Title: Bells on a Hill
Pairing: vague Heero/Duo
Warnings: shounen ai, if you see it the way I do, otherwise a gen fic with strong friendship
GW500 Challenge: a phobia
Word count: 1,258
Duo looked up from the crossword puzzle he was working. "Hey, Heero."
Heero grunted in response to Duo's summons. Taking that as his cue to continue, Duo asked, "Phonophobia is fear of what? I've tried 'phones' and 'sounds,' but neither of them fit."
"Got it!" Duo wrote the letters in, using a ballpoint pen, and moved to the next clue.
Another grunt acknowledged the comment.
"Isn't 'microphobia' fear of small things?"
"It doesn't fit."
"Spell it with a y."
"Ah, that works. Thanks!"
After the third question, Heero's curiosity was piqued. Duo recognized the question in the lift of his eyebrows and responded immediately.
"Each weekend there's a theme to the crossword puzzle. This week, as you've seen, the theme is fear."
"Pleasant," Heero said dryly.
Duo grinned. "Unfortunately the more interesting terms just don't lend themselves well to crossword puzzles. Like medorthophobia." He waggled his eyebrows.
Heero snorted. Fear of an erect penis. Duo often displayed a rather interesting sense of humor at the most unexpected times.
This time Duo's voice sounded the slightest bit hesitant.
"Are you afraid of anything?"
"Afraid of anything?" Heero echoed, perplexed.
"Yeah. You know, not necessarily a phobia, or anything irrational or silly...ah, never mind."
He turned to the newspaper and chewed on the end of his pen in silence for a while.
"Are you?" Heero couldn't resist asking.
"Me?" Duo looked surprised. "Are you asking because I asked, or because you're interested?"
Duo set the pen down and rolled from his stomach to a seated position. He crossed his legs and rested his forearms on his thighs, looking at Heero speculatively.
He'd been flummoxed when Heero had shown up at the scrap yard one day, no word of warning, just looking for him with no explanation.
It had taken Duo some patience and a little prying to find out that Heero had been a bit of a drifter after the Barton uprising. Duo still wasn't sure if Heero had been wandering because he was eager to put the past behind him, or if he was searching for a future.
Trowa's circus had been in town. As soon as they saw the flyer advertising the event, they both exchanged a glance. Heero nodded slightly, and that was the extent of communication before they had tickets and were sitting under the big top.
Trowa had assumed they were roommates, and Heero hadn't corrected him. Duo would have sworn he'd caught a flash of something unfamiliar in Heero's eyes as they flicked to his to gage his reaction.
He'd always been able to improvise with little information, and he'd commented that he'd been hoping for a better apartment, but couldn't afford one without taking on a roommate.
Heero had taken the bait, and they'd gotten an apartment a short time later. Where Heero was during that interim was still a mystery, one that Duo accepted might never be answered.
From their first meeting, there had been a lot of things about Heero that had piqued his curiosity. During the course of their tentative friendship, Duo found that the things he'd wanted to know had changed dramatically.
"I suppose," Duo said slowly, "I'm afraid of failure. I mean, not to the point where it's crippling, but enough that I do everything in my power to avoid that as an outcome."
Heero considered that. He didn't know if that was really a fear of Duo's as much as it was just plain old-fashioned practicality. No one liked failing, and he doubted anyone had failed on the same scale he had.
He supposed that was a bit egocentric. Just because he was still eaten up with guilt at the most random moments over the innocent lives he'd snuffed out didn't mean Duo didn't have his own demons.
Failure wasn't Heero's fear, although he supposed it could be.
No, things had changed considerably since he'd tried to kill Mariemeia.
So what to tell Duo?
He didn't want to kill anymore, but he wouldn't be afraid to if he had no other option. The very reason he'd sworn he wouldn't was because he honestly felt that the need to do so was long past. He had faith in Relena's vision of peace for the future.
The future. He hadn't expected to share an apartment with Duo. He hadn't expected to share living quarters with anyone. Hell, he hadn't even expected to live past his teens.
He wasn't sure when that had changed. That's when the fear had started to gnaw at him. He'd always expected to die in battle. He should have died several times over, yet he continued to live and breathe and kill.
The killing he could stop. The living and breathing was a different story. At one point, he'd viewed himself as nothing more than just another tool of war, but something had happened to him during the time he'd spent as part of a team, fighting alongside the other pilots.
He'd enjoyed their company. He hadn't worked shoulder to shoulder with anyone since Odin had died. It had taken some time to change mental gears, to accept that he had allies.
After Libra had been destroyed, he'd not expected to see anyone again, although he did keep tabs on them a bit, more to appease his curiosity than anything else. Relena's kidnapping had alarmed him, and it came as a shock to realize it was concern for her personal safety as much as for the fragile peace that had been attained.
He'd contacted Duo, surprising him, and then the two of them had run into opposition from Trowa and Wufei. He'd known immediately that Trowa's reasons for joining Mariemeia's army were not Wufei's. When had he managed to acquire that insight into Chang's personality?
It was harder to leave the second time, but everyone had a place to go, and Heero wasn't sure where he fit in. He knew that he was more than a weapon, more than a soldier, but he didn't know exactly what that 'more' entailed.
He'd seen much in his travels. It was different, visiting new and old places without a variety of firearms. He could come and go as he pleased, and move on without leaving a trail of death in his wake.
He'd realized that he was young, and healthy, and likely to live to a ripe old age if he continued to take care of his body.
That's when the cold fear had really set in.
He saw himself sitting on a porch, in a rocking chair, his hair white, his hands shriveled. There was no one on the porch with him and no sounds coming from within the house beyond the front door. It had been the most frightening vision he'd ever seen. Zero hadn't shown him any of that.
"What about you, Heero?" Duo's voice was casual, but Heero wasn't fooled. Duo knew he'd been woolgathering.
Heero looked at his roommate, and his insides warmed. He thought perhaps that rocking chair might be replaced with a nice wide porch swing. Or maybe a horseshoe pit out front instead.
"Spiders," Duo said skeptically.
Duo laughed. "Heero Yuy, afraid of spiders? I can't see you having the screaming meemies in your cockpit because an arachnid dropped into your lap. You could've just said you're not afraid of anything."
"I'm not afraid of anything."
Duo grinned at him, then went back to his crossword puzzle.
Heero watched him fondly. It was true. He wasn't afraid of anything.
My apologies to Meredith Wilson for lifting the lyrics from Till There Was You for the title.