Author: Asuka Kureru
Disclaimer: not mine, don't hit. Me return nice pilots when well played with them. Almost whole, even. And practically not nibbled. Why do you complain again?
Notes:
-- Even if I like 'em, I was slightly annoyed by these tons of fics where it's always Duo that loves Heero secretly and Heero who realizes slowly that maybe, there can be more. Turnabout is fair play, ne? ^___^
-- This was intended as a continuation for another fic of mine, from Heero's POV, who dealt with the slow awakening of Heero's heart (gosh this phrase's so biutifuuul ^______^) and stopped just when he decided to tell Duo about his feelings, but seeing the size of the thing, I don't intend of translating anytime soon. Well, you don't need it to understand this one.
-- Oh, and I kinda have the right to make big grammar or tense mistakes 'cause I'm kinda French, so... I'd really appreciate if you told me, if I used the wrong word or turn of phrase or tense, things like that. It can only help me to get better, no?

Can you repeat?

-"Can you repeat?"

I blink, stupidly. I'm certainly not quite awake yet.

Heero is standing in front of me, beside my bed. I look at him, eyes slightly bulging. There's no way I really heard what I believe I heard.

-"Excuse-me, I'm not quite awake... " I add with a nervous smile. "Can you repeat, please?"

He opens his mouth. This time, I make sure to read carefully on his lips, if by chance a strange air distortion changed what he said the last time on it's journey between his mouth and my ear.

The mouth says the same thing my ears heard the first time, another time.

-"WHAT?!" I exclaim.

I'm too stunned at the moment to care about the way my words can touch him just right now.

He repeats again, and this time, it's even lower, like a whisper. Eyes downcast, already turning heels toward the door, he prepares his flight. But after all, I didn't give him reasons to think I accept that he stays. But it wasn't by nastiness, it's just because... Of all the think he could've said, this one wasn't even in the extremely-highly-unlikely-even-in-a-million-years-and-with-the-hangover-from-hell list.

-"I... I love you, Duo... "

I can't react and stay here looking at him, mouth open, round eyes, a perfect fish out of the water. No, no, this isn't at all a Yuyesque answer, that. I'm going to kill you, for example, it's a good one. Or shut up, Duo. This one too, it's a good one coming from him. Or you baka. Things like that.

He turns heels and goes to the door. Shocked out of my stupor, I throw an arm toward him, hold him back by the wrist. He turns round, face deliberately devoid of all emotion. Like the expression he always wears, a mix of indifference and annoyance which shouts: let me alone if you don't want to die of a horrible death, I'm much better alone anyway. Exactly like always, even the scowl. What makes me understand that it's only a mask? Only the remembrance of what he just said? Or something at the bottom of his eyes, maybe... There! it's that, it's his eyes. The ice broke and now I can see underneath a crowd of feelings which press, melt.

I believed he was totally devoid of any emotion. They were especially well repressed, you could say.

The one dominating is... Suffering. Distress. Why?

Oh my god, I'm so stupid, he thinks I rejected him ... And he hurts so bad, I can't let him like that. Heero is my best friend after all, I refuse to let him when he just dropped his armor just for me. He gave me such a big opening in his shell and I could hurt him so much with only a careless word... Oh lord, for a moment I'm afraid I'll finish him off.

-"I... don't know what to say," I admit, eyes downcast; but I don't let go of his wrist.

If I let go of him, he'll start to run and then, I'll never see him again ... not this real Heero I see for the first time, the real one, the one who feels. Only the puppet of a little soldier. He'll act like nothing ever happened and he'll die slowly inside his shell ...

-"I... Heero... It's just... I don't wanna reject you, but ... "

-"I know, you don't feel the same way", he answers, voice low, without looking at me. "I didn't expect that."

-"It's not that!!! Heero, I don't even know what I'm feeling at this moment!! You took me by surprise, ok? Give me a little time to... To record what you just said, 'kay? I'm just havin' a hard time to... "

I make wild movements with my other hand, but I don't let go of his wrist. He still has this kicked-and-abandoned-puppy look. And he doesn't stop one second to calculate the distance which separates him from the door.

-"Listen, give me some time to think of what you just said and, tonight, we'll talk of that, would you?" I suggest in a soft voice.

Never would I use this kind of voice with him normally, well, never with a more than eight-years old... but he seems so frail suddenly, so innocent, that I can't do otherwise than take Father Maxwell's voice, the one he had when he calmed the new orphans who had nightmares. Anything else a micro-bit harsher would be ill taken.

He nods at my proposal, but I can easily see it's because he panics and regrets what he said, and would agree to anything as long as he can flee out of here and never have to look at me in the eyes again.

Sighing, I let him go ... stopping him the second he puts his hand on the doorknob.

-"Heero... You caught me unaware. Just give me a little time. But anyway, don't begin to think I will hate you for that, OK? You're my friend and you'll be my friend never mind what happens. Agreed?"

He nods silently then opens the door and closes it behind himself, quiet like a shadow. I don't know if what I said has really imprinted in his skull that I well know for being rather hard, but by any means I'll have done what I could to limit the hurt... I let myself fall back first on my pillow, my thoughts beginning a mad dance around my skull.

Heero is my partner only because of an order, otherwise never would he have associated with a badly disciplined baka like me. Heero is the best hacker in the world; he's always scotched to his laptop like nothing else mattered. Heero is a bloody good pilot; the best, in fact, and he doesn't think of my pride before rubbing it in my face with the cold contempt of the one who honestly doesn't care. Heero is the only person who never ever smiles at my jokes. Heero is ice-cold, non emotional, non expressive. Heero is a killer, one of the deadliest and most intelligent people in the world. Heero only opens his mouth in my presence to ask me to shut up and leave him alone, or to brief me on a mission, if really necessary. Heero doesn't have a LIFE besides the mission.

Heero loves me.

He loves me. Me.

What did I do to deserve this unexpected gift ? I don't understand.

+


Finally, I skip school. I'm so stuck on this morning that I can't think of anything else than my comrade's confession. I go and lay down under a tree, arms behind my head, and I think. And I think a little bit more. Then a little more.

The evening comes and my brains are ready to trickle out by my ears.

Soon he will finish his lessons. I return to the dormitory. And I wait.

+

And I wait.

+

-"If you tried waiting me to sleep so that you wouldn't have to talk with me, you failed."

For a second, Heero freezes and looks near sheepish, before slipping in the darkened room. It's at this moment I realize exactly how much he's tense and nervous. But we have to talk, and we will talk. I promised him we'd do it ; I never lie.

I tap the bed besides me. A correct distance I think, not so far that he thinks I reject him, not too near neither. Normally I don't give a damn, I love contact, I touch and hug everyone, but now isn't the moment.

-"Here, come and sit beside me", I ask in my best special-emotional-Heero voice.

He obeys, but doesn't look at me. I catch his chin, turn his face towards me, firmly.

-"Heero, look at me, please."

He tries, I can see he tries. But his shame is too strong and his eyes stay downcast ... Even if he doesn't take his chin out of my hand.

I take off my hand, slowly. I have to find the middle of the road with him in this moment, and to think that before I was certain he didn't give a damn for anything under the label 'emotional matters'... But at this level, he doesn't have any self-confidence, that I can see. If I were to take off my hand too fast, he would think he disgusts me. It's not true.

-"Hey, could you tell me why did I begin to interest you? I'd like to understand you better ... " I ask him. "I admit I know you less well than I thought, if I never saw that... I mean, I knew you liked me, at least a little... Hey, you never killed me! I KNEW I succeeded in going past your defenses and that you saw me near like a friend... But there were times I wondered if I didn't know that the same way Relena just knows that you luuuuv her, you see what I mean? You never give any clues ... "

Heero winces. I hit a nerve. Then he doesn't like the little princess?

-"Heero... Why me? Why not Relena?"

-"She doesn't know me at all. We're not from the same world. She would never know me; and I have no desire to know her."

-"Ok then, why not Quatre? He would understand, and he's so kind... Or Trowa, you understand each other so well! and he doesn't talk as much as me," I add apart.

He smiles, a little.

-"I wouldn't dare to break them apart," he whispers, and I stay here staring at him, flabbergasted.

He just made a joke. I let loose a little laugh, more surprised than anything else.

Then he begins his story.

-"It began like simple curiosity ... I didn't understand you. I don't understand you yet, I have to say. But... I couldn't understand how you did. You're a soldier, you kill people, you do extremely dangerous things, needing maximum concentration and talent, and... you're always playing the clown part, joking, laughing, like you didn't have a care in the world... I didn't understand how you could even succeed with so carefree a comportment. I told myself you counted only on your luck, and that soon, you wouldn't have any left and you'd be killed ... And it would be well earned. I despised you at this period, you didn't inspire me much respect then."

Head downcast, he looks at me between his dark lashes and I nod, to let him know I'm not offended.

-"Then... You didn't get killed. You continued to fight and you continued to succeed. And I began to observe you from nearer. I realized that even if you seemed to count only on your luck, you were in fact more professional than that... and I began to respect you a little more. To distrust you, too. I'm dangerous and I show it. You're dangerous and nobody would ever imagine that; it gave you an advantage. I felt like there was a competition between us. It was stupid of course... But you were too mysterious to let me judge exactly where you stand, then, I couldn't know just where you were in comparison to me. It became one of my few hobbies, to observe you, to dissect your actions and words ... But you never let anything out. I spent hours listening to you and you never said anything remotely important... Never a slip. Not a thing who could have clued me on what was behind... behind the mask."

I shake, imperceptibly. All this time he was observing me ...? And I never saw a thing, nothing at all... Yeah, I felt him watching me, but he does that with everyone who's near him, he concentrates on everybody, it's one of his perfect soldier tricks, always aware of his surroundings; I never realized he gave me that much more attention... Maybe because we're always together. Because I'm always trying to force my way behind his frozen eyes, to discover the hot-blooded human behind... And he did the exact same thing.

All this time we were trying to see past the other's mask and we never realized the other was doing the same.

-"You let your emotions go free, but your thoughts ... I was under the impression you were thinking on thirty levels at the same time; you're always jumping from a subject to another without apparent logic and I didn't understand, I was so frustrated ... I got mad at you, several times. I'd never been mad against someone before. Annoyed, yes, but mad... You had succeed in breaking down my defenses and I didn't understand how. And in spite of all the times I pushed you back, you kept returning, trying again, offering me friendship, me who didn't ever know it could really exist, and you never asked for anything in return... I felt strange. I searched for a trap, nonstop. There was inevitably a trap somewhere, inevitably. But you opened your emotions to me and you authorized me to hurt you without asking for anything in exchange and I... I don't know. And after the anger, there were other things. Surprise, several times. When you prepared breakfast for me because you knew I wouldn't have the time to do so before a mission, or that you stayed awake waiting for me just that so you could check on me ... And... gratitude, I think... I don't know, I don't know, it was... Other things, other... feelings... I thought they were all long dead."

My lower lip is shivering now. I was hoping he would appreciate the friendship I offered him, I was hoping he would warm up ... But I thought it didn't work. That I'd need ages before entirely wearing out his shell. Never would I have thought I'd reached so deep in him. If I had known before, I... What would I have done? I don't know if I'd have changed all that. I mean, it's what I wanted, no? Teach him to feel anew? I succeeded, farther than my wildest hopes.

How had he evolved so discreetly from no emotions at all to such an intensity?

I begin to understand, slowly. He repressed them for so long, when they were let loose, it was like they were new. Not worn yet.

-"Then that night... You remember, after the mission with Trowa? When you explained to us why you called yourself Shinigami, when you talked of your past... I was... astounded. I mean, that you were intelligent and dangerous, I knew already, I understood that before, but that you suffered so much, I'd never have guessed ... You're always such an optimist, always laughing ... You crossed Hell and yet you are willing to give your heart; like that, even when it's been broken so much times before ... You didn't fear to be hurt another time. It... I don't know, it felt strange here," he said putting his hand under his ribs.

He shakes his head, and his hair flies in his eyes, messily.

-"And that night, when I saw you sleeping curled up under the window, under the moonlight... You never let yourself cry when you're awake, but ... You were crying, Duo, you were crying in your sleep, and I knew that the next day you'd smile and joke the same way as before. And that, in a way, you wouldn't pretend. I believe it was this night ... That I began to want to protect you, protect your heart. Except, I didn't know how," he laughs, bitterly.

I close my eyes, briefly. Oh yes, he really observed me closely. I remember that night. I couldn't stand it anymore, I broke down. Normally I always manage to keep the others pilots at least a little entertained ... But this time I was in too deep to continue the act. It's not that I always act, no, but when times are hard, there's the need of at least one to cheer up the others and give them back a little bit of optimistic view, no?

Except that night, the school where we stayed at the last weeks had been leveled to the ground. With all the friends I made in ... The girls I had gone out with ... The boys with whom I played basket ... It hurt. It always hurt more when it's people your age. Even more so when you know them. And I broke down, too tired to care anymore, but they just stared at me and then left me alone. I thought they didn't care. At least, I thought that Trowa didn't know what to do, emotionally handicapped, and that Heero didn't give a shit, totally feelings-amputated. It nearly hurt as much as the rest.

-"It's this night I fell in love with you," he whispers.

He shuts up, eyes glued to his hands. I'd never would have dreamed he could speak for so long. It pleases me so much that he forced himself. But in my opinion, he kept that bottled in for so long that he was beginning to saturate; Once I got him going...

He seems so lonely, so frail ... I put an arm around his shoulders.

-"Thank you for explaining, Heero. Thanks."

I kiss him on the cheek, softly. Maybe I don't love him like he loves me, but I like him very much. And I feel so much tenderness just now.

He tenses under my arm, and a moment, I wonder if I didn't make a mistake. He moves, but restrains himself. I understand that he would like to return the gesture but that he doesn't dare, afraid that the meaning of the hug isn't the same with him and with me.

[cont]