We Almost Missed Out

By:  BadMomma

August 2002

Revision Note:  When I first wrote this it was about as long as it is now.  I edited it, not sure why, just thought it was too long for a short story.  But it's been buggin me, and a couple of people have commented on it, so I put back in what I had taken out.  I think I like it a little better now.  Thanks for listening.  BM.

Note:  I know I should be working on other things but this is another case of:  heard a song on the radio, made me think of something, lead to another thought, had a cute GW idea, big-ass fic bit me in the butt.  It's your typical (or not) how they got together fic.  Duo POV.  Alternates b/w present (c.AC208) and past.  No negativity towards any known characters.  Fluff/sap/romantic crap.  Possibly a bit OOC, but then again it's set well into the future so who knows.  I'm not sure how it turned out.  Let me know?

Warnings: Shonen ai, yaoi implied. 1/2/1 (it's mutual)

"Good morning my love."

He drops a kiss on the top of my head, left hand giving me a small caress between the shoulder blades while the right shoots out for my mug of coffee.  He takes a quick sip and mumbles 'not sweet enough', sweeping the retreating right hand across the back of my neck before setting off to fix himself a mug that was more to his liking.

"Did you get enough sleep?" 

It's only 7:35am and he got back after 2am. I know, I looked at the clock at 1:57am when a rather loud noise from the TV woke me, then I watched another 20 minutes of that wretched spy movie before finally succumbing to sleep again.  He must have carried me to bed when he got home.

"There will be time enough for sleep soon." 

He never did sleep much when we were younger and I think that now he just humors me when he lies quietly holding me in the morning hours while I indulge in one of my favorite pastimes.  Two, actually, two of my favorite pastimes, sleeping and snuggling.  I do not, however, think he is humoring me on the second, he likes to snuggle as much as I do.  Maybe it was the lack of affection in our formative years, maybe it's just that it feels good and we're allowing ourselves that.  Who knows?  Who cares!

"Were you able to finish last night?"

"No, sorry."

A grimace and a slight tilt to the head indicates that he really is sorry, we both wanted to leave early today.  He drops the spoon in the sink and comes to settle himself between me and the back of my chair. 

"There ARE other chairs in the kitchen." I tease.

"Yes, but I like this one." The arm not busy holding the mug circles my waist and he puts his chin on my shoulder.

"It was in use, you know?" I smirk.

"Hmm" He places a kiss on my jaw and looks over at the newspaper on the kitchen table.  "That's why I like it so much."

"Ah, I see.  So?" I know what he needs to do before we can go.

"No more than two hours, I promise, it'll still be light out when we get there.  Do you mind finishing off my packing?"  I turn and place a kiss above the corner of his eye – right on that scar, I settle back against him, "Already done, I figured you'd be tired this morning. We can leave as soon as you get back."  He smiles and leans his head against mine.

"Thanks."  He sighs, I think neither of us really wants to move at this moment but we know the sooner he gets it over with the sooner we can leave.  "I'll take the bike and you can pick me up on the way out of town.  It'll save some time and I can leave the keys with one of the guys, they could bring it back on Monday?"

I nod absently, "Sounds like a plan", then I pat his hand where it rests against my skin, "Go then." I lean forward giving him the room and the indication that he needs to get up.

He gives me a slight squeeze before standing up, "Call me when you're on your way.  Two hours, no more."  He says the last firmly.  With conviction.

I smile and look up at him nodding, he absently tucks a few loose strands of hair behind my ear with a smile that reflects the tenderness in his heart.  I'll never cease to be amazed at how at peaceful he looks these days. And how beautiful it looks on him.  He smiles back, he knows.  And to think, we almost missed out on this.

AC204

I burst through the doors of the makeshift medical tent and looked around wildly for someone I knew.  It was the third tent I'd been to, and no one matching his description had been in the others.  There were a few people around who knew who he was, some of them were victims, some of them helping out.  'Go to the next tent, maybe he's there.'

Damnit, he shouldn't have been there. Shouldn't have been there at all.  I was desperate. And I was angry.  Wouldn't it ever end, why is it that people couldn't just stop blowing stuff up. And will he ever stop being in the center of all the destruction.  Hadn't we been through enough?  He was going to get a serious talking to and I was going to deliver it. 

We'd both turned down positions with the Preventers repeatedly.  He shouldn't even have been in the area.  But Une kept calling in favors, 'Please Heero just come in and give us your opinion on this', 'look over the details of another case', 'if you could just speak to Agent so-and-so and give them some advice'. It was contract work; harmless, not dangerous, not involved, it was just a professional courtesy to a former foe, now an ally.

Since we were both scheduled to be near the local Chinatown, we had planned to meet for lunch but my meeting had run late.  I had called to let him know and he'd said he'd visit with a few friends, then wait for me on the sidewalk outside the Preventers building.  On my way there I heard about the explosion.  It had practically destroyed the branch office where we were meeting.  What if he hadn't left yet?  What if he was trapped inside? I couldn't bare the thought of loosing another friend, not again, not when things were going so well.  Why, God, why? 

I was looking around frantically and then I saw Sally.  Our eyes made contact and she knew why I was there.  Before I had a chance to form the question 'where is he' in my mind she pointed to the other end of the tent, at a figure lying on a stretcher cradling something against their head with a bloody hand. 

I'm not sure if I vaulted over the other stretchers or simply made my way around them.  All I remember is him looking up at me and reflecting the same fear and relief he must have seen in my eyes.  He shot up into a sitting position and we both exhaled a rushed, 'Thank God you weren't in there!'  Then he continued to pitch over in the same direction he'd been going when he sat up.  I caught him right before he toppled off the stretcher. 

'Lay down, take it easy.' I was quick to say, and I tried to make him lie down but he stayed my hands and almost imperceptibly shook his head. 

'Need to sit, get balanced.'  He looked up and noticed that I was staring at his bloody hand.  'Not mine… trying to help… m'OK!'  He was still looking straight at me and repeated, m'OK, really, s'not bad, small cut above the eye, some bruising, nothing broken, slightly dazed from the fall.'

'Not bad?' I repeated slightly dazed myself, 'y'look like shit, cuts everywhere, shirt's tattered… singed'.  I tentatively reached out a hand to him.  Afraid if I touched him he'd fall apart on me. 

His free hand came up to grab at my forearm and he nodded slightly, ' m'OK, really, just tired… 'n hungry… no breakfast.'

'OK' I replied and sat down on the stretcher next to him, 'OK… just sit, get balanced, be home soon, when you're OK'  I patted his knee and left my hand there, staring across the tent at the other victims of the explosion, his hand was still on my arm.  'Wha'ppened?'

'Bomb I think, don' know, no notice, was heading back to see if you'd…' My reaction stilled that thought.

I turned and stared at him completely wide-eyed, he'd been going back into the building, what if he'd been inside.  'You could'a died…'

His hand moved to my shoulder, and gave me a gentle shake.  ' 'm not! m'OK, don't think about it.' And then his arm was around me, he was pulling me close, he dropped the ice pack he'd been holding to the side of his face and embraced me,  'was afraid you were in there…' he mumbled.  It was a strong, powerful, emotional embrace that left us both shaking. 

We were the best of friends, we were the most important thing the other had in this world, I don't think we would have gotten as far in our lives or been as well adjusted if it hadn't been for the support we'd given each other over the last several years.  It could easily have destroyed the other had one us died.  We held onto each other for dear life, quietly repeating, 's'alright, we're alright, 's OK, we'll be OK'. 

Sally came over after a while and offered to patch up Heero's gash – it was a gash and not a small cut - and it required a few stitches.  Not too bad except that it was a head wound, it had bled profusely and was dangerously close to his eye.  He'd be OK, we'd both be OK.  God I'd been scared.

I later wondered why we'd had that conversation in slow whispers, barely making sentence fragments, the words just tumbling out between us.  The emotions had been overwhelming and I don't think either of us even realized how much we had been afraid we'd lost.  I'm positive that was the turning point for both of us.

Later that evening, Heero'd had a shower and we were settling down to watch TV when I noticed that one of the many cuts he had had reopened and was bleeding. It wasn't much really, just a small trickle of blood, but it was enough to show through the loose white t-shirt he'd been wearing.  I got the anti-bacterial cream and a few bandages to cover up anything that might still be oozing and settled next to him on the couch.  I quietly ordered him to take off the shirt so I could look him over, we were still talking in quiet tones when I began my work.  At some point in time, I'm not sure how, I'm not sure when, I'm not even sure why, I had begun cataloguing the abrasions, the cuts and the blood – with my fingers.  My hands, of their own volition I guess, were ghosting along his skin tracing the marks.  It occurred to me that he must have been standing perpendicular to a window or something when the explosion went off, because the pattern of the cuts seemed to fade the farther away they got from his arm.

 

I must have said something aloud because he looked up and caught my eye.  He had a strange look in his eyes and the hand that he'd placed on my thigh while I was working on the attached arm gave me a gentle squeeze.  "m'OK" he said gently and then closed his eyes and leaned into me.  I automatically lifted my arms to cradle him to me.  I had never in my life felt so protective and afraid at the same moment.  The only thing that came close to how I felt was that time when Hilde had risked her life to get to Peacemillion with the data disk from the Libra.  I wasn't thinking straight and all the tension and fear that had been building up in me that day spilled out in an endless babble.  "Oh God, Heero, I was so scared, I don't think I know what I would have done if you'd been badly injured, or… or died, I don't think I could live here - by myself again, I need you damnit, I need you safe and I need you here, and I don't ever want you to go back there again, please tell Lady Une you won't do it anymore, you shouldn't have to, we shouldn't have to, no more pain, no more death, please Heero, no more!"  I was babbling and I was crying and I think he was too, the next thing I knew I was kissing his forehead, the crown of his head, the gash over his eye, his brow, his hair, his shoulder; and I was crushing him to me.  And then I was sure he was crying, too, his muffled words were barely reaching my ears, "I know, Duo, I'm sorry, I won't, not again, no more fear, no more pain, I'm sorry, I was so scared, you saved me, thank you, I need you to keep me sane, I need you too, don't ever leave me, you're all I have."  His words were muffled because he'd buried his face in my shoulder and was crying his tears into my shirt, he was returning the crushing hug I was giving him and we fell asleep like that, from exhaustion that was both mental and physical.

When I woke I was leaning sideways against the back of the couch and Heero had his back flat against it with his head lolled to the side on his own shoulder.  Our right hands were resting on the piece of seat cushion between us in a sort of loose handshake, mostly just fingers on fingers.  We were both going to regret it if we stayed in those positions all night, so I woke him up and we shuffled off to our beds for the remainder of the night. 

Those strong emotions stayed with us for a few days and without really discussing it any more than we had that night, our relationship had taken a turn towards something deeper.  Everything we said to each other took on a meaning, a new depth.  'Are you feeling alright', 'Does that still hurt', 'Was your day as bad as mine', 'Do you need some help with that', 'Do you want to eat in or go out tonight' it all meant something different.  I could feel it and I figured he could too.  It was a bit awkward, I'm not sure either of us knew what it was or how it would affect us, but we had changed and we weren't going to ignore it.  It was on my mind constantly and I could tell it was on his, but we both had to work the next few days and so we barely had any time to spend together until the following weekend.  I left for work and arrived earlier than Heero did most days so it wasn't until Friday night, Date Night, that we'd get a chance to talk.

~~~

It's not quite 10am and Heero's already called to say that he's done.  He's gonna go pick up a snack from the bakery down the street and meet me outside his office building.

Everything's packed, of that I'm sure.  I've gone over the mental list of what we'll need several times.  I've also checked the list we keep in the camping gear of things that we have occasionally forgotten.  Everything packed, check.  Place locked up, check.  Cell phone charged and in the car, check.  Cabin in the mountains reserved, caretaker notified of our arrival, check. 

We'll make it with plenty of time.

The last time we went up to the cabin, it took us three hours to drive up to foot of the trail.  And another hour and a half to hike up to the cabin.  Maybe we'll take a slower pace on the hike today, Heero must be exhausted, he's had a much longer work week than me trying to get his latest project far enough along that he feels comfortable leaving it in the hands of his team to finish it up while we're gone.  I am so looking forward to this vacation.  It's kind of an anniversary trip for us, our fourth anniversary as a couple.  We haven't really had a nice long vacation like this since, well, since the last time we came up to the cabin, damn, almost two years ago.  Thank God the owners haven't sold it like they've threatened to for the last few years.  We've been going up there since right after we started living together, which would have been, umm right before Christmas in 198, so what, 10 years now?  Wow, unbelievable, we've been living together for 10 years.  Hah! And Wufei thought we'd kill each other before the end of the first six months.  Just goes to show how wrong he was. 

Of course, everyone thought that I, Duo Maxwell, madman extraordinaire would drive quiet, sensible, Heero Yuy absolutely batty after only a few months.  What they hadn't counted on was that with the end of the wars went the wildness that was Shinigami.  In the year and a half that I spent back on L2, I'd calmed down and matured.  Enough so that when I got together with the guys for what was supposed to be an extended get together Heero and I would really gel.  He too had changed in the year and a half that he'd been separated from us and, the way I see it, he'd im-matured.  He laughed, he joked, he drank, he danced and did all sorts of things that I would never have guessed Heero Yuy would ever do. 

It was in the aftermath of that get together, that we really started to hang out together, that we really started to realize how much we had in common.  It was really the first step towards our current relationship.  And after that it was a small step between hanging out every weekend to moving into the same apartment.  Why the hell not?  We were good friends, we could get a much nicer place if we pooled our resources and we knew that we could tolerate each other in close quarters - we'd ended up spending a few nights at each other's apartments the times we'd been too drunk to drive ourselves home.  He had his job, I had mine, we'd see each other in the mornings for a little while, if at all, and at dinner time.  And it would be infinitely nicer to have someone to talk to, vent to, watch TV with and hang out with after work. 

As for the social aspect of things, we were going out together most the time anyway so there'd be no problem there.  We liked going to the same clubs, we liked the same kind of movies, the only thing we didn't like the same of, was girls.  For some reason the girls he dated or picked up at the clubs always seemed a little slutty to me.  OK maybe not slutty, just a little too sultry or curvaceous.  The long medium-dark hair, the bedroom eyes, the short-tight skirts, the barely there tops, high heels and always, always, always, the bedroom voices.  I don't know how he managed it, it was like he had radar for the voice; that kind of low, deep rumbling thing.  OK, picture Relena, then go to the opposite end of the spectrum.

Me, I went for the more energetic, carefree types.  Not quite tomboyish, but they were almost always slim, semi-athletic, well built but not too much in the curves department, excellent dancers, lots of stamina – I wasn't going to pay 20creds to get into a club and then spend the night sitting on a stool or in a booth.  And the look?  Well, hair of any length and color, but they had to have that certain sparkle in their eyes; they usually wore simple clothes, lots of jeans and t-shirts, cargo-type pants, boots or sneakers, not too girly, you know?  We did occasionally cross the 'types' boundaries, I once dated someone that was much more his style and he twice dated girls that were more up my alley. 

The first few years we were living together we were going out almost constantly, meeting up with the same people at the same clubs week after week.  As for dates we had our fair share and we always went on double dates the second time out, just to test out the girls' reactions to the other one of us.  Mostly they got along and mostly we had a good time, but if they didn't get along with the other one of us - they didn't last; WE weren't going to be spilt up because some girl.  As a matter of fact, Trowa once joked that we were probably never going to get married because no girl could withstand the pressure of being paired up with both Shinigami & Wing.  In short, we were inseparable.

We were a pair and had been for years; partners in war, partners in peace. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum is what Hilde called us, there was just no way we could be with someone who couldn't stand to be around the other one.  Some of the girls we dated got a little weirded out with our behavior, we'd unintentionally tell inside jokes and finish each other's sentences and sometimes each other's meals, the ones that couldn't handle it eventually stopped coming around.  After all the time we'd spent together we thought it was only natural to be so close.  It didn't seem to bother most people and it suited us just fine.  There was never anything too serious or too long lasting, except Isabel.

I remember that one girl in particular.  Heero had met Isabel at the club and they hit it off instantly.  We became a threesome of sorts, every time we went to the club, it was always Heero, Isabel and me.  Sometimes I found a date and we'd become a foursome.  Things seemed to be going great for them and I was really happy for him; but I started to get the impression that she wasn't too thrilled with me.  I wasn't dating anyone steady and it seemed to bother her a bit and after a few months I guess she decided to put her foot down. 

As they were waiting for me to get ready she informed him that she believed they needed to start spending less time with me and my date-du-jour.  She told him she was uncomfortable with the constant joking and the fact that my dates and I were not as serious as they were, she felt it would help if they had more time to themselves to truly get to know each other, especially in light of the progressing physical aspects of their relationship.  I distinctly remember stopping what I was doing to see if I could catch his reply.  There was none.  I assume he must have given her a look though because when she started up again she seemed a little less certain of her footing, perhaps a little perplexed.  'Is there a problem?' she asked him and I could have sworn I heard him say no.  'Then we're in agreement?' she asked, this time I clearly heard him say no.  Maybe she'd misunderstood, she told him, she proceeded to explain to him how she had planned on dating him – exclusively – and that having a third and fourth wheel along on all their dates was becoming unacceptable.  It was not that she disliked me but how did he expect their relationship to progress if it was constantly hampered by the presence of an outsider.  I couldn't hear more than the rumble of a quiet response from him and I knew that was a bad sign.

Now I was feeling kind of bad, not so much for eavesdropping, but because I thought Heero really liked this girl and I could honestly see them staying together.  He'd date her far longer than he had anyone else.  Unfortunately he was still a little rough around the edges and occasionally needed some help in situations like these.  I finished dressing as quickly as I could in hopes of coming to his rescue but by the time I got there I knew it was too late.  I'm not sure what they'd said while I wasn't listening but when I made it the living room he was sitting on the couch with his arms crossed and she was nowhere to be found.  I asked him where Isabel'd gone, his answer was 'home, and she won't be back.'  When I stared at him expectantly, he rose from his seat grabbing the keys to the bike, a hand already on the doorknob he asked if we could change our plans.  He no longer wanted to go to the club, he said, preferring to just go to a movie or for a ride around town.  We ended up getting something to eat at the noodle stand in the park by the lake and just sat to watch the people stroll by.  He eventually told me what happened.

'I told her that you were not some outsider, you were my best friend and that no one knew me better than you did.  I told her that your friendship was important to me, that it had never been a problem before, and I didn't know why it was now.'  I nodded figuring it best to keep my comments to myself til he was done.  'She got all huffy with me and said that I acted as if I was dating you and not her and that I should reconsider my priorities.'  He shifted in his seat and looked off to the right.  'Buddies come and go, she said, and in a few years we might not even be talking to each other, much less sharing an apartment. She said I needed to grow up and leave the sandbox behind me.'  I studied his profile, he looked sad and maybe a little confused.  'Do you think she's right, Duo, that in a few years we might not be such good friends?  I'd never thought about it.  Do you think that would happen with us?  I've never had friends before, other than the you and the guys, is that really what happens to most people.'  He turned melancholy eyes on me and for just one moment I wished Isabel was there so I could beat the crap out of her. She'd hurt him, probably more than she'd ever know or even meant to. She'd struck one of his few remaining insecurities, that he would end up alone, without people who truly cared about him, just as he had been for most of his life.

'Nah!' I said, trying to lighten the mood, 'she probably had a messed up childhood and doesn't know what real friends are all about.  You, me and the guys'll never stop being friends, close friends.  Been through too much together, Heero, just not gonna happen.' I was shaking my head briskly to emphasize the point.

'Messed up childhood, huh?  Can't be more messed up than ours, don't you think?' He was trying to keep the mood light too but in his eyes I could still see the hurt. 'Friends forever, right?' he asked and held out his pinky to me.

At that I laughed, loud and hard.  The idea of Heero, a pillar of maturity, asking for a pinky promise was just too funny.  I hooked my pinky with his and nodded solemnly, remembering that day at the park I'd had to explain what those kids were doing.

I know his head knew what I said was true, but the heart of the little boy who'd been treated so cruelly still couldn't accept it.  So we stayed there for a while longer without saying much else.  I couldn't really help him with this problem, except by being there. 

He eventually started dating again, but it never came close to lasting as long as it had with Isabel.  Huh, maybe I should thank her.  After a while we realized we needed to slow down the whole night-life thing, so we came up with 'Date Night Fridays', we had our dates either before, during or after a visit to the club.  That was the night we went out with other people.  Saturdays and Sundays we hung out with each other mostly or sometimes with our coworkers; it was just easier, more comfortable, less pressure to be 'on'.  It allowed us to just be who we were and not need to explain ourselves to anyone.  Looking back on it now I can't believe we didn't see what was happening. 

~~~

"You look pensive, is something wrong?"  His beautiful voice has brought me out of my memories and I realize that I'm stopped in front of his office building.  I must have driven here on autopilot.

"Just thinking about us." I reply and lean out the open window to pluck a kiss from his lips.  "You gonna get in?" I ask and jerk my head in the direction of the passenger seat.

His eyebrows rise into his hairline and he has that gleam in his eye when answers, "You offering… here, now?"  Who would have thought that Heero Mr.-I-used-to-be-serious-all-the-time Yuy would have turned out to be a pervert.

"Get in the car, baka, or we'll never make it before dark." I shake my head at him, he's so cute when he acts like a perv. 

I'm sure everyone thinks it's my fault he's a perv, but over the last four years, since we REALLY got together, I've had to work real hard, no sorry diligently, to eliminate a few common expressions from my speech patterns.  The words 'hard', 'coming' and 'getting or being up' are especially distracting to him.  And he's a much bigger perv than I ever was.  Even before, when we were living together but not 'living together'. 

As he gets in the car I notice the small white bag in his hand.  "What'd you get?" I ask in anticipation of the wonderful treats that come from the corner bakery and in hopes of changing the direction of the conversation.

"A jumbo cinnamon roll and a large latte, you don't mind if we share?"  He smiles sweetly at me, as if he needs to ask.

"Not at all, babe, not at all."  I open my mouth to accept the first bite of the best pastry on the planet and pull into the almost non-existent flow of downtown traffic. 

"So what about 'us' were you thinking?  You obviously didn't see me coming down the block."  He puts the coffee in the cup holder and he's got the roll in hand, vacation time is officially here and he starts to relax into the seat.  He extends his hand for me to take another bite.

"Mmm.  I, uh, about Date Night Fridays actually, remember them?"

"Oh?  What made you think about that?"

"Well, I started thinking about the last time we'd been up to the cabin, and then the first time we'd been up there, and how long we've been together and how Wu said we'd kill each other before the half-year mark and"

"And he was obviously wrong."

"Yeah I know.  Heero, do you realize we've been together for ten years?  I mean not, together-together.  But we moved in together right after that party in 198.  That's ten years, in a couple of months anyway."

"Does that bother you?" He looks puzzled.

"Bother me?  Hell no!  I just, I'm amazed that's all.  I hadn't really thought about it in those terms.  I mean we were just rooming together then but that was really the beginning of what we have today.  I… I think it's cool.  We've been a couple for four years but we've been living together, we've been friends for ten years.  I can't believe that much time has passed."

"Actually it's been longer if you think about it.  At least I've considered you a friend since I realized what friends were, just after I self detonated.  Afterwards Trowa and I talked about how worried we were about what was going on with the rest of you and I remember I kept hoping you were OK.  When we finally saw you and Quatre taking out that base trying to get into outer space, I was so relieved, especially after you took off.  Then when I registered at that school under your name I realized just how important you were to me and I realized that it wasn't because I considered you just a comrade or an ally, it was because you were my friend.  The first real friend I'd ever had and I became desperate to find you."

"Oh God, love, you say the sweetest things!" 

I know, I'm gushing like a schoolgirl, but Heero rarely says so much, and it's just one of those things that still to this day, he says things as if they hold so little significance.  To him those are just the facts, to me it means the world.  I lean over and give him a kiss on the cheek.

"So you were just entranced with the fact that we've been together for ten years?  You're getting soft, my love, that could've gotten you dead in the old days."  He looks sad when he says that and I'm wondering if he's thinking about the same things I am.  "Sorry, shouldn't have said that."

"No, babe, it's OK."  I smile, "m'OK."  Now he's smiling, it's become a mantra for us, kind of like an all purpose/I love you thing.  We've said it so many times to each other in the course of the years we've spent together, that it's sort of what it's come to mean.

"m'OK, too, you know."  He has that twinkle in his eye again, and he smiles.  God he's beautiful.  We finish off our coffee and roll in relative silence.  Knowing that we really don't need to say much to follow that up.  As he searches around for something in the packs in the back seat I think about that last 'official' Date Night Friday. 

AC204

Heero had arrived home earlier than usual, I had just finished up in the shower.  He knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to get something to eat on the way to the club or if he should just toss a light snack together before we left.  'It is Friday, you know' and I knew he wanted to get out tonight, maybe he just wanted to sweat off the stress, maybe he wasn't ready to be cooped up with me for several hours alone. 

I think we were both still feeling some of the stress from the events earlier that week, the emotions were still running rampant through me and I knew that he must be feeling it too.  I told him I was too wired to eat much more than a sandwich, so he left me to finish getting ready and went to fix us a little something to eat.

By the time I made it to the kitchen he'd already changed, 'You look nice' he said as he pulled a couple of sodas from the fridge.  'Thanks, you too.'  I noticed he was wearing a long sleeved shirt that covered most of the abrasions, 'You gonna be OK, with that gash you have on your eye?'  I hadn't wanted to bring up the incident but I was concerned he might spilt it open in the club, free flying elbows often made their way to the worst places.  'm'OK' he replied, 'it's healing pretty nicely.'

We ate our sandwiches in silence then headed out for the club, as usual, on the bike.  It's much easier to find a place to park it when we arrive and much easier to make it out between the crowds later.  Our favorite bouncer was on duty that night and he waved us in like he always did, pissing off the not so regular customers waiting in line.  The place had had its fair share of ups and downs over the years but it was still our favorite club and its popularity was on an upswing again.  We paid the entrance fee and made our way to our usual corner table.

Having arrived a little earlier than usual, none of our friends were there yet.  We ordered a couple of beers each and sat in silence for a while just letting the music work its magic, I think I was finally starting to relax when the waitress arrived with our drinks.  After downing his first beer in one shot Heero turned to me and said, 'Maybe this is not the right time and place but I wanted to tell you that I meant what I said the other day.  I really appreciate – no more than that – I cherish you being my friend and I was scared shitless when I thought you might have been in that building.  I couldn't think clearly and all I wanted to do was find you and make sure you were OK.  That's actually how I fell and cut my face, I was struggling to get away from the people who were trying to pull me farther from the building.  You are my closest friend Duo and I feel very strongly for you, more than anyone I've ever known in my life.  I don't know what I'd do without you.  You don't have to say anything in response, I just wanted you to know.'

Oh my God, I was floored.  I had been trying to come up with a way to say pretty much the same thing for days now and Heero had just blurted it out without the slightest thought.  Of course, if I'd been thinking straight I wouldn't have thought that.  I know that he never said important things like that without thinking about them first, so he'd obviously been in the same boat as me.  And that's just what I was getting around to thinking when he started shifting uncomfortably and began to get out of his chair mumbling something about needing to go to the bathroom. I must have been speechless for long enough to frighten or discourage him.  My totally numbed brain did one of those super-fast-forward things and his words clicked in my head – as did their intent, I think he was running away.  Before I even had a chance to think, my hand shot out and caught him by the arm, while my mouth blurted out 'No wait!  Me too.'

He flinched slightly but then stared at me and shook his head a bit as if trying to clear away the confusion that was evident on his face.  'Me too' I repeated and then amended 'well, not the falling bit, but the other stuff.'  I stood and moved to within inches of him.  The hand on his arm slid down to his wrist and the other grabbed him by the shoulder, I wanted to be sure I had his full attention. 'I was scared too, scared that you hadn't made it out in time, scared that I'd lost the only other person in the world who I'd ever felt so strongly about.  You, Heero Yuy, are my very best and closest friend and I don't know what I'd do without you either.'

He just nodded, we both did actually, it was like we had cleared some haze that had existed between us since the initial buzz of emotions had hit us earlier in the week.  We just stood there, facing each other, nodding, coming to grips with the weight of our admissions, small smiles slowly growing on our faces.  Who knows how long we would have stayed like that if it hadn't been for Terri, one of my favorite dance partners, coming along with a couple of friends.  'If we're interrupting something important, we can come back later' she said and there was an odd look on her face when she said it.  She smiled and cocked her head to the side, then turned a bit to introduce a new acquaintance.  'This is Annie, I thought Heero might like to dance with her, thought she might be his type.'  Then she turned to mumble something to the others that was clearly not meant for us to hear, 'I could be wrong about their types though.' 

I didn't have the presence of mind to realize what that meant right then, I just catalogued it in my brain and accepted that we were no longer alone and that any further discussion would need to be held later.  I think Heero had come to the same decision. I'm almost positive I saw him mumble 'later' and then nod distinctly.  He turned towards Terri and put on his best club-Heero smile, it was really more of a lopsided smirk.  He greeted all our friends and introduced himself to Annie appraising her slowly, she was his 'type'.  He downed the rest of his beer while I reclaimed my seat, and before leaving with her for the dance floor, he placed a hand on my knee and squeezed it, blocking view of the action from the others with his body he smiled and said, 'you know what I want, will you order for me?'  I nodded and waved the waitress over. I made sure she got everyone's drink order. 

By the time she was gone the only ones left at the table were me and Terri, and she was looking at me funny again.  'What?' I said in my usual nonchalant manner.  She just continued staring at me with an expectant look.  'Wha~at?' I repeated, I didn't know what she wanted and wasn't about to venture a guess.  This time she laughed a little – more like a giggle, really – 'Duo would you like me to spell it out for you or are you going to spill?' Now I was a little concerned, what could she have seen or heard that made her think I had something to spill. 

The hesitation was all she needed to make up her mind, 'OK, I'll spell it out for you.  Something is definitely going on with you two.  Here are the facts:  One, you two are never here this early.  Two, I have never seen him down a beer so quickly in all the years we've been hanging out together – for any reason.  Three, whatever he said left you so floored you were speechless for more than a minute, trust me I counted.  Four, your lack of reaction made him so nervous I thought he was going to hurl sitting right there.' She pointed to the empty chair next to me.  'Five, I have never seen you react so intensely to anything. And six, whatever you said to him made the two of you stand there and stare at each other like love-struck teenagers for about another three minutes.' 

Now she was nodding in that, I know what I'm talking about fashion.  'I was the first one in the door and had to wait for the others to trickle in, so I saw it all.'  She paused and the implications of what she was saying really started to hit.  Then she continued, 'It's perfectly OK with me, look honey, love is love and you get it where you find it.  I've often wondered about you guys and then just thought that maybe I was wrong.  But in case you haven't noticed, you guys haven't made a serious move on anybody in ages – more than two years now, not since you eased up on your outings, and in that time the rest of us have had one, if not more, quote-unquote solid relationships.  Think about what you guys have been doing since you started coming to the club only on Fridays, I've seen the way you act together.  You look after each other, you go on vacation together, you wear each other's clothes, hell, Duo, you guys go grocery shopping together.  I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've gone shopping with my roommate and she and I have known each other since kindergarten.  My parents don't spend as much time with each other and they've been married for almost fifty years.  Look sweetie, it's not unheard of or looked down upon.' 

I continued to sit there and sip at my beer until the waitress arrived.  She and Terri shared some nonverbal communication and then she was gone.  By that time Terri was itching to dance so she asked me if I'd ever be getting off my ass or if I'd be letting my 20creds go to waste this evening.  I put down my beer and we headed for the dance floor and our friends.

I operated in a strange third-person haze for most of the evening, but there were a few things that clearly made it through.  First, there were several same sex couples in the club and I don't mean dancing in a group together as we often did.  I mean when the music slowed down, there were pairs everywhere.  Something I realize that I'd acknowledged but never given much thought to.  Second, Heero spent a lot more time on the dance floor that evening and usually no more than one person away from me, just as we'd always been when we danced in a group but this time it was more personal.  We bumped shoulders and hips on several occasions, we had these impromptu coordinated moves thing going; and we kept flicking our eyes back and forth at each other.  Third, whenever we retired to the table, Heero and I ended up next to each other like usual, bumping shoulders and knees, only this time the touches were more lingering.  And last but not least, I couldn't shake the growing feeling of anticipation as the evening wore on, especially when he looked at me – and he did it often that night.  What I was anticipating, I'm not exactly sure.  The gang usually hit one of the nearby all-night diners after leaving the club around 2am, just to help us wind down a bit before going home and I couldn't decide whether I just wanted to get out of the club or just head home to be with Heero.

Turned out I didn't have much choice in the matter, everyone bailed on us early.  Before one in the morning they had all begged off either with a date or some excuse about an early morning activity the next day.  I was shocked when as the last of them said goodbye, Heero held his shirt out to me and deadpanned, 'Do I smell bad tonight?'  Sometimes I still couldn't tell if he was joking or not.  I grabbed at his arm as I stood to pull him away from the table saying 'No, but we might as well take off, the last of the fun is leaving the building.'  In the act of my standing to push in my chair and him standing to do the same my hand ended up sliding down his arm into his hand.  He gave it a small squeeze and said, 'yeah, lets go.'  By the time we made it to the door our hands had separated but I don't think it was anything conscious.  It sort of unhappened, just like it had sort of happened.

We made it out to the bike and stood there for a moment enjoying the cooler air outside the club.  I was trying to decide what to do or say next when Heero blurted out 'How about we ride home, ditch the bike and walk to the Starlight, I could really go for some egg salad and a shake, for some reason I'm starving, OK if I drive?'  Then, without waiting for an answer he took the driver's position on the bike.

'Yeah, sure' was all I could manage to get out before mounting the bike behind him.

I wasn't sure yet what any of what had transpired tonight meant, but I knew it meant something.  But how, if what I thought might be happening was happening, did you suddenly change the nature of the relationship you'd had for such a long time with your best friend.  We hadn't actually declared our love for each other, not in those terms at least, even though it was pretty obvious that we did love each other.  Can't be the best of friends and not love each other, but the question was about the levels and meanings of that love.

I know I hadn't been 'in love' with any of the girls I'd dated and I was pretty sure that Heero hadn't been either.  But that hadn't stopped us from being intimate with them.  I'd slept with a fair share of those girls, definitely not all and never on our first date and I think the same applied to Heero.  So that was out of the equation.  They were nice, they were fun and I liked them, but I didn't love any of them. The thought of not having them in my life had never stressed me out, as a matter of fact we'd used our double dates to weed out what we secretly referred to as the 'undesirables', the ones who could only stand one of us either at a time or at all.  We had often told each other that the girls could be replaced, but we could not.  God, how stupid could we have been not to see it.

I then directed my thoughts to the people I know I loved and tried to compare it with what I felt for Heero.  I think I can safely say that I love the guys; Quatre, Trowa and Wufei are like brothers to me.  We'd do just about anything for each other and on several occasions we have risked life and limb for one another.  If that's not love I don't know what is.  And while I'd be hurt and miss them if one of them died, I don't think it would equal my reaction to loosing Heero.

Then there's Relena and Hilde.  Relena may have been a major pain in the ass during the first war but damn I love that girl.  She helped us all out after the wars, kept our faces out of the news as much as possible, made sure that we had a way to reach her if we ever needed anything, and she engineered that little get together that brought me and Heero together, so I love her too, maybe like a sister or a cousin I guess, I'm not really sure on that cousin bit though.  And Hilde, I'd say I loved her like my brother too if she was a guy, so I guess that classifies her for sister-love.  We took care of each other and helped each other grow in that time we spent together after the Mariemaeia incident.  I'd be sad and I'd miss her if she were gone, but I can say without thinking about it twice that it wouldn't hold a candle to the pain of being without Heero.

The only other ones I can think of that I loved are way farther back in the Duo-list of life events.  There's Father Maxwell and Sister Helen, I loved them like a child would love parents.  Shit, they were my parents for all intents and purposes, so I guess that's that, and it goes without saying that I was terribly hurt by their deaths.  But then there's Solo. 

He is probably the only one for whom I felt anything even remotely similar to what I feel for Heero.  Of course we were both just babies, relatively speaking, when we got  together so there was no physical aspect to our love at all... Maybe if we'd been older there might have been something between us, but there wasn't, cause we weren't and I'll never know. He was my first love in every sense of the word.  I idolized him, I relied on him, I thrived on his presence in my life.  My thoughts were centered around our safety and our happiness – to the extent that it was possible in the squalor that surrounded us.  But oh how I loved him, still do honestly, so I guess it's true what they say about your first love, it never diminishes.  I was crushed when he died, soul sore and lost, much like I would be if I lost Heero; and the memory of Solo's loss is what jumped to mind when I thought I'd lost Heero in that explosion.  But if my continued love for Solo is any indication, well then there's no doubt.  I love Heero, and I love him THAT WAY.

By the time I'd finished my internal dissection of love, we'd arrived at the apartment and Heero was parking the bike in our space.  I got off first and offered him my hand, it was a normal thing for me to do, so I didn't think much about when he accepted it.  What did surprise me is that he didn't let go; not when he stowed his helmet or mine or when we headed for the elevator to get to street level.  When we were in the elevator, he looked down at our hands then up at my face and smiled.  Then he pulled me closer to his side and we just stood there; shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, holding hands.  I was so excited I thought I would burst.  I'm not sure what had suddenly come over me but I felt giddy and had to fight hard not to grin like an idiot or giggle.

We walked at a leisurely pace to the diner, found a round booth in the corner and slid all the way to the very center in the back, sitting shoulder to shoulder.  By the time Maggie came by to take our order I couldn't contain the idiot grin on my face and thankfully Heero was wearing one too.  She took our order with a wide smile on her face; two egg salads and one chocolate malt – two straws.  Stupid I know, but we were kind of on a first date and well, two chocolate malts would have been too much at that hour of the morning.  Maggie smiled at us again when she brought our food and left the check.  We took our time eating, but didn't really talk that much, I guess Heero must have been as nervous as I was. 

We paid the tab and walked home at an even more leisurely pace, holding hands all the way back. Once we were inside the building waiting for the elevator I started to get nervous again.  What would happen when we were back in OUR apartment.  We had both brought people back to our apartment and it was pretty apparent where that led, we'd both made advances towards others but we'd never been in this position before.  There was not going to be any parting kiss at the front door and say goodnight here.  Just then the elevator doors opened and I couldn't take the pressure any more.  'Heero wait' I said and blocked his entry into the elevator. Mimicking his words from early in the evening I continued quickly 'This might not be the right time or place but I need to know, uh, well, when we get upstairs, uh, what do you, how are we gonna…'

Thank God that his brain seems to work better under pressure than mine does sometimes.  He put a hand over my mouth and said 'Listen to me Duo, you and I are friends, right?'  I nodded. 'We live in the same apartment and we each have our own bedrooms, right?' Another nod. 'And that's not going to change right now, right?' Again I nodded.  'Alright, so far so good.  Have you ever slept with anyone on the first date?' I shook my head and my eyes widened a bit wondering if he, 'me neither' he interrupted, 'is there any reason that we should start now?'  I made to say something but his hand was still on my mouth, he pulled it down and waited, but then I wasn't sure what to say so he continued.  'Look, we go slow and we take this a little bit at a time, there's too much between us to act like… like… I don't know, like we did with those other people.  We don't do anything we don't both feel comfortable with and if you want we could… set up some rules of engagement or something?'  He raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to the side. 'Is that OK?' 

Thank God! He WAS just as nervous as me.  I stepped backwards into the elevator and allowed him to step in.  I finally found my voice and my confidence as the doors closed behind him so I asked, 'Heero can we just sit on the couch and watch some TV for a little while when we get upstairs, before…', I felt a blush rising on my cheeks and lowered my head, I wasn't sure how this was going to over so to my feet I said, '…before you kiss me goodnight and we go to bed?'  I was so embarrassed I couldn't look up at him where he stood across from me.

He moved to my side, took my hand in his and whispered, 'Sure Duo, I'd like that.'  And that's exactly what happened. 

We went upstairs, left our shoes by the door and settled into the couch, only this time we were sitting closer than we ever had before.  He put his arm around my shoulders and I leaned into him, curling up my legs on the empty part of the couch.  I don't remember if we even turned the TV on, it was just about us being there together.  After we both had yawned a few times, I suggested we go to bed and felt my face flushing again at the thought of what might happen next.  I stood with the intention of heading for my bedroom, when his hand on my wrist stopped me.  He spoke softly and apparently decided to address his feet like I'd done before, 'It's alright if you changed your mind, but if not I'd like to do this here – on neutral ground, OK? No pressure.'

I turned to face him and saw my own nervousness reflected in his eyes.  'I do, I want to. Here's good.' 

We awkwardly stepped closer to each other, you'd think we'd never kissed anybody before.  When I thought about it later I realized we were both acting kind of geeky, from all accounts we were both pretty good kissers so this should have been second nature to us.  I grabbed his hand, looking for an anchor, he sighed and stepped closer, then his other hand reached for my face.  I looked at his eyes, then at his lips, then at his eyes again, I decided to just go for it, so I began leaning forward.  I think he met me half way.  The kisses were short, soft, light pressure kisses.  One right after the other; four, five, twenty, I'm not really sure how many.  But it was nice and it felt good.  We pulled back a little and just smiled at each other.

'We OK?'

'Yeah, m'OK'

'OK. Goodnight then.'

'Yeah, uh, you too'

We did that every night for a while.  We'd clean up after dinner, change into our PJs – which usually consisted of shorts or boxers and a t-shirt – curl up on the couch together and either watch TV, read the paper or listen to music.  Most times we indulged in a little kissing while still on the couch, it was nice and it was sweet and we were taking things very slowly.  Eventually the kissing became more intense but we hadn't really moved on to more, well that and a little touching.  OK, so we were pretty much making out on the couch almost every night after the first week, but it never went any farther.  And every night we'd end up falling asleep curled up together until one of us woke up again; then we'd kiss each other goodnight and go to our own beds.

Then, about a month into our new relationship, I decided maybe it was time for things to change.  I guess I'd realized that we were just putting things off.  Every night we'd fall asleep together on the couch, wake each other up and head off to bed alone.  For me it was becoming torture, I liked sleeping with Heero, it felt good to hold him or be held by him but there was no way we were going to stay on the couch all night.  I'd made up my mind and I was going to tell Heero how I felt about it.  That night when Heero woke me up and said 'time to go to bed', I agreed and got up.  We walked to the doorway leading from the living room into the hall and he stopped for our goodnight kiss.  Only this time I kept walking.

'Duo?' he called to me, his voice was uncertain. 

I walked right past the door to my room, stopping only when I reached his.  Leaning against it, I looked at him.  'Yes Heero?' 

'Aren't you going to say goodnight?' He blushed a little and I knew it wasn't the goodnight part that he was worried about missing.

'Sure, but I'd rather not do it in the living room anymore.  Can't we do it in here…' I pointed at his door, 'or in there?'  I pointed at my door.  His mind was reeling at the possible implications.  I really wasn't asking what I think he was thinking, so I continued.  'Heero, do you find sleeping on the couch very comfortable?'

'Uh, no, not really.'

'Good, cause neither do I, but I do like sleeping with you next to me, so I thought that maybe, instead of taking a little nap together on the couch every night, we could just sleep together in one of our beds.  That's all I want right now, just to sleep with you.  We've been doing it for a while now, why not do it in a bed, for the whole night rather than just a few hours?'

He thought about it as he approached his door, 'Yeah, I guess, I think I'd like that.'  Then he smiled at me and ran his fingers through my bangs as he opened the door.  'Come on, let's go to bed.' 

And we did.

~~~

"Babe, wake up, we're here."  I'm standing in the open passenger side doorway to wake up a very sleepy lover of mine.  He's been out like a light for the whole trip.  I knew he was tired.

"Already?  Why did you let me sleep all the way?"  I don't know how he still manages to go from completely asleep to completely awake in the blink of an eye.  I step aside to let him get out of the car and stretch.

"No biggie, you needed it, you've been getting home way too late all week.  And I wanted to make sure you make it to sunset tonight.  You know how gorgeous it is up here and it'd be a shame to miss a single one."  I motion to all our belongings that I've already removed from the car.  Everything's bundled in two groups, what I'll carry and what he'll carry.

"Have you called the caretaker to let him know we're here?" He's already loading up his back pack and sorting out the other items he needs to carry.

"Yup, said he'll be there by the time we get there.  Also said he'd been by this morning, cranked up the water heater, added some wood to the pile and aired the placed out a bit.  Nobody's been up here in over two months."  I've locked the car and I'm ready to go; I motion towards the trail that leads to the cabin.  "You ready?"

"I'm ready, let's make this quick."  He has that look in his eyes again and I raise an eyebrow in question.  "Don't worry, your virtue is safe.  I just want to take a shower and get to the relaxation part of this trip as soon as possible."  He heads off towards the trail without even looking back but calling over his shoulder,  "You think they still have that swing on the porch, it'd be nice to curl up on it to watch the sunset…" Now he does turn to look at me and holds out his hand for me to take, "with you of course, just like old times."

"Of course." I answer.  And we head off at a faster pace than I'd anticipated. 

~ Owari ~

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Disclaimer:  Only this feeble attempt at literature is mine, not even the characters therein are.