Author: Calic0cat
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Fragments + Chapter 28

The sight that greeted me when I peered through the security peephole left me seriously tempted to pretend that I wasn't home. If I was really, really lucky, Heero might decide I'd already left.

The doorbell rang again and I admitted that wasn't too likely. He'd probably heard me walk over here and was wondering why the hell I hadn't opened the door yet. But I really wasn't ready to face him; I'd hoped that I'd have a couple more days to get my head straight and my emotions under control a bit better before he got back.

The doorbell rang again. I drew a deep breath, pasted a polite smile on my face, unlocked the door, and swung it open.

"Good morning, Heero. I didn't realize you were back yet. Did Wufei ask you to pick me up? I was going to just call a cab but..."

"Duo."

I realized that I was babbling and shut up. Heero had never had much patience for that sort of thing and I really did not want to get the day off to a bad start. Well, a *worse* start. It was already pretty bad as far as I was concerned. I kept my gaze where it was, just a bit shy of actually meeting Heero's eyes, and apologized, "Sorry. Just need to get my shoes on and I'll be ready."

Leaving the door open, I hurriedly went to get my shoes. I'd tied them already; I just had to shove my feet in them. Not too good for the shoes but with the shape my shoulder was in, I didn't think that I could handle tying them after I put them on. I'd be starting physiotherapy for it by the end of the week but I wasn't supposed to overstress it before then. I'd basically been told not to do anything that made it hurt. Which pretty much translated to "don't use it" since *everything* I tried to do hurt. Which reminded me that somewhere around here there was a sling that I was *supposed* to be using...

Feet successfully crammed into my shoes, I turned and stumbled as I nearly ran into Heero. I'd been so preoccupied with trying *not* to think about the fact that I was going to have to deal with him that I hadn't heard him come up behind me. Which really did not bode well for my chances of learning to deal with him as a partner again; I'd get us both killed if I got distracted like that on a mission. "Sorry," I apologized automatically. I tried to ignore the fact that Heero had caught hold of me by the waist to keep me from falling.

"Duo, I..."

His hands on my waist were too painful a reminder of the way we'd danced in our suite. Or rather, the way that "Odin" and I had danced. Maybe I could eventually convince myself that "Odin" was a completely different person, one who was dead and gone. Maybe then I'd be able to handle Heero touching me so impersonally. Right now, I couldn't. I stepped back and Heero let me go, confirming that he'd only been trying to keep me from causing myself further injury. "I'm ready," I said with forced cheerfulness. Forget the sling, I didn't want to spend any longer alone with Heero than necessary. Time to get out of here.

Heero gave me an odd look. "Your hair?"

"Uh, I can't do anything about it with one hand," I said awkwardly.

"Do you want me to..."

My first reaction was to say no. *Hell*, no. I remembered too damn well what it had been like to have "Odin" brush my hair; there was no way I wanted to be comparing that tender, affectionate care with the business-like way Heero would undoubtedly go at the task now. But I'd barely got the "No" out before I belatedly registered the hesitancy with which Heero had made the offer. Whether he was just trying to smooth things over between us for the sake of our partnership or whether he was offering for some other reason, I didn't know and I didn't think I wanted to consider it too closely at the moment, but it wasn't fair to throw away the offer like that just because I was feeling a little oversensitive. It was too late to take back that first word so I had to work with it as best I could. "We don't really have time, do we? I don't want to make us both late..."

If he'd only offered out of a sense of obligation, I'd left him a perfectly legitimate out. If he'd offered for some other reason, on the other hand... Well, I guessed I'd deal with worrying about what that "other reason" might be later.

"We have time."

Okay, so maybe it wasn't just obligation. That response had been very quick; he hadn't had to consider it at all. I flattened the hope that was trying to rise; just because he was being thoughtful that did *not* mean he was interested in a relationship. Let alone capable of one. "Well... if you're sure..."

"Where's your brush?"

Typical Heero. Abrupt and to the point.

"I'll get it..." I gave him a hesitant glance before heading down to my room. I wasn't sure what to make of this. Was he just being polite? Trying to at least get things back to the way they'd been before the mission? Or did I dare hope...

'No. No hoping. Absolutely not. Any sign of interest from Heero is going to have to be a hell of a lot more obvious than that for me to take it seriously,' I decided firmly. I'd let little things get my hopes up during the war and it had been for nothing; I wasn't going down that road again.

And I sure as hell wasn't going to be dumb enough to overstep that damn line he'd drawn years ago. Not again. If he was going to be his pre-amnesia self, I wasn't going to risk wrecking that by overstepping my bounds again. That cautious friendship and damn good partnership had meant a lot to me despite the fact that they weren't *all* I wanted. If I could have those back, I wasn't about to get out of line and lose them because I let myself foolishly hope for more.

No matter what Wufei might say, I *had* told Heero how I felt about him. That I loved him. If he brought it up, asked me if I still felt that way, I wouldn't lie about it. But I wasn't going to say anything further on the subject myself. The ball was in his court now.

Grabbing my brush, I headed back out to the livingroom with my mind made up. I would try to treat Heero the same way I had before this mission started. To just pretend that none of this mess ever happened. It wouldn't be easy but it was the safest option to choose. *But* - I would also follow Wufei's advice, at least in part, and try to keep an open mind about Heero's feelings towards me. Given some definite evidence that Heero was interested in changing the nature of our relationship, I would give him a chance to prove that he meant it.

But it was going to take a hell of a lot more than offering to brush my hair to convince me. A *hell* of a lot more.

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