I kept my eyes on Duo, took in everything from his broad shoulders to his broad smile, and fixed the moment in my memory.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "This is your last chance to back out." His smile faded slowly and he gave a nervous laugh. He looked like he didn't know where to put his hands.
I smiled and took them in mine, pulling him gently towards me. "Yes," I said. "I'm sure."
He shook his head and drew in a shaky breath. "Shit, Heero, how can you be so calm about all this?"
I wrapped my arms around him and pressed my face to his, placing my lips near his ear. There was no one around, but the words were for him alone. "Because you are my perfect match," I said. "Because I'm in love."
I felt him smile against my cheek, and the tension in his back faded away.
"Okay," he said. "Let's do this."
Duo woke me with a light touch on my shoulder.
A quick look at the clock told me it was ten after two. I scrubbed wearily at my face and sighed. I hadn't been sleeping much; the case I was working on had been giving me nightmares. "What is it?" I asked. The bedsheets rustled against my naked skin as I turned towards him.
He was sitting cross-legged facing me, his hands resting limply on the blanket stretching between his knees. His fingers were trembling, and when he looked at me, I could see his thin brows were knit together. He looked like he was about to throw up.
I was awake at once, heart pounding. After that run-in with the Titan virus on L3, I was still nervous whenever I saw the first signs of sickness. I shoved myself up on one elbow and cupped his face with my hand. "Duo?"
His throat bobbed as he swallowed, and his eyes, sharp and serious in the moonlight, fixed on mine.
"Heero, there's something I want to ask you."
"Hey, stranger," Duo said.
I wondered how long he had been aware that I was standing there.
"I didn't mean to bother you," I said, gesturing at the mess of parts scattered across the table.
"No bother," he said, pushing away from the table. He set a small screwdriver neatly back in its case and wiped his hands off on his thighs.
I felt that strange tingle low in my belly when he stopped what he was doing and looked over his shoulder at me. "Just trying to get this thing to work a little better, you know?" he said.
"Like usual." For as long as I could remember since we had become friends, he had taken great pleasure in tinkering with things until they hardly resembled their original form. I think he did that with me too, whether he knew it or not.
He stood up, hooking a thumb in one of his beltloops. I saw a faint blush rising across his nose and he looked down at the ground. His mouth settled into a line, and then he raised his eyes to look at me through the fringe of his hair. "Hey, Heero, look, I've been meaning to say that I really appreciate that you've been spending all-"
I wasn't going to let him beat me to the punch again, or, I feared, stop me before I could say what I'd come here to say. I stepped forward abruptly and tried to erase the uncertainty from my voice. "Duo, you and I, do you think it could ever work?"
His expression shifted, softened, and he stood up straight again. He put his arm around my shoulders in a warm and familiar embrace. It was something he did so often I expected his answer would be no, that we were friends and nothing more. But this time, when I turned towards him, I found his mouth on mine.
I didn't even have the sense to kiss back.
"There's only one way to find out," he said quietly.
When he came up to me I wanted to say I was sorry for not keeping in touch. He beat me to the punch.
"It's kinda sad that we only see each other at wedding and funerals nowadays, eh, Heero," Duo unbuttoned his coat and pushed it back, stuffing his hands in his trouser pockets. I was surprised he still had his coat on, and hadn't long since discarded it over the back of a chair somewhere.
"How's..." I struggled to remember the name of his girlfriend.
"Tessa?" he supplied.
I nodded, embarrassed that I had forgotten. "Is she well?"
"Don't know," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "Broke it off with me 'cause she wanted a commitment."
I was unsure whether I should apologise for not knowing and sticking my foot in my mouth, or because things had fallen apart between them. He laughed when he saw the look on my face.
"Hey," he said, leaning over to bump his shoulder against mine. "It's cool. She's just not the one, you know?"
"Do you ever wonder about who you're gonna marry?" Duo asked. He turned his head slightly, but his eyes were looking past me, staring out across the city. "I mean, like, what kind of person they're going to be, or what they'll look like?"
I huddled down and zipped up the front of my jacket. We had a long wait ahead of us. "Not really."
He hummed thoughtfully. "I do."
His eyes flickered to me and he scowled briefly. "Haha," he said sarcastically, then broke into a real laugh a heartbeat later. "I'm serious. I don't like think about it all the time or anything, but it's kinda fun to speculate. Imagine my perfect match, you know."
The lights on my equipment jumped. I raised one of the headphones to my ear, but it was nothing more than static and faded away after a second. "If you keep dreaming up an ideal, reality will disappoint you."
Duo looked at me like I was crazy before raising his binoculars again to check on the location of our target. "Don't be stupid," he said, "no it won't."
I studied him for a long moment, marveling at the confidence - the sheer faith - in his statement. "How can you be so sure?" I asked.
A smile tugged at the corners of his generous mouth. "Because I'll be in love."