Don't look at me, Bob seized possession of the pen and wrote it this afternoon. I had nothing to do with this.

Bob: <smirk> Right. I have her well trained, don't I? Anyway. AU, post EW, yaoi, somewhere approaching *wildly* OOC. And of course it doesn't belong to me *or* Em. Please don't sue us for it.

Pursuance by Lys ap Adin

Damn it. He's back again. How the hell does he manage to keep finding me?

Persistence, that's what it is. Probably luck, too, because when I go to ground, I don't fool around.

Took him longer than I expected for him to find me this time. Maybe he's losing his touch. Or maybe he's just losing interest.

Odd. The thought isn't comforting, really.

Well. Guess it's time to get off this colony, too. Pity, I sort of like it here--it's quiet, a little poor but not impoverished, and the people are friendly without being nosy. The perfect place, I guess, for an ex-pilot trying to hide from an ex--

I don't want to call him an ex-lover. Too many emotional complexities tangled up in that term. And (I don't want to love. Attachments are bad. They get you hurt. And what's love but the biggest attachment you can make?

It wasn't supposed to get complicated like this, ending up with me running from bolt-hole to bolt-hole, avoiding him. It was supposed to be no big deal, like a string of one-night stands, only wit the same person. He wasn't supposed to start taking it personally. But, being him, he did the thing I least expected and fell in love with me.

Granted, he doesn't actually *bother* me when he shows up like this. Just shows himself, makes sure I know he's there. Trying to prove he's still interested, I guess. Most of the time he never even speaks to me. Like this morning when he walked into the diner where I eat breakfast and ordered his usual, a coffee that's one part cream to one part coffee to one part sugar. Barely even looked at me, even though I was sitting three stools down from him.

So, it's time to move on again. Damn. There's a festival that starts up tonight. I sort of wanted to be there for that, take in the dancing in the street, maybe pick up a partner--one that won't take things more seriously than they ought. Probably get a little drunk.

He sure knows how to tick me off. I think he specializes in it.

Hell. Maybe I'll just stick around for the night anyway. Sure, he'll be around too, but no need to let him ruin my plans. At least, not any more than usual. He knows better than to actually pester me--I've made it abundantly clear that I want to be let alone.

I just wish he'd stop stalking me. He's worse than Relena ever was. No, that's unfair. Relena was only an infatuated girl. *He's* a trained terrorist who thinks he's in love. There's no fair comparison.

I never saw it coming. We'd been--lovers (and I use that term as loosely as possible) off and on all during the war, then went our separate ways after that ended. Then, about a year later, we were back together, working to take down the Operation M. It seemed only natural to me that we take up right where we had left off.

No, he didn't tell me in bed. Don't know why, but I guess it didn't suit his style. No, we were working on the shuttle engine on the way to rescue Relena and I told him to hand me a wrench. He gave it to me all right. I believe his exact words were "Here. I love you."

No, I wouldn't call him the world's most romantic.

The words just hung there, like the sound a piece of metal makes when it reverberates after being struck. I just paused a moment and went back to what I was doing, which was taking the casing off to see what the rattling sound beneath was. After a minute, I asked for the screwdriver.

He handed it to me, then asked if I was just going to pretend he hadn't said anything. He sounded upset.

I told him that yes, as far as I was concerned, I hadn't heard anything, and would he hold this down while I tightened the bolts?

That was when he growled something profane and stalked off. I had to finish the repair job up myself. He can be petty like that, although he had just cause in this case, I suppose.

What am I supposed to do, I asked him later, when he'd stopped sulking and had returned to the cockpit. I reminded him of the no-strings rule--the one that said we didn't go any deeper than passing gratification.

He said he wanted to play by new rules.

At that point, I gave up trying to reason with him, and most of the rest of the trip I tried to pretend nothing had changed.

Of course, he went around repeating It every time he could think up a reason to open his mouth. Which is why I'm in my current situation. Once the Gundams were well and truly gone, I started running, knowing that he'd be on my trail as soon as he could be.

I'd try to make myself believe that he'll give up eventually and go elsewhere. But it's been three, almost four years already, and he seems about as determined as ever. I don't think he ever showed this much sheer obstinacy in the war, even. And I'm getting tired of all this running...

So, I'm staying for the festival this evening.

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As darkness descends over the city, the streets start filling with people, laughing and crowding each other. Music with a beat for dancing is playing somewhere, and in some of the more open areas, a few people have started dancing. It's still a little early for the party to be in full swing, though.

I can't help the gaze that sweeps the crowd for threats, picking out danger zones and the tactically-sound high ground. I'm a soldier, and it's what I do, even in peace.

Of course, on this sweep, I see him, too. Across the street, looks like he's buying something to eat from a vendor. It's probably according to a rule somewhere that he has to look up and over and into my eyes.

I turn away, muttering to myself but determined that I *will* enjoy this evening, whether he's here or not. It looks like there're games set up a little way down the street. Maybe it's time to make all that training the doctors put us pilots through pay off. I smirk to myself, knowing that I could win any of those games with a hand tied behind my back.

So let's make it a challenge... I buy my first beer of the evening and head for the game booths.

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And the tally shows that it takes about four beers to seriously impair my hand-eye coordination--and by seriously, I mean that the odds are starting to favor the guys running the games.

"So what are you going to do with all the prizes?"

Shit, should've known he'd probably investigate why I haven't gone yet. Still, I *do* have more stuffed animals here than a guy can reasonably carry just lying at my feet.

I hand him a teddy bear. "Here, help me carry them." He looks a little puzzled, but also relieved that I haven't told him to get lost yet. That's probably why he allows me to load his arms with toys. "C'mon."

And he follows me as I leave the main street, heading for a place I know pretty well. On the side streets, it's quieter, the music only a faint hum accompanying our footsteps. Thankfully, he's not trying to talk yet.

We stop at a church, my goal. It's small, and has an orphanage with about a dozen kids. I stop in and see them every once in a while; it's early enough that they'll still be up.

What, you didn't think I was going to keep all those damned toys, did you?

I knock and one of the nuns let us in. She smiles to see us, and takes us back to see the kids.

However much money I blew on those stupid games is worth it to see them get their toys. Like I said, this colony isn't rich or anything, and most of these kids--war orphans--have never owned their own toys. Loaded down as we are, we're greeted like gods.

We dispense the toys--there's that teddy bear left. He keeps it, don't know why. Well, I have an idea, but there's no need to dwell on it.

I tell the kids it's a going away present, and narrowly avoid having to promise that I'll be back soon. Maybe I will be back, if he'll stop chasing me from colony to colony. Then I leave. He follows, and finally speaks again. "Want your bear?"

"Keep it. Give you something to sleep with." I'm a little snappish right now. After all, I really don't want to be leaving this place.

"I'd rather sleep with you."

Great, here we go again. "Your chances are better with the bear."

"You've never stayed this long on the same colony as me." He doesn't have to add the *why?* because it's floating in the air.

"I like it here better than most places I've been in a while." It's only because of you that I'm leaving.

"Am I that unpleasant?" He sounds faintly hurt.

Ch. What do you say to something like that? You were good enough to fuck with, but all this talk about commitment has me running scared? Accurate enough, I suppose, but unnecessarily brutal. "It's not you. It's me."

"How long are you going to keep running away?"

"How long are you going to keep chasing me?"

He pauses. "Until I have more to show for it than the colonies' tackiest souvenirs."

I laugh, briefly. "Then you're going to chase me for a long time, 'cause there's nothing on these colonies worth much."

"That's your opinion, no mine." He reaches out, halts me with a hand brushing my shoulder. "I still--"

"*Don't* say It. Please."

He sighs. "Why won't you let anyone in?"

"It's never paid off very well, for me or them. Do we have to talk about this?"

"I don't know when--if--I'll get another chance."

"I'm buzzed and fed up. Probably won't happen again."

"Then you see my point."

"You're so damned stubborn. If I sleep with you, will that make you leave me alone?"

He doesn't even *hesitate*. "No. I care about more than the sex."

Damn it. No one can turn me on quite like he can, and it's been forever since I've spent more than two minutes with him. I was hoping to kill two birds with one stone. "What does it take to make you happy?"

"Making you happy."

"How touching."

"It's true. What would make you happy?"

I almost retort something along the lines of *You leaving me alone for the rest of my days.*

But I don't say that. "I don't know."

"What have you got against--us?" He touches my shoulder again. Not in restraint. I think.

I want to bold off into the darkness. I'd rather break my neck trying to flee than answer his question. I just can't bring myself to pull away from his hand... and its solid comfort. "I--don't want to talk about it. There is no 'us' anyway."

"There could be if you wanted."

"Well, maybe I don't want it." Damn it, why is my voice ringing hollow in my own ears? There's an alley just a few feet away, it's dark mouth promising an escape to the main street, where I could lose myself in the festival crowds. I could run and be gone in a minute...

"Why not? Talk to me. Help me understand why."

"I--" I grit my teeth. I can't *do* this. "Gomen." And I take off, running for the safety of the alley. I expect him to chase me--I know he's probably faster than I am, anyway.

So why the hell am I skidding to a stop halfway to freedom?

Maybe I am just sick of running away. Maybe it's time to get this hashed out for once and for all. Both of us need to grow up and move on with our own lives.

So I trudge back.

He's still standing there in the same spot. Shit, I could cry. The big, bad ex-terrorist is standing on the edge of street lamp's puddled light, hugging a teddy bear to his chest and looking like he wants to curl up and die.

"It hurts," I say quietly, watching him jump. He stares into the darkness where I'm still standing, hope blooming on his face like a flower. "Love, I mean. It hurts you bad. And it makes other pain even worse than it should be. And you hurt the people who love you. You can't tell me that's worth it."

"It doesn't have to hurt."

"Bullshit. The only thing I've done for you since you said It was my best to rip you to shreds."

"I don't mind."

"Didn't figure you for a masochist, then. I'll tell you another thing, it never lasts, either. Even when it's supposed to be good forever."

He rocks on his feet, like he wants to come over here to hug me or something. Wisely, he doesn't. I'm walking a thin line of control here. Frankly, I don't know what's keeping me here, but it's a tenuous grip at best. I can feel the cracks in my calm.

Finally he speaks. "I don't know what you've lost. I won't say I can make it perfect. I can't even say we could last forever. You know as well as I do that I'm only learning as I go along."

"At least you're being honest."

He winces at my sour tone. "You don't trust me." His tone is flat.

"No. I trust *you*." Just not words of love. I thought I'd already made that pretty clear.

"So trust me. Give it a chance."

"For your sake?" Shit, I'm shaking, and I don't even know why.

He shakes his head, once, sharply, *no*. "For your sake. Give it a try. If you can't take it, then go. I won't follow you this time, I promise."

And my mind's eye flashes back to that image of him and the teddy bear.

Something inside--is cracking. God, it hurts. Why does it *hurt*? It's fire and ice, looking at him--eyes pleading. Vulnerable like I've never seen.

Vulnerable for *me*.

It hurts to know that anyone could love another person that much.

I'm cracking. Will he pick up my pieces? Can he love me enough to help me past my guilt, past my scars?

He's staring at the shadows, where he knows I am, or was. He doesn't know if I'm still here or if I've fled, this time for good. His face shows it.

My mouth--it's too dry for me to speak. Funny that I should run out of words. So I do the only thing I can, and take a child's tottering step toward him and his pool of light.

He catches the movement, moves forward in a blur to reach for me, but stops himself just short of contact. "You'll--try?" he asks.

I force words out past the terror. "...hold me." Less a command than a plea.

He pulls me close to his chest; I think he must have dropped the teddy bear somewhere. I can hear his heart pounding. Softly, he says It again, and this time I don't stop him. "Aishiteru, Duo."

I can't say it back. But, maybe, he'll be able to teach me how.

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~owari~

<points to Bob> Him. Not me. Him.

Bob: <smirk> Give me feedback.