A/N: This is a birthday gift for Cuzosu. I am so very lucky to have her as a beta. This fic is based on a premise/challenge she floated to me several months ago. I twisted it around a little, but I think it still fits. If you want to know the challenge, you can read it at the end. I hope I made it snarky enough - and I hope it isn't overly fluffy. Although, in all seriousness... this fic has filled my fluff quota for at least a month. Because I wanted something happy for your birthday.

Warnings: 1x2 (yes, really). Angst, language, yaoi(light). Fluff (from me, yes, this is a warning). Canon universe. One shot.

Odds & Evens

7:15

He had procrastinated as long as possible.

Heero reluctantly turned off his computer

If he didn't leave now, he would be over an hour late to the party. As much as he wanted to miss the damned thing altogether, he knew how important tonight was. Not to mention that Trowa had threatened to assign him to partner with Wufei for his next mission if he failed to show up.

In the grand scheme of things, it made perfect sense that Trowa had risen quickly in the ranks at Preventers and now, four years after he had joined, was the agent in charge of the special investigations unit. That unit, comprised of agents handpicked by Une, functioned almost autonomously from the rest of the Preventers organization.

Heero appreciated that, and he also appreciated the fact that Trowa's sense of tactics and knowledge of his agents meant that he worked almost exclusively on his own. Three times, when Trowa had been feeling particularly restless, HE had partnered with Heero in the field. Heero and Wufei had only ever been partnered together once, and the results – while far from disastrous – had such lasting repercussions that, a year later, Trowa still hadn't tried to put them on a team together again. That didn't mean he wouldn't, and Heero did not want to risk the certain torture that another assignment with Wufei was sure to bring.

So, at 8:15, half an hour after most guests had arrived, he finally made his appearance at the annual, much loathed (by Heero), Preventers Halloween party. The event was a costumed masquerade ball – a clear hold over from Une's aristocratic background – and in addition to Preventers staff, high ranking diplomatic and government officials were also in attendance. Which meant Relena and Quatre would no doubt be lurking, ready to pounce on him and berate him for his continued anti-social behavior towards them.

When Trowa had casually made his threat to Heero earlier in the week, thinly veiled as a reminder to clear his schedule, he had asked Heero what costume he planned on wearing.

Since Heero hadn't planned on attending, costumes were the furthest thing from his mind. But Trowa's mention of tensions flaring on L5 and Wufei needing a partner to go on assignment there next week, an assignment likely to last for two to three weeks, Heero had quickly assured Trowa that he would, in fact, show up in costume. Trowa had further stipulated that a costume did not mean his full Preventers dress uniform. Sometimes Heero deeply regretted having spent months in just the other man's company during the war. He knew Heero better than almost anyone alive, and he had no qualms about using his knowledge to his advantage.

So, at 7:30 Heero frantically started to dig through the Preventer's storage unit that housed undercover necessities. He found it improbable that NO one on the staff had thought to include costumes – surely, at some point, an agent had needed to dress up in… something ridiculous? Maybe to infiltrate a circus – he mentally cursed Trowa, who of course would have plenty of costume options lying around – or a mental institution. Something.

Just as he prepared to give up and resign himself to a fortnight spent in Wufei's company he noticed the box marked "Aquatic." Hesitantly he pulled it out and sighed at its contents.

Anything, he assured himself as he pulled out the wetsuit, goggles, and oxygen recycler, was better than two weeks with Wufei.

Being forty-five minutes late to the start of the festivities had the added benefit of missing out on the ceremonial speeches at the beginning – Une wishes everyone well; whatever guest of honor (likely Relena or Quatre – or both) giving some speech about unity, celebration, and tradition – and allowed Heero to try to blend into the crowd of guests and avoid detection from any of the many people he wanted to avoid.

After the war he had made himself a promise: no more killing, unless absolutely necessary, and no parties, unless absolutely necessary. Since he believed it would never be necessary to attend a party, he had been confident that he could keep that promise to himself. Yet, this past year, ever since he had learned of it, Trowa had been trying his damnedest to get Heero to attend every party scheduled by Preventers, Relena, and Quatre. Between the three organizations – and yes, he considered Relena and Quatre to be organizations, because no one could have a staff the size of theirs and still be considered a mere individual – there was a full docket of functions that he constantly had to dodge.

Usually Trowa allowed him to escape, but for some reason, he had been insistent that Heero attend tonight's event.

Halloween was fairly innocuous – yes, the politicos still used it to put forth their agenda – but the day itself meant nothing. Dress up in a costume, look ridiculous, drink too much, and eat candy.

Four things Heero did not enjoy doing, and now he was forced to do them with hundreds of people he simply did not care for.

As if his thoughts had summoned her, Relena spotted him and glided towards him, the crowd parting in front of her as though by magic.

She was, not surprisingly, dressed as a princess, in a ball gown with so many tiers and such a wide skirt that he wondered how she managed to move at all. Her face was framed by loose blonde hair and her forehead was obscured by a gold, glittery mask.

"Heero! Oh I'm so glad you could make it!" She smiled brightly at him and leaned in for a kiss. Reluctantly he brushed his lips against her cheek. He had learned, the very hard way, that to encourage her attentions in any way was a grave tactical error.

She stepped back and looked at him, her smile faltering slightly as she took in his costume.

"Are you… a scuba diver?" She asked. "How… creative." A speculative gleam appeared in her eyes. "At least it shows you off to the best advantage. You do fill it out quite nicely."

Heero mentally cursed. He should have just strapped a trash bag around his torso or something. He hadn't thought this would be that provocative – but Relena looked at him as though he were naked in front of her, and she actually licked her lips.

"I see Trowa – I should say hello." He made his escape with little grace or effort to conceal it as anything but the speedy retreat that it was.

Trowa, Heero was completely unsurprised to note, was dressed in his old circus performer costume. He took a moment to admire the other man, appreciating the fact that his sculpted torso was bare and his hair, these days worn slicked back, was in its natural fall of bangs across his forehead.

He sighed and forced himself to stop admiring the other man. They had tried, two years ago, to engage in a relationship. It had been an unmitigated disaster, one that neither man referenced, but that Heero knew they both regretted. In the end, Trowa and Heero were simply too much alike, and the internal demons they fought too great for either man to overcome – together or alone. It was fortunate that both men were used to compartmentalizing their emotions, and their working relationship, even their friendship, had come out of the experiment unscathed.

Trowa was speaking to a man dressed entirely in black, from his high collared shirt and trousers to his floor length cape, black fabric mask, and solid black, Spanish Gaucho hat.

Suddenly Trowa laughed, not his usual sardonic chuckle, but a full, throaty laugh that Heero had only heard on a handful of occasions.

Heero hesitated to interrupt, and felt a surge of envy at the casual way that the black garbed man reached out and snapped Trowa's suspenders. Who was it? Trowa hated attention, and even more so despised public displays of affection – towards himself or between others. Was this some new lover who didn't yet understand Trowa's boundaries? Or worse, someone who had circumvented them. Had Trowa finally found someone who could draw him out of his shell, someone who clearly made him happy?

Trowa looked amused, instead of as though he were contemplating ways to break the man's hand for daring to touch him, and Heero frowned.

"Ah! There you are." Trowa looked over and caught sight of Heero. His green eyes scanned over Heero's costume. "Really?" He asked, and a small grin tugged at one corner of his mouth.

Heero glared at him, but approached. He glanced at the man in black, trying to assess the features hidden beneath the mask, but wasn't able to discern anything but dark, blue eyes that sparkled in amusement at Heero.

"It's a costume," Heero growled, "as commanded."

"It's indecent," the black garbed man said, and his wide lips twitched into a leer. "Not that I'm complaining."

Heero glanced at Trowa, but he seemed unconcerned that his date was flirting with Heero.

"I'm sure Relena and Quatre will be appreciative," Trowa added.

Heero glared at him.

"Relena has already expressed her approval."

"I'll bet she has," the man said and snorted a laugh.

"In any case, you did show up in costume - although honestly, why bother coming clothed at all – so you're safe, for now."

"Safe?" The man asked.

Trowa nodded.

"I threatened to pair him with Wufei for his next mission if he didn't show tonight."

The man looked taken aback, but then he smiled broadly.

"Thanks, Trowa. I owe you one." He said and clapped the other man on the back.

Heero was now even more confused about who this man could be. Trowa felt comfortable hinting at top secret information around him and had allowed him to touch him at least twice without repercussion. The man also knew who Wufei was, and, since Trowa hadn't bothered to introduce them when he came over to them, the man presumably knew Heero. And Heero… presumably knew him.

He looked at the man again, trying to figure out who he could possibly be. He looked again at the man's eyes, took in the seemingly eternal amusement in them, and rocked back on his heels.

"Duo?"

The man grinned broadly.

"'Bout time you recognized me. I'm not that well disguised."

Except that he was.

It had been four years since Heero had last seen the pilot of Deathscythe. He knew that since the end of the war each of the former Gundam pilots had changed – Trowa, a Terran by birth, had grown several inches taller and started to fill out his lean frame; Wufei had added a few inches of height, but had also grown more solid, and had allowed his black hair to grow even longer, so that now it reached the middle of his back; Quatre had not grown taller, but he had developed a tan from his time spent on earth, and when Heero had last seen him the blonde had started to grow a mustache and goatee; Heero himself was taller –at 5'9" he was still four inches shorter than Trowa – but he still greatly resembled the boy he had been during the wars.

Duo, however, even under the cloak and mask, had clearly changed. His skin was no longer nearly translucent in the typical paleness of colonists, but had turned a dark, golden color. His frame was still short – Heero couldn't accurately estimate his height with that hat on – but from the way the black shirt clung to his torso it was clear that Duo was no longer the half-starved street rat of years gone past. He had developed muscles and clearly ate well.

In fact, the only things that looked the same were his eyes and the cocky grin he now wore as he let Heero appraise him.

Heero abruptly realized that he couldn't see Duo's hair, and he felt a pang of regret at the thought that the man might have finally cut it.

"You'll have to excuse me," Trowa said suddenly, interrupting Heero and Duo's silent staring, "but Une seems to be on the verge of declaring war on L2. Again." Without another word he moved past them, giving Duo's shoulder a brief squeeze as he did.

"Well, you're looking good, man!" Duo said and threw one arm over Heero's shoulders. "It's been too long."

Whose fault is that? He wanted to say, and had to bite down on his tongue to keep the words at bay.

"Anyway, I keep hearing there's food here, but I spent about fifteen minutes looking for it before and couldn't find anything…"

Some things, it was clear, never changed.

Heero sighed.

"It's by the south windows. Between the emergency exit and the auxiliary –" he stopped talking when he noticed Duo smirking.

"I want to be there the day that you forget to read the blueprints on a building and memorize all of the entrances and exits."

"How else will you learn where the food is?" Heero pointed out.

Duo shrugged.

"I'll survive. So, tell me about you! What have you been doing? Who have you been doing?" He added with a wink. "Trowa said something about the Queen of the world still having the hots for you – and I swear I heard something about Quatre inviting you to be his, ah, personal bedroom advisor."

Heero turned red and to avoid answering, started walking towards the buffet tables. Duo would either follow and soon be distracted by food, or perhaps he would abandon Heero again and track down Trowa, who was clearly a receptive audience to his attention.

Duo quickly caught up.

"Ah, come on. You know I'm just messing with you, man. I know you aren't doing the deed with either of them. Honestly, I'd have figured you and Tro would have hooked up by now – but he tells me you -

"You've been gone for four years," Heero bit out, unable to restrain himself any longer. He couldn't believe that Duo had shown up, completely out of the blue, and somehow expected them to be on the same terms they had been on four years ago. Things had changed. Heero had changed – Duo had changed. "You don't get to just come in here and pretend like nothing happened."

Duo's eyes narrowed, but he let Heero continue.

"You just disappeared. One day we're clearing the wreckage around Luxembourg and the next you're just gone. Not even Hilde knew where you were. And then we get a message, eight months later, that you went to Mars with Noin and Zechs – and the message wasn't even from you. I had to hear from Zechs that you were on another planet. They came back two years ago and you stayed. You stayed away from us. From me," he added bitterly. "You don't get to come back now and tease me about anything."

Duo nodded slowly in agreement, but before he could say anything, Quatre appeared.

"Heero! You look fantastic!"

The blonde man's goatee had grown in enough to look less like fuzz and more like actual facial hair, and Heero had to admit, to himself, that it was a good look on the other man. Quatre's features would always be softer and more effeminate than his father's had been. Facial hair, at least, helped to define his jaw and made him look his age.

Quatre was dressed as some sort of medieval peasant, in a green tunic, green hose, and green hat. A single white feather stuck out at a jaunty angle.

Duo snorted in amusement.

"Robin Hood? You? Quatre Winner stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Things have changed."

Quatre frowned, and it was clear from his expression that he, like Heero, did not instantly recognize their former comrade. He turned back to Heero.

"I'm so glad you came. Usually you avoid these functions like the plague. I knew we'd get you to join us one of these days. It's not too bad, is it?" He smiled widely.

"Now that we've found the food it's getting better," Duo said, though it was clear Quatre had been addressing Heero.

"And check out the flower arrangements. These chrysanthemums are beautiful!"

Quatre frowned.

"Those are dahlias," he corrected, and Duo smirked.

"Sorry. I must have skipped school the day they covered flower arrangements." He turned to Heero. "You gotta admit, even if nothing else has changed since Treize was in charge, it's good not to have to look at damn red roses all the time. Or smell them. I guess these – dahlias, right? – are an improvement."

Quatre looked ready to have a fit, and Heero fought against a smile. It wouldn't do to let Duo know that he was amused – he would think that Heero had forgiven him, and he certainly hadn't.

Duo looked over the buffet table, ignoring the hot dishes and the plates of cheese, cut up fruit, and desserts. Instead he reached for a fruit arrangement that was clearly decorative and plunked a banana from the improbable tower.

"I don't think that's for eating," Quatre pointed out.

Duo just smirked and started to peel the banana.

"Looks pretty edible to me."

"I meant that it was decorative."

"Like the flowers."

"Yes. This is a formal party – and the people here are rather used to a certain level of decorum. I don't know why you think it's appropriate to just waltz in here and –" Quatre stopped talking when Duo started to swallow the exposed banana whole.

Heero couldn't help but stare, completely mesmerized by the sight. Duo's throat muscles worked to ingest the banana, and when, a moment later, his lips closed around it and he started to chew, Heero realized that he had stopped breathing.

Duo finished and tossed the empty banana peel onto the windowsill behind him.

Duo winked at Heero before turning to Quatre.

The blonde's face was completely red, and his mouth was working, as though he was trying to figure out what to say.

"Decorum – that's a fancy word," Duo said after a moment. "What's it mean again?"

Quatre turned to Heero.

"I wanted to speak with you, in private, about that offer I made you a few months ago…?" He trailed off and smiled hopefully.

"Sorry," Duo said and stepped closer to Heero. "But Heero promised me the next dance." He put an arm around Heero's shoulders once again and propelled him away from Quatre and the buffet table.

"I'm not dancing with you," Heero assured Duo.

The other man smirked at him.

"Relax. I'm not going to force you to act like a monkey in front of these idiots. Not to mention the sight of your ass in that wet suit, waltzing around this place, is likely make your fan club faint from over excitement."

"My fan club?" Heero echoed.

"Relena and Quatre. You know, you could just kill two birds with one stone and fuck the both of them at the same time. It'd be a nice Heero sandwich. I bet –"

"Stop. That is the most disturbing mental image you've ever put in my mind." Heero shuddered, and had to actually close his eyes and focus on clearing his mind to erase the nightmare Duo had invoked.

Duo chuckled.

"Come on, surely it wouldn't be that bad. Just think, Relena's long, blonde hair tangled around you and her boobs –"

"Stop." Heero repeated.

"And Quatre's soft, gentle hands caressing your –"

Heero clapped a hand over Duo's mouth and shoved him through the crowd and out the nearest exit from the ballroom.

The chill night air hit Heero in a rush, and he realized they were in the west garden courtyard. He kept the information to himself, knowing Duo would just use it as more ammunition to tease him with.

The light from the ballroom spilled out on the gardens, giving everything a faint, golden glow.

Duo's eyes were filled with mirth, and he stepped out of Heero's grip.

"I hit a nerve," he guessed.

"No. It's not – I do not want to sleep with either of them. I've told both of them that, several times. Relena just doesn't want to give up on this fantasy she's always had and Quatre…"

"Quatre thinks he can turn you to his way of thinking eventually," Duo finished for him.

Heero nodded glumly in agreement.

"I'm sorry," Duo said softly.

Heero turned to him.

"I didn't – I didn't realize it would matter. Me leaving. I mean, I didn't think it would matter that much." Duo scratched at the back of his neck, his standard gesture when he felt uncomfortable.

Heero scowled.

"I thought you didn't lie."

Duo laughed bitterly.

"Yeah, I guess not. So, yeah. I knew you'd miss me."

"Then why did you leave?"

"Heero, come on."

"Don't worry," Heero assured him. "I haven't been pining away over you for the last four years."

Duo sneered.

"I know. You shacked up with Tro for a while and –"

"How do you know about that?" Heero demanded. No one knew about it. They had - he hesitated to call it dating since it rarely involved going anywhere in public – been involved for eleven months and to Heero's knowledge no one save for Une knew about it.

Duo shrugged and looked uneasy.

"Tell me," Heero growled.

Duo sighed.

"He sent me a vid message and… asked my permission."

It took Heero a moment to process that information.

"Trowa asked you for permission to see me?" He clarified.

"Yep."

"Why?"

Duo looked even more uncomfortable now.

"Dude, it's not like it matters now, in any case. You guys aren't still together, so – and seriously, why aren't you together? I figured you'd be perfect together."

"You figured wrong."

Heero couldn't believe that Trowa had asked Duo's permission. Even worse he felt angry that Duo had apparently given it – and that emotion gave him pause. Why wouldn't Duo give his permission? He had made it clear, four years ago, and every day since, that he didn't feel much of anything for Heero – so why not let someone else move in?

"Yeah, I do that sometimes," Duo agreed with a sigh. "Don't be mad at him. He thought you were, I don't know, waiting for me or some shit and he also thought that, you know, since you and I were friends, I'd –"

"We weren't friends, though, were we?" Heero asked.

"What? Of course we were! I mean, we still are – well I thought we still were."

"You left without a word. You haven't once tried to contact me. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about friendship, but I'm pretty certain it requires some kind of communication."

A muscle in Duo's jaw jumped as he clenched his teeth.

"Okay. So I'm a shit friend."

"What did you tell Trowa?" Heero asked.

"I told him to go for it, obviously." Duo shrugged. "I figured… you two are kind of the same, in some ways, and he understands you better than anyone else, anyway."

"Better than you?"

Duo shrugged.

"Maybe. I don't know. I thought I understood you pretty well. Which is why I left, you know. You needed that. You needed the space, the time."

"What the hell are you talking about? I needed you. I wanted you."

Even now, four years later, thinking about it made Heero feel angry and raw.

"No you didn't," Duo assured him and shook his head. "You wanted someone who – damn it Heero, you wanted someone that isn't me."

"I came to you. I kissed you." It had taken two wars and countless near death encounters for Heero to finally act on his emotions towards Duo. He had been positive that the other pilot felt the same attraction, the same kinship, with him – and he had been proven disastrously wrong.

Duo had kissed him back, and it was, even now, the most amazing feeling Heero had ever experienced. The sense of exhilaration and fulfillment he had felt, pressed against the other pilot, sharing in his heat and strength, had been exactly what Heero had wanted.

The next day, Duo had vanished.

"I'm not – Heero, I'm not good enough for you! I'm going nowhere! I'm not like you or Trowa – I came from nothing and that's where I'll end up. You two are so damned driven and there's a place for you here, in this new world order or whatever. Not me. I don't fit here. I don't fit in with your life – not your future. I'd only ever drag you down."

"That's bullshit," Heero told him. "You made this world. You –"

"Heero, I fought in the war because I like to watch things burn."

"Stop lying. I know you're more than a terrorist. You know it too. I've talked to Zechs. About you."

Duo swallowed hard at that and looked away.

"You engineered the entire reclamation system at the Martian base. You designed the modules for the green houses and you caught some flaw in the residential ventilation system that saved everyone from dying."

"Some idiot thought it'd be a good idea to lower the oxygen levels at night. Because the best thing you can do in a dangerous, high carbon monoxide environment is put people into a coma." Duo muttered.

Heero stared at him and Duo sighed.

"Okay. So I fixed some shit."

"You didn't have to leave the Earthsphere, Duo. You could have just told me you weren't interested." Heero had waited nearly four years to say that, but now, somehow, the words were infinitely less satisfying than he had imagined.

Duo gave a bitter laugh.

"Oh, Heero. I –"

He fell silent when the door to the ballroom opened.

Heero turned to see Wufei, in full Preventers dress uniform, step out into the garden. The Chinese man came to an abrupt halt when he noticed them.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize anyone – Yuy? Maxwell?"

"Wufei! What's up? Man, you look great!" Duo engulfed Wufei in a hug that the other man hesitantly returned.

Heero couldn't believe that Wufei, who had known Duo the least, could take one look at him, in the dark, dressed completely in black, and recognize him after four years.

"I like the costume. Man, how fucked up would it be if you really were a Preventer?" Duo joked after releasing Wufei.

"I am," Wufei growled.

Duo chuckled.

"That's right. The world is a fucked up place. Go figure."

"I didn't realize you were back on Earth," Wufei said.

Duo shrugged.

"Just for some supplies. I head back to the red planet in forty-eight hours." He looked over at Heero to gauge his reaction, but Heero forced his face into a completely neutral expression, hiding his inner turmoil.

Duo wasn't back. He hadn't returned. He was making a pit stop.

"Zechs and Noin won't shut up about how amazing you were there."

"You know those OZ types – so easy to impress," Duo demurred.

Wufei nodded, letting it go, and turned to Heero.

"I see you actually managed to attend a Preventers function," he said.

Heero rolled it eyes. Now it starts, he thought.

"I have better things to do with my time than socialize."

Wufei sniffed.

"As if I do not? This week alone I've handled seven cases of inter-colony smuggling."

Heero rolled his eyes, but found himself unable to resist responding.

"Which would be impressive if you weren't arresting doctor's carrying knock-off meds to colonies still in turmoil. I handle the guns smugglers – which is why we haven't had a serious threat in two years."

"Well I –"

"Boys, boys, you're both pretty," Duo jumped in, putting a hand on each of their chests.

Wufei stepped back and sneered at Heero before turning back to Duo.

"It was good to see you again. Please don't be so tardy in returning my messages once you go back, hm?"

Duo grinned.

"Yeah – just keep sending me those care packages, will ya?"

"You… liked them?"

"Hell yeah. I mean, we all did."

"They were for you," Wufei said with a scowl.

"Sure, but when you're in tight quarters with shit provisions and rations that taste like they were dipped in rocket fuel you learn to share. I'll be honest – I kind of hoarded the books, until I'd read them all, before I shared them."

"But the food!"

"Is great. Seriously. I had a taste of everything. Oh! Instead of that weird sausage stuff can you send something vegan? We've got a few crazy guys up there and –"

"I am not a catering service!" Wufei snarled, then drew in a deep breath. "Is there anything you need up there?"

Duo smiled.

"Porn would be nice."

Wufei spun on his heel and departed without another word.

"You've kept in touch with Wufei."

"He was the first to send me a vid message, after we landed," Duo said with a shrug. "Then out of the blue he started sending these damn care packages – it must be costing him a damn fortune to do it. And I don't know how he gets them onboard the resupply packets."

"How often have you and Trowa spoken?"

"I dunno… a few times. He called to ask me about you, and then he called to tell me it didn't work out… and then we just kind of kept in touch. We sent messages every few months." Duo shrugged. "I never realized how damn funny he is. I also thought he hated me so…"

Heero realized that while Duo had, in fact, abandoned him and left the planet without a word, he had returned the favor. Heero had never thought about simply sending Duo a message – he had always assumed that things were simply over between them, that Duo leaving was it. He should have tried to keep in touch.

"You told Trowa that you owed him one," Heero suddenly remembered.

"Yeah… I told him I'd be dirt side for a few days and that I wanted to see you. I figured you'd rather have tea with Relena than actually have dinner with me or something, so he promised to make you come to this party."

"Why did it matter? Seeing me?"

"Because I've fucking missed you! You're my best friend – and as we've established, I suck at friendships, I know, but fuck it. Heero, I've thought about you every day for the last four years. I'll be working on something – even something as mind numbing as sorting rocks– and I'll think about you. I'll wonder what you're doing and I'll think of all these jokes I want to tell you and – never mind. I'm sorry. I am a shit friend and you deserve better."

Heero closed the distance between them and, before Duo could react, pulled the other man close and kissed him. Duo froze for a moment, and then his arms snaked around Heero's back and held him in a tight grip. When Duo's tongue touched his, Heero felt a jolt of lust so sharp and intense it took his breath away.

"Stop thinking you know what's best for me," Heero told him when he pulled away.

"I thought you hadn't been pining away for me," Duo said, sounding a little breathless.

"I lied," Heero admitted, and then stepped away.

He took a deep breath of the cold night air, forcing himself to remember the facts – Duo was leaving in forty-eight hours.

"Well, if we're being honest here," Duo said with a sigh, "then I left you because I didn't want you to leave me."

Heero frowned at him.

"What are you talking about?"

"Heero, I've been in love with you since you stole parts from my Gundam when we were fifteen! I fought two wars at your side and I flirted with you like my life depended on it."

"I noticed that part," Heero admitted, but the fact that Duo had loved him – he had never known. Had never considered the possibility that Duo's feelings went that deep.

"When you kissed me… you scared the living hell out of me, Heero. For years you'd been this distant dream of mine, and I knew you'd never go for me. And I was fine with it. I know how this story ends. I know I don't get the prince. So when you kissed me I knew it was just a matter of time. I knew you'd find something, someone better or…"

"Or?" Heero prompted.

"Or you'd die. Just like everyone else I've ever loved." Duo's voice was rough with emotion as he confessed his fear, and Heero knew how much it cost the other man to be this open.

"You rescued me from the hospital… you were kind to me… you were the first person who ever did something nice to me without wanting something out of it." Heero shook his head. "You were the reason I was able to keep fighting, every time I wanted to stop. You were what I kept fighting for. I'd go to sleep and think about you, and me, after the war. I don't even know what we were doing – not fighting, not killing – but we were happy. I don't understand why it never happened, for real."

"Because I'm a coward," Duo said.

"Why did you come back?"

"Supplies. And… Wufei told me to get off my ass and tell you how I felt."

Heero frowned.

"Wufei?"

"Yeah… turns out he's a bit of a matchmaker, mushy bastard. He's been after me ever since his last mission with you. Told me you were borderline psychotic and needed to get laid worse than anyone he's ever met before."

"He did not."

"Did to."

"How – I need to get laid? What about him?"

Duo smirked.

"Seriously, the two of you have got to stop this competition between you. Both of you are great. I mean, you are hands down the best, but… let him at least pretend he's on your level."

"So you came back to tell me you loved me and then… leave me again."

Duo sighed and then pushed off his hat and mask.

"Sorry. It's just ridiculous talking to you with this shit on," Duo said.

Heero felt a rush of relief at the sight of Duo's unruly bangs and the long rope of braided hair that fell forward when he lifted his hat.

"You didn't cut it," he said.

"My hair? Hell no."

"Good."

Duo grinned at the relief in Heero's voice, but then turned serious.

"I came back to tell you I loved you," he confirmed. "But I also wanted to – I don't – Heero. Mars is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. It's a brand new world, with new life, new people, new opportunities. There's nothing but the future, there, and the possibilities… they're endless. Every day there is like a new dream and… I want you there. With me. On Mars."

Heero took a moment to absorb Duo's words.

"Are there parties there that require a certain level of decorum?" Heero eventually asked, when Duo started to look ready to flee.

The braided man looked momentarily shocked, and then his lips twitched into a smile.

"Well, when Alexi had his birthday last month everyone had to wear some pretty lame paper hats," he said.

"I can deal with a paper hat, I guess," Heero said.

"And me?" Duo asked.

"What about you?"

"I don't know – can you deal with me? It's been four years. I understand if –"

Heero kissed him again, grateful that the mask and hat were gone. He ran his hands along Duo's jaw and buried them in his hair, relishing the silken texture. He felt Duo's hands move across his back and down to his ass and he grinned at the feeling of Duo groping him through the wetsuit.

"I can deal with you," Heero assured him when they finally came up for air. "I love you," he added when Duo still looked unsure.

"Thank God. Trowa bet Wufei a case of Jim Beam that you'd say yes and he promised to cut me in on it. We could really use some actual liquor up there instead of the moonshine I've been brewing."

Heero smirked.

"So I'm worth half a case of bourbon?"

"Oh no. I'm counting of Wufei sending extra care packages with you there. Plus I'll be able to talk the quartermaster into reassigning my quarters so I can share with you instead of Petri – he's a good kid, but he snores and his ass is nowhere near as amazing as yours is to look at."

"You haven't seen my ass in four years," Heero reminded him.

"Yeah, but the image of you in spandex shorts is seared into my brain. At least it was." He gave an experimental smack to Heero's backside. "This wetsuit is definitely an improvement."

Heero smirked and, for the first time in his life, he had absolutely no idea what to do next. There was no plan, no mission, no assignment. Just… a nebulous future on Mars. With Duo.

"Every day is like a new dream?" He repeated Duo's words.

"Maybe I oversold it a bit. It's hard work, and it's not, you know, as glamorous as being Quatre's cabana boy."

"But it's got you," Heero pointed out, " and it doesn't have Quatre. Or Relena."

"About that –"

"Don't even joke about it," Heero warned him. "And never again mention me in a threesome with them. I'm serious, I'm scarred for life as it is."

"Maybe I can kiss it better?" Duo offered and leaned in for another kiss.

"I think it's going to take more than one," Heero grumbled.

"Good, because I was thinking a few million."

The End.


The Challenge:

A Halloween fic featuring 1x2. Costumes are optional. It must include the following:

a "disturbing" mental image

scuba diving

banana peel on a window sill

sentence: "These chrysanthemums are beautiful!"