The Little White Box
beta writer: Deb
Warnings: Duo POV, Angst, Language, Violence
I remember the first time that I saw it. Just a quick glance at something that was meant to stay hidden from curious eyes like my own. Just a simple, white box that looked like it came from a jewelry store and was just the right shape and size to sport a ring case. Hidden in the back of the clothes drawer, it was gone in an instant when my roommate closed it away once more.
Looking up at me when he turned with the pair of socks he had been retrieving, my stoic partner-in-crime gave a short, "What?" Never one of many words, Heero certainly did know how to fill in the gaps of silence with his glare.
Probably being the only person in this life that was never intimidated by the look, I simply smirked, "I'm just waiting on your slow ass. You know, you'll be a half-hour early for work or an assignment, but you'll take your dear sweet time when it comes to meeting up with our friends."
As he tied his shoes while sitting at the edge of his bed, Heero looked up through his long bangs and grunted, "We'll be at the restaurant in plenty of time, Duo." And he was right. The guy was never late for anything. I was just looking for something to throw in before he started thinking that I saw something that I wasn't meant to see. Fortunately, I managed to dodge that bullet with my clever quick thinking and mentally patted myself on the back for that one.
With a dramatic bow and extension of my hands to my fellow Preventer as he rose to his feet, I gestured for him to head out first. Snorting, he shook his head in amusement with his muttered, "Baka." As I closed the door behind me, I took a peek over my shoulder to the top dresser drawer wondering what could possibly be in that ring box.
Days passed and I couldn't get the damned thing out of my mind. Heero was never one to consider any of his belongings sacred enough to hide them the way that he hid that box. But the fact that it had a ring inside might also have meant that he intended to give it to someone else. The thought of that had my stomach in knots at the thought of someone else possibly winning his affections where I had done everything under the sun to get him to notice me to no avail.
Sitting across from me at his own desk in our shared office, my partner was typing feverishly away at his laptop as he finished up the report of our last assignment. Oblivious to the torment that I was going through, his face remained etched in his infamous emotionless expression. Emotionless to most, but I knew the Heero Yuy that no one else had the privilege of seeing....then again, perhaps this other lucky person got to see him, too.
It'd taken some time, but I have to give myself credit for slowly breaking away the walls that had been built around the famous 'Perfect Soldier.' It was actually his suggestion that we live together and work as partners for the Preventers, which was a huge thing for him to do.
Our living together gave me the time and exposure that I needed to start chipping away what his training had done. Hell, I even got him to talk in words more often than grunts! That was one bitch of an accomplishment, if you ask me! There were even a couple of occasions where I managed to make him smile and laugh- two things that no one would have believed could come out of him. But I got to experience those things.
Now, I had to come to grips that the gentler side of Heero was being shared with someone else. That person was most likely Relena, as they still kept in touch and visited each other rather regularly. The soldier and the once queen how fucking perfect is that? Like a damned fairy tail complete with the little braided fairy befriended them.
"Why are you moping?" Heero's voice suddenly asks. Snapping my head up, I feel my eyes widening as I look over at my partner. Glancing away from his screen to meet my gaze, yet never missing a beat in his typing, he comments, "You're practically pouting about something over there. What's wrong?"
Quickly trying to come up with a response, I just opened my mouth to give some stretch of the truth without lying when Lady Une appeared in our doorway. "Yuy, Maxwell," she began with a firm nod to each of us as she stepped in with the door sliding closed behind her.
Silently thanking whatever God made her show up at just the right time, I sat back in my chair and folded my hands behind my head. "Hello, Commander," I flashed her a brilliant grin. "What can we do you for?" From across the room, Heero snorted and shook his head in amusement.
Whatever Lady Une did, she always managed to look dignified while doing it. Even when it came to rolling her eyes as she was then. "Lovely, Maxwell," she replied with the smallest hint of a smile. Appraising us both, she announced, "Chang's newest trainees are ready for a field test that I would like the two of you to work out and oversee. I'll give the layout of the facility that you'll be using before the day is out."
Heero gave a firm nod along with myself before she stepped out. With a loud cheer, I raise my fists into the air and exclaim, "Yes! We get a field day!"
Had I known then what would unfold on what should have been a routine field test, I would have not been so excited. From the time that Wufei introduced us to the new bunch of fresh faces, I had an odd feeling.
Now I am normally not one to brag, but I think that being a former Gundam pilot and living through the wars is pretty fucking impressive. Normally, just knowing that about us is enough to have any rookie intimidated enough to listen and respect us. But when Wufei was finished introducing us, he gave us a frustrated look when his back was turned to his pupils. When we were left alone, we were faced with several smug looking little shits.
I sighed deeply to myself. This was going to be a pretty long ass day.
It had taken all afternoon to set all of the explosives in the gutted warehouse that stood at the center of a rundown town several miles out from headquarters. Carefully taking the time to explain the many different types of grenades and bombs that they would have to be acquainted with, we showed the eight new pilots how to set each weapon. Finally, all thirty floors had strategically placed boom boom makers- as I like to call them- that when set would have the building folding down on itself.
When the remainder of my team finally emerged from the building after me, I caught up with Heero and the other four pilots that he had taken in. Looking into my backpack, I started taking inventory of what I had left in explosives just as my partner was handing the detonation device to the rookie we came to know as Davis. As I heard him explain the function of the remote to the cadet that was no older than either of us, my eyes widened when what I should have had left in my bag had come up short.
Panicking, I knelt and took a more careful check on the bombs in my bag. When my quick look over came up with the same result, I sputtered, "Uh, Heero?" Quickly turning to meet my worried gaze, my roommate opened his mouth to ask what was wrong when I caught the gleam in Davis's eyes just before he pressed the detonation button.
I jumped to my feet and shouted along with Heero, "Wait!" just as the first deafening blasts went off. In horror, knowing what was missing from my pack, I stared up along with the others at the gutted building went up in flames in seconds. The explosions at the base of the building had rocked its foundation and already, the old bricks were starting to twist.
"Get the fuck out of here! Move! Now!" I screamed to the frozen recruits and along with Heero, we used force when needed to move the few that were staring in terror as the building was moving to fall on top of us.
My heart was threatening to pound out of my chest by the time we managed to clear the collapsing rubble. Looking back, I found Heero frozen stiff as he watched the facility's burning remains crash into the tall apartment complex that had been behind us at the time the trigger was set. His back to me now, I couldn't tell his expression, but his whole body was tense enough to snap.
Looking in the same direction that he was, I watched in awe and fear as the apartment was knocked off its own foundation to topple back on impact. I had to reach up and cover my ears against the loud crash and a blinding cloud of dust kicked up to cover all of us.
Unable to see anything through the thick plume, I clawed my way to where the air was clear while coughing violently along with the rookies. Glaring heatedly at Davis when he cleared the large plume, I gripped the blonde's wiry neck and pulled him toward me while shouting, "What the fuck were you little shits thinking by stealing those bombs!? Somebody could have been killed back there!"
The little bastard managed to pull himself free and met my glare with his own as he shouted, "It was just supposed to be a bit of fun! We never meant for anything like that to happen." Behind him, his white-dusted buddies had the nerve to nod their heads in support of their actions.
"Fun?" a voice asked from the cloud.
Slowly stepping out, with hardly a thing on him, was none other than my buddy. His face was eerily calm, his cobalt eyes locked on Davis. Despite the calm, there was something brewing and this was no longer the Heero that I knew. My blood ran cold and my eyes widened at the realization that he was somewhere else, somewhere dark and volatile and it scared the shit out of me
No longer smug or proud, Davis's friends slowly backed away from Heero with pale faces to go along with the dust that was splattered on them. To further display just how brilliant he was, Davis actually had the balls to straighten himself despite the horrific sight boring down on him. Chin held high, he gritted, "Yea. Fun."
In a blink, Heero closed the gap between them and landed one solid punch after the other into the bastard's face The sound of bones breaking soon followed as the onslaught continued. "Fuck!" I heard myself shout as my feet were moving before I was even aware I asked them to do so. Davis was collapsing to the ground, blood pouring from his mouth and nose as he cried out in anguish. On the ground, the blonde tried desperately to shield himself and Heero refused to relent in his attack.
All reason went out the window and I did the only thing that I could, throw myself onto my partner and wrap my arms tight around his own to hold him back. "Christ, Heero!" I screamed as he struggled to break free from my grasp. "You're going to kill him! That's enough!" My back slammed into the ground the next instant, the air rushing from my lungs roughly and I struggled to catch my breath.
Looking up, I gasped sharply at the fierce glare that was now targeting me. Unable to speak or breathe, I was unable to defend myself when Heero started slamming his fists into me. I heard and felt a sickening crack in my chest and things started getting fuzzy. I could feel warm blood running down the side of my face. Through it all, I was vaguely aware of the other rookies yelling and trying desperately to get my roommate to snap out of whatever it was that triggered him into this madness.
Numb all over, what little air I was able to get was cut off when Heero gripped my neck and hauled me onto legs that would not hold me up. Everything was going grey as I pulled in what air I could through that tight grip and gazing desperately into those dead eyes, I pleated in little more than a breath, "Please, Heero Don't "
Somehow, thank whatever God it is that's up there, something managed to reach my partner and recognition filled his eyes that were not focused on me until then. When he blinked, Heero's eyes widened in what I could only call worry as he whispered, "Oh gods Duo." The world just started spinning all the more and I closed my eyes against it, falling forward. Feeling strong arms grip onto me, I heard my friend scream out my name before I went into a blissful oblivion.
When I came to, I was in the medical ward at Headquarters with Wufei sitting at my bedside. Arms folded across his chest, he tilted his head slightly at seeing my eyes flutter open and asked softly, "What the hell were you thinking grabbing Heero like that?" I wanted to laugh at the greeting, but when I attempted, my chest was on fire and I hissed in pain. Then there was the intense vice-like pain in my head on account of the bright lights in the nearly all-white room.
Sally stepped in at that point and sighed deeply in relief at seeing me awake. "Two broken ribs, slight concussion, a few good lacerations in several places, the worst across your forehead, but some pain killers will relieve all of that until they heal," she stated before I could ask for the diagnosis. Somehow, I thought that I would come out of that fight a hell of a lot worse. As if predicting my next question, my dear doc friend smirked, "Davis is fine, though you faired a bit better than he did."
Carefully sitting up, I grunted from the effort, "Where's Heero?"
Wufei rose to his feet and answered, "It's after one in the morning. We finally managed to convince him to go to bed only after we swore we would be here for when you woke up."
I couldn't help but feel warm at that. The look on Heero's face before I blacked out was still etched in my mind. I couldn't remember a time he looked more scared or worried. But then, I really wasn't in good enough shape at the time to really believe what I was seeing through the blur that had filled my vision.
Before I could consider everything that had happened I yawned widely, more aware of the bandage across my forehead as my face skin stretched. Sally gave me a shot of painkillers to ease my chest pain for a peaceful sleep before she and her fiancé stepped from the room. With a much more comfortable haze from the drugs, I drifted off once more.
The next three days, much to my chagrin, I was forced to stay in that damned bed until my concussion faded away and I was be able to move about without too much pain in my chest. That whole time, Heero never stopped by. I was hurt, but then there was a part of me that wondered if I would have been comfortable seeing him if the table had been turned and I had been the one that attacked him. So, I just occupied myself by imagining what the hell was inside that box that I saw in his drawer since he wasn't there to ask.
Finally receiving Sally's bill of health, with the order of returning home to rest for at least a week, I was all too happy to slip into my own clothes that Wufei had brought in.
Stepping into the small bathroom attached to my room, I turned the light on and moved to the mirror above the sink to finally get a good look at myself. The reflection staring back was a bit startling to say the least. The large bandage covering the right half of my forehead concealed the laceration that had been stitched closed there. But the left side of my face just beside my eye was nearly one solid bruise that went from a deep blue and purple to splotches of yellow and white in the middle. It was enough that I could give that guy in the Phantom of the Opera a fright.
There was a knock at the door just as I finished throwing my white T-shirt on and over the bandages that wrapped my chest. After calling that all was clear, I was surprised to watch Lady Une step inside. With a sad smile, she greeted, "I am certainly glad to see you back on your feet, Duo."
"Same here," I chuckled deeply. Sitting at the edge of the bed I had been confined in, I asked, "So what brings you here?"
Taking a deep breath, she folded her hands before her and told me simply, "I wanted to let you know that Heero is no longer working for the Preventers."
No longer working for What!? No! It's not enough that he had to deal with what he did, but to take Heero away from the only thing that made sense to him would kill him. Shaking my head, I pleaded, "You can't fire him for what happened! Look, I don't know what caused him to snap like that, but I'm pretty damned sure that it won't happen again. Please don't do that to him. And with all due respect, Davis and his teammates were the ones that decided to go against protocol by stealing explosives from my pack."
At some point during my rant, Lady Une had moved to place her hands on my shoulders. "He resigned," she frowned deeply. "I tried everything I could to convince him to stay, despite what happened, but he insisted."
Heero? Heero resigned?
Well, if he had made up his mind then there wouldn't be any way to talk him out of it. Once he decided something, it was all but set in stone. In that case, there was only one thing for me to do.
Straightening as best I could without making my ribs ache, I took a deep breath and said firmly, "In that case, I'm stepping down as well."
To my shock, she actually smiled at that. Granted, it was a sad smile, but I was expecting some kind of argument over the matter. After all, Yuy and I were the best team that she had on the force. "I had a feeling that would be your decision," she said quietly. "That's why I came here to tell you what had happened. Heero is in your office packing up his belongings now."
At that, I nodded and rose from the bed again. Clearing her throat, Lady Une spoke softly, "And I took the liberty of making a sizable transfer of funds into both of your accounts. Just a bit of money from the lump some that I managed to take from the old OZ accounts before the war ended for a rainy day."
I blinked at her in shock and opened my mouth to protest when she raised her hand and grinned, "It's the least that I could do after your two years of service here, not to mention your service during the wars. All that I ask in return is that you don't become strangers."
Her request was enough to make a few tears blur my vision. I never had the nerve to tell her but in the time that I had worked for her, Lady Une had become somewhat of a mother to me in Sister Helen's place. And here, she went out of her way to see that Heero and I were taken care of even after we were leaving her and her cause.
Slowly, I stepped forward to hug her as tight as I could without hurting myself. With a small chuckle, she carefully wrapped her own arms around me and kissed my head. "I promise we'll be in touch," was about all I could manage when we finally pulled back.
"Good," she winked and gestured to the door. "Get going," she told me with a small pat on my shoulder. With as sincere a smile I could give her, I followed her last order and stepped out of the room.
At the stop of the elevator, I headed down the corridor and around the corner to reach the office that my partner and I shared when several voices from the room just before ours caught my attention. "Good riddance, if you ask me," Agent Flare's voice snapped. "That emotionless bastard was going to snap at some time."
"I don't know what Lady Une was thinking bringing him into the organization in the first place," his partner, Agent Blade snorted. When the two agents moved into the office beside ours, Heero and I thought them nice enough. Guess their true colors were finally showing. My blood boiling, I moved until I was just outside their open door. "Perfect soldier, my ass," Blade chuckled deeply, "Perfect Freak is more like it."
Oh, that was it. Growling deeply, I stormed into the room and the looks at the two agents when they looked up from their desks at either side of the room was priceless. Wouldn't have been surprised if either of them lost a little more than just the color that was draining from their faces. To be honest, I'm still not sure if they were more frightened that I just overheard them, or if they were reacting to how I looked.
Giving them a smile that only made them shrink all the more into their chairs, I greeted lowly, "Afternoon, guys. I couldn't help but here some of the things that you were saying about my partner back there and decided to set you little shits straight."
Flare's face almost matched his red hair at that, his brown eyes narrowing, and shouted, "How the hell can you defend him after what he did to you? He could have killed you and Davis over an apartment that had been abandoned for almost a year! Aside from that, he scares the living shit out of everyone he comes across! He's nothing more than a machine and for those of us that are normal, he should just disappear!"
Blade was wise enough to remain quiet, his head lowered and his long blonde hair shielding his eyes from having to watch me. Slowly, I stalked over to Flare's desk and gripped the edge of it to lean towards him. Leaning back away from me, but keeping his widening eye on my own, he swallowed hard. "Finished?" I asked. With another rough swallow, he nodded his head a few times.
Straightening myself, I smirked and folded my arms. "Good," I started, "Because I personally am not about to stand here and listen to such a load bullshit anymore. Let me give you just a little insight into the war that neither of you had to take part in. We saw and did more shit in that time than you ever will. If you had to carry out half the things we did, you'd be running back and crying to your mommas while pissing your pants the whole way.
"And personally, I wish to fuck that I was able to seal away my feelings the way that Heero had been trained to. He came out of that whole mess better than I, or any of the other pilots, had. He was more of a soldier, more of a man, than any one of us."
I leaned forward again to emphasize my last point in a deep growl, "You're nothing more than a goddamned joke, every one of you are, compared to him. See, while you put on your uniform as a boast to others that you are someone, Heero doesn't need it for everyone around him to show him respect. They just give it to him."
For a moment, Flare's mouth hung open before he closed it as to try and cover up the fact that he had no retort to that. Unable to stand being in either of their presence any longer, I turned and headed out into the hallway.
As I reached the next door, I realized in horror that my own office door was open. If Heero was in there, he would have heard everything that those bastards had been saying. Stepping into the room, I found my partner with his back to me as he finished putting the last of his belongings into a cardboard box. Without turning back to face me, he stated, "It won't take me long to have my things moved from the house once I get there."
So he had planned on bailing away from everything after what happened. Apparently, it scared him enough that he thought it best to just vanish.
"Alright," I told him. "But could you give me an idea to where we're moving to?"
Heero spun at the question and his eyes widened the moment they fell on me-well, more specifically my face. "Oh gods," he whispered before turning back to his desk. In the quick instant that I managed to catch his expression, he just looked miserable is the best word I can think of to describe it. "What do you mean `we'?" he finally asked, hands already back to picking up the few remaining items to be put away.
Sighing deeply, I moved to stand beside him. Gently resting my hands on his shoulders, I turned him to face me. When he finally did meet my eyes, that miserable look returned and I told him, "I'm not about to abandon my best friend. I've already given Lady Une my own resignation."
"Best friend?" he asked in little more than a whisper, his eyes widening again. "How could you You can't mean Not after " You know, Heero is absolutely adorable when he is at a loss of words. It's the first time I can remember it happening, but I know I'll never forget it.
Gently squeezing his shoulders, I reassured him, "Look, I'm not mad at you for what happened. Obviously, something hit you just right that night. But, it's over now, so we just move on." Swallowing hard, I added, "Together, like always, if you're all right with that."
And I swear that I could have seen the start of tears before Heero looked away. Clearing his throat, he looked back to me and nodded, "I'd like that."
Once our things were packed up, my stuff taking up twice as long as Heero's considering the packrat I am, we headed home. We checked our accounts and just as Lady Une had promised, we were set for life and then some. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom the first time I saw the figure in my name.
Heero went to making dinner right away and we had a quiet discussion over where we went from there. Deciding on a place somewhere in the mountains where we could be away from the rest of the world, our meal was finished in silence after that and I went about cleaning the dishes.
When I returned to the living room, Heero was sitting on the large sofa by the window. In his hands was that little, white box that had been on my mind since the first time that I saw it. With it held carefully in both his hands on his lap, my partner's shoulders were slumped as he just stared down at it with an expression that I couldn't read. The sun had just begun setting outside and the reds and oranges from the sky colored his features. Slowly looking up to meet my gaze, he patted the open cushion beside him in a silent request.
You know, I can't recall a time that I was more excited than that moment in knowing that he actually wanted me close. Quickly sitting beside him, I grinned in attempt to lighten the mood that had fallen in the room. Looking back down to the box in his hands, Heero carefully opened the lid as I held my breath in the anticipation of finally learning what was so important inside.
Of the countless guesses that I had made of what could have been in that box, I never came close to guessing the small, dried out remains of a flower that had been long dead. The small petals that had been pressed and sealed in a tiny plastic bag for preservation were grey and brown with the stem little more than crushed ashes.
Clearing his throat, Heero said quietly as he continued to stare down at the flower, "Before Doctor J had enhanced my training, I managed to sneak out of the base where he was holding me " As he continued, I learned of how he was given that flower he held onto by a little girl with her dog that he had met. In hearing of the accident that followed, it became all too clear what happened to him that night of field training.
By the time he finished his story, my best friend closed the white box to seal away his delicate gift. For a long time, we just sat in silence and I wiped astray tear that had built up against my defenses. "It's not your fault, you know," I whispered, leaning my head on his shoulder and holding his hands along with the box in my own. "It was an honest accident that any one of us could have made."
With a deep breath, he finally turned his cobalt eyes to me and nodded, "I know It's just something that I can't completely get over." Looking down to our hands wrapped around the box, he said softly, "It was the first time anyone gave me a gift, so it just seemed right to hold onto it to remember her by."
I couldn't help but smile at that. "Wherever she is, I'm sure that she's glad you did," I told him softly. He gave me a small smile of appreciation at that. "And believe me, we have a lot more in common when it comes to reliving old mistakes that you realize," I heard myself say as my eyes fell at half-mast with my head still on my partner's shoulder.
Gently taking up the cross charm that had slipped out from the inside of my shirt, Heero wrapped his hand around it. Maybe he did realize, after all. Gazing back at me, he asked quietly, "Will you tell me about it?"
Just the thought of drudging up the incident at the Maxwell Church along with Solo's death made my stomach turn a few times over. Swallowing, I answered, "I will. Just not tonight." He nodded in understanding before releasing the charm in his hand. Sitting up so that our eyes were on an even level, I squeezed his other hand still holding the box and told him sincerely, "Thank you for sharing this with me."
"Thank you for listening," he replied in little more than a breath. His tone proved just how much my being there really meant to him- just having someone that would just care enough to give a rip. With the hand that had been holding onto my cross, Heero carefully reached up to lightly touch the left side of my face and whispered, "I'm so sorry I I never meant to hurt you. Gods, you're the last person in this world I would ever want to hurt."
My heart swelled at that and I grinned, "I know." Somehow, I realized then that I always did know that. How had I been so blind? I winked at him, "No hurt feelings. Just a few bruises that'll heal."
Another smile. God, I love his smile.
We sat in a bit of silence once more before Heero cleared his throat and looked back down to his lap. "Do you," he started softly, then shook his head and started again, "Do you really believe the things that the others say about me?"
And just like that, my heart plummeted into my stomach. So he had heard Flare and Blade. And who knows how many others that had said so many similar things about him. Shaking my head when he looked back at me, I told him firmly, "No. Not a goddamned word of it. You're as human as I am, or anyone else for that matter."
The relief in his eyes showed that he believed me. And before I could blink, he leaned in and kissed me. Not a hard or deep kiss, just a soft chase one on the lips that he held for a moment before pulling back. Knowing the fool that I must have looked based on the grin on his face, I blushed. "Just giving you an idea of what you're getting yourself into if you're serious about staying with me," he spoke in a fairly warning tone.
Words could not even begin to express how thrilled, scared, relieved and a million others things I was at that time so I won't even bother. Smiling from ear-to-ear until my face hurt, I squeezed the hand in my own and reassured him, "Partners for life. Where you go, I'll follow."
And with that, we sealed our pact with another kiss.
Years later, when I was finally able to put my own past behind me, my cross necklace joined the little flower in the white box that is now hidden away for only our eyes to see.