By: Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this
Warning: language

Even in War...

"He likes coffee," Quatre said with a soft smile.

Duo gave Quatre an exasperated sideways look as he paced his small bedroom. "THAT doesn't help me much, man!"

"He enjoyed walking the beach and playing with dogs," Quatre continued, and then suddenly looked introspective. "He was so sad, though, as if he thought that he shouldn't be doing those kinds of things, as if he was tainted or unworthy."

"That's crazy!" Duo retorted and blew out a sigh that ruffled his unruly bangs, "but just like Heero," he added.

Quatre watched Duo pace for a long moment and then he observed, "It is and it's exactly what's keeping him from responding to any attempts to get close to him. He'll listen, smile, even laugh, but there is a core to him that is as hard as gundanium steel. That core won't let anything in, won't let anyone get personal with him. I almost managed it when I spent some time with him, but then he shut the door in my face, and he hasn't let me get that close since."

Duo rubbed at the back of his neck and shook his head in irritation and regret. "We didn't start off on the right foot and I just don't know how to get on the right one with him. How do you make friends with a guy that you shot and who stole parts off of your Gundam and left you stranded?"

Quatre cocked his head sideways and regarded Duo curiously. "I will be the first to encourage friendships among us, and teamwork, but... it seems very important to you suddenly, why?"

Duo stopped pacing and stared hard at nothing. "I... uh... well... When I was captured by Oz, and Heero came to kill me to keep me from talking, I thought that he was a cold bastard then, but that he was right. I didn't want to talk and they were pretty close to breaking me."

Duo rubbed his ribs, remembering pain, interrogations, and long hours spent wondering how to keep his secrets. Even though Duo had resolved never to talk, Duo had known that pain broke down all defenses in the end, and that all the determination in the world sometimes wasn't enough.

"Heero saved me instead of killing me, though," Duo continued, "and afterward, at the hospital, it... well, he was just different, Quatre. I don't think I can even explain it. Something clicked, something happened between us... I just want to keep that. I want... I dunno... to keep building on it. Does that make sense?"

"Do you think that you've found a chink in that gundanium core of his?" Quatre wondered.

"Yeah," Duo replied and smiled sheepishly. "Does that sound stupid to you, that I would want to..." Duo blushed and looked down at his black booted toes. His hand rose and fiddled with his gold cross. He looked like a priest in the throes of doubt over an imagined sin and that image wasn't lost on Quatre.

"I don't know if you can have any hope that Heero will... return your friendship," Quatre replied tactfully. "He didn't give me any sign that he was... " He struggled to say what he wanted without really saying it.

Duo tossed his head, whipping his thick braid back over his shoulder, and giving Quatre a rueful look. "I think 'gay' is the word you're looking for, Quatre."

Duo had said it with an 'I don't care what you think' attitude, but Quatre could see that Duo was tense and waiting for his reply. "Duo, I didn't know...."

"Well, 'gay' isn't stamped on our foreheads, ya know!" Duo retorted, hands clenched.

Quatre touched his own forehead as if searching for something. He smiled. "No, it isn't, is it?"

Duo blinked, amethyst eyes wide in shock. "I... well, you're a test tube kid. I thought that they took that gene out?"

Quatre shrugged, not liking the reminder of his origins. It still bothered him. "A technician must have been sloppy. I don't regret it one bit."

"You don't?" Duo frowned and hunched in on himself, hands going deep into his pockets. "Sometimes, I wished that I wasn't, but.... when I met Heero... I'm kind of glad now.... well, I'd be a lot happier if I knew... well, that he was gay too.... and that... well, that he liked me..." His face twisted in pain. "The odds aren't in my favor, are they? It's a definite longshot."

Quatre nodded sadly. "It is, but I believe in fate, Duo. If you were meant to be together-"

"Yeah! Yeah!" Duo retorted flippantly and began pacing again. "Well, I don't have that comforting belief. I think the world is just a bunch of random 'fuck yous' and I get screwed more than most!"

Quatre colored a little at Duo's rough speech, but then he said carefully, "I think that making friends with Heero is your first priority. Put aside your deeper feelings for him. You are both young. I know that war makes it hard to plan for any kind of future, but taking it slow-"

Duo snorted and turned to Quatre, planting hands on hips as he exclaimed, "Quatre! You know what the score is! You know we probably won't see out the end of the damned week! We're Gundam Pilots. 'Suicide mission's are us' is our motto! My vision of my future is pretty damned realistic. I see myself finding a nice guy, preferably Heero, falling in love, screwing like crazy, and then dying at the ripe old age of fifteen years and ten months."

Quatre's face went pale at Duo's pessimistic view of his life. He was silent for a long moment and then he said, sympathetic, but honest, "If you said that to Heero, I'm not certain-"

"I'm not stupid, Quatre!" Duo exclaimed. He sat heavily on the bed next to Quatre and glared at nothing. "I'm not going to come out and just tell him, 'Hey, Heero, I'm really into you, let's do it!', but I don't know where to start with him, either. I tried hacking his laptop, tried reading his reports, and even tried following him around, but that guy doesn't know the meaning of leisure time and everything he does is mission oriented. I wanna know what's up with him before I open my mouth. Then, least ways, if he breaks me into a million pieces with his bare hands when I do say my piece, I'll know why."

Quatre put a hand on Duo's arm and looked earnestly into his eyes. "If this is just about sex, Duo, then I'm not sure that you need my help." He blushed. "I'm not very experienced in that area."

"It's not just...," Duo sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "This is really hard to talk about, especially with another guy. We're both gay, and that's great, but it's not making it any easier for me."

"Are you... experienced?" Quatre asked and went red to his ears.

Duo snorted, "I'm fifteen, Quatre, and a terrorist. What do you think? I played around once or twice, but never... well, DID it, if you know what I mean?"

Quatre jumped on that, his hand squeezing hard. "All the more reason for you to take things slow. Find out about Heero before you commit to something so serious."

Duo retorted in exasperation. "I just told you! I can't get anything on him! I tried!"

"Duo, there are other ways of getting to know someone, besides trying to hack into their personal information," Quatre said.

"Yeah, how?" Duo retorted irritably.

"You could try doing things together," Quatre suggested. "Why don't you ask him to watch a movie with you, take a walk, discuss a book-"

"Quatre!" Duo growled. "That's fine for you, but we aren't the kind of guys that have tea and discuss poetry."

Quatre blinked and then went thoughtful. At last he said, "You could offer to help him work on his Gundam," he suggested tentatively, "or work on your weapons. You could pull apart some type of machine or wire explosives... I'm sure there are other things..."

Duo smiled ruefully. "I guess that's dating, Gundam pilot style."

Quatre looked sad. "Our options are limited."

Duo stood up and was very still for a moment, as if chewing over bitter thoughts, and then said, "I just have to figure out how to get to know a guy in between the times I have to do missions. Having to say, 'Hold that thought, Heero, we'll get back to it after I kill a bunch of people and if I make it back alive.', kind of puts a damper on things. Actually, it makes it all seem kind of impossible."

"Duo," Quatre replied, choosing his words carefully, "I know that you think that I'm an idealist, an optimist, and maybe even an innocent fool, but please don't go into this with an attitude that there won't be a tomorrow and so what you do doesn't matter. If Heero responds to you, if he is as interested in you as you are in him, then you will be sorry if you rush into things."

Duo turned and faced Quatre, his _expression hard. "What will you say to me, Quatre Winner, if Heero dies and I 'took my time' and never told him how I feel? Never touched him? Never... " His face went even darker. "What if I die? Will it make you feel good to know that I didn't rush things and that I didn't spend time with someone who I... " Duo couldn't finish and he ducked his head, hiding behind his wild bangs.

Quatre replied softly, looking distraught, "You already care for him, don't you?"

Duo grimaced. "Yeah... He hasn't said anything, but, 'Hn, shut up, and you have a mission', but... There's just something about him... I can see who he really is, sometimes, when he doesn't know that I'm looking and he let's that gundanium exterior slip just a bit. I think there's a human being in there somewhere and I really want to get to know him."

Quatre sighed. "I'm sorry, Duo, I don't know what to say to you. I can only tell you what I would do in your situation."

"I know," Duo replied and reached out and squeezed Quatre on the shoulder. "I appreciate it, really I do, but I think I have to decide what's best for me."

Duo turned and headed for the door. He paused when he reached it and said, not looking back, but clearly tense, "You won't tell anyone, will you Quatre, about me being gay? Some people still don't get it, ya know? I want to fight Oz, not the people on my side."

"I understand," Quatre replied firmly. "I won't say anything."

"Thanks," Duo said gratefully and then stepped out into the narrow hallway and came face to face with Heero.

"Oh, shit!" Duo exclaimed as he jumped back a step defensively. "Uh, Heero, I... I've seen shadows make more damned noise, man!" Duo stammered and then attempted to pull himself back together. It was possible that Heero hadn't heard anything. If he stayed cool... Duo tried for nonchalant. "How ya doing? Got a mission for me?"

Heero stared, his _expression unreadable. "Come with me," he said stiffly and then turned and walked down the hallway.

Duo thought of running, of jumping in Deathscythe and saving his skin, only... he really didn't know what Heero wanted from him. Curiosity warred with panic. The daredevil in Duo won out. Taking chances, risking his life, throwing himself into the thick of things, was why he was a Gundam pilot. He wasn't about to be any different when it came to his personal life.

"I over heard your conversation with 04," Heero said without turning around.

Duo felt a chill travel up his spine at Heero's bluntness and his emotionless voice. It didn't give any hint as to what Heero was thinking. Duo almost shot back something about 'eavesdroppers', but then decided that doing so would have been as bad as kicking an ant nest that had already been stirred up.

"Ah, yeah, well....,"Duo stammered, trying to think up a verbal defense that would save him. It would have been easier if he could see what mood Heero was in, how he had taken his and Quatre's conversation, but a stiff back in a green tank top didn't give him any clue to go on.

"Can I save you the trouble and kick my own ass?" Duo wondered trying to get some sort of response out of Heero. When Heero said nothing, Duo began to babble, sure now that Heero was angry and that he was looking for a private place to deal with him.

"I mean," Duo continued frantically, "I know what I was saying back there was just stupid. I know we aren't friends. I know you probably don't want anything to do with me or anyone else. You're focused on the war and being an A-1 terrorist, and all, so I know you aren't going to spare a nanosecond for some skinny kid from L2, even if you were... you know... gay, which you probably aren't... I mean, like I said to Quatre, the odds are just way out there, ya know? I mean, three gay guys in the same little outfit... just not going to happen, ya know? So, I'm sorry that I was saying stupid stuff to Quatre. I just needed to get it out of my system. I'll forget it about it now. You don't have to worry about me... you know, saying anything to you or getting.... well, distracted by- "

Heero turned abruptly and Duo stopped talking as he almost ran into Heero's muscled chest. Duo flinched reflexively and took a step back, looking into Heero's dark blue eyes in trepidation.

"Uh, Heero? Try not to break anything, okay?" Duo said and then tried to brace himself, fully expecting that the next thing that he would feel would be Heero's rock hard fist connecting with his body.

Heero stared and then, he said with an uncertain tone, "Wing needs... There's a gyro on the left arm that needs calibrating." He struggled for words, his eyes suddenly losing their intensity and taking on all the shyness of an inexperienced fifteen year old. "I would... If you... Would you please assist me in recalibrating it?"

Duo blinked, stunned, hardly believing his ears. He stammered, "Uh... sure, Heero. Sure thing."

It was then that Duo saw that they were standing at the doors to the makeshift hanger containing their Gundams. As he passed through them with Heero, Duo felt a sudden warmth flow through him. His heart did a tremendous leap of joy as he realized that he, Duo Maxwell, was on his first date.


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