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

Fragments + Chapter 33

I paused the video and wished for the hundredth time that the quality was a bit better. It was hard to make out Duo's expression clearly; I couldn't be completely sure whether there was something more than concern for a partner on his face as he watched me sleep or not.

There was a lot of footage here but obviously the equipment must have been set to only record when motion was detected because there was no real "dead screen" time on any of the disks that I'd checked. Though there had been segments that I'd fast-forwarded through. Bits where we'd both been napping or just watching a movie. Reading or playing video games. Or Duo had been reading or watching me as I slept. I had spent even more time sleeping during the first couple of days after the accident than I'd realized.

And he'd spent a lot of that time just - watching me. Surely that had to mean that - at least at that point - he cared for me more than just as a partner...

Though it might not mean anything *now*. After the way that I'd treated him as my memories started to return.

I wasn't looking forward to watching *that* footage at *all*.

I ejected the disk from the reader and put in another disk. They were all time-stamped but of course they overlapped each other at times, showing views from different cameras during the same time period. But judging from the starting time listed for this one...

The video on the screen confirmed my guess. I watched as my image sat up in bed and called for "Max". Watched as Duo entered the camera's range, his hair a glorious cloak that floated around him as he walked. As he surrendered the brush to me and I brushed his hair. As he kept giving me those sidelong glances; ones that I understood all too well now.

It was far from surprising that he had given me such wondering looks; I'd never really done anything before to lead him to believe that I might even be capable of acting so tenderly. Let alone that I would *want* to. It was just so damn *difficult* to set the training aside like that now that I remembered it...

Part of me wished that I'd never remembered anything beyond what I'd known at that moment. That instead of me doubting Duo and shooting him, I'd kept trusting him implicitly and let him get us out of there. That I'd never shut him out again; never triggered off his own emotional retreat. Never destroyed the promise that our interaction on the video I was watching seemed to hold; the chance at something truly wonderful that the effortless dancing in each other's arms suggested was ours.

But the rest of me knew that there was no point dwelling on what might have happened. It was equally possible that if I hadn't remembered anything, we *all* would have ended up captured. Or that Duo would have managed to get the two of us out without ever knowing that Wufei and Sally had been caught. And he would have never forgiven himself if they'd arrived as our backup and ended up being killed.

I continued to watch even after the dance ended. The video recording jumped from scene to scene as we left the room and returned minutes or hours later. Duo had been so *open* with me then, despite the secrets that he'd been keeping. Despite the worry that must have been eating away at him over our safety. I *had* to believe that the caring he'd shown was more than just part of our cover. He was a good undercover operative and one hell of a good actor but I couldn't quite believe that none of that had been real.

The disk reached its end and I added it to the small pile of those I'd checked. Glancing at my watch, I realized that I didn't have much time left before the end of the workday. I didn't want to be late leaving; I'd told Sally that I would take over from Wufei so the two of them could spend the evening together. There was no way that I would get through *all* of the remaining footage this afternoon.

I dug through the remaining disks, looking for a specific time and camera code. Once I located the disk I wanted, I sat and stared at it for a few minutes. Was I really ready to watch this?

Probably not. But I needed to.

I shoved the disk in the player and hit the "play" button decisively. I didn't know how much the surveillance equipment in the bathroom would have picked up that last morning but I intended to find out.

***

I forced my fingers to unclench from the steering wheel as Sally's car pulled into the driveway behind mine. My mouth was dry and my heart was racing as I climbed out of the car. I was determined to do this - to face Duo and get everything out in the open - but that didn't change the fact that I was incredibly nervous.

"Yuy? What are you doing here?" Wufei asked as I followed Sally into the house.

"I promised to help Duo while his shoulder's healing," I answered simply. That wasn't the *whole* reason I was there by any means but the rest of it was strictly between Duo and myself. I'd spent all damn afternoon psyching myself up for this while watching those surveillance recordings; I wasn't going to back down now.

Wufei frowned slightly and said, "I thought that Sally and I..."

"Heero had already volunteered this morning," Sally said firmly. "*We* have other plans since our presence is not required."

"I don't know whether..."

I cut Wufei off, saying, "It's my fault that he needs the assistance in the first place; it's only fair that I should be the one to help." I *had* to do this now. While every tiny indication that Duo cared for me as more than a partner was fresh in my memory. While I clearly remembered every encouraging little thing he'd said or done that the surveillance cameras in our suite had captured.

Duo stepped out of the hallway, his hair a bit mussed as if he'd been sleeping. "Heero, I already told you, it's not your fault. I don't hold you responsible for anything that you said or did while you had amnesia. None of it was real. You don't need to..."

"What if I want to be held responsible?" I interrupted quickly. I'd promised myself that I would take advantage of the first opportunity to set things straight. To tell Duo how I felt. This chance had happened sooner than I'd expected and with an audience that I'd have preferred not to have but if I didn't say something now I might not ever do so. Based on my past record, I might just keep waiting and waiting for the "right" chance and never find it.

Duo froze and his eyes widened slightly. I ignored the knot in my throat and pressed on determinedly, "What if I want it to be real?" I heard the outside door open and close behind me and realized that we no longer had an audience. Silently, I thanked Wufei and Sally for their tact. This was going to be difficult enough as it was; I didn't need extra observers. I stepped close to Duo and slid my arms around him carefully. I swallowed hard, met his confused eyes, and murmured softly, "What if I need to do *this*?"

And then I kissed him.

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