Well, I thought I was done with Lies, but no sooner had I posted the last chapter I recalled several things I'd left out, like what happened to Hilde, Taylor and Howard. I hope I answered all the questions in this epilogue. Thanks to all for reading along.
Lies - Epilogue
Taylor Mann sat near the back of the room trying his best to be just another face in a crowd. Duo had invited him to his wedding and damn if he wasn't going to being there, regardless of the chance that he might be recognized. He held out hope that the changes he'd undergone during the past couple of months would keep both he and Duo safe. Still, the need to be discrete was as important now as they had during the past couple of years.
Upon his arrival at today's event, he had stood in line with the other guests as his former employer and his hellish fiancé greeted them as they entered the front entry. Of course, his one-time tormentor had recognized him, even after all he'd done to change his appearance. Now sporting short, bleached blond hair, an earring in his left ear and a slightly altered nose, he was no longer the exact copy of the famous model he'd successfully impersonated for the past couple of years. He now looked more like a cousin or maybe even a younger brother. Several people had commented on his likeness to the handsome model, and he'd thanked them for the compliment, telling them that he and Duo had discovered by chance that they were distant cousins. His appearance alone was proof of his claim, which happened to be true.
Glancing around at the other guests, he marveled again at being in the presence of famous movie stars, icons in the fashion industry, as well as war heroes and people who were featured in the news almost weekly. It was just a pity he could no longer associate with those he'd actually made friends with, or in some cases, slept with. He sighed, thinking of his recent past life. That's just the way the granola bar crumbled.
In order to distance himself from the people he and Duo had duped for the past couple of years, and in particular those he'd slept with, he'd arrived at the last minute and was purposely seated in Yuy's guest section. From what he'd learned before the ceremony started, that group of unfortunate people sitting around him consisted mainly of Preventers the man worked with on a regular basis, Relena Peacecraft and her entourage, and a few of the residents who lived on the same floor as the soon-to-be married couple.
He gave all the credit to Duo for the last group's presence. No doubt the outgoing model had quickly made friends with the neighbors while living with Yuy for the past two months. For the life of him he couldn't imagine the overbearing Preventer having casual acquaintances much less friends with everyday people. Drawing on his own experience with Duo's betrothed, having been locked up in his employer's apartment with the intimidating man for one horrific weekend, or rather, held hostage during that time, he doubted the crotchety Preventer possessed the skills to make friends on his own.
Taylor stifled a yawn as the officiator continued to drone on and on, and was currently breaking down each and every expectation and promise made when two people marry. Shaking his head, he just couldn't figure out why Duo would want to tie himself down with the man he was currently holding hands with at the front of the room. He knew for a fact that Duo could have had anyone he set his sights on.
Well, except him, of course.
He was pure, through and through, heterosexual. His previous discomfort at being around gay men had changed dramatically since being employed by Duo and becoming acquainted with his closest friends. Though if he were honest, the mere thought of two guys bumping uglies made his stomach twist. He wondered if gay men thought the same of a man and woman having hot and heavy sex. Hum... he'd have to ask Duo someday.
His eyes drifted to the blond who represented Duo's best man. Too bad he couldn't brag to anyone that he actually knew Quatre Winner and his partner, Trowa Barton. Yup, he was one of the few people who knew the three friends had been gundam pilots. Well, Duo was out of the closet on that one, so to speak. Having had his picture broadcast by the government when he'd been captured in space pretty much insured his remaining unidentified as a former gundam pilot impossible. Still, Duo's past didn't seem to bother his fans, nor the celebrities they'd both hung around with during the past couple of years.
The officiator marrying the couple was a middle-aged woman covered from neck to knees in a burgundy judge's robe. She had a voice that carried through the room well enough, but unfortunately she seemed to be getting a bit emotional and teary eyed as she gazed at the two men standing before her. Well, he could understand that. As a woman, she was uniting two of best good looking guys she'd probably ever seen. There ended that gene pool, he mused with a grin and a slight shake of his head. Well, there were plenty more fish in the sea, and he had every intention of going fishing now that he was no longer employed by Duo any longer and wasn't accountable for everything he said and did.
He sat up straighter, sensing that the overly long ceremony was beginning to wind down. Duo had promised him this part wouldn't take more than fifteen minutes, but the officiator had definitely gotten carried away and the ceremony was now well past that time frame. His patience was nearing its end and he found it almost impossible not to fidget.
When it seemed as if they had finally arrived at the important part of the ceremony, he and the entire audience leaned forward in their seats to listen closely as first Duo and then Heero pledged their lives and fidelity to each other. With a final word from the officiator that they should always remember to care and nurture each other as partners in life, the woman at last addressed the audience, declaring the Heero and Duo Maxwell-Yuy were now legally wedded.
Don't kiss. Please don't kiss, Taylor thought to himself. He could accept his friend was gay, but he didn't want to watch two men kissing. When it looked like that was exactly what they were about to do, he resisted the urge to put his hands over his eyes and instead closed them until he heard the audience begin to applaud, signaling the public display of affection was over. Sure enough, when he opened his eyes, forever freed from color contact lenses, the two married men faced their invited guests, both impeccably dressed in complementing black designer suits and wearing almost identical grins. Taylor clapped along with everyone else. He was sincerely happy that Duo had found love, even though he would never understand why he'd picked Heero Yuy.
The happy couple walked down the same aisle they had first journeyed down less than an hour ago and proceeded to lead everyone out an adjacent door and into an open courtyard. It was early evening, and it was as if the gods above were looking down on today's proceedings because the rain that had fallen for the past three days was gone, and in its place was blue skies with only a smattering of cirrus clouds that would no doubt provide a dramatic sunset in the next hour.
The guests poured out into the garden area, eyes wide as they expressed their delight at the sight before them. Hanging above the garden area on extended wires were crystal chandeliers, ready to brighten the garden after the sun had set. Containers of flowering plants were set amongst the white cushioned sofas and arm chairs that were grouped in various places around the garden to make the wedding guests more comfortable. The background for all this was the ivy covered walls that surrounded most of the garden. White lilies and large bunches of baby's breath, their stems wrapped in green satin ribbon, were placed on small tables to the front and side of the inviting chairs, giving the all over feel of a formal yet comfortable place for friends and family to visit.
As Taylor stepped into the garden, a line of waiters streamed out from a side door, carrying large trays of appetizers, which they promptly offered to the wedding guests. They began with small pastry cups filled with papaya and mango salsa, which was then followed with cocktail napkins topped with little pieces of hard bread and bruschetta, and that was just the beginning of the delectable bits of food offered. He had to admit that each succeeding tidbit served during that first hour was some of the best he'd ever had.
Though he tried not to engage in conversation with the other guests, there were times when it was just impossible to avoid. He was grateful when Quatre and Trowa eventually approached him. They each shook his hand and politely asked how he was doing. It was all for show, really, because Duo's best friends had taken him into their home and hid his presence while he'd undergone the two procedures necessary to change his appearance once again. Now that he'd healed enough to be in public, he was getting excited about the idea of starting out on his own. The one downside was that his association with Duo would have to be by email only, at least for a couple of years. They couldn't risk people putting two and two together and figuring out what Heero Yuy had the moment he laid eyes on him. Time would change the need to be separated from his friend, and for that he was grateful. Duo was like the brother he never had, and he was reluctant to be separated from him any longer than necessary.
He glanced over at his "brother" now, only to see the man looking with open adoration at his new husband. Would he ever know what that was like? To look at someone and see all your heart's desires answered. Well, he hoped one day to find that woman, but for now and the foreseeable future he'd have to content himself on enjoying the search for her.
He jumped slightly, startled by the large hand that suddenly gripped his shoulder from behind. It felt like a five pound bag of sand had landed there.
And then an impossibly deep voice said, "If I'm not mistaken, you must be Duo's cousin Taylor."
Looking up, and then up some more, he knew he was looking into the face of Rashid. Duo had described the giant man to a T.
After swallowing he replied, "That's right, and you must be Rashid. Duo's told me about you. All good things, of course," he rushed to add, hoping to stay on the goliatha man's good side.
A flash of straight, white and large teeth were displayed when the man smiled. And Taylor couldn't help but marvel at the size of the man, thinking his head must be the size of a basketball.
They spoke for a few moments, just the normal chit chat of two men meeting for the first time at a social function, and then they paused and their eyes met. Then without a word being spoken, there came a shared sense of congratulations communicated, for having carried out a very successful venture that had resulted in saving hundreds if not thousands of lives on L2. Taylor didn't really know the large man, but he felt an instant affinity with him.
And then the moment was over and the two broke eye contact and looked away. Exchanging a few brief words in parting, Taylor watched the mountain of a man walk away.
Before he could gather his thoughts another wedding guest approached him. A tall, beautiful woman. She was dressed elegantly for the occasion in a deep blue sheath overlaid with a diaphanous flowing skirt. She wore her shiny black hair extremely short, which showcased her topaz and diamond earrings and necklace to perfection. The lady was a knock out.
"You must be Duo's cousin," was her opening line.
"Well, from the genetic test we had done, we're at the most cousins," he answered with a flirting grin.
She thoughtfully studied his face for a long moment. "I can certainly see a resemblance. Did I understand correctly that Hilde found you on L2 and brought you to Duo's attention?"
He nodded. "And that was possibly the best day of my life." And ain't that the truth, he mentally added.
The woman raised her eyebrows and waited, obviously hoping he'd elaborate. He got the impression she was digging for information. His guard went up instantly and he thought it would be wise to divert her line of thinking. "I'm sorry, I don't believe we've been introduced."
She actually blushed. "I'm Lucretia Peacecraft."
His eyes widened with the realization of who she was. "You're married to Milliardo Peacecraft?"
"The one and only," she answered with a delightful laugh. She was obviously amused by his startled reaction.
Taylor was immediately on alert, knowing that he needed to watch what he said. Duo had told him about the people he'd met during the last two wars. This woman, he recalled, had been a soldier for the Alliance before she changed sides to fight with the gundam pilots against OZ. From Quatre he'd learned that Lucretia Noin had been in love with Zech Marquis, a.k.a. the Lightening Count, a.k.a Milliardo Peacecraft. She was also a Preventer and sister in law to Relena Peacecraft, the government's darling and the girl Duo had kidnaped from the streets of Sanq.
He couldn't exactly run away to escape talking to her, which would probably tip the woman off that something was wrong, nor could he see anyone rushing to help him out of this situation. A quick glance around told him Duo and Heero were speaking to a group of guests, totally involved in the conversation, and Quatre and Trowa were off in a corner together, most likely involved in something he really didn't want to know about. Okay, he told himself, he should consider this good practice for how to handle similar situations in the future.
He stuck out his hand to her and stated, "I'm Taylor Mann. Nice to meet you."
They chatted for only a few minutes more, and after the lovely woman wandered off, Taylor congratulated himself on getting through the brief conversation without leaking out any information. From that experience and several other conversations that transpired during that part of the reception, he grew more confident that he could indeed handle himself in almost any situation, as long as it didn't include he and Heero being closeted together for more than two minutes. Really, that guy was the most intimidating person he'd ever met, and he'd met a lot of those types in the L2 bars. But even L2's worst thugs had nothing on the Preventer jerk who held him prisoner in Duo's apartment for nearly 48 hours.
At last Heero and Duo, hand in hand, made their way over to him. "Are you staying for dinner?" Duo asked after a brief, friendly embrace.
"You know, I think I will." That earned him a pleased grin from Duo and a look of concern from Heero. He knew the Preventer didn't want him around, probably worried that someone might guess that he'd acted as Duo's double, and then the shit would hit the fan all over again. Duo had informed him that Heero had figured out he and his friends were the marauders, but in order to preserve their life together they had instituted a don't ask, don't tell policy. And so he was instructed by Duo not to mention anything about what had happened while he was employed by him.
"Don't worry," he reassured the couple in a voice low enough that it wouldn't carry beyond the three of them. "I've got things under control. I'm actually starting to enjoy myself. You've got some pretty cool friends."
Duo leaned forward. "Just stay away from Alana Stevens. She might be able to put two and two together, and she's still a bit upset that I turned out to be gay. I pretty much think her agent pushed her into accepting the invitation to come today, showing the public what a great gal she is for forgiving me for choosing a guy over her. Truthfully, I think she's mad as hell."
And Taylor knew it was all his fault. Duo had warned him to not sleep with the women he met while impersonating him. Now he'd hurt the actress, and for that he was truly sorry. He'd really liked Alana, and had bedded her a couple of times without Duo knowing. His friend thought it had only been that one time and had warned him off. There was nothing he could do about it now. He prized his freedom and the money he'd made over the past couple of years too much to risk being discovered. His future plans were now centered on moving to an apartment on L4, once he returned to that colony after the wedding. Living there he would have Quatre and Trowa to talk to once in a while, and meet up with Duo when he came for a visit.
He agreed with Duo that he should stay off planet for a couple of years, then he'd be free to go where ever he wanted. Who knew, maybe he would find L4 to his liking, enough to make his stay there permanent. Anything was better than L2, though he'd heard it was undergoing quite a transformation that would give the surviving residents of that colony hope for a better future. Like Duo, he had no reason to return to their home colony. His memories of his life there were anything but happy. Well, he'd make his own happiness now, thanks to Duo Maxwell and his earnings from the last couple of years.
Other than a brief greeting, Heero seemed to turn a deaf ear to their conversation. Ignoring him, Taylor continued to chat with Duo for a few moments longer about his new apartment and job prospects. Then at Duo's urging, he promised to keep in touch just before Heero led his new husband away, but not before the long-haired model looked over his shoulder and mouthed the words, Thank you for coming.
"So, what do you think about all of this?" a craggy voice asked from over his shoulder.
Turning his head, he was greeted by the sight of the man he'd only seen once, a couple of years ago. Howard looked older, the lines on his face had deepened and his gray hair was shorter than he remembered and thinning.
"You mean two guys getting hitched? I think it's crazy. But what the hell. If Duo is happy, I wouldn't care if he married Ugly Harry from the Bits and Pieces bar."
"You know Harry?" Howard asked with a laugh that seemed to wash away some of the years lining his face.
"Anyone who has ever been to L2 knows Harry. The guy is dog butt-ugly, but the best bartender in the city."
Howard's smile dimmed. "I can't help but wonder if Harry survived the embargo. I know for a fact he was on the colony when it began."
Taylor frowned. "I don't know. I haven't spoken with anyone from L2 since communications were reestablished."
And then by an odd coincidence, he saw someone familiar in the crowd, someone from L2. He felt strangely excited by her presence. He waved at the thin young woman, trying to get her attention. Hilde looked his way, having caught sight of his arm waving about, and excused herself from the group she'd been talking to. It was then that he realized he'd pulled her away from Relena Peacecraft and her date, Wufei Chang. Those two seemed rather chummy this evening, he thought.
Hilde approached, a cautious look in her eyes. Yet the smile she wore conveyed to anyone who might be looking that she was genuinely happy to see him. "Taylor, how are you?"
"I'm well, Hilde. How are you? I can't tell you how great it is to see you well."
She sighed, and Taylor recognized an air of sadness about the young woman. "I'm well enough, but I can't say the same about a lot of people I used to call friends and neighbors. No doubt a lot of the people you once knew, Taylor, are dead also."
Taylor tried his best not to think of his old gang. He'd cut ties with them years ago, when he finally landed a steady job. Working ten hour days helped him escape his old life and the escalating violence between gangs vying for territory. For years he had pushed away any thought of the street hardened kids that had been his only security after his Dad had been killed by a stray bullet, when he was just eleven years old. But that was the past, he firmly told himself. There was no way he was going to dwell on those dark memories, especially on a day when Heero and Duo were looking towards the future.
Time for another change of subject. "Have you been watching the news about the senators they've arrested for misleading the government into placing the embargo?"
Hilde acknowledged that she had with a slight nod of her head. Taylor thought she looked terribly sad, and he had to resist the urge to put his arm around her small shoulders and try to comfort her. He didn't think she'd welcome a public display.
Duo had sent him an email, keeping him up to date with the Preventers' investigation, as told to him by Heero. Une had in her possession some intercepted suspiciously worded messages between five government officials. They were the same men who had sponsored the writ that called for the embargo against L2. She ordered a discreet but thorough investigation into the backgrounds of those five. Being politicians, most of their lives were a matter of public record. They had been high ranking officers for the Alliance, and it came as a surprise that all five had been stationed on L2 at the same time, before, during and after a large number of that colony had died from a disease termed The Blight, back in 193 A.C. The origins of that sickness had never been discovered, but once suspicions regarding these men had been raised, there came the call for further investigation.
Milliardo Peacecraft and Wufei were chosen to "interview" the five suspects. From what Heero said, the two determined Preventers zeroed in on Senator Rychek, considering him the weak link of the group. After six hours of intense questioning, the man's story fell apart and he confessed the real reason the group set into motion the groundwork for the embargo; they were trying to coverup their less than moral and illegal deeds while assigned to duty on L2. According to Rychek, they had received orders from Alliance's top brass to subdue the unruly colony. Rychek put the blame on Colonel Reinhardt, now a powerful senator, for coming up with the plan to eliminate one of the more visible problems that the troublesome colony suffered from; the staggering number of poor and homeless.
Reinhardt, Rychek said, admitted to knowing someone working in the Alliance's biochemical research department back on Earth. One week after making contact with that unnamed person, an plain, unmarked case the size of a box of copy paper, arrived, filled with aerosol canisters. Those containers had held a lethal, scentless and tasteless toxin. Without delay, the five saw to it that the containers were set off in the poorest sections of the colony early one morning, when there was little to no foot traffic about. Hours later the first symptoms of sickness began to show up. A day later the homeless began dropping in the streets. Three weeks later, three quarters of the slum's population were dead.
Applying a little more pressure, Wufei had Rychek confessing to other illegal activities while the group had been stationed on L2. The five Alliance officers had their fingers in the colonial black market, selling government supplies and weapons intended for Alliance troop to mercenaries or anyone else who had enough money. A small portion of those supplies even armed the rebels on L2, those very men who coerced an orphan boy into stealing a mobile suit for them.
Rychek admitted that the five of them became very rich men during their time on L2, while the people of that colony suffered and died as a result of their greed and ambition.
Yet their deeds had not gone unnoticed and their names were not forgotten.
Rychek admitted that five years ago someone from L2, a member of a gang that had been growing in prominence on L2, had contacted several of the five, trying to make use of this knowledge regarding their actions of the past by attempting to blackmail them. The man claimed to have not only their names, but also proof that the five Alliance officers had initiated the plague and sold arms to the rebels.
Taylor, Hilde and Howard spoke of these events briefly before Hilde shook her head, looking miserable, and said, "All of the suffering, starvation and death they caused, just to cover their damn tracks. It makes me sick to think about it."
Taylor didn't feel ill, but he was definitely angry. "I hope they rot in hell," he said between clenched teeth.
"Not until they pay their dues here first," Hilde added grimly.
"Will you be going back to L2?" Howard asked gently. The older man had remained by Taylor's side during their conversation. By changing the subject, Taylor assumed he'd seen the haunted look in Hilde's eyes. Duo had feared she was struggling with survivor's guilt, and now he thought so, too. Howard was right to change the subject to something other than the senators currently waiting for their trial to begin.
"I will," Hilde answered, "after a couple more weeks planet side. Duo wants me to stay a while and gain some weight as well as my health back, and Relena has invited me to share her home while he and Heero are on their honeymoon."
"Speaking of Relena, did you see her while she was on L2?" Taylor asked. Thanks to her announcement, shortly after her return, everyone on Earth and in the colonies was aware of Relena Peacecraft's kidnaping, and that she'd been taken from Earth and left on L2. There had been a lot of speculation about who had kidnaped her why she'd been taken to L2, but the general consensus was that she was brought there for the purpose of experiencing first hand the suffering of that colony's citizens and then returned to Earth so she could take steps towards rectifying the situation. Taylor couldn't say anything out loud, of course, but he knew that was the very reason Relena had been whisked off to L2. Duo hadn't taken her there for any feelings of resentfulness or jealousy. He'd risked his neck on the chance that the renowned young woman would have compassion on the people of L2 and would help them. Despite their best efforts to save the deprived people, they needed someone to publicly champion them, and he and Quatre decided that Relena was probably the only person who could pull it off. But in order for her to be their defender, she needed to truly understand their suffering. Seems Duo and Quatre had been right, as always.
Hilde nodded. "Yes. She worked with me at the distribution center. I have to say that she was as poised, strong and determined as I have ever seen her. She kept her promise to help L2 if the opportunity presented itself." Suddenly looking away, it was clear that Hilde didn't want to be questioned any further about Relena.
Taking the hint, Taylor asked, "Have the authorities questioned you yet?"
She nodded. "Yes, but I afraid they were disappointed in what I had to say. Over and over I told them I don't know who the off-colony Guardians were. But I emphatically stated, for the record, that as far as I'm concerned they deserve the Earth Sphere and Colonial Peace Prize for saving L2."
The two men nodded in agreement. Of course, the three of them knew who the Guardians/marauders were, but secrets could only be kept if no one spoke of them. Instead, the three exchanged a knowing glance, acknowledging without words their having been a part of something much greater than anything they would probably accomplish again in their lifetimes.
"I'm to meet with Preventer Chang in the morning," Howard informed them with a wily grin. "I think I'll speak with him over breakfast, talk about the good old days."
Taylor chuckled, thinking Howard would probably talk circles around the Preventer. Though Wufei really wouldn't be searching too deeply for the answers to the questions he would be forced by duty to ask, Howard could be counted on giving the Preventer the answers the law enforcer was looking for as well as a verifiable alibi as to where the builder of gundams and stealth systems claimed he'd been for the past couple of years.
The dinner bell chimed above the din of guest chatting and laughing, calling everyone back inside to the feast about to be served. Taylor couldn't help but rub his hands together in anticipation. Duo had emailed him about the menu, and his mouth was watering just thinking about it.
Having been taught to act the gentleman, Taylor smiled at Hilde and offered her his arm, asking permission to escort her to dinner. Unexpectedly, his heart skipped a couple of beats when her eyes lit up and she smiled back. She's still as beautiful as she was when we first met, he thought.
He recalled that particular day quite well. He was in the Abysmal, a bar he frequented on Fridays after payday. He and his friends were in the midst of celebration the end of another week of drudgery when he looked up to see a petite angel with pale, flawless skin and black shoulder-length hair approaching him wearing an expression of disbelief. While he hoped she was thinking he was the answer to all her dreams, he learned, after a brief hello and introduction, that he bore an uncanny resemblance to a friend of hers.
He'd met her only one other time, when she'd tracked him down again with a job proposition followed by an introduction to Duo Maxwell. The moment he said yes, he knew his life was about to change for the better, and for some strange reason, he was feeling something similar in offering to lead the small, underweight woman to her table.
Well, the thought to himself, this night was just full of surprises.
After she placed her hand on his arm, he reached up and patted it, letting her know he was enjoying the opportunity to lead her in to dinner. "Are you up to dancing tonight?" he asked. "Duo told me we're coming back outside after dinner to dance until they leave for their honeymoon."
"I think I can manage a dance or two," she replied with a smile that was suddenly shy.
"Or maybe three?" he suggested with a hopeful grin.
Howard chuckled behind them as he followed them inside. Taylor could only guess why the older man was amused.
Hilde leaned gently on his arm as they proceeded inside. Her eyes sparkled up at him as she asked, "Duo didn't say, but do you know where they're going on their honeymoon?"
"No, I don't. Since Duo planned the wedding, Heero got to choose where they were going afterwards."
Howard leaned forward to add, "Ten to one he's chosen some place where Duo won't be recognized."
Taylor laughed at that. "Fat chance of that happening. Duo's picture has been plastered all over the news since he 'came out' and even before that he'd been in every magazine and gossip column since he became a model. There's no way Heero can find a place where he won't be identified."
Howard looked at Taylor as if he were a teacher telling a kid he should have done his homework. "I would never bet against Heero Yuy, especially on anything that has to do with Duo."
Hilde readily agreed, and Taylor found himself wondering about Duo's new husband. Maybe, over the next couple of years, he might be able to learn more about the man his "brother" was head over heels for. Everyone else seem to hold him in high regard, so maybe there was more than the man than what he'd observed.
They found an empty table and took a seat just as the waiters entered the room bearing trays of plates filled with wonderful smelling food. Taylor shared a look of excitement with the ebony haired woman. Duo had promised they would be served a meal they wouldn't soon forget, and judging by the open expression of joy on Hilde's face, it looked like their mutual friend had been true to his word.
Twelve hours later, Duo stood on the deck of the cabin Heero had driven them to from the airport in the wee hours of the morning. He took a deep breath, inhaling the fresh scent of pine and took a moment to soak in the warmth of the sun and the view of the trees and rolling mountains surrounding their location. With the exception of a few birds, there was no sound other than the creak of the deck as he stretched his arms up and yawned. Upon their arrival, he and Heero had been too exhausted from the day before as well as their night-long journey to do anything but stip off their clothes, fall into bed and go to sleep. He was glad they'd taken a private jet, courtesy of Quatre and Trowa, seeing that it had allowed them a couple of hours of privacy for him to make good on his promise to curl Heero's toes hours after being married.
The mid-morning breeze was warm, promising an even warmer day ahead. A brief, fragile gust was just strong enough to lift some of his long hair from the pony tail he'd hastily pulled it into after rolling out of bed. Breathing in another breath of fresh air, he felt rejuvenated from the long weeks of planning a wedding and getting his life in order in a new city, a new home. His only worry at the moment was whether or not there was any food in the cabin and if he would be expected to cook. He shuddered, just thinking about the dreaded task. Well, his lack of skills in the kitchen would be remedied soon after their return home. He had signed up to take a beginners cooking class being offered at the city's recreations center, and that should at least help him from making every attempt to cook a disaster in the making.
A slight creak behind him alerted him to his lover's presence. "Are you cold?" Heero gently moved the long length of hair over his right shoulder before wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling him back slightly, until he rested against his lover's bare chest. Um... it was clear that Heero was feeling rejuvenated this morning, too.
"No, I'm not cold," the long haired man answered as he folded his arms over the ones holding him. "I'm incredibly, indescribably happy."
"As am I."
Duo looked over his shoulder. "Are you sure it's safe to go around without clothes here?" Both of them were standing on the second storey balcony, sans even a stitch of clothing. Ass to, well, something wonderful.
"There's no one around for miles, Duo. Even the ranger station, which is eight miles to the north, can't see us. So relax."
"That's easier said than done, Heero. With all the paparazzi we've had to deal with for the last couple of months, I half expect someone with a large telephoto lens to be snapping picture of us right now, and within an hour our bare asses will be featured on the internet or on the front page of a scandalous tabloid." He sighed, and said in a weary tone of voice, "Will they ever just leave us alone?"
"Eventually," Heero assured him, placing a couple of soft kisses to his lover's neck. "But it won't be this week, and probably not even this year."
"Well, if this place is as secure as you say it is, and no one followed us here, maybe we could arrange to stay for a while, like the rest of our lives."
"We have two weeks, and then I have to return to work."
Though Duo was disappointed, he knew he had a shoot in Italy in three weeks as well. Life would catch up to them sooner or later.
Returning his thoughts to the here and now, he gazed out on the forest the surround them for miles on end and said, "This is really nice. How did you find this place?"
"From the font of all knowledge," Heero dead panned.
"From Quatre, huh?"
"And you wonder why I love the guy so much."
There was only a slight pause before Heero asked in a teasing tone. "So tell me, just how much do you love Quatre?"
Duo grinned. "More than chocolate pudding."
"More than coffee, with real cream?"
"Hum... yeah. Of course."
"More than Denver omelets and hash browns?"
Duo looked at the grinning face just over his shoulder. "You heard my stomach growling, didn't you?"
Both of Heero's hands flattened against his belly. "I can feel it."
"Well, I can feel that you're not all that interested in eating breakfast."
"It just depends on what is being offered."
Duo turned in Heero's arms and pressed their foreheads together. "Do you expect me to cook you breakfast, husband mine?"
Heero chuckled. "I'm not willing to live that dangerously on our first day of being married. No, I was thinking about the can of whipping cream and strawberries in the refrigerator, served on a bed of creamy flesh laid out on that granite counter top."
"Is that creamy flesh caramel color, or barely tan."
"Either one suits me, but since you're the one who is hungry..."
"I'm not hungry for food any more." And to prove it, Duo wrapped his arms around Heero's shoulders and jumped slightly to lift his legs and wrap them around Heero's waist. "But what do you say, let's start cooking." And with the kiss that followed, the air around the two began to sizzle.
Happy ending, happy couples and happy ever after. The end. Really, this time.