8-10-2000

And Never the Twain Shall Meet
Part III

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Heero looked to where a recovering Duo sat on the floor wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes. It took him a moment to realize he was just barely smiling. It was something he was not accustomed to doing, but Duo had been acting downright silly... and it was contagious. It felt odd to wear that expression... it persisted nonetheless.

Duo looked up at the boy standing over him through tear blurred eyes. My God, is he smiling?! He quickly tried rubbing the tears from his eyes to get a better look. Sure enough, Heero's thin lips were turned up oh so slightly at each corner. It didn't last very long as Heero saw the look of surprise on his face and the imperceptible grin vanished. Damn, why did he stop? He looks so... so... something when he smiles. He wasn't quite sure what that something was, though. Hell, he was just glad to have seen it, even if it was only for a moment.

Duo watched as Heero made his way to his desk. "Heero, you are too funny sometimes... and you don't even realize it."

Heero frowned at Duo. "I said nothing funny."

"You didn't have to. I still can't believe you thought Kaylin and I were... you know... involved."

Heero opened his laptop to check for new orders. "Duo, can I ask you something?"

There he goes changing the subject again... "Shoot."

"When you introduced Kaylin and Megg, you referred to me as your best friend. Is that really how you think of me?"

"Of course!"

Heero looked at Duo. He really wasn't certain how to respond to Duo's frank admission of friendship.

Duo's mood softened a bit. "Heero, you have saved my ass more than once, you know. I owe you my life."

"It's my duty to save your ass. You owe me nothing." Seeing no new orders, Heero closed his laptop and looked down at his hands.

"It's not your duty to sit and watch over me when I'm near death. It's not your duty to beg me not to die. It's not your duty to bathe me when I'm unconscious for days on end."

Heero whipped his head around and stared dumbfounded at Duo. This time the surprise clearly registered on his face. "How... how did you know?" The question broke slightly in his throat.

Duo shrugged and sighed as he started fidgeting with his braid. "I'm not sure. I could feel you there. I could hear your words. I could even see you. It's... it's hard to explain, Heero. Anyway, the only people that do things like that for you are either hospital staff, family, or friends. Since you're not family and since you're not wearing a cute little nurse's uniform... you must be a friend."

Heero wanted to say something - anything - but couldn't.

So, Duo continued. "... and I'll be damned if I'm going to let you die in this war."

Heero was swift. In an instant he was standing over Duo shaking him violently and yelling into his face, his voice full of anguish and hatred. "Damn you, Duo - you just don't get it! You just don't get it, do you?! I don't want to live through this war! I can't! I have no other purpose! Don't you understand?! Stop trying to save me!"

Duo swept Heero's legs from underneath him and Heero went down with a thud, the fall knocking the wind out of him. Duo was on him in a flash, pinning his wrists to the floor above his head. He didn't want a fight, but he was going to be heard.

"Heero, stop it! Just listen to yourself! Listen to what you're saying!" Heero continued to try to get away but only succeeded in scooting them both across the smoothness of the tiled floor. "Heero, do you live for OZ!?"

Heero stopped and glared at him. If looks could kill...

"Because that's exactly what you're saying! No OZ - no war... no war - no Heero!" Duo let that sink in a moment.

"Get your skinny ass off of me!" Heero bucked but Duo was glued to him.

"No, I'm not finished! What about the people who care about you, Heero?! Huh?! What about them?! And it's not just me, Heero! What about Quatre and Trowa and Wufei?! How do you think they'll feel if you just give up on life?!

"They don't give a shit about me!" A snarl curled across Heero's lips like a venomous snake.

Now Duo was furious and this time real tears welled up in his eyes. "You're wrong, Heero! How can you say that?! You are so fucking wrong! God, how can you be so blind?!"

"Duo, please get off of me."

Duo relented and began sobbing into his hands. He sat there on top of Heero just crying. He wished Heero would just beat the hell out of him right then and there and get it over with... but Heero didn't. Instead, confused, cobalt eyes just watched Duo cry.

Heero felt a hole open in his chest... a painful emptiness... and his throat was tight... and it hurt. He had felt like this before, mostly while in the process of begging Duo not to die. But it was more painful this time because Duo was awake and hurling all of these emotions around. He was confused... not sure what to say or do... so he just lay there. Duo's sobs lasted for some time and Heero closed his eyes to try to make the pain in his chest and throat go away. It did not help.

Eventually, Duo's volley of tears finally reduced to sniffling. He slowly got up off of Heero and sat on the edge of his bed, burying his face in his hands again.

Heero just lay there... in the middle of the floor... finally speaking, "Do...do they...do they really care, Duo?" he asked softly.

"Of course they care you idiot!" his anger flaring for a final breath. Calm down Duo, you're still a little upset. He won't open up if you yell at him. "Of course they care..." he said it softly this time. And... so do I.

They were both silent for a time, Heero playing with his fingers and Duo sniffling occasionally, just staring at the floor trying to recuperate.

"You know... that thing you said about OZ... I never really thought about it like that before. I was trained to live for our cause only. I never really realized that my existence depended on the existence of OZ. I refuse to give them that satisfaction."

"It doesn't depend on OZ, Heero... not anymore, it doesn't."

Heero sat up and leaned his back against Duo's bed.

"Duo?'

"Hmm?"

"Do you care?"

Duo looked down at the top of his friend's head. He couldn't believe he had to ask that question. But then again... maybe Heero just wanted to hear him say it. Could he say it without breaking down again? He would have to try. Heero needed to hear this. "Yes, Heero, I care very much," Duo said in a shuddering whisper, tears threatening to start again.

Heero continued to fidget while Duo marveled at how Heero's hair grew in every which direction. Anything to keep from crying again.

"Duo, would you promise me something?"

Duo closed his eyes, forcing them to brim over with wetness again. "Heero?"

"Promise, that no matter what happens... you'll always be my best friend."

That did it. Duo sank slowly to the floor and sat next to Heero and let loose with the waterworks again. He couldn't help it, Heero had found his heart... and Heero could have it. Wrapping an arm around Heero's shoulders he looked deeply into those beautiful dark blue eyes and, for the first time...

For the first time, Duo thought he could see a soul.

Heero tugged gently at Duo's braid and whispered, "Promise me."

Duo was nodding his head and sobbing again. "I promise, Heero. With my whole being, I promise."

Heero pulled Duo's head to his shoulder.

They sat like that for a long while. Heero could feel Duo shudder occasionally, trying to hold back the tears. He just let him cry as he stroked Duo's back. Heero enjoyed this closeness. He hoped they could find a way to do it again without all the anger and pain. He hoped it didn't take those things for them to be this close.

"Duo?"

"Hmmm?"

"Thanks for saving my ass...that's one less you owe me."