3-24-2003

Title: Tactical Manoeuvres
Author: Anne Olsen
Pairings: 1x2, 3x4
Rating/warnings : This fic has been rated in accordance with the approved TTFF rating system.

Notes: OK (Oz/Kiwi spelling/grammar etc) - PG - Romance, humour.

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 1x2 dating fic contest. Details can be found on her site, Moments of Rapture - http://zerotwofan.com/rapture

Summary: Duo and Heero are blessed with a weekend void of children, their first since Michael was born. Whatever will they /do/ with themselves?

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.

Michael Maxwell-Yuy and Alicia Bloom Winner belong to their respective parents, and as said parents are ex Gundam pilots and a tad overprotective, ask before you borrow.

Thanks to: Bast and Raletha for beta reading, and Sakura for beta reading and supplying the fun summary.

Dedication: To Sharon. Big thanks for the dating contest scenario which inspired this fic, and for all your wonderful support since we've 'met'.

Send Comments to: anneo @ paradise.net.nz

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Tactical Manoeuvres
by Anne Olsen

 

~AC 206~

"Are you sure you guys are gonna be okay?" Duo asked the question again although he already knew the answer.

"Quite sure," Trowa replied. The weekend away on their own seemed to have been just what he and Quatre had needed, but Duo wanted to be sure that they were up to taking an extra kid for a couple of days. Although the thought of time alone with Heero was tempting - they hadn't had many opportunities since Michael's birth - there was no way he'd take it at the expense of his friends' sanity.

"Go spend some quality time with Heero," Quatre urged, shifting Alicia in his arms. The four-year-old had greeted both her fathers enthusiastically when Duo and Heero had dropped her off several days earlier and still seemed determined not to let either of them out of her sight. "Just make sure you have as much fun as we did," he shot a smirk towards his husband, and Trowa ran an affectionate hand through Quatre's hair.

"Bye, Dad," Michael pulled at the hem of Alicia's dress and, climbing off her father, she slid her hand into Michael's. "I promise I'll be good for Uncle Cat and Uncle Tro." Michael grinned and Duo raised an eyebrow. It wasn't that he didn't trust his son, but Michael was just a bit too much of a chip off the old Maxwell block. Heero, of course, was adamant that none of Michael's mischievous nature could have come from his genes but, as Duo had pointed out on numerous occasions, there was no way of knowing what kind of precocious child Heero might have been if he'd had a normal upbringing.

"Yeah you will, kid. Remember what Otosan told you - no stunts like you pulled last weekend." Duo began to rattle off a list, using his fingers to reinforce his point. "No bathing the neighbour's cat in the sink, no interior decorating with peanut butter, no duvet stuffing down the toilet."

"Aww, Dad," complained Michael. "This isn't home; I'm always good when I'm out." The grin grew wider and Duo fought the urge to snigger. He had to admit that coming home from work to find the two kids watching an overflowing toilet had been unexpected to say the least. Add to that Heero calmly leafing through a child psychology book in an attempt to discover the appropriate reaction of a responsible parent, and the whole situation had entered the Twilight Zone T very fast.

"That list was just a figment of your over active imagination, wasn't it, Duo?" Trowa asked, his eyebrow rising to match Duo's. Glancing between his friend and his husband, he stifled a mock groan. "Never mind," he said. "I'm sure that whatever happens Cat and I can handle it. A couple of kids are no match for two Gundam pilots."

"Of course not, " confirmed Quatre, a little too brightly. "See you in a couple of days, Duo. Say goodbye to Dad, Michael."

"Goodbye, Dad," said Michael obediently.

"Goodbye, Uncle Duo," Alicia loosened her grip on Michael's hand and waved. "Thank you for having me last weekend," she added politely, after Trowa gave her a pointed look.

"It was a pleasure, honey," Duo told her, bending to give her a kiss after hugging Michael and ruffling his hair. He grinned at Trowa, waiting for the reaction he knew would follow his next comment. "The two of them look so cute together, don't ya think?"

"Not as cute as Heero will be when you get home." Trowa deliberately let his voice trail off with a smirk. "Go home, Duo, before Heero thinks you aren't coming."

Quatre chuckled, before turning a fetching shade of pink when Trowa whispered something in his ear. Yes, that weekend away had certainly done them a world of good. One of these days, when Trowa wasn't around, Duo would see if he could get some details out of Quatre as to what exactly had gone down, or rather up during their vacation.

******

The house was quiet when Duo got home, too quiet. "Hi, honey, I'm home," he called out, safe in the knowledge that no one could hear him.

"I beg your pardon?" One glance at the bewildered look on Heero's face was enough to reduce Duo to laughter.

"Sorry, baby," he explained once he'd regained his composure. "It's a line out of an old television show I've always wanted to use. I didn't think you were home."

"Obviously," replied Heero in a dry tone. "So you had no problems leaving Michael with Trowa and Quatre?"

"Nope," Duo confirmed. "I think he's looking forward to spending a couple of days with two of his favourite uncles. You know how Quatre loves to spoil him."

"Favourite uncles?" Heero frowned. "Quatre and Trowa are his only uncles. Apart from Wufei whom I am sure is equally a favourite."

"Yeah well, all the more reason to be two of his favourites then, right?" Duo sighed before shrugging off his jacket. Although Heero had loosened up one hell of a lot over the past ten years, he still had that whole anal streak he couldn't totally rid himself of.

"And of course once Hilde and Benjamin are married next month, he will then gain the coveted status of uncle hood, and become another favourite." The side of Heero's mouth twitched and Duo groaned.

"You're having me on again, aren't you?" Heero's humour had been rather on the weird side recently, and Duo blamed the series of books Relena had given him about famous comedians in pre colony days. The next time she decided to give his husband such an interesting gift Duo was going to make sure he returned the favour properly, and with interest. He smirked. Maybe it was time to introduce Relena's fiancé, Joshua, to a fun night out with the boys. After all he had been threatening to do it for some time, although Relena hadn't been too impressed with the idea. Relena had a good sense of humour; she'd be able to handle the consequences. Duo was sure he and Quatre could cook up a few good stories to tell after loosening Joshua up with a few drinks. He was also sure those stories wouldn't be quite the same versions that his future wife had told him regarding events that had happened both during the war and after it.

"Am I?" Heero hung up Duo's jacket for him and glanced at his watch. "If you're going to shower you'd better do it quickly or we'll be late."

"Late?" What the hell was Heero up to? Hadn't they decided to enjoy a nice quiet night in, since there was just the two of them? "Late for what?"

"Wait and see," Heero kissed Duo on the lips, but pulled away as Duo attempted to lean into it. "Shower," he reminded his husband. Heero placed his hands on Duo's shoulders, turned him around and gestured towards the bathroom.

"Aww," Duo complained. "Of course I'd be one hell of a lot quicker if you helped me. You know how long it takes me to get organised."

"One hell of a lot quicker," Heero agreed, "until we reached the shower, which would slow us down considerably." Duo smirked and, turning to face Heero, ran his tongue over moist lips. Heero swallowed, examined the new paint on the ceiling for several minutes, and then swallowed again. When he finally spoke, his voice was somewhat huskier than it had been. "It depends on whether you want to know about the surprise I have planned now or later."

"It will still be there later," Duo wriggled his hips provocatively, took a few steps but then paused at the bathroom door. "Won't it? Heero, be nice. I thought you wanted to make up for lost time as much as I did."

"So the last few nights weren't enough?" Heero asked, pretending to be hurt.

"Oh, Heero, you know I can never get enough of you," Duo purred, winding the end of his braid around his fingers. As he knew would happen Heero's breath hitched as he watched Duo playing with his hair. When they'd finally gotten together it hadn't taken Duo too long to discover how little it took to turn his lover into a sexual pile of goo; and he wasn't above using it whenever necessary.

"Duo," Heero coughed, pretending Duo's action hadn't affected him, but moved to close the space between then. "We're going to be late if you don't have that shower."

"Late for what?" Duo loosened the elastic tie, shook his hair free, and leaned over to massage Heero's chest with one hand, while nibbling gently on his lover's ear lobe. The combination never failed, and he doubted this time would be any different. Besides, although it had been for a good cause, an entire weekend without any marital privileges hadn't been fun for either of them. No wonder Quatre and Trowa had been more than a little edgy after six months of enforced celibacy. Discovering that their daughter had inherited her father's empathic abilities when she'd reacted to them having sex wasn't a scenario Duo was sure he would have been able to cope with. "C'mon, you know you want to tell me."

"Hmm," Heero's reply was lost as he captured Duo's mouth in a passionate kiss, but this time it was Duo who pulled away.

"You wanted to tell me something?" Duo tapped his foot in gesture of mock impatience. "No info, no kissing."

"Duo!" Heero's eyes glinted dangerously. "You drive a hard bargain," he complained.

"Yep," said Duo, thankful that Heero had no idea of the effect /that/ look had on him. "But if you tell me what I want to know it could easily be a lot harder." Duo leaned in for another kiss, and Heero moaned aloud, before pushing him up against the bathroom wall, and grinding their hips together.

His hands gripping Duo's ass firmly while pulling him into an embrace, Heero took a deep breath and sighed after breaking the kiss. "I wanted to surprise you," he murmured, his tone suddenly changing to one of tenderness, laced with an edge of regret.

"Heero?" Duo stopped and ran a gentle finger down his lover's cheek. Oh hell, what had he done? Heero had probably put a lot of thought into whatever he'd planned, but Duo had been busy playing the tease and being too damn nosy to even consider that his needs weren't the only ones that were important here. "Hey," he said, "you haven't told me yet. I could still be surprised." His finger paused at Heero's lips. "I'd like to be surprised. Can we pretend I haven't been such a pain in the ass, and start over?"

"You're never a pain in the ass, Duo, and I want to make up for lost time as much as you do." Heero smiled, and kissed Duo's finger. "Let me do this for you tonight, and then we can spend the next two days making love." He grinned. "If you're up to it of course."

"Of course I'm damn well up to it," Duo spluttered indignantly, disentangling himself from Heero. He began pulling his t-shirt over his head, chuckling at Heero's puzzled expression. "I have to shower if you want to do this surprise thing. Anything in particular you want me to wear?" He couldn't resist a wink. "Or maybe I could go natural?"

Heero's breath hitched, and Duo laughed. "I don't think so," Heero said, giving Duo a quick kiss before turning to leave the room. "Don't take too long. We're booked in for seven."

Booked in? Booked in where? What the hell was Heero up to? And to think he'd nearly ruined it. Heero, I'm so sorry. Duo turned on the shower, finished stripping off the rest of his clothes and stepped under the water. Whatever it was, he was definitely going to make it up to him once they got home. Hmm, two whole days without Michael certainly had possibilities.

A sudden pang of guilt hit him. Parents were supposed to miss their kids weren't they, not rejoice in the fact they could spend the next two days doing naughty things to each other with no fear of interruption at the crucial moment?

No, Duo decided, this was stupid. Michael was fine, and he'd been looking forward to spending time with his uncles. A slow smirk crossed his face as he remembered the fun weekend he and Heero had enjoyed with the kids. When Quatre and Trowa had offered to return the favour, he figured they'd had no idea what they were letting themselves in for.

Two Gundam pilots in one corner against two kids in the other - it would be interesting to see whether 03 and 04 faired any better than 01 and 02 had. As mission scenarios went this was way scarier than anything they'd faced during the war. Yes, it would be interesting to see how Quatre's strategic genius fared against this one.

Meanwhile he and Heero were going to make the most of this time alone, and replenish their ammunition for the next round.

*****

Damn it, Heero looked good in those trousers. Duo ran an appreciative eye over his husband, noting the slender well-muscled thighs and extremely firm ass, before letting out a low whistle. "You're definitely getting better with age," he commented.

"Age?" Heero laughed. "You're the same age I am, Duo." Pausing to collect the car keys from the counter, he then captured Duo in a tender embrace. "There are days when I wonder what I did to deserve this," Heero indicated the room with a sweep of his hand, yet they both knew it wasn't just their surroundings he was referring to. "Being married to you, sharing our lives with our son - with our pasts, it's nothing short of a miracle that we've even survived this long, let alone."

"Hey, what's brought this on?" Duo couldn't help but feel concerned. For the most part he and Heero didn't discuss the fact that both of them were lucky to be alive several times over. Sure, they talked about incidents during the war, and pondered life, the universe and everything, [1] but life was too short to focus on regret, and between them they had enough of that to fill several colonies.

"Nothing," Heero shrugged. "It's been so long since it's been just the two of us, and waiting for you to finish in the shower, my mind kept wandering back to everything we've been through - the war, the killing - and how close we've been to death."

"Don't be so morbid." The depth of emotion rarely seen in those piercing blue eyes always sent a shiver through him the odd times Heero got like this. Giving Heero a quick kiss of reassurance and pulling him closer so that their foreheads touched, Duo continued, "we're only in our mid twenties, we have years ahead of us. I have every intention of growing old with you Heero Yuy, we're not Gundam pilots or Preventers any longer - we don't have to worry about death on a daily basis. Shinigami is gone, and I intend for him to stay that way."

"I know that," Heero replied, "and I need to believe it, but even now I also know that the old instincts, the ones which kept us alive, are still there. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to rid myself of them."

"It's okay," Duo tried to sound reassuring. "They're part of who you are, the same as my past will always be a part of who I am. The memories are never going to go away, I'm not sure I'd want them to, but they're just memories. We're creating a new future now, one for ourselves and our son, and we need to look forward with anticipation, not back with regret." Duo paused. "Do you regret what we did, Heero?"

The reply was almost instant, as Duo knew it would be. "No. What we did was necessary and so were the mistakes we made."

"Good," Duo broke the silence that followed with a grin. "Now where are you taking me?"

Heero raised an eyebrow. "Who said I'm taking you anywhere?"

"You have somewhere booked for seven, and you're holding those keys in a death grip. Doesn't take a genius to work it out."

"So you're admitting you aren't a genius?" Heero smirked, pulling out of the embrace. "Thanks for shattering the one illusion I'd clung to about you all these years."

Groaning, Duo realised he'd walked into that one. "Only one?" he asked, regretting the question as soon as it was asked.

The smirk grew wider. "That would be telling. Now do you want to see this surprise or not. It's almost seven and we don't want to be late."

"Smug can be annoying, you know." Duo stuck out his tongue.

"Good." Heero was half way out the door before Duo had even registered his reply. There were days when he wondered if his mission in life to teach Heero about human nature had worked a little too well.

******

"So do you want me to wear a blindfold?"

"What?" Heero took his eyes off the road momentarily to stare at Duo. "I thought we'd decided to wait until we got home to have sex. This isn't an appropriate place, much as I'm sure we'd both enjoy it."

"Huh? Oh, umm, yeah." Duo rolled his eyes and laughed. The blindfold had been fun the last time they'd tried it. He really must thank Quatre for the feather idea too. "Much as I'm tempted, being arrested for indecent exposure isn't on my 'to do' list for this evening."

Heero still looked blank, though his eyes had returned to the road.

"I was wondering when you wanted me to know about this surprise," Duo explained. "If I wore a blindfold you could keep up the suspense a bit longer."

"Oh," Heero pulled the car off the road, switched off the ignition, and fixed his gaze on Duo. He seemed nervous, but Duo fought the urge to ask why, knowing he'd be told when Heero was good and ready. "I thought because this is the first time that we've had a few days to ourselves since Michael was born." Heero paused, "I wanted to take you out on a date."

"A date?" Duo's mouth turned up into a sappy grin. "You're taking me on a date?" For once Duo was lost for words. This was the surprise?

"Yes," Heero nodded his confirmation. "I wanted to do something special to show you how much you mean to me."

"Oh, Heero, I." All this preparation to surprise him, and he'd almost ruined it because of his need to know what the hell Heero was up to. "I'm sorry," Duo swallowed, reached across to the driver's seat, closed his hand around Heero's and squeezed.

"Are you surprised?" It was difficult to miss the disappointment in Heero's voice.

"Yeah, I am." Duo attempted to reassure his lover with a grin. "I knew you were up to something, but I didn't have a clue it was this."

Heero smiled - not the slight curving of lips public expression of approval variety, but his rare from the heart smile - the one which opened the door to his soul, giving a glimpse of a quiet joy seldom seen by anyone apart from a privileged few.

His breath caught, and Duo remembered the other times he associated with this smile and the depth of emotion it suggested: making love, accepting Heero's proposal, and when Hilde had placed Michael in their arms after his birth.

"The surprise isn't finished yet," Heero told him, winding down the passenger window. "Breathe."

"Huh?"

"Breathe," Heero repeated. "Don't you realise where we are?"

"Oh, breathe, breathe." Dutifully, Duo hung his head out the window and took a deep breath, the flutter in his stomach soon chased by a growing warmth through the rest of his body when he realised the implications of the salt air. Straining his eyes against the dim light of dusk, he examined their present location intently. Surely not? "Are we where I think we are?" he asked, unable to keep the disbelief out of his voice.

Nodding, Heero leaned over to capture his lips in a tender kiss. "I love you, Duo," he said as they parted. "It seemed fitting to take you somewhere special to both of us."

"This is special," Duo sighed. "Top of the list of special places." His vision blurred as he brought a hand up to brush the tears in his eyes. There were very few situations in which Duo allowed himself the privilege of crying, but the memories of this place, and Heero - the combination was something which had touched him deeply at the time, and still did each time he remembered.

A gentle hand caught Duo's before Heero wiped his husband's tears with one finger. "You cried that night too," he remembered. "I'd never seen you so happy before."

"It's not everyday the man you love asks you to marry him," Duo buried his head on Heero's shoulder, enjoying the feel of Heero's fingers caressing his braid, tracing the path of one separate strand, before repeating it twice more.

"It's not everyday the man you love accepts," Heero replied, his breath warm against the crown of Duo's head. "I've managed to book the same table we used that night, the restaurant hasn't changed much over the past six years. I thought," he paused, suddenly shy, "that you might like to walk on the beach afterwards. We could sit and watch the ocean, and talk, like we did before."

"I'd like that very much," Duo told him. Sitting and talking, just the two of them, was becoming harder and harder to fit into their hectic schedules of work and parenting. Even so, it was something they still made the effort to do, often having to resort to the small hours of the morning to get that quality time alone. Heero still wasn't 'Mr Gregarious' in company, but when they were alone it was a different ball game. Slowly but surely over the years, as his contentment and self confidence had grown, he'd gotten more of a handle on the emotions he'd been so ill equipped to deal with, thanks to Dr J and his meddling. With Duo's help he'd become more open and communicative, even to the extent that Duo looked back on some of the conversations they'd had with something akin to awe.

Settling himself back in his own seat, Duo grinned as Heero turned the key in the ignition and pulled out again onto the quiet back road. "I wonder if they still have those wonderful steaks," he mused aloud. "It's a damn shame we stopped eating there, I kinda miss the place." Duo laughed. "Not that your cooking isn't good but you can't beat a decent meal out."

"Michael's getting older," Heero reminded him. "And according to a book I was reading, it's important to teach children how to behave in public socially from an early age."

"Hmm," Duo thought for a moment. "That's a good point. Maybe it's time to introduce some family traditions to the little guy, though."

"It might be also time to ask Trowa and Quatre to babysit regularly so that we could get more quality time together too. Their daughter is also growing up - I'm sure we could arrange something mutually beneficial."

"You'd brave the horrors of that so we could go out like this regularly?" Duo resisted the urge to jokingly take Heero's temperature. "Wow, I'm impressed."

"/We'd/ be braving the horrors," Heero corrected, smirking, "and I'm sure the benefits would be well worth it."

"Yeah, this idea has definite possibilities." Duo laughed. "Might be better to wait until Tro and Cat have recovered before we suggest it though."

"That was what I had in mind." There was a twinkle in Heero's eye. "Wait until their defences are lowered before moving in for the kill. The plan most likely to succeed would be a suggestion that we take Alicia regularly to give them a break."

"And then we'll sit back and wait for their counter attack, and pretend to surrender when they insist upon taking Michael in return." Duo nodded his approval. It had been damn hard work getting their friends to agree to let them take Alicia for the previous weekend. Only the fact they were nearing desperation point - past it in Duo's opinion - had swayed their determination not to inflict their problems on someone else, even for a weekend. Besides he and Heero had enjoyed having the little girl staying with them, and so had Michael. The empathic thing wouldn't be as much of a problem over time; Quatre had done wonders teaching her to shield so far, not an easy task considering her age. "Did I ever mention that I like the way your mind works?"

"Frequently." Heero shot him a lascivious grin, "although I seem to remember it was something else you were more interested in at the time."

Trying not to blush, Duo answered him with a wink. "The night is young, baby. Keep your eyes on the road, and maybe we'll see if that beach is still as deserted as it used to be."

******

The sea breeze caught the end of Duo's braid. He swung his head to flip it behind him and settled back into Heero's embrace. The meal had been wonderful, the steak just as he remembered it, and the view from their table as breathtaking as it had been six years ago. The wild yet strangely reassuring scene below - surf beating against the rocks, and white tipped waves ghostlike under the reflected moonlight - had remained unchanged for centuries and hopefully would continue to do so for many more to come.

"Still thinking about the view?" Heero asked, running his fingers through Duo's hair and across the nape of his neck. Duo sighed, shifting his weight before wriggling against Heero's chest and turning to glance up to meet his lover's gaze.

"I'm glad we settled on Earth," he said. "Nothing beats the feel of fresh sea air, or the sand beneath your toes." Duo wriggled his bare foot to demonstrate, trailing it over Heero's. "Hmm, your feet are cold. Want me to warm them up for you?"

Heero replied with a kiss, and pulling Duo's shirt free of his trousers, slid his hand up his back, tracing a spidery pattern over bare skin. "Your back is cold," he observed. Reaching for the sweater Duo had discarded earlier, Heero draped it across his lover's shoulders, and then wrapping his arms around him, strengthened his embrace.

Snuggling closer and enjoying the warmth of Heero's body pressing against his own, Duo let out another sigh of contentment. A sliver of light from the new moon caught the gold band on his ring finger, and Duo smiled. "Do you remember the first time we sat on this beach?" he asked.

"It was just after we'd finally admitted to each other how we felt." Heero's breath was hot against Duo's cheek, his voice catching before he continued. "If he hadn't been stopped, that bastard would have come after you next." [2] Heero shifted so that they were sitting side by side. He wrapped his arms around Duo's waist and stroked his lover's thigh with his free hand. "I should have realised that what I felt for you was more than just friendship; it shouldn't have taken the thought of life without you for me to."

Duo interrupted him, "I knew how I felt, yet I was too scared of losing your friendship by telling you I loved you." He sighed. "We were both as bad as each other, but that's in the past now. It was ten years ago, Heero. It's always easier to think how you should have done something after the event." Duo broke into a grin. "Besides, you were the one who took the plunge. If you'd been waiting for me, we'd probably still be waiting."

"Still be waiting?" Heero raised one eyebrow in disbelief. "You seriously think you could have lasted all this time without saying something?" His hand moved upwards and Duo stifled a low moan. Heero had a definite point there; it was lucky that they had gotten it together when they had. Even though he'd been hoping for the miracle of Heero making the first move, Duo had fast been approaching the stage where he couldn't have hung out much longer.

"Nope," Duo admitted. "But you have to admit it sounded good for all of a split second."

"Tactical Manoeuvres," Heero said under his breath. The phrase was spoken so softly that Duo nearly missed it.

"Huh? Where'd you hear that one?" Duo frowned, his mind running through several scenarios before coming up with a very sneaky three plus four.

There was a moment's silence, and then, to his amusement, Heero blushed. "Umm," he mumbled, "I never told you exactly how I found the courage to tell you how I felt, did I?"

Debating whether to let his lover squirm for a while longer, Duo decided that even though Heero was damn cute when embarrassed, he needed his suspicions confirmed. "No, you didn't. I'd love to know though. C'mon, you know you want to tell me." Brushing his lips over Heero's in way of encouragement, Duo waited for his husband to collect his thoughts and memories.

"After the McKenzie incident I felt so confused," Heero began somewhat hesitantly, "and while observing the way Trowa and Quatre were acting towards each other after what they'd just been through, I began to wonder if what I felt for you was more than just friendship." He paused. "But I still wasn't sure, so."

"So?" Duo prompted.

Heero studied the sand between his toes intently. "At the time it seemed the logical course of action."

"What did?" Duo's curiosity was well and truly aroused now.

"Research," Heero's gaze shifted to meet Duo's.

"Research?" Duo was unsure whether he should be amused, flattered or both. "You thought you loved me so you did research? Umm, Heero, do I really want to know what this, er, research, entailed?" His mind shifted into overdrive, complete with illustrations in full technicolour and he swallowed, hard. Surely Heero wouldn't have...? No, the Heero Yuy he'd known ten years ago wouldn't have, but then again, desperate situations had the potential to drive people to desperate measures.

"I talked to Relena," Heero informed him.

"Relena?" Duo was beginning to feel like a parrot.

"She's a friend, and I thought talking to someone might be helpful. The mission parameters were taking me into territory I wasn't equipped to deal with." Heero smiled as he remembered.

"Uh huh, and?" Duo decided that maybe Relena might get a very generous birthday present this year.

"Relena told me 'if you think he's the right person for you, and I think you know he is, what are talking to me for? Go tell Duo how you feel.'" Heero sighed. "She practically threw me out the door and told me to stop wasting time."

Flowers definitely, maybe even a bouquet of roses. "And?" he pressed further, knowing Heero hadn't finished his story.

"What makes you think there's an 'and'?" Heero asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Aha," Duo said, tapping his nose. "I'm all wise and all knowing. I thought you'd realised that by now."

Heero snorted. "By this stage I'd worked out that while Relena could very well be correct in her assumptions, she wasn't a man - or more correctly a gay man - so it seemed logical to talk to Trowa and Quatre as they were experienced in such matters."

Knowing that if he attempted to comment he'd never be able to stop laughing, Duo remained silent and waited impatiently for what he knew was coming.

"Quatre told me to talk to you - that he was sure it was the right thing to do, and the only way of knowing if you felt the same way," Heero continued. "Trowa told me to treat the whole scenario as a mission, and employ 'tactical manoeuvres' with you as my target."

"I knew it! Sneaky bastard. I bet the pair of them were shitting themselves." Duo gave up trying to hold his laughter in any longer. The tears rolled down his cheeks as he attempted to picture their friends giving Heero advice while trying to keep a straight face.

The confused look on Heero's face made Duo laugh even more, and he took in great whoops of air before finally composing himself. "You haven't a clue, have you?" he asked. "All these years and you have no idea."

Heero shook his head, confusion giving way to an annoyed frown.

"Tro and Cat weren't any better at admitting their feelings for each other than we were - the only difference was that they would have gotten together sooner, but ZERO got in the way." Duo shrugged. "So I decided to give them each a good kick in the ass to move things along."

"You gave them the same speech Trowa gave me," Heero chuckled as realisation dawned, hitting him straight between the eyes.

"Yep, exact same speech." Duo grinned. "My own matchmaking skills used against me. Genius, pure genius."

"Are you referring to their strategy or yours?" Heero winked. "Didn't you admit to me earlier this evening that you weren't a genius? Hmm, it sounds as though I might have to rethink my conclusions."

"Oh might you now," Duo leaned over to nibble on Heero's ear. "I'm sure I can show you first hand just how much of a genius I am." He shivered, unsure whether it was the cold or the thought of how easily things could have been different.

Gently cupping Duo's face in his hand before kissing him on the lips, Heero's tone was subdued yet full of emotion. "I love you, Duo Maxwell. You have no idea how happy you've made me over the past ten years."

Returning the kiss, Duo's voice shook. "I love /you/, Heero Yuy." He smiled, "and I do have a very good idea because it's mutual." It was several minutes before Duo spoke again. "It's been a long time since we've had the opportunity to spend time like this. To just sit and be us - not Michael's parents, or ex-Gundam pilots, but just us." He paused, suddenly shy. "I miss that sometimes."

"So do I," Heero admitted. "Duo?"

"Hmm?" Duo leaned his head on Heero's shoulder and wrapped both arms around his upper body.

"Let's do this more often."

"The date thing or sitting on the beach watching the ocean?"

"Both."

"I'd like that," Duo told him.

Their conversation faded to be replaced by a quiet contentment; they sat cuddled together until Duo lost track of time, happy in each other's company, their shared memories of their life so far, and their hope of what lay ahead.

Eventually becoming aware of firm arms around his waist pulling him to his feet, Duo realised he must have dozed off.

"It's time to go home," Heero told him. "Home to bed."

"But not to sleep," Duo reminded him. "I think I'll need a shower to get all this sand off me."

"We both will," Heero said, a twinkle in his eye.

Duo smiled. "You know," he told Heero. "This date is much better than those we went on before we were married."

"Why?"

"You don't have to drop me home afterwards, and it doesn't have to end with a kiss."

Instead of replying with words, Heero answered with a smile, and Duo knew that this date was far from over, and that tonight, the kiss would be just the beginning.

 

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Fin

Notes:

[1] Yes, that is a reference to 'The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy' series by Douglas Adams. I could imagine Duo enjoying those books, and having fun introducing them to Heero.

[2] Refers to events in an earlier story in the arc's timeline called 'A Dish Served Cold'. One of the fun things about writing an arc out of order is referring to stories which haven't been written yet. *polishes halo*

The soundtrack for this fic is 'Feelings' by Morris Albert. (More the 'feel' of the song though, rather than the lyrics )