Morning walks with Duo Maxwell were one of the few diversions that
Heero Yuy allowed himself between missions. It was an unknown
sensation of pleasant anticipation that awakened with him in the
mornings when he would open his eyes and Duo was easing himself into
running shoes. In his quick movements was an unsaid but plain
invitation and Heero inevitably always took Duo up on it.
The walk was truly a walk; both of their sneakers were never
pressured to live up to their high impact standards. It was the act
of strolling that offered so much more peace and enjoyment than the
feeling of the heart against the ribcage or the sweat pouring down in
hot trickles along the forehead and down the back. Running was too
tied with missions and war, and sometimes no matter how disciplined
the mind, no matter how inhuman one had to become to sustain oneself,
the body needed a moment of quiet. Or rather with Duo, a moment of
fast animated chatter overlaying the quiet of the surroundings.
It surprised Heero in a way how easy social interaction with Duo
could be. His upbringing, without a single similarity to the
stereotype of the nuclear family, and focused intently on training
the musculature and the development of an unnaturally fast reaction
time, had left him uncomfortable with the presence of those that
engaged him in conversation for the sake of talk. In war, directions
were well detailed but concise, abrupt and forceful to convey the
strongest sense of urgency and importance. In conversation, there
were nuances that he was unfamiliar with, the silences that he could
neither distinguish between embarrassment, fear nor resentment.
Grudgingly, he had to admit that Duo seemed to help him immensely in
that respect. He made a concerted and sustained effort to befriend
him, and Heero, intoxicated with a subconscious need for some form of
intimacy to another human being, had been unwillingly but ultimately
The walks had started a few months previously when Duo had approached
him during breakfast. Heero could still remember the details of the
day, marked for its importance despite it being a guaranteed
insignificance to anyone else. He was finishing a piece of toast
when the shadow fell over the table. He turned and saw Duo standing
in front of the window, a tall, strong figure with the red orange
dawn sun pouring out around his dark silhouette. His voice was
animated as he moved out of the corona of light and downed a glass of
orange juice. "You up for a walk Heero?"
The question had startled Heero in a way that a fleet of mobile suits
could not. His first instinct was to deny the request, pawn off some
excuse of other mission minded things he could be doing instead of
roaming the surroundings in a mindless way that accomplished nothing
but ending up from where he had started. And yet, a feeling stirred
within himself to deny the words that were on his lips. The thought
of base schematics and government databanks to be hacked had suddenly
turned unappealing. They paled to the thought of being under the sun
as it rose, under a sky that was blue, in the morning that was crisp
because nature had wanted it so, not engineers who had planned it
weeks before. He had never felt such a need for escape, for he
realized it was an escape that Duo was offering even if the other boy
hadn't known it as such.
It was probably nearly a minute later that Duo tired from waiting for
an answer that was clearly not going to be given. He shrugged and
headed for the door without another glance backward. Heero for his
part was finishing an internal tug of war, and having finally calmed
the inner struggle and made up his mind, hurriedly dumped his plate
and cup into the sink before running to catch up to Duo at door. He
laced up his beat up yellow sneakers and stood at the threshold with
Duo on his left side. There was an unknown subdued giddiness that
made his fingers tingle, and he fought to keep his voice low and
controlled. "Where are we heading?"
Duo was really surprised, and Heero thought it mildly amusing the way
he froze on the welcome mat staring questioningly at him. Heero had
to give him credit that while he could have asked `are you
sure?' or `really?', Duo had avoided redundancy and pointed out over
the lake. "The park. Which way you wanna go?"
Heero swept his eyes over the gentle slope of gravel that traveled
down from their cabin to a dirt road, which ran in a ring around the
small lake before diverting off and disappearing behind a hill and
down to a shopping center. The park was directly on the opposite
side of the lake and he considered whether the right path with its
tall weeds was preferable to the rocky outcrops in the left
path. "The left."
Duo looked at him with curiosity but shrugged and started down the
path, gravel crunching beneath his steps. "You coming Yuy?"
Heero watched the brown braid sway and over Duo's head, a few
smooth boulders reflect the sun. The cool morning air blew across
his lips and he wet them slowly with his tongue. So this was
freedom. He took a step onto the gravel, sinking in slightly.
He found it unexpected that during the walk Duo was mostly quiet,
occasionally making a comment about their surroundings or the
weather, but otherwise without the babbling and running commentary
that always accompanied him. If Heero had been a better observer of
human reactions, he could have distinguished whether it was because
of nervousness or shyness or something else, but as it was, he
focused on his own feelings. Even with Duo's uncharacteristic
reticence, Heero found himself enjoying the pace and mindlessness.
They ambled at a slow leisurely pace around the lake, randomly taking
a detour from the dirt path to climb up onto the gentle domes of
exposed crags and scramble back down again onto the dewy grass. The
wet blades were cold against Heero's ankles and the lake's
lapping waves sloshed against the rocky shore.
They reached the park as the sun was midway to its highest perch.
The park itself was more like a camping ground, heavily wooded in
some parts, cleared patches of picnic benches and barbecue pits in
others. It was early spring and the still present sharpness of the
cold in the air seemed to explain the emptiness of the grounds. It
was here that Duo spoke for the first time in ten minutes. "You
wanna walk around a bit or head back?"
Heero turned a little and could make out their cabin, small and
bleary across the distance of the lake. It looked so rustic and
agreeable in its surroundings, a nice addition to the scenery. He
could stare at it from the outside and admire the wooden porch and
square brick chimney. Inside, it was different, wired with cables,
appliances and all the reminders of planning death and losing
innocence one mission at a time. He shook his head slowly and began
to walk listlessly away into the woods. Duo followed at his side,
keeping silent pace. The trees began to thicken and the animal life
appeared a little at a time. They strayed from the hiking path that
led off towards the hills, and instead followed a brook as it
trickled deeper into the denser growth. Neither of them spoke.
They stopped again when they reached the small pond that the creek
emptied into, a shallow algae-stained oversized puddle. Here the
birds were calling loudly and salamanders swam effortlessly through
the murky depths. They stood on either side of the pond, three, four
feet away from each other. Duo stared at Heero and Heero stared
back. Duo gave a small smile and hooked his thumb behind him.
"End of the road?"
The words seemed to be appropriate for Heero found that he had had
his moment of solitude and the thought of all the work and violence
that was waiting for him was nothing more unnerving as breathing. He
took one last look down at his feet, at the creatures wriggling
around in the water, surfacing and disappearing into the cloudy
depths. "Let's go."
They took the other way back, walking parallel to the dirt path
through the waist high grasses that batted them as they tried to pry
apart the stalks for a clear path on which to walk. The return like
the rest of the walk was mostly silent. Once or twice a clump of
especially tall and thick weedy looking grasses attracted their
attention and they detoured off their detour to explore. In one of
the last ones before coming across the flat meadow near their cabin,
Duo's foot caught around a thick tangle and he tripped and fell.
It was the look of when he came back up to face Heero, embarrassed
but amused that had Heero almost smiling.
When they had both reached the cabin, the silence that had been so
accepted between them became strange. Duo's demeanor changed
too, like a surge of energy had just run him through and he quickly
took off his shoes and ran into the living room to flop onto a couch,
snatched the remote out of Wufei's hands and flicked through the
hundreds of vid channels.
Heero watched the scene unfold with a familiar sense of annoyance.
Wufei demanding that Duo return the remote and Duo ignoring him to
click channel after channel without stopping. The weird mood of the
morning had been irrevocably broken and he slowly took off his shoes
and put them precisely in his spot and started up the stairs to a day
of memorizing layouts and creating aliases.
Afterwards Heero realized that for all the new feelings and thoughts
that had come to him that day, none was so vivid as the lack of
conversation. It was the first of Duo's lessons, for he had
finally learned what everyone had meant by a comfortable silence.
As the weeks went by, the walks developed into a routine. It was
nearly a week later that he had awoken to Duo getting ready for a
morning jog. Heero had no issues with presumption and he got up
quickly and joined Duo at the front door without a question of
permission. Duo didn't seem surprised this time, and was more
prone to talk. In fact he had started off straight down the driveway
asking Heero a slew of questions, anything from what he was doing
that day to why J had a claw for an arm. It was probably somewhere
between the fourth and fifth question that he had noticed Heero was
looking somewhat uncomfortable and he tapered off into an abrupt
silence. Duo finally tried to send an apologetic smile to Heero and
inclined his head towards the street. "Too early for
interrogation huh? Come on, I bet we can get to the park before the
Heero nodded slowly and settled into a quiet pace by Duo's side.
It was jarring how different this walk was from their first.
Certainly Duo had decided to be more talkative and as they approached
the park gates in silence, he regretted making Duo feel uncomfortable
enough to stop talking. Even in their first stroll around the lake
Duo had at least made some comment about the surroundings every now
and then, if only to dispel the quiet between them. As they made
their way through the gates and their footsteps fell softer onto the
leaf litter of the park path, Heero felt he couldn't tolerate the
discomfort of their non-communication. "Breaking an OZ
Duo spared him a confused look but didn't stop walking.
A prickly heat itched in his cheeks as Heero felt a strange sense of
embarrassment at daring to volunteer information, much less actively
seek out a conversation. He had never done anything like it before
and he found himself unsure if he was doing the right thing. But he
had spoken and Duo had asked and it was up to him to continue on
because Heero Yuy did not fail. "That's what I'm doing
today, breaking a firewall."
At his answer Duo favoured him with an odd smile, different than any
Heero had seen on the other's face. It was not so much enjoyment
as wonder, and he felt a strange nervous sensation grow within him.
He didn't know what to say, and he lapsed back into silence though
this time was much more short lived as Duo began to occasionally make
some comments about how different Earth weather was from that on the
colonies. And occasionally he even asked Heero some questions, to
which Heero began to develop a confidence in answering, even if his
answers were a bit brief or awkward. The rest of the walk passed
much the same as the first, and Heero acknowledged that he really did
enjoy the company Duo offered.
Eventually Duo had begun to ask more questions and talk more and
Heero had begun to listen and answer, and in those times that he felt
strangely comfortable enough in his situation to make a funny
observation or two. Slowly he began to anticipate the sunny days and
getting up obscenely early to forage out into the morning with Duo by
Today was different though. When Heero woke up, the sky beyond the
window was overcast, grey and smooth with a kind of cloud cover that
promised a heavy bout of rain. He turned slowly onto his side,
disappointment beginning to form in his chest. There would be no
walk today. Resigned to this conclusion, he gave a heavy sleepy sigh
and sunk deeper into his pillow. But a rustle caught his attention
and he cracked open a drowsy eye, and in the dimness of the room,
could make out Duo's shape moving about. As his vision cleared
up, he became aware that Duo was moving with a purpose, sifting
through a pile of clothes on the floor and finally picking up a pair
of his well worn black boots and pulling on his dark priest's
shirt. At last he turned to look at Heero and Heero let his eyes open up
fully and stare back equally to meet Duo's. His thick sleep
clogged voice scratched out into the room. "You're going out?"
Duo took a quick look out the window and smiled. "Of course, you
Heero cleared his throat and sat up on his bed, his muscles slowly
reviving. "It'll rain."
Duo favoured Heero with a devil-may care grin and finished pulling on
his shirt. "You afraid of the rain, Yuy?"
There was a tone of teasing challenge in his voice and Heero felt
himself being invigorated without logical reason. His limbs trembled
like the first time and he flung off the blankets and did a few quick
stretches before fishing out his green tank top and shorts. Duo had
already gone down and he hurriedly pulled on his clothes and headed
to the bathroom. His mind was awake and running with the
anticipation of Duo. That was a startling thought and he
instinctively knew this morning was different, not just the weather
and Duo's choice of dress. Heero placed his toothbrush down onto
the porcelain of the sink and took in his night tossed hair and
flushed face. He was changed today too, and he didn't know why.
Duo was on the doorstep as usual, waiting for him. Heero laced up his
sneakers and they took off without a word out into the hall towards
the elevator. They were hiding this time in a nondescript apartment
in the middle of the business district of a huge metropolis. The
anonymity of the faceless millions as Quatre had once eloquently
said. Duo had spoiled the effect with an appropriately placed burp.
They were just out of the apartment building when Duo pointed over to
the right. "The park's just over a couple of blocks."
Heero nodded and started off along the sidewalk. Duo walked on his
right, silent until they approached the entrance. There he actually
touched Heero's bare arm and pointed over to a dirt path leading
into the more wooded area of the park. Heero wasn't surprised at
Duo's sudden decision, but he was at the warmth of Duo's hand
and how strangely personal the attention getting gesture really was.
The clouds broke as they ambled underneath the dense tree cover and
Heero began to suspect that Duo had planned their walk that way. But
Duo didn't seem to care about the rain; he walked along quietly,
more distracted than usual. As they were passing under a thick oak,
he stopped entirely, looking up at the low branches just a little
above his head. The rain pelted the leaves and rustled loudly and he
just stood under the less dense cover of the outer branches letting
the errant raindrops soak into his shirt and hair.
Heero stood waiting and watching Duo stand stock-still. Heero
wasn't sure of why Duo had stopped; it certainly had nothing to
do with the rain, as Duo was standing under the light spray without any
It was when Heero was contemplating interrupting Duo's thoughts
that Duo came out his thoughts and stared at Heero with an unfocused
but meaningful gaze. It was slightly unnerving in its intensity, and
his voice was low and serious enough to reflect it. "Do you ever
think about the war Heero? Besides the missions?"
The question caught Heero unaware. He was used to Duo's less
personal questions, and the frank personal nature of the question was
rather unusual. But it didn't particularly surprise him, as this
morning was not in the usual pattern.
Duo didn't wait for Heero's answer and continued on, pinning
Heero with his new foreign introspectiveness. "It's strange
when I'm in Deathscythe, I forget I'm just fifteen years old. I
guess I sorta miss being a kid. I mean, even though my childhood kinda
sucked, I still miss it, you know? You ever want to just be a kid,
not a terrorist?"
Heero nodded mutely, thinking about the occasional vicarious thrills
he'd felt when he happened to walk past a group of kids hanging
outside some shop, trading cards and talking in high animated voices,
or some teenagers outside a movie theatre complaining about how the
book was so much better. But that type of stuff did not belong in an
active soldier's life, and even less so of one of the infamous
Duo took Heero's nod as encouragement to continue and he trained
his eyes away from Heero's and stared up at the sky. The rain
was falling harder, sometimes in sheets and then back to a disorganized
shower. He stepped out from under the tree cover and the water
soaked through his clothes instantaneously. His face glowed with a
feral kind of liberated happiness. "You ever stand under the
rain just because, Heero?" At Heero's blank look he sighed
in an exaggerated fashion and headed back under the low branches right up
to Heero. The smell of rain on his skin and clothes overwhelmed
Heero with a pleasant dizziness. The sight of soaked hair and the
small droplets rolling down Duo's cheeks only added to the
strange sense of anticipation running through Heero's veins. And
Duo's voice too, a hushed tenderness that was at once tempting
and nervous. "Come on, Heero."
It was the dreamlike quality of the moment that let Heero allow
himself to be led away from the trunk of the tree, away from the
shelter of the leaves and branches and into the breathlessly cold
morning rain. The water chilled his skin and beat upon his face and
he realized with a shiver the reality of what was happening. At once
he pulled out of Duo's grasp, with a violence that sent him off
balance and down onto the squelching grass. He got up onto his
knees, wiping his heavy hair from his eyes, and frowned up at
Duo. "We're soaked."
"I know." Duo stared down at Heero, smiling with a
breathless enjoyment. "It's amazing. I never thought I'd see the
day Heero Yuy pouting."
Heero's face deepened into a scowl, and his voice into a sullen
mutter. "I'm not pouting."
"Sure you are, but it's cute on you."
Heero's face changed again, into uncertainty. "Cute?"
"Cute, as in looking endearing."
"You find me attractive?"
Duo laughed at that. "Of course I do."
"Why?" A warm flush of embarrassment and anxiety warmed
Heero's insides and Duo found it even more amusing if possible.
"Why?" he laughed. "Cause you're a good guy Heero,
smart, nice, strong. And hot too." He watched as Heero's face took on a
decidedly pinker hue, and took a step closer. "The question is
what you think of me."
They both dropped into a momentary silence, as Heero looked up at
Duo. He couldn't displace the irritation of feeling that this
was supposed to be some defining moment in his life and he didn't
have an answer. Not even a thought. His head felt hollow and cold,
and neither of the feelings could be attributed to the rain. Duo was
still smiling down at him, patiently standing under the downpour,
with his dark clothes waterlogged and pasted to his skin, and hair
matted against his temples. And his eyes meeting Heero's with a
sense of candor and humour, and just a little softness. Heero broke
the gaze and stared straight ahead, with a discomfort that was
different from embarrassment. He felt extremely close to Duo at that
moment, and it didn't disquiet him. Just the thought of
Duo's presence made him feel expectant, like he was waiting for something
good to happen. That is, if he could find the right words to answer
Duo's question. He dared to look up at Duo again, and felt again
the visceral reaction of his look. "Yes."
Duo raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"
"Yes, I like you." He set his jaw when Duo failed to
respond. "As in the way you are attracted to me."
But still Duo remained silent. Heero was about to comment on it,
when a multitude of shouts went up somewhere nearby. Both turned
their heads to find a group of teenagers, thirteen or fourteen years
old maybe, screaming in enjoyment as they ran under the rain kicking
around a soccer ball. At that moment, said ball deflected badly off
of one of the kid's foot and bounced towards Duo, rolling deftly
to a stop at his feet. He looked down at the black and white ball
for a moment before bending to pick it up. He turned it around in
his hands a few times, giving it a deeper scrutiny before launching
it back to the waiting children. His eyes had a transient faraway
look. "I've never really played soccer. Have you Heero?"
Heero shook his head slightly, suddenly enraptured by the fun that
the children were having.
"Haven't you ever wanted to?"
Longing stirred to life then. It pulled at him, like yanking a rope
tied to the base of his spine. How would it feel to kick the ball?
To be screaming like that kid? `Pass me the ball!' Or like
that girl? `Guard your man!' He turned away from the sight,
slightly nauseated at his reality and focused back up at
Duo. "Sometimes, when I forget who I am."
"You shouldn't," Duo said before he paused to give room
for organizing his thoughts, "say it like they were mutually
exclusive, you and fun." He grinned as half of the children erupted in
triumph after scoring a goal. "Come on Heero, let's join them."
Heero frowned up at Duo. "Join them?" It was a ridiculous
thought, but the way Duo had said it, it could have been the easiest
thing in the world. "We can't." But Duo had already
unfastened his collar and was pulling his shirt up over his head. "We
can't," Heero repeated, for both their benefits.
Bare-chested, Duo laughed teasingly and wrung out his shirt. "Got
no skills Heero?"
"We're gundam pilots," Heero said, as if that reply held
all the answers in the universe.
"We're also kids. You gonna be a coward and hide behind that
Heero grimaced at the knowledge that he was indeed in the process of
using said excuse. He met Duo's taunting look and took a deep
breath. Heero Yuy did not fail at his missions, and he certainly did
not let Duo Maxwell get the better of him. He reached for the hem of
his tank top and drew it up over his head. The sodden cotton slid
over his skin and he crumpled it up into a ball before throwing it to
the ground beside him. His heart was thundering in his chest, the
blood a hot rush in his ears. It was a rather anticlimactic
momentous occasion. With a deep breath and a new determination, he
stood up to face a shirtless and now barefoot Duo Maxwell. "What
are we waiting for?"
Duo smiled in a dark, daring way before snatching up Heero's left
hand and giving it a good strong squeeze. His fingers curled firmly
around Heero's hand, and he smirked. "Last one there's
an ozzie!" and he threw his shirt to the ground and took off at a
sprint towards the children.
Heero moved to follow, but paused momentarily, silently taking in the
moment. The rain was still a downpour, thick droplets running down
his face and body. Duo Maxwell, equally wet was running at full
speed across the green expanse of the field, and Heero for once
couldn't tell the difference between child and gundam pilot. He
took off after the flailing rope of hair with a strange sense of
having come full circle.
Looking back, that day was a defining moment for Heero Yuy. It was
the day that he had regained a little of his humanity, and it was the
day he had really begun to know Duo Maxwell. His life had finally
Notes: Good? Bad? Any comments? Thanks for reading.