Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Two Halves: Circles + Chapter 10
Safe Distance

Duo's mind failed to engage for a few seconds as if he were looking at an incomprehensible picture of them both etched upon a page. The awareness of the touch brought him back to the present... the lips a gentle touch on his, Heero's hair tickling his cheek, the hard grip on his shoulders... Heero's lips moved ever so slightly against his and Duo felt strong yet gentle currents pulling him under, pulling him into the depths of that sensation...

He blinked. His ears were ringing, and Heero was glancing around them, his hands still on Duo's shoulders.

Duo's lips moved once or twice before he managed to rasp: "Y-you kissed me... "

Heero glanced at him with a 'well, yes' expression then turned to look at-

A few feet away, a small knee-high bush was burning merrily. Duo stared at it for ten whole seconds before he realized that his ears were ringing for another reason than, well, what had just happened.

"What... did something explode?!"

Heero's lips twitched. "Your powers of observation are impressive."

"What the Hells is going on?!"

"I was hoping you could tell me, you're the sorcerer. The blast wasn't as strong or as loud as yesterday's, though." His hands dropped from Duo's shoulders and he took a few steps towards the bush, glaring at it.

"This-this happened yesterday?"

"Yes, didn't you-... ? You must have been too much out of it. We were-" suddenly Heero flushed ever so slightly, which somehow reassured Duo that the entire world hadn't gone insane. "We were kissing and a wave of force just erupted around us. I thought we were under attack. I threw you to the ground, got ready, but nothing further happened. Well except the force blew out the barrier and saved our lives. You looked as confused as I was so I didn't think you'd done anything. But it felt like our own power, both our powers working in harmony, like that time at the Gap. So I began to worry that, well, something had happened so that our shared power was triggering on, ah, physical contact." Heero scrubbed the back of his head, trying to look unaffected. But the two red spots on his cheekbones were still there.

"I thought about it, and avoided you just in case it got worse -you were too sick to think about this much anyway." Duo was slowly beginning to relax, and not just about the blast, as he understood Heero's attitude since the attack. "I thought of canceling the circle, because we were going to hold hands, but, well, that would have been a mess. I was just careful... When I felt magical power stirring it nearly gave me a heart attack. But nothing blew up. You were just building that ward... Thanks, by the way." Duo made a vague 'sure' gesture, his head spinning.

"That's all I know. I wondered if it was, the, well the kiss, and so I took you out here-"

"Where nothing can get blown up or catch fire!" Duo exclaimed, finally realizing the significance of their rocky barren destination.

"Yes. Hopefully we're far enough away for Wufei not to come running." Heero muttered. "I asked Trowa to distract him, sit on him if he has to, but he won't hold him back long if he really decides to get nasty."

"The explosion wasn't that loud."

"Which is strange. Yesterday we were both exhausted, chocking, you had used up your power... I thought today, with both of us rested, it would be a major cataclysm."

"Well good thing you were wrong. So, that's why you kissed me, I see." Duo sighed, but his mind was running over the parameters of the magical equation that could solve this puzzle. "I guess this could be the result of-"

"No."

"No what?"

"I didn't... I didn't just kiss you because of that."

Duo went very still.

Heero wasn't looking at him, he was scowling at the burning bush as if it had insulted him. Duo recognized the signs of an intense inner struggle.

"That was the thing I had to tell you. I can't-... I've been controlling and eliminating my feelings and emotions for so long now, I can't recognize them when I want to, when I do feel them, it's... frustrating. I don't know... and that means it's even more difficult to talk about, I don't have the words to describe any of this... but... " He looked thoughtful all of a sudden, then turned towards Duo and said, quietly and firmly. "But what I feel for you is not something I would feel for a friend or a brother, Duo."

The sorcerer felt another explosion occur, this time inside his chest. Heero scowled at him.

"I'm not saying... I just know that much, I don't know what else-... anyway, it doesn't matter."

"Doesn't matter! How can you say-"

"I mean we can talk about this later. First we need to figure out why things blow up when we- when we get too close. That's rather more important. Or at least-" Heero added, more subdued, "it's something we should look into while we're here, in this area, without interference. The rest... we can discuss in private, but also in the safety of the palace. We're exposed here, if something makes another try at us... well hopefully no one knows we're here but we can't be too careful."

"I guess you're right." Duo sighed. "So, why do things explode?"

"You tell me."

"Oh, right. Erm... could you, er, could we- I wasn't paying attention to the effects, erm... "

"It doesn't seem to happen if you are concentrating on something else. Both times, one of us was surprised at first, and nothing happened until we, well... "

"Got lost in it. Both of us." Duo said thoughtfully, weighing the meaning of the words.

"Hn." Heero had the look of someone who couldn't care less but his cheeks were definitely red.

"Hmm." Duo nibbled his lip, which was still tingling a bit. In the back of his mind, his emotions were having a pillow-fight to figure out if joy, desire, surprise or embarrassment was the most appropriate reaction, but most of all he was concentrated on the puzzle. As a sorcerer he could never resist a challenge, especially one that went boom.

"Do you think this could have anything to do with the circles ceremonies?" Heero asked abruptly.

"No. Well, I don't think so." Duo suddenly felt doubtful. "I can't feel any stirrings of power in the circles, and Jay says they're mainly shamanistic and that only works if you believe in it, and neither of us does. What does Jay say?"

"I... didn't tell him."

"Oh? Why not?"

Heero ducked his head to hide a fierce blush and scowled at the ground.

"Think about it for a minute. Jay will tell G. And G is going to want to... experiment."

Duo had a blinding flash of precognition. That's interesting, see, Jay? Okay boys, what happens if you move your hands here and here and use your tongues?

"You are ... so... right... ." Duo shuddered, cheeks flaming.

"Yes, I'd rather try to figure this out on our own."

"Well... " Duo's thoughts were flashing like fishes through unknown waters. "It's pretty obvious that our shared power is reacting again, like at the Gap, and I think a certain, well, loss of control is the key, since holding hands in the circle didn't cause it. You kissed me that time near the Gap, though... "

"I wasn't really lost in the moment; I was about to commit suicide." Heero muttered.

"Yeah and I was busy murdering my uncle so I guess that probably doesn't count. If it's something the fiends somehow caused, it would have already disappeared, spells don't linger when their caster dies... if it's caused by the circles, it might increase... "

"Then I would expect it to be stronger today than yesterday but it was the other way around."

"Heero, could, erm..." Duo felt his cheeks flush, but he stepped up to his cousin and leaned towards him, hands resting lightly on strong shoulders.

It took longer this time because they were both concentrating on magic and not the moment, or at least Duo was until his heart suddenly did a double thump-thump and a thread of thought cut through his ability to analyze and reason -I'm kissing Heero, he's kissing me, he's got his arms around me and we're- he instinctively tilted his head, lips moving slightly, a burning feeling starting in his body that had nothing at all to do with magic-...

Rocks scattered with a clattering sound as the wave of force blew them away across the stony surface.

"I... guess it's still happening." Duo said, breathlessly.

"What?"

Duo felt a stab of joy -and something slightly earthier- when he realized Heero's eyes were slightly unfocused. On impulse he hugged his husband, his head resting on the strong shoulders, his arms around the tough chest, feeling it rise and fall to the rhythm of Heero's rapid breathing. Heero hugged back, hesitant, then more firmly, his hands sliding down Duo's back a bit in a move that made the sorcerer shudder, as he breathed in the scent of leather, horses and metal that seemed to define his husband. He realized their bodies were pressed together, chest against chest, heartbeats threading together-

There was a grinding crack and a big rock split a few feet away, sending shards spitting out in all directions.

They sprang apart, wide-eyed, Heero instinctively looking around for danger, hand on hilt. The echoes died away like thunder, mocking the clear skies above them.

"Whoa, not just the kissing then-... " Duo muttered, and swore internally. He was going to have to figure this out, because this was sure going to put a crimp in their marriage, whatever direction they decided it was going to go. He felt an edge of frustration, and thought he caught a similar glint in Heero's eyes.

"We should be heading back." Heero said, reluctantly. "Wufei is bound to come looking for us sooner or later, and he's already mad at me as it is. We answered the question at least."

Several questions, Duo thought, remembering Heero's words. Not like a friend or a brother. They'd been a deliberate echo of his own words, and now Duo realized that he himself wasn't all that sure of what they meant. He loved Heero, and hell, kissing him was certainly, well, overwhelming, but did that mean... ? He'd never been attracted to another man before, so why... ? Where was this going... ? Where did he want it to go? More questions...

A hand slipped into his, and Duo felt an immense relief to see that that caused no bad effects. It was something they'd done since they were children, he couldn't have done without that contact. They smiled at each other, somewhat shyly, but also with trust and relief, and headed back towards the horses, where Wufei was, indeed, furious.

*

Firelight danced on writhing flesh and reflected, blue, gold and grey, off a sheet of crude ice.

"NN:nnnNN:n... "

The inferno was the strongest of the ones we could use. How did they vanquish him? This doesn't look good. We have to do this soon.

"Nnn- agreed... BuT wh0... "

Easy. Our spy has told us they plan on making an interesting stop on the way back to Lin.

"S-st0P?"

... Maseng...

"NnN!!"

...

"Aaah... ThE De-ead ThIngs... I seE... "

Yes... They'll be helpless, disarmed. Neither magic nor steel will avail them against the dead... we'll have them this time.

"Nn:nnNn... "

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