Duoman: Ships in the Night + Part 8 (cont)

+

"And that's when he lost consciousness again?"

Quatre nodded. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea --"

"Don't blame yourself, Quatre. His body is still adjusting. It was more likely the physical shock of what he's been through that did it." Heero paused, bringing his hands to his head where he rubbed his temples in small circles. He felt a steadying hand on his shoulder and brought his eyes up to meet Zechs who smiled encouragingly. Taking a deep breath, Heero forced himself to calm down. "How long has he been out this time?"

"A little over 12 hours. Trowa watched him when I couldn't." Quatre leaned back into his husband's arms, glad more than ever for his supportive presence.

"Perhaps we should awaken him," suggested Zechs. "As much as I enjoy watching him sleep, I do believe I prefer him with his eyes open."

"I agree," said Quatre quietly. "It's much too eerie to spend this much time around him in silence. I miss his..."

"Idle chatter?" supplied Heero with a fragile smile. "I do, too." With this, he leaned over Duo and, placing his lips close to the sleeping boy's ear, gently called his name. "Duo..." And again. "Duo...?"

"Mmmmm..."

Duo stretched his arms over his head, his body writhing sensually as his lips raised in a devilishly erotic interpretation of his trademark manic grin. Trowa's quick intake of breath caused Quatre to smile in turn.

"Sorry I didn't warn you, pet. Duo takes a bit of getting used to."

Trowa raised a brow over his one visible eye, the green depths of which sparkled with mirth. "I can imagine." [22]

Duo had by this time lowered his arms to Heero's shoulders and had all but hauled him into the bed.

"Duo..."

"Yes, Hee-chan?"

"I think I love you..." He managed to get the words out, but only barely. Duo's lips had found his jawline and the sensation of those soft feather-like kisses was rather distracting.

"I love you, too, Hee-chan," Duo murmured before darting his tongue out to savour flesh that tasted so good it really ought to have been illegal.

"But I don't think I'm ready for his level of exhibitionism."

Duo's eyes flashed open, talking in their audience. He lasted all of two seconds before he began to chuckle. "Yet," he said.

"Pardon?"

"You're not ready for this level of exhibitionism yet."

Zechs' low laugh filled the ensuing silence but did little to relieve Heero's embarrassment. A small part of Heero, the part he had always done his best to ignore, realized he was actually enjoying the situation and it was that part that finally broke through the barriers he'd placed around it enough to add his chuckles to Duo's.

"My god, Heero. Do that again and I'll tackle you right now." Amethyst eyes watched him possessively as the very tip of a pink tongue came out to sweep across lips that were far too perfect for the good of any man in the room. "Right after we explain this 'you're human' revelation." Duo paused and cocked his head slightly to the left. "Or was that part of the dream, too? I've been having the most incredible dreams, Heero, mostly involving you and me in a hot tub filled with warm Jell-O. Trouble is, it's hard to enjoy a dream when you realize that not only is it a dream, but that you don't have dreams, that you have never had dreams, and that it is not in the realm of possibility that you ever be able to have dreams."

"I'm rather interested in that as well," said Zechs. "Just so I know what I'm getting myself into."

"Pun intended?" asked Duo hopefully.

"Definitely."

"What's with all the sexual innuendo?" wondered Trowa.

"I think it has something to do with the fact that neither Heero nor Zechs has come to terms with the reality of a committed relationship. On Duo's part, it's probably more that, for all he comes on like a steam train, he's never actually had sex and is just a little bit overawed by the concept," answered Quatre matter-of-factly.

Duo glared at him provocatively, although it wasn't exactly clear what he was attempting to provoke until a not so faint blush rose over Quatre's pale cheeks.

"Duo!"

"Serves you right for casting aspersions on my sexual prowess, Kat."

"*Someone* had to say it. I'm sure you all would have gotten around to it, but I'm just not up to any more of this continual tension."

"He's got a point," said Zechs. "I must admit I was hedging a bit."

"I was unconscious," sputtered Duo.

"Like that's ever stopped me before," murmured the tall blonde. "What?" he continued. "I was kidding."

"Can we please get back to what's important here? Namely... well... me."

Duo paused a moment to consider how self-centered that had sounded and then promptly decided that it was forgivable given the circumstances. It's not every day, after all, that one becomes human. He collapsed back onto the bed, only now truly realizing the magnitude of whatever it was that had happened to him. He was human. Flesh and Blood. He was real. After so long proclaiming his reality to any who might doubt it, he was truly and undeniably real. "Just like Pinocchio." He began to laugh uncontrollably until the laughter turned to tears, until he felt strong arms wrap around him and pull him back from the brink into which he so sincerely wanted to fall. [23]

"Duo."

And then that voice again that had so often called him out of the darkness. It was calling him now and out of a different darkness he did what he had always done -- he turned to it and he came. He buried his face in Heero's shoulder, not wanting to witness the reactions of his friends although if he'd had the courage to look he would have seen that his friends had done what friends do -- they had left him alone with the only person he really needed right now.

"Heero?"

"Yes, Duo."

"You never told me."

"Never told you what?"

"Being human sucks. My god, how do you deal with this?"

"I don't."

If they had not been so close, he would not have heard Heero's soft answer, and even now he wasn't sure he hadn't imagined it after all. He pulled back and allowed himself to drown in Heero Yuy's eyes with all the turbulent emotion of his new humanity cloaked around him.

"Nani?"

"I don't deal with it. Or I didn't. Until..."

"Until?"

"Until you, Duo."

Violet eyes sparkled at him in fear and confusion and... hope?

//God// thought Heero, //he's so beautiful.//

He couldn't have resisted kissing Duo if his life and perhaps the life of every man, woman and child on Earth had depended on it. Even as his mind told him how wrong it would be to take advantage of Duo's fragile state, he closed the gap between them, almost whimpering as his lips met Duo's. An incredible wave of rightness swept over him and it wasn't a moment later that the gentle contact became something deeper, something more. He literally made love to Duo with his mouth, his teeth, his tongue. He could have lived in that instant forever, but at last and with regret he pulled away.

"Definitely in love," sighed Duo.

Heero couldn't help but grin. Duo had yet to open his eyes and he looked entirely too blissful.
"And how do you arrive at that conclusion?"

"Simple. My toes are tingling." He wriggled them for effect.

"Baka," smiled Heero fondly. "You've been watching too many movies."

"No, Heero." Duo peered up at him in wild fascination. "No," he repeated."I've never felt anything like this before. I'm thrumming for chrissakes. And, let me tell you, it's... let's see... how to phrase this... it's scary as hell."

"Why do you think it took me so long to admit my feelings for you?"

"I always thought you were playing hard to get. It was really kind of cute. It wouldn't have been nearly as much fun if you'd been easy. And all that time..."

"My toes were tingling," completed Heero.

"So this is what it's like to be human?" Duo was suitably daunted by the possibility.

"But I thought you knew all of this already," chided Heero softly as he reached to brush a stray lock of golden-flecked hair from Duo's face. "I mean, with you being so real and all."

"Very funny, Yuy. It is to laugh. Who knew you had a sense of humour? Let's just say that I was real in a very conditional way. These feelings I'm having -- aside from the pain and the unconsciousness thing, which I still think is very creepy -- I had them all before. They're not new. It's just that now there's no buffer. It's like I've been wearing clothes my entire life and this is the first time I'm naked."

He broke off as Heero leaned forward to nuzzle his neck.

"I do love your metaphors."

"Oh, do you now," purred Duo. "Enough that you'll quit beating around the bush and... explain." This last word he whispered in a low voice that was almost, but not quite, a sigh.

Heero gave in to the inevitable and let the shiver that was threatening to overwhelm him work its way through his body before pulling back with a snap. "You... addle me."

Duo just grinned. "And it's my pleasure to do so. Now -- please. I know what you did -- the 'Heero magnet' theory, right? But how..."

"When I created the algorithm to recombine you, I needed a template on which to base the matrices, and the only one at hand was..."

"Yours."

Heero nodded. "It was all I could come up with. I needed you to be put back together, and you were. Just like me."

"Human."

"Exactly."

Duo was now officially stunned. "I really should have been able to figure that out for myself." //But how are you supposed to be able to figure out something that never should have been able to happen?// "So what now? What does this mean?"

"It means anything you want it to," spoke Heero quietly. "You're free."

"And I wasn't before?" he asked incredulously. He raised his eyes to Heero's and found, underneath the increasingly transparent façade of unending strength, a vibrant blue mass of insecurity and fear. "Is that what you thought, Heero? Is that why you wouldn't get close to me? Because you thought I had no choice?"

Heero tore his gaze away from Duo's before the boy could see too deeply. Already he thought he had let too much slip, and yet he knew it was not nearly enough. "You didn't have a choice. I made you. You couldn't have left if you'd wanted to."

"True," said Duo, who found that even as a human he still couldn't lie. "But, love, I didn't want to leave. I never did. Doesn't that make a difference? Doesn't it count for something that now I do have a choice..." He reached across and gently cupped Heero's chin in his hand, forcing him tenderly to look at him, to see the truth burning fiercely in those twin amethyst pools. "And I still don't want to leave? I love you, Heero. I'm not sure what that means, yet, but I know it's true. You're a part of me, as you always have been." He chuckled. "You'd better say something or I might break out into a power ballad, here."

"I -- I don't know what to say."

Heero's voice was low and vibrant and filled with so much emotion that it told Duo everything he needed to know. But he still wanted to hear the words.

"Tell me that you love me. Tell me that you won't get tired of me now that you can't shut me off. Tell me something sweet and mushy that will make me all teary eyed."

Heero froze. It was all so much, so soon and so quickly and it didn't stop! 'I love you'. He had said the words before. Why on earth should it prove to be so difficult now? It was as Heero took Duo's hands, as he held them to his chest and placed them over his heart, that he realized it wasn't going to get any easier. Not for some time. It was the second realization, however, that made his lips curl up in the sweetest smile Duo had ever seen.

"I love you, Duo. I don't really know what that means, either. I've never known love. But I know that I couldn't live without you, now that you're here. And I think, maybe, that we could figure it out. Together." [24]

It wasn't moonlight and roses and there wasn't a hint of music in the air, yet Duo would have sworn by all the angels in heaven that Heero's words were the single most romantic thing he ever could have imagined. Too choked up to speak, he threw his arms around Heero's neck and muffled a sob or two on his supportive shoulder.

"What was that?"

Duo pulled back, but only enough to be heard. "I said you were to supposed to make me teary eyed, not make me cry," he sniffled endearingly. "It's a good thing I'm so naturally perfect or I'm sure I'd look a fright."

Heero felt his smile growing. He couldn't seem to stop it. It almost hurt. "I love you, Duo."

A knock at the door did little to startle the pair, but did bring them out of the clouds and back down closer to earth.

A blonde head peeked around the now open door. "Everybody decent?"

"Yes, Zechs," replied Duo.

"Damn..."

As he entered the room, his serious countenance contrasted starkly with his flippant remark and it was not long before Duo questioned the obvious.

"Why the long face, little bear?"

Zechs' eyes met his as if he had been gazing into a distance a million miles away rather that the white hospital walls surrounding them. "I'm at a loss."

Duo drew his eyebrows up quizzically, not at all understanding but wanting sincerely to do so.

"It strikes me," continued Zechs, "that I have been involved with some very bad people for quite some time. One might go so far as to say that I'm the 'bad guy'. And yet I find myself still walking around as if I were a free man."

"You are a free man."

Heero's concise reply took him by surprise, although it was only a slight stiffening of his shoulders that gave him away.

"Pardon?"

"You were never officially under suspicion. I see no need to present you as anything other than a helpful bystander."

"But..."

"I do believe you've stilled the honeyed tongue, Hee-chan," spoke Duo with an infectious grin. "We should mark the day down on the calendar -- 'Zechs at a loss for words'. We can celebrate it every year. It can be our anniversary."

Zechs' mind, as quick and efficient as it undoubtedly was, at the moment was processing this new deluge of information with the speed of dripping molasses. After one or two stalled attempts at finding words to express the quagmire of confusion he found himself so deeply embedded in, he could come up with only one response -- "Why?"

"Because you are a good man, Zechs Merquise. Because you gave aid to us at the risk of your own life. I did not join the Preventers to put men like you behind bars, no matter their previous transgressions."

Zechs seemed rather less assured by Heero's straightforward answer than might have been supposed. He had never thought himself, by any stretch of the imagination, a 'good man'.

"What my o-so-loquacious dreamboy is trying to say is that it's because we like you," said Duo. //What is it with me and blue-eyed, emotionally wounded, men, anyways?//

"Yes," said Zechs. His smile was humourless and self-deprecating. "I rather got that impression."

"No, Zechs," Duo said quietly, knowing at last full well what was going on behind those ice blue eyes. "What you picked up on was the lust. There's no denying that I'm hot for your bod, but what you don't seem to have recognized is that I don't just throw myself at anyone. I have been many things, but I am not now, and never have been, a slut. I'm as attracted to the real you as I am to the gorgeous package you happen to have come wrapped in. I... well, I was sort of hoping you felt the same..."

The room fell silent in the light of Duo's heartfelt revelation. Zechs' face was as calm and expressionless as if he had been carved of marble and it was a few moments before life returned to his gaze.

"Our?"

Duo had been expecting many reactions from Zechs, some of which had been humiliating and one of which had actually involved his death. This, however, had not been one of them.

"Nani?"

"You said 'our' anniversary."

Duo laughed nervously. "So I did. Imagine that. Me and my big mouth, ne? There you are, confused all to hell, and Heero here having just learned to smile for chrissakes, and I have to go and get all complicated. I spose I haven't gotten a handle on this whole 'being human' thing."

"Duo --"

"Maybe there's some sort of class I could take or something..."

"*Duo*."

The violet-eyed boy turned to Zechs reluctantly, his hand holding Heero's in a vice-like grip. "Hai?"

"Arigato."

The smile that broke out on Duo's face was radiance itself and, for the first time, the sparks that flew between the two long-haired youths held more than merely a physical promise.

"Does this mean I can have my hand back now?" questioned Heero. "I seem to have lost the feeling in my fingers."

"Sorry, love," said Duo who was by this time giddy with relief. "I forget how fragile you are." He brought Heero's abused fingers to his lips and gently kissed each one. "I guess I don't know my own strength." He licked Heero's index finger with a slow, tentative tongue, the immensity of his situation swinging 'round to batter him one more time although now he found himself able to weather the storm without losing his head.

Heero watched though eyes half lidded with pleasure from the electricity of Duo's touch which was as jolting now that he was human as it had been before. Obviously there was still much to learn about what Duo had become. He pondered this as he opened eyes he hadn't realized he had closed and found himself gazing directly at Zechs who watched him with an answering heat. Obviously there was still much to be learned about a lot of things.

"So where do we go from here?" wondered Duo. He reached out his free hand to bring Zechs closer. "I don't think I'm exactly housewife material, but what does a once-upon-a-time hologram do?"

"What you've always done," replied Heero. Now here was a question he could answer without bubbling with emotion. "You'll be my partner."

A knock at the door disrupted their newly found link and Heero silently cursed the existence of people in general if only for their habit of interrupting at the most inopportune moments. His frustration was slightly mollified by the particular human's voice which now called through the cracked door.

"Everybody decent?"

"Yes, Quatre," said Heero.

"Damn..."

+

[22] I don't think I could have given him any fewer lines if I'd tried. Poor Tro...
[23] Gaaaack!!
[24] Again with the togetherness... >_<


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