see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
+ Chapter 36
I awkwardly wrapped a towel
around my hair before climbing out of the shower. This one-armed business
was getting really old really fast. I hadn't really intended to wash my
hair this morning but it was a routine that never failed to relax me and
help me to get my thoughts in order and I needed that right now.
I checked my watch and realized that I was going to have to hurry if I
wanted to be dressed before Heero arrived. He was coming early so that
he could help me with my hair and fix a more substantial breakfast to
share with me before we had to leave for work. I felt a bit bad about
making him go home for the night; it really had been late and I'd caught
the wistful glance he'd thrown at the couch when I'd remarked that I was
pretty tired. But I'd needed the space. Needed some time to process all
of last night's revelations without him here.
Last night had been almost - surreal - at times. Wonderful and uncomfortable
in turns. Sometimes even both at the same time.
Heero's kisses were still just as intoxicating as I'd found them during
the mission; part of me would have been perfectly happy to spend all evening
in his arms. Which was precisely why I was intensely grateful that Wufei
had called to make sure I was okay. The call had broken the mood and given
me a bit of a breather to get my head together again.
Heero had some major convincing to do regarding his ability to meet my
emotional needs in a relationship; I had no intention of letting myself
forget that in the heat of the moment. If - I didn't quite dare think
in terms of "when", at least not yet - we made love, I didn't want there
to be any regrets. Jumping into a physical relationship before getting
our emotional one straightened out would definitely cause a few.
So after I'd gotten off the phone, we'd spent the rest of the evening
just talking while Heero helped me with the chores that I couldn't handle
too easily with my bad shoulder. Most of the conversation at that point
had been a bit less personal and a *lot* less intense. I at least had
needed some relief from all the emotional strain and getting into discussions
of our respective pasts would *not* have been too likely to provide that.
Instead, we'd talked about the latest news from Quatre and Trowa, about
some of the social reforms that Relena was trying to get passed by the
Earth Sphere Senate, about a dozen other topics of casual conversation.
It had been kind of weird and awkward at first. I don't think I'd talked
to Heero about much of anything other than work and maybe some superficial
talk about the other guys since those days early in the war when I'd tried
so damn hard to get close to him. I kept half expecting him to go silent
and leave. But he didn't. Even when it was obvious that he was finding
the whole situation just as strange and uncomfortable as I was. And as
we'd persisted, struggling to find neutral topics that weren't *too* damn
dull, it *did* get better. Not exactly *easy* - but better.
And as we'd kept talking and started to get a little more comfortable,
things had gotten just a bit more personal. I'd admitted my sneaking fondness
for old James Bond movies and *really* old black-and-white Westerns, the
kind where the good guys and bad guys were clearly defined by the colour
of their hats and the good guys always won and rode off into the sunset
to save someone else another day. And in turn I'd found out that Heero
had a secret liking for old Alistair MacLean and Tom Clancy novels and
the movies based on them. That he hardly ever touched his computer other
than when using it for work, though he admitted that up until now he'd
spent quite a bit of his evenings working since he hadn't had anything
better to do. He'd added quietly and a bit uncertainly that he hoped that
wouldn't be the case anymore and I'd rather cautiously agreed that I hoped
It had been a long time since I'd deliberately allowed myself to hope
for much of anything where Heero was concerned. It was too risky; I'd
been painfully disappointed too many times. But as the doorbell rang to
signal Heero's arrival, I acknowledged that it was a risk worth taking.
I fought the urge to crawl under the table as Wufei grilled me about exactly
where things stood between me and Heero. Just like he'd said on the phone
last night, he really did think of me as "family" just as much as "best
friend". And I did consider him family too. But I had a sneaking suspicion
that even if he really was my brother, I'd find his concern just as hard
to deal with. I was half touched that he was so concerned about the possibility
of Heero hurting me again and half annoyed that he was butting in. Judging
by things I'd heard Quatre say about his sisters, that was actually a
pretty typical sibling reaction. Fei wasn't asking for "kiss and tell"
type details; he just wanted to be sure that Heero and I really had talked
things out. But it was still damn embarrassing, especially considering
that Sally and Heero could get back with our lunches at any moment.
"Fei, *enough*, okay? I think... I think he really does *mean* what he
says; he *is* trying to be more open with me. But it's going to take some
time to see if that really counts for anything."
"I'm sorry, Duo," Wufei apologized with a sigh. "I hope that things do
work out for the two of you. I just don't want to see you get hurt again."
"Yeah, well I'd rather not *get* hurt again," I replied drily. "Unfortunately,
the only way to find out whether that's going to happen or not is to give
him a chance. And I do think he intends to really try to make this work.
I just don't know whether that'll be enough. I *hope* it will but..."
I started to shrug, remembered that was a bad idea, and only shrugged
my good shoulder instead. "So I'll take things slow. Give Heero a chance
to prove that he won't shut me out again. See where things go from there.
No deadlines, no target dates. As long as he's honestly trying, I'm willing
to do the same."
Time really wasn't an issue here; it wasn't like I was going to suddenly
stop loving Heero, fall out of love with him and in love with someone
else. Shit, I'd been in love with him with no hope of it ever being mutual
for years now; I sure as hell wasn't about to give up when there was a
chance of things actually working out between us. I could wait. However
long it might take, I could wait.
Lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, my mind was too active to let
me sleep. Over the past couple of weeks, Heero had quite faithfully shown
up at my place early enough to share breakfast and help with the dishes
as well as helping with my hair before we left for work, then stayed for
supper and to help with chores when he brought me home again, plus spent
time with me on the weekends. It had become increasingly obvious that
not only was he really trying to change but that he *had* been doing so
for a while now. Or maybe hadn't ever really been quite the way I'd thought
he was, which was probably a more accurate assessment of the situation.
I hadn't realized just how well he really knew me. How many little things
he'd noticed about me over the years we'd worked together.
Little things like the fact that I liked my French toast made with whole
wheat bread, not white. That I ate waffles with whipped cream and fruit,
not syrup. That I liked my eggs over-easy but the yolks still soft.
How the hell had I not noticed him noticing?!
I'd been asking myself that question quite a few times lately. Like after
Heero fixed my favourites for breakfast without having to ask what they
were. And after he put the right brand of shampoo and conditioner in the
cart when the shopping list didn't specify that detail. Well, or more
accurately, the list just said, "Hair stuff," and he figured out what
the hell that meant without me telling him.
And tonight - or rather, this morning since I'd spent most of the night
lying here worrying away at that damn question - I'd finally been forced
to admit that I hadn't noticed him noticing because *I'd* quit noticing
*him*. On purpose. Because it had hurt too damn much and I'd made a conscious
decision to stop watching him like that.
Realizing that Heero was actually quite a few steps ahead of me in the
whole process of getting to know each other - that I was still expecting
him to react certain ways based on his wartime behaviour because that
was all I'd allowed myself to see, all I'd allowed myself to expect of
him - kind of sucked. He'd been trying damn hard long before this last
mission and not only had I not noticed it then, I *still* kept expecting
him to ignore me or, worse, freeze me out again.
Yet if I tried to remember a single instance - other than while his memories
were returning and counting that was just damn unfair and I knew it -
when he'd frozen me out since the war, I couldn't come up with one. I
supposed that, in part, was because I hadn't ever dared try to get any
closer and therefore the possibility hadn't even come up.
But there was another reason behind that lack of freeze-outs. Namely,
that the situation had reversed itself since the war ended. Maybe not
to the same extreme as when Heero had been the one pushing me away but...
Well, looking back with the knowledge I now had, I could see the times
when Heero had tentatively tried to get closer to me and I'd quite politely
but firmly ignored the attempt. Or worse, had nipped it in the bud by
making an excuse that would have been terribly transparent to Heero.
Which made me feel damn guilty. Even if he'd only been looking for a closer
friendship, I shouldn't have been so suspicious and unwilling to give
him a chance. I'd only been trying to protect myself from being hurt again
but it hadn't been right.
I hadn't been fair to Heero then and I wasn't being fair to him now by
dwelling so much on the past. I had to stop expecting the worst of him.
The fact that expecting the worst of him meant that I couldn't be disappointed
and hurt wasn't a good enough reason for the way I'd behaved previously
and it sure as hell wasn't a good enough one for being so damn suspicious
of him now. I had to start trusting Heero - really and truly trusting
him, not just thinking that he meant well yet at the same time doubting
that he was really capable of living up to his promise to change.
Trust Heero. On an emotional level.
Easy enough to say, not as easy to do. But if I focussed on the things
he did right - like the breakfasts and the way he was so careful when
he brushed my hair and the tender way that he kissed me and the way he
struggled valiantly to find interesting but not intrusive topics of conversation
- instead of picking away at every time he instinctively resorted to a
noncommittal sound rather than a true answer or let his face fall into
that still, blank expression he automatically tended to don, it should
be a lot easier.
I added that to my list of things to do today - focus on the positive.
And I made a mental note to point out to Heero that me being able to drive
myself to work from now on didn't necessarily mean I *had* to do that
every day and that even if I *did* drive, I wouldn't mind sharing breakfast.
It was time I started making a bigger effort to meet him halfway on this.
Question answered and decision made, I rolled over and finally drifted
off to sleep.
"Joining us for lunch?" Wufei asked from the doorway.
"Might as well," I muttered disgustedly. I slapped the keyboard impatiently,
blanking and locking the display. One of those rare office procedures
that actually made *sense* considering the highly sensitive information
that most of us were working with on a regular basis. Rising from the
desk, I stalked toward the door, fuming silently. Wufei raised one eyebrow,
obviously picking up on my bad mood. I gave him a glare that warned him
to just not even go there. I was too pissed off to talk about this right
now, especially since I'd spent half the damn night convincing myself
that Heero had really changed, was still changing, and that it was only
a matter of time before we had the relationship that we both had said
we really wanted.
Then after all that, I'd walked into the office this morning, said good
morning, and been absently grunted at. And that had been the sum total
of my conversation with Heero today. Oh, that and another grunt when I'd
suggested lunch a half hour ago or so. First damn morning that he hadn't
had to come by my place for breakfast and to drive me to work and he hadn't
so much as *looked* at me today. He'd just sat there in front of that
fucking computer, typing and staring at the fucking screen and damn well
Yeah, I was definitely pissed off.
A state of being that Sally appeared to share judging by her impatient,
"I'm going," as she stalked down the hallway, leaving Wufei and I to follow.
"Isn't Yuy joining us?" Wufei asked curiously.
"Heero, it's lunch time. Are you coming or not?" I demanded, already knowing
what the answer would be.
"Hn." Heero didn't even flick a glance towards us.
"Guess that's a no," I shrugged with forced nonchalance and started down
the hall. I tried very hard to ignore the little voice that was pointing
out just how quickly he'd reverted once he didn't have to wait on me due
to my injured shoulder. That wasn't a fair interpretation of the situation.
This wasn't the same thing as freezing me out; there was nothing personal
in this whatsoever. I doubted he'd even heard Wufei ask me to join them
Really, this had nothing to do with me personally. Really.
It might have been easier to convince myself of that if I'd even had some
idea what the hell he was working on that was so damn interesting. Hell,
maybe it was even important and urgent enough to justify ignoring me all
But I doubted it.
"Duo..." Wufei said very softly.
"Chang, unless you want me as pissed at you as I am at him and Sally appears
to be at you, I'd strongly suggest that you *butt out*," I growled. This
was not open for discussion; at least not till after Heero re-entered
the real world. He owed me an apology and an explanation. If he managed
to figure that out by himself and provided both... And if I was satisfied
with them... Then the whole thing would be a closed issue. If he *didn't*
do any of those things, on the other hand...
Well, in that case I'd probably be looking for someone to bitch to and
Wufei would probably be the individual fortunate enough to receive that
"honour". Lucky him.
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