"I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner
fic by: Aoe

I Want to Know What Love Is

I let myself into my apartment and walk over to the window without turning on the light. There's not much to trip over, and I know where everything is anyway. I part the curtains with a finger and look out through the glass to the street three floors down.

Duo is still standing there, staring up at the 'sky' with a grin I can see from here.

I guess that conversation really did just happen, then.

I feel a smile curve my own lips as I study him from the safety of my apartment. I hadn't been expecting this turn of events. Part of me had hoped, but I really didn't think he returned my interest at all. I thought we were destined to be 'just friends' forever.

That would have been all right, really, but... well, this is better. Or at least it has the potential to be better.

Of course, it also has the potential to be a soul-shredding disaster.

I feel my smile fade as he turns and walks away, toward his own home. Cognitive dissonance setting in already, and we've only shared a tentative kiss and talked of possibilities. Maybe I'm not ready yet.

Maybe I shouldn't have let him leave.

Part of me is a little surprised that he went, that he accepted my gentle dismissal so easily. Part of me is afraid that means he's not really serious about this, that he doesn't really want me, he just wants somebody.

But part of me appreciates that Duo knows me, very well. Better, perhaps, now, than just about anyone else except Catherine and Quatre.

All things considered, he just might have Quatre beat, too.

At least he knows that I can't rush into this sort of thing. I need a little time, to get used to the idea, to work it out in my head, and in my heart.

Gotta take a little time
A little time to think things over

Emotional entanglements have never been my forte. Humans are complex creatures, their logic often difficult to follow, and never more so than when their feelings are involved. Quatre always raised a brow at me when I tried to discuss this with him, probably at my habit of speaking of 'humans' as if I weren't one myself.

In a lot of ways, I don't feel that I am.

I've always gotten on well with large, predatory beasts. Lions, tigers, Heero... all right, so Heero isn't all that large, but still... It's not just that I'm anti-social, although I suppose I am, to a point. But... that's really all I learned to deal with, as a child. I grew up among men, mercenaries. People tend to forget that when you get right down to it, a human is nothing more than a more technically advanced predator. A group of men, alone, living in a constant state of aggression... we were fighters, it was what we did. It was all we did. I was raised a soldier. And what is a soldier but a human predator specifically trained to kill?

This tangent always made Quatre very nervous, and he'd start talking about psychiatrists. I'm not crazy, though. I'm just very logical, and I can see quite clearly that I get along better with lions than with 'normal people' because lions are closer to what I am accustomed to.

I'm like the metaphorical boy raised by wolves. I don't fit into the social structure or behavior patterns of my own kind.

Well, that may be exaggerating a bit. Duo laughed at me and shook his head when I shared this theory of why I can't seem to get a relationship off the ground. He said, yes, I was definitely unique, and yes, I was a bit lacking in the social skills area, but I was hardly an animal in a human body.

It hadn't occurred to me before that I was really saying that that was how I saw myself. I guess that's why Quatre wanted to send me to a shrink.

But Duo said I just had that in common with Heero, that more straightforward approach to life than most people. We react with logic where most would react first with emotion, and that makes us seem different. He didn't say inhuman, machinelike, or sociopathic, but I'm sure he thought it.

In a way, all of that was why I came out here. Well, most of it was that I knew Duo was here. But Duo was always the most sociable person I knew. He felt comfortable with anybody, anywhere, and I envied him that apparent ability to comprehend those emotional motivations that were still so mysterious to me. I had some thought about trying to learn from him. When Quatre and I acknowledged that whatever had been between us had faded to friendship, I realized that I couldn't go back to being alone, now that I'd known what it was like to be with someone.

I needed to learn how to understand those 'normal' emotions, because that was the only way I could find what I wanted.

Maybe... maybe I have learned something, in all these months. At least, I'm pretty sure, right now, what's going on between myself and Duo. I hope I'm right about that.

I better read between the lines
In case I need it when I'm older

Part of me, of course, is still kind of petrified at the very suggestion. I've been at war with myself for a while now, half-hoping he would try something like this, half-fearing he would.

This will not be a simple undertaking, and I hope he realizes...

But then, I am being unfair to him. He plays the feckless idiot so well sometimes, and we've all been guilty of falling into his act and underestimating him because of it. He doesn't do it on purpose... not always, anyway, and I think it hurts him when we forget, and get a little judgmental, a little condescending. He's no stranger to pain and suffering. He's lived a life as least as hard as my own, maybe harder in some ways. Maybe not, but we're certainly fairly well matched in the early-childhood-trauma department.

Sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed beneath the weight of years of isolation and fear, of emotional and physical scars, and I start to think it's hopeless, that I can't possibly cope with everything I've lived through and function like a 'normal' person. And then I think of Duo. He's... well, it sounds corny, but he is a sort of inspiration to me, when I remember how deep he truly is.

That's another part of why I moved out here. I had a lot of things to deal with, to learn how to bear the weight of, and I couldn't think of anyone I knew who balanced it better.

This mountain I must climb
Feels like a world upon my shoulders

Of course, when I got here, he wasn't so well off.

Not that Duo is ever truly beaten down into submission, I don't think that's possible. At least I hope it isn't, it would be terrible to see. But he wasn't at his best when I first arrived. He does have a tendency to depression, and even a bit of melodrama, and it didn't take me long to figure out that he'd been wallowing in his own dissatisfaction out here in the middle of nowhere.

We never should have left him alone out here, really. He needs people, more than any of the rest of us, and he doesn't really have much in the way of friends or family beyond our little group. Not that any of us do, except for Quatre, but Duo needs people around him more than most of us, and therefore needs us to pay more attention to him. We were neglecting him, assuming he just wanted to be left alone to sulk. If I hadn't come out here, I wonder if he would have just drifted unhappily alone forever? I hope not, and probably he would have eventually bestirred himself and moved on.

But at any rate, when I arrived, he hadn't reached that point yet.

I figured the best way to learn from him was just to be around, and that was easy. He desperately wanted a real friend, someone he could share more with than beernuts. We'd never been especially close before, but it was remarkably easy to settle into a close relationship. We had far more in common than I had even suspected, and it was... nice, to be with somebody who understood me that well. Quatre, for all that he truly tried, just couldn't wrap his mind around some of the things that are so much a part of my past, and my world. Duo has seen much of the same side of the galaxy and human nature as I have, the darker, nastier side, and that shadows how he looks at the world around him, even at his most cheerful. He understands intrinsically things about me, and my outlook on life, that hopelessly baffled poor Quatre. I wonder if Heero had similar trouble understanding Duo, since as I recall from my time with the Japanese pilot, he'd actually led a rather sheltered life in many ways. Not as soft as Quatre's, but equally lacking in 'real world' experiences.

Still, even though Duo's understanding was nice, it was also sort of depressing. For all that Quatre's optimistic outlook could be annoying, there was something comforting in it, too, that faith in goodness and fairness. In some ways, Duo and I just may have a little too much in common, and we have to guard against falling too deeply into cynicism when we spend so much time together. Oh, Duo always makes his more cutting and dark observations in a joking tone, but there is no disguising the harsh bite of the truth, not when we are so intimately acquainted with it.

But even at his gloomiest, Duo is never down for long. Just when I thought an evening was destined to spiral into dismal despair, he'd dredge up a stupid joke or try to balance a pretzel on his nose, or something equally foolish, and shatter the mood completely. I wondered, back during the war, when his supply of smiles would run out. Now I know it never will. Because cynic or not, scarred and wounded by the uncaring universe or not, Duo is in his own way as much of an optimist as Quatre. He will simply not lie down and die. He will not give up. He loves life too much, no matter how many times he's been hurt.

It's kind of heartening, the way he keeps on smiling.

Through the clouds I see love shine
It keeps me warm as life grows colder

Well, life has kicked me around quite a bit, too. After the end of my relationship with Quatre, it occurred to me that I was going to have to make some choices, and they weren't going to be easy.

Quatre pursued me. He made up his mind, and he forced his way into my life and my heart, and wouldn't take no for an answer, not that I didn't try it. He was persistent.

Not everyone would be. In fact, I began to realize pretty quickly that no one else would be. Not even the other pilots. I tested this hypothesis by not writing to or calling any of them for a while, and sure enough, I was right.

If I wanted to find someone else to spend my life with, other than Catherine and the circus, I was going to have to make the effort myself. I was going to have to take the risks.

I really wasn't sure I could do it. Moving out to this colony was a momentous decision, but it was scary as hell. I only managed it because I knew Duo was here. I don't think I could have struck out on my own in a place where I knew I'd be completely alone.

But Duo was here, so I had a bit of a safety net, and I tried to make some connections. Tried to be social, and not rely on my old friendship with Duo as my only contact.

It wasn't quite as difficult as I had thought, once I got over the initial fear of getting hurt again. But I was still very wary inside, and I was never really comfortable making the first move, putting myself on the line like that.

In my life, there's been heartache and pain
I don't know if I can face it again

But I kept pushing myself. I told myself that I'd survived everything life had thrown at me so far, that I had friends and family who cared for me and supported me, and there was no reason to fear rejection and loss. I wouldn't ever be truly alone again.

But some fears are just so deeply ingrained...

Still, I fought it. I kept trying, kept reaching out, even when relationship after relationship fizzled or failed, or never got off the ground to begin with. Privately I worried there was something hopelessly wrong with me, that I just wasn't capable of maintaining a relationship like normal people.

But Duo reassured me, and told me he was sure there was someone out there for me. And I couldn't fail his faith in me, so I kept trying, even though I thought it was probably futile.

Can't stop now, I've traveled so far
To change this lonely life

I kept trying, because I so desperately wanted to be loved again. I wanted to be in love. I wasn't sure I ever really had been. I had loved Quatre, but I knew there were a lot of different kinds of love, and I wasn't sure if what I'd felt for him had ever been more than the love of a dear friend or a brother. How could I know? I was terribly unfamiliar with the emotion.

But I was sure that if I studied long and hard enough, Duo could teach me. I wasn't exactly certain why I was so sure of that, but I was. I knew he was the one. The only one.

I want to know what love is
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is
I know you can show me

I flop down into a chair in my still-dark apartment. I suppose now I know where that certainty came from. Did I always love him? I don't know. Maybe. I've always known he was attractive, but...

Well, maybe I didn't always love him. We weren't all that close, before I moved here. We were friends, and I always cared about him, but I think it was a combination of things, of spending so much time together, of his patience and understanding, of his easy-going presence and my need to connect...

It was friendship, first, and I would have been content to leave it at that, if he hadn't offered me more. For all my progress, I don't think I've really gotten over much of my fear. If I were to be totally honest, I would have to admit that I never thought any of those relationships I initiated had a chance of success. I know Duo thinks we can really only be happy with another Gundam pilot. I'm not sure he's right about that, but the point may very well be moot for me, as I'm really not all that attracted to anyone outside our little circle. That's a big part of why I could never make things work out with someone else.

Still, I would have been content with Duo's friendship. Duo's... love... is a frightening proposition. What if there really is something wrong with me, and I can't make this last either? I think it would hurt far more to lose him than it did to lose Quatre. I think I have far more to lose this time.

I'm afraid to rush into this, and I hope he's prepared to take things very slowly, because I don't want to mess this chance up.

I hope I don't mess it up by moving too slowly...

No, I can't worry about that. I just have to ease into this idea, give myself time to adjust. He'll wait. He wants this to work as badly as I do, I'm pretty sure.

I'm gonna take a little time
A little time to look around me

I smile to myself in the darkness, suddenly thinking of how far I've come from my days as Nanashi, the times when all I wanted was to be left alone forever, to never see another human being. Now I'm sitting here contemplating a rather profound commitment to a dear friend... two things I never thought my life would include, back then.

Two things I didn't even really know existed at one point in my life, and didn't believe in for a long time after I discovered the concepts. Friendship. Love. To a boy who grew up nameless, who was used as an object and a pawn in one power game after another, those ideas seemed far more unbelievable than any fairy tale full of dragons and unicorns and fairies. The world is full of strange creatures, but emotional attachment? A rarer beast by far...

If it hadn't been for the unexpected death of the original Trowa Barton, I sometimes wonder where I would be today. What I would be doing.

If I'd even still be alive. Even then, I was drifting into an uncaring recklessness, and a mechanic on the colonies doesn't survive long without a healthy dose of caution.

If S' assistant hadn't shot Barton, if I hadn't happened to be there, if I hadn't been feeling suicidally incautious enough to reveal my presence... I never would have flown in Heavyarms. I never would have met Catherine, and found a home and a family at the circus. I never would have met the other pilots. I never would have known Quatre, or Duo...

Sometimes it occurs to me that despite all the pain and suffering and heartache I endured as a child, I have really been far luckier in life than I ever deserved. Not only did I meet all of these amazing people, not only did they accept me as one of them, but they even tolerate my eccentricities. They care for me enough to put up with my quirks. They take the time to look past the sometimes forbidding surface and they see my heart in my eyes, desperate to reach out...

And they have been so very kind as to take the time to reach back to me. Though I've never done anything to deserve it. Though I probably haven't even made my need all that obvious, what with all my old fears of intimacy and dependence.

Some of them have been damned persistent. Some of them simply will not accept my refusals and denials.

Thank God.

I've got nowhere left to hide
It looks like love has finally found me

I sigh slightly and get up from my chair, pacing quietly in the darkness to my bedroom, where I finally turn on a light. I doubt I'll be going to sleep any time soon, what with all the thoughts and emotions awhirl in my head.

Duo. He kissed me. He really kissed me. He really wants me.

I pull my shirt off, smiling to myself... and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror over the dresser.

My smile fades away as I stop, studying again the familiar scars that mark my lower back. There was a time when I was constantly aware of their presence, marking my skin as belonging to someone else. My own body didn't even belong to me. Those scars fed my fear for years, and Quatre had a hell of a time getting me to allow him to see me naked with the lights on. I still don't like the look of them. They still make me shudder as I stand here, much of the warmth Duo's kiss had stirred in me fading away at the memories, distant now but no less painful.

I have been used. I have been hurt. I have been a thing, less than a person. How can I possibly think that anyone would want...

I frown, shaking my head sharply to dismiss the thought. My mind doesn't wander down that path much anymore, at least not compared to how often it once did, but tonight's activities seem to be stirring up old insecurities.

I know nothing that was done to me was my fault. None of it makes me a bad person, or dirty, or any other derogatory classification I might apply to myself. I know that.

But still...

I let the shirt drop from my fingers to the floor, and reach behind me, gently running my fingertips over the ridges of scar tissue. The scars really aren't that bad. It's just the memories. And the memories breed the fear, of being hurt again, of being betrayed and used. The doubts... why would anyone want someone like me for anything more than a toy...

In my life, there's been heartache and pain
I don't know if I can face it again

I shake my head again, frowning fiercely at myself for being foolish. Haven't I progressed at all in all this time? Why do I still cling to the fears of a child?

I won't allow it. I won't allow my ridiculous doubts and fears to convince me not to reach for this, for Duo, for what I want...

They would win, after all, if I did that. If I slunk away to some solitary corner of the world, a broken, miserable creature. I shouldn't still be so... fragile, but... Well, I suppose I am, at least a part of me. It's hard for me to trust, and I've been... pushing myself, lately. It hasn't helped that none of the relationships I've gotten myself into have worked. That's fed into my doubts a little.

But Duo...

He kissed me. He kissed me. And he knows... so much about me. He looks at me with those amazing eyes, and I can see compassion in them, understanding... and not pity. He respects me too much to pity me.

I want to be worthy of that respect. I won't run away. I won't back down.

I will not break. Not now, not when I'm so close to finally being healed.

Can't stop now, I've traveled so far
To change this lonely life

Resolved, I let my hand fall away from the scars, and smile firmly at myself in the mirror. I know I'm really just nervous. I've been through all of this time and again in my head, and I've really pretty well laid it to rest. It's just the events of the evening that have me all worked up.

Duo. Duo Maxwell. Duo Maxwell kissed me.

The warmth driven away by my earlier fears rushes back, surprising me. I would think that would require his presence. But no, just the thought of him, the feel of his lips against mine, his tongue exploring my mouth, his hands, firm and gentle on my body...

Definitely making me warm.

More than warm...

My smile grows wider as I can almost picture him in my mind, declaring petulantly, "See, I knew you should have let me stay... "

But no... I wasn't ready for that yet. Not tonight. Tonight I needed this time to myself, to acclimate to this new idea, to set my fears aside and accept that all of this is really happening.

To me.

I'm... in love with Duo Maxwell.

And Duo Maxwell... loves me.

I want to know what love is
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is
I know you can show me

I fall back on my bed, grinning foolishly at the ceiling. I wonder what my friends would think if they could see this expression on my face. Probably that one of our dead bosses had survived and somehow transplanted Duo's personality into my body. Trowa Barton doesn't grin like this. Like a goofy idiot.

Well, I suppose that's not true, since I am me, and I am grinning like this...

I can't help it. I'm just... happy. For the first time in a long time... maybe for the first time ever, though I would never say as much to Quatre... I'm completely, totally happy.

My fears are gone, my doubts laid to rest. I know now that I've made the right decision. I know that this is where I want to be. I know who I want to be with.

And I know... I know I will be with him.

I will never be alone again.

I will be with Duo.

I want to know what love is
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is
I know you can show me...

[The Last Worthless Evening] [I'll Be...] [back to Aoe's fic]