Whew! This is it-the last chapter. Thanks for sticking with it, I have to admit

I really liked writing this but it took months to finish seeing as I rarely have

much time apart from my busy schedule. I was just glad to finish it.

-11-

"Duo-what the hell happened to your eye?" Quatre stopped in to our office to say hello on the way to Trowa's office. It would be hard to miss Duo's black eye, particularly since it is covered with an eye patch. Une had to hold back a snicker when she saw it; anyone else would have been reprimanded for participating in a barroom brawl and then showing up for work the next day looking like Jolly Roger. Duo of course is reveling in the attention and spins for Quatre the fanciful but terribly trite and cliché tale of a misunderstanding involving himself, a cute blonde bar fly, an overbearing, jealous, beefy, boyfriend and me starring in the role of innocent bystander/best friend/ backup. I am really no worse for wear; there are times when I am grateful for J's intensive training and meddling with my physiognomy.

Actually, even though a bar fight was not the way I intended to spend the rest of the evening with Duo, I have to admit, it was exhilarating. You haven't seen anything until you've seen Duo go to work. He was all glistening, sinewy muscle. Plus-he's added some interesting defensive moves with that hair of his. And I did mention this before, I'm a guy; physicality does me a world of good.

That does not help me where my desire for my partner is concerned. I spend some time trying to sort out how I feel and I am relieved that I don't make a habit of showing my emotions much or surely I would have somehow embarrassed myself in front of Duo. The botched weekend attempt at wooing gives me time to stop and think, really think about all this.

I guess the first thing I come to realize is that my conviction that Relena and any other females are not sexually attractive to me, is the truth. I wonder why I put myself through dating her and almost marrying her. It most likely was because I was denying my true desires: I buried them under a sense of duty, besides how many guys would admit that the beautiful Queen of the World doesn't do a thing for him, but, show me one sexy, loudmouth, jokester, thief, lower class fool who doesn't even know the right fork to use at dinner-and well, I'm all over him. Or at least I would be, given the chance. Ugh. I am sick of all this introspection and self analysis. It is what it is. Funny thing is that I haven't given much thought to Duo's end of the equation. I can only speculate: he's had failed romantic relationships before no doubt although his revelation about Hilde was surprising. But just because an otherwise extroverted, life of the party kind of guy isn't and hasn't dated anyone seriously doesn't mean he's gay and even if it did, would he even be interested in me?


Duo has been gone for three days. He went to L2 to attend Hilde's wedding. It has been quiet and dull around here without him but he should be back tomorrow. These last few days have been an eye opener in the sense that I have decided not to pursue Duo. I don't know what I was thinking-it must have been the confusion of realizing that I am gay, my senses must have become addled. I guess this is just a classic case of chickening out. I'm just glad I didn't do anything embarrassing. I do this a lot-get all gung ho about something and then do a complete about face and talk myself out of....whatever. It isn't that I'm any less attracted to Duo, not at all, I just don't have a clue as how to woo him and I feel ridiculous.


The next day Duo is due back from L2 and I purposely keep myself too busy to think about him; it's easy because I have reports to write and research to do. I am rereading a statement from Neil Grimaldi, suspected of murdering his girlfriend of three months. He pleads innocent, of course but after intensive grilling by Trowa and Marlee Wynters, he admits to bludgeoning her. Then proceeds to weep uncontrollably.

I wasn't there, it wasn't my case but it fell into my lap when the reason this creep beat his girlfriend to death was because she found out he was dealing drugs-and to minors as well as adults. The transcript of his confession is unclear as to whether or not the slain woman was planning on turning him in. I research further and find out that his supplier is on our suspected terrorists list.

I spend the afternoon tracking the supplier down. I'm not good at creative description-J had always demanded my reports be concise and devoid of editorials, so suffice it to say that I snuck in to the supplier's base of operations and got an eyeful: everyday pistolry to bombs of differing destructive capabilities and a nifty ID forgery business. And the drugs, of course. Enough to persuade Une to get a warrant.

Unfortunately rather than divert my focus from Duo, it places it firmly in my mind. The minors-Duo would risk suspension to teach Grimaldi a lesson. Hell, I want to do it.

My phone starts ringing, interrupting my thoughts. Good, I need something to distract me. "Yuy speaking," I say curtly.

"Hello, Heero," Relena answers cheerily. Anything but this, damn it! I sigh audibly because I just can't muster the energy to fake being happy to hear from her. She ignores it. "Heero, I hope you have been well?"

"Hn."

"Oh, fine. I will come to the point: I am hosting a benefit dinner for victims of the wars and their families. I know you are no longer under any obligation......but I thought perhaps you could come as my date."

I would rather watch Chang clean his toenails with his katana. Not that he'd ever do something so crude. I hope he doesn't read this. "I don't think that that is a good idea, Relena."

"Oh, Heero, surely you wouldn't begrudge me this!"

Well shit, as Duo would say. I'm not going to do this, I cannot get embroiled in this relationship again, I won't (says my cranky inner child). So I'm going to lie. "Relena, I am already busy that evening."

"Busy?" she sounds incredulous which really ticks me off. I can be busy, can't I? My life is not all work, reports and therapy. Okay, well it kind of is. But still. I have no intention of going to a stuffy, boring dinner with a bunch of hypocritical, windbag politicians while Relena simpers and tries to wrangle me back in her clutches. No way. "Heero, how are you busy that night?"

"I-I'm helping a friend."

"What friend?" she sounds entirely too amused, like she is trying to catch me in a lie. I say the first name that comes to me. "Duo-I-I'm helping Duo."


"So-if I understand what you just said, you told the Pink Princess that you are helping me with the orphans at Justinian's?" Duo was looking far too amused. He had a lop sided grin and those violet eyes were twinkling. Those beautiful eyes. I fidgeted with my drab olive Preventer uniform tie. "S-sorry, you were the first name that came to mind, I know you don't like to lie."

"That's right, buddy, I don't."

"She won't find out, you know." But I knew Duo well enough to know that that wasn't the point-it was the principle of the thing. His motto is "I run, I hide, but I never lie." I think mottos are overrated. Then he shrugged. "It's no problem, Heero."

"It's not?" I felt relief sweep through me.

"We'll make it true."

Huh? "How-um, how are we going to do that?"

The grin widened. "You'll see."


Justinian's or more formally, Justinian Reformed Catholic Church was a run-down cathedral over by the poorer section of what we at Preventer call Sector B. In reality it is a middle class area of sorts, incomes ranging from subsistence to can afford extras, like a modest vacation, etc. I was not surprised to find out that Duo volunteered at the church when he was able. Duo's humble beginnings left him permanently grateful for what he now had; his war time conduct left him with the desire for retribution.

I was impressed and charmed by his ease of manner with the orphans of Justinian's, Duo was playful but firm with the kids, many of whom struggled with anger and disappointment; he was like a big brother and they adored him.

Tonight we were here serving dinner and cleaning up. I sympathized with the kids, the food was bland, though no doubt nutritious. That was why we brought with us several pounds of Italian bakery cookies-something these kids rarely, if ever, got. Duo made them promise to clean their plates before they could have any which in my opinion, bordered on sadistic. But they did it, each and every plate I scrubbed that evening did not have as much as a crumb on it.

After the meal was over we played charades (which I excelled at-no words! Go me!), and then we made sure each child washed before bed. We were met by a genteel-looking nun at the door. She leaned towards Duo and bussed his cheek. "Thank you, Mr. Maxwell. And you too, Mr. Yuy, the children did so enjoy this evening."

Duo blushed a little. He looked beguiling. Damn it, down hormones, down I say! "You're welcome Sister Mary Josepha. Just let me know if you need anything."

"You've done so much already," she smiled. "Goodnight, gentlemen."

We rode in my car in silence. I thought about how very much I had enjoyed tonight and not just because I was with Duo. Oh, that was a major part of it, but I enjoyed the children. That was the most relaxed I'd ever been with people of the short persuasion. And it felt really good, in a satisfying kind of way to help someone, for it to be about someone else. Maybe that is why Duo does it. Probably not though, he is far more altruistic.

"Hey, uh, wanna come over, watch a vid?"

I return from my thoughts in time to catch the question Duo stammers out as if he is nervous.

"Sounds good." And it does, it really does.


Duo lives on the third floor of a condominium. He likes the location as it is centered between town and work. I think the fact that the building is chock full of security features is a good thing and I often wonder why more dwellings do not have such amenities.

I have not been here before and Duo seems to be anxious to impress me for some reason. He gives me what he calls the "fifty cent" tour and then we settle in the living room where a large, wall mounted vidscreen is the focal point. I recall Duo's fondness for movies, particularly the BC films. He makes some cayenne pepper flavored popcorn and we each have a beer. Dark beer, if you want to know. "Thanks for helping out tonight," he says smiling a little. "The kids really liked you."

I laugh. "I liked them too." When he graces me with a quizzical raised brow I add, "I'll deny that last statement-even under extreme torture. I was glad to help, Duo."

We sit back and watch the vid screen. Some old movie entitled The Matrix comes on. Duo dims the light a bit. "So it's like being at the movies," he explains, nervous quiver back in his voice. I wonder if he turned the light down for another reason, like maybe he feels self-conscious about something?

If it had been a different film I might have used the dim lights as an opportunity to clandestinely observe him, but I find the film interesting. And there is lots of action, although the romance aspect leaves me flat.

When the movie ends he moves the popcorn bowl we shared and props his legs up on the coffee table. After a moment he looks at me. "How'd ya like it?"

Huh? I was distracted by the sight of his jean clad legs, long and lean on the table. I recognize that he's asking how I liked the movie. "It was interesting-the idea that computers could be running the show, feeding our brains with a false reality. Interesting, but ultimately unrealistic."

He gives me an incredulous look. "Really? Unrealsitic? Heero, buddy there were times when I thought you might have wed your laptop, or at the very least, mind-melded with it!" He is laughing and I am trying to figure out if I've just been insulted. "Well, I would fare better at romance with my laptop than that actress. She was about as sexy as rubella." Duo chuckles heartily at that. "Not your type, eh?"

"Hn."

Duo's expression changes rapidly. He looks crestfallen with a hint of chagrin. "Um-I was only kidding ya know."

I knew that-I did. "How was Hilde's wedding," I say needing to change the subject. He tells me about it: how Hilde made a beautiful bride, how he gave an amusing toast to the happy couple and ruefully the sore feet he got from dancing with the groom's clumsy sister. I wish I had been there to see how handsome he surely looked. Joking, I say, "maybe you'll be next."

"Highly doubtful." There is something in his voice, I can't name it but my eyes are drawn to him and he looks away as if he feels guilty about something. I really can't take this anymore. "Duo? Is there something wrong? You haven't been yourself lately."

He looked at me as if surprised that I noticed and that hurts. I had hoped that by now we were better friends. He shrugged. "Want another beer?"

"Not just now, thanks. Is something the matter?"

Now he grins and I sense that he has managed to pull on that mask of his, the one that shows the world that Duo Maxwell is fine, when he is not. "Nothing more than the usual problems Heero, ya know, how to spend my millions, which girl to take to the ball........." he trails off.

"But-you haven't even been dating," I say, daring a confrontation. He turns away. "Yeah, well-too busy for such nonsense," he quips airily.

"I-I uh, overheard a conversation." What am I doing????

"Oh yeah?"

"Yes-you said you were lonely." Here it is folks-my suicide.

"Did I?"

"Yes and you also said you weren't looking for sex, you wanted loving." Oh my god I have lost what was left of my mind.

Far from anger Duo is giving me a perplexed look. "You overheard that? It was months ago." His eyes narrowed. "What are you spying on me or something?"

"No!" I answer quickly. "I happened to hear it and I did not know what to do so I just listened."

"So-why are you telling me this?"

I shake my head more confused than ever. "I don't know."

I look up and Duo is studying me, biting on his lower lip. "Can I tell you something?"

I nod, not wanting to say anything that will make him change his mind. I don't know what is coming but I have a feeling it's important. He sits and gestures for me to join him on the couch. "I always thought of us as comrades in arms, best buds, ya know? Then things happened and we went our own ways-me with Hilde and the salvage business, and you-well, you never did tell me where you went. But I was still convinced we were friends and that you would come to see me. I figured we had an understanding of sorts-hell, we didn't need to keep in touch all the time to be buds. Then the next thing I hear is that you're marrying Relena. You have the right to be happy, everyone does and god knows I tried to be happy for you, but I just couldn't! It was so wrong-the idea of you marrying her."

"That's why it didn't happen," I say unneccessarily. He is looking down at the sofa cushion, plucking it absently.

"Yeah, you apparently wanted to play the field," he chuckles, in reference to my dating attempts. I wait to see if he wants to say anything more. "Well," he continues, "I got tired of waiting for you to come to me so I joined Preventer."

What? He was waiting for me?

"I guess," he rubs the back of his neck anxiously, "I guess I couldn't stop thinking about you and then we got to work together again and hang out together again and it was like old times. Better than."

"Yes," I admit.

"Maybe we've both grown up some."

"And found our place in the world." He smiles at this.

"It's not perfect though. What with being lonely and all." Duo turns a little to face me. "I was kind of hoping......that is I. Damn." He frowns finding it difficult to say what he wants. I grasp his shoulder gently. "Say what you feel Duo. It's okay." I suddenly get that it is okay, no matter what he says. Here is my best friend, someone I can count on, even if he isn't attracted to me romantically. And I can live with that. I hope. He takes a deep breath and then blurts out in a rush, "I have been in love with you for a long time,HeeroYuy." And he exhaled and cringed as if he expected to be hit. It is so surprising and wondrous to hear his hasty confession and I can't help but laugh because in my world laughter conveys joy. Duo however, misconstrues my happiness. "Damn, Yuy," he grumbles unhappily, "I'd be happier if ya just hit me."

That stops my laughter cold. I look at him. He is crimson and looks as if someone ran over his puppy. "Oh, Duo-I'm sorry.....I"

"No," he held up his hand in front of me to ward off what he thinks is a rejection, "don't-I get it, okay? Let's just forget I said anything."

"No. I won't forget it. Duo, you have misunderstood me and I'm not about to forget the best thing you've ever said to me!"

The confused look on his face is so adorable I want to grab him and kiss the stuffing out of him. What the hell. Our first kiss. His lips are soft and warm against mine. Ever hear songs or prose that describe finding that perfect kiss, that perfect love, where everything falls into place and the stars align and souls merge? It was like that.

Duo breaks our first kiss and looks at me like I have a marmot coming out of my ear. "Heero?"

"Yes?"

"Heero-what the hell?"

"Didn't you just tell me that you love me?"

"Um-yeah, but......"

"So-I love you too."

"You do?"

"Yes." I smile at him to prove it, rather proud of myself for being able to be honest about my feelings. Then I try kissing him again but he dodges me. Damn. I thought the hard part was over. "Heero, why didn't you say something?"

"Why didn't you?" I counter.

"I didn't want to get killed," he says sardonically. I lean back against the sofa. "I didn't know how I felt until you joined Preventer. I guess I was repressing." How do you like that, Dr. Rodgers?

"Repressing? Repressing," Duo repeats this once more and begins laughing himself. I join in. "God, what a couple of idiots!"

I have to agree. But I'd rather be doing other things.


Considering that it was Duo who confessed his feelings first, it is surprisingly difficult getting him into bed because confession notwithstanding he is shy and unsure, but in the end we get there, probably because neither of us can deny this attraction any longer now that the respective cats have been let out of the bag.

I'm kissing a line from his ear down to his jaw while he rubs my back. I can feel him smiling. "I never thought this could happen," he says in a whisper against my skin. I raise my head and look at him, overjoyed that now I can stare into his eyes without reprisals. "Your eyes are so beautiful." His smile widens and I have to kiss him.

I have never thought of myself as a very sensual person, but with Duo I can't help but take my time. I start with his face, nibbling his ears, delighted by the giggles my attention has elicited. Kissing his lips is so warm/sexy/comfortable it feels perfect, like coming in from the cold to a blazing hearth. He is so responsive it drives me crazy. At one point he flips us so that I am underneath him. The initial shock and disbelief wear off and he is very assertive, kissing, licking and nipping every part of me that is unclothed. When he begins to stroke me I harden further, struck by the irony of what initially prompted this narrative. We take turns touching and exploring one another and I am completely besotted. Everything about him arouses and stimulates me: his masculine scent, the firm musculature under surprisingly soft, smooth skin, and the hair, oh that wild auburn silk that used to be so impossibly long, soft and sensuous as it tickles and glides down across my thighs.

I have never felt so fully realized, so awake and it's like opening my eyes and seeing full, vibrant color after having been locked into black and white. I know, I'm babbling but making love with Duo the first time was like a damn miracle. It is what I have been missing in my life, no woman ever made me feel like this. I am struck by the feeling of rightness, like I found a missing puzzle piece.


Thrusting into tight heat I nearly pass out when he climaxes first, wrenching my orgasm from me and the jubilant shout that accompanied it. I only hope his walls are reasonably sound-proofed.

I wake to find it is still dark. I am startled because I thought I had been sleeping for hours. Duo is wedged up against my back and I twist to look at him. I have a feeling that I am going to require plastic surgery to remove the seemingly permanent sappy smile from my lips. It will be difficult to explain at work, at any rate. Duo stirs and shifts toward me. "Hi."

"Hi," I respond, still smiling. I lean forward and kiss his lips lightly. "You okay?"

"Mmm. Yeah-just sleepy. What's the time?"

I lean over him to look at his alarm clock. I have to wonder where he managed to find one in the shape of a vampire bat. "It's only 2:30. Go back to sleep."

"Stay?" he implores me. I lean and kiss him again. "I hadn't planned on leaving. In fact, I may never go home."

"Good."

I reach for him and settle him in my arms. We talk for a while and I tell him all about my problem with impotence. I start to think he won't ever stop giggling. But that's fine-after all we have established beyond the shadow of a doubt that the only real "problem" I had was not knowing how much I needed him. He pulls me on top of him and I smile looking down into his handsome face. "If we had talked earlier I could have saved time and money on my therapy."

"Well, it wasn't a total loss-after all, you have those nice aromatherapy bath oils!"

How the hell did he find out about those?

End