1-20-2004

Expectations (1/1)

by Anne Olsen

Ratings/warnings: OK (Oz/Kiwi spelling/grammar etc) - PG13 - Romance, WAFF, angst.

Pairings: 1x2, 3x4, 5+OC

Author's notes: This fic is part of the 'Outlasting Time' arc, which is obviously being written way out of order. Although it refers to events in that timeline, it can still be read as a 'stand alone'. For more information and to read the other stories in the series please visit http://www.angelfire.com/ab7/shadesandechoes/ot/outlastingtime.html

This story was written for Sharon's contest at Moments of Rapture - http://zerotwofan.com/rapture

Summary: As the birth of his and Duo's son draws nearer, Heero begins to doubt his ability to parent.

Archive: http://www.angelfire.com/ab7/shadesandechoes/ot/outlastingtime.html

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to Bandai, Sunrise and Sotsu Agency. I promise to return the boys in one piece, more or less, when I'm finished, but hold no liability for any broken bones or psychological trauma sustained by them in my fiction.

Dedication: For Sharon.

Thanks to the beta team: Bast, Hex, Haraamis and Gina.

Comments to: anneo @ paradise.net.nz

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AC 200

/It was only a dream. It was only a dream./

Repeating the words over in his mind, Heero gripped the edge of the blanket with one hand and attempted to slow his breathing. His hands were shaking, his body cold and clammy with sweat. It had seemed so real, even though his mind told him that logically, it couldn't have been.

After all, their son wasn't due to be born for another few days yet.

"Heero?" Duo opened one sleep-fogged eye to stare at his husband. "What time is it?

"Two and a half minutes past four," Heero checked the clock on the nightstand. "Go back to sleep, Duo."

Duo rolled over and closed his eyes again. "Good night, Heero." There was a moment's silence while he snuggled down under the covers, followed by a rustling noise as he sighed and sat up in the bed. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"Right." Duo patted the empty space between them and motioned for Heero to move closer. "Something's bothering you, I can hear it in your voice."

"I'm fine." Heero raised an eyebrow and feigned innocence. He had always been able to control his body's responses, and that included the intonation of his voice. "Go back to sleep, Duo."

"Okay, spill. What's the problem?"

"Problem? What makes you think there's a problem?" Heero corrected himself. He had always been able to control his responses when the situation didn't involve Duo. Although Heero admired Duo's persistence, it was also one of his husband's more annoying traits.

"One," Duo said, "it's four in the morning."

"Four minutes past four," Heero corrected.

"Two," Duo ignored the interruption. "You're even worse than Quatre at the innocent routine."

"Oh." Heero examined the edge of the blanket.

"Heero?"

"What?"

"Come here." When Heero didn't move, Duo shuffled over and hugged him. "Are you worried about the baby?"

"Hmm," Heero sighed. He hadn't thought he was so obvious, but Duo seemed to have a sixth sense about these things. He wondered if Duo's ability to see through masks was due to the many years he'd spent wearing one. Although the jester still appeared in public from time to time, the trust between them had grown until they no longer needed to hide from one another. If one of them did, it was a sure sign that something was wrong.

"I'll take that as a yes," Duo said, grinning as Heero began stroking the end of his braid. For some reason it always calmed Heero, helped him to think. He'd read once that stroking a cat was supposed to lower stress levels, but he wasn't sure how Duo would react to the comparison.

"Yes," Heero confirmed, pulling out of the hug. "Duo, I have no experience with children," he paused, pushing one rather unpleasant memory from his mind. "Almost no experience with children," Heero corrected himself before continuing. "I've read everything I can about child rearing, and instead of providing the reassurance I'd hoped for, all the information has done is to reinforce that I'm not prepared for this."

"No one's prepared for this," Duo said. "Someone told me once that it doesn't matter how prepared you think you are, parenting is never what you expect." He squeezed Heero's hand. "I think this is the way it's supposed to be."

"How can you embark on a mission without a clear set of instructions?" Heero pondered. "What if I mess up? What if..." he faltered. "What if there's something wrong with him because of me."

Duo let go of Heero's hand and grabbed his face, turning him so that their eyes met. "There is NOTHING wrong with you, Heero. I don't care what that asshole J did, there is nothing wrong with you."

"We don't know that for sure," Heero reminded him.

"Iria said..." After hearing about the scheme which would allow same sex partners to become parents, they'd talked to Quatre's sister at length about their concerns before pursuing the matter further. Heero had trusted her judgement at the time; after all it had been her research that had allowed their dream to become reality.

"Iria said that /as far as she knew/ there would be no abnormalities. Dr J altered my DNA; what's to stop any of those alterations showing up later in Michael?"

"Normality is totally overrated," Duo replied, his eyes flashing. "We've discussed this already, and I thought you were okay with it."

"I am okay with it," Heero faltered. "I was okay with it." The closer it came to Michael's birth, the harder it was to ignore the feeling of impending dread. Duo was so happy about having a child; Heero had been too, until he'd realised just how much he wasn't equipped to deal with this.

"Was?" Duo gave his hand another squeeze. "You've been spending too much time reading those pregnancy and child-care books. Sometimes too much information is worse than not enough."

"There's no such thing as too much information," Heero said firmly. "It's better to go into a situation with as much knowledge as possible, as it decreases the chance of possible..."

"This isn't a mission." Duo attempted to glare at him but failed. If was difficult to tell whether he was annoyed or amused. "This is life, Heero, and life doesn't come with a precise set of instructions."

"Well, it should."

Duo raised an eyebrow. "You're scared of the unknown? Is that it?"

"I am not scared!" This time it was Heero's turn to glare. He'd been a Gundam pilot and had taken out enemies even when the odds had been stacked against him. He was not scared; he merely lacked information.

"Really?" Duo's face twisted into a sheepish grin. "I'm scared too, Heero. It's normal."

"Two minutes ago you said that normality was overrated."

"So I did," Duo grew quiet, and he released his grip on Heero's hand.

"Duo..." Instead of accepting the help that Duo had been trying to give, Heero had thrown his earlier words back at him. Tact wasn't one of his strong points, but he'd never hurt Duo intentionally.

"What?" Duo's reply was sharp.

"I'm sorry." Heero reached out to stroke Duo's braid, winding the end of it around his finger. "I know that you're only trying to help but..." He wasn't sure if Duo could help this time. This was his problem; it wasn't right to expect Duo to deal with it. In a few days, they would have a child to care for, a son who would rely on them for everything. When he and Duo had decided that they wanted to become parents, they had both thought long and carefully about it; it wasn't something they had rushed into.

"I /am/ only trying to help." Duo placed his hand over Heero's to prevent him playing with his braid. "Look, Heero. I can't help you if you don't let me." He paused. "What if we worked out a set of instructions for you to follow until your instincts kick in?"

"What instincts?"

Duo sighed. "I'm sure they're there, you just need to relax and let them happen." He grinned and gave Heero a kiss. "I seem to remember a certain Mr Yuy being worried about sex too, and we certainly proved that theory wrong."

"Hmmm," Heero flushed. "That's different."

"Of course it is," said Duo brightly. "So what say we approach this the same way?"

"According to the books I've read, you're supposed to wait until..." Heero frowned, his voice trailing off. Disturbing Duo's sleep had addled his thought processes. Michael was a baby; he was too young to learn about his parents' bedroom activities. Or what they did in the bathroom, the spare room, the kitchen... He sighed. There would have to be some changes instigated in their lifestyle sooner than he'd anticipated.

Beside him Duo made a choking noise and buried his face in the pillow.

"Duo?" asked Heero. "Are you alright?"

There was no response except for more muffled chokes.

"Duo?" Heero attempted to place a comforting hand on Duo's shoulder, only to find his husband was shaking. "Duo?" What had he said that had upset Duo so much? Heero thought back on what he'd said but was none the wiser for it. "Duo," he tried another tact. "I'm sorry."

Duo had only attempted to suggest options that might Heero's mind at rest. His theory was sound, even if his method of instigation was somewhat irregular. Maybe Duo would be open to adapting the plan to something more suitable? A step by step guide on what to expect and how to deal with every possible scenario would work if he was prepared to be Michael's primary care-giver, and Heero merely acted in an observatory role. Duo had planned to take several months off work; his business was stable and the people who worked for him very capable. There was no need for Heero to take charge until he'd learnt the correct procedures, if at all.

Yes, if he could watch Duo while he cared for Michael and follow what he did, it would provide a template for Heero to formulate the plan he needed for this to work.

"It's..." Duo put down the pillow; his eyes were streaming, and he was still shaking.

Heero glared at him suspiciously. "You're laughing?" Surely what he'd said hadn't been /that/ funny.

"Sorry," Duo wiped his eyes. "I only meant that you follow my lead regarding the baby stuff, and then, when you took it the wrong way..." He laughed. "I got this crazy mental picture of you taking notes and telling Michael x rated bedtime stories."

"That is crazy," Heero agreed, deadpan. "After all, why would I tell him, when showing is far more effective?"

"What? You can't be serious. We don't want our son to..." Duo looked at him suspiciously. "You're kidding me, right?"

"Yes," Heero smirked. "You're so easy to take advantage of, especially at this hour of the morning."

"Are you flirting with me?" Duo wriggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"I might be," Heero leaned over to kiss Duo on the lips.

"Feeling better?" Duo returned the kiss and smiled.

"Yes," Heero pushed Duo back on the pillow. Michael was a part of both of them. They had decided to have a child because of the love they shared - it was a legacy they could leave to the future and a gift from each of them to the other.

He loved Duo and trusted him. They'd worked through things together as a team in the past; on his own Heero couldn't cope with this, but he'd have Duo to help him and show him the way.

"Together," Heero murmured, brushing his lips against Duo's again. "We're doing this together."

******

"Not much longer, Hilde," Iria reassured her. ""We're nearly there.'

"We?" Hilde glared at her. "I'm the one doing the work." Duo winced when she grabbed his hand as she tried to wipe her brow. "This is YOUR fault," the glare moved to settle on Heero, "and yours. Why did I let you talk me into this?" she moaned.

"We didn't talk you into it," Heero reminded her, following Duo's lead and stroking her other hand. "You volunteered, and we can never thank you enough."

"You can thank me by getting this baby out NOW!" Hilde's voice rose to a scream, and Heero's hand felt like it was being squeezed in a steel vice. He hadn't realised how strong she was.

"Hilde," Duo said. "That hurts!" He tried to pull away, but Hilde refused to let go of either his or Heero's hand.

"Good!"

"Don't worry, this is normal," Iria said with a tiny smirk on her face. "A lot of women get quite agitated during transition."

"Agitated?" Duo snorted. "You call this agitated? I may never be able to use my hand again." Finally freeing himself, he flexed his fingers and sighed.

"Is she going to be all right?" Heero asked, examining his own hand for possible injury after the contraction had passed. Although he had read that it /was/ normal for women to experience great pain during childbirth, the reality of it was causing him concern. It was very brave of Hilde to offer to go through this so that he and Duo could have a child of their own. Although they had had the option of using an artificial womb, both had wanted the experience to be as natural as possible for their unborn child, so Hilde's offer to carry their child to term had been a gift that neither could refuse. Even so, they had discussed it with her in depth; there was no way that they'd expect her to carry a child, grow attached to it and then walk away. She would be an important part of Michael's life - an aunt who would have every opportunity to spend time with her extra special 'nephew'.

"No!" Hilde shot him another glare. "I can tell this baby belongs to the two of you already, and he's not even here yet!"

"Time to push, Hilde," Iria said, after bending down to examine her patient. Heero had turned away, partly to give Hilde some privacy, and partly because the quick look he'd gotten previously had show him more than he ever wanted to see again. Facing down an entire squadron of mobile dolls /without/ his Gundam was a preferable option to this. Some things were better left unknown; the pictures in the books that he'd read had done nothing to prepare him for the real thing.

"I am pushing!" Hilde screamed, grabbing the gas mask and taking deep breaths. "Natural childbirth sucks."

"Can't you give her something more for the pain?" Duo asked, dabbing Hilde's forehead with a damp cloth.

"No, we're too close." Iria shook her head. "A fast labour doesn't give much recovery time between contractions, but at least it will be over soon."

"I thought first labours were usually long," Heero looked around the room, unsure of what he should be doing, if anything.

"They can be," Iria replied, "but it varies from case to case." She smiled. "I suspect your son is eager to see the world."

"See..." Hilde panted, "I told you! His parents are Gundam pilots - watch out world!" Her face contorted again, and Heero took a step closer before he realised what he was doing. His outreached hand dropped to his side, and he frowned, unsure of the correct course of action to take.

"Pant, pant," Iria directed. "That's it. Now stop pushing for a moment, I need to check the position of the baby and the cord." Performing another quick examination, she nodded. "It's looking good. A couple of big pushes and we'll be there."

"There's that 'we' again," Hilde snorted, her face contorting with effort. "I need to push. Heero, come here!"

"Why?" Heero glared at her suspiciously.

"Don't argue with the lady in labour," Duo grinned. "If she wants your hand, give it to her."

"Give her /your/ hand," Heero muttered.

"Heero!" Hilde screamed. Duo had a valid point if the tone in Hilde's voice was any indication. "Shit! That hurts!" Did all women scream this loudly while in labour? Heero didn't think that putting his fingers in his ears at this point in time would be a wise decision. "Go...watch...your son," Hilde panted.

"Here he comes," Iria said. "Just one more push, Hilde." Heero and Duo exchanged a glance, and Duo grinned.

"Come on," Duo encouraged Hilde, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "You're doing great so far. It's nearly over."

Hilde pushed again, and a tiny head appeared, dark hair covering the crown. "Duo," Heero couldn't keep the awe from his voice, "I can see him." Suddenly embarrassed, he looked away. Even though this was his and Duo's child, it didn't seem right to encroach on Hilde's privacy like this.

"Go," Hilde told Duo. He protested, but she shook her head. "Go. Watch."

Coming to stand behind him, Duo squeezed Heero's hand, and together they watched Iria help guide their newborn son into the world. She turned the baby over as he emerged; the rest of his body followed his shoulders quickly, and he let out a loud cry.

"Which one of you wants to cut the cord?" Iria asked. Heero took a step forward, and then paused. A familiar touch against his back encouraged him to go the rest of the way.

"You do it," Duo whispered, his voice strangely soft. "Please." Heero turned around to see his husband wiping his eyes on his sleeve. "Do it, and I'll watch."

Clamping the cord, Iria showed Heero what to do, and then handed him their son after wrapping him in a hospital blanket. "Get to know him while Hilde and I finish up."

"He's beautiful," Heero said in a choked voice. Michael's fingers were so tiny, his skin tinged with creamy white from the vernix that had protected him from his watery environment while inside the womb, and as Heero watched, he began suckling at the edge of the blanket.

Michael's eyes opened at the sound of Heero's voice, and piercing blue eyes searched the room, before coming to rest on his father. While Heero knew that his son wasn't yet capable of focusing properly, it didn't stop the warm glow from spreading through him.

"He knows me," Heero realised. He leaned over, and Michael gripped his finger and sucked on it.

"He does," Duo agreed, putting his arms around both of them.

"He definitely has that Maxwell determination," Hilde noticed, as Iria puffed up her pillows, "and there's no mistaking he's your child too, Heero." Together the two men placed the baby in her arms. Running a hand through Michael's hair, she bent down and kissed him on the forehead. Her eyes were moist. "Michael Odin Maxwell-Yuy," she said, "I'm so very pleased to finally meet you."

******

"Is it all right to come in?" Quatre poked his head around the door of the hospital room.

"Yeah sure." Duo grinned. "I didn't think you'd be waiting out there for much longer."

Quatre hesitated. "If Hilde needs her rest..."

"I'm fine, Quatre," Hilde reassured him, "I'm going to take a nice long sleep after you've all gone." She winked. "It's not me who's going to be up all hours with a screaming baby, remember."

"Michael is not a screaming baby," Heero began. The bottle slipped from Michael's mouth, as his father shifted his attention, and the baby began to cry. Heero quickly re-inserted it, and Michael continued sucking as though there had been no interruption.

"Unlike his Otosan," Duo smirked. Heero frowned at him, certain that they had decided that Michael was too young to hear about his parents' bedroom activities until he was much older.

Trying not very successfully to hide a chuckle, Quatre entered the room, followed by Trowa. "Wufei, Relena and Dana are waiting outside. Is it okay if they come in too, or would you prefer we visited in relays?"

"It's okay," Duo said. "I know you guys have been waiting a while; we'll make it everyone and a short visit. You feeling up to that, Hilde?" She nodded, and Trowa went to tell their friends.

Opening his eyes, Michael blinked a couple of times and then closed them again. "He has your eyes, Heero," Quatre said softly, "I can feel a part of both you and Duo in him."

Heero nodded; Quatre's empathy wasn't something that he understood fully, but he'd learnt to put a lot of stock in it over the past few years. Although Hilde had carried the baby, both he and Duo had provided genetic samples for Michael's DNA, so it made sense that Quatre would be able to sense something of each of them in their son.

The door opened again, and Trowa re-entered followed by Wufei, Relena and Dana. Heero noticed to his amusement that Wufei and Dana were standing very close together; their relationship had blossomed since their meeting at Trowa and Quatre's wedding over a year ago.

"He's beautiful," Relena said, coming over to take a closer look. "Hi, Michael," she whispered, stroking one tiny finger. "I'm Relena."

"Aunty Relena," Duo corrected. Although they didn't have any blood relatives, Heero and Duo considered the other pilots, plus Hilde and Relena, to be family. It took more than genetics to make a family, and their friends had always been there for them in every way it counted.

"Aunty Relena," she repeated, smiling. "The fatherhood role suits you, Heero. You're a natural with that bottle."

"Thank you," Heero said. It seemed the correct response, even though he knew that she was just being polite. Duo had shown him how to hold the baby, how to support the back of his neck with his arm; it was Michael who knew what to do instinctively, not him.

"So are you guys going to do this next?" Duo asked, looking over at Quatre and Trowa. "You're good with kids, I've seen the way you interact with Anna."

"Anna's my niece. There's a difference between playing uncle and being a father." Quatre paused, and Trowa placed a comforting hand on the small of his back. "One day perhaps, but not now." Quatre smiled, but it was forced. He had been very close to his sister; her death had hit him very hard. "So, how long are you taking off work, Duo?"

"A couple of months," Duo replied, putting his arms out to take Michael. Draping a spare diaper over his shoulder, he positioned the baby and began rubbing his back in smooth circular motions. "The guys can run the workshop themselves no problem for a while; I'm only a phone call away if any clients decide they want my personal attention." When he and Heero had decided to leave Preventers, Duo had opened a business restoring classic cars; it had started small but grown quickly. It was not surprising; Duo had a natural talent for auto engineering and a good eye as to how to achieve optimum results with a minium of financial input.

"So you and Heero will be sharing childcare?" Wufei asked, leaning against the wall and watching Relena and Dana fuss over Michael. Duo had burped him and was now changing his diaper. Heero was careful to observe all of Duo's actions, making mental notes of each stage, so that he had guidelines to follow when he attempted it himself.

"Yep," Duo replied. "Heero's working from home anyway, and I can re-arrange my hours at the garage if he's got a big job on."

"Childcare is a twenty four hour seven days a week job just on its own," Dana said, tucking a lock of red hair behind her ear. "Come closer, Fei, I'm sure Michael wants to meet all his uncles."

"I can see him quite nicely from over here, thank you, and you ladies seem to have him rather monopolised at present." Wufei gave her a nod, and she grinned at him. "You have a fine looking son, my friends."

"Thanks," Duo said, taking a step back in a hurry, as a fountain of liquid shot through the air. "Hey, little guy, you're not supposed to spray Dad, that's what the diaper is for."

Trowa laughed. "Could have been worse."

"Worse?" Heero looked at Michael suspiciously.

"My darling niece poohed on him the first time we babysat," Quatre remembered. "I'd gone into the kitchen to heat her bottle, and by the time I got back, Trowa was covered in liquid yellow muck." He chuckled. "I sent him to shower while I fed her, and she promptly spilled down my back when I winded her."

"Matching stains, how romantic," Duo said with a smirk, fastening the diaper. "Here kid, go meet Uncle Quatre while I wash my hands." He handed Michael to Quatre.

"He's a beautiful baby, Duo," Trowa said, one hand on Quatre's shoulder as his husband gently rocked the baby in his arms. He whispered something in Quatre's ear, and Quatre smiled. "You and Heero are very lucky."

"I know we are," Duo answered, turning the tap off over the basin and drying his hands. Moving over so that Duo could sit next to next to him, Heero squeezed his husband's hand as he slid into the vacant spot. Duo leaned over and kissed Heero briefly on the lips before turning to their friends. "I think of you guys as our family; you're more than just friends to us," he waved his hands to include everyone in the room, "and you always have been."

"But there's something to be said for knowing Michael is yours," Quatre continued. "It's okay, Duo. You don't have to explain."

"He is a part of you, and therefore a part of us also," Wufei's words were spoken simply, as though stating a fact.

Heero looked around the room. Wufei was still leaning relaxed against the wall. Relena and Dana had moved over to the bed and were sitting with Hilde, slightly apart from the ex pilots, but still part of the group. His gaze shifted to Trowa and Quatre, still holding Michael, and then finally settled on Duo.

They'd found their place in life and friends who were much more than friends. This was right, the way things were meant to be.

And now they were bringing new life into their group, a future generation to which to pass on their legacy. Was this what they'd had fought for during the war? A chance to save not only the future of Earth and the Colonies, but the opportunity to create their own.

Heero decided it was.

******

"Are you sure you'll be okay?" Duo asked again.

"Quite sure," Heero replied. "Connell is one of your biggest customers; you need to go now before he gets Kevin even more frazzled than he already is." Kevin had been very apologetic when he'd rang; even though Duo's manager was more than capable of running the garage in his absence, this particular customer had a history of being difficult.

"Yeah, true," Duo sighed. "I've put a lot of work into restoring that chevy; if Connell thinks he's going to talk down the price we've already agreed on, he's in for a shock." He leaned over to kiss Heero goodbye. "Michael's just had a full bottle, and I changed him a short while ago. He should sleep until I get back."

Heero nodded. "Go, " he said, opening the door. "You need to do this. We'll be fine." Pushing Duo out the door, Heero closed it behind him, sighing as he listened to the familiar sound of Duo's motorbike roaring to life. He was glad that he rarely had to deal with customers who 'didn't give a rat's ass' about anything apart from themselves. Unfortunately, the opinion of difficult people like Connell seemed to convey a lot of weight in the business world.

Luckily, his clients preferred to communicate through the electronic medium, and the few whom he'd spoken to face to face had been extremely well mannered. This meant that he could spend his time working on the designs for the VR simulations required for the computer games that his clients demanded, rather than wasting his energy dealing with idiots.

Glancing at his watch, Heero decided that he would have time to boot up his laptop and get in at least two hours work before Duo returned. He headed for the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee...and paused as Michael's crying shattered the silence.

But Duo had only just put the baby down for his sleep. He wasn't due to wake for at least another four hours.

According to the experts, it was important not to react to the baby's every cry - giving in to all its demands would only show a child from an early age that it was the one in charge. Michael had been fed and changed; it was naptime.

Heero added two heaped spoonfuls of sugar to his coffee and stirred. Michael's cries were growing louder; he was persistent, but then that was not surprising. Both his parents were Gundam pilots; Heero would have been disappointed if their son had not showed some strength of will.

A sudden, particularly loud pitched wail caused Heero to jump. Damn the experts, this was his and Duo's baby, not theirs. Banging the coffee cup down on the counter, Heero headed for the stairs, taking two at a time.

Upon reaching Michael's room, he bent down to lift his son from his cot, being careful to hold him the way he had been taught. "You're supposed to be asleep," he told the baby firmly. Michael stared at him, his eyes bright and alert, and then let out another wail.

Heero frowned. Duo had laughed when he'd suggested reading aloud to Michael while he was still in the womb from the childcare books; after all, babies were supposed to react to music and other stimulations, why not the written word? Hilde's reaction to the same suggestion was not something that he wished to dwell on either, but at this point in time, he did wonder if maybe it might not have been such a bad idea. At least then Michael might have an idea as to how he was supposed to be acting. "You're like your Dad," Heero muttered. "Why follow the rules when you can have more fun breaking them?"

The moment's silence in which Michael appeared to listen to his advice was soon broken by another cry, as the baby pulled his knees up and gave a tiny gasp before screaming once more. It was amazing how one small baby could make so much noise. Heero shook his head. Yes, this was definitely Duo's child.

Balancing Michael in one hand, Heero checked to see if the diaper needed changing.

It didn't. And Duo had only just fed him, so it couldn't be that.

Crying babies. He attempted to mentally run through the rest of the checklist that he and Duo had discussed, but it was difficult to focus with a grumpy child in his arms. "Wait here," Heero said, but as soon as he went to place Michael back in his cot, the baby let out another scream. The cry decreased in volume when Michael was picked up, and started sucking the end of Heero's shirt.

However he was going to do this, it would be with company.

Carefully, he adjusted Michael so that he was balanced in the crook of one arm, and walked across the hallway into his and Duo's bedroom. "Crying babies," he muttered under his breath, booting up the laptop and typing in the URL for his favourite search engine.

Michael stopped fussing, his eyes drawn to the brightness of the screen. He seemed fascinated by it, and for that Heero was grateful. "Hunger, wet diaper, wind, boredom..." Finding the page he had been searching for, Heero scrolled down the screen. "Boredom?" He snorted. "How could a month old baby be bored?"

As though in answer, there was a loud belching noise followed by a disgusting smell, and Heero felt something wet begin dribbling down his trousers. "If this is your idea of fun ways to relieve..." The yellow muck dripping down the sides of Michael's diaper had managed to collect not only Heero's trousers but the bottom of his shirt as well. Michael stared at him, let out another tiny cry, vomited milk over the clean patch at the top of his father's shirt, and then gurgled.

"It is not funny," Heero protested, unsure as to why he was even attempting to hold a conversation. Remembering Trowa's warning at the hospital and Quatre's story about being victims of a similar attack, Heero wondered why Duo hadn't covered the scenario in his basic training. Was this a test of some kind? Why else would Michael wait until after Duo had left?

Michael answered him with another gurgle.

"Why do they call it wind?" Heero muttered, holding the baby out at arms length while he surveyed the damage. "That was more like a hurricane." Luckily, the laptop had escaped unscathed; most of the disgusting mess was now seeping into Heero's clothing. He frowned, as another movement was accompanied by a disturbing squelching noise.

If he allowed this mess to go any further, or into the carpet, the smell would haunt them for weeks. This was not something that he wanted associated with their bedroom; Heero's stomach heaved when he caught another whiff. How could one small baby produce such a large quantity of foul smells?

They both needed to get cleaned up and quickly. Reaching a decision, Heero entered the ensuitè and, grabbing a towel, laid it on the floor to act as a makeshift blanket. He placed Michael on it once he had removed the baby's dirty clothes and diaper. Leaning over to turn on the shower, he then stripped off his own clothes while he waited for the water to warm up.

After testing the temperature of the water with his elbow, he picked up Michael and stepped under the shower. To his surprise, the baby stared, seemingly fascinated, at the water and then snuggled in against Heero's chest. Michael had always cried and wriggled at bath time, and it had been a stressful experience for both he and Duo when they had attempted it. Heero had read that the sound of running water could be soothing; maybe this was what had made the difference?

"You like this, don't you?" Heero asked softly, stroking his son's hair and marvelling again at how soft it was. "Maybe we'll try this again with Dad next time." Michael wriggled still closer, and Heero strengthened his grip. "It's all right, I've got you. I'd never let anything happen to you." A drip of water ran down his face and pooled where Michael's hair was beginning to rub off the back of his head. He gave a tiny shiver, and Heero realised that it was time to turn off the shower and get dressed.

Enveloping them both in a large, warm, fluffy towel, he moved back into the bedroom, closing the bathroom door on the dirty clothes and smell. He would deal with that later; the important thing now was to get Michael dressed, fed, and back to bed.

From the middle of the king-sized bed, Michael watched Heero pull on a clean pair of jeans and shrug on a t-shirt. The house was warm, a welcome haven from the cold outside. When they'd moved here a year ago, Heero had felt as though he'd finally found a refuge he could call home.

It would also be a safe place in which to raise Michael; it was important that he would be able to look back on his childhood with fond memories and know he was loved and wanted.

Especially, as it was something that neither of his parents had had the privilege of being able to do.

/No,/ Heero remembered Odin's dying words to him, /the last few years we spent together weren't so bad/. The cover that they'd used as father and son as they'd moved around hadn't been completely a lie. Odin Lowe had done the best he could under the circumstances. Although he wasn't Heero's real father, he had given the boy the skills he needed to survive, and the advice that had led him to Duo. Following his heart had brought him to the person who made him feel complete.

Sometimes Heero's dreams weren't the nightmares of reliving his mistakes, but snatches of other memories, remnants of a time he couldn't quite remember but wanted to desperately.

He and Duo were building their future, but they would never be able to completely escape their past.

A familiar cry reminded him of where he was, and Heero smiled. That cry he knew; Michael was hungry. "Let's get you dressed, and I'll fix you another bottle," he said. Duo would be home soon, and he and Heero were overdue for some quality time together.

Dressing Michael was familiar territory; Duo had watched and guided him through it several times on Heero's insistence, and after a few false starts in which the diaper ended up around the baby's knees, Heero headed for the kitchen. Michael was a very determined child; once he had decided that he did not want to be left alone, he had made his disapproval of Heero's attempts to leave him very loud and clear.

"When you've drunk your bottle, you're going to sleep," Heero attempted to glare at Michael, but only received sucking noises in response. Yes, he would have to make sure to inform Duo that the Maxwell genes had definitely been passed down to their son. This could prove most interesting later on. Heero suppressed a shudder, as he remembered what he had read about toddlers and their tendency to test their boundaries at every given chance. It might be a wise decision to begin putting together a suitable strategic plan sooner than they had anticipated.

Once Michael had finished his bottle, and had been changed /again/, and properly burped - Heero wasn't about to make the same mistake Duo must have - he laid the baby in his cot, tucked him in, and turned to leave the room.

"What now?" he muttered as Michael began to cry. "You've got to sleep. Good night!" Heero left the room and got to the end of the hallway before sighing. This wasn't working, and Duo could not be allowed to come home to a screaming baby.

Re-entering the room, Heero picked up the baby, and he immediately stopped crying. While Heero understood the child's need for human contact, Michael needed to learn that there were times where being alone and letting his parents' have some personal space of their own was a good thing. But for now, Heero needed to find some way to deal with this immediate problem.

Glancing down, Heero noticed that he had been rocking Michael in his arms, and that the baby's eyes were beginning to close in response to the movement. Was there anything else that he could do to help Michael settle?

The sound of the shower had soothed him before, maybe that was part of the answer. Heero thought back to what he'd read, and smiled as a memory of something almost forgotten nudged him. It was worth trying, and if it didn't work who would know anyway?

"Nen nen kororiyo okororiyo," he began crooning softly. Michael's eyes opened, and then he closed them slowly. "Boyawa yoikoda..."[1] Heero had no idea how he'd known either the tune or the words, but Michael appeared to be enjoying it, so he continued to hum, adding a word here or there, as he remembered it.

Finally, Michael's breathing slowed to a steady sleep, and Heero placed him gently into his cot, taking care not to disturb him. Heero wasn't sure what exactly had appealed to the baby; it could have been the words, the melody or even a combination of both, but he would attempt to find someone to teach him the rest for another time. Although Heero didn't remember his parents, somehow now, by doing this, they seemed to be with him, giving their approval, and looking down on both their son and grandchild.

Settling himself on the rocking chair next to the cot, Heero continued to watch Michael sleep, and soon his own eyes closed and he joined his son in slumber.

******

The bedroom door clicked, and Heero was instantly awake and on his feet, ready to protect his son against any intruders. It was dark outside apart from the sliver of moonlight illuminating the cot. Michael was still asleep.

Recognising Duo's footsteps, Heero smiled and relaxed again as his husband closed the door behind him and went downstairs. Duo must have gotten home, seen them both asleep, and gone to fix some supper. Drawing the curtains across to close the gap, Heero checked on Michael one more time and went to find Duo.

The kitchen was empty, but the smell of coffee permeated the air. Duo always liked to relax with a cup of coffee after a difficult day, and Heero knew exactly where he would be.

Although they had furnished most of the house, they had both agreed to leave what had been the old study as it was when they had arrived. With its bare floorboards, and complete lack of furniture, it was somewhere they could go to escape life and have some time alone. The fact that it was uncluttered seemed to make it easier to relax; Duo enjoyed sitting on the built-in seat by the window and observing the scenery outside. The night had its own beauty, he'd told Heero. He'd had a special liking for the moon from the first time he'd seen it from Earth; it gave him a sense of inner peace, he wasn't sure why.

When Heero entered the room, Duo didn't even turn around. They knew each other well enough to be able to sense the other's presence. The net curtain was blowing in the breeze from the open window, the fine rain only just visible in the dim light. Duo had kicked off his shoes and socks, and his white dress shirt was untucked. As Heero came closer, Duo turned to him with a smile, and without putting his coffee cup down, placed his free hand around Heero's neck to pull him into a kiss. Leaning into the kiss, his left-hand caressing Duo's cheek, Heero closed his eyes so that he could concentrate on the moment and Duo.

After several minutes, Duo broke the kiss. "You missed me, then?" he asked, a twinkle in his eyes.

"Don't I always?" Heero countered, embracing Duo in a hug once he'd put down his drink. "Did you manage to deal with Connell?"

The twinkle changed to a dangerous glint. "Oh yes," Duo said. "I doubt he's going to attempt to haggle with me again after tonight." He laughed. "I was rather pissed at being dragged down there, and he got a glimpse of my Gundam pilot persona. Once bullies realise they are up against someone who can stand his own ground and give better than they can, they surrender fairly damn fast."

"Good," Heero had no patience for idiots like Connell, especially when someone he cared about was their target.

Duo raised an eyebrow. "How much trouble did Michael give you...exactly? I found the collection of used clothing in the bathroom." He wrinkled his nose. "You guys looked so cute I didn't want to wake you, either of you."

"Cute?" Heero snorted. "Duo, our son may be cute, but I'm an ex Gundam pilot. Ex Gundam pilots are not cute." He chose to ignore Duo's smirk. "And Michael didn't give me any trouble." Duo's smirk grew wider. "I think we now have an understanding."

"Oh?" Duo frowned. "What kind of understanding?"

"The kind I have with you," Heero answered him with a kiss.

Duo's frown turned into a smile. "You've worked through your fears haven't you?"

"Yes," Heero nodded. "And you were right." He paused and smiled. "This is the way things are supposed to be."

*******

~Fin~

******

Notes:
[1] I found the lyrics and translation for the song Heero sings to Michael here - Songs for teaching - using music to promote learning. http://www.songsforteaching.com/index.html

Edo Komoiuta (Traditional Edo Lullaby)

Nen nen kororiyo okororiyo
Boyawa yoikoda nenneshina
Boyano komoriwa dokoe it ta
Anoyama koete satoe it ta
Sato no miyage ni nani morata
Denden taikoni sho no fue
Sho no fue

Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep.
You're a good baby, now go to sleep.
Do you know where your nurse has gone?
Gone to her village she won't be long.
What will she bring baby when she does come?
A flute so lovely and a thunderous drum.
And a thunderous drum.