Author: FancyFigures
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, wish I did, just enjoy writing about 'em for free etc
Pairings: 1+2
Category: Duo POV, romance
Warnings: Yaoi, lime.
Spoilers: None
Notes: Duo is struggling with life; and Christmas seems the worst time of all on your own. Help comes from unexpected quarters.
Feedback: If you liked it, PLEASE let me know!

A special birthday present for Dacia, in thanks for all the support and her ever-empowering email!

Just Like Scrooge

"Christmas away? I don't think so!" I laughed loudly, ignoring the slight chill in the pit of my stomach. It was probably due to the TV dinner I ate last night, anyway.

"Come on Duo!" wheedled Quatre. "It'll be fun! There's nothing else going on here - everyone's visiting family. It's just us lot, on our own - we thought we'd hire this log cabin, get the fire going, drink hot chocolate, toast marshmallows -"

Trowa was wincing behind him; he caught my eye and grinned. "I know Quatre may live in a Warner Brothers world," he sighed. "But he's right about the cabin - it's no luxury home, because there's very little left to book this late in the day. But it's comfortable, and plenty of space for us all, and it's on a site with some great walks, and views from the hills -"

"- like you always enjoy," butted in Wufei. It was an unusual comment for him to make - I'd never thought he noticed what I liked or not. They were all gathered in the lounge of my apartment. It was a bit crowded, but I'd refused the offer to meet them in town. Too busy, y'know? And anyway, I can rustle up a better sandwich than those trendy coffee bars...

"A week away..." continued Quatre. "No 'phones, no internet access -"

I flicked a gaze at Heero, wondering how he'd cope with that. He was staring back at me, which was a bit of a shock to start with.

I cleared a tight throat. "Hey fellas, sounds great. But I just can't imagine being away at Christmas - doesn't seem right..." "You got a better offer, Maxwell?" growled Wufei.

"Not yet..." I mumbled. Of course I hadn't! Where'd I get a better offer from? Any offer from? These guys were my only friends nowadays - my only social life. I wasn't sure when it had all slipped away - when it had all ended up with just us five. Or rather - the four of them, and me.

"You need - well, it'll be good to take some time out, to come away for a while," smiled Quatre. Just a little nervously; and so little that he thought I didn't notice. "We'll all be there - we'll travel together, we'll probably have to share rooms..."

This was sounding a little like an escorted tour for an invalid relative. I was getting fidgetty.

"We'll come and pick you up Friday morning." Heero spoke, at last. His voice was low and steady in the small room. Always made me turn to him, instinctively.

I tried not to, today. Worries were nagging at me, many and varied; the echo of his voice made them snigger, and curl even closer to my chest.

"Don't bother, man," I almost snapped.

There were glances flashing between the guys. At my expense, I suspected. Like I often caught murmurs behind my back - caught glimpses of something pitying in their expressions.

"Anyway, I got things to do. Why don't you leave me to it, and we'll speak again soon. OK?"

They seemed at a loss for any further words. They started filing out. I could feel my heartbeat steadying again. Heero stayed for longer than the others, staring at me.

"What is it?" I asked. I guess I sounded rather belligerent. "I can't help it if it doesn't seem right - being away from home for my Christmas. It's a special time, y'know?"

He opened his mouth, but then it looked as though he rethought. He swallowed instead, and then he did speak, slowly and carefully. Like always.

"No, I don't know, Duo. I never had a Christmas like yours."

He turned, as the last one to leave, and closed the door behind him.

*

Christmas is a time for the past, isn't it? I needed my things round me. My memories. My souvenirs. I even decided to put the decorations up that very afternoon, a coupla days early.

I muttered to myself as I worked. No need to go travelling round the country, for God's sake! Jeez, I couldn't remember the last time I went away. Well - the last time I went anywhere, actually. I seemed to be spending more and more time in the apartment nowadays.

Couldn't see any reason to go out. Felt a strange panic in my chest when I did. It'd been that way for the last coupla months. Quatre wanted to explain it away as being something to do with the inactivity - with the end of the war, and this strange, limbo time, when none of us had a proper role. The others seemed to be treating it like a holiday - they seemed to be finding other entertainments to keep themselves busy.

I just hadn't found any entertainment myself, yet. And I thought that Quatre'd given up trying to get me to see it the same way they did.

I pitched up the plastic tree that I picked up some years ago - the one we used to have a good laugh over. Then the cute Snoopy dog toy on the top, courtesy of Wufei's twisted sense of humour - and the baubles donated by Quatre. Trowa made some glittered streamers - even Heero had added some crackers he got given at a restaurant once. Last year we'd drunk some beer together and toasted the tree, then gone out on the town and partied like the last mission might be the last. That was the way, then.

I stared at the tree, willing those memories back. Took quite some effort, and I can't say it was entirely successful.

'A Christmas like mine,' Heero had said. Guess he never did have a proper celebration, wherever he was dragged up. He'd really enjoyed last year, as I remember. What was that joke that cracked us up? Just us two - the others thought we were mad! We laughed about it, on and off, for days. Just took a word to remind us - to start it all up again. Leaning on each other, tears of laughter on our faces. Oh, I couldn't remember it, now, could I - ? But I didn't remember finding any joke quite as funny, in all the last year. Couldn't remember laughing like that with Heero - with anyone - ever since.

I settled back on the couch, the lassitude creeping over me as usual.

Anyway, I used to have great times at the orphanage, didn't I? Christmas was a big event for us.

I guess I musta dozed off.

*

It was obviously a dream, but it was very clear in my mind - I was back there, back at the orphanage. Church bells, setting out the nativity scene. Carrying the large Advent candles like they were so precious. Eating cake. God, I loved Sister's Christmas cake, even when it was a bit short on the fruit! She'd make up for that with an extra stir of whisky in it...

Ghosts of Christmas Past, I smiled to myself, even in my dream. What was that guy called in the Dickens book? Scrooge - Ebenezer Scrooge. He was visited by the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future. Quaint idea - I couldn't remember the rest of the book.

But the dream was changing. I knew it was still Christmas, but there was no Father Maxwell, no Sister Helen. No fellow orphans. It was another year, even earlier - I couldn't have told you which. But it was horribly familiar.

I was out of the orphanage, out on my own. Never more so than then.

There was snow. There was a cold, wet feeling that was soaking my clothes. I had no boots. There were bells again in the background, but they weren't for me. I shook my head, but I didn't seem to be able to wake up. I was being visited by my own, special ghost.

Dammit, I didn't believe in ghosts! Life was too bad in reality; you didn't need ghosts to scare you as well.

But the dream kept coming.

Another Christmas Heero never had.

Just me. On the streets. Off the streets. Some harsh, hairy hands, brutal on my skinny neck, too strong to fight off.

Just me - a Christmas present for others. Whether I wanted to be or not. Wrapped, or - I shied away from too painful thoughts - unwrapped. Those hands were doing that to me, pulling me apart, looking for some entertainment from me and my poor, thin limbs. I heard some hideous joke, in a deep, ugly voice - about Santa coming early for this poor fucker ... There was a background of other laughter now - callous, cruel laughter. There were others watching - waiting to join in.

The dream - mercifully - faded.

*

The phone rang very early the next day. I snatched it up, burrowing out of my quilt, mumbling some response. Damn headache already - it had been a rough night.

"Duo?"

Like - who else was it gonna be, answering my phone, in my bed?

"Hey, Heero - what time is it? You gone yet?"

"Hn. No - I'm - we're waiting to hear you've packed and are coming with us."

I groaned, and wriggled myself up against the headboard. "Nah - don't hold your breath, buddy. I told ya, didn't I? I got a Christmas here, all lined up. You all go and have a great time, with Q's marshmallows 'n all. I'll see you all for New Year."

"I thought - well, we may stay over for New Year."

That chill was back in my stomach again.

"Yeah - well - I mean, great, that'll be fine. You'll love it. Have - have a good celebration."

"What about you?"

I grimaced, glad I didn't have a video phone. Damn man was like a terrier! I could imagine his little frown now, his eyes darkening. Hooded by those lids. Pursing those lips. Damn lips...

"I'm fine, like I said. Got a coupla parties to choose from on the night. Probably stay over... call on someone or other..."

The line was quiet for a while. Too long for normal conversation. Quite normal for Heero Yuy. I was used to waiting for his replies. Though I wasn't sure I wanted this conversation at all today.

"We're going to leave on Friday morning. About 10."

"Yeah - whatever. I won't come see you off, I'll be pretty busy."

"Duo..."

"See you next year, Heero."

He was silent, so I hung up. Annoyed that I felt the awkward one.

*

That night I had cheese on toast, like I had some kinda death wish. Double slices. I mean, it always gives me nightmares, doesn't it?

That night's dream was also very vivid.

It was Christmas Day already. I knew it, though there was nothing specific to tell me so. Not in the past, like I dreamed last night, but the present. As it would be, a few days hence. I was in the apartment - the tree looked the same - the decorations looked the same. All five of 'em. Whole damn apartment looked the same. Still, silent and bleak. With just me to see. I opened a beer. Drank it like there was some kind of challenge on. Flipped open another, and went to the kitchen to start cooking the turkey.

Then time seemed to have passed, and there was no sign of a turkey, just the remains of more cheese on toast, and I was surrounded by a lot of empty beer cans. The TV was on, and - yet again - they were running It's A Wonderful Life. Worst of all, I was watching it with rapt attention!

I was definitely going to go out, to call someone up. But the door handle seemed like a mile away. The phone had vanished. I couldn't move my legs, though it didn't seem to bother me much at first.

There was no sound from the apartment block; not the usual slamming of doors, the clatter of feet on the stairs. Everyone had gone. There was no noise from outside, either. Hell, this was the rather unfashionable part of town - there was always some horn blaring, some car alarm shrieking. Some guys yelling from open windows at anyone who'd listen. But there was nothing tonight.

And then the trail of fear snuck around me; cold and damp like a neglected stairwell, smelling of piss and covered in crude graffiti, it curled its way around and up inside my gut. I was damn scared, and I knew there was no-one I could call. No-one there. Anywhere. I don't know why it was Heero's name that I was trying to speak, but my lips were too swollen to work properly.

I knew that he wouldn't be there, even if I did call.

I was totally alone.

I woke up, sweating. There was the suspicion of dried tears on my cheeks.

Thank God it was just a nightmare, eh?

*

The damn phone rang again, at some godforsaken hour. It felt like I'd only just slipped back to sleep after my restless night. There was nothing to get up for yet, was there? It was the holiday!

I snatched the phone up again. Mumble, mumble, I went.

"Duo?"

I resisted the sarcastic response. Again.

"Hey, Heero, you again!" He was never the best phone caller - he musta drawn the short straw or something, having to check up on me, two days in a row.

"Are you packed yet? We leave tomorrow morning."

"I'm not coming, remember?" Guess he was already packed, Mr Efficient 'n all. That's why he got the task of harassing me.

"I think - you should come, Duo."

"You do, do you?" I grumbled, hauling myself upright again. "Since when have you been my personal life advisor?" Back off, Heero, was the growing thought. I could feel the resentment and the fear rising up in me.

"We - want you to come."

"Yeah," I quipped. "I know Q does, he needs someone to make the brownies -"

"Hn. No. I want you to come."

Strange little pause, there. I assumed I'd misheard over the crackling line. "What's up? Not got enough players for Monopoly?"

There was a sound like Heero tsked. "You're a damn fool, sometimes. There are plenty of other people on the site, if we want company."

"Others?" It was a shock to me, to think of my friends with other people. What was up with me?

"Yes. There are other groups. Other guys. We can be as sociable or not, as we please."

Other guys? That chill was back.

"Duo? Are you listening to me?"

"Yeah, Heero. You said - you can be sociable, if you please. You gonna manage that, man?"

That was a cheap shot from me. Sure, he wasn't Mr Party. He took some time to open up and talk personally. To be approachable. But I knew he could do that, when he chose.

Did it for me once before, didn't he?

That had been a really bad move of mine. I'd been feeling really low, like I do sometimes. Well, I've learned by now, to keep myself outta circulation when I feel like that. Well... I do that all the time, now, really. But this was several months ago, and I went round to Heero's, thinking the guys were all there. He was on his own, though he invited me in happily enough. He was just out of the shower, hadn't pulled a shirt on yet. I thought he looked pleased to see me, which shows how pathetically desperate I was then.

We talked for a long time - OK, it was more like he listened, and I rambled on, but I felt surprisingly better for it. He can be pretty calming company. I guess I hadn't spent much time with him on his own before. I was lulled into some kinda optimism again. What a dork!

And then we'd been laughing, and he'd been so relaxed, and so half-dressed, and those lips so damn kissable...

I still go warm at the memory. Use it - to my shame - on some nights, when I need some comfort, and have only my hand to shake it out of me. I'd pressed up against him, hard against the kitchen table, taken his face in my hands and kissed him with everything I'd got. He tasted gorgeous - soft, and tough all at once. A mix of warm skin, and cool strength. What a cocktail! I suppose I shoulda been surprised that he let my tongue in, but he was obviously in shock. I went on tasting him, regardless.

I can't remember if either of us said anything afterwards. We were both pretty flushed, though.

I left really quickly - I could see him moving in on me, to slap me around, I daresay. I thought if I got out fast, we could both pretend it was my big mistake, and that I was slightly unbalanced that night.

Guess I was, too. I have been, for a long time. Anyway, he never referred to it again. Being a good friend, I suppose.

And I could be one of those, too. "OK, Heero. You enjoy some of that company, some of those other guys. It's - it'll be good for you. It's no matter to me."

Silence again, and the thud of me putting the phone down.

I went back to bed.

*

I stayed off the cheese that night, but the dreams still came.

It was a weird one this time, as well. Still Christmas. But like it was in the future - I didn't recognise the streets around my place like I should; there seemed to be new apartment blocks sprung up. Trees looked taller - brickwork was worn and broken in places.

I was near the mall - I was looking down on things, like some kinda guardian angel. I could see the busy street, shops opening late, people rushing about with heavy bags, wrapped up in scarves and hats. Kids shrieking. Cars passing the kerb with that slushing sound that showed it had rained earlier. Maybe even snowed.

I saw Trowa there, with Quatre. Hey, that was cute! He had his arm round the blond's waist. I always suspected they had a thing for each other! As I watched, Q wriggled in his grip, turned his face to him, and he kissed his nose. If that were now, I thought, I'd have thrown up on the spot! How cheesy can you get? But it didn't seem out of order in my dream.

A cab pulled up at the curb, the door opened, and they were beckoned in. They had trouble loading all their shopping, and a couple of other passengers got out to let them squeeze into the back. It was Wufei and Heero. Of course it was. Wufei was grinning, calling to a girl in the mall; he slapped Heero on the shoulder and set off to go meet her.

Heero looked different, somehow. Sort of - older. Taller. Hair cut shorter. More grown up.

Whatever. He looked damn good. Even with his collar turned up high against the cold, and a nose turning pink. I guess he was going off for some Christmas celebration with the guys.

Where was I in all this? came the soft, insidious sneer.

And then another guy came over from a nearby sports shop. Some kinda jock. Good looking enough, if you like that kinda neanderthal look. He stood talking to Heero and the others, then slammed the door shut on Trowa and Q, and he and Heero - Jock and Heero - waved the cab away. The pair of them turned back, perhaps to look for another cab, and that's when I saw it.

Jock's hand on Heero's ass. Very firmly, very confidently. In a very proprietary way.

And his hands were still attached to his wrists. Which meant that Heero didn't mind.

I wanted to shout to him - but if I did, I never heard it. They certainly didn't.

And still no sign of me...

....*time passed*...

They were all together, now, the four guys and some others, and they were having a Christmas party. Looked like Trowa's apartment, and somehow I could see all rooms at once. I could see the kitchen, where Trowa and Quatre were crushed up against the fridge, hands all over each other, snogging for America. Quatre had been mixing punch, but the bottle was dropping from his hand now, unheeded, pouring merrily into the already-too-full bowl; he'd obviously got other things on his mind! I could see Wufei in the hall, sat on the bench by the phone, holding court to a bunch of guys about some crucial issue like the origin of Santa's reindeer, I dunno, whatever. They were laughing with him, and coming back with quips, and that slim, dark-haired girl I'd seen in the mall was with him.

Was I there?

There was music in the lounge; there was a queue already for the bathroom. No - it was just Heero and Jock. He seemed to have been invited, too. There was mistletoe hanging in the lobby, and when the previous girl came out of the toilet with an apologetic grin, and Heero made his way in, it was directly over his head.

Bloody stupid tradition, I've always said so! Why the hell do people think they should kiss just 'cos there's a pile of berries like bird droppings about to fall on their hair?

But Jock was smiling (perfect fucking teeth, of course) and he was sliding a hand round Heero's waist, and teasing him to wait a while, to come back out into the lobby with him. And Heero was smiling back. Not so broadly, I guess, but it wasn't exactly discouraging.

So where was I?

Wait! Wait!

But my gaze swung away without my permission, and I lost that scene as quickly as I found it. Now I was overlooking the kitchen again, and Quatre looked drunkenly distraught; there was drink all down his best pants from the overflowing punch bowl. Trowa was laughing, and I just knew from his besotted grin that he was suggesting he didn't need a glass, he could just suck it up straight from there...

And then that joke was told, somewhere in the apartment. You know, that joke, the one that Heero and I...

I started laughing, rather too loudly. No-one heard me, though.

Other people were laughing, but no-one I knew. And definitely not the guys.

I saw Heero's face go white, and I saw Trowa's eyes close, and even Wufei stopped talking, his lips pursed together. Quatre - well, I swear he was about to cry! Trowa left him, swiftly, and went to tell whoever it was to shut up.

Anyway, the joke stopped in mid-flow, and I still can't bloody well remember what it was about!

Things seemed to get out of hand after that. The music was turned up really loud, and none of my guys seemed much in the party mood anymore.

Guess I wasn't going to find out if Jock got his tongue in Heero's mouth after all.

And where the hell was I? Why did the whole damn thing seem more like a wake than a party?

And then I woke. Full of fear and suspicion and an overwhelming feeling that this was gonna be the last damn Christmas I ever saw.

The sweat was soaking my vest; my heart was racing furiously.

Damn dreams! I berated myself. None of that was true, not now, not this year. But I knew - of course - that it might be. Maybe my Christmas Future. It made me feel sick.

So - said a small, relentless little nag inside me - what was I gonna do about it?

*

It was Friday morning, however much I didn't want to have noticed.

I'd slept, like, two hours out of the whole night, and I felt like death that hadn't even been warmed up. But instead of diving back under the covers - my usual hideaway - I felt an irresistible urge to get up. To get dressed. To find company.

To find his company.

When was the last time I felt such energy? Such a desire to do something?

I stared at myself in the mirror. At the thin face and the dull eyes. Even the hair was limp - I washed it quickly, twice over, knowing I'd have to braid it wet, but I couldn't bear the lifeless sheen any longer. I found clean clothes - I threw some others in a case.

What had I been doing all these months?

You know what you've been doing, Duo, I told myself. You've been hiding. Thinking it'll all go away if you don't look at it. The biggest change in your life for years. The biggest upheaval - the uncertainty of a new life. You've been scared by it.

Yeah, I admitted. And scared of my friends. Scared to admit I wanted to be with them. Needed them. Guess I thought I could return to those days when I didn't have anyone. So I'm a stupid, short-sighted moron, sure, sure...

I was feeling kinda excited about going away, after all. I mean, it might take a little courage to get outside that door in the first place -

I rang Heero, because that was the first number I could remember. The first guy I wanted to talk to.

The phone rang and rang. I didn't bother trying any of the others, because I knew they'd be together. There was no answer, and after a long while my hand started to cramp up. I had to hang up.

So there you are, Maxwell, I told myself. Fucked it all up - told 'em to forget you, and they did! I was beginning to realise that I'd done this for months now - gradually getting more and more insular, resisting friendship, slapping away the hands that would have helped me. Again and again, I'd met other people's enthusiasm and plans and banter with plain old misery. Debilitating misery. A creeping pessimism that would eventually get everyone down.

What sorta company would I have been? I thought. Like, Christmas spirit is my middle name? I think not! No wonder they'd set out without me after all. Like I told 'em to.

I was too late, obviously.

*

I was gonna go back to bed. Try and recapture that dream, in some weird, masochistic way, and watch Heero and Jock make out under the Christmas stars. Like Heero deserved some good-looking, clear-minded guy. One who wouldn't annoy the hell out of him like I did. Though someone that clean-cut would probably kiss like a limp Beanie Baby, I reasoned, snidely. And wouldn't give him the amount of backchat that was needed to keep him on his toes. Wouldn't know what Heero had been through in all those years - what had made him the guy he was today.

All those years - when I'd been with him.

I slammed the bedroom door so hard that I heard the handle fall off from inside. I grabbed my coat and bag and some money, cramming it into my pocket, and lurched towards the front door. Towards the outside world. Two doors, two short flights of stairs, and I'd be out there.

I steeled my shaking nerves. I wasn't gonna stop for long enough to get scared again.

I flung open the door out of the building, and the crisp morning air hit me like a slap. I heard myself panting, too loudly. What the hell was I doing? Did I think I was gonna walk there, to an anonymous log cabin, in a place I didn't even know the name of, looking for a guy I didn't even know would want to know me -?

My legs felt weak.

And Heero was waiting there, on the driveway, leant against his jeep.

"You -? When -?"

"Since dawn," he replied, to the question I couldn't seem to articulate fully.

"Why -?"

"You need to be ready for 10. Trowa's driving first shift, and he won't want to be late starting out."

"I - I only got a coupla things in a bag -"

"If you need to get anything else, I'll wait." His gentle stare met my confusion head-on. I saw then that there were way more answers in his eyes than any of my questions would ever need.

"You're not taking me like some charity case -!" I was using anger, my favourite friend, for when I got emotional.

Heero stared at me with some amazement. Bless him, he'd never seemed like Mr Smooth Talker, but I could rely on him to deliver anything straight.

"It's not pity, Duo! We want you to come. We always have. We want your company. We -"

He paused, watching my instinctive, cynical sneer.

"- I want your company, Duo. I want to share Christmas with you. It's a special time, you said. Can't you find a corner to share with me?"

Something twisted awkwardly in my chest. "I - I was gonna call -"

Heero just ignored my stammering. He walked over and took my arm. The touch was like electricity through my body.

"I want to be with you, Duo. Dammit, I've wanted to be with you ever since that time we kissed. It was like I caught fire! I wanted to do it again, but you ran like a frightened rabbit, and I haven't seen anything in you since, to encourage me - I thought I'd scared you off."

"No, I -"

"This week away, Duo," he murmured softly. His breath was on my neck and I felt strength returning. All over. I was like putty in his hands - astonished, but increasingly happy putty. "We can talk about it, perhaps? But you must come with me. You must trust me."

"Damn you, Heero," I growled. "Don't I have a say in it all?"

And this time, he kissed me. It started very gently, but it pressed me back against the doorframe, and his hands held me there until I responded. He didn't have to wait long.

"Are you packed, Duo?" His voice was still close to my ear, but his mouth was smiling now. His hand stroked my damp hair, as I nodded. "Come with me now, then - I really don't want to wait any longer."

"I - I'm - pretty flaky, Heero, at the moment, y'know -"

He murmured again, and his lips touched at my cheek, his fingertips at my chin. "Lose the ghosts, Duo. There's so much ahead of us to enjoy; I want to convince you of that. Let me make new memories with you."

It was his reference to ghosts that stirred me. I had to ask...

"Heero - d'you remember that joke we thought was so funny?"

He didn't need any other reminder, though he was obviously puzzled at the way my befuddled brain was working. He smiled and nodded. "Sure. That's how I always think of you, Duo, laughing at that joke. Laughing with me. That's how I'd remember you, if ever anything happened to - "

"Don't!" I snapped, and he stopped talking immediately. But his hands slipped to my shoulders, and they held me tight.

"Heero...sorry," I sighed. "Y'see, I wanna think about it, too. But you're gonna have to remind me about it. Will you do that - later?"

"Sure." He looked at me for a long time, without speaking. Without breaking eye contact. As if he were trying to reassure me of his presence. I felt his heart beating against mine; his hands on my arms. Felt really good, like bits of me were slowly thawing under the touch of his palms. I hadn't realised I was so damn frozen...

I reckoned his expression was trying to show me something. It certainly didn't look like pity, that was for sure - I mean, I didn't know what it was, but it felt like a blanket around me. A warm one. I wanted to learn to read it properly... hey! I wanted to think I could have expectations of any kind, really. Concerning him.

In the meantime, dredging up a surprised little nugget of pluck from deep down inside, I thought I'd like another kiss. Wondered if that sparkle in his eye meant that he would, too.

"So, Duo... are you coming now?"

I leant back into him, convinced - and, I confess, damn scared - that he'd reject me this time. But he didn't. His lips were warm, just like his enfolding arms. His tongue was gentle inside my mouth, and yet so damn promising! And I could taste the responsive tingle of desire in him, too. A flash of his spirit, teasing at mine. No - there was no pity at all...

"Just one more thing, Heero - "

His eyes were very bright in the thin, sharp air. His lips ghosted around mine, frustrated by my talk. He gave an exaggerated, but tolerant sigh. "Hn?"

"You promise to stay away from any jocks this holiday, OK?"

He shook his head slowly, bemused. "You are a damn fool, Duo! I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

"Promise?" I persisted.

His lips were silver-soft with shared moisture, and he touched the padded flesh gently with his fingertips, as if he touched at me - the vision lingered there too long for my comfort. He must have seen the flush that swelled high on my cheeks. If I didn't know what a tight-ass he could be sometimes, I'd have said he smirked.

"So you'd better make me, Duo - OK?"

We dragged ourselves away from the wall, and I pulled the front door shut behind me. I just knew there was a stupid, sappy grin on my face. But I don't think I'd ever cared less! As I walked to the jeep, still a little shaky, but with my hand close to Heero's arm, I realised I'd left my keys in the apartment, and I didn't know how else I'd get back in.

Like - I can worry about that next year, can't I?

End

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