8-8-2005

Title: Enough
Author: Calic0cat <calic0cat@fastmail.fm>
Story Completed: August 6, 2005
Genre: Shonen ai/Yaoi
Pairings: 1+R and 2+H (I know, I know, don't worry, they don't last), 1+2+1
Rated: FRT (Fan Rated Suitable for Teenagers)
Warnings: Profanity
Archives: At http://www.calic0cat.net/ (my site) and at Mediaminer.org under Calic0cat. Anyone who has permission to host my other fics, help yourselves.
Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This story is. Nuff said.
Author's Note: This was actually started way, way back sometime in 2002. My muse deserted me partway through it, and it landed in the "incomplete" folder on my computer, where it languished until just recently.

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"Duo, for god's sake, hurry up! We're going to be late!"

"No we won't, Hil. We've got plenty of time to make the drive to the church," Duo grumbled. He turned his collar down over his tie as he came out of the bathroom. "See? All set." He sighed in exasperation as Hilde proceeded to undo his tie and reknot it. "It was *fine* before," he said irritably.

"Fine for a bachelor maybe, but not for an engaged man," Hilde replied, a distinct hint of irritation in her own voice. She draped her arms loosely around his neck and leaned lightly against him.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever." Duo really wished that she wouldn't remind him quite so frequently. He got this awful lump in his stomach every time the subject was raised. As for watching her show off her ring, or having to accept congratulations on their engagement... Well, that just kicked the old run-and-hide impulse into high gear.

He couldn't understand it. For so long, all he'd wanted was a real family. A nice little house, a wife, and - someday in the not-too-far-off-future - a couple of kids. All of those things that *normal* people had. People who weren't orphans, who weren't former Gundam pilots. And he did care for Hilde. She wanted to get married and everyone else seemed to expect it. Hell, there'd been absolutely no surprised exclamations when they'd announced their engagement, only a chorus of "what took you so long"... But still...

It was probably just pre-wedding nerves kicking in, made worse by the fact that his best friend was getting married this morning and he was the best man. He knew Heero had been experiencing some jitters of his own; he'd been even more quiet and serious than usual during yesterday's rehearsal and the dinner afterwards. That had Duo a bit concerned, actually; he'd expected Heero to be a little more enthused over the whole thing.

"C'mon, let's go," Duo said, pulling impatiently away from Hilde's embrace.

Hilde frowned slightly at his abrupt withdrawal. Duo noticed her expression but ignored it. He wasn't in the mood to make a fuss over her. He wasn't sure which of them had changed - her or him - but he hardly ever was anymore. It just - didn't seem worth the effort.

Which was probably not a very good sign considering that their own wedding was less than a month away.

Reminding himself yet again of that home and family he'd wanted for so long, Duo chalked his doubts up to pre-wedding anxiety - also yet again - and made himself take Hilde's hand as they left the motel room together.

***

Duo had to consciously keep reminding himself that this was *not* the Maxwell Church. The building itself bore no real resemblance, but the morning sunlight filtering in through the stained glass windows and the tall priest who was to perform the ceremony made it all too similar. He was tense and edgy. He almost wished that he was one of the Preventers doing security checks on the arriving guests. At least then he'd be too busy to be getting so keyed up.

The fact that Heero was also on edge before he even arrived at the church didn't help matters any. Duo knew that Heero, like him, was wishing for some task to keep himself occupied. But Relena had put her foot down quite firmly. None of the wedding party was allowed to take part in the security arrangements; they were all to stick solely to their traditional wedding party duties. Of course, for Wufei, Quatre, and Trowa, that meant acting as ushers since they were groomsmen. And Zechs was hovering outside of the room Relena was in, waiting to escort her down the aisle. Which left Heero and himself alone in the priest's small office, waiting.

Drawing a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Duo centred himself. Forced himself to settle down. Or rather, tried to do so; he had very limited success. But keeping the groom calm was supposed to be part of the best man's duties, and he couldn't very well do that if he was a basket case himself.

"Hey," he said gently, stepping into the path of Heero's restless pacing. "Settle down, buddy. This is what you wanted, right? A home, a wife, kids someday pretty soon? Just a plain old normal life?"

Heero shrugged. Not quite meeting Duo's eyes, he admitted, "I guess. It's just... sometimes... It seems like there should be something... more."

Ouch. That sounded all too familiar. "You love her, right?"

The pause before Heero's response was a little too long and, once again, a little too familiar. "I... care for Relena. I... want her to be happy. I guess... that's close enough."

Duo lifted his shoulders in a slight shrug. His discomfort showed in his voice as he said, "I guess so." That was pretty much how he felt about Hilde, after all. He cared for her, she said that she loved him, and - well, marrying her would get him the home and family that he'd wanted for so long. Maybe he wasn't exactly in love with her but...

The arrival of the others to let them know that it was time to take their places prevented the conversation from going any further. Duo suspected that it was just as well. He really didn't have any good answers for Heero. And Heero's doubt and agitation were probably just wedding jitters anyway. He'd settle down once the ceremony was over. And maybe seeing Heero and Relena married would settle some of Duo's own anxiety.

He certainly hoped so.

***

One minute, Heero and Relena were kneeling before the priest, Duo and the others standing off to one side, Dorothy and the bridesmaids standing on the other. Then there was an explosion - a series of explosions - and Heero was throwing himself over Relena and people were screaming and the church was going up in flames and past and present were blurring in Duo's mind. But somehow, despite the confusion and disorientation, he was at Heero's side, beating out the flames with his own tuxedo jacket, lifting him away from Relena and staggering out of the church with Heero in his arms while Trowa and Quatre tended to Relena's safety.

And behind them, the church burned.

And the air was filled with the stench of burnt flesh, but somehow, in his desperate fear for his best friend, Duo was able to block it out, to block out the flashbacks, and let the medic training rise to the surface. Able to do everything in his power to keep Heero alive until the paramedics arrived to take over. To restart his breathing when it stopped from shock and smoke inhalation. To force his way into the ambulance with Heero, staying by his side to relay his drug resistances and sensitivities to the medics and doctors.

And never once in all that time did he even think of Hilde. Never once did he wonder whether she'd been injured, or if she knew where he was or that his own injuries were minor.

And when Wufei came to him, and told him that Hilde had been admitted for smoke inhalation and a broken wrist suffered in the crowd's panicked rush for the exit, Duo thanked him for the information and stayed right where he was. Waited for news on Heero's condition, his own cuts and burns bandaged, his clothes torn and singed and stained with Heero's blood and his own.

And never once did he think that was the least bit odd or extraordinary or anything other than normal. Never once did he think that his place was with his fiancee. Not even when Wufei came right out and *told* him it was.

Because it wasn't.

***

Hours passed.

Heero was in isolation in the burn unit, and no visitors were supposed to be allowed in. But the medical staff couldn't keep him under. Couldn't keep the pain under control. Couldn't keep *Heero* under control. Sedative dosages high enough to have any effect on Heero's highly resistant metabolism were too high to be safe. And Heero, in too much pain to comprehend where he was or what was going on or who these strangers were, fought them at every step.

Finally, Duo had had enough of watching through the observation window as they tried to control Heero with drugs and restraints on the few relatively undamaged parts of his body.

"Let me try to get through to him."

The doctor's eyebrows shot up. "Absolutely not. No visitors. His immune system is very vulnerable. We can't have casual visitors wandering in and out."

"So I won't be a casual visitor. I won't go in and out; I'll stay in isolation with him. Do whatever has to be done, get me in with him, then I'll stay."

"You're serious..." the doctor said in disbelief.

"Damn right I am."

"You really think you can help him?"

Duo narrowed his gaze and answered, "Well, I sure as hell can't make things any worse."

The doctor had no response for that.

***

By the time that Wufei returned - again - to relay another request for Duo's presence from Hilde, Duo was in Heero's room, firmly ensconced at his side. Dressed in borrowed hospital scrubs in place of his own ruined tuxedo, his braid clutched in the white-knuckled grip of Heero's uninjured hand - the one that Heero had wrapped around Relena as he'd tackled her away from danger - Duo just shook his head in silent refusal when the request was passed on to him. "Heero needs me" was the simple response he wrote on the note he'd been given. It was that simple.

That simple and that complicated.

The events at the church had cleared up a lot of things in Duo's mind. The doubt and confusion were gone. He *knew* now why he'd been becoming increasingly uncomfortable with his engagement to Hilde. Suspected why Heero hadn't been as happy and excited over his own wedding as he should have been.

Knew that he'd been lying to himself for one hell of a long time. That he'd been refusing to acknowledge what his heart was trying to tell him because it didn't fit with his perfect little storybook picture of his future. And he knew that, in doing so, he'd probably forced Heero down the same miserable path.

Because Heero hadn't given in and accepted Relena's proposal until after Duo and Hilde had announced their own engagement. Duo realized now that the flicker of - something - that had passed across his best friend's face at the time - something that he had attributed to hurt that he hadn't told Heero he was planning to propose before doing it - had probably been something very different.

Pain at the loss of what should have been the next step in the progression of their own relationship. Resignation to the seemingly inevitable future.

Now... Shit, what a mess. He was going to have to break off his engagement with Hilde. She was going to be hurt - very hurt. He was sorry about that; it wasn't her fault he was so goddamn good at lying to himself. But there was no way he'd marry her now that he'd admitted where his loyalties were. Where his heart would always be. That wouldn't be fair to any of them.

Duo didn't know what Heero would do about his own engagement to Relena. The wedding had barely begun - the priest had still been giving his little speech on the solemnity of marriage - so it was still only an engagement. And, with his self-deceptive blinders finally removed, Duo was fairly sure that Heero's heart was not involved in that relationship any more than his own was in his relationship with Hilde. But whether Heero would be prepared to disappoint Relena and turn to him, to forgive him for his wilful blindness - on that, he dared not speculate.

But those were all concerns for tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week. Those, along with the inevitable investigation into the bombing itself. Duo had a lot of questions about *that*. About who and why and how the *hell* security had missed it.

For now, all that mattered was that Heero was alive. He did not seem to be truly aware of his surroundings; the pain and the drugs clouded his mind too badly, and the fact that his eyes had been treated and bandaged due to their exposure to intense heat and chemicals from the explosion only added to the disorientation. The brush of Duo's braid across his uninjured palm was the only thing he'd really responded to so far, though his tight grasp on it seemed to anchor him, calming him enough to render restraints unnecessary. Duo knew that he was suffering - and facing one hell of a long, tough road to recovery - but he was alive. And, for the moment, that was enough.

***

"C..c..cancel it?" Hilde shook her head in disbelief. "Duo, you can't mean that..."

"Yes," Duo interjected firmly. "I can. I'm sorry, but..."

Hastily interrupting him, Hilde said, "No, Duo, that's not necessary. We can just reschedule..."

"No, Hilde."

"This is just wedding jitters; you've had too much time with nothing to do but think and worry. You're just reacting to what happened at Heero and Relena's wedding. You'll see." Nodding, she assured him desperately, "Everything will be fine once you're back on L2..."

"No, Hilde," he repeated. "I'm not coming back. The wedding's off."

"Duo, you can't do this to me!" Hilde protested, her face twisted in a mixture of anger and hurt. "The wedding's only..."

Duo cut her off sharply. "It wouldn't matter if it was tomorrow. I'm sorry, Hilde, but I won't change my mind. I care for you - but I don't love you. I'm not *in* love with you. I'm sorry." This probably wasn't the best way to break the news to Hilde - with him still in isolation with Heero and talking to her over the vidphone instead of in person - but he didn't want to put it off any longer. Their engagement had already gone on far too long; it should never have happened in the first place.

"I should have pushed for an earlier wedding date. We'd have been married before all this happened, and..."

"And nothing would be any different," Duo interrupted gently but firmly. "A broken engagement is a hell of a lot better than a divorce, Hilde.

"Married or not, my first concern would still be Heero. My first loyalty would still be to Heero. I won't pretend otherwise; I've lied to myself too damn long already."

"You *bastard*," Hilde hissed furiously, her eyes bright with tears. "Don't come crying to me when he gets better and marries her and leaves you all alone." The call disconnected in a burst of static.

Duo closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, wishing he could turn back the clock and figure his feelings out *before* he made that dumbass decision to propose to Hilde. Then, he might have still been able to salvage his friendship with her. And he and Heero would have taken the next step in their relationship instead of Heero deciding to settle for what he could have rather than longing for what he couldn't. Maybe there'd still have been an attack on Relena, but at least the whole disaster at the church wouldn't have happened. The priest and half dozen others who had perished in the conflagration would still be alive. Heero wouldn't be facing months of recovery time, and skin grafts and plastic surgery...

Shit. When he fucked up, he *really* fucked up.

***

Time passed in a blur for Duo. Quatre sent him an ebook reader with literally hundreds of titles to choose from. He really wasn't in the mood to read but there was nothing else *to* do. Except think. And he'd done one hell of a lot of thinking already.

Heero slipped in and out of consciousness, rarely lucid. The few times that he had been, he'd seemed to recognize Duo's voice and touch. Brushing his braid over Heero's hand remained the surest way of getting through to his friend. Of reassuring him that he was safe, that there was no need to struggle with the medical personnel or to fight against the drugs. The drugs were actually semi-effective at keeping the pain under control - at keeping Heero unconscious - as long as Heero wasn't actively resisting their sedative effects.

Duo had half expected Relena to show up demanding to take his place at Heero's side, but she hadn't. Since her arrival at the hospital, he knew that Quatre, Trowa, and Wufei had been taking turns guarding her.

Wufei had told Duo that much back when he was still speaking to Duo, before Duo had "dishonourably" broken off his engagement to Hilde. As far as Duo was concerned, marrying her when he loved someone else would have been far more dishonourable than breaking the engagement could possibly be. In the long run, breaking the engagement would hurt Hilde far less than a loveless marriage would have.

Relena hadn't been all that seriously injured in Duo's opinion - but then again, she wasn't a former Gundam pilot so her own feelings on that might differ. She'd ended up with relatively minor burns on one arm that Heero hadn't quite managed to get tucked under him. Also a couple of broken ribs. Cracked collarbone. Minor concussion. All from the force with which she'd struck the floor when Heero had flung them away from the blast. She'd taken the brunt of that impact since Heero had kept himself on top of her, shielding her from the explosion.

But she should have been able to get around the hospital by now, even if she wasn't ready to be discharged. It really *was* odd that she hadn't been by. Hospital restrictions certainly wouldn't have stopped her; money and influence always won out over red tape and Heero *was* her fiance...

The next time that he called Quatre to give him an update on Heero's condition, Duo asked, "How's Relena? I figured she'd have been in to see Heero by now..."

"Une ordered her shipped off to a safe house," Quatre explained. "There hasn't been much progress in the bomb investigation, and no less than four different groups have tried to claim responsibility. Right now, they're not even certain who the real target was. It may have been Relena. Or Heero. Or all five of *us*.

"Or it may not have been any of the aforementioned. The priest - well, he had some enemies of his own. Some of his views were not - universally popular, shall we say?"

"Shit. No wonder Une wanted to get Relena out of here. Surprised she agreed to go, though."

"Well..." Quatre hesitated, looking very uncertain. "She didn't... exactly object. I think..." He looked even more torn, then finally blurted out, "I think she was glad of an excuse. Heero's doctor - he, uh, explained Heero's condition and showed her some photographs. She... well, she spent the next hour throwing up."

"Oh *shit*..." Duo groaned. "Dammit, Q, she's the whole damn reason he got so badly hurt! If it'd been just him, he could have gotten further out of blast range..."

"Duo, you have to remember that she's led a very sheltered life," Quatre remonstrated half-heartedly. "We're... a little better-prepared for that kind of thing..."

Duo shook his head in disappointment. "I suppose." He sighed and raked a hand through his bangs. "Guess it's just as well she's not here and there's a logical reason for it. Heero's still pretty out of it, but when he does start being more aware, that's the *last* kind of reaction he's gonna need."

***

Heero's condition improved slowly but steadily. The sedatives were reduced, the bandages came off his eyes, and he gradually became more alert. Duo repeated assurances that Relena was safe and healing, that none of their friends had been seriously injured or killed, that the Preventers were investigating the attack, that all Heero needed to do was rest and recover. Even when the point was reached that Heero probably would have been okay without his anchoring presence, Duo stayed.

Une had intended to assign a Preventer to guard Heero since they still didn't know who the true target of the attack had been, so Duo had persuaded her to activate his reserve status and give that duty to him. It hadn't been difficult; Preventers really didn't have the agents to spare for that kind of thing. The official status gave him an unassailable reason to stay even after Heero's condition was upgraded to stable and he was moved out of isolation.

Reading through the latest reports on the investigation into the bombing, Duo frowned slightly. It was looking more and more as if *none* of the groups claiming responsibility were actually behind the attack. None of them had been willing - or, more likely, able - to provide details about the bombs - and there *had* been more than just the one targeting the wedding party - beyond what had been reported in the media.

"Something wrong?"

The softly voiced question drew Duo's eyes to the bed. Heero was lying half on his side, half on his front, keeping pressure off of the worst of the burns which covered over half of his back and his entire right side. Duo smiled faintly, glad to see even a small show of interest from Heero; the other man had been extremely detached and uninterested in much of anything, including his own condition and treatment. He listened to anything that Duo told him - or at least, seemed to - but he didn't question anything. Not Relena's absence or Duo's constant presence or anything else.

Considering Heero's usual need for knowledge and control of a situation, his almost complete lack of interest had been worrying Duo. He met Heero's vaguely curious gaze and made a quick decision. He'd been following doctor's orders in emphasizing that Heero should just rest and heal, that he didn't need to worry about anything else. 'But I think that's the wrong approach. Heero *needs* to be needed. To feel useful. Maybe he can't take an active role in the investigation but there's no reason he can't provide some thoughts on what's been discovered.'

Duo slid his chair over closer to the bed and threw a quick glance at the clock to ensure that they weren't due for a visit from some of the hospital staff any time too soon. "The investigation isn't getting very far," he said, keeping his voice low. "Here's what they've got..."

***

Getting Heero involved in the investigation turned out to quite possibly the best thing that Duo could have done. Given something to focus on, Heero's detachment and disinterest vanished. He became much more like his usual observant self, at least where the investigation was concerned.

Yet, oddly enough, Heero still didn't question Relena's absence. True, the situation itself provided an explanation of sorts; Relena was being kept in a secure location while the Preventers strove to discover the motive and perpetrator behind the bombing. But Duo couldn't understand how she could claim to love Heero and yet not find a way to be with him to support him right now. The daily brief, stilted note written inside a commercially-produced get-well card was no substitute for a supportive presence at Heero's side. Duo sincerely hoped that Relena could do better than that once the perpetrator was caught and she was free to visit the hospital.

Unfortunately, catching the perpetrator was becoming less and less likely. Even with Heero's unofficial addition to the investigative team, they were no closer to finding the person or group responsible for the incident. With no further attacks or solid leads, Une - reluctantly - had to pull most of the assigned agents off of the case. Even Duo had to agree to take on a few new cases, though he did so on three conditions: first, that he could continue to investigate the bombing as well; second, that he could work offsite rather than at the office; and third, that he could discuss the cases with Heero. With his guard duty officially over and Heero's condition greatly improved, Duo couldn't justify staying at the hospital around the clock, but at least if he could work from there, he could spend the maximum possible hours with Heero - and incidentally keep Heero's mind occupied with helping with the new cases.

With the investigation virtually at a standstill and the threat level downgraded, Relena came out of hiding and promised to visit her fiance at the hospital. Heero didn't appear to be particularly excited by the news, and Duo suspected that was just as well since Relena hadn't exactly seemed enthused by the prospect either.

His concerns were borne out when Relena finally did show up. She talked to Heero's doctor and to Duo more than to Heero. Had difficulty looking directly at Heero, and focussed vaguely on his unmarred left side when she did. She even made excuses when the doctor suggested that Heero could continue his treatment on an outpatient basis.

"I understand that, as head of your security force, Mr. Yuy has a room in your residence," the doctor commented to Relena. Turning towards Heero, he continued, "Your recovery is at a stage where it could be managed with a combination of a home nurse and visits to the burn clinic. I'm sure that you would prefer..."

Relena cut the doctor off hastily, "The mansion is not a restful environment, doctor. The visiting dignitaries, the media presence..." She shook her head sorrowfully. "Heero is far better off here."

The doctor protested, "Minister Darlian, burn victims need the support of their family and friends. We find that their recovery proceeds much more smoothly in their home environment. Surely..."

With difficulty, Duo kept his own mouth shut; it wasn't his place to interfere. Maybe Relena's estate wasn't the ideal environment, but he agreed with the doctor; Heero needed to get the hell out of the damn hospital. It would do wonders for his mental well-being.

"Enough." Silence fell in the wake of that single word from Heero. "I'd like to speak to my fiancee alone."

Duo gave Relena a stern glare and spoke quickly to cut off what looked like the beginning of an oh-so-polite protest. "Sure, Heero. The doc and I'll be down at the nurse's station; just buzz if you need anything." He checked to be sure that the call buzzer was easily accessible before grabbing the doctor's elbow and firmly steering him out of the room. Duo pulled the door shut behind them. Heero had asked for privacy; Duo intended to make sure that he got it.

It seemed as if an eternity passed before Relena came down the hall. Her chin was high, her eyes reddened and too bright. Heero's doctor hurried to intercept her. "Minister Darlian, I wish that you would reconsider. Your fiance would..."

Relena stopped abruptly. "Mr. Yuy has..." Duo eavesdropped unabashedly, wanting to be prepared for whatever sort of state Heero might have been left in by her visit. Relena drew a deep breath. "Mr. Yuy has broken the engagement and tendered his resignation. He will not be returning to my residence."

The doctor stammered uncomfortably, "Oh. I... I see. Well, then... I... I bid you good day, Minister." He made a hasty retreat to the nurse's station.

"Duo."

Duo moved a few steps closer. "Yeah."

Relena didn't turn to face him. "Thank you for... for being here for him. If... if he needs anything, if *you* need anything - please, just ask." Her shoulders sagged slightly and her voice became very soft. "I really did try not to let him see my... my reaction. But he knew."

"He's always been observant and perceptive," Duo pointed out cautiously, trying not to sound judgmental. "That hasn't changed. He's still Heero."

"I'm aware of that!" she snapped, finally whirling to face him. Lowering her voice in response to the attention that her exclamation attracted, she repeated, "I'm aware of that. Logically, I know he's still Heero. Unfortunately, logic isn't enough. He knows it, and... and I know it. And the... the feelings between us aren't enough either." As she turned to walk away, she murmured, "Maybe they never were."

If she could just give up like that, Duo didn't think there was any "maybe" about it. Nor did he waste any time watching her departure. He had more important things to do.

Like making arrangements to get Heero the hell out of there.

Heading to the nearest public access terminal, Duo punched in a familiar number and waited for it to connect. "Tro? It's Duo. I need a favour..."

***

"So. The doc's ready to spring you." Duo leaned against the door jamb and gave Heero an inquiring look. "Whadda ya say - you ready to get outta here?"

Heero's expression briefly went from withdrawn and pensive to wistful, then to noncommittal. "Didn't Relena tell you? The engagement's off, and I quit. I don't have anywhere to go."

"Sure you do. With me." Crossing to where Heero stood by the window, he gave Heero a cheerful grin. "So? You ready to go?" Not that he knew exactly where they were going; he'd been staying at a nearby motel that offered cheap rooms by the week, and he knew that Heero wouldn't be comfortable staying there even briefly. He hadn't wanted to leave Heero alone while he ran around apartment hunting, so he'd called for backup. Quatre's tastes tended to run a little too high-falutin' to suit either Heero or him, and Wufei still wasn't speaking to him, but Duo trusted Trowa to find someplace suitable.

For an instant, Heero's eyes lit up eagerly, then he shook his head. "No, Duo. But you should go home; I've kept you away long enough. Hilde's been very understanding, but she..."

Duo cut him off. "Hilde's got nothing to do with it. The engagement's off."

"What?!" Heero exclaimed, his uninjured hand reaching out to grab Duo's arm.

"It's off," Duo repeated simply, wincing slightly as Heero's fingers convulsively tightened their grip.

"What happened?"

"Uh, well..." Duo tried to decide just how to go about explaining things. He didn't think that "I realized I was an idiot" was going to be enough to satisfy Heero.

Heero didn't give him time to come up with a good explanation; he supplied one of his own. "You wanted to postpone it till I could be there, and Hilde got mad and cancelled it," he guessed guiltily. "I'm sorry..."

Shaking his head, Duo interrupted, "No, Heero. You've got nothing to be sorry for. *I* called it off."

"*You* did? But... why?" The question was a mere breath of sound.

"Because I was in love with an idea, not her," Duo admitted guiltily. "I care about Hilde, sure, but I'm not in love with her. I was letting some juvenile, picture-book image of a so-called 'normal' life keep me from seeing the truth. She's not the most important person in my life, and she never would be. Settling for second best wouldn't be fair to anyone."

"You... you're sure? You really don't want to be with her?"

Shifting his arm within Heero's grasp, Duo clasped Heero's arm in return and squeezed gently. "Yeah. I'm sure." Maybe it had taken a long time to figure out his feelings, but now he knew them beyond any shadow of a doubt. Meeting Heero's eyes unflinchingly, Duo assured him, "I'm right where I need and want to be. I'm just sorry it took me so damn long to figure out where that was."

Heero blinked rapidly, his jaw tightening as he swallowed convulsively. His voice soft and a bit hoarse, he said simply, "Thank you for being here."

Nothing further was said; neither the time nor the place was right for anything more. But, as Heero gave his arm a gentle squeeze before releasing it and he returned the gesture, Duo knew that nothing more *needed* to be said. They had an unspoken mutual understanding and, for now, that was enough.

More than enough.

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