And so we come to the end of an era… coughs yeah, right. Thanks to anyone who stuck this out the whole way through! If you didn't, I can't really be mad 'cause you won't be reading this anyway.

I pro'ly ain't disclaimed fer a while… I still don't own 'em.

Now I've said all the pretty stuff… what am I gonna write for an epilogue? stares at keyboard in confusion

…Here goes…

x

Duo laced his fingers together in a familiar pattern and bowed his head. "I call to you and beseech you, the twelve gods that protect me…"

He knew that Hisoka was backing him up, somewhere in the shadows with his gun. He knew that Heero was waiting back at the Ministery, probably worried sick because he hadn't told him that he had a mission, and tonight was there 'go out and eat and catch up' night. He knew that Tatsumi was after his blood for stealing and eating his pie at lunch.

But all he concentrated on was the comforting feeling of Suzaku racing forward to protect him.

ooooooooooooooo

Later, once the drama was over and they were back at 'base', he had to face an angry Heero Yuy.

"Where were you?" came the demand.

"There was a mission…?"

"And you couldn't have called?"

"Anou… I didn't think?"

"Damn right you didn't think! I've been worried sick about you! Maybe we need to get you a leash…"

"Ooh, kinky," commented a passing Watari.

Duo looked up shyly from under his bangs. "So, uh, did you eat yet?"

"No."

"Lets get some take-out and go back to mine, ok?"

"Hn."

Hisoka smiled slightly as he watched them go. Tsuzuki… Duo… was his partner still, true to his promise. But he and Heero were something more. The teenage Shinigami was content. After all, Heero was always there if they needed a third person, and he had his own partner. Tatsumi had been most pleased that he could continue field work since Watari decided that he wanted to spend all his waking hours in his lab.

And Heero could cook!

oooooooooooo

Duo looked shyly at Heero over the rim of his wineglass. The dark haired man was eating methodically and gracefully, wielding the chopsticks deftly with slender fingers. He had an inkstain on his hand, Duo noticed with a grin.

They had been having these 'dinners' for a while now, in an attempt – mostly initiated by Heero – to see if they were 'still compatible', as he put it.

Duo was pretty sure that they were. It surprised him. But he realized that Heero would never dare to make the first move, although he showed his emotions through his actions and those little glances he gave Duo when he thought the braided man wasn't looking.

Duo put down his chopsticks. It was time to take some action. And he had the perfect plan…

"I don't know why I decided to grow my hair so long, it's such a pain to take care of! And I want to wash it tonight, but it's just so awkward! Hey… say, Heero?"

"Hn?"

"Would you mind helping me with my hair tonight?"

Duo waited with baited breath as Heero's bright blue eyes snapped to his.

"Would you, Heero?"

His eyes never leaving Duo's face, Heero nodded slowly.

"Great!"

ooooooooooooooo

Heero had no idea what to expect. He had agreed to Duo's plea on the spur of the moment, and now that they were actually at Duo's apartment, he found that he had butterflies in his stomach. Pathetic. He really had gone downhill… Whatever happened to 'nerves of gundanium'?

To his… relief? Disappointment? Duo did not need him to get into the shower with him. Rather he tossed his shirt aside, and detached the shower head from the wall, setting it into the tub until the water warmed up. Then he pulled the tie from the end of his braid and began to swiftly unravel it with deft fingers.

Heero's breath caught in his throat. Duo's hair was amazing. A shimmering mass of brown, chestnut, auburn and gold that streamed down his back in soft waves. But… Duo was avoiding his eyes. Heero knew that taking his hair down was something that Duo rarely did in front of people. Hell, he hadn't even let him see it like this before; even when they had showered together, Duo had kept it braided.

Heero took a deep breath, then reached out at tilted Duo's face towards him with a gentle hand under his chin.

"Look at me," he whispered softly, barely audible over the roar of the water. "You are beautiful." Duo gave him a shy smile.

"Let's get this mess washed," he said cheerfully, his good humour not quite reaching his eyes.

Heero quickly found that he was needed to make sure that all of Duo's hair was wet, and that it was all lathered in shampoo. He shrugged his shirt too – it was only going to get wet if he continued to wear it. He also discovered that he liked rinsing the stuff out, making the brown locks silky smooth. The conditioner was harder – he found that working by feel worked better than by sight. Duo was making pleased sounds as Heero circled his fingers in the roots, making sure that everything was washed out.

"Mmmmm…… ok, now comes the hard bit: Drying this mess."

"Where are the towels?" Heero asked, finding himself strangely reluctant to free his hands from Duo's hair.

"Under the sink." Duo replied, squeezing his hair to get the water out.

Heero found the towels easily, and handed a large one to Duo, who wrapped his hair in it and began to dry it.

"Now comes the fun part: getting the tangles out."

"Doesn't conditioner make that easy?" Heero asked as he followed Duo into his bedroom.

"Not with hair as long as this it doesn't," Duo informed him as he handed Heero a hairbrush and sat on the bed.

It was… soothing, Heero decided. Taking care of Duo's hair, while making his wrist ache a little, was soothing. All he needed to concentrate on was the act of swiping the brush gently enough not to hurt but firm enough to actually be of some use against the tangles. Despite Duo's grumbling, the task wasn't that hard – although Heero suspected that if you had hurt an arm or a shoulder it would be damn near impossible.

"Do you want me to braid it?" Heero asked, setting the brush aside.

Duo turned to look at him and the waterfall of his hair shimmered as he twisted. "I think I might leave it loose to dry a little more," he said, smiling. Heero reached out and ran his fingers through the delicate hairs around Duo's ears.

"You're beautiful," he said, without really meaning too. All of a sudden he had an armful of Duo. The longhaired Shinigami trembled and hid his face in Heero's neck. Heero smoothed a hand down his back and kissed the top of his head. "Don't hide from me," he admonished softly. Slowly, hesitantly, Duo tipped his head up.

"Kiss me?" he asked softly.

Heero bent his head and complied, moaning at the contact. It had been so long… he slowly shifted back, letting Duo's weight bear him down onto the bed. He had normally been the one on top, but if Duo was bottom, his hair would get hopelessly tangled again… and Heero found that he liked Duo's weight pushing him to the mattress. The skin on skin contact was gloriously warm, and Duo's cool, damp hair spilled all over him. Reaching up, he buried his hands in it and gasped as Duo began to kiss and lick his way down his neck.

It was wonderful, euphoric, but… Duo was still shivering a little. Heero placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled into the violet eyes that peeked up. "You've made your point. Don't push yourself."

Duo's sigh of relief was almost tangible. He relaxed, placing more weight onto Heero, and laid his head on Heero's chest. "I was afraid…"

"I know. But it's a little too soon for you."

"And not for you?"

"I had a healthy life. You were… tortured by a twisted man. Then you spent more than half a centaury internalizing and not telling anyone that you needed help."

"Baka desu… baka desu, zutto."

"Baka ja nai. Duo desu. Shinigami desu. Boku no koibito desu."

xxxxxx

Baka desu… baka desu, zutto – I'm not totally sure; I made it up, but the gist is 'once a fool, a fool forever'

Baka ja nai – you're not a fool.

Boku no koibito desu – you are my lover. (I figure you can get the other two on your own)

xxxxxx

For all those wanting a Hisoka/Tsuzuki, sorry! I just can't have Heero and Duo in a fic and not want them together! (unless I'm reading a 2x3 or 2x5… never been a fan of 2x4, except for 'coming of age'. Great fic, that.) Please bear in mind that these guys are gonna be around for a while. 'Soka has plenty of time, if Heero and Duo change their minds. Also… Hisoka is a lot younger that Tsuzuki. We're talking about around 82 years here. It would make sense to wait until our little empath is more experienced, ne?

The epilogue was going to be longer, but it was such a gorgeous place to stop that I couldn't resist.