The Edulcoration of Duo Maxwell

Warnings: AU, yaoi, coarse language, violence, angst, cliffhangers, red herrings, mention of various vices, random bits of useless knowledge, occasionally explicit sex, enough footnotes to choke an army of horses.

Spoilers: Nah

Disclaimer: I don't really need to be Captain Obvious here, do I? No ownership, no money being made, yadda yadda. Written for fun, not profit.

Pairings to date: 2x1x2, 34, 4x3, 5M/5xM, 96, past 2xH, past 4x1

Edulcorate (verb) - To free from harshness (as of attitude); to soften

This chapter dedicated to Forsaken, for letting me know it's normal to fear the ending of a long story, and to Porcelain, for making me swoon with art and giving me that final push into finishing this thing. Last chapter down, epilogue to go. See? Told ya just two more!

Chapter 67 - Elizabethan Drama

"I've seen you twice in a short time - only a week since we started..." Name of the Game - ABBA

Despite the lateness of the hour when Heero had gotten home the night before, he couldn't sleep any longer. He was too eager to get that offer of the drug that had been alluded to, but not mentioned outright. There wasn't much he could do until he was on duty later that evening. He hoped the dealer wasn't going to string him along much longer. If past experience was anything to go by, he'd have the evidence he needed before the weekend, then he could turn his attention to more personal matters.

Besides his desire to contact Duo, there were practical concerns, like returning to Berkeley Heights for his car. And getting his hair cut. He rubbed at the strands brushing the back of his neck in irritation.

It was too bad there was nothing that could be done about the other minor alterations to his appearance other than waiting for things to fade. Noin wasn't the only one ribbing him about his California tan.

He scowled as he opened his top drawer, noting that it was almost empty. He'd really fallen behind on his laundry. He perused the selection of casual clothes in his closet, then reluctantly grabbed a worn pair of jeans.

He dressed quickly, buttoning the long sleeved shirt but rolling up the sleeves before going into the bathroom to take care of his hair. It was one thing he was adamant about - trying to keep his appearance as close as possible to normal when he wasn't undercover.

After squeezing a small amount of tinted gel into his palm, he rubbed his hands together briskly and ran them through his hair, then used the comb given to him by the make-up artist to distribute it through to the ends. He carefully arranged the hair at his temples and fluffed his bangs, longing for the day when he could once again maintain a simple style with a minimum of fuss. No wonder Noin had given up and gone with a much shorter hairstyle.

He washed his hands thoroughly, and waited until he was sure his hair was dry enough before flipping up the collar of his shirt. He picked up his cell phone to check his messages and wasn't sure if he was relieved or annoyed that there were no new developments in the case.

There was no point delaying the unpleasantness of household chores, and it was a good day to take care of some errands, including filling Noin's gas tank before she returned from California. He was not at all impressed with its fuel efficiency.

"I'm going to start charging you the going rate," Duo said as he picked Hilde up for lunch.

"The pleasure of my company isn't enough?" she asked, fiddling with the radio as soon as she'd buckled her seatbelt.

"You wish," he retorted, pulling out of the parking lot.

Hilde gave him a sidelong glance. "You seem pretty determined," she commented. "Hostile takeover scheduled at two?"

"Hoping for more of a merger."

"Mmm hmm." She knew that tone of voice. It meant he'd said all he was going to say on the subject.

Knowing that, she offered an anecdote of her own, one that had Duo laughing and shaking his head in disbelief.

That led to a rather humorous discussion over a meal consisting of tonkatsu and tea. Hilde watched Duo's hands during the meal, fascinated with how assured he was as he handled his chopsticks.

He noticed her gaze and gave her an exaggerated leer. "Don't you remember the time we-"

She held up a hand to cut him off. "Please. I had hoped to forget the follies of my youth."

He laughed, and she was pleased to hear it. She'd been worried that his earlier demeanor might have suggested that something bad had happened.

Heero scowled and wondered how much he'd respect himself if he turned tail and left the supermarket.

It was obvious that some people had far too much time for their lunch breaks if they had time to stop at the Pathmark on a lunch break.

If not for the fact that he preferred the layout of this particular store over the one in Elizabeth, this would not even be an issue.

He squared his shoulders. He was not about to slink around like a juvenile delinquent trying to avoid getting caught shoplifting. He had every right to be here.

At least he'd done what he could with his hair before he left.

He was surprised he'd gotten as many as four items on his shopping list before he was spotted.

"Yuy? Is that you? Ee?"

Heero gritted his teeth. He hated that joke. He acknowledged the greeting with a nod, then consulted his list, trying to get the message across that, off duty or not, he had no time for idle chitchat.

Not that his peer should have had the time, either.

He could feel more than see the assessing look he got, and it bothered him in a way that being ogled as a prostitute never had.

"Wasn't sure, but that hair is pretty distinctive. Growing it out?"

"I've been busy," Heero replied in a clipped tone.

"Aaaah," the agent nodded, catching on right away. "Gotcha. Well, then, I'll see ya around."

Heero nodded, relieved that he didn't have to explain himself. However, as he wheeled his cart past the other man, he didn't fail to note the second curious appraisal of his attire.

Once Heero had turned down the next aisle, the index finger of his right hand touched the frayed denim around one of the many artfully arranged slits in his jeans.

Laundry was definitely going on his list of chores for the day.

Lunch with Hilde had been a pleasant affair, and Duo had been in a good spirits as they parted company.

Now, however, he was close to forgetting the pleasant mood he'd been in earlier, for one simple reason. He hated traffic jams.

There was something about being completely helpless over a situation that riled him. Sometimes it seemed preordained; that gridlock would be inevitable, and nothing he could do would ever make a difference.

Duo admitted to himself he was overreacting. While they were dating, Hilde had teased him more than once that the longest distance between two points was called a short cut. It seemed that, in this case, that was sadly, painfully true.

It wouldn't have been so bad if he'd not driven past the pawnshop and been struck with an inexplicable bout of nostalgia. He'd not even recognized it as such right away. Nostalgia was for people who had something fond to look back on.

Yet he'd turned down a nearby side street and called Sylvia to let her know he would be late returning from lunch.

Not only had he felt that sense of wonder that he'd long forgotten, entering the shop, he'd been just as surprised at the variety of items for sale as he'd been back then.

Even though he could afford to buy everything the pawnbroker offered without blinking an eye, he'd felt that familiar sense of awe, knowing there might just be something he could take home with him. It had been a heady feeling as a child, to accompany his mother to the pawnshop for purposes of buying, not selling.

Every cloud did have its silver lining, something he was trying desperately to remind himself of as he sat in his car. He felt damned impotent.

Duo sighed as a single car managed to pass through the intersection before the light turned red again. If he'd resisted the urge and kept driving past the shop, he'd have been back at the office by now.

Five minutes later, he'd moved two cars closer to the intersection.

It wouldn't be so bad, he mused, if this particular street at least had interesting scenery to look at. Even the soothing strains of music from his stereo weren't enough to keep him from tapping his thumb impatiently on the steering wheel.

Boredom became a secondary concern as soon as he felt the impact from the car behind him, forceful enough to nudge his car forward and into the bumper of the preceding vehicle.

He bit off his stream of curses. Getting angry was not going to change things either, despite the fact that he couldn't wait to find out exactly what excuse he was going to hear from the driver behind him.

He called Sylvia again to let her know he'd decided to take the entire afternoon off. He then called Wufei to let him know as well, not that he expected his partner to contact him for anything other than an emergency.

Duo impatiently pawed at the deflating airbag, eager to get the hell out of his car. His hand hit the stereo and the radio station blared loudly, although the classical CD had been playing at a moderate volume.

Fairy tales, they do sometimes come true...

"Hilde is definitely forbidden to touch this thing," he growled, turning the radio off. "She probably changed all my presets, too."

He was a bit calmer by the time the police arrived on the scene, and he'd already exchanged insurance information with the apologetic woman whose foot had apparently "slipped off the brake" as she told both Duo and then the police officer. He'd decided long before the tow truck arrived that he was taking a vacation as soon as the entire Sanquhar business was well underway.

It didn't surprise Duo at all that the traffic situation had miraculously improved. A fender bender without carnage was just an annoyance to other drivers, so there was little of the rubbernecking that usually followed an accident.

He looked across the street and spotted a vending machine, and realized that at that moment, there was nothing he wanted more than a cold beverage; water, soda, juice, he didn't care, as long as it was cold.

Duo told the driver of the tow truck he'd be right back, and made his way to the gas station that hosted the machine.

He tilted his head back and took a long drink from his bottle, draining half of it, before he saw something that nearly made him spray soda all over his shirt.

He had to be mistaken...but the driver of that car could have been Heero's twin.

The same white car that was inching its way past the tow truck that Duo's car was now firmly chained to.

It wasn't entirely impossible, considering the area code of the number he'd practically committed to memory after dialing it several times.

Duo sprinted back across the street, only to watch the vehicle make it through the same light that he'd been stuck at for a good half an hour.

The driver was filling out paperwork in the cab of the truck, and he nodded to Duo to indicate the car had been secured and he was ready whenever Duo was.

Duo climbed into the passenger seat and slammed the door shut. He pointed at the retreating taillights.

"See that white car?"

"The Ford?"

"Yes." Duo reached into his pocket, withdrew his money clip, and removed a hundred-dollar bill. He slapped it on the driver's clipboard. "Follow it."

The driver, whose name was apparently Nick, according to the embroidered patch on his shirt, laughed at him, although he eyed the money with interest. "This sounds like something I don't want to be involved in."

Duo added a second hundred-dollar bill.

"I don't even know where that car is going," Nick pointed out. "This vehicle isn't exactly designed for maneuverability in the city."

After four portraits of Benjamin Franklin were stacked on the clipboard, the grinding of gears was the only warning Duo got before the flatbed quickly pulled out into traffic in pursuit of the white Ford.

Nick was good, Duo had to admit. He was unable to catch up to the Ford in the city, but once they entered the Holland Tunnel, the westbound traffic wasn't nearly as dense. Duo's anticipation was peaking as they crossed the Hudson River. His heart was in his throat for a moment when he thought Heero might be headed for the Newark Airport, and he released the breath he'd been holding when it was clear that the automobile they were following passed the turnoff for the airport.

He experienced a second moment of panic when Nick was forced to slow down to avoid getting pulled over, but they managed to avoid losing sight of the Ford until it pulled down a narrow side street.

All the money in the world couldn't make the road any wider. Nick had to take an alternate street, leaving Duo to fidget helplessly.

"This is the best I can do, sir," Nick said, pulling over a few blocks away from where they'd lost the Ford. He was grinning widely, indicating that the rush of adrenaline, the thrill of driving an oversized vehicle at almost breakneck speeds, had been almost as much reward as the monetary compensation Duo had given him.

Duo's eyes scanned up and down the street in frustration, lighting up as he recognized what seemed to be a familiar shock of dark hair, hoping against hope he wasn't mistaken at this distance. The brunet's destination seemed to be a series of brownstone apartments. Duo grabbed his jacket and slid out of the truck, waving his thanks to Nick, who chuckled and gave a casual salute with two fingers before driving off.

Once his feet hit the pavement, Duo slipped his jacket on and he walked toward the place where he'd last seen the dark-haired man. He checked the pocket for his cell phone, reassured by its familiar presence.

He hastened his pace toward the apartment buildings, hoping that, for this particular gamble, fate was going to smile on him.


Heero paused, taking a moment to nod at his neighbor. They exchanged brief pleasantries in Spanish. Nothing out of the ordinary, but Heero felt an uncomfortable tingle running the length of his spine.

He didn't like it. He felt targeted. He put his hand to his hip instinctively, cursing the fact that he was off duty at the moment.

If his cover had been blown, he might have more than the aggravation of lost time to contend with. He had carefully avoided areas where he'd been working undercover, even though it meant he'd had to go out of his way a few times. He would have avoided the city altogether if he could have helped it.

It wasn't until he was inside the apartment that he felt reassured. He locked all the doors and windows, and checked the messages on his cell phone.

He didn't expect to find any, as his phone hadn't rung once while he was out. He finally decided he was being paranoid, and headed for the bedroom.

Despite his best efforts to break himself of the habit, he found himself running a hand through his hair in agitation. He scowled at the coloring that transferred to his sweaty palm, and decided that a quick shower wouldn't be a bad idea before he headed for the laundromat.

He could always wear a hat and hope like hell no one recognized him.

Heero almost defiantly turned on his stereo, loud enough so that he could hear it over the running water, and headed for the bathroom.

He was not paranoid.

The fact that he had to force himself to do more than simply rinse his hair and body had nothing to do with that prickly feeling he'd experienced outside.

Duo glanced balefully up at the windows, hoping for a clue as to which might be Heero's. The sense of deja vu he had was not helping his nerves any. He supposed he wait for someone to enter the building, rather than buzzing random apartments, and what? Go door to door looking for someone who might not even be Heero?

His attention was drawn by a window opening, accompanied by faint strains of music floating down to the street.

The curtains fluttered in the breeze, and his eyes riveted on the profile he saw briefly as the person turned from the window.

It had to be Heero.

Duo's hand touched the cell phone again. There was one way to be sure, right?

It was then that the lyrics caught his attention. He shook his head, and listened carefully. Was that what he thought it was?

Get up, get up...

It was.

James Fucking Brown.

The funny thing was, Duo was surprised, but not surprised that he was. He shook his head, smiling slightly at the logic. They knew nothing about each other. They were, for all that they'd fucked each other, virtual strangers. So little had been said, so little that really mattered, anyway. He looked up at the window again and grinned a little.

He could spend a lifetime being surprised by Heero Yuy.

The longing in his heart surged forth, making his throat tight. He glanced at the fire escape ladder just out of reach and shook his head. He'd be lucky if he didn't kill himself, but far be it from him to ignore the advice of the godfather of soul. Cell phone be damned.

He rubbed his palms together as he positioned himself below the ladder. He jumped up and barely managed to grab the bottom rung, swinging himself up to the first landing and the set of stairs that led to the next. He eagerly headed for the steps when he was brought up short.

"Son of a-"

His hair had gotten caught. The joined bars of metal at the corner of the railing were no longer flush against each other, and the end of the plait was wedged tightly between the resulting gap. In a fit of anger he tugged it with both hands, surrendering the band and a small clump of hair to the fire escape.

He practically raced up the rickety metal stairs leading to Heero's floor, heading for the window where the notes of Sex Machine were still taunting him.

There really was some kind of force in the universe that had a rather sick sense of humor. He reached the open window and didn't see Heero in the room. He reached up a hand to tap at the windowsill.

And found a gun pressed against his temple.

Duo swallowed nervously, realizing the folly of his actions. After an agonizingly long moment, Heero apparently realized it was him, and Duo's heart started beating again when he heard the safety click on. The gun was lowered, but Heero didn't invite him in.

Duo said the first thing that came into his head.

"James Brown?"

Heero looked almost sheepish for a second, then folded his arms across his chest. "There are a lot of things you don't know about me, Duo."

Duo smiled weakly. "Yeah."

"What are you doing, Duo?"

Not what are you doing out on my fire escape. Not what are you doing looking so damn sexy I want nothing more than to drag you in here and fuck you into next week. Just, what are you doing, Duo. Like he'd gotten caught stealing a test out of the teacher's desk. It was enough to make him sorry he'd bothered.

Dum spiro, spero, he reminded himself.

Duo reached into his pocket, pulled something out, and held it out to Heero casually. "You forgot this."

Heero glanced at the contact lens case, and a curious look crossed his face as he accepted it.

Encouraged, Duo removed the pawnshop purchase from his jacket pocket and offered it with both hands.

"And, uh, we never got to see this together."

Heero's eyed the brown bag warily. A look of surprise crossed his face as Duo slid the second-hand videotape out of the paper sack and held it up to show him the title.

Kismet, starring Marlene Dietrich.

Heero put the safety back on his gun and slid it into the back of his waistband. With the other hand he took the tape from Duo. After a few heartstopping moments, he stepped back and motioned Duo into his apartment. After climbing through the window, Duo realized they were in Heero's bedroom.

"You could have killed me," Duo said.

Heero looked almost offended. He glanced down at the tape in his hands. "I don't have a VCR."

"I do."

Heero looked at him assessingly, then reached out a hand and lifted some of the hopelessly tangled strands framing Duo's face.

"That wasn't a very smart thing to do," he said, his fingers lightly caressing one of the snarls.

"It was impulsive," Duo defended.

"Impulsive." Heero eyed Duo and let the hair drop from his fingers. "I didn't take you for the impulsive sort."

"I'm just full of surprises."

Duo's eyes wandered over Heero, who had obviously just gotten out of the shower, and they widened as he took in all the changes.

Besides Heero's deeply tanned skin, the tips of his hair, which had grown a couple of inches since they'd parted ways, were bleached blond. Despite the chemical processing, there was a rather impressive sheen to Heero's hair.

Duo inhaled deeply. He'd recognize that scent anywhere. It used to be part of his own daily ablutions up until he'd checked out of the Regent Beverly Wilshire. He fought the urge to smile as he realized that he'd not forgotten the bottle in the hotel after all.

The scar on Heero's upper arm was concealed by an elaborate pattern, and Duo suspected that if Heero turned around, a matching tribal tattoo would be on his back as well.

"It's all temporary," Heero said with a scowl, noticing his gaze. He reached a hand up to run through his hair and stopped himself. The gesture drew Duo's attention to two gold hoops in Heero's right ear, before the other man touched the earrings self-consciously.

"It seems I'm not the only one full of surprises," Duo murmured. His gaze slipped down Heero's bare chest and stopped when he reached the tattered briefs.

Duo had seen Heero naked, and in skintight leather, and in a custom tailored suit, but he'd never seen him in something as hideously ugly as a pair of underwear that was long overdue for the trash heap.

Heero noticed. "It's laundry day," he muttered, walking to his dresser. He set down the tape and the lens case and opened one of the drawers.

Duo couldn't help grinning. Seeing Heero dressed in such a pathetically worn undergarment seemed incredibly intimate. It was almost a shame that they were soon covered by a pair of drawstring shorts that Heero had pulled out of his dresser.

"There are a lot of unforeseen obstacles," Heero said thoughtfully, walking past Duo to look out the window. His fingers reached up to fiddle with the curtain. "There could be hidden landmines. The bottom could fall out at any minute."

He turned and looked hard at Duo. "Are you prepared to undertake such a risky business venture?"

"Those with the highest risks," Duo said, echoing one of the first things he'd told Heero when they first met.


"Heero," Duo said, staring into those fathomless eyes. He fiddled with his fingers, trying to think of what to say to convince Heero that he was sincere. That things between them had been far more than a business arrangement from the beginning.

"How did you find me, Duo?"

Duo blinked at the unexpected change in topic.

"Duo," Heero repeated. "I asked you a question."


Heero gave him an impatient look, and Duo wondered if this was another test. Was the man ever straightforward?

"I saw you," Duo breathed, belated realization hitting him like a ton of bricks.

Heero looked downright pissed, almost dangerous, and he started to advance upon Duo. "Where?"

"I didn't know it was you at the time," Duo said. "The Washington Tavern, couple of nights ago." And I lusted after you, then, too. "Shit, Heero..." he shook his head. "Then again today...on Pike Street."

"That's a good twenty miles from here," Heero said, stopping in his tracks and crossing his arms.

"I followed you, okay? Is that what you want to hear?"

Duo had gone through a damned lot of soul searching over the past two months, and he was suddenly very sick of the whole thing.

"You know what, Heero? You're a damned pain in the ass. I didn't overreact to the fact that Quatre Winner and you have some sort of shared history that I'd really rather not have known about. I didn't hire a private investigator to look up any information he could find on a Heero Yuy, and you know as well as I do that I could damn well afford to. So maybe I acted a bit irrationally when I climbed the damned fire escape, but hell, you can't tell me you never did anything without thinking it all the way through.

"I missed YOU, Heero. I missed what we had, damn it. You're irritatingly smug when you win, but I actually enjoyed losing to you at Scrabble. I don' really, who you fucked before me, or what you actually do for a living. I fell in love with you, not your goddamn job, and not with that...thing you do with your tongue. You, the guy who drank beer and threw playing cards at me, and hasn't ever seen a decent movie. The same guy who took elective classes at UCLA just because they seemed interesting, who quotes lofty shit like dumb spiro, and who can take a punch to the jaw without holding a grudge. I'm sorry if you can't understand that I heard opportunity knock and I jumped at the chance to answer the fucking door this time.

"And for the record, I cannot believe you actually own a piece of shit Ford Taurus. I really thought you had better taste than that."

Heero's face registered shock followed by amusement.

"A dumb spiro?"

"Fuck you, Yuy, you know what I meant."

Heero rather liked the way his surname rolled off Duo's tongue. He took a step forward. "You followed me?"

"That's what I said."

"And you climbed the trellis." Another step.

Duo snorted. "I wouldn't call that a trellis." He took a step backward without realizing what he was doing.

"In the story, Rapunzel isn't the one who climbs the tower."

"There's a damned good reason for that," Duo muttered, gathering his hair behind him. He backed up another step, only noting that a rubber band would come in handy right about now. Irritated, he released his hair.

"You're the one who called me last night,"

Duo blinked. "Yeah."

"You missed me."

"Are you fucking deaf, Heero? Or is your ego just that much in need of stroking?"

Duo's retreat was stopped when his back touched the wall. Heero rested one hand against the wall, leaning toward Duo slightly. The hint of a smirk played about his lips.

"When did you know?"

Duo was about to lose his patience again, but then he noticed something. The tension in the arm braced next to him. It was more than just the effort preventing Heero from pitching forward. For a brief second, Duo was reminded of a child who was afraid of reaching for a toy, out of fear that it would be snatched away at the last minute.

"It''s like the title of that movie," Duo said. "I told you that we should watch it together sometime, and I meant it. I know you don't believe in destiny, in kismet, but you said you believed in yourself. You don't have a monopoly on that."

"Talk is cheap, Maxwell."

"So you were lying?"

"Were you?" Despite the intensity of Heero's gaze, his voice sounded almost wary.

Duo realized they were no longer talking about the same thing and he ran through the last few things he'd shouted at Heero.

"I don't lie."

"Everyone lies, Duo."

Duo could feel his teeth clench. "Talk is cheap, huh?"

"Ye-" and the rest of Heero's words were swallowed as Duo reached behind Heero's head and yanked him forward until their mouths collided.

Despite the rough beginning, the kiss grew in its intensity. It had always been about more than just sex with Heero. More than a struggle for dominance. Those things were part of it, but it was always just 'more' when it came to Heero.

Duo's hands ran up and down Heero's spine and he felt the resulting tremors under his fingertips. Their mouths separated only briefly as one of them would nip or suck at the other's lip, and then a tongue would thrust itself into an open mouth, and they'd continue to spar.

The kiss was wet and desperate and so very, very hot.

"It's not my car," Heero said in between kisses.

"Wha?" More tongue, more sucking.

"The car." A bit more nibbling with Heero's fingers brushing near the pulse of Duo's neck. "Not my 'piece of shit.'"

Duo pulled his mouth from Heero's and lapped at his Adam's apple instead. "Don't care." He nipped lightly, his body feeling flushed as Heero's head tilted backwards.

"I've a reputation to protect," Heero said, his voice cracking slightly as Duo's hands slid down to cup his buttocks. His hand clenched in the knotted waves of hair and he returned his mouth to Duo's.

"I donated that money," he murmured against Duo's lips, trying to keep his eyes open and failing. It didn't matter as Duo's were closed as well.

"Don't care 'bout the money," Duo said before thrusting his tongue back into Heero's mouth for several moments before pulling back long enough to add, "only you, Heero." He resumed their kiss with fervor.

Duo's shirt was now hanging off his shoulders, and he was not all that surprised to realize that he, or perhaps Heero, had removed the jacket as well.

"The fat lady," Heero's words were muffled as his tongue was otherwise engaged.

"Fat lady?" Duo's mind was only half on the words, intent as he was on shedding his shirt without removing his hands from Heero's body.

"She's not started singing yet."

"You've got a gun," Duo muttered, forced to remove one hand to shake his sleeve loose. "We can shoot her first."

"We?" Heero's laughter came out as a staccato of exhaled breath against Duo's throat as he worked his lips down Duo's jaw line.

This kiss - this series of kisses - was nothing like their first kiss, which had been just as full of need and passion and desperation - and of saying good-bye. Duo hadn't realized until now that's what their first kiss represented. It didn't diminish what they'd shared in that kiss, but the difference was like night and day.

This one was full of promises of things to come. Trying times, time spent learning more about each other, and times apart when Duo was busy closing a business deal while Heero was doing...whatever it was that Heero did. Times when they'd likely want to kill each other out of frustration.

Lots and lots of makeup sex.

Duo decided that there was a time and place for everything, and pleasant as the thoughts of a future spent together was, perhaps he was jumping the gun just a little bit.

But there would be plenty of opportunities for talking later.

Whatever their future might hold, right now was a perfect time to indulge in more of those actions that spoke louder than words.

Besides, he was eager to let Heero in on a few more of those surprises he was full of.


Chapter 57's title, Liberty and Prosperity in the Violet Garden, has three references to the state of New Jersey, in case you were wondering why the hell I picked such an oddball title back then. State motto, state flower, and state nickname.

The lyrics of the song playing on Duo's radio are from Surface's Shower Me With Your Love.

Japonito - a diminutive form of japon, or, loosely translated, "Little Japanese."

On the off chance any of you want to go back to reread that bar scene where Duo saw Heero, it took place in Chapter 63, The Divine Comedy.

Disbelievers. I told you it would be just two more chapters...two chapters ago.

And I apologize in advance. I will be unable to post the epilogue here on, as I don't wish for the watchful eyes of my peers to report me for inappropriate rating of content.