Well, Shoori absolutely insisted I finally write this story, since she felt the last story kind of left the reader (namely her) hanging. I think she just likes to watch me squirm when she reads my sappy stuff. Anyway, if you read Hard To Say and wondered, "Yeah, but what happened next?" well...now you can find out.

("Breathe" is by Faith Hill)
fic by Aoe

Just Breathe

I had thought it would be strange, to climb into bed with two other men at night.

And it was.

After we got back from the park yesterday, I don't know how long we stayed up, watching TV, ordering pizza much too late, and just talking about inconsequential things. Favorite colors, foods, hobbies, movies... Boxers or briefs, and why? It was strange, partly because we were all giggly and giddy like a bunch of schoolgirls having a sleepover, and partly because... Well, it was odd to realize there was still so much we didn't know about each other, even after all these years.

Actually, I'm pretty sure Heero and Duo already knew at least some of the things we discussed last night, but they didn't want me to feel like the odd man out. I don't think that could have been avoided, really. Even in the middle of playing rock-paper-scissors for the last slice of pizza with Duo at two in the morning, I remained acutely aware of the fact that they've already had three months of this. How was I ever supposed to catch up? How could I possibly fit into this bizarre little arrangement they were suggesting, when they'd already had so long to get used to each other?

When they fit so well together, and I...

When they finally gave in to attraction, it was to each other. Well, all right, so Duo did come on to me that one time, but that was years ago. Recently, he's just been my friend. Just because I was almost ready to ask him for more than friendship...

And Heero. I would swear Heero never looked twice at me.

All these thoughts kept swirling around in my head all evening, despite the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere Duo is so very skilled at creating. Oh, outwardly I smiled and played along, but I'm pretty sure he knew what was going on in my head anyway. He's had a long time to figure out how my mind works, and he's much better at that than most people would give him credit for. Hell, for all I know, I'm an open book to Heero, too. We've got enough in common he might understand me far better than I think.

But anyway... it was a strange night, fun and nerve-wracking at the same time.

And it wasn't until about three that I realized they were both waiting for me to decide it was time for bed.

I'll admit, that threw me for a bit of a loop. When realization hit, I excused myself and... Well, I went and hid in the bathroom for about fifteen minutes, just staring at the tile floor, trying to wrap my mind around the events of the day, and the unusual, unexpected and quite frankly, somewhat frightening situation I had ended up in.

I had woken up in a hospital that morning with a sprained leg and an advanced case of hopeless melancholy, certain I was destined to be alone forever and watch the two men I loved, the two I could never quite choose between, build a happy life together without me.

And now they were sitting in the living room, making small talk, waiting for me to decide I was ready to go to bed with them.

With both of them.

At the same time.

The mind boggles. Well, mine did, anyway.

Eventually, there was a knock on the door that I recognized as Duo. He asked if he could come in, and I let him, and he sat on the tub and solemnly assured me that nothing had to happen tonight. It wasn't a one-time offer. If I needed more time to get used to the idea, or even more time to consider my decision, that was okay.

They had their minds quite firmly made up, but I could still walk away and we could go back to the way things were.

Which was ridiculous, really. When you admit your feelings to the couple you're in love with, and they invite you to join them, that's not the sort of offer you can politely decline and go back to meeting at the bar every Friday. That's the kind of thing that changes relationships forever.

But I knew they'd try, if that was what I wanted.

But it wasn't what I wanted. I just...

Heero opened the door, without knocking, took in the scene, and declared bluntly that we didn't have to try having sex tonight. He, for one, would like to have some time to consider the logistics of the operation.

Duo laughed at that remark, which eased the tension considerably. Then he informed us that he was at least partially aware of the 'logistics' as Heero so romantically put it, but only with two girls and one guy. Then he grinned suggestively, which caused Heero to pretend to beat on him, which meant now we were all crammed into the little bathroom, the two of them about to fall into the tub and me sitting on the toilet seat watching.

Which was a little too ridiculous, even for someone who's known them both for so long, so I just gave up the ghost and declared it was time we all went to bed. Duo immediately squirmed out of Heero's headlock and ran off toward the bedroom, loudly informing Heero that he owed Duo five dollars. Heero declined to explain.

So finally, we all collapsed into the bed, Duo managing to snag the middle, not that either Heero or I protested.

I'd thought it would be strange. And it was. But eventually I realized that while I was lying there all tensed up, waiting for something to happen, for somebody to start something... they'd both fallen asleep.

For a moment, I was almost insulted. Then I fell asleep, too.

But now it's morning.

It's morning, and everything feels... different. I don't feel nervous or uncertain like I did yesterday and last night. I'm the first one to wake up, I've always needed the least sleep of the three of us, and I'm watching the two of them, sprawled all over the bed and each other and... well, me...

And I don't feel left out. I don't feel like an outsider. They want me here. They asked me to become part of this. Part of them. Part of... of us, I guess.

I'm glad they're not awake yet to watch me working through these thoughts, because I just know I've got a goofy grin on my face. I'm sure they'll see it sooner or later, but I'm glad I have this precious early morning hour to adjust. To relax. To accept that... I really have gotten this lucky.

I really have been given such a gift...

I can feel the magic floating in the air
Being with you gets me that way

The sun has just begun peeking into the window, and the soft light falls across the bed, across the sleeping faces of my two...

Well, I suppose I can't really call them lovers, just yet. But I can't just call them friends anymore, either. They're something more, something special, something I never thought I'd be blessed to have... and certainly not in stereo.

My two loves. It seems almost sinful, for one person... for me... to be given so much. Who ever gets everything they want? Who ever gets to be completely happy?

The pale golden light slowly caresses their sleeping faces, and it occurs to me... I could do that, too. It could be my fingers so gently exploring the familiar contours of their faces, their bodies... and they would welcome that exploration. I have that right, that privilege. It's a staggering thing to realize, for me, when just a few days ago, I'd resigned myself to a lifetime alone.

I watch the sunlight dance across your face
And I've never been this swept away

In the middle of my rapt contemplation, Duo mutters something in his sleep and abruptly rolls over on top of me. I'm sitting up against the headboard, so his head ends up in my lap, and one deceptively slender arm wraps possessively around my waist.

I already know Duo is an inveterate snuggler, but this morning, with all my infinite possibilities laid out before me, his familiar embrace feels different.

It's always made me just a bit nervous, just a bit wary, how...touchy-feely he can be. He has very little concept of personal space to begin with, and if he considers you a close friend, it disappears altogether. I've never liked being touched, but...

He's worn me down a bit, over the years. He needs to be touched, and I've always had a hard time denying him anything he really wanted... except for the once.

I smile down at his head, pillowed on my thigh. Actually, I guess it just took me much longer than usual to give in.

I never feel like I've lost when I let him have his way, though. I just feel... gratified by how happy it makes him. He's really a very good winner. He doesn't gloat, he's just... happy.

He snuggles closer to me, and I feel myself relaxing in his embrace in a way I never quite have before. I don't have to hide my feelings anymore. I don't have to hold myself back. I'm not afraid of the darkness inside him anymore, because seeing him with Heero, I know now... He doesn't want to smother us with it. He wants us to drive it away.

He... needs us, as much as we need him.

All my thoughts just seem to settle on the breeze
When I'm lying wrapped up in your arms

My resolve crystallizes at last, and I slowly begin squirming in his embrace, making my way back down to lie beside him instead of sitting up. He mutters a bit, but shifts to accommodate my movement once it's clear he's not being deprived of his source of warmth. I finally find a comfortable position, and he wraps himself around me further when I stop moving. It's warm in his arms, and somehow... very safe. Fierce as I know he can be... he would use all that fierceness to protect me, if I let him. That's the side to his possessive nature that I've never quite grasped. I guess I needed this perspective to see it.

He wants to be needed. He wants to take care of the people he loves, as much as they'll let him.

My God. How did I never see that before? How could I...

It suddenly occurs to me that somehow, I've ended up pressed against his chest, wrapped in his embrace, and... I can hear his heart. That soft, steady beat... everything I never thought he could be... but he is. If you let him... if I let him... he will wrap me up in his warmth and protect me, hold me close and never leave me alone...

I let my eyes slide closed and just listen to the restful, measured beat.

The whole world just fades away
The only thing I hear
Is the beating of your heart

After a while, I hear a soft chuckle from just above my ear, and reluctantly lift my head to meet sleepy violet eyes. He smiles down at me, a soft smile, good for a quiet morning, not the raucous, crazed grin he's known for. I find myself smiling back without even having to think about it.

"And here I thought I'd have to break you in to snuggling," he murmurs, his deep voice roughened by sleep. He smells like coconut shampoo and pepperoni, and something else I can't quite place but that is very uniquely Duo, if that isn't too redundant a phrase. He's still smiling at me, his breath warm against my face as I stare up at him, entranced by the moment, the warmth, the smell and feel of him in my arms, the sunlight reflecting in his eyes...

Cause I can feel you breathe
It's washing over me

I'm not sure which of us moved first, but I'm almost certain it was actually me. Before I can think about it, worry about it, analyze it to death, our mouths are pressed together, lips parting, warm wetness meeting, joining, melding together...

He's even warmer, now... even closer...

And suddenly I'm melting into you

He deepens the kiss, slowly, gently, being so careful. I wonder why I was afraid of this for so long. It's nothing like what I remember of my childhood. Kissing Heero in the park yesterday was lovely, but I was still rather confused and nervous then... I'm not, now.

There's nothing left to prove

Heero was right. If we overanalyze it, it won't work. But if we just... if we just go with it...

Baby, all we need is just to be

His hands are roving over my body, finding their way beneath my clothes to run along my skin, leaving hot trails like molten metal behind them. I press even closer, wanting to touch as much of him as I can. I've held myself back for so long, I've been so solitary, so alone, so cold...

His fingers find their way down my boxers, stroking me softly, startling me into breaking the kiss. I stare at him in surprise as he smiles at me, looking almost predatory.

But I'm still not afraid, just... surprised. Shocked. This is... new to me. Not the touch, but... the gentleness of it. It feels...

"Does it feel bad?" he murmurs softly, leaning in to nuzzle at my ear, which almost tickles, but not quite.

"N-no..." I manage to gasp out quietly.

He chuckles softly, pressing a light kiss to my temple. "Then just let me... " he half-asks, half-instructs.

I really don't think I'm capable of stopping him at the moment. And, amazingly, that is a very good thing.

Caught up in the touch
Slow and steady rush

It isn't long at all before I find myself shuddering in his arms in the aftermath of a silent but explosive release.

He makes a tsking noise at me and murmurs, "I see we'll have to work on your stamina, Tro." I can hear the laughter in his voice, taking the sting from the critique.

"I'm somewhat out of practice," I mutter in reply, and he chuckles again.

"Not for long," he promises with a wink. I smile and curl against him, not minding the dampness, feeling content and warm...

I didn't think it was really like this. I mean, I've read books, seen movies, but... I didn't think it could really be this good. Nothing ever actually is as good as it's cracked up to be.

But this is.

Baby, isn't that the way that love's suppose to be

"Do you want me to... ?" I offer slowly, my scattered thoughts regrouping enough to recognize what the hard, hot bulge pressing against my thigh means. Some of my calm starts to evaporate at the thought, somehow more daunting than allowing Duo to touch me.

He tilts my chin up slightly and kisses me softly, just a brush of lips.

"It's okay," he murmurs, "I'll grab a shower and make breakfast."

"You don't have to go, I can -- " I start to protest, knowing he's sensed my reluctance because he can be so damn sensitive sometimes, and hoping I haven't offended him, or worse, hurt him with my stupid hang-ups...

"Tro," he says quietly, firmly, silencing me with a finger on my lips and a reassuring grin. "Rome wasn't built in a day, man. I know this will take some time for you. That's fine. I'm thrilled you let me... well, it's nice to know you really do... trust me."

"I love you," I assure him solemnly, sincerely. That much, at least, I can give him without restraint.

His smile widens, his eyes warm with his own feelings that he can't voice so easily. "That's all I need," he says, leaning in to kiss me softly again and hold me for a moment longer.

I can feel you breathe

Eventually, he sighs, and his arm loosens its grip on me as he sits up. I grab a handful of his tee shirt in silent protest. I'm so warm and comfortable, I don't want him to get up and leave and end this strange peaceful interlude. What if I can never find my way back to this place again? What if they change their minds and throw me out this afternoon? Does it have to end so soon?