By: BleedToBlue
see part 1 for notes, warnings

Coin Operated Boy + Part 3

Heero and I don't talk about being in love at Wufei's wedding. The wedding is beautiful, Sally cries, Quatre cries, okay, yes, I cry, too. Wufei looks proud, and very, very happy. I'm starting to hate that word. Heero stands next to me in the receiving line and is so handsome in his tux I can hardly take my eyes off him. We sit at a table at the reception and watch Sally and Wufei dance. Later I dance with Sally who looks very beautiful, as all brides should. Trowa dances with Quatre, Quatre is glowing. I watch as Trowa bends down and catches Quatre's mouth in a kiss. I see love on their faces, the real thing, not pretend. I look at Heero and he is watching too, he has a look I can't decipher on his face. When he turns to me his smile is a little sad I think. Quatre is right. Heero deserves better than me, he deserves someone who can really love him.

Things are not the same after the wedding. I blame it on my interfering friends. I blame it on my guilty conscience. I feel like a hungry kid who's looking through the window while other people sit inside a warm room and eat good food. I know what that's like first hand. To have what you want, what you need, right in front of you and you can't have it. I want Heero to love me and need me. And he does, and suddenly, I'm having doubts.

When I was a kid I thought that I'd done something so bad that my parents sent me away. I know now that I was probably orphaned by the war and that whatever happened to me wasn't my fault. I didn't do anything wrong, didn't deserve what happened to me. But inside that kid is still there and he shows up at the most inopportune times to whisper in my ear. 'You can't have that, you don't deserve that. You must have done something wrong.' I know it's not right to make Heero love me and to pretend I love him, but I want it. I want it.

I have nightmares in the weeks after the wedding. Haven't had those in a long time. Not the loud screaming kind thank goodness, so Heero doesn't know. But they wake me up and I can't go back to sleep. Pretty soon I try to avoid going to sleep until I'm so tired I don't dream. I know I look like hell and I'm exhausted. Heero doesn't say anything but I notice him watching me when he thinks I'm not looking.

Heero starts insisting that we take his car to work. I fall asleep on the way home everyday, one day I wake up and realize he's driving around so that I can sleep longer. I ask why and he says I look tired. I want to cry because it is so sweet. Instead I yell at him for being stupid. I get out of the car and walk home. When I get there Heero is waiting for me in the living room. I walk past without a word, go into my room and shut the door. I lie on my bed and wonder what is wrong with me.

In the morning I apologize to Heero, I tell him that I've been having nightmares and not sleeping well. I tell him I appreciate all the things he does for me. That I'm glad he's my Best Friend. I don't think Heero looks happy anymore. Heero should have someone to love him, someone who can really return his love. On the way to work Heero says we need to talk. It's Friday but it feels a lot like Monday.

At work the surveillance team report says that our drug runners have received a new shipment. Heero has tracked down the warehouse where they will trade the drugs for credits. We are hoping that the size of the shipment means that the bosses will be there to supervise. We hope to round up a major portion of the gang. I forget that I am exhausted. I forget that Heero has said we need to talk. We put on our protective vests, check our weapons and roll out.

Things go like a text-book case. The bad guys are not stupid but they have made stupid mistakes, over confident. We take the outer guards and break in to the warehouse shouting 'Preventers, hands up.' It's like a bad movie script but it does seem to work. Most of them do the smart thing and throw down their weapons.

One has managed to hide behind some boxes and panics when we see him as we are taking the other guys out. He brings up his gun and aims right at Heero who can't see him. Time moves very slowly. I throw myself at Heero as I shout for him to drop. I really don't mean to throw myself in front of a bullet. I meant to simply knock Heero down and take us both out of the way. As I feel the bullets hit I think that it is a good thing to die for Heero. My head seems to explode and then the world goes dark.

I'm not dead. Of course not, I had on a vest. My head hurts quite a lot. My chest hurts. My vision is fuzzy although the lights are very bright. I can hear someone shouting but I can't make out what they are saying. They are very loud and it makes my head pound. I wonder where Heero is. I slide back into unconsciousness.

When I wake up again the room is quiet, and not so bright. My head throbs and my chest aches. My throat is dry and my lips feel tight. I want to ask for water but only a raspy noise comes out. Quatre's face comes into view. His eyes are red and he looks like hell. I think that probably I do too. Q says something and doesn't seem to expect me to understand or answer. He disappears, reappears, and I feel something cold and wet in my mouth. Ice chips. Cold beer would be better but I'm not going to be picky. He smears something soothing on my lips and then more ice chips.

I think I love Quatre, maybe he will leave Trowa for me, we could get married. I try to smile at him but nothing works. Quatre is talking and his words are starting to make sense. "...can't believe you did that. Heero is so angry at...." Maybe I don't want to marry Quatre after all. He thinks I'm stupid and Heero is mad at me. See if I try to save his life again. Q is still talking but I close my eyes and sleep takes me again.

Quatre is gone when I wake up again but Heero is there. I quickly close my eyes again. I don't want to see the anger in his eyes. "I know you're awake." Heero growls. I slit my eyes just enough to see that Heero has moved to the side of the bed. He has a cast on one wrist. Great, I managed to get myself shot and break Heero's wrist. Life is perfect; it must be Monday. I let go of consciousness. I sleep and dream of breeding paperwork.

It is Monday. The botched raid was on Friday and I've been unconscious since then. The bullets didn't do too much damage; just deep bruises and cracked ribs. When I took Heero down I managed to slam my head into a support beam and bounce it off the concrete floor. The doctors don't seem to think there will be any permanent damage but I have a hell of a headache and while the vest saved my life the impact points of the bullets are painful and my chest is one big bruise.

When I'm finally allowed up I find it hard to keep the room from spinning and I move like an old, broken man. Heero is furious with me. It is a curious reaction from a man who'd attempted to self-destruct. Twice. Oh, and he is mad about his wrist, too. Go figure.

Monday afternoon and I am awake. Heero sits beside me glowering. Quatre and Trowa have come in, also frowning. After saying hello Trowa takes Heero out for something to eat and I'm left alone with Quatre. I have been feigning sleep and pain without too much effort in an attempt to avoid conversation with Heero. I don't think it's going to work with Quatre. I think we are about to finish the conversation we started at the wedding. I hope I am wrong. I'm not. Quatre isn't frowning anymore, he looks embarrassed.

"Duo, I owe you an apology." He starts out, and I rush to interrupt.

"No, no apologies. It's okay, Q, I understand." I keep talking hoping he will just let it drop. "Hey if I'd known Heero was going to be so mad about it I wouldn't have pushed him out of the way." Quatre looks at me and appears to be annoyed.

"Heero isn't angry, he's scared, and worried about you. He thought it was very 'careless of you' was his exact phrase." I can't help the warm feeling that floods over me at Quatre's words. Heero is worried about me. I know I have to do the right thing, even if it hurts.

"You were right, Q. About Heero. I can't do this anymore. Heero needs someone who really loves him. He shouldn't have to settle for me." Quatre closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, he looks stressed. Then he sighs.

"Heero thinks you love him. Are you telling me that you don't?"

I don't know what to say. I thought Quatre would be pleased to hear that I'd come to my senses, that I wasn't going to take advantage of Heero being in love with me.

"Duo, why do you think that you leaving would be the best thing for Heero? You know he loves you." Quatre is speaking to me slowly and enunciating clearly, like he is speaking to a not-too-bright-child. Maybe he thinks I've got brain damage from the bumps on my head.

I nod my head because I still don't know quite what he wants me to say. Nodding is a very bad idea. The room dips and spins. It adds a new dimension to the sick feeling I'm getting from this discussion. I close my eyes hoping the movement and Quatre will both go away. I feel a cool cloth on my face. Quatre is still here. I open my eyes and the room doesn't move. Quatre is waiting for an answer. I know Trowa can't keep Heero away for very long. Another discussion looms and as much as I hate this one, I'm not looking forward to the one with Heero.

"Duo." Quatre's voice snaps me back to the present. "Why, Duo?" 'Why?' Because it isn't right, because Heero deserves better, because Heero's feelings matter more than mine. Because.... I can't go any farther than, I can't think it through. Quatre is still waiting for an answer. I would like to disappear.

"I don't know. It doesn't matter. I give up." My voice comes out sort of high pitched, like a wail. I sound like a hysterical fool. "You were right. I'm not good enough." It shouldn't be this hard.

I take a deep breath and continue in a more rational manner, make my voice sound like I'm in control "I've thought about what you all said." Quatre winces at that, maybe he didn't know that Wufei and Trowa had 'had a talk' with me, too. "Heero needs someone who loves him."

"And you don't love him.? " Quatre is damned persistent.

"I..." I love Heero; I'm not in love. No.

"You want what's best for him?" Relentless Quatre.

"I..." I want Heero to be happy. There's that damned word again.

"And you'd give up being with Heero, even though he loves you?" I hate Quatre. I wish he'd just go away.

"We were worried about both of you Duo, not just Heero. You deserve to be in love and have that love returned, too." Maybe I don't hate Quatre.

Why do I want to let Heero go? I'm tired and it's hard to think. I don't want to think. Leave me alone. Persistent, annoying Quatre, damn him. I do hate him.

"I..." Heero's feelings matter more than mine. Heero's needs are more important than mine. My head aches but Quatre is nodding encouragingly at me. He's doing that thing with his eyes. If I get the answer right he'll go away and I can sleep and not have to think about this. I want to whine, 'leave me aloooonnne.' Quatre is still looking at me. I try again.

"I..." I love Heero. Yes, that feels right. I'm in love with Heero. I stare at Quatre in amazement. He is smiling. I think I said that last part out loud. The part about being in love with Heero. I say it again because I like the way it sounds. Quatre is laughing quietly.

"I'm an idiot." I say that out loud, too. Heero and Trowa come in and hear me. Heero agrees with me vehemently and proceeds to yell at me for 'stupidly endangering my life' by throwing myself 'in front of a maniac with a gun.' I am grinning like a fool through the whole lecture. When Heero stops to catch his breath I pull him down for a kiss. When we come up for air Trowa and Quatre are gone.

"I love you." I tell Heero. I want to say it a lot. I repeat it. I like the way it sounds. Heero seems to like it, too.

fin

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