8-10-2000

And Never the Twain Shall Meet
Part IV

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Duo floated in and out of a light sleep. He was intermittently aware of Heero's heat against the back of his head. A content smile drifted across his lips as he slowly opened his eyes. He had spent most of the evening crying, for one reason or another, and his eyes hurt, but once he had them open he couldn't close them again. He looked up into Heero's sleeping face, still leaned up against his bed with his chin on his chest, snoring softly. Duo had somehow managed to fall asleep using Heero's lap as a pillow and he wasn't about to move. He took a deep breath and started to sigh, but caught himself when he noticed Heero's hand spread over his chest... right over his heart. He slowly... tremulously let the air out of his lungs. He looked up at Heero again. That heart is all yours... if you'll have it.

Heero's eyes flew open. "What?" He was clearly disoriented for a moment.

Good grief! I didn't say that out loud did I? ... nah! "I didn't say anything," Duo said gently.

The sound of Duo's voice brought Heero back to the here-and-now and his eyes focused on Duo's face. "Duo, don't get upset with me, but your eyes make it look like you've been on a three day binge." That tiny smile curved the corners of his lips again.

Oh, God, there's that smile again. Why does that have such an affect on me? He just told me I looked like hell... and I couldn't care less... because of that smile. Now my brain is mush and I can't even come up with a smart ass remark...

"What, no smart ass remark?"

Damn, was he reading my mind? "Not right now Heero..." Duo smiled, "... not right now."

Heero understood as Duo placed a hand over his where it lay on his chest. They just stayed like that for a while... looking into each other's eyes.

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Heero could get lost in those eyes. Eyes so intense with emotions... emotions he didn't understand... and an inner brilliance that was positively overwhelming. For far too long he had buried his feelings in the self destructive darkness that consumed him... feelings that he was barely beginning to recognize... feelings that this... this being of light... was wrenching from his broken soul. And it was painful... terribly painful. Yet, here he was, wanting so badly to step out of the desolation... but so afraid to do so. But this angel, who looked up at him now, offered him the light of his very being. And, although he knew he would have to accept it slowly, he also knew he would accept it... completely.

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Duo could clearly see the kindling that would be Heero's soul and spirit... his humanity. Duo would do everything he could to fan those first sparks into a fire that outshone even his own... but it would take time. He knew there would be more pain, more fights... and more smiles as he struggled to bring Heero out of the darkness in which he submerged himself. He rather fancied Heero as a newborn child at that moment... a newborn that already new of pain and suffering, and the hatred and atrocities of mankind; however, knowing nothing of companionship, beauty, tenderness, joy... and even love. He silently promised Heero at that moment to show him all these things... and more. He repeated to himself the words he had so short a time ago spoken aloud. I promise, Heero. With my whole being, I promise.

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Three soft knocks at the door caused Duo to start. He tried to get up but Heero held him in place.

"Hey are you guys in there?" Quatre's sweet soft voice could be heard asking from the other side of the door.

"It's card night, Duo," Heero reminded him with a whisper.

"Do we have to... can't we just stay like this?" As he said it, Heero dared to reach down and pull one callused finger along Duo's jaw.

Duo moved into the caress as Heero traced out a line from just behind his ear to his chin. Duo momentarily swooned as a shiver ran down his spine. As the finger reached his chin, he bent his neck slightly and placed a soft kiss on its tip. Heero jerked his hand back as though he had been scalded and examined the finger. Duo looked momentarily hurt until he saw Heero, following his lead, bring the finger back and place it gently on his own lips.

No words needed to be said, but that simple action spoke volumes for both of them. Their first kiss - a promise delivered by a messenger finger. However indirect, it bound them... completely and permanently.

*knock* *knock* *knock* "Are you guys taking a nap?" Quatre was becoming more... insistent.

Heero shooed him away and Duo reluctantly rolled away from him and started to stand. My knees feel like jelly and I'm hot and dizzy... this is definitely a good sign. As he stood and looked down, he noticed that Heero was struggling to stand, similarly afflicted. ... definitely a good sign...

They removed their shoes and rumpled jackets and quietly crawled into their respective beds.

*BANG* *BANG* *BANG* "I can hear you guys in there, I have excellent hearing you know!" Quatre was quite impatient now.

"It's open!" Heero shouted. Duo gave Heero a surprised look. Heero just shrugged, mischief glinting in his dark blue eyes.

"Oh... well why didn't you say so?" Quatre asked as he walked into the room, his embarrassment evident in his rosy cheeks. "What in the world are you guys doing in bed already at 11:30 on a Friday night?!" Quatre had seen Heero go to bed early on any given night, but Duo?!

"We were just taking a nap, Quatre," Duo stated.

Quatre looked suspiciously at them both. Duo's eyes were as red as a colony road map, the light was on, and they were both fully clothed, AND he was sure he had heard them talking. Whatever it was they were not telling him, he would be considerate enough not to pry... at least, not right to their faces... but in the back of his mind, he almost wished he had tried the door. "Oh..." Quatre looked uncomfortably at nothing in particular, "... well then... are we playing cards tonight?"

Duo knew right then and there that he hadn't gone for the lie.

"We'll be there in a few, Quatre," Heero told him.

Satisfied with that answer, Quatre left, very quietly closing the door behind him.

Duo sat cross legged on his bed and stared at Heero for a moment, promptly breaking into a grin.

Heero threw his pillow, hitting Duo square in the face. Duo chuckled. "I can't believe that we left the door unlocked like that... could you imagine..."

"Don't even say it," Heero said evenly, causing Duo to clamp his mouth shut. Heero wasn't ready for others to find out about this. Hell, he wasn't even sure what this was yet. He looked at Duo's hurt expression. If I only knew how I feel about you, Duo, but I just don't know right now. Yes, my... my... friend, tonight has brought us closer, but I... we still have a lot of walls to tear down. Give me time, Duo... please, just give me time.

Heero's face, while expressionless to most, betrayed every thought to Duo. He chose his next words carefully. "Heero, I'm... I'm sorry if I've pushed you into an uncomfortable position." He looked down at his hands where they lay in his lap. I can't even look at him without wanting to run over there and throw my arms around him. I can't stand it... those eyes, they seem to know me so well. I know what I want now... it's the same thing I've wanted all along... I just... didn't realize it... until tonight. I'm scared though - scared that if I move too fast I'll push you back into the pit... and scared that if I move too slow... you'll go back in willingly.

Heero sat up on the edge of his bed and put his shoes back on. As he finished, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Duo watched him through a furrowed brow. He knew Heero wanted to say something but was having trouble saying it. "Heero..." Duo looked back down at his hands again.

Heero stood and walked over to where Duo sat on his bed. Reaching out with one curled finger, he lifted Duo's chin so he could look into his eyes. "I'm exactly where I want to be, Duo. I'm just..." ...scared. Damn, I'm so scared I can't even say I'm scared.

Duo took Heero's hand in his own. "Me too, Heero... me too."

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As the two boys entered Trowa and Quatre's room they both gasped. The huge dorm room was filled with burning candles. The floor was covered with a thick plush carpet that Heero recognized as coming from Quatre's country hideaway. They had done this many times while staying there... a little piece of home.

"Wwwowww..." Duo said as though he had just opened a Christmas present he had always wanted.

Heero whistled softly. "Very nice touch guys."

As the two Gundam pilots shucked their shoes and socks, Quatre perked up, "I had the carpet shipped, it just came today!" His eyes sparkled with joy at the knowledge that he had made his friends happy.

Duo moaned as he buried his toes in the carpet. Such an exquisite softness. He had commented once that it felt like animal fur, but Quatre assured him it was synthetic. He looked down to where his toes wiggled wildly... and then he noticed Heero's feet. His eyes glassed over. Damn, is there any part of him that isn't perfect!? He then repeated his action from earlier that evening, only this time he was really paying attention. As he moved his eyes up Heero's form, he marveled at how one could see his calves under the fabric of his jeans, how the thighs fanned out from the knee to his cute bottom, the graceful curve of Heero's lower back, the way his shoulder tapered into a perfect torso, the way the bone at the nape of his neck protruded, the hair - how it could be so unkempt, yet be so perfect for him, the eyes... the eyes that were telling him to stop trying to undress me in front of everyone. Duo looked down to where his toes wiggled wildly... and blushed.

If the other two boys noticed Duo assessing Heero, they didn't mention it. As a matter of fact, they were both looking at Heero's feet as well, for even as he stood there staring Duo down, his toes were going a mile a minute. Quatre giggled, and Heero snapped his head around to find both boys smiling. His toes froze.

"Ahem... yes, well, shall we play cards..." Trowa broke the uncomfortable silence.

Heero, was the first to move toward the table where his two companions sat... and to where a fresh bottle of Quatre's finest brandy also sat. Heero recognized the bottle. "I suppose you had the good sense to have this shipped in as well?" Quatre beamed a smile at him as Heero reached for the bottle. "May I have the honor?"

"By all means." Quatre was grinning ear to ear.

Heero broke the seal and placed the stopper on the table. He reached down to take a glass and recognized it as a glass that Duo had given him as a present many years ago. He looked from Quatre to Trowa as Duo walked up behind him and peered over his shoulder, letting out a small gasp. Heero was overwhelmed to the point that he had to set the bottle, the glass, and himself down. He ran his fingers through his tousled hair, staring at the glass as the fire of the candles danced in its surface, his face expressionless. This was a very special glass to him, and he rarely used it. I have had this glass since the five of us took our first drink together. The day Duo gave it to me I vowed that I would only use in the presence of these people and that I would never seek refuge in its contents. Can I use it tonight without breaking that oath?

A hand on his shoulder broke Heero from his reverie. Everyone here knew exactly what the glass meant to him... even if he didn't. All at once he felt utterly silly for giving an inanimate object such importance... then he recalled the words Duo had snapped out at him earlier that evening, "Of course they care you idiot!" As the harshly spoken words echoed in his head, he looked up at Duo, realizing now that those words rang true. These people, the people that he had fought side by side with, the people that he had thought of for so long merely as comrades, the people he hid his feelings from... they were truly his friends. That was what this glass represented to him... trust and friendship. I never even imagined... I never realized... I am blind!

Realizing that there was nothing to fear or hide from in this room, he filled his glass and drank.

Duo quietly took his seat opposite Heero and, as he looked across the table, Heero winked at him.

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Everyone was surprised at how quite Duo was, but Quatre was the first to mention it.

"Is everything ok, Duo? You seem awfully quiet tonight."

Duo sighed lightly. "Everything is just fine, Quatre," he said as he looked over the rim of his glass at Heero.

The candlelight and alcohol hid the slight blush in Heero's cheeks.

They sat at the table talking and drinking and playing cards for a while before a little mischief crept back into Duo... and his foot, which was attached to one very long and flexible leg, crept its way across the carpeted floor toward Heero's beautiful feet. Duo almost giggled as he pictured the look Heero would have on his face once his foot found its mark. The other two will have no idea what is going on... they will just see the look on Heero's face and... Duo stopped cold. Just in front of his toes, he could sense a commotion already taking place! What in the hell!? Duo tried very hard not to show any expression, and succeeded for the most part. He casually glanced around the table to make sure everyone was examining the hand they had just been dealt. He very slowly lifted his foot from the floor and brushed his toes across the first obstacle he could find... and Trowa smiled at his cards! Duo tried again, a little to his left this time... and damned if Quatre didn't do the same thing!

Duo suddenly sat bolt upright. "I'm out," he squeaked, grabbing his glass to refill it.

"What's wrong?" Heero asked frowning.

"Oh, nothing... just wasn't a hand worth sticking with."

Heero saw the lie, but Quatre and Trowa were none the wiser... they just sat smiling at their cards.

Once the hand was over, Duo watched as Heero peeked at the cards he had so hastily folded with. This is definitely a hand worth sticking with! Heero looked at him with a bit of confusion and Duo shook his head. Please don't say anything. Heero said nothing as he gathered the other players' cards.

"Actually, I'm ready for a bit of a break." Trowa stood and stretched, his joints popping. "I'm going down to get some snacks from the machine. Anyone want anything?"

"I do!" Quatre bounced to his side.

"Guys?"

Both of the remaining boys shook their heads. Duo had something to say, and Heero was going to be there to hear it.

"Be back in a minute then."

Duo watched as the two left the room. He immediately jumped from his chair and ran on his tip-toes to the door and listened, making certain there was no way they could hear this conversation.

"Duo!" Heero snapped.

Duo whirled around to see Heero looking at him quite impatiently. He gathered himself and started talking...

"Heero, you are not going to believe this."

"I probably won't... but go ahead anyway."

"Quatre and Trowa... well they were... umm... they were playing with each others feet under the table."

Heero showed genuine surprise. "No way!"

"Yes way!" Duo's smile couldn't have been any wider.

"And you know this because..." Heero trailed off.

"Because I was about to do the same thing to you, but my path was kind of... blocked." Duo started giggling.

Heero didn't know what to say.

"I sort of rubbed my foot on Trowa's and he thought it was Quatre!"

Heero still didn't know what to say.

"Then I did the same to Quatre, and he thought...."

"I get the picture Duo. So they were playing with each other's feet. So what?"

"Heero, I know you know where I'm going with this..."

"..."

"Heero, I think they may be... well... like... Kaylin!" Duo had wanted to say like us, but he thought better of it right now. Heero would have to come to that conclusion himself.

Heero couldn't contain himself anymore. "That's ridiculous! Quatre?! Little Quatre?! And Trowa?!"

"Oh come on Heero, it's so obvious to me now... I don't know why I didn't see it before! They follow one another around like they're afraid they'll lose track of each other." Duo motioned to the door to emphasize his point. "They are inseparable!"

"That's not fair, Duo! We're the same way!" Heero did not realize what he had just said.

Duo slowly advanced on him, arms crossed over his chest and a mischievous grin creeping over his face. The candles in the room seemed to flare for a moment as Heero watched their reflection in Duo's smoldering eyes. As he reached where Heero sat he bent down to look Heero straight in the eye. "I rest - my case," he almost whispered.

They stayed like that for a moment before the realization finally settled with Heero. Duo could see the pending arguments fade from Heero's face. He stood upright again, that impish grin still present.

"... I just don't know what to say." Heero was shaking his head in disbelief as he tried to blink away the reality of it. He suddenly looked up at Duo. "You're certain about this aren't you?"

"As surely as my name is Duo Maxwell"

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The two boys stood deciding what they wanted - peanuts, candy, cookies, chips, sandwiches...

"So, what do you think is up with Duo tonight?" Trowa asked.

Quatre shrugged, "I'm not sure... I could hear them talking in their room. I could have sworn I heard Duo say 'Can't we just stay like this?'... but I can't be sure..."

"Stay like what?!" Trowa was immediately intrigued.

"I don't know, Trowa. When I went in, they were in bed..."

Trowa's eyes bugged.

"Sep-ar-ate-ly..." Quatre continued, clearing his throat, "... they were in their own beds, acting like they had been taking a nap. Did you notice Duo's eyes?"

"I noticed how he's been looking at Heero all night."

Quatre nodded his head. "I noticed that as well... but Duo always looks at him like that. I mean how red they are... he's been crying, Trowa. I think something happened tonight."

"Nothing gets by you, does it?"

Quatre started to get defensive... because that comment went through his ear and into his brain as sarcasm.... but when he looked at Trowa, he could see the other boy meant it sincerely. Genuine admiration shone on Trowa's face.

"Well... I just think something's up... I just don't know what... yet."

Trowa, seeing that Quatre was unwilling to draw any conclusions at this point, decided to change the subject. "That was an interesting move you pulled off tonight," Trowa complimented. "I don't see how you managed it without sliding right out of your chair." Trowa chuckled at the image of that as he chose sandwiches for himself and Quatre.

Quatre shot him a puzzled look, "What are you talking about?"

"You know... our little foot play." Trowa grinned, sensuality seeping through in his voice.

Quatre imagined he could still feel the caress of the other boy's feet against his own. "We do that all the time..."

"Yeah! But I was afraid you were going to slide right into the floor tonight, those short legs of yours and all..."

Quatre was completely confused now, "Trowa, what in the world are you talking about?!"

"When you started using your other foot I thought you might start sliding out of your chair and..."

"My other foot!? I never used my other foot!"

"Yes you did! I... felt... it..." Trowa trailed off.

The two boys looked at each other - suddenly realizing what, how... and who... "Duo!"

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As Duo stood there grinning at Heero, the door behind him suddenly burst forth producing a set of out of breath young men. Duo went rigid and stepped stiffly back to his seat opposite Heero. His braid swished to and fro like a metronome as he took his seat. He picked up the cards and started shuffling them mechanically. This is silly! They know I know... I know they know... but they don't know that Heero knows... keep your mouth shut, Duo!

Heero looked at the two panting boys, completely expressionless... no frown, no creased brow... it was almost an expression in and of itself. My, they were in a wee bit of a hurry, weren't they? "What's the rush, boys?"

Quatre and Trowa glanced at one another... He knows...

"Just... *huff* ... didn't wanna miss the next hand..." Quatre huffed again.

"Or foot," Duo said under his breath, unable to contain himself further.

Heero coughed and shot Duo a silencing glance.

The air was heavy with tension as the two sets of boys stared across the room at each other. Quatre opened his mouth to speak a couple of times, but no sound came out.

Trowa, finally realizing there was no other way to explain, just threw his hands up in the air, "Well... shit!" He turned his back to the other three and hugged himself with his long arms.

Quatre, seeing the love of his life in such distress, was finally able to say something, "Duo, you can be such an asshole sometimes!"

Heero was rising to his feet, the flame of the candles barely reflected in his black, angry eyes, but Duo's hand reached across the table and pushed him firmly back into his seat. Let me handle this.

Duo stood and came around the table, approaching Quatre. Trowa was by his side in an instant. Duo had anticipated that. He looked quietly from one face to the other. Trowa had a dangerous look in his eye; he was ready to lash out at Duo at any moment. Quatre was just downright defiant. "Do you really feel that way, Quatre?"

"Well..." Quatre fumed, but he always had trouble staying mad at Duo for very long, "No! But what you did was..."

"... an accident." Duo calmly intercepted the completion of the sentence. Trowa relaxed a bit. "Look, guys, despite all the crude things I do and say, and despite all the practical jokes I play on you... this is not one of them."

"How could he know?" The voice came from behind them... and everyone turned to look at Heero. "How could either one of us know? You guys never said anything." Heero was obviously feeling the effects of the alcohol... or was he?

"Yeah, well, it's not exactly the kind of thing you go around advertising," Trowa said cynically... although he did notice immediately that Heero seemed to be taking this all rather well.

Duo responded to Trowa... but he looked right at Heero. "I don't think that telling your friends.... your family... the people who care about you would qualify as advertisement." The statement was not lost on anyone in the room. Neither was the look on Heero's face.

Heero had tunnel vision at that moment; all he could see was Duo's compassion... Duo's passion. The rest of the room... the rest of the world... seemed to fade from existence. How can you have wisdom that exceeds your years, Duo? I'm supposed to be the genius here, but I am slowly beginning to realize... I know nothing. I hope you have the patience to guide me... the patience to.... ? Heero's head snapped back as though he had just come out of a trance. He focused on the couple standing behind Duo. He raised his half full glass in a toast, "To my friends..." and he tossed back the remainder.

The three stood looking at him open mouthed. He had never used that word before. To my teammates... To my comrades... To my roommates... To my fellow conspirators... but never... To my friends.

Heero rose, not a fault in his stance. He set his glass gingerly on the table and looked at the other three and smiled. Not a crooked attempt, but an actual smile. He strode toward the door, not a waver in his gait, opened it and left the room. The other boys huddled into the hallway, bouncing off of one another, and watched as Heero put one sure foot in front of the other and waved over his shoulder, "I'll see you guys tomorrow." They watched Heero disappear around the corner and listened as Heero keyed himself into his room. They heard the door open and close. Quatre and Trowa looked at each other.

Duo stood between them. "Sexy..."

"Duo?" Quatre's soft voice reached a very high pitch. Trowa's eyes went wide.

Duo was in another world, his eyes glassy, his breath heavy and erratic, "His smile. I know what it is now. It makes him look very... very sexy," Duo growled and almost panted.

"Duo!" both boys exclaimed in shock.

Duo went pale as he returned to reality and realized where he was. He looked fearfully from one surprised expression to the other. "Ahh... well... umm... you guys think so, don't you?"

Quatre and Trowa both grabbed one of Duo's arms and hastily pulled him back into the room, closing the door behind them.

Trowa went to the table and filled Duo's empty glass. He brought the drink back and held it out to Duo. "Talk."

Duo sighed with resignation and, as he sat in the chair where Heero had sat all night, he began retelling the story of what had transpired over the course of that evening. The other two boys sat cross-legged on Quatre's bed and listened, the most frequent reaction to what they were hearing... astonishment.

As Duo told his tale, he noticed the other two boys move closer together, gradually becoming more comfortable with being near to each other in front of him. By the time he was reaching the end, Trowa was sitting with his back against the wall, legs stretched out in front of him, and Quatre's head was nestled against his chest, one of Trowa's arms draped around his shoulders. "... and then I caught you two playing 'footsies' under the table..." he said as he rolled his eyes.

Quatre giggled.

"... and I told Heero about it when you went to get food. He didn't believe me at first. Anyway, you know the rest." He waved his hand in the air signaling the end of his story and emptied his glass.

"Do you love him?" Quatre blurted out.

"Quatre!" Trowa admonished.

"No!" Both boys looked at Duo, horrified. There was a long silence. How could he say such a thing? Duo let his head drop, his eyes focused on the floor. "Yes," the pain of the admission obvious in his voice.

"Duo, if everything you told us is true, and I have no reason to doubt you, then this will work out for you and Heero, but it will take time. I chased Quatre for a long time before he finally caved."

Duo's head flew up, eyes as big as saucers. "You chased Quatre?!"

"Hey! What's so hard to believe about that?" Quatre asked defensively.

Duo was immediately apologetic. "Oh no, Quatre, I don't mean it like that! Trowa, you just strike me more as the chas-ee not the chas-er!"

Trowa blushed. "Well, I had my share of offers while I did the chasing... but I turned them all down because there was only one person I had eyes for." Quatre sighed heavily as Trowa lovingly stroked his blonde hair.

"You guys look really good together," Duo observed.

Both boys gave him a surprised look before he realized his comment could be misinterpreted.

"Not like that! I mean you look really good... for each other... you know... content... happy."

They smiled at that. Duo figured they were about the happiest couple he had ever seen. He was all at once relieved and envious. He and Heero could be like that... but would they be like that? He wanted the relationship that they had - he wanted to be close with Heero - he wanted so very much to be... loved by Heero.

Duo shot out of his chair startling both boys. "I have to go!"

Quatre knew why - Trowa knew why. Heero just might be waiting up for him.

Duo grabbed his shoes and socks and noticed Heero had left his behind. He picked them up and examined them.

"He does have nice feet, doesn't he?" Quatre said tauntingly.

Duo turned to see the two sitting on the bed, knowingly grinning at him.

Trowa chuckled, "You think that's something... wait 'til you start doing his laundry."

Quatre came unglued... and so did Duo.

Once the laughter subsided, Duo opened the door and looked back at them in turn, a huge smile on his face. "I'm really glad this whole... mess... happened tonight. I'll see you guys later."

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Once he closed the door behind him, he could hear the two boys inside start talking again. He proceeded with all due haste to his room. He tried the door and it was unlocked. When he walked in, he found Heero sitting at the desk staring into space, one arm draped across his laptop where it sat on his desk.

"Heero?"

"I have news."

Oh, God! Not now, please not now! I need time with you. We need time with each other! If they throw us back into this war...

"An official cease fire has been declared... peace negotiations are pending..." Heero's voice was a monotone.

Duo wasn't sure how to respond. He wanted to jump up and down, and holler, and cry, and laugh. He wanted to know what Heero was thinking.

"Are you OK, Heero?" he asked, dropping their shoes next to the door.

Heero blinked and looked up at Duo. "I don't know, Duo. The war has been everything I have ever known... now it may be over. I know my life will go on without it... thanks to you..." he said it sincerely, "... but I don't know what I'll do with myself."

Duo walked across the room to his friend... his heart... and kneeled in front him, looking up into his cobalt eyes. He was feeling a bit more confident since his conversation with Trowa and Quatre. "Can I make a suggestion, Heero?"

Heero realized he was actually waiting for permission to speak. He nodded.

Duo made his apologies in advance. "I don't want to push and I don't expect you to forget about the war overnight... well, I don't expect that you'll ever forget about the war... but I would really like to spend the time that we have... you know..." Duo shrugged, not sure how to finish his thought.

Heero finished for him, "... thinking about us?"

Duo nodded.

Heero sat back in his chair as he considered the young man that knelt in front of him. He realized all at once that he really cared for Duo. Is that what I feel? Care? I know I've tended to your wounds. I know I have even begged for your life. Were you really just a partner? Or did I care for you even then... maybe I just didn't realize it. Now that I do, it seems as though there may be something I cannot put my finger on... something beyond the caring... I don't understand what that something might be... but this... this feeling is clear to me now. I care too, Duo. I care too. Heero leaned forward and looked deeply into Duo's eyes. Amazing... even when he does not smile, his eyes still do.

Duo held his breath.

"You know I've been sitting here waiting for you," Heero said, leaning back in his chair again.

Duo let the air of his lungs, "I figured you were. We were talking."

"About me, I suppose?"

Duo grinned. "Not really."

Heero raised an eyebrow. "About them, then?"

"MmHm..."

Heero wasn't usually one for gossip, but he was curious nonetheless. "...aaannnnd?"

"Well, they are definitely an item. It seems that Trowa had been chasing Quatre for quite some time, and..."

"Trowa chased Quatre?!"

Duo giggled, "That was the same reaction I had!"

"...and they told you this."

Duo affirmed it with a nod. "Heero... they look really... happy together. They look like they really love each other."

"Love each other?" Heero did not understand.

"Yeah... you know? Like... one can't live without the other? They share the air that they breathe. They share... ev-er-y-thing."

Heero nodded. "So they're sleeping together?"

Duo rolled his eyes. "It's not just that, Heero! They... care about each other."

Ok, that was a feeling that Heero understood. Ok, that's a feeling I understand... well, I think I understand... now. He leaned forward again, looking intently at Duo. "You said you cared about me, earlier."

Duo realized immediately what Heero was driving at. Heero had obviously been gluing all of this together piece-by-piece, but he did not expect this at all. "Uhhh... well... yeah."

Heero leaned forward a bit more. "You're not lying to me, are you Duo? I can tell when you're lying, you know?"

Duo shook his head, not saying a word, his braid flinging wildly to and fro. He could feel Heero's warm breath on his face.

Heero leaned forward a bit more... and touched Duo's lips with his own... only a caress...

Duo almost fainted. The touch... the oh so gentle touch of Heero's lips... fleeting, yet tangible now... it set his head to spinning as he fell backwards catching himself with his hands.

Heero pulled away as the shock of the momentary contact subsided. So brief... so intense was the feeling. He had never experienced such a rush before. He noted with half-lidded eyes that Duo had pulled away as well. Fearing he had done something terribly wrong, he immediately began apologizing. "I shouldn't have done that. It just happened."

Duo didn't even bother opening his own eyes, electricity still pouring over every inch of flesh on his body. He knew that Heero would feel guilt over his actions, it was only natural. I don't feel guilty... why should you? I wanted you to do that! "Don't be sorry... please, don't be sorry." Duo was slurring his words, obviously in another world right now.

"Duo, I don't want to mislead you."

Duo opened his eyes, a very concerned look on his face.

Heero could not meet the gaze. "I really didn't intend for that to happen. I do... care... too. But I'm not ready for this."

Duo pushed himself up off his hands, back into his kneeling position. He looked at Heero, nothing but understanding and patience for the boy that sat before him. "Heero, don't do anything you don't want to do."

"That's the problem, Duo... I want to... but..." ... but what? Heero clenched his jaw and his fists in undisguised frustration.

"Heero, when you decide you are... ready for this... I will still be here. I've always been here... and I always will be."

Heero looked at him, and all at once he understood... not about himself... but about Duo. He has wanted this to happen... not just tonight, but he has always wanted this to happen! I never saw it before. I wonder... did he?

Duo pushed himself to his feet and considered Heero for a moment. "I'm going to bed, it's almost five... Heero, just promise me one thing..." he did not wait for a response, "... that when you do decide you are ready... it will be me."

Heero hoped his eyes conveyed what his words could not. It will be you, Duo... It will be you.