Flights of Angels (cont)

+

"Hey, hero."

Duo Maxwell's arms around my waist felt better than anything had a right to.

"Hey. Where you been?"

He held me close a while longer before releasing me.

"You know me. Places to go, people to see, things to blow up."

His hand found mine, his fingers intertwining with my own. The pretty tin man watched all this closely, but what might be going on behind those expressionless features was, as always, a mystery to me. Duo Maxwell's touch was electrifying. If I closed my eyes, I could not not help but recall the feel of his body moving against mine, of being possessed by him completely. It was for my sake alone that I now kept my eyes open.

"Keep a seat free for me, will ya?"

He bounced off in the direction of Carrie or, as he referred to her, the Cookie Girl, leaving me alone yet again with Heero Yuy. I had grown accustomed to his silence -- I couldn't now imagine him any more talkative -- but his patented glare was another matter entirely.

"Geez, Heero. You could bore a hole through a person doing that. Is there something that you wanted, or are you just fascinated by my exquisite bone structure today?"

His gaze fell to my hand before rising to my face again. "I was just wondering what it felt like."

I had no need to ask what he meant. This was the reason I could not hate Heero Yuy -- that lost, confused look that would come over him for those split seconds that you could so easily miss. It had surprised me to find that he and Duo Maxwell, despite their apparent differences, were two of a kind. They fit together in a way that seemed inevitable. What kept them apart was a mystery to me.

I turned to watch Duo Maxwell across the lawn, laughing and flirting with Carrie and her girlfriends. His hair gleamed in the afternoon sun and, even from this distance, I was struck by the incredible brilliance of his eyes. What did it feel like? And how to explain it to a boy who looked as though he'd never been touched? I turned back to him, knowing he was still waiting for my answer, that he would wait until he received one.

"Give me your hand, Heero." I could not help the small smile that rose to my lips at his hesitation. How could anyone be so young and yet so old at the same time? "Your hand."

He reached out to me stiffly, reluctantly. I took his hand in mine, reveling in the small tingle of fear that ran through my body as I did so. To accomplish what I had set my mind to, I would have to cause Heero Yuy to lose some of the control that now kept his almost mythical strength in check. It was in some ways a terrifying prospect.

"Close your eyes."

I felt as if I had hypnotized a tiger. He obeyed me at once. His hand was so tense, he might as well have had it clenched in a fist. That would never do. I massaged it gently until I could feel him begin to relax.

"What are you -- "

"Quiet, Heero. You asked me what it felt like. I'm trying to show you."

I placed his hand against my chest, sliding closer to him until his face was just a handspan from my own.

"Can you feel that?"

"Feel..."

"My heart beating. Can you feel it?"

"Hai."

I closed my own eyes, concentrating on what it was I was going to say. I knew I only had one shot at this. "That's me, Heero. That's my life force flowing through every part of my body. There's nothing else like it."

I had his attention now. When I removed my hand from his, he let it remain where it lay.

"Every living thing has a life force, Heero. It's a warmth that lives deep inside. You can sense it from a distance, but to truly become a part of it requires human contact. Simple...human...contact.

The day I first made Duo Maxwell smile, and I mean really smile, Heero, I made contact. And the closer I get to him, the more I see what he truly is. What does it feel like, Heero? It's like falling into the sun."

We must have opened out eyes at the same time. His gaze pierced me straight through before I had a chance to look away.

"I -- "

I reached out to sweep the hair from his forehead, my hand coming to rest on his cheek. Was Heero Yuy...trembling?

"Not ice at all..."

I could still feel the warmth of his hand through my shirt long after he'd pulled it away.

+

It came as no surprise to me that Duo Maxwell had nightmares. It's not like he had told me anything about himself. As close as we had become, in some ways he was as much a puzzle to me as he had ever been. I never asked him why there was such an unholy depth to the pain he hid behind his smiles. And when he woke up crying, sobbing, thrashing as if trying to escape an inescapable evil, I didn't try to exorcise his demons. But I did hold him close, stroking his back until his shaking stopped.

"Heero?"

"No."

He couldn't have hurt me more if he'd tried. Somehow, the fact that it was unintentional made it that much worse. He came back to me with an agonizing swiftness until it was only myself I saw in his violet eyes. He sighed as he recognized me and nuzzled closer.

"So nice to wake up in your arms..."

I luxuriated in the feel of his body pressed to mine until I could speak around the dagger he'd just twisted into my heart. I didn't love Duo Maxwell. I truly didn't. But sometimes...

He began to return my caresses, his breath quickening with desire. I surprised him beyond measure when I pulled away. Don't get me wrong -- I wanted him as much then as I ever had. But I couldn't go on like this.

"Duo Maxwell...who am I?"

He answered me with that unquenchable sparkle glittering in his mythic eyes. "You're my hero."

His hands moved to continue what they'd started, knowing full well I would not, in the end, be able to resist his touch. Once more, I stilled him.

"I...I don't think I can be your hero anymore."

His voice, when he responded, was low and steady. Though he did not move away, I could feel him putting distance between us.

"No?"

Oh no, Duo Maxwell. I would not make it that easy. I reached toward him, tilting his chin up until his eyes met mine.

"No, Duo Maxwell." The pressure building in my chest caused my next words to come out as little more than a whisper. "Can't I just be me?"

The pain I saw reflected in his eyes was my own and, suddenly, he understood.

"I can't help loving Heero," he said. "I couldn't stop if I tried. But it's you, Ryu. It's always been you." He chuckled, the new walls he had begun to erect against me collapsing at the sound. "You know -- you'd probably feel a lot better if you breathed."

I hadn't even realized I'd stopped. The air that poured into my deprived lungs was fresh and new. When he again took me into his arms, slowly and gently making love to me, he called me by my name.

+

Oddly enough, it was Heero Yuy who noticed the change in my relationship with Duo Maxwell. For all his lack of social graces, he could be incredibly observant. His silence was unnatural. It didn't so much make you forget he was there as make you not pay much mind to his presence.

I spent more and more time with Heero Yuy. Duo Maxwell never stayed in one place for long. The only time I had him to myself was at night. I had thought it impossible when I first met him, I could hardly believe it now, but, disregarding the lack of physical contact, I enjoyed being with him as much as with his partner. They were quite literally like two sides of the same coin.

"Hey, Heero -- what was the capital of Mongolia?"

"Ulan Batar."

It was uncanny. Nobody could possibly know everything. I laid down my pencil, pulling up from my prone position on Duo Maxwell's bed until I sat back on my heels.

"Ethiopia."

"Addis Ababa."

"South Dakota."

"Pierre."

I grinned, enjoying the game although I was not at all sure if Heero Yuy even knew he was playing.

"What's the square root of 399424?"

"632."

I began to crawl towards him where he sat at his desk.

"How many bones in the adult human body?"

"206."

His hands had yet to stop moving over the keyboard of his laptop.

"How deep is the deepest spot in the ocean?"

"Seven miles."

I knelt behind him, close enough that I could reach out and touch him, if I wanted to.

"Heero..." I spoke so quietly that if I had not been so near him he would not have heard. "What colour are my eyes?"

That got him. He froze up so quickly it was as if he'd lost all ability to move. I lightly placed my hand on his shoulder. I found that he let me touch him, now, though he still seemed inordinately uncomfortable with the experience. His body felt like steel under my fingers.

"Heero?"

"Nani?"

"My eyes, Heero. The windows to my soul. What colour are they?"

Silence.

I began to pull away from him when I felt his hand close over my own.

"Green," he said. "They're green."

I was shocked beyond belief. I really had thought he wouldn't know. He kept hold of my hand as he turned to face me. A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth -- a small recognition of the fact that he had won the game. The smile I granted him was in concession.

"Why do you let me touch you, Heero?" It was only when I was with Heero Yuy that I referred to myself as fearless.

"It feels good."

"To be touched?"

He nodded, his fingers intertwining with my own as he'd watched Duo Maxwell do so many times before. I marveled that he let himself do it.

"And?"

His eyes were really quite stunning. So deep...

"It doesn't matter."

"Why would it be different if it mattered?"

"It would be too much," he said. His gaze slid to our joined hands before he looked back to me. "Too much of myself."

"Too much of yourself to just give away like that..."

He nodded. I saw that he had expected me to understand. Was this why he pushed Duo Maxwell away?

"It's funny you would say that," I said. "That's exactly what Duo Maxwell told me."

His walls were much stronger than his roommates. They did not crumble so easily. Yet I could see where the cracks had begun to form.

+

As Duo Maxwell and Heero Yuy became closer to me, it was all but inevitable that they would, in turn, become closer to each other. Both had hidden behind their walls for so long. I can only think of them as two immovable forces, clashing, neither willing to give any ground. The pain they knowingly and unknowingly inflicted on each other served only to tighten their defenses. I had found them bleeding and crying. Somehow, I was a salve for all their wounds.

They had both become comfortable with being themselves around me so, when we were all together, each one saw the other as they truly were for perhaps the first time. I suppose it would be nice if I could say it was soon after that they realized their mutual and undying love for each other. But then things like that only happen in fairy tales. As much as I knew Duo Maxwell wasn't mine, I won't say I wasn't glad it was into my bed that he crept every night, each time more desperate for the kind of affection I'd always taken for granted. The day would come soon enough when I would be given up, but until then...

...Until then I could look into his eyes and promise him the forever he was asking for.

+

"I'm not what you need, Duo Maxwell."

"I know. But now, just for now, can't we pretend that you are?"

+

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