Starting Over Again
The crowds screamed, a sea of humanity howling, screaming their appreciation for the dynamic young superstar. Hands reached up, forwards, worshipping, wanting.
The long-haired man stood there, eyes closed tightly, listening, feeling the emotion being thrown at him. His upturned face was lit up by the harsh lights, illuminating every curve, every plane of his body. In the background, the musicians exchanged rueful glances. Handsome as they were, they were no comparison for the man the masses had paid to see.
Dynamic, charismatic, sexy as all get out....the printed words of the press flew verbatim through the mans mind and he silently laughed at the naivety of the press.
_They don't know me....they don't know what I've done, what I've seen...would they worship me as a god if they knew I was death...._
Duo Maxwell opened his eyes, fixed his trademark smile to his face and began the show.
" He's certainly kept himself busy," Quatre murmered, brushing an errant strand of blond hair away from his face. He watched the tv screen with an amused smile. The dark-haired figure beside him nodded.
Quatre turned to his lover and smiled. " Acting, modelling and singing....but somehow it doesn't surprise me very much. Duo always did like being the center of attention."
Trowa nodded in agreement and looked back at the screen. Duo was swaying to the music, his clear alto voice seeming to touch the hearts of the people screaming his name. Lights flashed and the music swelled as he executed a devastating spin, leaping off the small platform and landing next to the lead guitarist who shared his microphone with a rakish smile. Duo slapped him five before continuing to the edge of the stage where he stopped, scant inches from the wildly grabbing hands and the security guards who pushed the eager fans back. Smiling enigmatically, Duo turned and leapt back onto the platform and finished the song with a flourish. The crowds went absolutely wild.
" Never let it be said Duo Maxwell doesn't know how to end the show on a high note!" Duo's maniacally grinning visage said, waving at the crowds who cheered. " Later peeps!"
Duo bounded off the stage, and Quatre turned off the TV with a sigh. Trowa laid a hand on the blonds arm and gave him a questioning look. Quatre sighed ruefully.
" I'm happy he's doing okay," he said finally. " I just want to know why he left so suddenly. He barely said goodbye!"
" I think Heero had something to do with it," Trowa said softly. Quatre looked at him for a minute, puzzled--then his face cleared with understanding.
The store's garishly lit up lights proudly advertised the fact that they now carried Duo Maxwell's hit cd Deathscythe. Throngs of hormonally-challenged teenagers crowded into the store, eager for their very own copy. One figure moved silently through the chattering fans, noted the quick sell-out of the album and stealthily removed a copy of the cd from the bag of an unsuspecting Duo Maxwell fan before exiting the record store undetected.
Outside, the man studied the cover of the album. Duo's lithe figure graced the cover, showing him in the middle of a dramatic stage pose, signature braid whipping about his body, piercing violet-eyes radiating his passion for his music, and a haunted expression he remembered all too well.
_Did I put that look there_?
Heero tentatively traced the outline of Duo's face with one finger. Duo....
He suddenly straightened, tossed the cd into his coat pocket, turned and headed back the way he came. This time however, he had something to do.
Duo flung himself into his favourite leather chair and relaxed with a sigh. The time he spent by himself after his concerts were his favourite. An ice-cold beer, his chair, casual clothes, and the TV.
" This is the life."
Duo opened his eyes and stared, as he did everyday, at the picture in its place of honour above the TV. He remembered joking to his manager Michelle that he kept it there so he was sure to look at it everyday.
It was one of the rare photos he had of all of them. Wufei stood to the right polishing his sword, an amused smirk on his face from the antics of the two beside him. Quatre and Trowa had their arms around each other and were smiling at the camera. Duo was waving maniacally and Heero....Heero had the end of his braid in his grip, and a faint smile on his face. It was that small smile, barely noticeable except to those who knew the Perfect Soldier, that made Duo's heart clench each time he saw it.
So why'd you leave 'em?
" 'Cause I didn't want to stick around to see Heero ride off with Relena, that's why." Raising his beer, he saluted the picture mockingly.
It tasted good against his abused throat. Singing was harder work then most people realized, he thought wryly. He set the can down on the coffeetable, knowing full well the woman he hired to clean his apartment would lecture him about the virtues of using a coaster. One of the reasons he'd hired Rosita was because she reminded him of Sister Helen--warm and fussing and motherly. Feeling guilty, he lifted the can and slipped a piece of paper under the can, not knowing where the coasters had escaped to. Leaning back again, his thoughts began to wander. _Not a good thing_. Especially when he thought about the past. About Heero.
Heero Yui. His Perfect Soldier of a partner. The man who could set his own broken leg without so much as scream of pain like any sensible person. The man who risked his life uncaringly. The man who had caught Duo's attention and held it as tightly as he held his braid.
_You're the meaning in my life, you're my inspiration_. Duo hummed absently and then groaned. _Stop thinking_, he told himself sternly. _Thinking just gets you in trouble and ends with Rosita bailing you out of jail at 2:30 in the morning..._ Duo chuckled. He'd gotten a tongue-lashing for that one.
The phone rang, its shrill screech jolting him out of his self-imposed reverie.
" Hang on, hang on," he groused, pulling himself to a sitting position. He snatched up the reciever. " What?"
" Do you always answer your phone so cheerfully?"
Duo's eyes snapped open and he nearly fell over.
" Ohayo Duo!" said the cheerful Arabian, waving at him from the vid-phone screen. Duo blinked--and then his face nearly split in a huge grin.
" Quatre-man! How'd you get this num--oops, dumb question, 'specially for the guy that owns half the world, neh? Whatcha up to? How's Trowa? Where's Trowa?"
Quatre laughed warmly, cutting Duo off in mid-sentence. Duo blushed and grinned.
" Sorry Quat - I'm just glad to see you," he said, his tone gentle. " I miss you guys."
" We miss you too Duo," Quatre said, observing his friend with some concern. The act that Duo put on for the whole world was obviously just that - an act. Without the concealment of bright lights, and costumes, Quatre could see the lines on Duo's face, the thinness of his face and body. " How are you?"
" I'm fine," Duo lied casually. " Just finished a big concert tonight for charity. Some orphange is gonna get a nice windfall."
" I know - Trowa and I caught the tail end of it on TV. You looked great out there!"
" Thank my agent, " Duo said, stifling a yawn. Despite his efforts, Quatre noticed.
" I'm sorry Duo - you must be exhausted-"
" No prob, Quat."
"--so I'll make this fast. I want you to come up for a visit, as soon as possible!" The Arabian's eyes sparkled briefly. " I want all of us to spend some time together - it's been too long since we all saw each other."
Duo's stomach twisted itself in a knot. " All of us?"
" Yes - a Gundam pilot reunion! I've already contacted Wufei at Preventer's Headquarters and he's coming! Sally basically told him to come and have fun or she'd resort to drastic measures."
Duo chuckled at the thought of the chinese pilot trembling in the face of his fiancee's wrath. The last time Wufei had turned down a vacation opportunity, Sally had threatened to completely refurnish their home in shades of pink and white. The Dragon Clan heir had caved so fast it was a wonder he was still able to walk upright. Then Duo's thoughts continued and he felt the tension knotting up again.
" Did you..did you happen to get a hold of Heero?" he asked, trying to sound casual.
" Actually, I haven't found him yet," the blond admitted. " I get the occasional update but I haven't heard from him in person in almost two years."
_Since the end of the war. Since I left_. Aloud, he asked Quatre," Why didn't you just contact Relena? Surely she'd have some idea of what her husband is up to?"
Silence. Then Quatre blinked incredulously at Duo.
" Husband? Relena?"
" Yeah - didn't she drag him off into the sunset?" Duo was confused now. Quatre smiled gently at the American.
" Duo -- Heero left right after you did. Relena wanted him to return with her but he turned her down. Again. In public." He laughed shortly. " She finally got the hint that he'd rather not be her consort. " He squinted at Duo's picture in the screen. " Duo? Are you all right?"
The crazy, chaotic existence formerly known as Duo's world had just flipped upside-down and shattered into a million pieces. Vaguely, Duo could hear Quatre asking him something but he was too busy trying to assimilate the information he'd just been bombed with. Heero wasn't with Relena. Heero had been missing for two years. A memory flashed to the front of his mind:
Duo observed Heero standing there, watching the people celebrate the end of the war. Duo supposed he should be celebrating too, but he had other things on his mind. Namely a certain dark-haired pilot that occupied his every waking moment.
Duo raked a hand through his hair and approached the Japanese boy.
" Hey Heero!" he chirped, plastering a smile on his face. " Isn't this great? It's over man - we did it!"
Heero's cobalt-blue eyes flicked towards him momentarily, before returning to the people below.
Duo swallowed hard. Now was the time to say what was on his mind, to see if Heero felt the same way, to see if....to see if maybe, just maybe, Heero might want to stay with him....
" Hey, uh..Heero?"
" Hmm?" Heero turned to look at him, REALLY look at him this time and Duo felt his heart skip a beat.
" I was wondering if you..if you uh, had any plans now," Duo blurted out, cursing inwardly for his cowardice. Confusion filled Heero's eyes, and then a sadness so deep and profound it cut Duo to the core. " Heero?"
" Plans..." The perfect soldier said the word as if he didn't comprehend its meaning. Duo nodded encouragingly.
" 'Cause if ya don't, y'know, I've got some plans of my own...and I was kinda wonderin'....if you, uh...wanted to come with?" Duo trailed off and he glanced at Heero quickly, wondering if he could move fast enough if Heero wanted to punch him. Heero was staring at him with an amazed look.
" You want me to come with you?"
" Well, yeah man - you're my partner, my best friend!" Duo was sure his ears were about to burst into flames. " And I..."
Heero looked interested, taking a step forward. Duo looked at the suddenly warm look on his friend. Heero looked at him expectantly.
" And you what?"
About to finish his sentence, Duo was cut off by a loud, screeching noise that grated on his ears.
Duo watched as the Queen of the World, Relena Peacecraft, glomped onto the Perfect Soldier's arm with all the tenacity of a starving octopus. Heero's face was blocked from view as Relena looked up at him, beaming happily.
" Isn't this wonderful Heero? The war is finally over! It's a brand new start for everyone! Including..." Relena trailed off before peeking up at him coquettishly. "....us."
Duo stiffened. Relena ignored the American's presence as she continued to babble.
" Think of it Heero! Peace! And we can have it all...I can give you anything you want, anything you'll ever need! You'll never be lonely, never lack for anything......"
Duo tuned out Relena's voice as he stared at the ground. What was he thinking? Him, a commen street rat, and Relena, the Queen of the World. What could he offer the Japanese pilot that Relena couldn't top a hundred times over? The sudden lack of babbliing made him look up -- to see Relena kissing Heero. His world stopped.
Duo forced himself to breathe and called upon all his strength to will his jester's mask over his faces. He would not let Heero follow him out of guilt or obligation.
" I should've known you'd have plans already, huh Heero?" Duo gave the two of them a weak smile, refusing to meet Heero's eyes. " You guys are perfect--" Duo nearly choked on the word"--for each other. Guess I'll leave you two lovebirds alone, neh? Ja ne! "
With that, he whirled around and fled. Vaguely he heard someone call his name but he resolutely blocked his ears and ran. Maybe, just maybe, he could outrun the pain in his chest, the stabbing, blinding, mocking pain. Maybe.
Duo stared unseeingly for a few minutes as the familiar ache locked itself around his heart again.
" Duo? DUO!"
Duo finally blinked and looked back at the vid-screen. Quatre was staring at him worriedly.
" Are you all right?"
_Oh I'm just peachy_.
" I'm fine, Quatre," Duo sighed, raking a hand through his unruly bangs. " Just fine."
" Are you going to come then?"
Come? Come where? Oh yeah...
" Yeah, Quat. I'll be there."
" Did you want me to send my jet--"
" I've got it covered man," Duo said quietly, throwing him an amused look. " I've got more'n enough cash nowadays."
Quatre covered his mouth with embarassment.
" Oh I'm sorry! I didn't mean to imply anything Duo!"
" I know, " Duo chuckled. Quatre would never deliberately hurt anyone - the Winner heir was too kind-hearted for that. " Never thought I'd ever be in this position either."
" That's not what I--"
" I've got to make a few calls, Quatre-man. Let my agent know I'm bookin' it for a while - hey, I'm due for a vacation anyway! Last time I relaxed on the beach was during that photoshoot for Wild Looks Swimsuits on fake sand and a flourescent 'sun'." Duo shook his head. " Nope, I'll be there with bells on. Promise!"
Quatre beamed at him as he cut the connection, and Duo sat back, still stunned. He heard that faint voice in his memory calling his name....had it been Heero?
" You're dreaming again," he told himself. " Just because Heero didn't marry Relena, doesn't mean he was ready to come with you that night. Right?"
His heart didn't answer. He hated it when it did that. Standing up, he reached for his cell-phone. Time to get ready to go. The sooner the better.
_I...I hope you make the reunion Heero...I think we need to talk...._