A/N: This was supposed ot be for Valentine's Day but it was amssive and took forever to edit. I know there's probably a million other mistakes until my beta actually gets it back to me.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing or the song by Mindy McCreedy 'Maybe He'll Notice Her Now'
Maybe He'll Notice Him Now
Violet eyes flickered to the calendar innocently showing the date to be January thirtieth and not April first like he'd first thought at Commander Une's announcement. Duo Maxwell was sure someone had to be playing a huge prank on him but Une, while much more relaxed and well…. human since the wars, wasn't the type to pull pranks. Didn't mean he wasn't any less shocked.
"It- it's a great honor, Commander Une." That damn shock made it impossible to be a smart ass, so it seemed that Duo's small reserve of manners had kicked in to fill the gap.
Une smirked smugly, looking extremely pleased with herself. "If there was anyone who should get the position Duo, it's you. I know you've been trying to get the ESUN to do something about the crime on L2 since your start here at the Preventers. Giving you the Command of the L2 Headquarters isn't just a smart business move- it's fate."
A small frown marred her features as Duo's stunned silence continued. "I had thought you would be more…excited than this."
Duo blinked and shifted in his seat nervously. "It's just….. Unbelievable. Something I had always hoped for L2, something I've always wanted to do for my home but…..I'd have to leave Earth….."
Une studied her agent closely, tapping her desk with the end of her pencil in a sharp, fast beat. "I know you enjoy living here but I'll be frank with you Maxwell. My other choice is Joseph Henderson. His wife is expecting their second child and while both of them are none the less dedicated, it may take a while longer than half a month to get him and his family settled away up there. I went with you as my primary choice because it's simply you and your cat."
Duo winced slightly at the implication. It was true, at twenty-one he was single and young. Although not necessarily of his own choosing. If Duo had it his way, a certain messy haired, blue-eyed ex-Gundam pilot would be more than his best friend, making it more than just Duo and his cat.
"The guys are here though……" he mumbled softly and Une's face softened. If there was one thing she understood it was the bonds of war comrades and friends. The five Gundam pilots had only become closer since the end of the war, each eventually joining up in her organization and more often than not partnering together.
Still, Commander Une was a woman of the military and prided herself on her ability to think neutrally and rationally in any situation.
She also knew she could be a cold-blooded bitch and usually went right for the jugular.
"Maxwell, what exactly is keeping you here on Earth? I know that you five are a team but you can't logically expect to always stay together. One day one of you will want to marry or progress in the ranks of the Preventers. What is actually stopping you from accepting this opportunity?"
Duo swallowed against the sudden lump in his throat. Une was right of course- he couldn't really expect them to always be together as a group. As a team. As a family. Quatre had an amazingly untapped resource as a leader that wasn't being fulfilled as a simple field agent. He'd crave the opportunity before long. Wufei loved his job almost as much as his katana and beloved, blown up Nataku. He would naturally feel the pull of a higher position when the call came. Trowa would want to put his undercover abilities to more use or even follow Quatre's lead into commanding and teaching. Une was right; before long their different abilities and interests would pull them apart in a way that no wartime bonds could challenge.
And Heero……. Heero was all about the mission and the mission was peace. He'd blossomed with the Preventers, becoming….. not exactly a people person but a bit more approachable to the average agent. Inside their group, Heero was their solid presence and their inner strength. He was more open with them than anyone and, much to the braided man's frustration, Heero considered Duo his best friend. Nothing more. Two years of subtle hints and fragile wishes had made him hope that maybe Heero would suddenly notice him as something more than 'just a friend' or at least be willing to try an actual relationship with him.
But Heero never did, never showed any sign of even acknowledging Duo's advances and those ting flames of hope had began to flutter and shrink.
Then Relena's Christmas party had snuffed them out completely and broken up whatever crystal-like resolve Duo had in even trying anymore. The Princess herself had attempted to catch Heero under one of her many sprigs of mistletoe, thinking a romantic holiday kiss would awaken Heero's unspoken love for her. When her Knight pushed her away instead of returning the kiss, the former Queen of the World had thrown a fit and demanded, quite nastily, if Heero felt love for anyone in his cold miserable life.
Heero, his face emotionless and cold, had responded negatively and claimed love to be a distraction. He wanted to focus on keeping peace safe with the Preventers right now and not deal with all her 'fanciful ideas of love'.
So when Commander Une asked him just what was keeping him on Earth, Duo responded,
And accepted the job.
Cobalt blue eyes flashed up to the clock hanging over the door to the joint office of the Gundam pilots as Heero Yuy tried to turn his focus back on the data on the computer before him. Their latest case had him painstakingly hacking into the heavily protected, Swiss bank accounts of the latest corrupt politician. Senator Brinkley had been accused of taking bribes from fractions attempting to arm a few of the more dangerous rebels in the colonies.
At least that was what he had been doing before Wufei had told him that Duo had been called into Une's office after his lunch break- which had been nearly an hour ago.
A small, but pleased smile pulled at the Japanese man's lips as he thought about the situation. He was worrying about his friend- his best friend. If someone had told him back when he was simply pilot 01 that he would have even friends to worry about, Heero would have severely doubted that person's sanity. And probably shot them.
As it stood, he now had four close friends, many acquaintance-like friends and one best friend- who was still missing.
Heero let the numbers blur on the screen before him as he thought about Duo Maxwell. Preventers all over were completely confused at the idea of Heero Yuy being best friends with Duo Maxwell. Heero was quiet, almost more so than Trowa, and blunt to the point of being rude. To them he came off as slightly cold and a perfectionist who was never satisfied with another person's work. Duo was life personified. He was friendly, beautiful, witty and just wonderful to be around. To an outsider, Heero knew that he and Duo were like night and day.
Of course, if any unfortunate Preventer ever happened to be over heard muttering such things by Duo, or even Quatre, they would quickly be set straight.
Quatre called it opposites attracting- night and day connecting to make a complete twenty-four hour cycle. Duo called it a true friendship-two people so in tune with the other's needs and quirks that they instinctively accommodated for them because that's how they survived.
Heero wasn't quite sure which one of them was right but whatever it was, it felt good, like a cool balm on a burn or a warm bath on a cold winter's day.
That explained the burning itch of impatience or the cold almost-fear of worry that ran up his spine as he glanced at the clock again.
Something was wrong with Duo, had been ever since Relena's thrice damned Christmas party. Heero had thought the other man would have been just as pleased as he himself was to finally have Relena out of his already too messy hair but Duo's bright moods had been….dulled since that night.
Which in itself, made no sense to the Japanese man, considering Duo had expressed a dislike for Relena Peacecraft that rivaled Heero's own distaste for the girl. He should have been bouncing off the walls and howling at the moon while trying to tape up a 'Pin the Bullet on the Princess' game in celebration.
Instead, Heero had received a shaky smile and a congratulations in a small, sad voice before Duo was dragged off by a very pregnant Hilde to talk about baby names for his upcoming godchild.
When Wufei had questioned him about his lack-luster excitement to the end of Heero's Relena problem, the L2 native had said he felt sorry for the girl who had gotten her dreams crushed so harshly. The look on his face had been so lost, so defeated that Heero had felt some primal protective instincts bubble up from somewhere, demanding he do something to wipe that heart-wrenching expression off Duo's beautiful face.
It had been gone by the next day but Heero had the sinking feeling that something else had disappeared along with it, something he missed without even knowing what it was.
"Starring at the clock like that won't make him come any faster, Yuy. I suggest you try and get some work done before it's time to punch-out."
Wufei's voice was like an alarm sounding in the too quiet room. Trowa and Quatre were out of town until late that night, interviewing witnesses and family members for the case. The Winner heir's Space Heart…thing was better than ever after a few years of training with a professional. He could even tell when someone was being dishonest about little things, such as what they ate for lunch that day. While Quatre played the nice investigator, Trowa was the silent wall of bad-cop to his partner's good-cop persona.
It was interesting to watch suspects sneer at the blond's polite personality and cower at Trowa's one eyed glare before seeking the nicer of the two.
Unfortunately that, paired with Duo's impromptu meeting, left Heero and Wufei alone together in their spacious office, the one that was suddenly too quiet.
"I've nearly broken the security measures on over half the accounts, Chang and they've given me more than enough evidence to put this guy away for as long as it takes the average citizen to pay off a mortgage." He shot the Chinese man a look. "The rest of this is just for fun."
Wufei snorted. "Only you would consider hacking into supposedly unhackable off-shore bank accounts fun, Yuy."
Whatever Heero had been about to say was cut off by the office door swinging open to reveal a somewhat pale and frighteningly silent Duo.
The teasing mood vanished into thin air at the other man's expression and Heero rose slightly in his seat as dazed violet eyes took them in.
"Are you alright, Maxwell?" Wufei beat him to the chase as Duo blinked and nodded slightly.
"Just thinking too hard I guess." A weak chuckle followed. "Maybe I broke something on the way down from Une's Chamber of Hell."
Heero wasn't fooled by the braided man's attempt at lightening the mood but Wufei seemed to take it at face value. He even went so far as to join in.
"Yuy here was wondering if Une had finally made good on that promise to execute you."
Duo shot his partner an amused look and smiled at the flush that began to stain the other man's cheeks. "Did he start planning an escape plan this time, for when he busted me out?"
Wufei, the traitor, chuckled and gave his blushing friend a smirk. "I could practically hear the mission specs being drawn up as he sat there and watched the clock like some disgruntled father of a tardy teenager."
Ignoring the teasing from his friends, Heero studied Duo closely for any sign of distress. He wanted to know what Une had called his best friend in for and he wanted to know now. He was a man on a mission. Sort of.
"What did she want?"
Shoulders stiffened slightly at Heero's gruff question before Duo shrugged and flopped into his chair.
"Just some L2 stuff she wanted my opinion on." He rolled his large, odd-colored eyes uncomfortably. "And well, you know how much I like talking about all the bad crap on L2….."
It made sense, his explanation and his mood- the L2 cluster, while Duo's home did not hold a lot of good memories for the ex-pilot- but something still felt off. Wufei had a sympathetic look in his eye as he cleared his throat and quickly went back to work.
Duo scanned the room like it was the most interesting thing on earth before catching sight of Heero's screen.
"Hey man! You want me to take half of those accounts. We'll have it done before the weekend starts tomorrow. No putting in overtime and messing up Quatre's beloved 'Pilots Night'.
The two Asian men shuddered at the thought. The last time either one of them tried to use work as an excuse not to join the others at Wobbly Pops, Quatre had ripped them a new one.
Heero smiled slightly as he divided the stack in half before turning back to his computer.
There he was, Duo Maxwell- his best friend.
Duo stared up at the sign above the door way to Wobbly Pops with a sinking, panicky feeling in his chest. After accepting Une's offer of the command post on L2, he had sworn her to secrecy, at least until he could tell the guys. That Friday's Pilots Night had seemed like the best opportunity since he had to be off dirtside on February sixteenth- barely half a month to get everything in order and tell the guys he was leaving.
The worse part, Duo mused to himself, was that he wasn't exactly sure what their reactions would be. Would they be upset? Angry? Disappointed? Or worse, would they not really care at all?
It was ironic that something that should have been one of the best moments of his life was looking to be one of his biggest regrets. A part of him actually wanted the job, wanted to help clean up the streets of L2, wanted to be there and do it hands on. Another, much larger part of him, wanted nothing more than to stay as far away from that cluster of colonies as possible. L2 was like a piece of bitter chocolate for Duo, the place he called home but the holder of most of his horrible memories.
Then there was that part of him, that stubborn little spark of….something, that wailed loudly at him for even thinking about leaving him only family; leaving Heero. That tiny spark was trying desperately to light the protected underbrush of his shattered hopes and dreams, all the while buffeted by the winds of the words 'What is keeping you here on Earth?'
Duo's heart felt physically heavy as the whispered response of 'nothing' made the tiny spark shudder.
Feeling completely drained and older than time, he entered the bar and headed straight to their usual seat. Trowa, Quatre, Wufei and Heero were already seated at the wooden table, looking so perfect and welcoming to Duo that he felt all his doubts about leaving return. Did he really want to leave this? Leave his rough-and-tumble family to scurry back to the streets of L2 like a dog with his tail between his legs- all because things weren't the way he'd wanted- he'd hoped- they would be?
But could he stay, the devil's advocate whispered in his ear, knowing that Heero had none and probably never would have any interest in a relationship with him? Knowing that he was nurturing a stillborn baby dream but still setting himself up for disappointment, over and over again?
Duo knew the pain of loving someone who perhaps didn't- or couldn't- love you back but knowing it for certain was a crushing weight. Maybe this poorly-timed offer was simply him making good on his promise to run and hide because lying about his feelings anymore was just too hard.
Heero finally spotted him standing by the door and raised a questioning eyebrow as he waved him over. Duo walked at a sedate pace, trying to dredge up a smile for the audience. He'd break down later- preferably somewhere dark and alone, where no one would see him cry.
"There, Mama Quatre." Duo said brightly. "All your cubs are present and accounted for. Another Pilots Night successful."
"Mission Accomplished." Heero murmured, causing Quatre to shoot him a glare. Annie came around with our usual- five beers ice cold- as Quatre started the night off telling them about his latest sister's boyfriend.
"I'm still getting used to having men ask me for their hand in marriage." He shook his head sadly, making a few white-blond locks fall into his eyes. "I get I'm the oldest male in the family- heck the only male really, but it's still weird. Kenya is nearly double my age."
"That's what you get Winner," Wufei said boldly. "for having a bloody Olympic team for your immediate family."
Duo grinned. "Quat's got enough sisters to keep the Midol industry thriving for years to come."
Heero sipped his beer before speaking. "Enough to start his own colony."
The blond in question blushed faintly. "At least none of my sisters throw knives at me."
A knowing grin spread across the faces of the other four pilots. That was always Quatre's last retort to any teasing about the number of sisters he had. Trowa kept his face and voice emotionless as he replied.
"It' not my fault your too cute to throw sharp objects at Quatre."
Heero and Wufei chuckled as Quatre began coughing up the beer he'd tried to inhale at those words while Duo scowled at Trowa, mopping up the beer his friend had accidentally ended up spitting at him.
Flushed from the coughing, and the warm feeling that having Trowa call him cute had caused, Quatre sniffed dismissingly at his green eyed friend.
"Laugh it up now Barton. Just remember that revenge is a dish best served cold."
Trowa simply gave the blond a sage-like nod, smirking in a knowing way that made the other three Preventers grin.
"Speaking of family members," Quatre began, obviously changing the subject. "Have you heard anything from that group of people in Hong Kong yet Wufei?"
The Chinese man nodded, his good mood getting better. "I received a response to my inquiries and it appears that not all of my clan had left for L5 like we had thought. There's a whole village of survivors, plenty of them to continue the Dragon Clan."
"Enough to create your own Olympic team?" Duo teased before giving Trowa and Heero with a mock-mournful look. "It's only us now guys. Unless Cathy steals a piece of Tro's DNA and makes good on the Trition Bloom stuff."
Trowa didn't say a word at the L2 native's words but Duo suddenly bent over and clutched his leg with a pained 'Oww!'
Heero had a slight frown on his face as he took in Duo's body language. They were both sitting on their side of the table, backs to the wall and eyes to the door but something still felt off. Duo didn't lean against him when he laughed anymore, he realized suddenly. The other man almost seemed to be halting his movement so that he never came into any accidental contact with the Japanese Preventer.
Heero felt something tighten in his chest at the thought. He missed those touches.
The night progressed on as the five of them ordered dinner and listened to Trowa's tale of how Cathy's latest boyfriend took to having her throw knives at him.
"-to his credit she did get three off before he passed out."
Duo snorted. "That's because not everyone would want a crazy lady to throw knives at them. I sure as hell wouldn't."
"That's only because she wouldn't be throwing to miss if it were you, Maxwell." Wufei quipped as Annie walked over balancing a large tray of meals. For whatever reason, the sight of a greasy burger and homemade fries wiped the friendly grin clean off Duo's face.
The others noticed the abrupt change with worry and confusion before Duo suddenly spoke up, keeping his eyes down.
"Une called me in earlier this week to tell me that L2 will have a fully-functional Preventers Headquarters in about three months."
"About time." Wufei commented, shooting Heero a look over Duo's head that the other two didn't miss.
Quatre smiled brightly. "That's great news Duo!"
Even Trowa offered a quiet "Congratulations."
Heero remained silent, waiting for something, as Duo seemed to hunch in on himself and continued speaking.
"She told me that the lead position was open up there now and then she offered me the job." No one seemed to be breathing as Duo's voice went lower and lower. "And I accepted."
Heero felt like someone had shot him in the stomach with rubber bullets for all the breathing he could do. Duo was going to L2. Permanently. Not on vacation, not for his charity work and not to visit Hilde. Duo was leaving them- leaving Heero.
The bar around them seemed to take on a dream-like quality as he distantly heard Duo answering the others' subdued questions.
Less than three weeks until he left.
The other guy had a family to move, he was really the only choice.
One thought seemed to echo on in Heero's mind as he sat there. Duo, his best friend, was leaving for L2…..and Heero wasn't.
And that hurt.
Almost as soon as that thought registered, anger bubbled up in its place. What kind of best friend would leave, just like that? Without thinking about his friends and their feelings? Had Duo even given them- given him- a second thought? By the looks of things, no- because if he had he wouldn't be leaving for L2!
Pushing his untouched plate of food away, Heero bolted to his feet, his face expressionless as four pairs of eyes shot to his form.
"I'm done." Then he was gone out the door.
Duo glanced down at the rough table as the door to the bar slammed shut, making him wince. No one seemed to be pleased at all with his decision to leave, but at least the others hadn't left without a word. No one else had left with a cloud of fury and betrayal hanging over their head like Heero had.
Duo sighed, pushing his own plate away before standing. "I better call it a night too. I've got some things I need to take care of before the sixteenth as well." He pulled out his wallet and left enough to pay for his and Heero's untouched food before looking back up into his friend's faces. "See you at work on Monday?"
"Sure Duo." Quatre said with a tiny smile. Wufei and Trowa nodded dazedly as their second friend left, upset.
As the door closed to the bar, Quatre slumped over with a gasp, startling his two companions.
"This is bad. Very bad. Those two can't feel anymore hurt and anger unless they physically beat the crap out of each other."
Trowa poked at his ketchup covered fries sadly. "Does anyone else get the feeling that Duo doesn't really want to leave, or is it just me and my wishful thinking?"
"No I felt that as well." Wufei frowned as he thought. "He's been….distraught ever since that Peacecraft girl's damn party."
"Do you know what could be wrong with him?" Trowa asked, not liking the idea of Duo leaving Earth at all. If it hadn't been for the braided man he'd probably still be lost and confused with Cathy at the Circus. They were…brothers now.
Wufei shrugged at Trowa's question before they both jumped as Quatre shot up from his slumped over position with a frustrated growl.
"Are you both blind as well and emotionally dense? Can't you see that Duo's been in love with Heero for years now?" he demanded sharply, rubbing his chest. "And Heero feels the exact same way, for all the good it does him."
Trowa looked troubled while Wufei simply blinked.
"In love?" He repeated. "With each other?"
Twin glares from his two friends told the Chinese man what a stupid question that was. He tried again.
"Then if they love each other….what's the problem?"
That question seemed to be worse than his last and Wufei promptly shut up and let his friends work.
"Heero doesn't know anything about this kind of love." Trowa said slowly, thinking out loud for Wufei's benefit. "He gets camaraderie, even friendship but not a romantic kind of love."
Quatre gave an un-amused snort. "And we all know Heero- if it doesn't have to do with 'the mission' he can avoid things better than Duo."
Trowa let out an uncharacteristic "Oy."
The silence between them progressed until Wufei decided it was safe for him to talk again.
"Do any of us really want Duo to leave for L2? Heero excluded, of course."
Quatre seemed to wilt, like a plant without sunlight, as he shook his head. "No more Pilots Nights."
"No more funny tasting coffee mixtures." Trowa added.
"No more Maxwell at all." Wufei corrected before shaking his head. "Unacceptable."
Quatre looked at his Chinese friend. "So what do we do then?"
Wufei seemed to be thinking hard about something before answering sadly. "Nothing until Heero gets his head out of his ass and talks to Duo.
"Damn." said the blond.
As one three heads turned to stare at the door their two hurt friends had vanished behind.
Contrary to what Trowa, Quatre and Wufei had hoped, things between Heero and Duo hadn't gotten better- if anything they'd gotten worse. Heero was moody and surly and just a right bastard to anyone who looked at him funny and Duo seemed to be a ghost of his former self. Sally had shot the trio a questioning look when she came to congratulate Duo on Tuesday and only received a small nod and an even smaller 'thank you.'
Wednesday came in with a blast, a sudden snowstorm making things difficult for everybody that morning- so when Duo finally approached his friend, they knew things would get ugly.
Heero had been a silent statue since Duo's announcement; the only signs of life from his desk being a few answering grunts and the typing on his laptop. Duo marched over to his best friend's desk and stood there, patiently waiting to be acknowledged.
When ten minutes passed without pause in that annoying clicking, Duo's patience ran out.
"Are you just going to ignore me for the next two weeks, Yuy?"
It was heart breaking to watch the angry stiffness in Duo's shoulders slowly collapse into hurt and despair.
"Heero," he said softly. "Please say something."
The blue-eyed man's typing slowed to a gradual stop as he looked up at his friend through his messy bangs. His eyes were blank.
"Is there anything left to be said?"
That cold, unfeeling mask almost dropped as Duo's eyes turned suspiciously glassy and he looked down, bangs covering his face.
"No. I guess there's not."
Heero opened his mouth to say…..something- when Duo turned abruptly and headed for the door, nearly knocking Quatre over on his ass.
"Duo! Where are you going- it's only eleven thirty?"
"Early lunch!" was barked out as the braided Preventer almost ran down the hall. A heavy silence descended on the group, Quatre looking confused while Trowa and Wufei wondered if getting written up was worth giving Heero a flesh wound.
The man in question suddenly shot to his feet, slamming his laptop shut before heading towards the door himself.
"I'll be in Records."
The door had barely shut before Quatre rounded on the remaining two, a fierce expression on his face.
"What happened now?! Duo looked like he was going to cry!" There was a short, speechless pause from the blond as he waved a hand about. "Duo doesn't cry! Ever!"
Wufei was red with frustration. "Heero just confirmed our- and Duo's- suspicion that he doesn't plan on speaking to his best friend ever again."
Trowa pushed his chair back on two legs and looked up at his friends, his expression grave. "Duo leaves in eleven days. Everything we've done for him- the outings and support- isn't going to be enough to keep him here. We need Heero's help, now before it's too late."
Quatre growled slightly as he began to stalk from one side of the office to the other, looking very much like a vexed lion. "He's just so darn stubborn! I swear those two are made for one another, with their stupid hurt pride and bottling up their emotions. They'd make a pacifist want to shoot something."
"Heero has a one-track mind when it comes to negative emotions." Trowa commented. "After the incident with blowing up the White Doves' shuttle, Heero went around to the surviving families and offered himself up like some human sacrifice. To every single family. Nothing I did could stop him."
A sly grin spread across Quatre's face at the words 'human sacrifice'. "Are you saying we just need to offer Heero up to Duo like some sort of virgin sacrifice and things will work out?"
"The shock alone would kill him." said Wufei, a small grin on his face. "We're trying to keep him from going to L2, not send him there in a body bag."
Trowa chuckled as Quatre's expression turned determined.
"Right. Here's the plan."
Ignoring Trowa's whispered question of 'We've got a plan?!' to Wufei, the blond Preventer continued pacing as he spoke.
"Trowa will take Duo out with him tomorrow to finish the interviews and get the updated information from out informant. While you're gone, me and Heero are going to have a chat. If that fails, Wufei here will beat some sense into our friend's thick head."
"Why am I fighting Yuy?!" Wufei demanded, looking startled and a bit fearful. Quatre rolled his eyes in exasperation.
"Suck it up. I'll be doing the hard part, Chang."
Trowa couldn't stop his silent laughter at Wufei's sullen expression.
"Says you." He mumbled at the retreating blond.
Going into work on Thursday morning, Duo was almost wishing he could leave for L2 earlier than planned. The tension between Heero and himself was bad but Duo couldn't bring himself to spaz out on Quat, Tro and Wu-man like that. They were being great really. All three of them had offered to help him pack if he needed it- which he did because Duo was one hell of a pack rat- and all the little things they were doing for him made him wish he wasn't leaving at all.
His life had become one great big contradiction. Wanting to leave and not wanting to leave. Back and forth.
There was still that element of surprise again, this time at Heero's reaction to his leaving. Duo had expected some anger, hell maybe even some yelling, but this stony silence was the worst his friend could have ever thought of. He'd expected tears from Quatre and maybe a bit of resentment from Wufei and Trowa but all he'd gotten was support and smiles.
There were moments, when Duo was almost sure they wanted him to leave they were acting so cheerful.
With no one to confide in, about his fears and disappointments in leaving for L2, Duo found himself on the shocked side of the coin when he opened the office door only to have Trowa pushing them both back out.
"Come on, we've got an appointment with Senator Snider in a two hours and morning traffic will be hell."
Blinking and trying to shrug his coat back on Duo followed, taking in his taller friend's carefully neutral face.
"What about Q? Doesn't he usually do this kind of thing with you?"
Trowa shrugged. "He's been under a lot of strain using his Space Heart. Sally told him to take a break from it for a while and you're the only other person who could do this with near the same results."
"And it has nothing to do with leaving Heero alone with Quatre while we're gone right?" Duo's smile was rueful as Trowa shot him a sly half-smirk.
"Of course not."
The elevator ride down to the garage was made in silence as was the walk to Trowa's sporty little black car. Duo didn't feel the need to talk very much anymore and Trowa had even been one for idle conversation. He always said what he thought was needed and that was that.
So it wasn't so much that Trowa broke the silence, than what his topic of discussion was that threw Duo for a loop.
"Do you want to tell me the real reason you're running off to L2 and not the spit and polished version you fed Heero?"
Duo got the distinct feeling this wasn't really supposed to be part of Quatre's plan as he slouched down in his seat and stared hard out the window.
"I already told you Tro." He muttered. "This is a great opportunity for me and L2 and it's more convenient for me than it is for the other guy. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing's wrong with that, Duo." Trowa said patiently. "Other than the fact that it's not the only reason you're running scared. Besides," Trowa raised his one visible eyebrow. "since when have you troubled yourself with what's convenient for other people?"
"I don't lie." Duo reminded his unusually chatty friend, his tone forceful. What a time for him to pick up on one of Duo's more annoying habits.
"I know you don't. You're Duo Maxwell: You run and you hide but you never lie." Trowa shrugged elegantly. "I'm just asking what you're running and hiding from. Especially considering I'm one of the people you're leaving behind."
Duo swallowed at that. Trowa was pulling out all the stops and not afraid to play dirty. "That's low, Tro. Real, stinking low. You know I'll miss you guys like crazy."
Trowa nodded but shot Duo a knowing look. "It was low, but are you trying to tell me your leaving has nothing to do with what Heero said at Relena's party?"
Duo huffed, mind racing with a possible way to get out of telling the truth.
"…..that's none of your business."
Not exactly his best work.
Trowa actually had the balls to laugh at him. "I make it my business when two of my best friends are making each other miserable." His voice softened, his tone understanding. "Especially when one of those friends is suffering from a broken heart."
Duo was getting very sick of everyone stunning the hell out of him. He had thought no one knew about his feelings for Heero, considering who he had for friends- Wufei and Trowa weren't exactly known for their sensitivity. The only one who would even remotely pick up on that kind of thing would be-
"Tell Quatre to stay the hell out of my emotional shit." Duo said snottily, crossing his arms over his chest. Trowa snorted.
"You know as well as I do that that Quatre's not happy until he's up to his elbows in everyone else's emotional shit." There was a stony silence from the passenger seat. "You shouldn't run away because Heero's too selfish to notice how you feel. I've never known Duo Maxwell to give up on something he really, truly wanted. Maybe you should just tell him how you feel."
Duo gave a short, mocking laugh. "Oh, you're one to talk about telling people how you feel." His violet eyes were dark with anger. "Have you told Quatre yet? Hm? Or even Wufei?"
The steering wheel jerked in Trowa's grip as he listened to Duo's words. Mouth dry, he tried to speak.
"I- that's different, Duo."
"I'm…. not really sure yet." Trowa admitted and let the silence continue after that. He was leaving all emotional talks up to Quatre from now on.
Quatre watched Trowa push their long haired friend back out the door and sighed. What had happened to nice, subtle Trowa Barton? That had been about as sneaky as a Gundam in a neon pink tutu.
Wufei was sneaking glances at the blond Preventer, thoroughly dreading the beginning and ending of this whole day. If it had been possible, the Chinese man would have simply skipped over the whole twenty-four hours and jumped right into Friday.
Quatre ignored the sulky look on his friend's face as he sat down in his chair with an almost theatrical sigh. Heero glanced up from his typing to give the blond a questioning look.
He smiled sadly back at him. "I was just remembering how I'd always thought Duo would be the last one of our group to leave."
Heero stiffened and resumed his typing, hitting the keys with much more force than was necessary. Quatre ignored the warning signs and continued.
"If anyone had to leave first, I always thought it would have been you Heero."
Two pairs of eyes blinked up at him, one a dark, intense blue the other a faintly horrified black. Heero wasn't giving Quatre his nicest look and Wufei had the feeling that he was watching his comrade's last moments.
"Why would you say that?"
The words were almost ground to paste as Heero seemed to force them out of his mouth. Quatre smiled disarmingly, looking both innocent and in command at the same time.
"Well, you're always been about the mission. Upholding peace has become your new objective and nothing else matters." Here he shrugged, a move that was completely Duo. "I figured it would only be time before you either moved up in the ranks or pursued a different method of completing the mission."
There was an expecting silence after that little admission before Heero looked away, using his bangs to shade his eyes.
"That's- not true."
Quatre, the little imp, played sweet and innocent to a tee. "Oh? What's not true?"
Surprisingly, Heero continued, seeming to be speaking to himself. "The mission is important but….it isn't everything. There is peace now- I can have the things that I want and still uphold peace."
"That's not what you said at Relena's party." Wufei blinked when he realized it was his voice that had said that. Heero and Quatre looked no better, blinking at the Chinese man as if just seeing him there. Heero bit his lip.
"At Relena's party……I said a lot of things I didn't mean because I was….frustrated with her. I do not love Relena, I can barely stand the girl and she makes me so angry when she acts like I'm just…just-"
"Playing hard to get?" Quatre suggested gently. Heero gave a sharp nod. Quatre continued the conversation.
"I'm sorry I thought that way, Heero but I don't think I'm the only one. I know Duo, to name another, believed everything you said at that party. He seemed really sad about it."
At the mention of a certain braided Preventer, Heero's expression closed off.
"Duo can take care of himself, Quatre. He's a big boy."
Wufei watched as Quatre's face seemed to puff up and pinken with anger. He looked almost like one of those Pokemon creatures Duo used to watch on television.
"I know Duo is an adult, Heero" Quatre's voice was acidic. "I'm just wondering when you're going to grow up!"
Heero actually growled. "What is that supposed to mean, Winner?"
Quatre was standing now, arms flying as she spoke. "Duo's not the one who won't speak to his best friend for his last two weeks on Earth. On the maturity scale, I'd say that puts him several slots above you."
"Well I'm not the one who's leaving me and everything else behind!"
Wufei sat back and watched in awe as his friend lost his famed 'Winner patience' and stomped his foot angrily.
"Maybe you should focus less on the fact that he is leaving and more on the why he is leaving!"
"Hn." Was Heero's only reply.
Quatre let out something like a mini-scream before focusing in on Wufei's startled face. He pointed a shaking finger at him.
"You try and beat some sense into this idiot! I'll be in Records if anyone needs me!"
Wufei scratched his head as Quatre slammed the door behind him and Heero made a noise of frustration from behind his computer. Then he stood and left Wufei alone in their office, confused and wondering just what was so special about the Records department.
It was Friday again and the first time since Quatre had nagged every one of them into Pilots Night that they were missing anyone.
Or more specifically, missing two someones. Two very stubborn someones.
Annie brought over three beers in confusion, and left quickly at the desolate expressions on the faces of three of her favorite customers.
"Nine days." Quatre declared mournfully. "We've got nice days before the shit hits the fan and splatters us all."
"Nice visual Quatre." Wufei said peeling the wrapper off his bottle.
Trowa hummed in agreement, flicking his bottle with his finger.
"We're pathetic, you know." Quatre continued, sadly. 'We're Gundam pilots, we've helped to stop two wars and we can't even get two people who love each other together."
"Couldn't we just lock them up together until they figure it out?" Wufei asked, looking hopeful. Trowa snorted and shook his head.
"Not in this state. Didn't we already agree not to kill them?'
The noise from the other patrons in the bar settled around them in a blanket. Beers were sipped and looks were exchanged before anyone spoke again.
"Guys, we can't just let Duo leave, at least not before we fix things between him and Heero." Quatre pulled out his cell phone and looked at it, thinking.
"Don't you dare call Relena and ask for advice." Wufei warned, looking serious. "You'd end up undoing all Heero's hard work and put even more strain on things."
The blond glared. "Duh. I may be nice but I'm not an idiot. I just think we may need a woman's perspective on this."
"It can't get much worse." Trowa offered
Wufei shuddered. "I hope not or else we're going to be attending funerals next."
Sally Po looked at the three men before her, stunned.
"They're not talking…..at all?"
Quatre nodded gravely. "It's horrible, Sally." He put a hand over his heart and looked up at her with his big, blue eyes. "They're both in so much pain when they could be so happy. Won't you please help us?"
Sally rolled her eyes. "Put a leash on it, please. I'll help you, I'll help you!" she gave the Winner heir a suspicious look. "Are you sure Duo doesn't want to leave?"
Surprising her, Trowa answered. "If I didn't already trust Quatre's Space Heart completely I'd have questioned things myself. I have it from the source. He's running from Heero."
Sally rubbed her forehead in thought. "I'll try to find out just what Une said to Duo to even make him consider taking the job and if he's really needed that much. You guys work on getting them to talk to each other again."
She shrugged. "If all else fails it is Valentine's Day this Friday. What better day for them to get together than the one day of the year set aside for lovers?"
Leaving the men, Sally missed the unholy gleam that sparked in Quatre's light blue eyes at her parting words, just as she missed the looks of weary acceptance on Trowa's and Wufei's.
"Okay, time for Plan B!"
Quatre had pulled his two wayward companions into the closest empty office and began praising the person to think up Valentine's Day and muttering excitedly about a 'Plan B' they had yet to hear anything about.
Wufei was frustrated.
"Why don't you get on with telling us this amazing Plan B, especially since the apparent Plan A was a complete failure."
Quatre scowled. "Well if someone had done their part in the plan in the first place…."
"I am not beating up Yuy!" Wufei's face was flushed with anger.
Trowa decided to step in before things got carried away and Mr. Pacifist got violent.
"Quatre, the plan?"
The blond grinned. "Right. The plan. Okay, here's what we do: you two will get Heero to come to Singles Night at Wobbly Pops. Talking, bribing, knocking him unconscious whatever it take just get him there. I'll get Duo to come and voila!"
Trowa and Wufei waited for their friend to continue and Quatre was waiting for some kind of input from his partners in crime. The silence stretched until Wufei shifted his weight to the side and huffed.
"That's it? 'AND VOILA?! And voila what? They turn into mice?!"
Quatre shook his head. "We just need to let the magic of the night and the atmosphere do the job for us!"
Trowa and Wufei shared a look before the tallest of the two spoke you.
The blond Preventer's shoulders sagged in defeat. "Well, if that doesn't work we have them in the same place and just tell them how the other feels."
Trowa gave his distraught friend a sympathetic pat on his shoulder as Wufei rolled his eyes at the drama of it all.
"Duo please! It's your last Friday night on Earth! Don't you want to spend it out having a blast?"
Until this very moment, Duo had been unaware of just how annoying Quatre Raberba Winner could be when he set his mind to it. At the moment, Quatre wanted Duo to go to Singles Night at Wobbly Pops.
He turned to his pleading friend, steeling himself for an onslaught of puppy dog eyes and pouting. "Quat I have to leave on Sunday and there's still so much to do……"
"That's not true! Trowa, Wufei and I helped you pack up the last bit of stuff on Wednesday." Quatre was giving him the evil eye now. "There's only your duffel bag and Scythe and they can both wait until Sunday anyway."
The puppy dog eyes were turned on full throttle and Duo was slightly mortified to see tears beginning to form. Quatre turned away, discreetly wiping his eyes as he spoke.
"Of course if you don't want to hang out with me…..I understand. I'll just spend Valentine's all alone….."
Now really, just how was he supposed to say no to that? Sister Helen would have smacked him a good one right on the noggin for hurting Quatre's delicate feelings. It wasn't his fault that Heero had gotten Duo's mood down so low even hanging around his friends was tough.
He gave his apparently weeping friend a suspicious look. "Just you and me?"
In a complete three sixty, Quatre went from 'kicked puppy' to 'kid on Christmas morning' and nodded.
Duo sighed gustily and nodded as well, letting his friend practically glomp him as he listened half-heartedly to Quatre's instructions.
Instead his mind drifted back to his apartment, filled with boxes upon boxes of stuff and his poor cat walking the bare halls and meowing in confusion. Packing all that stuff up had been difficult- physically and emotionally. He just had so much of it, so many memories to sift through and to end up picking and choosing which ones to take with him had been hard. Without Wufei and Trowa, Duo knew that Quatre and himself would have simply boxed it all and paid the extra for shipping it to L2.
The hardest times had come when a memento from his time with Heero came up and Duo remembered how his friend used to be. This cold, distance was killing them and their previous bond- slowly but surely. Heero was just so angry and unforgiving- Duo knew that if this rift wasn't fixed before he left their friendship would be over. Since the Japanese man refused to even look at Duo, he knew that any attempt at resolving things was bound for failure. Tonight, on the night for lovers and soul mates, all Duo really wanted to do was mourn the could-have-beens and never wills of his friendship with Heero Yuy.
Unfortunately, Quatre had other plans, and with one friendship slowly going down the tubes, Duo was damned if he'd let another end the same way.
That was why he was going to suck it up and have fun tonight- Heero Yuy be damned.
Wobbly Pops was decked out in pinks, reds and purples for the Valentine's Day Singles night. While most clubs held the traditional Couples night, Wobbly Pops was one of the few who had a place for the lost and unloved of the evening.
Duo was slightly surprised at the number of single people in the bar as he followed Quatre through the door. The music had already started and was a bit loud but not so much that they had to scream at each other to be heard.
The music and the energy of the crowd seeped into Duo, lifting his spirits and made a tiny half smile form on his lips. One that Quatre caught as he scanned the bar.
"Hey, there's my friend! I knew he was hiding in there somewhere under all that sulk." He laughed as Duo gave him a playful shove. "Come on, let's go and act single while being tastefully unavailable."
Duo felt like he stuck out horribly in the brightly decorated room, especially since he was dressed completely in black. Quatre had balked at first, until Duo had pointed out that, other than his Preventers uniform, he always wore black. Unfortunately, the black jeans and snug black sweater caught the eye of a few people in the dancing crowd and the braided man felt the heavy, lustful stares of all but the one he wanted.
That one tiny, half thought served to burst his already tentative good mood as his blond friend all but shoved him into a booth in the corner of the room.
"I'll get us some drinks. Got any favorites?"
"Vodka and coke please." Duo said before watching his friend disappear into the crowd again. The music wasn't so loud here and the only other people around were too busy necking with their newfound loves to bother him much.
Of course, this kind of thinking led Duo to thoughts about his own single status and exactly who he wanted to take that away. Only worse than any other times thoughts like these had made their way into Duo's mind, the violet-eyed man could console himself with having Heero's friendship and trust- now he barely had a civil working relationship with the man.
Duo kicked the base of the table with a scowl.
"Being in love sucks." He muttered to himself, keeping his eyes lowered as not to attract any unwanted attention. It's not like he could find anyone tonight what with his impending departure to L2 in less than forty-eight hours.
Caught up in his morbid thoughts of the uselessness of love and friendship, Duo missed Quatre's arrival with their drinks.
He didn't miss the sound of a very familiar voice cursing a blue streak up one side of the bar and back down again.
Wide, horrified eyes took in the sight of a furious Heero Yuy, looking absolutely beautiful in his dark blue jeans and navy turtleneck. His cobalt blue eyes flashed as he ripped both Trowa and Wufei two new ones while Duo turned to his own deceiver and glared.
"You said it would only be me and you!"
Quatre shrugged before turning on his own glare. "Not everyone is as honest as you are Duo." He gestured towards Heero's furious tirade. "Besides, this needs to be resolved before you leave."
Duo missed whatever Wufei had said but he didn't miss Heero's response.
"Maybe I don't want to spend tonight with him! He'll be gone by Monday, what the fuck would it matter anyway?"
It almost felt like someone else had taken over his body, someone with anger management issues, as a boiling rage clouded Duo's senses. The drinks Quatre had bought sat innocently on the table beside him, sparkling slightly in the lights.
Duo grabbed the one that was obviously meant to be his and threw it at his not-so-best friend, barely managing to keep the glass in his hand.
Heero made a chilled gasping sound as the cold drink slid down his hair and face and seeped into his shirt. Duo slowly set the glass back down on the table as his four friends stood still as statues and watched him.
"Okay Yuy. Fine. You win. You want to make me hate you? It's not there yet, but right now I'm this-" Duo showed an inch with his thumb and forefinger "- damn close to it. My presence repulses you so much? Fine, I'll leave. I'll leave the bar, I'll leave he street, hell I'll leave the damn planet. Right fucking now."
Quatre made a distressed noise and Duo shot him a look. "Shut up, Quatre." He turned back to Heero. "I don't have to wait until Sunday to go, and you know what- I'm not going to."
He gestured towards Trowa and Wufei. "These guys have my new address and I'll give you all the new number when I get it……. so that's it. It's been fun. Goodbye Heero Yuy."
Turning around, Duo's braid was the last anyone saw of him as he disappeared into the crowd of dancing bodies, obviously heading towards the door.
No one moved as the bar continued to thrum with life all around them. Trowa and Wufei looked distinctively uncomfortable with the whole situation as Quatre kept his eyes averted to the floor in guilt. Heero just stood there, his face slack with shock, vodka and coke dripping off his clothes. His eyes never left the spot where Duo's braid had disappeared to and for a moment, Trowa would have bet that the Japanese man wasn't even breathing.
Then his whole body jerked as he ran a shaky hand through his sticky hair and swallowed hard.
A curse was muttered, English or Japanese-it didn't matter, before Heero shot to the door like a bat out of hell. Quatre's head jerked up at the sudden motion, his hand following to clutch at the material over his heart. Then a not-so-sane glint of something took place in his eyes and he turned to his two companions before pointing to the booth.
"Sit there and wait for me to come back. This ends now."
He didn't wait to see if they followed his orders before dashing for the door himself.
Trowa and Wufei exchanged another look before sitting at the booth and gearing up for a long wait.
It was raining- raining in February!- when Heero finally escaped from the thrice damned bar. The raindrops were freezing and stung as it struck his skin. Vodka and coke ran into his eyes, making them water as he set off home and wondered how his life went so far down hill.
It had all started with that stupid Christmas party. Relena's last effort to 'claim his heart' had somehow ended up with Heero loosing Duo and his wonderful friendship. Ever since his harsh announcement against Relena's advances, Duo had closed off and pulled away. No more teasing touches or friendly hugs. No more secretive grins or beautiful smiles. Heero had hated what they'd become after the party and was determined to find out the problem when he'd gotten side-tracked.
Duo's announcement of his move to L2 had been a shock, a shock Heero had never ever anticipated- never even believed was possible and it had hurt far more than self-destructing ever could.
Of course, finding out you just might be in love with your best friend was an even bigger shock and Heero regretted to admit he hadn't handled either well.
Instead of trying to talk to Duo, he'd done exactly what his best friend had done and pulled away- too hurt and angry to see past his own nose. And now thanks to his own stupidity, Duo was probably packing his duffle to leave the planet right now while Heero just walked the streets in the rain.
The wet and shivering Preventer felt more than saw the car pull up on his left. The metallic silver color told him who it was even before the tinted windows rolled down.
Hard pale blue eyes met dark intense blue before Quatre spoke.
It was said in a voice Heero had only heard the blond use after he had finished blowing up a colony. He quickly complied.
The doors locked as soon as Heero slammed his own shut but Quatre kept his gaze on the road while his wet passenger pulled on the seat belt. A brief second of silence passed before he spoke.
"Well Heero if that was part of some master plan to get Duo to stay, I'd say you did a piss poor job of it."
Guilt and bitter self-resentment redirected themselves from Heero to his blond friend.
"Fuck you, Winner." He said before flicking on the radio. The middle chorus of a sad, country ballad filled the air.
"..Maybe he'll notice her now, maybe he'll open his eyes
Sometimes it takes somebody leaving for a man to realize
Maybe he'll tell her she's the only thing that he can't live without
Now that she's gone maybe he'll notice her now…"
With an angry jab, Heero flicked the song back off and glared out the windshield.
"You are going to tell me just what your problem is or I'm going to force it out of you- understand?"
Heero snorted. "You and what army?"
"My car, my rules." Quatre's voice was sharp with anger. Heero reached for the handle.
"Then let me out."
"I hardly need you to unlock this door for me to open it, Winner."
Quatre was unfazed. "You rip off my door, Yuy and I'll run you over with my car." He was dead serious. "Now talk."
Heero resisted the urge to just spill it all out- every single fear and piece of hurt that his weary soul held- for about all of thirty seconds.
"What's to say Winner? I'm an idiot when it comes to emotions and now I've screwed up big time."
"You could start by telling me why you've been so angry at Duo."
Heero hunched together, feeling defensive. "He's leaving. You can't tell me you aren't angry at him too."
The other man didn't deny it. "I was, for a moment. Resentful, I guess, that he could just leave while the thought would never cross my mind to tell the truth. Then I got to thinking about why Duo would want to leave and the anger vanished. I won't deny my hurt feelings but they seem to be nothing compared to yours."
Heero grunted. "It's different with me and Duo. We're special."
"Because he's your best friend or because you're in love with him?"
Distantly, Heero realized he had set himself up for that one as he blinked in astonishment at Quatre.
"How did you-"
A tap of the other man's chest told him everything. He grew silent and Quatre felt the need to restart the conversation.
"You know, if tonight is any show of who you treat the one you love…I'd hate to be your enemy."
Heero winced. "It's just- I don't want him to go."
"Because you love him."
"Do I?" He had to ask. "What do I know of love? How can I be sure it's not desperation or dependence on Duo's personality that makes it hurt so much?"
Quatre tapped thoughtfully on his steering wheel. "That's a good question. Now answer some of mine and maybe we'll get somewhere." They stopped at a red light. "You could simply trust my Space Heart and go with it but you have this logic hype that needs to be satisfied. First question: Do you love Duo…as a friend?"
'As a friend?' Heero felt himself nodding. He worried, fretted and cared for everything that had to do with Duo's well being- mental or otherwise. He wanted his friend to be happy and, even though he had hurt Duo himself, he never wanted to see him in pain. As his best friend, Heero certainly loved Duo.
Quatre saw the nod. "Okay then. Do you think Duo is attractive?"
"Attractive?" The Japanese man repeated, sounding confused before Quatre explained.
"Do you desire his body? Think he is beautiful? Do you like his hair or his eyes? Those are the kind of thoughts that separate best friend love from love love."
Heero sat back and took a deep breath. Did he find Duo attractive? Automatically thoughts of the L2 man's long, shiny braid filled his mind. He knew from personal experience that it was just as silky as it looked. He thought about Duo's eyes- wide and a dark violet color, unlike any Heero'd ever seen before. They were so expressive! Bright and shining whenever Duo was happy or excited, dark and clouded when he was sad or angry and they always seemed to twinkle whenever the braided man was being mischievous.
As his mind brought up images of Duo's strong, smooth body Heero felt a flush cover his face and neck, spreading down his chest quickly.
"Yes, I find him attractive."
Quatre was smirking at the blush on his friend's face. He'd felt the results of Heero's not-so-innocent thoughts about his best friend.
Catching the street's name, he decided to speed things up.
"Good. Attraction is important in a relationship like that. Friendship is as well but so is desire." He cleared his throat. "Last question: Is what you feel for Duo different than hat you feel for say…Trowa or Wufei?"
Heero jerked back in his seat. Was it different- what kind of question was that? Heero knew he cared for the others very much, closer than anyone else- other than Duo- and he certainly didn't think of the others at the strangest moment, such as when he showered or got into bed.
Things clicked together as that last thought fell into place, making Heero smile softly as Quatre whispered "Finally."
He was in love with Duo. To even think the words was a sharp relief. Heero Yuy was in love with Duo Maxwell.
Of course, his computer-like mind quickly supplied to him that, at the moment, Heero had no clue if Duo loved Heero and that Duo was quite possibly on his way to L2 right now.
Quatre moaned as the small smile on Heero's face vanished. He let out a small growl of frustration as he pulled up to the curb.
"What's wrong now? You know you love Duo, right?"
Heero nodded sharply before whispering to his blond friend. "Hai, I love Duo……but does Duo love me?"
Quatre groaned as he all but slammed his forehead down on his steering wheel. Muttering some rather unflattering words in Arabic, he finally addressed his suddenly distressed friend.
"I probably have no right telling you this but I'm going to anyway, consequences be damned." He smacked the area of his chest, just over his heart. "This thing was right about you, no? Well I'm telling you now it's been telling me that Duo has been in love with you for years." At Heero's wide eyed expression, Quatre rolled his eyes.
"You really are an idiot when it comes to this kind of stuff. Why in the hell would Duo leave the place where the people he considers family live to be miserable up on L2? Because he loves you and your stinking announcement revoking all types of love made him believe he never had a chance with you."
Reaching over, he then undid Heero's seat belt and gave him a small shove. "Now get out."
Heero nodded and opened the door, realizing half way out just where his friend had driven him.
Quatre gave an impish grin before waving. "Good luck, Heero."
Then he was gone into the night, leaving the Japanese man standing in the rain at the bottom of the stairs leading to Duo's apartment.
By the time the forth slow song had started, both Trowa and Wufei were going mad with worry- although looking at the pair no one would ever be able to tell. Things between their friends was worse than ever- Duo was going to leave for L2 a whole two days earlier than expected, Heero had left the bar in a huff and Quatre had suddenly gone insane. Again.
It had officially become one shitty Valentine's Day.
So when Sally Po suddenly popped out of the mass of wriggling bodies before them, looking like someone had put red hair dye in her shampoo again, the two ex-pilots weren't all that surprised.
"It's about time! I've been looking for you guys ever since Wednesday afternoon." Sally huffed as she flopped down next to Wufei in the booth. "Then Ansety shot himself in the foot on Thursday and everyone took off early today! Where have you been?"
Trowa grunted at her, leaving the actual talking up to his friend.
"We've been trying to get our two friends talking again," Wufei snarled, finally fed up with the whole thing. "Something you promised you'd help with!"
Sally rolled her eyes at him, used to his temperamental behavior. "I did my part, it's not my fault you were all too busy playing Miss Molly Matchmaker to receive it."
"It's too late anyway, Sally." Trowa explained, not in the mood to see another fight between friends. "Duo's planning on leaving as soon as possible."
The blond-haired doctor frowned. "Then you should definitely hear what I've got to say." The two men perked up. "I asked Madeline how she ever got Duo to agree to take over the L2 base, especially since he seemed so damned depressed about the situation. I said, that in my mediocre knowledge about psychology, it appeared as though he didn't really want to go." Here she scowled. "She admitted to me that he had been reluctant to take the job until she convinced him."
"Convinced him how?" Wufei growled, not liking where this was going. Trowa looked no better. Sally grimaced at the memory.
"I asked her that as well. I couldn't believe she convinced Shinigami to do anything he didn't truly want to. Our honorable commander then admitted to 'suggesting' that you'd all most likely end up going in different direction in the Preventers. That it was only a matter of time and Duo shouldn't let that stop him from taking this 'golden opportunity." She shrugged. "The only thing keeping Duo here was his friendship with you two and the other pilots."
Trowa muttered something that sounded angry and French, face contorted with rage. Wufei's hand seemed to be drifting towards his gun.
"Hey, guys for what it's worth, Une seemed really upset that Duo and Yuy had stopped talking." Sally gave them a stern look. "Besides you can't kill your commanding officer."
"Want to bet?" Trowa asked softly.
Sally ignored him, eyes locked on something in the crowd. "Look there's Quatre. You can tell him what I told you and let him talk some sense into you all."
"Why don't you tell him yourself?" Wufei demanded, wondering why he always got the hard jobs.
"As they say in medical school: It's always the nice ones that'll stab you in the back and eat your liver. Ciao!" Sally was gone before Quatre even reached the small corner.
He looked suspiciously at ease. Trowa felt all his survival instincts perking up and nudged Wufei.
"What did you do?"
Quatre grinned at them. "Dropped Heero off at Duo's apartment."
They blinked at him.
"Was he still breathing?" Trowa asked, before he was kicked in the shin by the blond.
Quatre glared. "Yes, he was. He was also armed with the knowledge that he loves Duo and Duo loves him."
Wufei sipped at Quatre's long forgotten drink. "Well that's that. They either screw each other senseless or tear each other apart."
A sly smile spread across the male Winner's face, baby blue eyes shining. "Speaking of screwing people senseless…"
"We were?" Trowa asked but shut up quickly as Quatre put a hand under his chin as leered at him.
"I think we should head back to my place and have our own Valentine's Day celebration."
Wufei looked down, feeling like a third wheel- a very jealous third wheel- as Trowa nodded and the duo made to stand.
Quatre had a sincere smile on his face, Trowa a questioning eyebrow. The Chinese man felt the air between them change as he put down his drink and gave them a smile of his own.
The three of them left the bar in a suspicious hurry.
The slick, metal staircase looked long and imposing, especially when the person you loved was angry at you and living at the very top of them. Heero took a deep, shuddery breath, shaking his wet hair out of his eyes before setting off up those stairs.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
The metal echoed with each step, screaming in protest in some places as the Japanese Preventer trudged up one, two, three flights to get to apartment three-oh-one. The landing was small and cramped as he stood there, still in the damn rain, and stared at the peeling paint of Duo's apartment door.
It felt more like someone else's hand rose to knock on that worn wood.
Knock, knock, knock.
There was a frightening lack of sound from behind the door, making Heero's heart clench painfully. Was he too late- had Duo already left? Just how much time had passed since their meeting at the bar?
Before Heero could really send himself into a panic, the door jerked open to reveal a damp, scowling Duo still toweling his bangs dry.
Violet eyes widened as they took in Heero's soaking form and the towel fell to his shoulders. An angry flush stained the L2 man's cheeks and he crossed his arms.
"What, are you not done chewing me out yet Yuy? Come back for one last kick? Don't waste your time- you're much better at cheap punches."
Heero winced at the acid in Duo's voice before reminding himself to take a deep breath. It would be foolish to think that his hurtful remarks over the last few weeks could be forgiven and forgotten so quickly.
"I just want to talk-with you. That's all."
Duo snorted, looking as his fingernails in disinterest. Heero bit his lip and tired one more time.
It was both thrilling and heart wrenching to watch his friend struggle to keep up his furious tirade, making Heero feel his ever present guilt more sharply-and at the same time knowing Duo cared enough to possibly want to hear him out.
Shoulders slumped in defeat as the braided man jerked the door open further.
"Fine. Come in." He pulled the towel from his neck and tossed it at Heero's face. "Don't drip all over the floor. This place won't be mine by Wednesday."
It was a sharp reminder of Duo's future departure as Heero rubbed the towel through his own soaping wet hair and closed the door. Boxes were piled up in the tiny living room and all along the hall leading to the one bedroom and bathroom. Scythe was spread atop of the couch- the only piece of furniture that had come with the apartment.
"Well, you wanted to talk. So talk."
Duo had his arms crossed, leaning against the small kitchen island and glaring at Heero's chest. The fact that he wouldn't even meet his eyes told Heero just how much he'd hurt his friend.
Drawing strength from the sight of all the boxes and cat carrier, Heero took a deep breath.
"Don't- don't go, Duo."
The man in question raised an eyebrow. "I'm not going anywhere until Sunday Hee- Yuy. I'm not going to let you run me off of Earth yet."
Heero bit his lip in frustration. He wasn't the best at words and Duo could talk circles around most lawyers. Worse was when the other man was being difficult and deliberately obtuse- like now.
"You can't leave because- because-" Heero's mind raced as doubts filled his mind. Could he really trust Quatre's intangible Space Heart? "-because Wufei would miss you too much."
Duo looked stunned. "Wufei?"
Heero nodded. "He has already lost his entire clan during the war and now you're planning on running off as well. He would miss you a great deal, even though he would be the last to admit it."
"Heero," here Duo rubbed his forehead tiredly. "Wufei helped me pack up my stuff just days ago. He has supported my decision and didn't freeze me out for two weeks."
A curse was muttered under his breath. Of course Wufei would do that- he had too much honor and self-control to try and make Duo stay. The Chinese man just wasn't sneaky enough.
"What about Trowa?" Heero demanded. "I know you guys got off to a bad start but he considers you his brother now. For a man who has no memories of his past-"
"Trowa also helped me pack- Quatre too before you get to him." Duo looked like he was vibrating in fury. "They've all supported my decision- everyone has but you!"
Practically growling, the braided man stalked over to stand before him, looking every bit like an angry feline. "And now you show up here and tell me I can't leave because it would upset everyone else?! Did you ever think that maybe I have to leave them before…..before they leave me?!"
It became quite obvious that Duo had said much more than he had intended when what little color he had, drained from his face. As he attempted to scuttle away, Heero quickly grasped his shoulders. A protective feeling surged through his body at his friend's frightened expression.
"Is that why you're running away?" he asked gently. "Because you've got this notion in your head that we'll all leave you?" Duo kept his eyes averted as Heero spoke. "Can't you see that the only one leaving is you?"
"Everyone leaves sooner or later." Duo mumbled, relaxing in his grip slightly. Heero caught a glimpse of the heart broken kid from the streets of L2 in this motion. It was only a glimpse, but more than enough to make him pull Duo into a gentle hug, letting the other man bury his face into the curve of his neck.
This new position put his mouth in the perfect spot to whisper softly in Duo's ear. "It's not just the guys. I don't want you to go. If you leave me- I can't let you in on a little secret of mine."
"What's that?" Duo whispered against Heero's neck, making him shiver from the sensations that one little action created. Then he remembered Duo's question.
"I tried to picture my life without you in it," Heero admitted, still whispering for some odd reason. "After you told us you were leaving. I tried for days but I couldn't. I thought it was ridiculous- that it was just my mind playing tricks on me. How could one person affect my life so completely?"
He sighed before continuing. "Then I tried it with Quatre. Then with Wufei and Trowa. Not to say I wouldn't miss them as well, but I could see a future without their constant presence- but without you, I can't."
Duo drew his head back to stare up at his best friend. Those eyes Heero loved so much were swirling with emotions- confusion, hope, a small glint of some infinite sadness and love.
"What are you saying Heero?"
That last emotion, the one Heero realized had always been present in Duo's wide, violet gaze when he looked at him, made things feel…right somehow.
He brushed those long, silky bangs away from his forehead and smiled.
"Baka," the long forgotten nickname was used. "isn't it obvious? I'm saying I love you."
Duo looked so open, starring up at him, so beautiful Heero decided to close the meager distance between their lips and seal his words with a kiss. Duo made a small surprised noise but didn't pull away as they both sank into the feathery kiss.
Heero sighed at the sensations, the sparks of something that came from simply brushing his mouth against Duo's. This desire thing was nice, VERY nice. It was hard to remember why he'd never tried kissing his best frie- his Duo- before. Quatre had obviously holding out on some information. Duo flicked his tongue against Heero's lower lip shyly. He vowed to get back at the blond later.
As tempting as it was to stand there in Duo's drafty apartment and kiss all night, things were still far from alright. Still holding the shorter man loosely, not willing to let him go completely, Heero was faced with one more hesitant question.
"At Relena's party you said you didn't love anyone like that- that you didn't have time to love anyone. How-"
Heero shook his head, rubbing sweet, slow circles on where ever his hands had slid during their kiss- which just happened to be Duo's lower back.
"I seem to have a bad habit of saying things I don't mean when I'm angry or frustrated." Memories of the last few weeks surfaced, making him grimace. "A lot of things I don't mean."
Giving into the urge to kiss his shorter love's forehead, a soft question was asked- lips against skin. "I'd really like to make it up to you- if you'll give me a chance?"
One of the hands that had been previously buried in the messy hair at the back of Heero's head slid down the Japanese man's arm to take his hand. Then, for the first time in weeks, a truly beautiful smile spread across Duo's face before he began to tug the taller man down the hall and into his bedroom.
Legs tangled in the thin sheet that still covered his mattress, Duo tried to slow his breathing as he listened to the loud, pounding beat of the heart under his ear. The fine sheen of sweat that should have chilled his rapidly cooling body was taken care of by a large, warm hand running up and down his arm gently.
Some time during their love making- love making Duo's mind supplied again- the power had fizzled out in the whole apartment. It was obvious that his landlord had thought Duo wouldn't miss the luxury of heat and electricity for the next two days and shut it off early.
The rain had slowed to a more sedate drizzle, reflecting the mood of the room perfectly. Duo slowly traced his name out across Heero's chest as he spoke.
"I love you too, ya know."
Heero's arm pulled him closer. "I had hoped so."
"I'm not going to L2 either."
The subtle tension that had stayed trapped in Heero's body left completely. "Thank God."
Duo snorted, feeling ridiculously happy. "I'll have to tell Une."
"Later." Came the growled reply. Someone was obviously holding a grudge with the Commander. "I have no place to live, either." Duo reminded his new lover.
He felt more than saw Heero look around the darkened room before a kiss was pressed to his forehead.
"My place is bigger anyway. Has a better view too. Only one bedroom though."
"Hmm, I think I can live with that."
Heero sighed contently. "Good. We'll move your stuff in tomorrow. Now sleep."
A slight snicker escaped the long haired Preventer. "Happy Valentine's Day Heero."
"Happy Valentine's Day, Duo."
The last person Madeline Une thought she would see striding into her office late Sunday morning was Duo Maxwell.
She gave him a bemused look.
"I thought you'd be on your shuttle by now Agent Maxwell."
Duo stood in his tracks, all his puff and flair vanishing into a sheepish grin. One hand came up to rub at the back of his head.
"Yeah, about that." He cleared his throat. "I've decided not to take the job on L2 after all."
An eyebrow rose. "Oh? May I ask why you've changed your mind?"
A smile, brighter than any the former Oz commander had seen, crossed Duo's face, making the air around him glow with happiness.
"To be quite honest Commander, it was a lot of things. I love living on Earth; I have a great job with great friends. They guys are here." A rosy blush crossed his cheeks. "Heero is here and I wouldn't give that up to be Queen of the World."
A small smile crossed Une's face. "I see. So I should expect you in the office bright and early Monday morning?"
He nodded before looking hesitant. "That is, if I still have a job here and all?"
She shook her head at him before making a shoo-ing motion with her hands. "Of course Maxwell. Now get out of my office. You've already given me enough paper work to fill out for one day."
Duo shot her a relaxed but elated grin and left, his braid flapping out behind him.
On a whim, Une pressed on her speaker phone and dialed Joe Henderson's number. Three rings went in before anyone answered.
Standing at her largest office window, the one facing the parking lot, she answered.
"Joe, it's Madeline. Are you still planning to move to L2?"
There was a slight pause before the man responded. "Yes, Commander."
She smiled. "Would you still like the position as Commander of head office?"
The response was immediate. Then the situation actually caught up to him. "What about the other guy?"
Catching a blur of movement out her window, she smiled at the picture of Duo Maxwell sliding on the back of a sleek white motorcycle and wrapping his arms around the waist of the driver. It was obvious to her that that person was Heero Yuy.
"Maxwell was offered a deal that he simply couldn't refuse and decided to stay on Earth."
As the couple pulled out of the parking lot, Une turned back to her desk with a sigh, stopping to sniff the roses she kept in a vase on her desk before getting back to work.
She had an organization to run after all.
A/N: Let me know if you like it!