By: BleedToBlue
Based on a plot bunny from Dacia
1+2, 3x4, 5xS
Angst, Sap, Romance; Not a song fic but that's where Dacia's idea came from.
Self-beta-d

Heero loves Duo but he doesn't know it. Duo doesn't love Heero but he wants to be loved.

Coin Operated Boy + Part 1

It was Monday. Work was boringly endless and endlessly boring, not that I was working. It was raining. I had paperwork that was breeding in my in-box. All my clothes were dirty. I needed to go to the grocery store. And the man I loved and wanted to spend the rest of my life with had left me for some guy he met at a party. A party I'd thrown so my friends could all meet my new perfect guy. My personal life was in the toilet, again. The day was worse than bad. Did I mention I was depressed? I didn't want to think about it. I stared across my desk at Heero.

I was watching Heero and thinking about his life because it beat hell out of thinking about my life. Heero's life is much different from mine (read better). Heero is in charge of his life, in control. Heero doesn't need other people, doesn't let anyone in. Heero isn't looking for love. He never takes risks, never opens himself up, never gets his heart ripped out and stomped flat. Ouch. I don't think Heero knows what being in love is; I don't think he's ever even considered it.

Heero is my partner, and my friend. He's working away at some Preventer thing, tapping away on his laptop. Heero looks up and smiles at me. He calls me his best friend. And Heero is certainly the best friend I have. I'm not sure I'm such a good friend to Heero but I've never hurt him and never would. Heero's never hurt me, either. It's the people I fall in love with that hurt me. The ones that should love me back but they never do, not really. If they did, they wouldn't hurt me, right? If you love someone you don't leave them, that's what I think love is, a forever kind of thing.

Heero is looking at me and I can read the expression on his face. We've been friends for a long time. We've been partners since we both joined the Preventers after the war ended. Heero always knows when something is bothering me, when something is wrong. But he won't ask, he'll just look at me with that patient face until I spill my guts. He'll listen and say, 'hn' in a comforting tone that means, 'you deserve better, Duo.' And he's right, I do. Don't I deserve to be happy? To be loved, cherished, cared for? To have someone of my own to love, to cherish, to care for?

It's too bad I can't fall for someone like Heero. Someone solid, honest, and a bit predictable, at least to me. Someone who treats people right, Heero is never cruel for the sake of cruelty. I think Heero would make someone very happy. Heero's handsome, he's kind, he's loyal...that makes him sound like a Labrador Retriever which isn't what I meant. He's just not my type. I don't even know if he likes guys that way. I don't know if he likes anyone that way. I'm not sure what Heero's type is, I'm not sure Heero knows.

Heero and Relena were a couple after the war, or everyone thought they were. It turned out it was mainly because Relena took advantage of Heero's friendship and sense of duty. Relena was in love with the idea of Heero. She didn't really know him. If she had she wouldn't have made that fatal mistake. If Relena had been willing to include me in her attempt to marry Heero it might have worked. But when she tried to make Heero go to Sanq, to leave the Preventers and me behind, Heero balked. I was his best friend he said, we were partners and he couldn't leave me behind. So Relena and Heero were over, just like that. Relena doesn't like me very much.

Yeah, that's a little obsessive for friendship. But Heero is like that. He was willing to marry Relena out of friendship. But that wasn't enough for Ms. Peacecraft, she wanted it all, but Heero wasn't willing to abandon me. He's that kind of friend. And as much as I want Heero to be happy I'm glad he wasn't really in love with Relena. I'm glad he's still here as my friend and partner. I think Heero's happy to be here, too. But I really wish Heero could find someone to love.

Since Relena there have been others. Heero never refers to them as more than friends. Eventually their desire for more than friendship makes them move on or move into the 'just friends' list. Sometimes I wonder if Heero's war experiences and his upbringing have made him a bit, well, socially retarded. That's probably not a fair description. He likes people, he enjoys going out, he seems to like physical contact although I'm not sure just how far he's interested in going. But hugs, friendly kisses are okay, and maybe more, maybe not. I'm a touchy feelie kind of guy and Heero's okay with that. But it's not the kind of thing we discuss. I'm not even sure if he likes guys or girls. He's not uncomfortable with me liking guys but we don't get too personal. If I say too much about my boyfriends, my lovers, Heero gets a real blank expression and I know he doesn't want to hear about it.

Maybe emotionally stunted is the descriptive phase I'm looking for. Heero's emotional range is different. It's like he's not quite alive to all the possibilities. He can be happy and he gets sad but I don't think he ever experiences things like joy or despair. I'm living my life at either end of that spectrum, all too often at the despair end. Maybe Heero's lucky. Some days I don't think the pain is worth it.

So I'm pretending to work and watching Heero, who's now watching me back. When it's time to go home and I'm dragging my feet cause I can't face my empty apartment Heero asks me if I want to grab a bite to eat. And why not? It's not like I have anything else to do, and sooner or later I'm going to have to tell Heero that the latest love-of-my-life has left me for someone else. Someone they'd been seeing for a month or so before I found out. Someone I introduced them too. The irony of it is not lost on me.

We pick up take away because I don't really want to go out. I already know that the evening is going to be emotional; I'd rather do that at home. We finish eating, we're making small talk, and Heero brews coffee, we take it in to the living room and sit side by side on the sofa. Heero puts his hand on my shoulder and fixes me with that 'Look' that says, 'spill it' and I do. By the time I finish telling Heero the latest chapter of My Love Life Sucks and So Do I, and he's handed me tissues and awkwardly patted my shoulder, it's late. I'm still at Heero's place because I just can't face mine. Can't face the evidence of another failure.

Heero puts fresh sheets on the bed in the guest room, which he refers to as 'your room, Duo' and makes me hot chocolate and looks like there's nothing he'd rather be doing than consoling me, again. This isn't the first time Heero's picked up pieces of Duo Maxwell and stuck them back together. I wish I could be sure it will be the last time. Heero is telling me that I'm welcome to stay with him as long as I want to and talking about things we could do this weekend and generally being a really good friend. Heero knows I was looking forward to the long weekend with that bastard who's now my ex.

"You know I'm here for you, Duo." Heero tells me, and it makes me feel better to hear it. I wrap my arms around him in a hug and he lets me.

Heero is a really great guy. Maybe someday he'll fall in love. I know when he does he won't screw up like I have. Heero will fall in love with someone who can appreciate him, someone who'll love him back. I think I almost feel a bit jealous at the thought. I let go of Heero and smile.

I'm finishing the hot chocolate Heero made for me and thinking about Heero falling in love and having someone that's more important to him than me when I realize he's asking me a question.

"So is that what you want to do, Duo?" Heero is staring at me, expectantly. I try to gather my wits about me and all I can do is grunt.

"Hn?"

"Do you want to go to the exhibit at the museum or go camping?" Heero asks patiently, reminding me that we are making plans for the weekend.

I know Heero wants to do neither but has chosen both of them just because I like them. I'm saved from telling Heero that I really just want to crawl into a bottle and never come out by the ring of the vidphone. I could never tell Heero that, he'd get the sad look on his face and I'd feel like a heel.

Quatre and Trowa are smiling out of the vidscreen. Tro's arm is draped over Quatre's shoulders and they look...happy...and in love. I'm pleased for them, I love them both but it makes my heart hurt. I'm glad for them, honest, but to see what they have and know I'm never going to share that with anyone, well, it hurts. A lot. And suddenly the realization that I'm really never going to find that and I don't even want to try again flattens me like a Gundam. I can't breath. I can hear Quatre's voice and hope he didn't feel that.

"Duo?" Quatre is calling my name and has a frown on his face. I stick my smile back on my face and pay attention.

"Sure Q that sounds good." I say. Now Heero is frowning at me and Quatre has a puzzled look. I wonder what it would be like to wake up to someone every morning, to hear 'I love you' last thing every night.

I must have zoned out again because when I next notice Quatre is interrupting Heero's list of our plans for the weekend. "But you can go camping next weekend. Wufei and Sally won't be able to get away again before the wedding. Please come. You want to, don't you, Duo?" Quatre's eyes are large and pleading, Trowa has that expression that says 'what Q wants, Q gets, or I'll hurt you.' Even Heero looks at me, handing the decision off to me.

'Great, gee thanks guys,' an opportunity to spend my few days off with the two sappiest couples this side of Mars. But I can't refuse Q much of anything, even when he's not backed up by Trowa's menacing smile. I know Heero wants to go and see the guys. Sap doesn't affect our Heero.

"Sure, Quat, I'd love to. It will be great to see everyone." I don't lie but for my friends I can stretch the truth.

He smiles with genuine pleasure and adds, "If you want to bring someone, Duo?" Quatre's invitation trails off and I see his eyes flick to Heero's face. Heero's expression is suddenly blank.

"Thanks, Q. It'll just be me and Heero. Unless Heero wants to bring someone?" Now Heero and Quatre both look...odd.

The moment passes, ...Quatre smiles, Trowa smiles, I check Heero's face and he has what passes for a smile on his face. Great, everyone's happy, everyone but me. I resign myself to a weekend in True Love Hell. After Quatre and Heero exchange information and plan the details (something to which I pay no attention) and have both signed off, Heero turns and looks at me.

"You didn't have to go, Quatre would understand." He says quietly.

"Hey, it's okay. I didn't want to give Trowa any reason to hunt me down and hurt me." And I smile, more to convince myself than Heero. Quatre would understand all too well and that would be worse.

"Hn," says Heero. He doesn't call me baka anymore, at least not out loud, but sometimes I can tell he's thinking it. Like right now.

"I'm tired, Heero. I'm going to turn in." I stand, stretch, and yawn.

"Goodnight, Duo. If you need anything?" Heero turns and reaches for his laptop.

"Sure Heero, thanks." And I go to bed, alone.

I can't sleep. I lie there in the dark 'guest room' and think about my life. All the hopes I had after we survived the war. Hope for a real life, a decent job, one that doesn't involve killing people, friends, and being loved and in love.

I hadn't done so badly, up to a point. My Preventer's job is good, sometimes dangerous, but I suspect Heero and I both need that. Sometimes I do have to kill people but only if they are trying to kill me or someone else. I have good friends, even a Best Friend. I have a place of my own, all by myself now. And that thought derailed my Pollyanna moment.

Down the hall the water in the bathroom was running. Heero had finished on the computer and was getting ready for bed. I pictured him brushing his teeth, washing his face, running his fingers through his hair. He has a comb, I'm just not sure he uses it. I hear the door open and Heero walks softly down the hall, past my door. I know he's stopped and is just standing there.

"Heero?" I call out.

"Goodnight, Duo. Go to sleep."

And eventually I do.

+

It's Thursday, Heero and I are working hard, right through lunch all week so we can take Friday off and have a four day weekend. We can get away with this because Heero, the perfect warrior is also the perfect Preventer. When Heero Yuy asks for time off Lady Une is not going to say 'no.' And of course if Heero takes a day off, so do I. We're a package deal. Besides, Heero doesn't trust anyone other than himself to cover me.

I'm looking forward to four days away, even if it means I'll be subjected to my friends in love. You know how people in love are. It's not enough that they are in love, they want everyone else to share the joy. I'd like to, I really would. Quatre will ask what happened with the bastard and ooze empathy, he'll offer me advise and tell me about some great guy that he's invited to a party and he can't wait to introduce us. Trowa will tell me to be patient. WuFei and Sally will smile and say the perfect person is out there. I used to believe it. But I don't anymore. I think I don't believe in true love for Duo anymore. I don't think my happily ever after is out there. But I don't want to be alone.

Our bags are packed, the reservations are made. We catch the early morning flight. Quatre offered to send a private plane but Heero overruled him. We board on time, take our seats, and Heero pulls out his laptop. I wake up when the pilot announces we are about to land. I realize I've been sleeping with my head on Heero's shoulder. I mumble an apology. Heero just grins at me.... grin.... a word not many people associate with Heero Yuy. I probably drooled on Heero's shoulder, he probably kept still the whole time so I could rest, and he grins at me. Rashid meets us at the luggage carrousel and drives us to Quatre's place.

Quatre is at his office taking care of Winner Enterprises. Trowa meets us in the entryway, hugs us both, and invites us for a late breakfast. Someone scurries away with our bags and we follow Trowa out onto a covered deck where food is being set out. Life is good at the Barton-Winner house. Trowa fills us in on how they are, what they've been doing. He and Heero start to discuss something and I drift off thinking how it would be to have someone like Trowa in my life. I don't want Trowa but I want someone who cares about me the way Trowa cares about Quatre. Trowa loves Quatre, he watches out for him, and he needs him like he needs air to breathe. I want that. I want someone who's always there for me. The way Heero is always my friend, always there for me. Heero. Time slows down and the world sort of tilts on its axis. Heero.

"Duo, is that okay with you?" Trowa's voice jerks me back to reality.

"Sure, okay, that'll be great." I smile and then notice the smirks on Heero's and Trowa's faces. "Sorry, I wasn't listening, I guess. What did I just agree to?" I ask with more than a little trepidation.

"You just agreed that you'd be happy to be Sally's maid of honor and that you'd look good in pink." The smirks intensified and they outright laughed when I scowled.

"What were you thinking about Duo?" Heero was looking at me, a little worried I think.

"Nothing Heero, I'm just tired. Think I'm going to have a nap before we meet Quatre." And I left them to their discussion. I needed to think. About Heero.

+

Quatre's place is really nice. That's like saying Quatre has a little money. He's stinkin' rich. I'm lying in a huge bed, staring at the high ceiling; light is streaming in the windows. I love Earth. I love real sunlight, and seeing the night sky. I'm stalling now. Color me confused. While I was watching Trowa and contemplating his relationship with Quatre something clicked for me, something about Heero. Something about relationships, about our relationship.

Trowa supports Quatre by just being there, he never criticizes but he does tell Quatre what he thinks, he makes sure Quatre gets enough rest, and that he eats regularly, that he takes a break and does fun stuff. He's a rock for Quatre, always, and it makes Trowa happy to take care of Quatre, to be that support he needs, to be there for him. The way Heero is for me. Trowa loves Quatre. Does Heero love me? I feel that wobble again.

I mean, I know Heero loves me, but is he in love with me, the way Trowa is in love with Quatre, the way WuFei loves Sally, the way I want someone to be in love with me? Does Heero even realize that he's in love with me? I don't think so. Heero may not understand love but he's honest about what he feels. I think it might disturb Heero to realize he's in love with his best friend, hell, it disturbs me a bit, okay a lot. And yet.... it feels good to know that someone feels that way about me. I'm so tired of getting hurt, tired of rejection, tired of being on the outside looking in. What would it be like if Heero accepted that he loved me and we were a couple. I played that fantasy in my mind for a while. Heero really focused on me, on making me happy, on loving me. I've been in relationships that were based on less.

If Heero were really in love with me, if we were a couple, would it be so wrong? I would never hurt Heero, after all I do love him, and lots of relationships are based on less than friendship. I'd be good to Heero and Heero would love me. Maybe that's enough? I drift off to sleep thinking happy thoughts for a change. I dream about being loved, about strong arms holding me, warm mouth kissing mine. It's a good dream.

Heero comes into my room to wake me up; Quatre is with him. They are discussing dinner and going out and Heero is telling Quatre that I don't really like French food and they decide on Italian. How sweet is that? Heero is always thinking about me. Quatre climbs onto the bed to wrap his arms around me and tell me how glad he is that we've come. Heero stands by the bed and looks pleased. I pat the empty spot on my other side and he looks alternately confused and then sort of happy. He carefully moves up from the end of the bed and kind of spoons up behind me. Quatre giggles, reaches across me and pats Heero. We lay there comfortable and content until Trowa comes to tell us that Quatre needs to eat something and that tea is being served on the deck. He pulls Quatre up off the bed and Heero makes to move away. I turn and give Heero a hug and thank him for bringing me, for taking care of me, for being my friend. I look in Heero's eyes and see...love. And god help me, I like it, I like it a lot.

+

The rest of the day goes smoothly. I am more than a little confused by my discovery. Heero is in love with me. I can't help but wonder for how long. Surely not during the war, although even then he tolerated things from me that he wouldn't have from anyone else. I mean, I shot him, twice, and he didn't kill me. He rescued me from an OZ prison when by rights he should have killed me. Looking back I see lots of incidences that in light of my belief that Heero is in love with me, make a strange sort of sense. Heero thinks of Quatre, Trowa, and Wufei as dear friends. He'd lay down his life for Relena, even now. But he doesn't live his life for them. Why hadn't I noticed before?

Instead of self-destructing after the war he'd lived. I'd asked him to come back to me and he had, despite his training. Was that love? I was beginning to thing so. I wonder what this means. I don't love Heero as anything other than my friend. But I can't help but think about what kind of lover Heero would make. First of all, he's beautiful. Men and women all think so, always have. It's that killer glare and the complete lack of interest that keeps all but the most determined away. I think about Heero's body, sleek, hard, well muscled but not bulky. I think about his dark blue eyes staring into mine, how his mouth quirks up just a bit at the corners when he's amused, how his lips are full and wonder how they'd feel on mine.

I wonder if Heero ever thinks about me that way. Does he think about anyone that way? I already know that Heero cares about me and takes good care of me. I wonder if the only reason he joined the Preventer's was to watch out for me. I wonder what Heero will think when he realizes he's in love with me. How am I going to get him to face up to it?

I'm almost...almost...ashamed of what I'm thinking. But if Heero really does love me, and I think he does. Would it be wrong to let him, to give myself to him in exchange for that love? It's not like I'm planning on using him, not really. I'd be good to Heero, I'd be his, and he'd be mine. Someone who needed and wanted me. I do need Heero, I do want him, and I do love him, I'm just not in love with him. So it wouldn't be a lie to say "I love you, Heero." Not really. And I'd make Heero happy. I promise I will, and I never break my promise, not even to myself.

+

I spend the rest of the weekend feeling much better. I go out of my way to be nice to Heero, not that it's hard to be nice to Heero. I don't argue when he tries to do things for me. I ask his opinion. I do things that I know he likes. When we go dancing I sit at the table with him and don't dance with any of the strangers that try to entice me out on the floor. I let my knee rest against Heero's under the table. I catch him looking at me when he thinks I'm watching Quatre and Trowa on the dance floor, he looks a little confused but happy.

Quatre spends a lot of time just looking at us beaming. I'm guessing he's known about Heero's feelings for me for a long time and now he knows I've figured it out too. Quatre likes all his friends to be happy. I hope he doesn't ask me if I'm in love with Heero. I don't lie and it's tough to fool Quatre, hard to avoid telling him the truth. He knows me too well. But I can honestly say Monday when we leave for the airport that I'm very glad we came. Heero looks glad too, and on the way home I drop my head on his shoulder and sleep contentedly.

+

During the week I think about what I should do next. I start looking at advertisements for new apartments. Heero wants to know what's wrong with my old one and I tell him, truthfully, that it has lots of bad memories. I tell him I'm thinking of getting a roommate. He knows I don't like living alone. He says exactly what I hoped he would. He offers to share his apartment with me, after all, he says, the extra room has always been mine. I wonder if that's why he got a two-bedroom apartment in the first place? I spend my evenings packing my stuff and over the weekend Heero helps me move in to his, no, our apartment. For the first time in a long time coming home is a good thing. Heero smiles a lot. We're both happy, it can't be wrong, can it?

[part 2] [back to BleedToBlue's fic]