night at least four out of seven in a week is my way of showing it. Blowing on the steaming liquid, I took my first sip in our new house. It had never tasted better, though my tongue begged to differ — being scalded never agreed with it.

I shut off the kitchen lights, and headed to the living room. It was dark, but I was able to see well enough with the scant light coming from the window. Heading for what I called my place, the window ledge was nearly as long I am and its width allowed me enough room to perch on it. I settled back and stared out into the black night.

When Heero first approached me about buying a place, I reluctantly agreed to look with him. I didn't want to move; I felt comfortable where we were. I knew the neighbors and the neighborhood. I knew how long it took Heero to drive home from work. I knew the restaurants, boutiques and bookstores. I had my favorite place to shop four blocks away — well within walking distance, and there was the park we went to at least once a week.

After the fifth place we looked through, he had started to get upset with me; I wasn't cooperating very well, and knew one of our "communication times" would be coming up that night. The realtor didn't seem too happy either, but gathered us together and ushered us off to the last place on the list for that day. I grumbled climbing the three flights of stairs, and I groused that the building was too big and seemed rundown. Heero glared at me and I shut up. At least until the apartment door was opened.

I knew immediately when I walked in, I was home. Immaculate, thoroughly buffed, hardwood floors gleamed in the overhead lighting, and the room radiated warmth and belonging. I think Heero would have kicked me as I exclaimed over it — giving no room for negotiating — if not for his relief at finding something I so obviously fell in love with. The realtor already had the proposal documentation out, and started discussing price. I left that to Heero — he had the money. I explored the apartment, falling in love with each room and envisioning what I would like to have placed where.

In the era before the war, the apartment building had been a warehouse; long abandoned, a developer picked it up for a song, and spent over a year renovating it. It was four stories tall, two apartments on each floor, front and back, and each apartment two-story loft style. We would be this apartment's first, and hopefully only, owners.

My distant gaze narrowed and focused on the window fogging up in front of me. My hot chocolate steamed the pane and with almost childish delight, I drew in its condensation. A simple heart with my lover's name in the middle stared back at me. Exhaling softly, I raised my eyes to the loft's balcony and wondered if he woke enough to miss me. I grinned and took another drink of my chocolate before returning my gaze back out the window.

I guess I understood Heero's need to have our own place; he'd never had a home. Not that I did, but I'd always made do with what I did have, and never looked much beyond it. From the streets to the church to various training facilities to way too many safe houses, I never stayed in one place long enough to consider it home. After the war, during the debriefing period, all the pilots were housed in a dorm, which turned into a residence if a Preventers job was accepted. As soon as we were released, I jetted. I didn't even stay in my studio a year and for the first four or five months after the debriefing period, I stayed in a variety of flophouses and cheap motels — too many years on the move to settle into one place.

Heero's small apartment had been the closest to what I'd call a home as I've ever had. But after three years of living together, it had become quite crowded — neither of us willing to rid ourselves of items collected over the years. I think it had taken Heero seeing me trying to write an important article, laptop perched on my legs with all my research papers spread over the couch, chair and coffee table that convinced him our place was too small. Well, in our new apartment, we planned out office space in the room off the living room. I think the developer meant it to be a den or play room, but Heero discarded that idea and drew a quick sketch of where and how our desks would be set up. He had floor to ceiling bookcases on two walls - which I was certain we'd need, both of us being avid readers.

Yeah, I think I could write in that room.

Looking into my mug I discovered it nearly full. Feeling slightly guilty about not finishing it up and joining Heero in sleep, I took another sip. There's nothing like the flavor of chocolate to brighten anyone's day — or night, in my case.

Stretching slightly while stifling a yawn, I cast my mind back to when I first realized I loved him. I'm sure it was no surprise to anyone it was during the war. I'd like to say it was from the beginning, but I doubt it. If I had loved him from our first meeting, I didn't know it. It wasn't until much later, when I looked up from where I sat on my cell cot expecting to see OZ soldiers coming to execute me and finding Heero pointing a gun at my head instead that I knew. Some part of me believed he cared for me as well; after all, he didn't kill me.

My grin reappeared as I remembered asking him once when he first knew he loved me. He gave me an odd little smile. His response? From day one. Funny thing, that. Since, I remember shooting him the first day we met. The joy of love?

I sipped my chocolate and held its smooth sweet taste in my mouth, letting it soothe me. Closing my eyes, I let my head fall back against the window frame. It's so easy to remember, so easy to recall the first time I told him. The first time we consummated our relationship… Heh.

Our first after-briefing meeting happened about a year or so after the war; I mean the final one, when we were no longer to be Gundam Pilots. The five of us had all gone our separate ways, sort of. At least I did. I'd barely kept in touch with any of them — at least at the start. I didn't want anything to do with the Preventers; I didn't want anything to do with killing or being a soldier. The God of Death had officially retired. I had wanted to pretend to be normal for awhile, and being around the other pilots, I couldn't forget who and what I was; I had been.

I had heard through various rumors and talk, Heero and Wu Fei did join the Preventers and became some sort of space police. Quatre and Trowa disappeared for awhile, though I did receive a card from them letting me know they were together and seemed to be enjoying life. Quatre even called on occasion, inviting me to visit. I never went; I still wasn't ready to face myself.

Telling Heero my feelings in a hole-in-the-wall luncheonette was about the last place I would have thought I'd do it, but events happened faster than I thought possible. After the war, I'd joined a salvage and demolitions crew, and we had a job in the neighborhood. I was part of the "Gang Bang" team: explosive demolition and controlled destruction. We'd set up the job and had only stopped to grab a sandwich before blowing the building. It had been a normal day, and nothing hinted at what it would hold for me. Lunch finished, the team was on the way out when I spotted him.

I guess at the time I knew he was with other people, but they didn't seem to be there; I only had eyes for him. Seeing him again, I knew in trying to hide from my feelings I had only delayed the inevitable, and I couldn't go back. I had to let him know.

As if nothing else existed but Heero, I ignored my own team as they called my name, my sight narrowed to only see him; my feet moved on their own, heading in his direction. He didn't notice me until I stopped in front of him and I saw his eyes widen and his mouth open. Before he could say a word, I told him, simply, and without embellishment. He sat stunned, the shock clearly written on his face that even I could read it. What made me kiss him, I still don't know. Maybe I thought I'd never live to see another day or at least see him again, and this would be my one and only opportunity.

Breaking away from that kiss was the hardest thing I had to do, but I heard my teammates calling, and I suddenly remembered exactly whom I'd just confessed my love to, making it worse by following it up with a kiss. Pivoting on my toes, I sprinted for the exit, nearly catching my braid in the door in my hurry to close it.

Once outside, I had been about to climb into the back of the truck when a pair of strong hands clamped themselves on my shoulders, forcing me to turn around. It was Heero.

He never said a word, but he didn't have to. His lips descended upon mine, and all thought flew from my head. The kiss could have lasted as little as a second or as long as an hour, I didn't know, but it was bliss, and I didn't want it to end. He broke it that time, and backed away, giving me a rare smile and a nod. Jumping into the truck and taking a seat, I watched him as we drove off and turned a corner, lost in my own world where his lips kissed mine repeatedly.

That night, it didn't surprise me to find Heero at the door to my studio. He told me later he had been with others on some undercover operation and the target was getting suspicious. Wu Fei had been his partner and couldn't act the part of his lover to save either of their lives. My declaration and kiss had been enough to set the investigation in the right direction and assuage the doubts by providing a reason for the discord between the two of them.

Before Heero came into my life, the term "fuck like bunnies" was just that, a nonsensical phrase people used to be funny. Afterwards, Heero and I lived to prove that term as truth. In the first few months we were together, we didn't really speak to one another; our time together was limited to the bedroom or the couch or the shower — once even on the stove. Sex seemed to consume us, the need to touch and taste each other overriding almost everything else in our lives. Food became secondary, something to be gobbled between bouts of erogenous activity. Jobs were regulated to the necessary evil between the fucks. Friends became non-existent; friends became worried.

Heero and I weren't worried. We had each other, and not a day went by that I didn't tell him I loved him. Each time the words left my lips, his were glued to them — his kisses leaving me giddy with desire and need.

We'd been together about eight months before I first realized how tired I was; stretched and thin, like too little butter over too much toast. I felt brittle and fragile, the least little thing would set me off. And the funny part about it all, I didn't know why. I had what I wanted. Heero and I were living together, I had a job — if very little money, I was in love and felt wanted. If all was so perfect, why did it feel like a strong gust of wind would blow it all away?

And then one day, it happened. It was just one of those things. I drove to work like normal and had drifted off, not really paying attention to my surroundings, letting thoughts of Heero and me run rampant in my mind. Suddenly, I realized I'd passed my exit, and hot on the heels of that discovery was the fact I didn't care. I kept driving with no clue of a destination, just an overwhelming need to leave, to get out of there.

I didn't go back to the apartment, I didn't stop by the bank to clear out my savings; I drove. Some part of my mind knew that he would track me down, he would follow and bring me back, and I knew if he did, I wouldn't resist; I'd be trapped. I sold my car to a dealer a couple hundred miles west of the city and hitched rides for a time. I never really stayed in one place long enough to get to know anyone; I was always moving. When the money ran out, I picked up scut jobs — a dishwasher here, a day laborer there. Flop houses and dark alleys became my way of life again; once a street rat, always a street rat.

Getting tired of the dirt in the city, I took all the money I had saved and bought a bus ticket west — as far west as it would take me. Interestingly enough, I landed in Nevada, from the dirty cities to a cesspool of sin and vice.

Not in Las Vegas long, I was recruited to work with a road maintenance crew and found myself a calling of sorts. Often exhausting, the back breaking labor out in the heat and sun all day offered me a sense of peace, a tranquility I never realized I had been missing.

By the time I joined the road crew, I'd been away nearly three months, and hadn't been in touch with any of my friends, hadn't contacted Heero at all. I didn't dare give thought to any of them, and stifled the longing I felt for him — that act becoming second nature after so many days and nights of active repetition. I guess that's why when the thought to call hit me, it nearly brought me to my knees, and when I followed through with the act, I couldn't speak.

Almost a month into my new calling, I'd become content, almost happy in what I was doing and where I was. Granted, life was hard, there was virtually no money involved, but my basic needs were taken care of — the crew had a place to sleep and two meals a day as part of the job. It almost felt like I was back in the war years, back during the safe house days. I'd come to look upon most members of the crew as friends of sorts, never letting any get too close, but close enough that I knew them on the surface.

The day it happened, I'd been assigned as flagman. It was a job I hated; standing in the sun all day with nothing to do but think and thinking had been something I actively sought to avoid. Somewhere around mid-morning, I discovered a payphone on the other side of the highway from where I stood. So, for the rest of the morning, I couldn't take my eyes off that damned phone. With it prominently displayed before me, I couldn't help thinking of making that long overdue call.

Shame took over and I spent the next hour studiously avoiding looking in that direction. How could I even think he'd ever want to hear from me again? Want to see me? I'd left him without a word, not even a goodbye. He probably thought I was dead and had long since moved on. I'd continued to talk myself out of doing anything over lunch, and squashed the niggling ideas as they developed to find out if he'd at least changed his number.

It came as a complete surprise to me when my late afternoon relief came to give me a break, I headed straight for the phone. Without pause, I dialed his number and plugged in the required coinage for the long distance call. Standing there waiting, waiting for him to pick up, for someone to tell me I'd dialed the wrong number, to hear a mechanical voice inform me it was no longer in service; I nearly panicked and hung up. When he answered, his voice sounded clear over the line, and I almost turned to see if he stood behind me.

After a couple of seconds of silence, he whispered my name. His voice was near reverent, nearly breaking on that one word. I must have made a sound, though I said nothing, for he began speaking. He begged me to return to him. Begged. Heero. Me? I couldn't believe it and looked at the phone. His words struck a poignant chord, and I found myself running down the highway, heading east.

Later, Heero told me when my break relief spotted me running, he assumed I'd heard bad news and sent the foreman to the phone to find out what was going on — I'd dropped the receiver, and Heero had still been talking.

It took me three days of constant travel to make it back. In a combination of walking, hitching rides and taking a bus or two, I didn't stop long enough to rest, and only grabbing bites to eat when it was set in front of me. To anyone who asked, I simply said I was going home. Sleep was fitful at best; too many thoughts, too many feelings I tried to sort through kept me from dropping too far down.

Early morning on the fourth day found me in front of his apartment building disheveled, dirty, hungry, tired, and apprehensive. I must have stared at the front entrance for at least twenty or thirty minutes before he came out. He leaned against the door just watching me with a sad little smile on his lips before he asked if I planned to stay there all day or come in.

Neither of us said much as he made me breakfast, the first true meal I'd eaten in several days. Looking at me critically, he asked if I preferred a shower or a nap, and laughed as the yawn I gave in reply nearly split my head in two. And slept I did; I was out for almost two solid days. I remember waking up to Heero bringing me something to drink and little bites to eat, but mostly he let me sleep. I have the impression he laid next to me and held me, talking to me while he did so. I recalled his lips on my skin, light and gentle, not enough to wake me. But then, it could have been a dream.

Finally rested, I woke to find him sitting close by, watching me. His eyes were dark and expressionless as they had always been; his lips held that gentle sad smile more at home on Quatre than the Perfect Soldier. I suddenly became self-conscious of my appearance and how I smelled; I couldn't look at him any more. He offered the use of his shower and set out clean clothes for me to wear - my old sweats from before I'd left.

Clean and feeling human, I joined him in the living room, wondering what would happen next. I didn't have long to wait. It seemed that Heero had been thinking on us, him and me, from even before I'd walked. He could see the strain our relationship had on me, but wasn't sure why or what to do about it. So, he waited.

When I left, he did as I thought he would and pulled all manner of strings and favors to hunt me down. When the Preventers discovered I was alive and making these decisions under my own free will, they closed the missing person's report. Having located me, Heero didn't stop there, but hired a private investigator to keep an eye on me. I never knew and the PI kept him informed on what was happening. Heero'd said he didn't want to push me into coming home, but couldn't let me put myself into harm's way. He was willing to give me the time I needed to want to come home — to return to him.

During the time I was gone, Heero had come to the conclusion we had based our entire relationship on the physical, and neglected every other aspect of our being together. As I sat staring at him, my heart wanted to break knowing what I'd put him through and I was afraid it would break before he finished speaking. He offered me a place in his life, as a friend, as a companion, but not a lover. At least not for awhile. He told me we had to learn to communicate with one another, and we couldn't if we never came up for air.

Who would ever have thought that I would have problems talking? But communication is hard work, and it took us a long time to arrive at a point where we both could understand each other to some degree. I can only shudder at what it cost him to open himself up to me; I know what it cost me, and after each confession of the soul I would retreat for a time, and he would let me. But we did it, and one day, a few weeks after my arrival he surprised me with a kiss.

Our lovemaking had changed after that; while still passionate and wonderful, it wasn't the all-driving, all-powerful need that consumed us before. Many times as we reached culmination, I would find tears in my eyes with the overwhelming emotions he evoked in me. And as our bodies cooled, he'd hold me and tell me how much he loved me. It came as a shock the first time, because it had been the first time he'd said it. I'd always assumed he told me before, but he hadn't.

Looking back, I guess it made sense as to why I felt so stretched. I had been giving him my everything, my whole existence, and felt the only return I received was his physical love. Unwilling to face the possible fact the one person I trusted my heart to might not love me, I did what I always did - I ran.

He never asked, and I didn't really tell him much of my time away. There wasn't a lot to tell - just a handful of odd jobs and squalid places to crash when the point of exhaustion would take over. I've caught him watching me at times, and could almost hear the unasked questions — did I ever take another lover? And if I had, did I ever miss him? I don't know why I've never reassured him on that part.

I'll admit, I did try more than once to take a lover. Call it desperation. Call it self-destruction. Call it need. Call it whatever you want, but I couldn't follow through with any of them. I even allowed one guy — the last one — to hit me. Full of frustration, he'd knocked me around and called me a tease. I threw him out of my room after he drew blood. After that, I gave up seeking physical release with another; I knew then I was Heero's and would always remain so.

The rain picked up and beat a rapid tattoo against the window. Leaning forward, I flipped the lock and slid the pane open, letting the cold damp air blow across my face. I stuck my hand out and felt the hard intensity of the drops drive into my palm. Looking out, I watched as the sand-colored bricks of the building across the street darken absorbing the rain. I noticed the air smelled cleaner, fresher than the streets had a right to.

Raising my eyes to the cloud studded sky, I watched as the drops fell, realizing they washed the grit, the grime and the dirt from an old, soiled city.

Thoughts unbidden, thoughts I usually tried to banish during my chocolate time, surfaced.

Who would wash away my dirt? Who would wash away the grime hidden so deep in my heart this gentle rain couldn't reach? Who would wash away the blood on my hands? The blood on my soul?

I lowered my head and blinked at the tears that threatened. I felt it then, the loneliness buried deep and the despondency nothing and no one, not even Heero, could touch. As if to keep those beasts at bay, I brought my mug up, hand shaking, and gulped deeply at my now cool chocolate, willing it to relax the tension I could feel hanging onto the edges of my awareness, ready to pounce yet again.

As always on the heels of those thoughts, I played the what if game. What if I'd never become a Gundam Pilot? Would the war still be raging on? Would I be who I was now? Would I know Heero or would I be destine to a live a life without knowing the greatest joy I could have had? Would I still have had the guilt I carried? Would the church have remained untouched?

Clamping a hard censor on those questions, I refused to delve further into them. I cursed under my breath, and not for the first time, for taking that fuckin' philosophy course last semester. Ever since, my thoughts wound up in circles, like the proverbial dog chasing his proverbial tail; I never seemed to find answers and only gave myself headaches.

Try as I might, I'd never been able to work my way through even the simplest of philosophical ideologies. Heero says it's because I think with my feelings whereas logic and critical thinking need a firm foundation to stand. On the surface, it looks whole and stable, but thinking with emotions causes the framework to crumple when compared with logic.

I usually give up and allow him to lead me down various paths of logical thinking. It's not that I'm an idiot, I've never thought that about myself. Sure I've done stupid things, but they were mistakes made as rash action or without thorough thought, not because I lacked intelligence.

Philosophy wasn't the hardest course I'd taken, but it was the one that caused me the most frustration. I excelled in the maths and, strangely enough, literature became a passion of mine. And out of this passion, my need to write spawned.

Taking another drink from my mug, I thought back to the first round of classes I'd taken and chuckled softly into the chocolate. I was so lost and nearly gave up during that first week. Heero had been so proud of me, and had given me the encouragement to continue. He might know, but I'm not so sure he realized how close I did become to running again. It was only the thought of how hurt he'd be that kept me there, kept me plugging away as overwhelmed as I was.

Enrolling at the university had been his idea. After returning from Nevada, I wanted to go back to work, but he'd asked me to wait for a bit, wait until things settled between us. I still had some money left in the bank and thought I could afford a couple of months before I had to earn an income.

He'd smile indulgently at me when I'd offer to pay for anything, when I'd give him money for living expenses. He'd take it, but always he'd tell me to stop, that I didn't need to. After we'd first gotten together, Heero'd left the Preventers and worked as a system consultant for one of the larger corporations in the city. In less than a year, he and two others left the company and started their own business. Between the three of them, they made a whole hell of a lot of money — more than I knew I'd ever see in many a year of hard work.

Granted, he waited until all of us pilots received the rectification from the World Government Council. It had been a fair chunk of money — a peace offering of sorts for the loss of our childhood, the loss of our innocence. Oh, and for saving the world — twice.

Wu Fei, of course, invested most of his money. He bought a house, and seriously courted a lady he knew. They planned to marry during the summer, so life is working out for him.

Quatre refused his recompense, and I believe Trowa helped a few friends with his. I've often wondered if he has the same problems as I did reconciling himself to not being equal in a financial sense with his partner. If he did, he never showed any sign of it.

Heero used his money as part of his portion investing in his company. I think he's already seen a return on that investment and then some. But I never ask him about financial matters. At least, not his financial matters.

Me? Well, I did the typical Duo Maxwell thing — I blew it. Heh... no, not on anything frivolous and foolish. I bought a place and had it fixed up for an orphanage - one Father Maxwell would have been proud of. Of course, I didn't have a dime to spare afterwards, but to me it was worth it. The orphans and who they represented were the reasons I fought in the war, they were why I received the blood money in the first place.

Having set himself up in a lucrative business, and in his way to help me, Heero's proposal was to support me, send me to the university to study whatever I wanted. We talked about it a lot — since that was during our "learning to communicate" phase. I knew I had a lot of skills, most of which weren't needed in the peacetime world — not unless I wanted to join the Preventers, which I didn't. I could go back to being an E & D man, but that wasn't really what I wanted either. In fact, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be. I'd never thought about it before.

I knew Heero was right, that I needed an education and I needed to find what I really wanted to do with my life. But it rankled.

Becoming dependant upon anyone wasn't ever one of my goals in life. Making myself as independent as possible was the only thing clear in my thoughts. In the end, we compromised. He asked me to try it for a year — give as much attention and enthusiasm as I had my missions during the war. If after that year I wasn't happy, he'd let me drop out, no questions, no hard feelings, no repercussions, and I could find a job of my choice — he wouldn't say a thing.

I should have known better. He always bets the sure thing. After the first semester I was hooked. I couldn't get enough and soaked up any and all forms of education I could stand. Learning had become an obsession and even while on school breaks, I hounded our friends to show and teach me everything they knew. All the while, Heero watched with a knowing grin. Asshole. He knew me better than I knew myself.

As far as the household goes, it's not like I didn't contribute. Oh, not in a monetary sense, I wised up to that fairly quickly. Like I said, I wouldn't be seeing the kind of money Heero made for quite some time to come, and any two-bit job I'd be able to hold down while going to school wouldn't have bought our week's worth of groceries. But I learned to cook. And I did the laundry and ironing. Though after scorching the third one of Heero's shirts, he kissed me softly, thanked me for the effort, and took his shirts to the cleaners. I was still a slob, letting things lay where they fell. It wasn't because I didn't clean — I just couldn't be bothered to pick the shit up — I had too many books to devour, too many papers to write.

Our relationship took on a strange twist about that time as well. I spent a lot, and I do mean a lot, of time at the university, studying, going to classes and attending lectures. I'd become so absorbed in the joy of learning, I sort of forgot there was someone waiting for me at home. Several times over those first few months, I'd come rushing back to the apartment well after proper dinner hours and find Heero sitting in his chair, laptop up and running, writing some report or pouring over code. He would obviously be waiting for me, and quite often he'd have my meal ready, keeping it warm in the oven. He never said anything, but always encouraged me, applauding my enthusiasm.

It wasn't until I spotted him at one of the lectures I'd attended that I realized he was trying to fit into the life I'd created for myself in a student's world. To this day I have no clue what the lecturer spoke on; my eyes never left Heero's face as he watched and listened intently to what was said. That night I confronted him at home, opening those communication lines we fought so hard to establish, and demanded he tell me when I became so fucking obsessive I've cut him out of my life. Watching his face was rather entertaining — a real battle on which emotion would win. He ended up laughing before pulling me into a hug so tight I thought he'd cracked a few ribs.

After that, I cut back on the number of classes I was taking, and limited the hours I spent at the university. A good number of the lectures I signed up for Heero also had an interest — so we went together. I was still immersed up to my neck in schoolwork, but he became more a part of it. Life became a flurry of debates, researching ideas together, and many days found us curled around one another, me with a textbook and he with his laptop working on his latest project.

Pulling myself back from my musing trip, I frowned into my mug. What was with the chocolate tonight? I think I've covered my entire life as it stood, and still had nearly half a cup left. I took a sip and grimaced. Cold hot chocolate isn't exactly desirable, and I briefly wondered whether I'd be able to find sleep if I dumped out what remained in my mug. I discarded that idea even as it formed; it wasn't an option.

I couldn't help the shiver that ran down my spine, and took another sip. Superstitions. I never thought I'd fall into the category of a believer. I mean, the number thirteen as being unlucky or black cats and all that shit is plain stupid. But — well, there were things I did believe in.

My midnight chocolate ritual was one of them. For whatever reason I was made to wake and the only way I could get back to sleep outside of medicinal means was to drink my mug of cocoa. I hesitated to confess to anyone that I believed if I didn't follow the ritual, something bad would happen.

Life has been good lately, very good for both Heero and me. We ...found each other, and have settled into a routine that's not a routine in being together. If events continued as they were going, I could see us still here in this apartment when neither of us had any hair or teeth. I couldn't help the grin imagining that picture.

Heero had grown accustom to my nighttime activity, but he didn't like it. I believe it frustrates him to think there is something that bothers me and he can't fix it. I know it stems from his feelings for me, but I didn't want him to fix it. He knows so much about me, knows a lot more about who I am and how I am than anyone, and at times, even myself. A guy has to have one place, one piece of his life to call all his own, right?

Yeah, I know. What a sick place. Exhaling softly, I rolled my head to the side to look out upon the cityscape again. The rain had lightened up, and fell softly, almost lulling.

Our friends, both his and mine with the possible exception of Quatre, all thought he was the dominate one in our relationship, and I guess from the outside looking in, it would appear so. After all, he made the money; I kept house. He "advised" me on what to do; I did it. But we knew, Heero and I, there was no dominance, there was no submission. We were equals, true partners, both willing to give and accept what we had for one another. And, fuck yeah, we argued, a lot — sometimes without words.

One of those silent arguments brought a lot of change to how we were perceived by others. It had been maybe five months ago or so when a paper I'd written on peacetime war efforts had been published in the university paper. I'd given my permission with a laugh, never believing anyone would be serious about reading it, let alone what happened afterwards.

The university paper is sent to various alumni all over the galaxy, and my article had been read by quite a number of people. As a tax write off, a national news agency printed the university's paper, and, as one of their perks for doing so, they had the option to pick up a story they deem of quality. They chose mine. That damned article circulated and was reprinted all over the fuckin' world and the colonies.

Not long after, I'd received no less than five job offers — three I dismissed out of hand. One was to write a weekly column for the city's largest newspaper. I thought long and hard about it before telling them no. I would have loved to have been able to, but with my class load, I knew that keeping that tight a deadline constantly would cause me to produce crap, and I wasn't going to do that. The last offer, I accepted.

It was a sweet little gig for a college student wanting to get into writing. An international monthly magazine was looking into creating a new feature offering two distinct viewpoints — a point and counterpoint spread. They'd approached me and asked for other writings that I'd done, mostly ones involving opinion based in fact. Not truly believing they were serious, I provided five or six of my best argument essays, and left it at that. Their job offer came as a complete surprise, but looked to be exactly what I wanted and needed.

The job was simply to write my opinion citing fact on a topic of their choice. The article had to contain no less than one thousand words, no more than fifteen hundred. Once completed, I would send it to the editor on soft-copy. The editor would send my counterpoint's article to me soft-copy, and I would rip it apart from my viewpoint. Of course that meant my counterpoint would be ripping my article a new one as well. It sounded like too much fun to be paid for doing it, and I couldn't contain my excitement.

Heero was livid. He demanded I quit immediately, tell them I'd changed my mind and wouldn't do it. I refused outright and we had the worst argument we'd never had. I couldn't believe he wasn't excited with me, that he didn't share my happiness. He kept telling me it would interfere with my classes, that I would let them slide. I told him that was my business and he needed to keep out of it. Needless to say, we didn't speak to one another for a couple of days.

I didn't tell him until much later that after accepting the job offer, I'd gone to see my counselor and we reworked my class load to allow me the time I'd need to complete my article assignment schedule. It meant I wouldn't be graduating early like I originally wanted, but I felt this opportunity was too important to pass up.

I wasn't able to remain angry with Heero for too long; I really wanted him to share my excitement. On that second day of silence, I skipped a couple of classes, and went home early. With breakneck speed, I had the house whipped into shape, cleaning and picking up everything I'd been too busy to do before. I shopped and worked, nearly slaving to make Heero's favorite meal — well, his favorite of my meals. His favorite still had to do with raw fish, and I couldn't make myself do that.

When he came home that night, I met him at the door and put a finger to his lips, imploring him not to speak. He let me led him to the bedroom, where I stripped off his clothing and then in to the bathroom, where I bathed him. I'd never done that before, and I could see he enjoyed it — a lot. I dried him off, not saying a word and led him back to the bedroom where I had laid out his tank and sweats.

We sat side by side at dinner, feeding one another from our plates. Sometimes messy, even a little disgusting, food was exchanged with our kisses, sauce covered fingers were sucked clean, and clothing removed before dinner was finished. And not once was an intelligible word spoken.

In the afterglow of our love making, I finally spoke. Rolling up on one arm, I stroked his face with my fingers. I told him softly of my love for him, and how that would never change no matter what. And I told him of my resolve to do what I had set out to do — write for that magazine.

He told me of his concerns that I was taking too much on, that something would give and he didn't want it to be me, or us. I nearly wept seeing the naked fear in his eyes and spent several minutes showing him that would never happen.

Communication. It can be a beautiful thing — it's also a bitch with a bite. That night it was a beauty, full of soft lights and glowing illumination. I compromised in the end to assuage his fears. I told him I'd give it three months, and if it proved to be too much, I'd quit. He still didn't like it, but promised he wouldn't say another negative thought about my decision. Before the night ended, we loved again, sweet and tender, neither taking dominance but both submitting one to the other.

Heero kept his promise, though I could see it cost him to keep silent. The magazine had sent me six months of topics each labeled by which month the article would appear in. At first I panicked, wondering what the fuck I thought I was doing. I almost let it overwhelm me and that was hard to hide from Heero. Quatre came to my rescue by making an impromptu visit, and since I was able to, I blew off a day's worth of classes to be with my friend. Heero and his partners were locked in a business proposal, and he couldn't take any time away.

The former desert pilot had always been easy to talk with, though I'd never divulged those secrets in my soul only shared with Heero. Quat knew me well enough that I was able to tell him of the recent discordant events between us. While he didn't have any advice other than to keep reassuring Heero I wasn't going anywhere, and I wasn't going to allow life to interfere with us again, he was able to help me plan a course of action.

He had me rate the topics on how much I knew of each, and write up note cards on what I knew. He showed me a way to research the separate topics to gain the maximum amount of knowledge before I had to write the article. It's funny how having a plan of action always calms me down and allows me to function. What Quat showed me wasn't something I hadn't known; I did it all the time with my class assignments. I had let events and my own doubts overwhelm me, and I felt I couldn't go to Heero for help.

The first article wasn't due for over a month, and that gave me enough time to adjust to my new schedule fitting in the topic research plan. My late night studying at the university became non-existent; I joined a daytime study group instead. Twice a week, I'd rise before Heero to attend an early morning class whereas previously all my classes up to then never started before nine.

I also took great care in maintaining the apartment. I found a few great quick fix meals and tried them out. If Heero knew they all took less than thirty-minutes to prepare, he never said anything. As a natural progression of my going from studying ten or twenty different subjects at one time to studying one or two, the clutter seemed to disappear, or at least became less ...cluttered. If Heero noticed this side effect, he didn't speak of it.

Often he'd come home to find me surfing the net, my note cards spread out on the table or my nose buried in any one of a dozen books or magazines. He'd give me a kiss, like always, and go to change. I'd clean up my research work, and finish prepping dinner. We'd spend the rest of the night watching the vid, or going to a movie. It felt so strange to not be able to talk about my project with him. He'd always been there for me, poking holes in my theories, offering counterpoints to my ideas. And now there was silence. By the time the article was published, I thought I'd crack under that stress.

To tell the truth, I'd forgotten the exact date the article was supposed to go to print. I had been so busy doing my research, my schoolwork, and keeping up with day to day life, I didn't give it any thought. So, it was a great surprise to come home from my last class of the day to find Heero waiting for me.

Without saying a word, he embraced me and held on tight. Though he didn't cry, I could see tears in his eyes and his voice trembled as he apologized for not being there. He showed me the magazine with the page turned to my article, and praised my work. To celebrate, we went out to dinner and spent the night reaffirming our love for each other. Hell, we even called in sick the following day — complete bed rest, ya know.

What's funny is, though the article had gone to print and had been met with great success, Heero proceeded to poke holes in my theories, and question my facts — like he should have from the start.

After that, Heero shared my interest, my excitement, and we slipped back into our comfortable existence of researching and debating ideas long into the night. Though he'd often tell me he didn't understand why I felt I needed to write now, and why I couldn't wait until I graduated — after all, it was only another year at the rate I had been going. Thinking on how much I'd changed from just a couple of years prior, I tried to explain that the ideas in my head now, I might not have in another couple of years. If I didn't give those ideas a voice, they'd be lost and never recovered. I don't know if that made sense to him, but he accepted it.

It came as a shock a week or so later to find my first paycheck mixed in the mail. I held it for a long time, unopened. In the back of my mind, I knew I was getting paid to write, but up until that point, I had always written for myself or as an assignment. After opening the envelope, I sat at the table and stared at the check, my thoughts scattered and unable to focus. What the hell was I going to do with it?

For over two years, I hadn't had money of my own. I mean, money I earned for myself. My acceptance into the university and student life lead to the reconciliation I was completely dependent financially on Heero. He had opened a joint bank account in which all household expenses were paid. He also had me open my own account, for personal expenses. I was given a monthly allowance to use as I wanted or needed. He never asked what I did with it or how I spent the money.

At first I had to continually remind myself of how much money he did make, and how the allowance, though generous, was only a drop in the bucket of his monthly income. It chaffed that I couldn't contribute on a financial scale. Hell, it grated that I couldn't even afford a frickin' cup of coffee without Heero's help. From the start, I'd only use the allowance money for things I absolutely needed and tried to make do without as I'd always had. I would pack a lunch or skip meals if I forgot; I even trimmed my own bangs to save on going to the barber. If he knew what I was doing, Heero'd never said anything.

What finally caused me to use his money as my own was a business party he and his partners held for their clients — significant others were suppose to come. I had nothing to wear. I'd never needed to really dress up before; slacks and a nice shirt or a sweater had been the extent of my "going out" wardrobe. I couldn't not go — it would hurt Heero too much, and I couldn't go dressed in my club clothes — that would only embarrass the both of us.

Quat arrived in an unexpected rare visit without Trowa. How he knew I needed him, I didn't know, and he never said. He and I spent a couple of days going to several stores, and I listened to him for hours as he explained the different types of clothing items I could choose from for semi and formal settings. He helped me select a couple of nice suits as well as a tux. Fuck me! A tux? If my old "Gang Bang" team could see me, they'd laugh their asses off. It wasn't just the outerwear he helped with; Quatre insisted I purchase new underwear, t-shirts, socks and shoes. As I paid for each item, I shook with a nervousness I never knew existed.

In the end it was the shirt that did it; it made me lose the anxiety I had been harboring over spending his money. After five or so shops we'd been in looking for just the right dress shirts to go with one of the suits I'd already purchased, we were on our way out when I spotted it. I could picture Heero so vividly in it; I had to get it for him. It had been quite expensive, but I didn't care. I shelled out the cash without batting an eyelash.

The thought crossed my mind that I was giving him back his own money, but at that moment I had an epiphany of sorts. It might have started as his money, but we were together, we were partners and we were sharing everything in our lives. While I enjoyed attending classes and university life, I could have just as easily gone to work, and yeah, I wouldn't have earned as much as he did, but it would have been my own money. He knew that, and spent a lot of time telling me to only worry about school — to let him take care of everything else. It was important to him that I went to school that I found my true calling as well as myself.

So, I relaxed and let it happen. I stopped worrying about spending his money, about what I was costing him, and started accepting our life together as a partnership. Oh, and the shirt matched his eyes as I thought it would. Too bad he rarely gets to wear it out — for some reason each time he puts it on, we get distracted and forget what we're dressing up for.

Heero found me sitting at the table still staring at that damn check, my thoughts still jumbled hours later in the darkening apartment. Taking a seat next to me, he asked what my plans were with it, what thoughts were running around in my head. I think it scared him as much as it did me — that I was now getting paid to do what I enjoyed most, and I could be on my way to financial independence. I don't know if I wanted it, that responsibility. I found I rather liked not having to worry about money, knowing things in my life were being taken care of without my input. I didn't have an answer for him, and he let me alone to think about it.

The check sat on our table for a week before I finally handed it to him. I told him I didn't want things to change, and whatever I made was his. I think it surprised him; he wasn't expecting that answer. So I went on to tell him what I wanted to do with my life — that I wanted to write. It really wasn't a shock. I'm sure most everyone who knew me realized it over a year ago when the passion hit me. But telling Heero how I needed him to back me up, and how I relied upon him to take care of things for me I knew I couldn't, like food and shelter, relieved the hidden anxiety in us both.

He'd never said anything, but I had the idea that he was afraid that once I started making my own money, I'd no longer need him. It troubles me to know that I caused those doubts and insecurities in him. Since I ran once, he has been harboring the fear I would run from him again. I wasn't sure how I could appease those feelings. Hell, I wasn't so sure I wouldn't run again, if another situation came up I couldn't handle. If I couldn't assure myself, how could I assure him?

A writer's life was hard, and it could take years to get established enough to earn a decent living. I wanted my writing to have an impact in people's lives; I wasn't out to entertain or become the most well known or popular writer. I wanted to write on events, both past and present, and expound theories of what the future would hold. The nature of this type of writing held little monetary gain, unless I was willing to sell out and write not for myself, but for an agenda. I couldn't prostitute my work. I realized in order to achieve my dream, my goal, I needed Heero and his support — financial, emotional, and intellectual.

There had only been three of those checks before we'd found the apartment, and as each arrived, I would give it to him without a word. What he did with them, I never asked, and he never said. My monthly allowance remained the same, and that was more than all right with me.

Catching a raindrop on my finger, I brought it to my lips and rubbed its wetness on their dry surface. Closing my eyes, I thought of the words he'd spoken this evening, words that caused my breathing to accelerate with the rush of emotion I experienced. A sound almost too soft to be heard caught my attention and my eyes flew open. Raising my head, I saw him, Heero, standing at the loft balcony watching me. He gave me a brief smile.

"Long night?" his question was soft.

I nodded and returned his smile with one of my own. Faintly I wondered why he was there. I guess I'd been up far longer than I normally was; I know it felt like it, but I hadn't been paying attention to the passing of time. He had most likely awoken and waited for me to come to bed, rising only when it didn't happen within the usual time frame.

"I can leave you alone, if you'd like," his offer floated hesitantly down.

Shaking my head, I told him, "No. It's alright." I looked into my mug and gave him a rueful smile. "I'm nearly finished."

He nodded and started to turn. Stopping himself, he looked back down at me. "Can I — join you?"

I couldn't help the grin that spread across my face. My head moving, I said with a little chuckle, "Oh yeah, baby. Always."

Heero wasted no time flying down the stairs. I noted he was also dressed, if barefooted, and I wondered how long he'd been standing there watching me. He'd long since stopped trying to join me during my nighttime excursions. It wasn't that I didn't want him with me, but I didn't want to talk; I only wanted to drink my chocolate and think. After a few too many sleepless nights, he'd began leaving me to myself to work through whatever it was that troubled me.

By the time he reached me, I'd started to rise, but he knelt on the window seat before me, and held my face with his hands, just staring at me. Leaning forward, he brought his lips down on mine, soft and tender at first, deepening into a heated passion without a sexual connotation attached. He was showing me the depth of his love in that kiss. My hand stole up to his neck, and I pulled him closer, answering his kiss with my own feelings. Breaking apart, we could only stare at one another, breathing hard, emotions running high between us.

He stroked my cheek and gave me a quick kiss before nodding at my mug. "You almost done?"

Without looking, I nodded. Scooting forward, I indicated the spot at my back. "Join me for a minute, love?"

His smile could have lit the room; he settled in behind me, wrapping his arms about my waist. I leaned back against his chest, enjoying the warmth of his embrace, of his closeness. Hiding my smile in taking another drink, I couldn't help but notice he'd braced his foot against the opened frame, his leg effectively providing a barrier between me and the open window.

Security, warmth and love, that's what Heero offered me. I nuzzled my cheek to his chest, recalling his words from earlier. Though some part of me knew there wouldn't be life without Heero, when he asked me to marry him, I couldn't respond. Shock, maybe? I don't know. It was one of those things with me — something desired that I couldn't dwell on. Afraid if I gave into it, it would no longer be. My reaction was pretty similar to the time Heero had tried to talk to me about what he wanted done when he died. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to think about it.

It was important to him, to make sure I knew what he wanted done, what his plans were, and what his will contained. I actually left him mid-sentence and locked myself in the bathroom, running the shower and sink faucet to drown out his words, and to hide the whimpers I couldn't help but make. As odd as it sounds for the one who delivered death daily and lived only by skill and luck during the war, the God of Death was now terrified of it. My own death, I didn't fear, but losing what I had and living through that pain, frightened me as nothing else had. As if he understood, Heero let it be for a time, but when an old co-worker was killed in a fatal accident, he insisted I knew.

I wouldn't call it running away, but, well, it was — sort of. I'd put off discussing what he wanted using the need to concentrate on my studies as an excuse. We made a date to go over his plans that weekend. I skipped my afternoon classes on Friday and flew out to Quatre's. Though I knew he'd be pissed regardless, I left him a note telling him where I was, and when I'd be back.

Rescuing me from my mental dilemmas was becoming a habit of Quat's, one he seemed to enjoy. He understood my fears, as irrational as they seemed even to my own ears, and worked with me most of that first night to overcome the emotional overload I was experiencing just thinking of Heero dead. He offered me a viable solution to meet both Heero's needs and mine. He would serve as our executor in the case either of us was to ...well, fuck, I couldn't even think of it. Quat made all the arrangements Saturday morning while I slept off my emotional exhaustion.

In the afternoon, he introduced me to his lawyer and showed me the set up. It was a vidcam and authentication documents corresponding to its recorded disc. His lawyer led me through what I needed to do to make a living will, what I needed to say and cover. We signed the document, and after making a couple of copies, the lawyer left with the original viddisc and signed documents. Quat put one set in an envelope, sealed it, and wrote my name on it with the date. He showed me where his safe was, and left it there. I had a matching envelope with copies of the documents and disc in my possession. After it was sealed, I never looked at it again.

Heero met me at the transport station that Sunday night. He held me tight, kissed my lips, and helped me carry my bag to the car. Not a word passed between us about my trip. I think Quat had something to do with that. After unpacking my bag, I held the envelope as if it were going to contaminate me, and thrust it out to him, tacitly asking him not to ask. He took it, and never said where or what he did with it.

A week or so later, he had a business trip to L4, and told me he would be staying the night with Quatre and Trowa. I nodded, and didn't think much of it until the night following his return when I spotted the same type of envelope I'd handed him sticking out of his business case. Heero saw my face pale and zipped up the pouch, stowing the bag out of sight. His only comment had been to let Quatre take care of it when the time came. I never learned what his final wishes were, and if the Lord be willing, I never would.

His hand glided over my shirtsleeve, soothing and comforting, as the quiet settled between us. I was surprised my mug held no more chocolate — it had seemed to be bottomless tonight. Maybe I should have told him the ritual was completed, and that we could go to bed. But I didn't. I felt myself being lulled, sitting there in his embrace and warmth, with the sound of his heart beating under my ear and the gentle patter of the rain outside the opened window.

My irrational fear at committing ourselves to each other, making it official would somehow mar the perfection of what we did have. I didn't want to lose it; I didn't want anything to come between us — ever. It lay along the same lines as my fear in thinking about Heero dying, if I thought it, it would happen. In this case, if I committed, it would be taken from me. This time, though, I knew I couldn't run off to Quatre and have him take care of it. This fear was all my own and I would have to work my way through it. But, I knew I wouldn't be doing it alone.

"Yes," I announced sleepily in the quiet.

Heero tensed against my back and his hand stilled on my arm. "Yes?" he asked carefully.

I nodded, snuggling deeper into his embrace. "Yes," my lids started to droop, and I could feel sleep stealing the last of my awareness even as I added, "I'll need you there, love. I can't do it on my own."

The last things I felt, before sleep claimed me, were his lips brushing my temple and his arms tightening about me.

* * * * * * * * * *

The dark haired man tilted his head slightly, watching his lover's face. A soft smile hesitated at his lips seeing his eyes close. Inside, his heart burst in a kaleidoscope of emotions, and he wanted to shout out the open window about the new burgeoning set of feelings he held for the man in his arms. Not wanting to disturb his lover's sleep, he called upon the discarded training of his youth, willing the trembling in his limbs to steady, and not let it show.

Taking the empty mug from slack fingers, he set it carefully aside, knowing without being told how precious it had become to the longhaired man. Giving the top of his head a kiss, he turned his gaze out the window, into the night, and watched it rain as the sky slowly lightened.


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