After nearly fourteen months, 23 chapters and 110698 words, the time to finally write an ending to it, has come. After receiving so many positive reviews and with the story getting as many hits as it is, I hope this final chapter will leave no one disappointed, because that's the last thing I want. For the final time: Read (hope you'll enjoy) & Review (please?)

TKM: Surprisingly enough, it didn't take long at all. I was just in that kind of mood and the words just flowed. In hindsight I think it may have been a bit chaotic, but that only suits the situation ;) And in my own defense: Why Duo doesn't leave right now is because L2 is a very impopular destination. A day, only one shuttle departs to L2 (in the morning, 10 Am) I mentioned this in one of the chapters. Yes Duo could have left immediately and then hang around at the airport, but then, to me atleast, that would have had too many characteristics of 'running'. He has no reason to leave in great hurry because he doesn't fear another confrontation with Heero and he knows that he will be gone long before Ben comes home anyway. Sadly there will be no (real) 2x1 goodies, because that wouldn't fit the overall story, but I suppose they wouldn't be out of the place in the upcoming sequel ;) Thanks a lot for reading and reviewing!

Nighthawk921: Yeah, the ending was kinda neat, ne? I figured it would be a nice and welcomed surprise ;) Thanks for reviewing, I hope you will enjoy the final chapter.

Pikeebo: You're so right. I didn't intend to make Heero this weak but I was so focussed on improving Duo's character I kinda forgot about Heero -.-' Thanks for your review it has helped me with a lot of things whilst writing this final chapter. Enjoy!

Makoto-mai: It's not really a sad chapter so I don't think any tears will flow, no worries ;) Thanks for your review, i'm glad the previous chapter touched you so.

Zuzanny: Define relatively ;) I think the ending is best suited for the story. You know... it's just... 'right' as Duo would say it ;)

Shadowalchemist198: LOL, nice reference to a work of art ;) That's an image hard to forget ;) I'm sorry but this really is the end of it. And what good is a story if it has no ending? Thanks for reviewing, not just this time but all the other times. You really encouraged me to reread my chapters before posting them. I might still miss a few errors but atleast now I don't have to feel ashamed for I know I did my best to make y'all enjoy the story ;) Thanks a thousand times for all your reviews I'll hope you'll read the squel too once it's up :)

Snowdragonct: You are right, as always. Thanks for pointing it out (like Pikeebo) that Duo isn't the only troubled soul and he may even turn out to be stronger than Heero. This knowledge has really helped me writing the final chapter. I may not have been able to erase that perception completely, for the damage has already been done, but the least I can do is have Heero acknowledge this fact and this I wouldn't have done if you hadn't reminded me, so thanks:)

Airezi: Read and find out ;) thanks for reviewing!

Knyghtshade: Ok then, thanks for explaining ;) Enjoy the final chapter

GundamPilot03: gotta love spring break ;) Hope you also did other, more useful things than reading my stuff ;) Thanks a lot for reviewing, I hope to hear from you again, for the final time ;)

DragonRaye: well, they do say that copying is the most flattering of compliments ;) As long as you don't overdo it ;) I'm glad it spoke to you. Sorry to hear about your break-up (read it on your profile page). That has to be hard, but from all that's bad comes something good, a wise lesson or inspiration for example. That said, I also gotta say that it must suck so again: sorry. I'm really glad you enjoyed the previous chapter and I hope you'll like this one too. Thanks for reviewing :)

Tracie: Thanks:) I'm glad it left you (sort of) speechless. I hope you'll read and enjoy the final chapter also.

Everyone who has ever reviewed: Thank you all for letting me know what you think!

ADOPTING DUO

Chapter 24 (final chapter)

I didn't even realise I had fallen asleep till I opened my eyes and saw sunshine streaming into my room. Morning had come once more, like so many mornings had come. All of them had brought on feelings of doubt and self resentment, but today I woke up feeling more confidant than I had in a long long time. Too long a time. I felt a bit more like the old Duo. I felt a bit more like him every day. The Duo everybody liked. The Duo I liked. So I was grateful for his return, for he was strong. Stronger than the new Duo, the Duo I – and everybody with me – disliked, stronger even than Trowa, Quatre, WuFei and Heero. Stronger than all of them combined. Regardless of what they might have to say about that.

I swing my legs out of the bed, over the edge. Immediately my skin is covered in goosebumps. The mornings, unlike the afternoons, of Chicago were cold. The sun had yet to chase away the cold of the dark silent night.

It's seven am in the morning. I'm no longer used to getting up this early in the morning but today I was pumped up enough to get my body working. To get it to move. So I made it move towards the bathroom where I made it take a long shower and get dressed and get ready. It took a bit longer than usual as I had extra work to do in front of the bathroom mirror this morning.

I nod at my fresh clean reflection and take my toothbursh and other belongings with me back to the bedroom where I throw them into my duffelbag that has, despite being here so long, never been unpacked.

I sneak over to the laundry room down the hall to get my other clothes. I didn't want to leave anything behind, give Heero a reason – an excuse - to remember me, to think of me. I wanted to cleanse his life, cleanse it of me. It was for the best.

I had thought about leaving behind the clothes he had bought for me, but in the end, didn't. What good will it be if I left them here? He couldn't return them to the store. They weren't his size, so he couldn't wear them. They weren't Ben's size either so he couldn't wear them. And above all else, they would remind him. So I took them with me. I would pay him back, just like he had said so confidantly at the store when he bought them for me.

With my full duffelbag and a plastic bag for the extra clothes, slung over my shoulder, after carefully placing an envelope addressed to Heero on my neatly made bed, I made my way into the hallway. I was about to go downstairs when a thought crossed my mind and I looked to my right, at the door at the end of the hallway. I put down my two bags at the top of the staircase and walk over to the far end. Quietly, I twist the doorknob in my hand and the door opens. The room is dark, the curtains are thick and let no sunlight through. I didn't want to take the risk of switching on the lights so I stepped into the darkness, taking careful notice of where I walked. Not saying goodbye, wether it would be noticed or not, would be wrong and I think I would come to regret it if I had walked away without a goodbye kiss.

So I leaned forward and stared at the round face, with full cheeks for a moment before placing a gentle kiss on the forehead.

Luckily, Abby, or Josephine – however they will call her – didn't wake.

'You take good care of your daddy.' I say and then add, with a silly smirk: 'And your mommy.'

I thought about saying some more. But what good will that do? Even if she had been awake, she would not understand a word of what I'm saying... Maybe I should have left her a letter too. But what would I have written? Nothing that was mine to say. She was Heero's child now, Heero and Ben's, and he will tell her when the time has come and when she is old enough – and ready - to know the truth. And if he thinks it is a good idea, they will come look for me and then I'll get my chance to explain and beg for her forgiveness, but only then. Untill then I should expect no forgiveness from her, nor would I deserve it.

Downstairs, Edie, who had heard me sneaking across the hallway, was already waiting for me at the bottom. I smile at her. I think I might come to miss having a ball of enthusiasm come up to greet me every morning. Because she had no judgement of me. She didn't think poorly of me, all she saw and smelled and felt was a person, no better nor worse than any other person. I liked that. And in that sense, I wished people were more like dogs. Passing no judgement when it's not their to pass.

Listen to yourself Duo. People more like dogs? If people become any more like dogs they will be dogs. Some of them at least. I snort at myself and pet Edie. 'Good girl. Good girl.'

She wags her tail furiously.

'I'm gonna miss you.' I whisper to her, even though I knew very well dogs could only understand us to a certain level and that level consisted of one-syllable-commands, but it was nice to believe that maybe she did. It was nice to fool myself into believing that.

'I think.' I added immediately after with a smile, as she pushed her wet nose against my cheek as I had bent forward to pet her.

With one last stroke over the soft top of her head I tiptoe over to the front door. Travelling on an empty stomach may not be my best idea ever, but no matter how confidant I may feel, I wasn't up for food right now. Make no mistake, leaving behind the love of my life and my child made me sick to the stomach. The head knows this is right, but to the heart is feels so wrong. It's almost like a physical pain, a throbbing in my chest. But I should only welcome these feelings, for at least I have them again. For atleast now I know, after so many years of doubt, that I am not dead on the inside. That the old Duo – the real Duo – is still alive and kicking and may one day be worth of loving again.

I sigh. But not yet. Not yet.

With one last glance into the perfect house I close the door behind me and leave it all behind.

The journey to the airport was long and tiring. I had to hitchhike my way there. Luckily halfway there I stumbled across an old lady, friendly and helpful, on her way to the airport herself, who offered to take me the rest of the way. Hitchhiking was the only way, as I left behind the fifty dollar bill I stole from Ben, in the envelope along with my last words to Heero. Things I should have told him in person. But writing them down for him to read was better than not letting him know at all. What I wrote may not be important to him and maybe he already knew, but it was important to me. Important to me to know for certain that he knows.

Heero,

I forgive you.

Love,

Duo.

PS: I'll pay you back the rest later. I'll find a way. I promise.

'Thank you so much.' I say to the old lady as we walked through the grand entrance of the airport and I assumed from here on our ways would split.

'You're welcome young man.'

I place her luggage, which I had been carrying from her car, parked a few hundred yards away from here, on a cart and gave it to her. She thanked me and wished me a good trip. Before walking off she asked:

'Where are you going?'

'L2, ma'am.'

She frowns 'Now why would you want to go there?'

I stare in the distance for a while, thinking of how to answer her question. Then a smile creeps to my face and I look at her to say: 'L2 sucks. But it's home.'

Despite the foul language she smiles back at me and nods. She understands and maybe feels the same about her homeplace. She gives me a wave and then turns around, walking away with a slow pace as she pushes her cart with luggage.

With my duffelbag over my shoulder and the plastic bag in my hand I make my way over to the check-in counter of the L2 Space line. It's a non-surprisingly short line, despite the fact that the shuttle will leave in half an hour already.

'Goodmorning sir.' The goodlooking young woman behind the counter chirps.

'Goodmorning. If all has gone as planned you have a pre-paid ticket for me.' I inform her and then give her my ID, sliding it over the counter.

She compares the photo with my face, no longer a difficult comparison, unlike before. Then she inputs some of the information off my ID into her computer. She has a serious face, but then, as the computer beeps, the smile returns to her face and she gives me back my ID. She unlocks a cabinet out of my line of sight and then hands me my ticket. 'Paid for by L2 citizen Donna Carter, a one way ticket to L2. The shuttle with depart at gate S19 in...' She brings her wrist up to her face to read the time of a sleek, silver watch. 'Twentyfive minutes. You can leave your luggage here.'

'Thank you.' I put the ticket in the pocket of my jacket and place my duffelbag onto the conveyor that first weights it and when the weight is approved, takes it through and X-ray and then to the back to be processed and taken to the right shuttle. She puts the plastic bag into a cardboard box, seals it and then places it on the conveyor belt as well.

'Have a nice flight.' She says as the luggage is under the weightlimit and the X-ray comes up with nothing suspicious.

I want to thank her again but notice she has already greeted the next customer in the line, so I walk on.

Chicago's airport is devided in two sections. The airport section, with gates A (Air) 1 to 45 and the Spaceport section with gates S (Space) 1 to 22. It was the largest airport in all of America so navigating through it could become quite a challenge, especially in rush hour, with people bumping into you as you push your way through the crowded hall.

I managed to get myself into the Spaceport section and passed the busiest gates, S1 to S15. After that the gates were pretty quiet. Unpopular destinations like L2 and the other poorer colonies.

The advantage was that I didn't have to fight to get myself a seat. Waiting for the spaceshuttle to L2 to start boarding were only about a dozen people. None of them were looking particularly pleased to go back. Why should they? Fates similar to mine awaited them on that colony.

The feeling of depair was starting to gnaw at me. Maybe it had been very naive of me to think that going up there and facing my demons, would make it all alright. It may heal my soul and allow me to forgive myself, but my forgiveness would not pay the rent, food or pay off my debts.

'Space Flight X520 to L2, departing at gate S19 will now start boarding.' An electronic, but definitely female voice said over the intercom.

The few people rose out of their seats and made their way over to the desk in front of the gate to the shuttle, where two stewardesses stood to check their tickets and wish them a safe flight.

I too made my way over. Despite the despair, and the worry, I mostly felt an eerie calm. Like everything would be okay, one way or another.

I had many questions, the answer of which I could only guess. Will I ever see Heero again? Will Heero stay with Ben? How did he and Ben even meet? How will Abby's life go? How will Heero manage? Will he be okay? Why did he try to commit suicide seven years ago?

But these questions didn't matter and I should stop asking them to myself. All that mattered now was how I was going to take care of myself. If I was going to worry about anything more, I might as well stay. And then I guess I already know how things would turn out.

Not good.

Not right.

'Flight X520 now boarding.' Was called over the intercom again.

I stilled, froze in my spot, a few yards away from the desk in the middle of the white, large hall because above the robotical voice announcing the boarding of my shuttle, I heard a familiar voice calling out my name.

I turned and as I expected after hearing that voice, I saw Heero standing about fifteen yards away, with one arm holding Abby, with the other a navy blue duffelbag, which appeared to be heavy.

In the bright light of the sun streaming in through the many windows he looked more beautiful than ever. His figure looked nothing short of perfect as approached me, dressed in simple, light jeans and a light blue, untucked, button-up shirt.

I wanted to do nothing more than run over to him and embrace him and never let him go. But I was getting mixed feelings. What was he doing here? Why did he have Abby and a duffelbag with him? Was he coming with me? At that I felt both offended and flattered. Offended that he disrespected my decision to sort through my problems by myself, as though he had no faith in my strength nor in my judgement. But at the same time there was some flattery, a warm feeling that he loved me enough to ignore my decision.

Once the distance between us has been reduced to only two feet I acknowledge just how hard he makes my heart beat. Like it beats only for him. And maybe it did.

We stare into each other's eyes for a moment, trying to read each other's thoughts, but being unsuccessful. We have to voice our thoughts instead if we want to heard and want to be understood, this is something that took us years to realise. Our relationship was in some definite need of communication skills. Another thing we'd be wise to learn whilst apart.

'You shaved.' He finally says, sounding a little bewilderd. Then, after looking at me for some time he concludes: 'It looks good.'

'Thanks.'

He frowns 'For complimenting you?'

'No. For noticing.'

He smiles but I don't return the gesture.

'I hope you only came to say goodbye.' I start after another few moments of silence

Heero doesn't respond, he just stares at me, as if in awe, as if enchanted. I like it. But I don't want to like it. I don't want him to look at me like that, not now. He makes it too hard. He makes it hard for me to do the right thing, like he always has. Because I can't think when he's around. I can't think of anything else but him and how beautiful he looks with the sunlight streaking his hair and lighting up his eyes and how much I want him, physically, emotionally and spiritually. When I look at him all I can think about is how much I want every piece of him, in every way and this leaves no room for rational thought.

'Heero, please. Don't do this. Let me leave. Like you said, my timing sucks. But maybe one day the timing will be right and let's see if God will have realigned our paths once more by then...' I practically begged him.

Heero smiles again, relieved of some sort. 'I didn't come to go with you to L2. I respect your decision and you were right, it was the right one. I came to give you this.' He held out the blue duffelbag to me.

I took it from him, when I felt the weight it didn't take me long to figure out what I was holding right now. 'I can't accept it. I don't want Relena's pity money.' I said as I knew for certain the bag was filled with bills.

'Good.' Heero says, his face stern and serious, determined not to take the money back. 'For this is not me giving you Relena's money, which she should have given you years ago. This is me loaning my best friend all the money I can spare. For completely selfish reasons.' He raises his voice a bit as he continues: 'For I can't sleep at night knowing he is wandering the streets of L2. Because I know what happens to people wandering L2's streets...' His voice cracks, he looks away, ashamed, once composed he finishes: 'So you're gonna take this goddammed money.' He left no room for argument.

Relieved I smile at him and firmed my grip on the duffelbag's handle. I look down at it and then back at Heero. 'A loan?' I clarify with a grin.

Heero lightens up a bit and smiles back at me, the tension ebbing away. He nods, then smirks back. 'You can pay me back when "God has realigned our paths".'

I chuckle. 'That is an offer I can accept.' I place it at my feet and then lean in to embrace Heero as a friend who has just gone out of his way to do me a big favor, not as a lover with whom I share an awkward history. I shamelessly bathe in Heero's aura of strength and wisdom once more, uncertain how long I would have to do without. I'd miss him. I'd miss him more than ever, for I love him more than ever, both romantically and as a friend. And he loved me back the same. For the first time I know how it felt to be certain about love and this certainty felt more empowering than anything I had ever felt before.

As I hugged him, careful not to disturb Abby who was in his arms, my cheek pressed tightly against his, one of my hands buried into the silken, chocolate brown mop of hair of his, he speaks up softly: 'I don't want you to think that because of what happened between us you can't turn to me in times of need.'

I nod and reluctantly release him. Staring deeply into his eyes I respond: 'I know Heero. I know I can rely on you. Like I always have. And one day I will be able to return the favor.'

'Final call for passengers of flight X520 to L2 to board.'

We laugh sheepishly.

'So...' I start, 'I guess this is farewell.' I joke halfheartedly.

'No,' he corrects with a smile, 'this is merely a goodbye.'

I smile back.

'You owe me money, remember?' He adds.

We both laugh again but I silence him by leaning him, catching him by surprise and giving him a long, passionate, goodbye kiss. No farewell.

'Goodbye.' Heero whispers when we break apart.

'Goodbye, for now.' I kiss Abby goodbye once more on her forehead. 'Goodbye.' I repeat to her and then pick up the navy blue duffelbag and turn on my heels. Walking away from him was the hardest thing I had ever done, but I'd better get used to it, more hardship awaited me. This shuttle flight was merely the beginning of a long and exhausting journey. A journey to the right time and the right place, where we can be together, for good.

Halfway there I turn briefly and call: 'For now!' I wave. To reassure both him and myself.

We waves back with his free hand. 'For now.' He echoes. He was still standing where I left him, looking at me with a smile, but I know he was hurting inside like me and in this I found some strange comfort.

The thought that he would journey back to that perfect house of his to be with his perfect husband was a hard one, but one I had to live with. Afterall, this is what I chose and as hard as it may be, it made me happy. For I started to feel like I was back in control of my own life again, after leaving the "decision making" to everybody else. I wondered how I would fare.

I turn back and smile secretively. I think I'll do pretty well.

I've reached the desk and the stewardess checks my ticket. 'Have a nice flight.' She says.

I thank her and step through the gate. I don't look back again. I don't have to. I don't have to glance over my shoulder one last time to see him again. Because I know we will meet again. When the time was right. And then we would be together, as equals, as adults, as normal people not as struggling underage soldiers. We will be together the way we always should have been.

And we will be forever.

No matter how hard this will be, it will be worth every drop of sweat and salty tear spilled in our efforts to make 'us' work.

Before it had always felt like I was in need of adopting. G had adopted me. Hilde had adopted me. And Heero had adopted me, like Abby. But from now on there will be no more of that, because as I went from fosterhome to fosterhome, I've gained strength, wisdom and righteousness, finally. Now what I had to do was learn to stand on my own two feet, as a grown man.

Everything was going to be alright. I don't how how, just that it will.

And there will be no more adopting Duo.

I hope y'all enjoyed the ending and the overall story. I thank everyone who has read it and special thanks goes to those who reviewed as well, encouraging me on, without them I would never have been able to say what I am about to say:

The End.

Love,

Crimson.

PS:I've truly enjoyed writing this story, this is really my kind of genre, complicated, dramatic realistionships, complicated and dramatized some more by the situation. But as much as I have enjoyed it, I am done with it for now. I will be writing a sequel to this story because I've come to rather like this plot and the altered versions of Duo and Heero that I've created and I'm not quite ready to let them go ;) But it will take some patience on both your and my behalf. I hope the sequel, once it up, will have been worth the wait like I hope each chapter of Adopting Duo has been worth the wait.