8-27-2004

Title: Testing Acceptance
Author: Calic0cat
Pairing: 1x2
Rating: PG
Genre: Shonen ai/Yaoi
Warnings: Swearing
Notes: Originally intended for the GW500 LJ community challenge #35 "Expectation" but it just kept growing and growing till it ended up both too late and much too long.
Archives: At http://calic0cat.freeservers.com/ (my site). Those with previous permission to host my fics, help themselves.
Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This story is. Nuff said.

#################################################

Midnight comes and goes. I sit on the couch and wait, using every trick of emotional control that I know to keep my worry reined in. I *cannot* let it turn to anger. When my lover walks through our front door - as, sooner or later, he will - my emotions must be under complete control. I must be solid, sure, and unshakeable, prepared to withstand any emotional storm without wavering in my love and acceptance.

He may be contrite. He may be defensive. He may be anxious. He may present a facade of flip unconcern or even one of pure belligerence. We've been through all of those possibilities over the past few years. And will, I know, go through them again. Probably for the rest of our lives together, though hopefully not very frequently.

No matter how much he loves me - and his love is one thing that I am completely sure of - and no matter how much I love him in return, a small part of him is unable to truly believe. Unable to trust. That part of him expects me to leave, to stop loving him, to grow tired of his very presence in my life. Expects me to reject him.

He does not trust easily, though he does an excellent job of faking it. I know that the others in our little group believe that he trusts them. And, in a small way, he does. But it is a hesitant trust, cautiously offered and easily lost. And it will not grow much stronger, no matter how trustworthy they may prove themselves. Too many harsh lessons taught at too young an age guarantee that.

He expects those born to wealth and privilege to take advantage of others. Acts of charity, generosity, and kindness are viewed with suspicion and cynicism. He expects that they will, somehow, benefit the giver more than the receiver - financially, socially, or simply as a sop to conscience. Quatre and Wufei may believe that they have convinced him otherwise but they are wrong. No matter how much he may want to believe them, may want to trust them unconditionally, he cannot. They were born to wealth and privilege, raised in families of rank and importance, and that will always make their motives suspect.

Others assume that he remembers nothing of his family. They are wrong. He remembers being passed from one wealthy relative to another after his parents died, none of them willing to keep the active, inquisitive, mischievous child of the disinherited black sheep of the family. He remembers the aunt who turned him over to foster care as "unmanageable" and the string of increasingly bad foster homes that he went through after that. Remembers the foster parents who made no secret of the fact that he would not be there but for the money paid for his care.

And he remembers hiding in the alley behind one of those foster homes, digging scraps out of the garbage and trying to stay out of sight after his foster father had spent the afternoon drinking away the grocery money. Remembers Solo finding him there, cold and hungry.

Solo offered him half a bruised apple and a warm, safe place to sleep. With nothing to lose, Duo took his hand and never looked back.

He learned from Solo that some people could, just maybe, be trusted. That someone who'd been through the same sort of hell could, just maybe, understand.

But Solo also taught him that even that rare trustworthy person could leave. Maybe not by choice - but leave nonetheless.

Nothing lasts; everyone leaves.

The neighbourhood that tore down the street gang's shelter and left them no choice but the "hospitality" of the church proved that, in the end, it's always each man for himself and to hell with anyone who gets in the way.

No one can be trusted; self-interest always rules.

None of the potential adopters that the church found were prepared to deal with a suspicious, street-smart kid with a near-genius IQ. Time and again, he would "test" their acceptance - a broken vase, a messy room, a filthy mouth, a fight - and time and again they would live down to his expectations. Time and again, they tired of his presence. Rejected him. Sent him back.

And when the church finally gave up on finding him a home, the good Father taught him all over again that nothing is free, that everyone expects something in return for their seeming generosity. The church took him in and cared for him - but always with the expectation that he would become a priest. That he would repay the church's "generosity" by becoming part of it. His own beliefs and wishes didn't matter; he was expected to accept the church's will and do as he was told out of gratitude. No matter how well Father and Sister Helen cared for him, no matter how much he regrets and mourns their deaths, he never forgets that there were expectations attached to that care. Never forgets that lesson.

Nothing is ever free; everyone expects something in return.

G reinforced that lesson, though at least he was upfront about the nature of their relationship. He fed, clothed, sheltered, and educated Duo. In return, Duo was expected to fight, kill, and spread mayhem in the name of the colonies.

Many people believe that I am the "paranoid" one. I'm not. Duo isn't really either. He doesn't believe that everyone or even someone is out to get him. He simply believes that everyone, or almost everyone, has ulterior motives and therefore limits his trust accordingly.

The war itself deepened Duo's inability to trust. People changed sides. The colonies denied and betrayed us. Loyalties were rarely what they seemed. People were rarely what they seemed.

Duo will never fully trust Trowa, despite the fact that Trowa's childhood was just as hellish as his own. Trowa's amazing infiltration skill leaves him permanently suspect in Duo's mind; he cannot trust the colour of a chameleon.

Wufei has no idea how badly his support of Mariemaia damaged Duo's ability to trust him, an ability that was already limited by his family's status. Trowa's involvement in that whole debacle justified Duo's caution in trusting him; his flip remark about not waiting for Duo confirmed that he could not truly be trusted.

My own error in punching Duo and leaving him behind rather than taking thirty seconds to explain my plan was nearly enough to destroy the tentative relationship that we had just begun. It took months - many months - to repair what I'd damaged, despite his eventual acceptance of my explanation. At the time, I couldn't understand why he had reacted so badly, why he considered my actions a breach of trust. So I followed my own hard-learned lessons - when in doubt, research.

Thank god I started with psychology rather than Duo's past. Otherwise, I might have made the huge error of going behind his back and investigating his background, thereby destroying his trust permanently. Instead, armed with a handful of theories based on my research, I asked. And, little by little, he has told me. Every single thing that I know about his background has come directly from him, revealed in cautious bits and pieces over the years. I still don't know everything but, someday, as his trust continues to grow, I will.

Just as he will know everything about me, for that has been the price of earning Duo's trust. I answer every question, no matter how difficult. Reveal every memory, no matter how painful. Keep no secrets - not even a surprise party. Never deceive him, no matter how "good" the reason. Give him nothing but the complete truth.

And, in return, he trusts me and my love for him.

Not perfectly - not yet and maybe not ever. But most of the time.

Every once in a while, though, something will happen - a close call in the field, someone flirting with me, a too-sharp criticism, something that perhaps he doesn't even consciously notice - and the cycle will begin. He will swear excessively, make rude and inappropriate remarks, leave the bathroom in a mess, lose his temper over trifles, flirt shamelessly with other people (though never more than flirt, there are issues of trust there too that guarantee he will never do more, details that remain unrevealed but which I can guess all too well)...

He pushes and tests, expecting me to give up on him, to leave him, yet hoping that I won't. And when it's over, when I've withstood his test with arms still open in love and acceptance, he will return, contrite and affectionate and just a bit more trusting than before. And all will be well for weeks or months until something happens and it begins all over again.

He knows that he has "issues". And, rationally, he knows that if I've stuck with him this far, I'm not going to quit. Knows on a conscious level that he can trust me. Unfortunately, that isn't enough; the human subconscious is a powerful thing.

We've even tried professional help. Seventeen different professionals, to be exact. The last one gave us the only genuinely worthwhile advice that we received. Simply put, if Duo can't trust his counsellor even more than he trusts me, counselling isn't going to help. Considering that he trusts me more than anyone else in the entire Earth Sphere and it's taken years to earn that much trust - well, we're on our own. She also said that truly unconditional love *would* help - eventually - but that it would be a long and difficult process.

She was right.

Outside, a car pulls up and I rise and move to the window. Duo climbs out of the cab and I head to the door, knowing that he stormed out without his wallet. He hunches his shoulders and ducks his head while I pay the driver. He's at the "contrite, embarrassed, and worried" stage. I pull his tense body into a hug and murmur, "I'm glad you're home. I was worried about you." Tone and word choice are important; angry or judgmental words will make him defensive while gentle concern will disarm him and bring us to the reconciliation stage.

He slumps wearily against me - he's walked himself to the point of exhaustion - hands clutching at my shirt. "I'm sorry, god, Heero, I'm sorry..."

"Shh, I know." I kiss the top of his head and guide him back into the house. I ignore the disaster area that is our kitchen; we'll clean up the evidence of his temper tantrum together when we get up. Fortunately, today is the first day of our vacation so I don't have to call us in sick; neither of us would be fit for work.

He glances into the kitchen as we pass it and winces. "Oh god... I'm sorry..."

"I know," I repeat patiently. "I'm sorry too; I should have called and told you that I was running late." Though it might not have made a difference; this particular blowup has been brewing since the new regulations were handed down earlier this week.

The Supervisory Board finally ruled against the various exemptions that Une signed off on in the agency's early days. Preventers is no longer desperate for skilled agents; the Board feels that it is high time to stop pandering to the eccentricities of individuals. Between the ruling that hair can be no longer than mid-shoulder-blade when loose and the one forbidding that couples be partnered, each with compliance deadlines less than a month away, Duo and I are both on edge. Une gave us a week's vacation specifically to discuss the situation and decide what we are going to do.

Me working late in order to clear my desk instead of coming home on time when I *knew* that he'd cleared his own desk and left early to fix a special dinner for us sent an implied message that work was more important than Duo. In reality, I'd simply lost track of the time, something that he would usually understand and remedy with a teasing phone call. But with his place as my partner at Preventers already in jeopardy, he'd stewed and jumped to conclusions instead of calling and by the time I'd arrived home...

Well, let's just say that it's a good thing the kitchen is tiled. Getting spaghetti sauce off of wallpaper or out of carpet would be one hell of a job. Scrubbing it out of the grout is going to be bad enough.

Duo - clings - as we get ready for bed. He touches me constantly, rarely out of contact for more than an instant. I don't mind; it's a welcome change from the early days of our relationship when - after one of his "testing" phases - he would be hesitant to touch me, wary of presuming too much, wary of believing in the unconditional nature of my love and acceptance.

In bed, he curls into my arms, face tucked against my chest, arm around my waist, one knee sliding between my legs. "I'm sorry," he repeats miserably.

"I know." Truth again. Not "It's okay" because it *isn't* okay. Just "I know" because I do know that he's sorry. It still doesn't make it okay; flinging supper against the kitchen wall because he's worried that I'll put the job above him and he's hiding that worry with anger, testing my commitment with rotten behaviour, will never be okay. But he's trying and things *are* getting better. It's been months since his last "testing phase" and this one has been shorter than most.

I tip his face up and kiss him tenderly. "I love you. Always and forever."

He meets the kiss eagerly before snuggling back down, sighing as he slowly relaxes against me. Half asleep, he murmurs, "Love you, H'ro. Sorry 'm such a prick s'metimes..."

"I know. Love you always," I murmur back as he dozes off. It takes me awhile to follow suit; my mind is busy enumerating all of the things we need to do this week, from cleaning up the mess in the kitchen to choosing a new career. Complying with the regulations in order to continue working for Preventers isn't even an option; we'll have to find something else, something that will allow us to continue to work as partners. Maybe investigative work or security consulting. Maybe something else entirely; Duo is sure to have a few ideas as well.

I close my eyes and try to sleep, knowing that I will still need to be very controlled and careful for a day or two more and that I must rest to ensure that I'm able to meet that need. I don't always have to be so cautious around Duo; he is only oversensitive when he's going through one of these upsets and they are becoming fewer and farther between. Our relationship is far from easy - the therapist was right when she said that it would be a long, difficult process for Duo to learn deep down that he can trust me - but it's worth it.

Duo is worth it.

#################################################