Disclaimer: The guys belong to Bandai/Sotsu/Sunrise.

Pairing: 1+2
Rating: PG
Warnings: none really
Feedback: That would be nice, at 02fan@zerotwofan.com please.

Notes: Thanks to D C Logan for the beta and the encouragement.

Love Among Friends
Part Three
by Sharon

I've never been someone who runs away from what I have to do. During the early days of Operation Meteor, I accepted my missions and performed the duties expected of me without question. Later, when I started to wonder if my orders really were for the best, I did what I thought had to be done to ensure peace. But this is much harder than saving the world from death and destruction. This is one of the most difficult things I've ever forced myself to do. This is personal.

I want to tell someone that I love them. No, I need to tell Duo that I love him.

Confronting certain death at the hands of a mobile suit is nothing compared to risking possible rejection by someone you love. A mobile suit can only kill you. You suffer for a while, and then everything ends. You don't ever have to face the person who took your life, or wonder what they're thinking when they look at you. I'd rather brave death a hundred times over than be rejected by Duo just once.

But what if he does share my feelings? What if he's waiting for some sign from me that I want more than just friendship from him? Is it worth taking a chance when it could mean we'd be together? Is it better to risk everything I have, if I might gain everything I want in return? For the first time since the end of the Eve War, I find myself wishing someone else would tell me what to do. This is one decision I can't afford to screw up.

Duo is already such an integral part of my life. Rarely a day goes by when I don't see him at work, or speak to him on the phone or online. Lately, he's been in my thoughts throughout the day, and in my dreams at night. I'll be doing the most ordinary tasks when I start to think of him and wonder if he'd approve or enjoy whatever it is I'm doing. I'll read something or see a movie and wonder what Duo would think of it. Though he'd never believe it, his opinion is important to me. It has been for a long time, but I've never been good at showing him that, not even during the wars when we depended on each other for our very survival.

I trust him. I value his opinion. I enjoy his company. I want to experience life with him, whether it's good or bad. I desire to touch him, and to have him touch me in return. I've felt this way for many months, but it's only been recently that I've acknowledged it, finally, to myself. I wish I could thank Trowa for making me understand my feelings, but I've caused him too much pain already.

So much of what I want with Duo I already have. We've begun spending more time together, perhaps because he senses that Trowa and I have become distant. Somehow Duo knows there's an empty place in my life that he's now able to fill; if he wants to.

This recent change in our relationship began innocently, with us going out for lunch one day at work. He came to my desk and told me I needed to get away from things for a while. He couldn't have been closer to the truth.

He wanted to ask why Trowa and I had drifted apart, but he didn't. He could tell that I didn't want to talk about it; so he didn't push. I didn't want him to know then that my attraction to him was partly the reason for my situation with Trowa. Instead, we spent the time together learning things about each other and finding out that we're really not as different as we once thought. It was all so easy at first. I followed his lead, knowing that he was always more comfortable in social settings.

That one lunch soon became part of our weekly routine, with both of us taking turns choosing a restaurant. It wasn't long before we started spending time with one another outside of work, going to movies or sporting events, always together but each paying our own way. We were two single men having fun with no attachments to get in our way. Or so I believed that was how it was for him. I never dared to hope for more than the comfortable camaraderie we'd begun to share. Until tonight.

It was a typical Friday night out for us, nothing unusual, or so I'd thought. We went to a concert in the park near his apartment building after eating at that deli Duo likes so much. He'd been late meeting me there, and eventually discovered that he'd left his wallet at home. As I offered to pay for our dinner, he joked that this was like a real date; but I could tell from the way he laughed and the look in his eyes that he was serious. A month ago I wouldn't have known him well enough to be able to tell the difference. But now I know him better. Much better. Better than he thinks I do. Or maybe, just maybe, that's what he was counting on. Maybe this was his way of telling me that he's interested too.

The concert seemed to go on forever. I know I was just anxious for what could -- would -- happen later. As Duo sat humming to the music with his eyes closed and his body swaying slightly, my mind was racing far ahead to the walk back to his apartment. I could barely sit still as we listened from our vantage point on the stone steps near the park's main entrance. It took all my restraint not to compel him to walk faster when we began the short trip back to his place. I became focused entirely on my goal of getting him alone, where I could find out his true feelings.

He invited me up, just as I'd hoped. I'm sitting here, now, alone in his living room while he gets us both a drink. He told me to relax, but I know that's not possible. Every nerve in my body is alive. I feel like I'll burst if I don't tell him soon how much he really means to me. I'm nervous as all Hell, and I can feel my hands beginning to sweat and my throat tightening. I'd faced Milliardo Peacecraft as he tried to destroy the Earth with less fear than I'm feeling now. This time I'm trying to save myself.

Duo walks back into the living room, hands me a beer, and I can feel my courage leaving me. Our conversation is awkward and we hesitate to say what we're really thinking. Duo's mood has become subdued, and I wish I could convince myself that he's disappointed that this night hasn't turned into something special. He smiles when he looks up at me from his seat on the sofa, but I can see that the light in his eyes from earlier this evening has faded. I should have known this would be a mistake. Like Trowa, I've misjudged the situation and imagined this to be more than it is -- two friends enjoying a night out.

I set my beer down and retreat towards the door, saying that it's late and we both have work to get done over the weekend. He immediately follows me as I make my way out the apartment and into the hallway. Before I leave, I turn to say goodnight, and I swear I can see sadness in his eyes. I come back to face him, to try to say something to let him know that it's not anything he's done. It's me, Duo. I'm just not ready. Not yet. I open my mouth to try to comfort him, when he says the words that I most dearly need to hear.

"It's okay, Heero. You don't have to say anything right now. You'll know when you're ready."

As he closes the door to his apartment, I swear I hear him say one last thing. In a voice so soft it's barely above a whisper, I hear him say "I love you too, Heero."

to be continued

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