see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
+ Chapter 37
'Well, damn...' I was ready
for work far, far earlier than necessary. This was the first morning in
weeks that I didn't need to go to Duo's house to help him but here I was,
ready in time to do so anyway.
I'd been a little - hurt - by how quick he'd been to inform me that he
was now allowed to use his arm freely and therefore I wouldn't have to
help him get ready and drive him to work this morning. I could understand
*why* he'd been delighted by the physical therapist's decision; I knew
that Duo was extremely independent and didn't like having to rely on others.
Being able to do things for himself - especially being able to drive again
- would naturally make him happy. I *wanted* him to get better of course
- but I'd really enjoyed all the time we'd been spending together. There
had been awkward moments, yes, and I'd had to get up well over an hour
earlier than usual every day but...
But I was going to miss brushing and braiding Duo's hair and fixing breakfast
for the two of us and all of those other things that he was now able to
do for himself again. My ready-made excuse to spend virtually every waking
hour in his presence was a thing of the past. He wouldn't *need* me the
same way. I had to wonder just how much of an effect that was going to
have on the time we spent together.
Duo had accepted my company readily enough over the past few weeks but
he hadn't actively sought it beyond those times that he'd asked me to
help him with tasks that his injured shoulder made difficult or impossible.
At no point had he asked me to come over just to watch television or to
go to a show. Only to help him houseclean or shop or something else practical
and necessary. Oh, once I was there, he would usually invite me to stay
and we would spend some time together talking and kissing. Doing a little
light making out on the couch. And if I asked to come over, he would willingly
But he hadn't made the first move at any point. And I couldn't help feeling
that he was still keeping a certain distance between us. Protecting himself.
Intellectually, I knew why. Knew that Duo was waiting for me to prove
that I wouldn't revert to my wartime behaviour around him. But I wasn't
sure what it was going to take *to* prove that. Wasn't sure what it was
going to take to turn that "chance" I'd asked for into an actual relationship.
A *permanent* relationship, not just something that we were both "trying".
'Sometimes I wonder whether I *can* prove myself. Whether there *is* anything
that I can do to really convince him...
'Whether he's as willing to work at this, as willing to try as he said
that he was. As *I* am...'
I shook my head sharply, not wanting to follow that line of thought any
further. It had only been a few weeks and I had spent *months* freezing
him out during the war. It wasn't reasonable to expect him to be convinced
yet that I wouldn't revert to that behaviour.
It didn't pay to be idle; my mind wandered into thoughts - doubts - that
I couldn't afford to harbour. It was still early but I might as well go
into work anyway. We hadn't finished tracing all of the financial transactions
to and from the accounts belonging to Mattis personally and the resort
itself; carrying out that particular task should keep my mind occupied
and away from worrying about whether Duo would ever trust me enough, let
me close enough, to have the relationship I wanted with him. The fact
that I might actually manage to find a data trail leading to one or two
of the suppliers or buyers that Mattis had dealt with was just a bonus.
Noting another company for further investigation, I realized that the
name sounded vaguely familiar. They were supposedly in the salvage business;
maybe Duo would either know something about them or be able to find out
through his contacts with the Sweepers.
Swivelling my chair around, I began, "Duo, do you know anything about..."
I stopped in mid-sentence as I realized that I was alone in the office.
Which was strange, since I seemed to recall that I'd acknowledged a "good
morning" from him when he arrived...
Yes, Duo had obviously been here, his computer was on but the display
was blanked and locked. Thinking back, I had the vague impression that
he'd said something to me a while ago but I wasn't sure what. 'And I think
I heard Wufei's voice too...' A cold lump settled in my stomach as I looked
at my watch and realized in shock just how late it was. They'd probably
gone to lunch - a *late* lunch at that.
And I hadn't actually *seen* Duo - or really *spoken* with him - all morning.
Despite the fact that he'd obviously been in the office and I *did* vaguely
recall hearing his voice.
'Shit, shit, shit... I completely ignored him all fucking *morning*...
I let myself get wrapped up in my work so that I wouldn't keep thinking
about him and worrying and doubting and so I ended up *ignoring* him...'
Just like I used to during the war.
God, I'd just blown the past few weeks all to hell and proved he was right
to doubt that I'd really changed.
I rubbed my arms and shivered, suddenly chilled. How the hell was I going
to make up for this? What if he wouldn't even let me try? What if I'd
just completely ruined the chance I'd asked for?
I hadn't *intended* to shut him out, to ignore him. I'd just - needed
to distract myself for a while. I'd known that concentrating on work would
do it and it had.
But unfortunately it had also resulted in me falling back into an old,
bad habit. The slightest thing out of place or dangerous in my surroundings
would have instantly yanked me out of my concentration on my task but
Duo was a trusted, familiar presence so I'd just kept working without
really noticing him. If he'd touched me, I would have noticed *that*,
but I'd taught myself to tune out his voice during the war when we'd had
to share a room at a school. Then, it had been pure self-defense; I'd
have never gotten *anything* done if I'd let myself listen to him. His
voice was always so warm and vibrant; it had been so hard to resist back
then. But my determination to keep my distance until after the war had
proven stronger and I'd learned to block him out while I worked.
Unfortunately, I'd learned that skill a little *too* well apparently.
For a moment, I considered going down to the cafeteria in search of him.
But I had no idea how long ago he'd left for lunch and there was no guarantee
that he hadn't gone elsewhere to eat. And I certainly had no interest
in eating myself. Not with my throat tight with worry and a cold, heavy
lump in my gut.
All I could do was sit tight and wait for him to come back. And hope like
hell that he would be willing to accept an apology and give me yet another
I had no idea just how long I sat staring at the door before Duo returned
to our office. It seemed like forever while I was waiting yet once he
was actually there, I half-wished that he wasn't since I really didn't
know what to say. His eyes met mine levelly but his expression was unreadable.
He stopped and pushed the door closed behind him without looking at it.
Folding his arms, he leaned back against it and simply waited silently,
his eyes still locked with mine. Obviously, I was on my own with this.
I stood, moving away from my desk and closer to Duo before beginning,
"Duo, I'm sorry. I didn't... I shouldn't... I just..." I stopped and drew
a steadying breath, then started over, "I'm sorry that I ignored you this
morning. I didn't intend to; I just got caught up in tracing Mattis's
financial transactions and I guess old habits kicked in. Old, bad habits.
I'm sorry, Duo, please give me a chance to make up for it. Please don't
give up on me..."
Duo sighed and asked quietly, "Why'd you get so caught up in that, Heero?
We were supposed to start work on that today, yeah. *We* were. *Together*.
After we finished going over our final notes on that big inter-colony
drug trafficking case that's going to court next week."
I winced at the reminder. We really *did* have to go over those notes;
*our* part of that case was wrapped up months ago but we still had to
testify now that it was finally going to court. We needed to go over our
notes to refresh our memories of the whole damn thing. But reading case
notes wouldn't have been sufficient distraction so I'd started the day
off with the data trace instead. "I needed the distraction," I admitted
reluctantly. The last thing I could afford to do right now was dodge Duo's
question and make him think that I was shutting him out.
Forcing myself to explain, I continued, "I was early because you didn't
need me to pick you up this morning. And I was..." God, it was hard to
come right out and say this... "I was worrying about what would happen
now that your shoulder's getting better and you don't need my help. Whether
we'll still be spending as much time together. Whether I was making any
progress in persuading you that I've changed." I added derisively, "Guess
that doesn't matter now; I completely blew *that*, didn't I."
Slowly pushing away from the door, Duo walked over to stand directly in
front of me. He frowned slightly and shook his head. "No. Not really,"
he said, the words emerging almost reluctantly. "You... backslid. Like
you warned me you probably would. But you realized what you did and you
apologized. And..." He grimaced slightly, then admitted, "And I haven't
been very fair about all this. Haven't been giving you as much support
as I should. I could have tried harder to get your attention this morning.
*Should* have tried harder instead of just letting it go. Instead of just
getting pissed off."
Scarcely daring to hope, I asked, "Then - you're not giving up on me?
On us? I didn't completely wreck things?"
"No!" The prompt response was a relief. "No, Heero, you didn't wreck things
and I'm sure as hell not giving up. I just... I did a lot of thinking
last night. And I realized that I was clinging to the past too much. Not
really being fair to you.
"I finally realized that there's lots of things that show you've changed;
things that I should have noticed a long time ago if I hadn't been so
damn determined *not* to notice because I didn't want to get hurt anymore...
"Then I came in to work, determined to apologize for that and to try not
to make so damn many assumptions about you - and - well, let's just say
it was really not the best time for you to backslide, Heero," he said
I swallowed hard and nodded silently. No wonder he hadn't tried very hard
to get my attention. "I really am sorry Duo," I offered quietly.
"Okay," he said simply. "I *was* pretty pissed off but, well, Sally spent
the whole lunch hour royally pissed at Fei - I never *did* actually find
out why but since he was grovelling quite nicely by the time lunch was
over, I'm guessing he did something pretty damn stupid and knew it..."
Duo's expression turned serious again as he continued, "Anyway, it just
reminded me that *every* relationship has its rough patches. We're all
just human and we make mistakes. We just have to admit it and try and
fix things when we do." That mischievous, teasing grin that had been so
rarely directed at me since the war flickered into existence as he added,
"Besides, I'd be an idiot to give up a guy who makes the greatest French
toast in the Earth Sphere *and* gives kisses that should be on the controlled
substance list as addictive just because he gets a little too intense
when he's working on something and forgets about the rest of the world."
I had to laugh in sheer relief. It was going to be okay. The quick, firm
hug that Duo pulled me into and his suggestion that we tackle the case
review now so that we would be done work in time to grab a quick meal
and maybe go see a movie made that clear. He really did intend to try
and make things work between us and he *was* starting to believe that
I'd changed. That a relationship with me would work.
Yes, I'd screwed up - but things were still going to be okay. I wasn't
perfect but neither was Duo. And, more importantly, he didn't expect me
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