Should've Been You
by Dev-Aki Basaa
Duo sat up in bed, pulling at yet another string in the comforter, working it free from the weave of fabric. It finally snapped and came loose, dangling from his fingers - a long thin blue thread. He looked over at the little pile of blue threads he'd been collecting all morning. He glanced back to the thread in his hand. He didn't add it to the mass of strings this time. Instead, he pressed one end of the string to his forefinger and held it in place with his thumb. Then, taking the dangling end of the thread in his other hand, he began to wrap it around the tip of his finger. Around and around, tighter with each pass, he watched as his skin bloomed a purple hue - dark, deep purple.
The woman lying next to him shifted in her sleep and moaned before, again, falling quiet. Duo glanced over at her, a pause in his wrapping. Her long brown and blonde streaked hair splayed over the pillow, her head turned away from him, arching the column of her throat. Duo stared at his now throbbing finger and then back at her throat. His finger was a bruise color - deep purple like the one on her neck. An angry plum color with little swipes of red left behind by his teeth. Duo glanced again at his finger, now purple to the point of being black.
He didn't have any bruises. Not from last night anyway.
With a sigh, Duo released his abused finger from its thread confinement and dropped the string with the rest of the growing pile. The blood sunk and dissipated through the rest of his finger and beyond, fading back to a natural pale flesh-pink.
Duo glanced at the woman again. He should leave. Pay the hotel bill and leave.
She probably didn't want to see him when she woke. She wouldn't remember much anyway, drunk as she was.
As he was.
Duo closed his eyes with a sigh. What had he been thinking?
It wasn't you.
I wanted it to be you,
There, with me, last night.
Not to say I deluded myself,
Pretending that it was you arching into my touch.
I knew what I was doing,
I knew who I was with and why,
Even if there was no reason at all.
And I have no regrets,
Or, have I?
Because I couldn't stop thinking,
It should've been you.
Duo swiped a hand across the stream-fogged mirror of the bathroom, seeing his violet eyes gazing back at him. A few more swipes and he could see his full reflection - nude, still dripping wet from the shower, skin flushed pink from the hot water. His hair, dark with wetness, plastered itself down his back, the ends tickling the skin of his thighs. He stared for a moment longer and then tipped his head and turned, looking over his shoulder. He pushed his hair aside and let his gaze travel down his spine and lower.
No marks, no bruises, nothing.
Silly thing to want, isn't it? But they're not there. She didn't do anything to him. Her hands never roamed about his body, her mouth never ventured beyond the deep kisses he gave her. She writhed and moaned and enjoyed it. She arched and responded to his touch; she came by his hand and mouth, but...
No marks, no bruises - nothing received. Only given.
Duo turned back again and leaned closer to the mirror, arching his neck to one side. There, at the juncture of his neck and shoulder, a pale jagged scar caught the light, the taunt pink skin shimmering slightly.
Heero had done that - had bit him as he came, pinning Duo against the wall of their bedroom with his slamming hips. He had professed his love - not for the first time - and dug his teeth into his skin, claiming him, marking him, taking him.
It had been fucking beautiful. Duo moved his shoulder in a circle, watching the little scar dance upon his skin.
He had other such marks, mostly from Heero, but not all. Some had faded over time, like bruises and small scrapes, yet Duo remembered them. He remembered the passion from whence they came and the lingering sight of them in the days that followed.
And he gave as many as he received. He loved as he had been loved.
But not last night.
He had merely been a means to an end. It didn't matter to the woman that it was *him*, so much as someone was there, taking her to any heights she could get. Not that he blamed her, what more would he expect?
Nor to say he went out looking for such a role. Duo couldn't say why, but something provoked him to pursue her.
She was highly attractive, flirtatious and *there*, for one. But, that wasn't the full story. Perhaps he wanted a little release too - a little comfort. Maybe he wanted to remember the emotions of nights past. Yeah. He wanted to feel needed and important, if only for brief hours. He wanted to evoke the spirit of his love and maybe pretend - just a little - that he was there, again, with him.
He wanted to fill a void; that vacancy inside him, left behind by the absent person who meant more to him than the words allowed him to describe. It was a vain attempt, obviously, since now he felt more empty than he had alone.
Duo turned away from the mirror and reached for the pile of clothes he dumped on the floor after collecting them from being strewn around the hotel room. He grabbed his boxers and then his jeans, yanking them on with quick and fast jerks. He then followed them with his t-shirt and jacket. Giving a twist and squeeze, he wrung the last drops of moisture that he could from his hair and wove it into a hasty braid.
He caught his reflection in the mirror just before turning to leave for good, the fog having receded to a watery haze. He looked pale, weary - sad and pathetic. Duo couldn't help but grimace as the reality of last night rushed upon him, draining his physical, along with his emotional, energy. He hung his head, his whole body drooping with the action. Resting his weight on outstretched arms, his hands gripped the edge of the bathroom counter. His braid swung over his shoulder, dangling in his line of sight as he swallowed back a sob.
"I wanted it to be you, Heero."
It would have been different,
Had it been you.
You would have given,
And not just received.
You would have wanted *me*,
And not just wanted.
You would have remembered,
And cherished those thoughts,
As I would have.
And I wouldn't be sitting here,
Contemplating regrets and misgivings,
For drunken acts,
Born out of desiring,
Someone not there.
Duo adjusted the sunglasses settled on the bridge of his nose. The sun was just breaking over the tops of skyscrapers, flashing beams of light in the gaps between buildings. He'd have to retrieve his car from the bar's parking lot. They at least had enough sense to take a cab to the motel - if little other brain activity actually occurred.
He glanced up and caught the time from the antique clock featured on the side of the bank building. No. The car would have to wait. He'd have to hurry back to the apartment or Mari was liable to make a mess on the floor. Heero would kill him if he knew he'd let their poor dog suffer.
Duo laughed, a sound completely devoid of any humor. Not that Heero would know. Not that Duo had any idea where he was or when he might hear from him again. His steps slowed, his gaze falling out of focus as he lost himself in his thoughts, making his way home in automatic numbness.
"I'll be back," Heero had said to him on the day he left. Duo believed him - still believed him, but a year and a half was a damn long time. Fucking 'special assignment'. Fucking Preventers. Duo had ended up taking a leave from the organization only a few months after Heero left. He figured missing Heero as badly as he did and then everyday facing the powers that be who had sent his love away was not the best combination. After a few random fists into the wall (as opposed to Une's face), Sally - wise woman - suggested a leave of absence. Of an undetermined length, at that. Until Heero came back, he supposed. Or longer. Or never. So, he'd gone back to salvaging, running the business on Earth just as he had on L2 before he and Heero found each other again in the years after the war. Duo discovered that those daily tasks of the business were less likely to make him think of Heero since he hadn't been around during that time in his life.
But what a stupid statement, really, because when didn't he think of Heero? He didn't think of him any more when he received a coded message assuring him of his safety and love or any less than he did during the weeks when no update or notice had arrived. He thought of him constantly, consistently.
Always. And missed him with an aching heart.
"You know I'll be back, I promise," he had said as he kissed Duo's forehead and then each closed eyelid.
"I know," he had answered. And Duo did still believe, but faith didn't keep you warm at night or give you something to wrap your arms around when you forget he's not there. So Heero had assured him as much as words could, but words - even 'I love you' and 'I promise' - didn't stop the craving for lovemaking, a responsive body and intimate touches.
Duo gave a derisive snort. Not that he'd gotten too much of that last night either.
He looked up to realize he was already walking up the steps to his second floor apartment. He quick gave a wave and a mumbled greeting to his neighbor, Jane, as she passed him on her way out. He could already hear Mari whining at the door as he approached it. He unlocked the door and braced his leg up to the doorjamb, blocking Mari from making a break for it. A lesson he'd learned after countless times of chasing her down the hall.
"Back, girl!" he called out as the door creaked open. He felt Mari's claws scratch lightly at his denim covered leg as he crammed his body though as small of a space as possible, Mari jumping on him the whole time.
Reluctantly and wiggling in her spot, she obeyed, her long blonde tail whipping back and forth across the floor. Duo made it the rest of the way in, closing the door and then throwing his coat and sunglasses on the chair against the wall. He looked down at Mari. She kept barking again and again, tilting her head up at him as if puzzling a question.
Another bark and Duo knew he could hear her thoughts as plainly as if she'd spoken them.
'Where have you been?'
Duo sighed. "Lost. I've been lost," he answered her, kneeling and reaching out to rub a floppy blonde ear. That was the limit of Mari's restraint. She launched forward and lapped a sloppy trail down his cheek. His melancholy mood washed away with her doggy affection and he couldn't hold back a true laugh of mirth.
Wrestling with Mari a bit, Duo noticed the message light blinking on the answering machine. Ten bucks said it was Quatre. He checked in on him regularly, always with an invite to something - a dinner, a lunch, one of Trowa's charity Circus events or just a weekend away with him and Tro. Duo smiled, giving Mari a thorough scratching behind her ear. Quatre worried too much, but it was nice. Of course, it could also be Wufei. He checked in on him pretty regularly as well, which never ceased to amaze Duo. One had to wonder how much prompting from Sally may be involved, though. Wu-man usually just wanted to make sure he hadn't done anything stupid. At that thought, his grin faded. He hoped it was Quatre.
Mari whined and Duo snapped out of his thoughts, grabbing her fuzzy head and nuzzled her, mumbling an apology. She had to go! He jumped up, Mari bounding right after him, and he snatched her leash off the wall. He paused again at the sight of his computer. Heero. Sometimes messages didn't reach him for weeks, but he checked every day. Twice a day. Mari's claws rubbed down his pant leg and he turned away from the computer, bending over to hook the leash on her collar. The computer would have to wait.
Maybe a little on purpose, Duo lost track of time at the park with Mari. They'd run and munched on vendor hotdogs; harassed the ducks and basically had a really good time. It was several hours later before he sat down in front of his computer and booted it up. Heero could never mail him directly because it could be traced, so they'd decided on an obscure, small college run, BBS to leave messages at. They were always coded and easily dismissed as either a system error or some freak that didn't know how to use a keyboard. Duo recognized them only for their complete lack of sense.
He clicked under General Discussion and scanned the subject headings for all new messages since yesterday afternoon. There were two with blank headings - first tip off. Duo clicked on the older one, his pulse racing a little and found only a continuation of the 'Campus Safety - Are We Really Safe' thread.
"No, you're not. No one is," he grumbled at the screen and moved his cursor to the newer message. It opened and Duo's heart hammered in his chest.
Duo glanced at the wall beside the computer and scanned the codes he had hanging there for reference. There were ten or more code systems that they used at random. Duo began whittling down the options. Well, the numeric systems were instantly ruled out. It probably wasn't a anagram or the old OZ system they'd adopted and modified slightly. It was very short, leading him to believe it was a simple code - maybe not even the ones they'd used before. He looked at the letters again, eyes narrowing in thought. An idea quickly hit him and he grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. Duo scribbled down the alphabet and then wrote it backwards directly underneath. Following the letters with his finger, he copied down the mystery word. P lined up with K, L lined up with O, and R lined up with I. Reading the word, Duo's stomach muscles clenched so fast he felt as if he'd been punched in the gut.
He sat there, staring at the blue ink scrawled word on white paper. He ran a finger across the word and then looked back up at the screen to see the white 'Plr' against a black background. Duo let his head drop, his eyelids closed tight against tears that stung his eyes.
"I love you too, Heero."
He sighed and dropped his hand down to his knee and Mari, who'd come to him and nudged his leg affectionately, like she knew. She probably did. Smart dog.
"I'll be back," Heero had said and Duo still believed him - would never stop believing. He had to keep that faith, or else he might lose it all together.
"Someday," he whispered to the screen before getting up and walking away from the computer, Mari trotting after him to bump her head against the back of his knee. He glanced down at her little blonde fuzzy face. She missed him too. Duo scratched her head; maybe they'd go back to the park and run some more, lose themselves in the bright sun and blue-sky day, enjoy each other's company instead of wallowing in the absence of his.
Duo gathered up his jacket and Mari's leash, hesitating in front of the computer. The screen still shone brightly, the letters 'Plr' appearing to have an extra illumination all their own. He wanted to reply right away, to tell Heero in his own coded message how much he missed and loved him, but he'd have to wait. They kept the strange postings spaced out in seeming and forgettable randomness. Shaking his head, Duo leaned over the computer, logged off and shut down. He'd probably code a message tonight and then count the days until he could post it.
Finished, he then straightened and looked for Mari, giving a hearty laugh to see her already waiting for him at the door. A call of "Let's go, girl!" sent her into a fit of wiggles and jumps and he ushered her out into the hall, deftly clipping her leash to her collar on one rather energetic leap.
He closed and locked the door, then headed down the steps and back out into the beautiful day, Mari eagerly tugging him along. Even as they approached the park and the promise of fun and play, Duo couldn't help but think on his love - wondering where he must be, what he's doing, but most of all, listening to Heero's voice echoing in his head, saying everything he needed to hear.
"I'll be back, Duo, I promise."
It wasn't you.
So instead I close my eyes and think not of last night,
But of the someday,
We've promised ourselves.
I look to that,
To wash away the emptiness I feel now,
With warmth of requited emotions.
And come that day, it will be you,