Disclaimer: not mine

Pairing: Heero and Duo
Warnings: yaoi, strong angst, first person pov

Author Notes: Written for the [ yaoi_challenge ], this fic had some specific criteria requested. I do hope it meets the requirements!

Request: Heero=Duo: Heero and Duo adjust to work with the Preventers and life in normal society after the war. [Note: Bonus points if you research combat veterans and write accordingly.] Requested by [ millyfan ]

Staring at the Sun
by Merith

I remember the sky had been so blue, cloudless, like a perfect summer day. The sun was bright; shining down on the street as it would have done over some idyllic park. I remembered thinking no one should have to die on such a beautiful day. It should have been raining or overcast. But then, nothing was ever as it should be.

"Are you alright?" Heero repeated, kneeling next to me on the sidewalk. "Were you hit?"

My head felt so heavy rolling to look at him, my neck too weak to hold it up. I blinked a couple of times trying to bring him into focus. He was staring at me with the skin at the corners of his eyes crinkled like he does when he's worried about something. Looking back at the sky, I answered him.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

He was quiet for a moment, and I almost forgot he was there. Through the denim of my jeans, a pebble or some sort of debris bit through the material, the bricks at my back snagged and pulled at my hair.

"Are you sure?"

His voice was like I'd never heard it before, and I made the effort to look at him again. I nodded and turned up the corners of my mouth. See? I'm fine.

His thumb brushed my cheek as he told me, "I've never seen you cry before."

I opened my mouth to tell him off, that I don't cry, but I had felt it when he touched me. My fingers came away wet and I stared at them. "I was looking at the sun. That's all."

"Okay." His hand squeezed my shoulder before dropping to my other hand. "I'm going to have to take your weapon, Duo."

Again I blinked at him. It didn't make sense why he'd want my gun. He had his own. A tug had me looking at my hand. It was braced on one of my bent knees, my gun held loosely in its grip. Only Heero had it now, releasing the clip and ejecting a bullet from the chamber. Both of these he slipped into his pocket. He watched me as he tucked the unloaded gun into his waistband at his back.

Tilting my head upward, I sighed. It'd been a bad morning.

"Duo," Heero was talking again, but the sun was so bright. "I'm going to have to ask you some questions. Do you want to do them here or back at the office?"

I didn't answer. A jet or shuttlecraft was flying overhead, cutting a whitewash trail through the patch of blue.

"…four people dead, three others injured and you're telling me he can't tell you what the hell happened?"

"Would you rather the body count to have been higher – including Duo?" that was Heero.

The angry voices continued to yell from the commander's office, as they had been for the past ten minutes or so. But other than a word or two here and there, I had tuned them out. I hadn't noticed the different colors in the carpet before.

"Duo." Heero again. I raised my head to look at him, and he waved me toward him. "The commander would like to talk to you for a minute, okay?"

As I stood up and crossed the floor, I knew where I'd heard that same tone before – I used it myself in working with trauma victims. I almost stopped but was in the commander's office before I could think of a reason why it should bother me. Heero closed the door and guided me to a seat.

The commander was looking down at the preliminary reports of the scene. After the first glance, I didn't want to see what was written on them. I'd been there; I knew. My eyes were drawn to the window behind him. The sun was still shining and I remembered how warm it'd felt on my face.

It was my shivering that drew the commander's attention. His eyes looked so old, gray and weathered. If it had been Une, or he had been in his position longer, I wouldn't be here. But it wasn't and I was.

"Maxwell," he began. His voice was rather stern, briefly reminding me of a headmaster disciplining a wayward student. "Your actions need to be accounted for. Do you have any other information to add before the case is handed over to IA?"

The sun was bright in my eyes again, and even though I kept blinking, they stung. "No…" I was able to tell him. I heard a sigh, but wasn't sure if it was the commander, or Heero, or even me.

"As of now, you are suspended, pending further investigation."

"Sir!" Heero yelled, jumping up from his seat and leaning over the man's desk.

"Sit down," he commanded, pointing to the chair. "I am aware of your objections, Yuy, but the facts remain. There are two dead civilians, a dead uniform and our dead suspect who happens to be a child!"

"Hardly a child! He was fifteen and we all know what fifteen years can do." Heero continued to protest.

The wood grain in the commander's desk was shot through with black highlights. I wondered how the manufacturer was able to do that, how it looked real, but not. A touch on my arm had me looking up again. Heero was frowning, but his eyes were still crinkled on the edges.

"I'll take you home now, Duo," he said, waiting for me to get up and move.

I looked at the commander, thinking that I missed something there. The gray look around his eyes had extended downward, adding to the pallor of his cheeks.

"See that he gets checked out, Yuy." It surprised me how… kind he sounded.

"Come on, Duo." Heero had a hold of my arm and was pulling up on it, assisting me to stand. I started to shake him off, not needing his help, but it didn't seem worth the effort.

We were at my apartment; Heero told me he'd stay for a bit to keep me company. The vid was on, its sound oddly muffled like I had a bad summer cold. I was lying on the couch, watching fictional people enact everyday life situations, and their voices were so far away. Nothing touched me.

"Here." Heero stood next to me, a paper tissue in hand. "The sun's in your eyes again." He placed a glass of water and a couple of pills on the table next to me, nudged my legs over and perched on the edge of the couch. "You ready to talk about it now?" His voice was soft and comfortable.

I wiped at the moisture leaking from my eyes, and sat up, drawing my knees close. "Nothing to talk about," I mumbled resting my chin on my hand.

"Then what happened?" Heero wasn't touching me, but he was close enough I could feel how warm it would be.

Scenes from the morning flashed, and I closed my eyes.

"I entered the residence at approximately ten-fifteen." It'd been an ordinary house a couple of blocks from a business area. Mowed front yard, little white picketed fence and with flower boxes even. "An unidentified adult female lay in the entry hall shot with what appeared to be a large caliber handgun." Her eyes were so green; her expression so shocked. She hadn't been wearing shoes, and one of her socks had a hole in the toe.

"I heard shots being fired in the back and started toward it. A uniform officer was laying between the hall and living room, his gun still holstered." I couldn't stop the shudder. The cop had been scalped, and the wall behind him was covered in blood, hair and brain matter. "He'd also been shot with a large caliber weapon." The screams, they just wouldn't stop.

"At the threshold of an open bedroom door, I could see another gunshot victim – adult male, early to mid-twenties, black hair... blue eyes." I looked at Heero, and he nodded, confirming my statement. The man had a tattoo on his shoulder, a dragon without colored ink.

"The other officer was down, injured. He indicated the perpetrator was in the kitchen and had hostages." The old man looked a bit like Howard, and I remembered wondering what he was still doing on a beat. But the screaming hadn't stopped.

"The perp was in the kitchen, holding a child with a weapon to her head. He demanded free passage out." They were at the door, and the little girl was crying. Her hair was in pigtails held up with big-balled elastic; one side was blue and the other pink. "He threw her at me, and slammed the door behind him. I gave chase.

"Entering the business district, I yelled for the suspect to stop, yelled a warning. But he kept running." Heero pressed the glass into my hand and I took a drink of water. "He fired on a civilian who walked into his path at the wrong time and was aiming for another." Shoppers were drawn to the doorways of shops from the shouts and sirens.

"I gave warning, and demanded he drop his weapon when he turned on me. I fired." I stopped talking. There was nothing further to the story Heero was interested in, other than making sure the perp was dead, kicking his gun away. I'd been right, though. A Kaufman sixty-five was about as large a handgun a person could get.

Heero touched my hand, drawing me back from the memory. "You did your job. You did …"

"Heero, it was Devon," I interrupted him. I couldn't hold his gaze, and let my eyes drift.

"I know." He squeezed my shoulder and stood. "You did what you had to do."

His words were meant to reassure. I understood what he was attempting; maybe after some sleep I'd feel better about it. I started to stretch back out on the couch.

"Here," Heero was saying, handing me the pills he'd brought. "Doc said to get some rest."

That's right. We'd stopped at the infirmary after seeing the commander. And Doc said I was good to go, just a mild case of shock. I didn't want to take the drugs, but I was too tired to argue. Heero took back the glass as soon as I swallowed.

"It's getting late." He jerked his head at the window. It was dark and I wondered where the sun had gone. "Go to bed, Duo."

For a minute, I thought about disobeying his order. I yawned instead and followed Heero to the door. Rocking on my heels, my arms crossed over my stomach, I looked at Heero. "Uh... thanks." I didn't know what else to tell him.

He only nodded and gave me a hint of a smile. "I'll call you tomorrow." Opening the door, he added, "Now go get some sleep."

Easy for him to say.

The smell of colony dirt was thick in my nostrils fighting for dominance with the oil, fuel, and my own sweat. Hilde appeared at the office doorway, a plastic bottle in hand and I stopped sorting through the stack I was working through.

"It's time you took a break," she said handing me the cold bottle. She brushed the dust from the sawhorse table and leaned against it.

"Thanks, Hil." I chugged half the contents without stopping, and then wiped at the sweat on my forehead. "Hot out today." I took position next to her on the table and bumped her shoulder. "Was that Jordan I saw earlier?"

Hilde always had color in her cheeks, but that shade of scarlet was particular to teasing her about a certain fellow. "Yes, it was." She sniffed at my laugh. "For your information he was here to see about a ship..." A loud rumble jolted us from the table and she stopped suddenly.

I whirled, reaching for a gun I couldn't find only to remember Heero had taken it. Even though I knew a handgun would never stand up to a mobile suit, I still wanted mine, and cursed Heero. The MS leaned over the scrap yard's wooden fence and I stepped in front of Hilde, demanding to know what the hell it was doing there.

Instead of answering, its pilot raised an arm, pointing its weapon at us. I yelled for Hilde to run and got ready to dodge bullets, to find something to disable the damn thing.

Suddenly, I was at the controls of Deathscythe; I didn't stop to think on how I'd gotten there. Raising the beam scythe high, I crowed a triumphant yell as though I were fifteen again and brought it down in a sweeping path. I was about to show some two-bit rookie how it was done.

The beam ripped through Hilde, slicing her in two. Screaming, I pounded on the controls. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. She wasn't supposed to be there. Hilde's eyes were wide with shock and betrayal.


The scream jolted me awake, and I sat up gasping for breath, looking around my room wildly for any hint of danger. And then the shakes set in. I'd killed Hilde. Stuck in a perpetual loop, the images continued to play and replay in my head; the scythe gliding through her body; the knowledge dawning in her expression – knowing she was going to die and who her killer was; seeing her fall to the ground in a pool of blood.

I had to talk with her, had to make certain she was all right. Her number was queued and dialing before I gave it more thought. She was going to kill me – it was just past two her time.

"Duo Maxwell! You had better have a..." her sleepy tirade broke off.

She was alive. I couldn't stop myself from touching the vid screen. I hadn't killed her.

"Duo?" her tone was puzzled, thick with sleep. I watched her brush her hair back, blink several times and peer at the screen. Her expression changed immediately, and she sat up on the edge of her bed alert. "Is everything all right?" she demanded.

Nodding, I touched the screen again. "You're alive," I croaked.

"What's wrong?" she asked sharply, worry lending volume to her voice. I shook my head, not able to speak. "Forget I asked," she said and then announced, "I can catch the three-thirty and be there by breakfast, and then you're going to spill."

"You don't have to..." Hilde cut me off with a stiff hand in the air.

"I'll be there. Just try to get some sleep, Duo." The screen went blank, and I laid there staring at it for some time.

Hilde arrived about the time I drifted off to sleep again. She pounded on the door when the ringing bell wasn't answered immediately. I had to hand it to her though, the moment I let her in, she didn't say a word but embraced me for all she was worth. And then she set to work.

My small kitchen was suddenly filled with the sounds of her cooking. As she made coffee, toast and flipped omelets, she caught me up on the latest in colony news, gossip and the actual state of things. She told me about the business, and the contract so new the ink hadn't dried. Sitting at the table listening to her talk, the irrational feeling that everything would be okay settled. Hilde was here.

We ate in near silence and I couldn't help touching her, the vestiges of the dream still sharp and heavy. I knew she watched me, knew my reticence and actions were alarming her, but I didn't want to think of what had happened. I didn't want to remember my dream. I didn't want to talk about anything.

"You look really tired, Duo," Hilde was saying, breakfast as finished as it was going to be. "Why don't you go back to bed for awhile. I'll clean up in here, and make myself at home." She flashed a smile. "I do know my way around."

I knew I should have protested, I should have at least helped in cleaning up. I nodded instead and shuffled for the bedroom. Halfway there, the vid phone rang and I stopped, uncertain.

"I'll get it and take a message," Hilde called from the kitchen. "You get some sleep."

Closing the bedroom door, I heard her say Heero's name. He said he'd call. Reliable, that was my old partner. Lying down, I noticed the line was still opened and wondered what kind of message Heero would leave. But then, they'd been friends too.

It was dark in the old warehouse but I didn't need a lot of light to finish the job. Sweat beaded on my brow and I swiped at it with the back of my gloved hand. Just one more to set up, and the job would be complete. Rigged to trigger when the first vehicle was started, I'd be long gone before the explosions began.

A scuffling noise alerted me to another's presence. I wanted it to be a mouse, a stray cat even a guard dog, but knew I wasn't that lucky. In a rush, I clamped off the last of the wires, and positioned the charge to the engine block. A quick scan from underneath the truck, I didn't see signs of anyone near.

Inching my way out, I debated leaving my pack. But if the pack was found, my work would have been for naught; the days of planning, the hours spent waiting hidden in a storage box, and the effort of wiring the fleet of transport trucks wasted. I lifted the canvas bag slowly, holding my breath and straining my ears for the least bit of sound. With a bare whisper of noise and lightest of touches, I wrapped my jacket around tools and equipment left in the pack.

I had to find who was in the warehouse and wait it out. Opening the exit door meant failure without securing the area. I kept a low profile making my way to a dark corner; I could stay hidden by sticking close to the vehicles and heavy equipment housed in the warehouse. Minutes dragged as I stopped every few steps to gauge distance and listen for movement.

The press of cool steel to the back of my head startled me out of my enforced silence. A hand shoved me up against a truck hood, the gun kept me stilled. Divested of my pack and gun, I was spun around. The soldier cursed and pushed. The fender edge dug into my back, and I calculated how to take him out.

"You're just a fucking kid!" He punctuated his words with another shove, and I launched myself at him, grabbing for his wrist to knock the gun away.

We grappled, but my weight and the surprise had him sliding back. His weapon dropped and skidded; the guard made a move for it, groping along the floor. I hooked his ankle and he went down, crashing to the cement slab. Bending swiftly, I reached for my knife. It wasn't there. The guard started to rise, his fingers touching his weapon. No time left.

His skin was surprisingly soft under my hands. I moved my thumbs along his neck, seeking just the right spots to snap his windpipe; his fingernails dug into my arms. Ready to give the final blow, a familiar scent made me pause. Lilac in the springtime.


The darkness cleared. Hilde lay under me, my hands at her throat. Her nails still biting into my arms, she stared at me, pleading silently. Throwing myself off of her, off the bed, I bounced against the wall and slid to the floor. Oh God... I buried my face in my hands. I'd almost killed my best friend.

Through the pounding blood rushing in my ears, I heard her coughing, trying to speak. Arms circled my shoulders, and she held me.

She wouldn't let me take her to get checked out, said that there were only a couple of bruises, and she'd be fine. But each time she spoke, I was reminded how close I'd come. I'd never associated harsh and raspy with Hilde's voice before.

The rest of the morning and a big chunk of the afternoon she slept. In the past during her visits, one or the other of us would crash on the couch, or tumble together in my bed like a two-pup litter. Normally we were never in my small one-bedroom long enough for sleeping arrangements to matter, and privacy was never an issue.

I sat in the farthest corner of my apartment from the bedroom, watching the street below, waiting for her to wake. The details of the mission dream still played about in my mind. I'd never had one similar; I rarely had a mission outside my gundam, and wasn't sure how that scenario came about. In the nearly five years of being a preventer, there had been a small handful of stealth and infiltration assignments, but none involved explosives and none resulted in anyone's death.

So, why had I dreamed of killing Hilde, and almost succeeded?

The nightmare of killing her with Deathscythe had at least some grain of truth behind it. Events similar had happened. I rubbed at my forehead and cursed my luck for being in the wrong place. That ...kid had been no older than the five of us. His actions were labeled as a terrorist. I didn't like the comparison.

"Duo," Hilde croaked in her broken voice from the bedroom doorway.

"Hilde." I stood, almost went to her and stopped. The bruises were livid and dark against her space-paled skin. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, but held my elbows instead. "H–how are you feeling?"

She scrunched up her face, her hand scratched at her hair. "Better. Throat's a bit sore, but it'll be okay." She still wore the clothes she'd traveled in; her shirt had creases that would never iron out.

I looked away from her and out the window. "Maybe you should go home."

"Bullshit." Her footsteps were loud on the carpet. I didn't turn around, but almost flinched when she circled my waist with her arms and rested her head on my back. "You need me here now, even if it scares you."

Holding her arms tight, I leaned my head back on her shoulder. I wasn't sure if I needed her, but the familiar feel of her was comforting. She gave me a tight squeeze and a quick kiss on the cheek.

"How 'bout we see about some dinner?"

Until she mentioned it, food had held no appeal. At the thought, my stomach gurgled and Hilde chuckled softly in my ear. "I guess that answers your question." I released her hands, stepped away, and turned around to face her.

A narrow shaft of light cut a swatch across the lower half of her face, over her neck and part of her chest and left shoulder. I raised a finger and outlined the colorful array. Her hands cupped my face, forcing me to look at her.

"Stop it, Duo," she demanded. "It wasn't your fault. I know better than to try and wake you from a dream like that." Hilde leaned her forehead into mine. "If anyone is at fault, it should be me. I knew you were under a lot of stress and..."

"And you were half asleep when you walked in the door." I closed my eyes and exhaled softly. "If I'm not allowed to take any blame for nearly separating your head from your neck, then you can't either." It was childish, and didn't make me feel better, but I hoped it would her.

Hilde gave me a light kiss. "Deal."

"How long can you stay?" I asked her in the soft glow from the bedroom window.

Hilde rolled over to face me and ran a hand down my arm. "I'd like to stay for as long as you need me, but I should leave in a couple of days." She stared at me in the dark, her lower lip between her teeth. "If we hadn't gotten that contract, I could stay. But we're going to be short staffed for awhile as it is."

"It's okay," I told her and turned over on my back. "I–I've been suspended."

She sighed audibly. "I know." I looked at her. "Heero told me."

"Oh," I said, gazing back at the ceiling. "He tell you why?" I hoped he had.

"Some of it. The basics." I felt her shrug under the covers. "He told me to find out more from you. That you needed to talk to someone." I shuddered and started to turn my back to her. She grabbed my arm. "I'm not going to ask, and I'm not going to force you to." She let go and settled back to her side of the bed. "I know you'll say something when you're ready and not before."

I nodded, and stared at the ceiling. Hilde's hand found mine, and she threaded her fingers with my fingers. "I don't know what to tell you," I half whispered. "I don't know what Heero wants me to say."

"It's okay, Duo." She shifted and her foot touched my shin; the fuzzy cotton of her sock tickled the hairs on my leg. "Just tell me what you want. Whatever comes to mind."

Sometimes, on a clear night, the moonlight would shine through the part in the curtains over the window and pick the mica flakes out of the stucco on the ceiling. I'd lay there and imagine I was looking at a bank of stars, pinpoints of light millions of miles away.

"I knew him, Hil. He used to come to the center to play b-ball with the gang." The kid could have been a professional one day, he was that good. Hilde squeezed my hand but didn't say anything. I blinked several times and made a pass at my eyes. I must have needed more sleep, they were watering enough. "I... I could have been him."

"No. No Duo." Hilde slid closer and leaned up on an elbow. "You never once shot someone who didn't need to be. You gave your enemy the opportunity to walk away." A warm, wet drop landed on my cheek.

"Shit, Hilde." My teeth clamped together. She pulled on my hand and stroked my leg with her sock again. "I don't want to talk about it any more."

"All right." Her voice became tight and controlled. I knew she wanted me to talk about it, to tell her more, but I also knew she wasn't going to push me. "Good night, Duo."

"Night." I squeezed her hand back, and waited the night out.

Heero arrived at nine-thirty; my IA review was at ten. Hilde had offered to go, to hang out and wait for us, but Heero discouraged it. No matter how she tried to hide the bruises behind make-up and a well-placed scarf, they still showed. He hinted that if one of the members from the review panel were to catch sight of her, it might color their decision.

Waiting outside the conference room set aside for the review, I paced. Three steps to the left of Heero, and six right; his words had meant to reassure, but the entire ride in, he went over what was expected, and what questions were likely to be asked. I wanted to say it was the emphasis on informal he made that set me to pacing. If it was so informal, then why was Heero making a production out of it?

I caught sight of Noin walking with two others I knew vaguely. Heero got to his feet and it was then I understood she'd be on the panel. Maybe things wouldn't be so bad after all. Noin was fair, and she knew me. Just before she entered the room trailing her counterparts, she gave me a slight smile and a nod.

Heero touched my arm and gestured toward the door; we were up. He didn't have to be there, but he explained that being the senior agent on the scene, as well as my friend, he couldn't not be there. I was more than happy with his support.

At the long table in the middle of the room, five preventers in uniform sat, most flipping through papers in the folder in front of them. Two I knew – Noin and a director by the last name of Terry. He'd headed up one of longer undercover assignments I played a role in. The man in the middle seemed to be in charge of the dog and pony show, and though he looked familiar, I couldn't place him. One other I knew by sight but not name or position and the last I had no frickin' clue.

The middle man looked up from his reading. "Agent Maxwell, Yuy," he said. "Have a seat and we'll begin." His nod indicated a couple of chairs opposite the panel.

I stifled the childish impulse to take a different seat than the one pointed out. Heero sat in the chair to my left instead of my right, and the ringleader flashed him an annoyed look.

"Agent Maxwell," he began tapping the small stack of papers back into a straight pile. "I am Investigator Doyle." He went on to introduce the other members of the panel; none really stuck other than those I knew already. His neatly aligned paper pile he put back into a folder.

"I will advise you that this is an informal review. One only to gain more information in making the best recommendation on how to proceed in your case." He peered at me over the top of his glasses, and I was left wondering what case. "Nothing short of an admission of guilt will be held against you in any proceedings once this review convenes. As you know, this panel is made up of impartial members of the force, directors and heads of division, some you've worked with in the past." I nodded and glanced down at Noin. She bobbed her head in response. "Are you ready to begin?"

An itch began behind my eyes, and I really wanted to know. "Sir, what case is my case?" The man, Doyle, looked at me over the top of his glasses again. "I didn't realize the death of a perpetrator in the midst of committing a crime required a panel review." Heero grabbed my leg under the table, out of sight of the others and gave it a succession of squeezes. Even as I turned to stare at him, Doyle started talking.

"Normal deaths of criminals in flight, yes."

Heero wasn't looking at me, but continued to stare in an unfocused way over the top of the panel member's head. His message had been delivered, but just how was I supposed to interpret - Hold tight. Say little. And just what the hell did Doyle mean by normal?

"...report states you heard the assist call at ten-oh-five on the morning of May sixteenth. Is that correct?" Doyle had asked, a pen hovering over a pad of yellow legal paper.

Nodding slowly, I noticed several other members of the panel were ready to write. "Yes, that is correct."

"What were you doing at that time? What put you in the immediate area?" Doyle wasn't looking at me, but what looked like a list of questions on a sheet.

"I was working undercover and was scheduled to meet my contact at ten." I shifted in my seat, and Heero's hand squeezed my thigh softly. "My contact hadn't shown when the call came through. The residence cited over the radio was that of my contact." Two of the panel members stopped writing to look at me; Doyle grunted as though he knew the information already.

"And the suspect, was he known to you?" Doyle ticked another question off his sheet.

"I knew him, yes," I stated as impartially as I could. "Devon Betts, a regular to the youth center." I stared at the tabletop. "I sometimes refereed basketball games he played there."

"Were you aware the suspect was in a homosexual relationship with your contact?"

The silence held and I opened my mouth to speak; Heero's fingers barely registered. "No, sir, I was not aware of that." I had wondered what the link had been - the link between Devon and my contact – Danny, his name was Danny. Now I had an idea as to why the panel considered it less than a normal death.

Doyle looked up from his notes, and asked in the same impassioned tone, "Was the suspect aware of your relationship with your contact?"

I swallowed before answering. In the weeks prior to the shooting, there'd been too many gatherings, too many people to recall. "No." The grip Heero had on my leg eased.

"Now, Agent Maxwell, I want you to run through the events of that morning as you recall them." Doyle's eyes dropped back to his papers and note taking.

"At approximately nine-fifty-five, I was waiting in my vehicle when a call came through advising of a domestic disturbance with possible shots fired. I recognized the address and headed in that direction. I was two blocks south when the officer down call came through." Taking a deep breath, I launched into what I saw, step by step, stopping only to answer a detail question by one of the panel.

"...he fired on a civilian emerging from a store. I gave warning, demanded he drop his weapon. When he turned on me, I fired." I stopped. At one point in the telling, Heero rose, and went to a side table where a pitcher of water and glasses sat. He brought me back a glass and I gulped the liquid; never had my mouth been so dry.

"What happened after that?" Director Terry asked.

I licked the moisture that'd gathered off my lips and stared at the ceiling. "The suspect went down to his knees and I approached, demanded again he drop his weapon. He aimed it at me instead. I fired a second time, and he fell to the sidewalk." I reached for the glass and took a drink before continuing. "After kicking his weapon from his hand, I checked his pulse. He was already dead."

The panelists looked at one another, and Doyle frowned at me.

"We require all information in its entirety, Agent Maxwell."

"I've given it to you," I frowned back at him; Heero's hand was on my thigh again, squeezing out some signal I couldn't read.

"We have the results of the autopsy as well as witness accounting that shows gaps in your report." This guy was calling me a liar.

"What more do you want? You want me to tell you that not once the kid looked scared? That not once did he show remorse for killing those people? For holding a gun to a child's head?" My voice was rising, and I ignored Heero's increasingly tighter grip.

"Duo," Heero hissed.

Doyle jerked his glasses from his face. "I want the truth. Tell us what really happened, Agent Maxwell!"

Heero's hand on my chest prevented me from leaping over the table. "He doesn't know!" Heero shouted. What? I looked at him in surprise. "He doesn't remember." Heero's voice had dropped low. "I put that in my report..."

"I've read your report," Doyle snapped. "but we still need to..."

"Give me a few minutes with him. I'll explain the situation and see if that'll help." Heero's hand was still on my chest; any energy to do more than gawk had drained away.

"This is highly irregular," Doyle sputtered.

"You have five minutes, Heero," Noin interrupted. "We'll wait here."

"Commander Noin..."

She looked steadily at Doyle. "This might be your review, but I am Une's voice in this matter." Her challenge spoke clear if unstated.

Heero wasted no time but had pulled me up from my chair, and across the room. With my back against the wall, Heero stood in front of me, one arm planted to the side of my head. He leaned in close and for a flash of a second, I thought he was going to kiss me.

"Duo, I should have said something earlier, but thought you would have remembered by now." His eyes did that crinkled edge thing and I stopped looking for ways to escape. "This panel is to decide whether or not there's enough evidence to charge you with manslaughter."

"What?" I shouted. Heero's hand clamped over my mouth and I grabbed his wrist.

"Listen to me for once. Just listen." I nodded and he moved his hand away. "Duo, they have enough to charge you with excessive deadly force unless we can do something to change their minds. The only thing keeping them from a higher charge is your record."

"Excessive deadly..." I repeated slowly. "What the fuck, Heero?" I hissed back at him. "I shot the kid. He was killing people. Was going to kill me. What was I supposed to do?"

He raised his hand to squeeze my shoulder. "You don't remember at all, do you?" His eyes held mine.

"Remember what, Heero? Come on, spill." His look was unnerving. "You're scaring me here, buddy."

"The autopsy report states five bullets were removed from the perpetrator's body." I jerked and made to deny it. "Witness accounts confirm that you fired five shots. The two you spoke of, and three more once the body was down."

My mouth worked but no sound emerged. How... why... "Five shots?" I whispered. I couldn't look Heero in the face; the thread in the third button of Heero's shirt was coming undone.

"From what I can tell, you've blocked the memory of what you'd done." Heero's voice softened. "What I want to avoid is having this panel believe you fired with deliberate intent. In retaliation for Dev—the perp killing your contact."

Despite Heero trying to keep from humanizing the kid, it was there in front of my face. Revenge. I would never have acted that way. But why else would I plug five bullets into someone? "That wasn't it," I mumbled through numb lips.

"Your five minutes are up, Agent Yuy," Doyle called.

"In a minute," Heero yelled without moving. "Listen. When we go back, let me do the talking. I–I spoke with someone about this, and believe there is a way to get you out of it." He squeezed my shoulder again.

"But if I did do what they said..." I started to shake. It didn't make any sense. Why would I shoot someone, anyone, let alone a kid I knew and liked?

"Agent Yuy, I must ask you to return immediately," Doyle demanded.

"Be right there!" Heero all but growled at the man over his shoulder. "Duo, don't even think that. Trust me, okay?" His eyes were pleading. I nodded, still trying to puzzle out the why.

"Agent Yuy," Doyle begin.

Heero squeezed my shoulder again. "Good. Let's go before he has an aneurysm." I gave a weak smile and stumbled after him as we returned to the table.

Psychiatric evaluation.

I sat through the rest of the review without saying another word. Sat through the drive home in silence. Heero had set me up. The bastard had them convinced I was a nutcase. That I had a temporary battle stress episode, and further evaluation would be necessary. He even handed them a prepared document listing cases involving other agents and agencies in the past in which members of the force were allowed to remain in their jobs and attend psychiatric sessions.

"I'm not crazy," I announced as Heero pulled into the parking lot of my apartment building.

He didn't say anything until the car had come to a stop. "I know."

"Then why the fuck did you sell me out?" I demanded fumbling with the seatbelt clasp.

"It's not a sell out, Duo," Heero said. He shut off the car and reached over to undo my seat belt as well. "I told you I'd spoken with someone..."

"Well, fuck you!" I was out of his car and half-way up the stairs before he caught up to me.

"Would you rather have been arrested? Gone to prison?" His voice was hard, and his grip on my arm harder. "If you had given Doyle any indication your actions were deliberate, nothing anyone could have said would have made a difference. Not even Une's influence would have saved you."

I stared at him, not wanting to let go of the anger I felt. "I'm still not crazy." The denial sounded weak to my own ears.

"I know." Heero released my arm. "Let's go inside and talk about it, okay?" I nodded and turned away.

Hilde's enthusiastic greeting died. She looked from me to Heero, her brow undecided if it wanted to be up or down. "I made some lunch." She waved her hand at the set table. "Why don't we eat first, and then you can tell me about it."

I nodded, managed a short smile for her, and jerked off my tie. I didn't wait for Heero; taking my seat, I began to scoop things on my plate. Since it took more than a handful of minutes for both Hilde and Heero to pull up a chair, I assumed there was a lot of unspoken communication going on between them. I took satisfaction on stabbing the already cut pieces of meat and biting down on them hard.

Making conversation had never been difficult for me; saying more than two words during lunch was impossible. I listened with half an ear to Hilde and Heero catch up with one another, and hearing some of Heero's responses, I learned a few new facts about mutual friends. But then, in recent months I hadn't had time to keep up with everyone. Other than the occasional call, and even rarer visit, Heero was the only one I spoke with more than once a week, and Hilde more than twice a month. I couldn't recall the last time I'd talked to Quatre, and I certainly didn't know Relena's twins were walking and talking now.

Hilde was laughing at Heero's story. "...never figured out what the boy ate..."

"Why did you do it? Why that way?" I interrupted, the food and talk suddenly making me nauseous. Hilde's laugh stopped abruptly and she stared at me.

Heero placed his fork on his plate and closed his eyes. "Because it was the only way. And it's the truth."

"Fuck you, Heero!" I threw my napkin down, shoved away from the table, and stood up. "I'm not crazy. And just because you've talked to someone doesn't mean shit."

He looked at me, and inhaled deeply. "You're not crazy, Duo. No one said you were."

"No, you just had me pleading temporary insanity to a bunch of assholes!"

"What happened? Duo?" Hilde stood, reaching for me but holding back. She glared at Heero, and turned back to me.

"It's a misnomer, Duo. It means nothing. But to this group, it gives them a reason to keep you on your job and out of jail."

"A misnomer my ass!" I all but shouted at Heero. Hilde reached out to touch me, hug me, something but I shook her off. "You're not the one branded as a psycho, Heero! What would you know about it?"

"I know a lot more than you think," he said, his voice sharp and cutting. "Just who do you think I spoke to regarding what happened? How I knew to prepare a document detailed enough for a panel to take notice, a panel that has seen it all?"

That stopped me. I had no response ready. What he said jogged and I narrowed my eyes at him. "Just how did you know what to write in that paper?"

Heero's look didn't waver, but after a minute of silence, he shot a glance at Hilde. "I'd rather talk about this later."

"I can leave," Hilde hurriedly interjected. "I need to pack my things anyway. It's an early flight and I don't want to hassle with it tonight."

I gave her an uncertain smile, torn and not wanting Hilde to leave, but needing to hear what Heero had to tell me. She grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze. And then she was gone, shutting the bedroom door behind her. I resumed my seat, and looked at Heero.


He moved his plate to the side, took a drink of water and nodded to me before finding a spot on the wall behind my head to stare at. "A little under three years ago, I was put in charge of a high profile case. Horrendous hours burned out more than a dozen agents before we were to the point of finalizing the take down." His eyes flicked to my face and back.

Nodding, I recalled the case he spoke about. "The Jordan conspiracy, wasn't it?" He gave a short sharp jerk of his head. "I thought you were taken off..." It clicked suddenly. "What happened, Heero?"

"Agent Bremmers and I were on stake-out. We had enough evidence. We had the case in the bag and were waiting for back-up support with the warrants." He visibly swallowed and flicked his gaze down to mine again, holding it for a moment and back to the wall again. "We worked with an inside informant. A teenaged girl, one of his prostitutes. It was never clear if she told him what was happening, or he guessed, but the only thing we found when we raided his house was the girl." Heero swallowed again and dropped his head to his hands. "What was left of her."

"Heero," I croaked out, touching his hand. Without raising his head, he hooked his fingers in mine.

"I lost it that night. In the shower." He drew in a shaky breath and let it out. "Bremmers broke down my door, thinking I was being attacked by all the noise I'd been making." Heero rolled his head to the side to flash a short-lived smile. "I rather made a mess of it all. Broken tile, mirror, commode. Hell, I even ripped out the showerhead." He straightened up, but didn't let go of my hand. "They committed me. Involuntarily at first." He shot a quick glance at me; I eased my ever-tightening grip on his hand.

"I never knew," I more breathed than said. But, I had thought it odd for Heero to be pulled from an assignment at the last minute and put on another without a debriefing period. "You were gone for two months?" It'd been some time, but not unusual for deep undercover work.

"Ten weeks." Heero picked up his glass and drank deeply. Setting it back down, he tilted it to the side and smiled. With a short tug on my hand, he indicated the glass and asked with a raised brow, "Half full or half empty?"

"Asshole," I told him softly and reached for his glass. I downed it in three steady swallows and placed it back on the table. "Neither."

"Now who's the asshole?" But he was smiling.

"How come you never said anything?" I finally asked.

Heero shrugged. "When you're crazy, you don't care. When you regain some sanity, you really don't want anyone knowing about it."

"And were you?" He looked at me, quirking a brow. "Crazy, I mean."

"At that moment in the hotel room, yes I was." He sighed deeply and released my hand. "I still see a doctor at least once a month."

"Damn." I didn't have a clue what else I could say. Maybe I was a little nuts.

A person's perspective can change a lot in a week's time.

Hilde left, and suddenly my apartment had never been more cramped. And lonely.

My suspension was rescinded after the panel review's recommendation was accepted; I was handed orders to report to the company shrink the following Monday afternoon. My orders also stated that until my evaluation was completed, I was officially benched – no weapon, no assignment and no public contact. I wanted to believe I would have preferred a jail term.

The initial visit to the psych doc had me bouncing in pent up energy. After introducing himself, he only asked me to tell him in my own words what had happened. As if the reports weren't on his desk already. Repeating the events as many times as I'd had, the words came as rote. When I was finished telling him my version, he watched me without saying anything; I spent the rest of the hour watching him back.

Each day I held a standing appointment. Each day I repeated what I remembered of the events. On the third day, I was handed a prescription for depression. The doc made it clear there was no choice, unless I wanted him to report non-cooperation. I took his script, had it filled and flushed the suckers down the toilet.

Heero had been locked up. I didn't think I could handle being confined, being thought of as mentally unbalanced. Nothing wrong here, move along now. The doctor had gotten to the point of answering my questions with questions of his own. And it pissed me off.

During the last session, he let me read his initial evaluation to the review board. I guess I should have been thankful I was listed as only a danger to myself. He told me he recommended I continue to push papers, and staying out of the field provided I continued my sessions with him. I made an appointment to see Une that afternoon.

Lunchtime found me on the roof of the headquarters building. Being twenty stories, its height allowed an unobstructed view of the bay and it'd been a long time since I'd last spent any time up there. I'd forgotten how the wind was an unvarying thing; so close to the ocean, it carried the constant smell of salt. Gulls were commonplace, and aero-acrobatics another rooftop past time.

"Thought I'd find you here."

I acknowledged Heero's presence without turning. "Needed to escape the cave for a bit."

He came to stand nearby, resting his hands on the three-foot wall skirting the building. "What do they have you doing these days?"

"QA reports to case files." I spent more time down in the records room looking for back up to the cases I checked.

"Sucks," Heero said, peering over the wall down to the front entrance below. I glanced at him and shrugged. Turning his head to look at me, he asked, "How are the sessions going?"

"Sucks." I smiled and shrugged again. "How the hell should I know? The guy answers every question with a question, and we get no where."

"He's trying to get to the root of the problem, Duo," Heero said frowning.

"By asking me about my mother?" I clenched my hands on the ledge.

"What did you say?" He moved closer, closed his hand over mine and squeezed.

I refused to look at him, looked instead back to the bay in the hopes of catching a gull show. "I don't have a mother."

"Everyone has a mother, Duo." Heero gave my hand a little squeeze again.

"Yeah, well she was sure a presence in my life." I shook my head and pulled my hand from his. "Christ, how can I tell him about someone I never knew, and the fucker keeps asking if it makes me hate, if it makes me sad, if it makes me angry."

"You told him yes, right?" Heero's mouth was half-quirked up in a smile. I laughed roughly and mumbled something about the assholes they let on the force these days. Putting his back to the wall, Heero told me, "He really is trying to help, Duo. I know it's hard... thinking about those questions and their meanings."

Being that he had been where I was now, I guessed he had to go through the same gambit. "You knew your folks?" I asked, looking at him curiously. For years I had known he was an orphan, but had assumed he was like me.

He was shaking his head. "No, but that doesn't mean I don't feel emotions for them." He quirked one of those half smiles at me. "Even if it's hate or anger."

"Yeah." Now that he mentioned it; I turned away.

"You know," Heero started after a moment of silence. "You're making a few people nervous."

"I am?" Looking at him, I found he was already watching me. "How so?"

Without saying a word, Heero bent back to look down to the ground again. I followed his example – there were about a dozen people milling below, all looking up. "I'd feel a little better myself, if you," Heero shrugged in mock indifference, "stepped back from the edge too."

"Afraid I'll jump?" I had to ask.

"Nah, afraid I'll get stuck with the clean-up if you slip."

Chuckling, I peered downward again. "That'd be a shitload of four-oh-nine and handi-wipes."

"Handi-wipes, hell. I'd use a shovel and a power sprayer." I laughed at the image, but pulled my feet up from dangling down the front of the building.

"Almost time for an appointment," I told him, dropping down to the roof floor from the wall. Heero nodded and fell into step beside me. "I wouldn't have jumped you, know."

He held the door open for me as I passed. "I know."

Down the stairwell, Heero trailed after me. Une's office was on the twelfth floor, Heero's the ninth. Half a flight down, he started telling me about a new program, a specialized task force he'd been given to head. It sounded like something just up Heero's alley, something he'd enjoy doing and being a part of.

About the fourteenth floor, he asked if I'd planned to walk the whole way down to the basement level. When I told him I'd be heading toward Une's office, he demanded to know why.

"I figured it'd be more polite that way," I said tromping down another flight.

"Polite? What are you talking about?" Heero had reached the exit before me and held it shut.

Jerking the door loose from his hand, I faced him. "She hired me. I thought she would be the one to turn my resignation in to." Entering the hall, I left Heero behind.

"You can't quit!" Heero was suddenly at my side again, glaring, hovering.

"Watch me." My tone might have been kept low, but the promise was no less. More than one person watched as we passed, Heero walking threateningly close beside me. The halls might have been more richly appointed, the carpet thicker, but they were still preventers.

"Duo," Heero insisted as we reached Une's office. "Don't do this. Think about it first."

Looking at my watch, I had some time and pulled Heero to the side. "I have thought about it. Since the review, I've done nothing but think about it."

We stood close together with only a few inches separating us. Watching Heero's face, I tried to read his expression; an impossible task even in the best of times. For a long minute, he stared at me. Whatever he saw, it must have made up his mind for he only raised his hand to grip my shoulder.

"I can go with you, if you want," he offered.

I couldn't help the smile. "I think I can handle it." He ducked his head and dropped his hand.

"But, I'd like to be there."

"All right," I said slowly, nodding. For whatever reason, I thought he actually wanted to be.

Une wasn't at all surprised to see Heero trailing after me. As they exchanged greetings, an almost silent communication seemed to pass between them. Several images over the past couple of weeks flashed. "You've had him watching me," I accused.

Heero had the grace to at least flush; Une only nodded to a chair and told me to sit. I continued to stand, glaring between the two. And here I thought Heero was being a concerned friend.

"Don't be obtuse, Duo," she said. "Heero's been watching you for a lot longer than this latest incident."

"What?" The question stumbled out and I turned to Heero. "Why?" I demanded. Heero offered a sheepish half-smile and started to speak.

"Sit down, and we'll go over it like civilized people," Une instructed.

As much as I wanted to throw myself in the chair, I sat – like a civilized person. No one spoke right away; Une had picked up my resignation letter, and I watched as she skimmed it. She didn't fool me. She'd probably had it memorized within five minutes of my dropping it off that morning.

"Are you certain about this?" she finally asked, not looking up.

Her question made me wonder why everyone thought I didn't know my own mind. I limited myself to a simple "yes", and left it at that.

Looking back later that night, I guess I should have known what they'd been up to. Heero had been showing up a little more often, even before the incident. The nitty-gritty details they withheld, but they gave me enough to know it would have been something I would have jumped on – if I wasn't quitting.

For almost two hours they tagged teamed me, asking me to reconsider. Eventually, I think Une took pity on me. She offered us all an out, if it could be called that. Eight weeks leave. At the end of that time, if I still wanted to resign, she wouldn't hesitate to sign the paperwork.

Heero dogged my heels, even helped me pack my personal shit out of my office and offered me a ride home. Only, we hadn't gone to my place. It wasn't until I was climbing unfamiliar stairs that it hit me. I did a sudden stop and turned around.

"This is your apartment."

"Yes," Heero said, brushing passed me. He started up to the third floor, before I started moving again.

"It would be nice if you told me what the hell was going on before it happens, you know." I knew he heard me, unresponsive bastard.

Inside the door, I dropped my box and shut the door. Heero waited, facing down my glare. "Anytime now would be appreciated."

"All right," he said and stepped back into his living room. "Take a seat. You're going to need it."

That did not bode well, but take a seat I did. Heero had that concentrated look that told me he needed to formulate what he wanted to say, and whatever it was would take some time. Watching him frown at the carpet brought a few other images to the surface. Heero that afternoon, after I told him of my intention. He had been upset. Heero the day of the incident; he had been, caring. Thinking about it now, this responsive Heero hadn't just happened.

He had been, hell I don't know, attentive? A good friend and more? It seemed he was always there, had always been there. The day I had my wisdom teeth removed, he was the one waiting to pick me up and take me home, to care for me. When I spent a week in the hospital after that mission gone bad. He was there at least once a day, staying as late as he could to keep me entertained. He'd been there to work on my car with me, to play basketball with, to hang out and have pizza and beers together.

Fuck me. How come I never realized?

And now, now he was going to spill his guts to me. He had that look, that scared-as-hell-but-oh-so-determined look that told me what he was going to do. Is that what I wanted? Did I want my best friend to like me more than as a friend? The thought brought an instant flush to my cheeks. Yeah, it would be nice if he did.

The question now was, how did I feel? Heero. Shit. I was staring right at the guy and suddenly seeing him as he looked in the gym shower after our ball game the week before. Just the memory and thinking of him that way was making me hard. All right, I was sexually attracted to him. But, did I care for him as more than a friend?

At the moment, I couldn't think of a single damned thing I'd done to help him, support him. I sure as hell wasn't there the time he needed me most. Hell, I didn't even know about it. What kind of friend does that make me? But I had shared those other good times with him. And I enjoyed our time spent together. Does that mean I do lo...

"Duo, are you okay?" Heero had leaned forward peering into my face.

I blinked several times at him, pulling my head out of my ass for the moment. Right. Heero. Serious talk. My smile got a little goofy. "Sure, Heero. Just fine."

He frowned like he didn't believe me, but he must have decided to let it go because he started talking. "I don't know how to tell you in any other way than to give it to you straight." He kept starting at me, even when he tossed his head to brush some hair from his eyes. "Over the past couple of years, it's been growing more and more apparent, but I couldn't say anything and had to wait. I can't wait any longer." He stood suddenly, and I almost jumped to my feet. But instead of heading my direction, he walked toward the counter separating the kitchen from the livingroom.

"After my stay in the hospital, I started seeing things in you that were hidden before. Things I couldn't see because of my own problems. I never said anything because I wasn't sure."

His back was to me, and my heart started thumping, loud enough I was sure he could hear it too. "What..." I croaked out and then cleared my throat. "What things, Heero?" This was it. He was going to say something to me. My palms were sweating and I hurriedly wiped them on my jeans.

"Sandra Rogers is a good doctor," he was saying, turning around and walking back toward me. "She continues to help me when I need someone..." In his hand was a small card, and I took it when he handed it to me. He kept saying things but, what the hell... this wasn't no declaration of love, lust and forever.

It was a business card for his shrink.

This time I did jump to my feet and threw the card back in his face. "Fuck you!" I was shouting, but God dammit! This wasn't supposed to be what he wanted to tell me. This wasn't supposed to be the all serious confession of the wonderful Heero Yuy. This fucking sucked. I was at the door when he caught me.

"Wait!" He was angry now. I could see it simmering beneath the coolness he projected. It fairly hummed through the hand he had on my arm. "You will hear me out this time, Duo."

"Or what? You'll keep me here prisoner?" My back was against the door, and with the grip on my arm, I wasn't going anywhere soon.

"If that's what it takes, yes. I need you to hear reason."

"Your reason, you mean," I spat back, pulling on my arm.

His eyes were hard, blazing and his words were just as rapid. "You need a doctor. Avoiding the issue isn't going to clear it. It's just going to make it worse."

"Oh, so now you're the expert. One psychotic episode, and you think you..." He jerked on my arm, slamming me against the door.

"Dammit Duo! Knock it off!" He was glaring at me, keeping me pinned to the door with his hand and body. "Just tell me why you shot that boy after you knew he was already dead and I'll say no more." Mouth opened, I stared at him in shock. Talk about dirty pool. "I thought so. You have no idea, do you?"

A splash of images flickered and I looked away. "I don't know. I can't even remember doing it. You said it yourself..."

He was shaking me again. "Cut it out, Duo. If you give it two minutes of thought, you'll know why your own self. You'll know without me telling you."

"Fuck off, Heero! And stop making like I'm a ragdoll!" My hand was on his, trying to pries up his fingers. "And let me the fuck go, now!"

"I will when I'm ready, and I'm no where near ready," he growled back in my face. "You shot that kid because he reminded you of you. You were killing yourself by proxy, Duo." I stopped moving. "Do you understand now?" his voice had dropped to a whisper, his face a breath away. "I'm not going to stand back and watch you kill yourself, Duo. I can't."

"I... I..." My mind was numb, but I remembered. I remembered shooting that kid, Devon. I remembered walking up to his body, kicking his gun away and shooting him again ...and again ...and again. "I... fuck." And I was sliding down the door, but Heero held me upright, pressing into me. The image of him in the shower leapt in my head. It was only a slight tremor but Heero felt it. His eyes narrowed.


"No," I said, or at least I think I did. But when his mouth landed on mine, I was kissing him back. And not a thought about prisoners or doctors or shooting some kid was on my mind.

His mouth was hot and explosive, his tongue everywhere. His hands were holding my face, tilting it to the best angle for him. And I was letting him drive the show. Damn. Hard... soft... rough and yet, tender. Heero was grinding into me, trapping my body between two unmoveable objects. Well, one was moving, but in the wrong direction. Complain, not me. It was instant fire and I was working his shirt off of him as fast as my fingers would move.

"Duo," he murmured against my mouth, as we both panted for breath. "Duo, we can't." His hands were holding mine, keeping them from their task.

"Yes, we can," I countered him, thrusting my hips into his and struggling to free my hands.

Heero groaned and fell into me, slamming me into the door. But instead of the kiss or struggle to remove clothes, he buried his face into my shoulder. "We can't. I want to, fuck how I want to. But..."

My arms circled around his shoulders, and I held him. It wasn't quite the intimate level I wanted, but it was close. "But what, Heero? Why can't we?" He was offering me a chance to show him I could be there for him too.

"Because," he was whispering into my shirt. "Because you're so fucking ignorant on what you really want."

I grabbed his shoulders and tried shoving him away. The man was a rock, but at least he wasn't breathing on my shirt any more. "Fuck you, Heero. Who says I don't know what I want? Who the fuck are you that you know me so well?"

His hands were holding me in place, and now he was staring, almost glaring at me. "I'm the fucked up one who didn't know what the fuck he wanted either. I was there, Duo. I know."

Okay, there was that. "That doesn't mean I don't know. I'm not you."

"No. No you're not," he said it so softly I almost didn't hear it. The anger cleared from his face and he leaned in closer to me, brushed my lips and pulled me into an embrace. "Fuck Duo. I just want us, I want us to be normal together."

Holding him back, I couldn't agree more. Damn. We were so messed up. I was either going to fuck his ass into the mattress, or knock his head off. I had the feeling he felt the same way. Hell, maybe for us, that was normal.

We let it go. Maybe we were both cowards at that moment, but we let it go.

Heero took me home, and stayed awhile. Dinner and a movie with beer on my couch – like nothing had happened. But, it was like every look had meaning now. And even the most casual of touches held promise we were denying. I even walked him to the door, and we embraced goodnight. A first, for sure.

Two days later found us at the park playing a little ball. Nothing serious, just shooting hoops and farting around. Heero had just made a beautiful long shot, and I trotted off to retrieve it when he asked me. Talk about out of the blue. The ball went off bouncing somewhere.

"Move in? Isn't that a little drastic?"

He was standing in the middle of the court watching me. The way he stood, how stiff his muscles were, the only parts moving were his hands, and they clenched and unclenched so often and so tightly, I thought I'd be seeing blood soon. I was in front of him before I even knew I was moving.

"Heero?" I asked softly, picking up a hand. "Why? Why now?"

Our fingers laced and he gave my hand a squeeze. Instead of answering, he tilted his head back and watched the clouds for a moment. "What's going to happen when your eight weeks are up, Duo?"

I grunted. It wasn't something I'd been thinking on. In fact, I'd been doing a lot of not-thinking for the past couple of days. Heero bringing it up now, I had the idea he was worried I wouldn't stick around. "I don't know yet." I had to be honest. "But I'll still be here."

That answer seemed to soothe his concern for he gave a short nod and an even shorter smile. "You dropped the ball." He was back in game mode.

In the middle of my second week of leave, I told him yes.

There wasn't much to it. A truck full of boxes, another load into storage, and it was done. I settled into the second bedroom, formerly Heero's office, and we acted as though that was all there was to it. It lasted less than forty-eight hours.

I couldn't help it; I was pacing. It's what I did, and for as long as Heero knew me, he knew that's what I do. But he'd come home early to escape interruption, and brought the work with him. Since I'd taken his office, he was stuck on the coffee table, papers spread all over and laptop in front of him.

"Duo, sit down or go find something to do," he demanded, glaring up at me.

Stopped mid-stride, I gave him a nod, and bit back the words that threatened to come. Throwing myself in a chair gave me a little measure of satisfaction, but I had the idea it would have worked better on a teenager than a grown man. I watched Heero work for a few minutes longer, fighting the urge to rise again. At least in my own apartment I was free to do what I wanted.

Ever since I'd resigned – gone on leave – Heero had been busy. It was as if my actions prompt the push to launch his project sooner than expected. Meaning, Heero had his head so full of numbers, and stats, and cases, and agents, I couldn't help but feel left out. It had only been two weeks, and we saw one another every day. Now, even more than ever before outside the war.

Heero was muttering to himself, and he reached for a folder in the midst of a stack of folders. The fact that none fell to the floor should have surprised me, but it didn't. His eyes never left his work. From the paper he snatched out of the folder, he keyed in several words or figures. He even picked up his cold coffee and drank from it without looking up from his laptop.

Blowing out the held breath, I was on my feet and out the door. Heero called down to me, asking where I was going. I stopped on the first floor landing and stared back up at him. He had taken off his glasses, and they dangled from his fingertips. His face was so serious, worried and scared. The last traces of some residue anger disappeared, and I smiled upward.

"Going to give you some space for a bit," I said, not really lying, but not telling him the whole truth. "Think I'll just take a walk, look around for awhile."

He didn't look happy, but Heero nodded anyway. "Dinner at seven?"

It was my turn to nod. "I'll be back before then. But yeah, seven sounds good." The divvying up of chores we were still working through. But for now, Heero said he'd make the meals. I had the feeling he didn't entirely trust my cooking skill.

My walk turned out to be shorter than I thought it would be. There was a bar four blocks over and two blocks up from Heero's place – our place. I just wanted a beer, and a little time to be by myself. Maybe moving in with Heero wasn't the right thing to do. Fuck. I wasn't used to having anyone around. At least not any more. Not for more than a couple of days.

The place was nearly empty, being too early for the after work crowd, but the beer was cold, and some game was on the vid over in the corner. The bartender kept the pretzel bowl filled and his presence absent. It was what I needed.

What the hell were we thinking? How did we think we could become all domestic and shit overnight like that? The night before had been torture, thinking of Heero in his own bed. If moving in was supposed to work miracles in bringing us closer, it was going to need a blessing.

I wasn't in the bar an hour before the feeling to move on struck. Tossing a few bills on the counter, I downed the last of the beer and walked out. It wasn't even five and the late afternoon sun was hot as hell and bright after the dim lighting in the bar. My feet headed for home.

Heero wasn't on the couch when I walked in. His papers, folders and laptop were all stacked in a neat pile on the floor by the couch. I frowned looking at them, and went in search of my – roommate. A quick glance showed he wasn't in the kitchen, but on my way to his bedroom, I heard the shower.

Mystery solved, I had just pivoted away from the door when I hear him groan or moan or make some sound I'd never heard from Heero's mouth before. My hand was on the knob turning it slowly, quietly – just to make sure he wasn't hurt. Peeking around the door, I couldn't see much but a shadowy shape behind the curtain. But I heard a whole hell of a lot more.

Heero was making sounds I could only have dreamed about, and the tell-tale slap of flesh rubbing flesh told me exactly what he was doing. Oh fuck. I about collapsed against the door, wanting more, wanting it to be my hand eliciting those moans from that man's mouth.

By the time he'd half-moaned, half-groaned my name, I was at the curtain, pulling it back. Heero's eyes snapped open, sharp even through the haze of lust. His mouth was still parted, and he spit water automatically looking at me. I don't know what I thought I was going to do, but damn, he looked good. Water hit his chest, and cascaded down his body in a running waterfall. And his hand fisted around his cock.

I stepped in the shower and took his hand away. We were kissing, and I was stroking him. His hands were all over me, jerking on my shirt, pulling it off over my head. My pants stopped on top my boots, but it didn't matter for Heero was on his knees in the middle of the tub, his mouth over my dick. It'd been so long, too long, and I was coming before I knew it. But I was still hard and I wanted more.

"Out," Heero demanded, slamming a fist on the faucet, shutting the water off. "My bed, now."

Nodding weakly, I braced myself up against the wall, pulling on my boots, trying to get rid of my pants. Even with Heero helping, the sodden denim took time. The kissing and the touching didn't speed things up either.

Naked and dripping, we stumbled down the short hall to Heero's room. No thoughts, no talking, just touching, holding, feeling. I was on my back on top of his comforter reaching for him, not even caring if I was prepped – I wanted him now. Heero did it anyway. Prep was quick, but the heat was burning us both.

My legs pinned, Heero was slamming into me, desperate, hard and fast. Droplets of water or sweat fell on my skin, on my face. At a deep thrust, my head arched back on my neck, and I watched as a framed photo of us toppled over.

It was in silence I came, Heero's hand on my cock, and his voice in my ears calling my name. The white of my vision was fringed in grey. And that second of euphoria crashed with the weight landing on top of me. Sweat soaked, and lungs heaving, Heero's face was pressed into my shoulder, against my neck. His hands were stroking my sides, my arms, any exposed skin they could reach. And I, I lowered my legs slowly, easing the slight cramp out of them.

Heero rolled off of me, and I brushed sweaty bangs from my face, feeling like I needed a shower. Already my skin was itching, and it was too warm. I sat up, moved to the edge of the mattress and Heero touched my arm.

"Hey." His voice was soft, low, full of doubt. "Where you going?"

I didn't know, but I needed to move. "Get some ice cream. Want some?" As innocuous as it was, ice cream was what I wanted most at that moment. I stood, looking around, but none of my clothes were in his room. A pair of gym shorts had been discarded on the floor, and I picked them up. We were close enough in size that it wouldn't matter.

"You... okay?" Now he sounded worried.

Giving him a slight grin, I nodded. My hands shook as I pulled on the shorts; I didn't trust my voice; I had to get out of there.

He was out of the good stuff, so I made up some vanilla with ribbons of caramel, and wondered if Heero would mind sharing a bowl. Putting the carton away, I snorted at my own train of thought. Not ten minutes ago we were swapping body fluids and here I was worried about him getting upset over ice cream.

Christ, I was messed up.

Out on the patio, I sat on the glider, and let it swing in its gentle rocking motion. I stared out at the early evening sky, watching lights flicker on over the city. I stirred my ice cream and tried not to think of what had just happened. Like that was possible.

I'd just fucked my best friend and I was supposed to be calm about it? More precisely, I'd let him fuck me and there was no going back. It'd felt good, damn good if not great. And if he wanted, I'd let him do it again – as often as he wanted. Damn.

I fucked Heero.

"Hey," Heero said and dropped onto the glider next to me. I looked at him, and away. He was staring out at the view, that same city scape I was watching.

"Hey." I stirred the ice cream again for something to do and cast a quick glance his way. He turned his head back to the sky; I'd caught him looking at me.

"Are–are you okay?" he asked, still not looking at me.

"What?" I shifted over a little to try and read his expression. When he turned to me, his cheeks were suffused with color and the corners of his eyes were crinkled up.

"You're not sore or anything, are you?" I blinked. He was talking about us... what we'd done. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"Stop Heero." Maybe leaving him wasn't such a good idea. "I'm fine. Not sore, so don't be dragging any regrets into it." I turned away again, and nudged his foot with mine. "It was good."

From the corner of my sight, I saw Heero's mouth curve up. "Good, huh?"

I didn't blush, but I couldn't deny the heat flooding my cheeks. "It was... better than good."

Heero snorted softly, but I saw the stiffness leave his shoulders. He relaxed some and set the glider to rocking. I spooned a mouthful of ice cream, not really tasting it, and turned to Heero again. Hell, here was my best friend, one of the two I felt closest to than anyone else in the hemisphere. We'd just had sex, and we weren't even touching. That was messed up. In the waning light, he looked good. Christ. Maybe if I poured more caramel on it, this messed up life of mine would start to smell good and look better.

But. There was only one thing that would make it better.

"Heero," I started, stirring the half-melted vanilla. "If you still have that business card, I think I'd like to give your shrink a chance." I shot him a glance and looked away. "If you think she could start seeing me right away."

"Yeah, I think she can."

I turned to face him again. His voice had sounded odd, rough. His eyes were closed, the lids scrunched tight like he was in some kind of pain. I moved closer to him. "Heero..." The sun glimmered off a hint of wetness as if he'd been ... "you're crying." The pitch was low, but the awe I felt still found its way out.

Heero opened his eyes, and blinked rapidly at me. He wiped away the moisture and turned his face up to the sky. "Nah," he told me softly. "Just... staring at the sun too long."

"Yeah," I agreed. There was a tug at my hand, and Heero had taken my bowl away, set it on the side table. I frowned at him, but he gave me a short little smile and held my hand instead. I watched him for a moment longer; he'd turned to look back at the horizon.

The sun was nearly gone entirely, and the moment was filled with blazing color and deep purple darkness. As different as we were, we were alike, Heero and me. Two souls who'd seen too much, done more shit than people triple our age had. We were old, burned out and tired. And were barely in our second decade. That was messed up.

I exhaled loudly and settle against Heero. I more felt than saw his startled look, for I kept staring at the last of the sun. He squeezed my hand and set the glider to rocking again. I figured for Heero and me, there might not ever be a fairytale ending, but, if I let myself lean on him when I needed to, and I were there for him too, then maybe... maybe between the two of us, we'd stagger off into our own sunset together.

And that wouldn't be half-bad.


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