Author: Maldoror
Rated PG-13 for a really silly story line, a hint of 1x2, and a rather stomach-churning suggestion in this chapter (youll know it when you reach it, please remember its a JOKE!!)

50 Ways To Leave Your Lover ("But she's NOT my lover!")
The Solution

The restaurant was hushed and romantic, trembling in candlelight and caressed by the sound of violins.

Heero looked about as comfortable as a novice fakir on a bed of particularly sharp nails, but Relena didn't notice. Possibly the candlelight was not bright enough. All she knew was that her dreams had finally come true. Her Heero had asked her out on a date. She knew he'd come around eventually.

He got to the point before they'd even got to the soup.

"Relena, you know I've been living in one of Quatre's mansions while I was in this town?"

Relena murmured an appropriate response while noting the information on her napkin; she'd not been able to find out where the silly goose was staying yet. Really, she knew how ashamed he was about his past, his violent tendencies, all his death-threats ­obviously a sign she'd come too close, had threatened the armor her knight had clad himself in... He just went to such extremes to keep them apart when destiny was trying so hard to bring them together.

That he'd volunteered the information... her heart fluttered.

"It's a very big house. Lot of rooms." He was being abrupt to hide his feelings again. Poor wounded angel. Er, what was he saying?

"Yes?"

"Relena... I have a favor to ask of you." Heero took another sip of water to clear the obstruction in his throat.

Relena's heart fluttered again. This was certainly new.

"Relena... " God bless him, how he hesitated, he was really so shy.

"Relena, you have to realize... soldiers... soldiers that have survived what a Gundam pilot has survived are... difficult."

"Oh no, Heero." This looked less promising, he wasn't going to try to discourage her again, was he?

"It's hard to reach out to someone who's been damaged like that. It takes someone of great mental strength to do it."

"I know that Heero." How she knew that! It was her mission in life...

"Anyway, if you think you can, that is, if you don't mind, would you please do me the favor ­ I have a ten day vacation."

Relena smiled brightly while desperately trying to follow the conversation. Even she was beginning to realize there was something very strange about the perfect soldier today.

"Une makes me take them. And I'll be stuck at Quatre's mansion, which is quite big. I-I think I might need your help and your support," Relena's mouth dropped open, "because the consequences of war on the mind can be hard to bear, but if you're up to the stress, well, would you come live with me for ten days?"

Heero carefully poured Relena a glass of water and waited for her to recuperate. He looked glum.

"Heero... oh Heero!"

"I wouldn't ask, but you did say you were always willing to help a, er, a 'war-wounded soul', I think you said. It won't be easy though! You will have to be patient, know when to talk and when to listen. Unconditional support is critical. Do you think you can bear with a scarred, troubled soldier? Maybe help him live a normal life?"

"Oh Heero, of course, I'd bear anything to be with you!" Amazement was mingled with jubilation.

"Good! He'll be glad to hear it."

"Oh Heero, I have dreamed of this day, since- he who?"

She squeaked as a pair of hands suddenly covered her eyes.

"Guess who?! RELENA BABY! LONG TIME NO SEE!"

The quiet of the room teetered on the edge and shattered. Relena tore the hands off of her eyes and stared around her, but a black blur was already past her and bouncing into the chair next to Heero's with a crash.

"Sorry I'm late, sweeties, traffic was a BITCH!"

"M-Maxwell?!" Relena stared at the intruder in amazement. Deathscythe's ex-pilot was lounging in the chair, shoulder practically touching Heero's, jerking on his braid, eyes preternaturally bright. He seemed to be thrumming slightly.

"Well, did she say yes? Uh? Did she? Uh?" His eyes were skittering between her and Heero. The question seemed to be addressed to the later.

"Hn." Heero nodded.

"Outstanding! You'll see, 'Lena, we're going to have a ball! This is gonna rock!" His words tumbled out quickly and way too loud, the restaurant seemed to thrum slightly all around them. Relena glanced around, blushing furiously, then whipped back in horror as what he said penetrated her embarrassment.

"What? What do you mean, 'we'?"

"Just like during the war! Except it's one of Quatre's pads instead of a school dorm. How cool is that, no curfew!"

Relena made a sound like a duck with a cracker caught in its throat.

"You should see the place Quatre let us borrow! Daddy big bucks! We each have our own room. If we want to of course. Mind you, we might want to change that arrangement shortly. Hm? I hear you've got the hots for Heero here. Baby you got guts I'll give you that! I don't mind though. Eh, could be interesting! Did I mention I'm bi? It could be very interesting. Hmm? Didn't I mention I'm bi? I thought I did. Hey, guys, I'm bi!"

In the mortified stillness of the restaurant, the violins hit a sour note and strangled themselves into silence.

Relena finally turned the single most horrified glance ever in Heero's direction.

Instead of shooting the animal out of hand, he was sitting there calmly, looking at Duo with only some surprise on his face. Apparently that last detail was news to him too.

Feeling her glance ­it was about as hard to ignore as a blowtorch- he turned towards her.

"Oh no, don't worry!" He said quickly. "We each have our own room. And they have locks. So don't worry. Duo is a very affectionate person-" Duo crossed the last two inches between him and Heero to lean against his shoulder and nuzzle against his neck, "but he will take no for an answer. Er, eventually. If you hit him he'll definitely understand you mean no."

Relena did the distressed duck sound again.

"Anyway, he's fine as long as he takes, erm, Duo, you are taking your medication, right?"

"Sure thing, Hee-man! All those little round brown thingies, five times a day, and an extra dose if I see anything 'weird'. Weirder than usual. Or if you tell me to. Did you want me to take one now?"

"No, Duo, you're not too bad now. Maybe later, if you get worse."

"Whatever you say sugar!" He turned in his chair so he was leaning the back of his head against Heero's shoulder and starting playing puppet with the end of his braid.

Relena finally closed her mouth with a click that hurt her teeth.

"But-but Heero, are you saying he's going to live with us?"

"Oh no."

Relena sagged in relief.

"He only has to live with one other person, not two, and I've taken the job. At least until the doctor says he can try again on his own, but that won't be for a few years, probably. But as I said, if you would do me the favor of visiting with us for a few days, I'd really appreciate it."

Relena made a whimpering noise in her throat. "But why does he have to live with you?!"

Heero put a fond and gentle arm around his friend's shoulder.

"He's got... issues. Scars from the war. But he can get better with a steadying influence in his life. That is what you keep telling me, right?"

"What?" Relena squeaked.

"I've been thinking maybe you're right. I am violent, I probably do have problems." Duo exploded into a fit of laughter that nearly knocked him off his chair and made the candle on the next table over go out. Much to the relief of the patrons there who took advantage of the sudden darkness to make a run for the door.

"You've always said that you would take care of me, help me through my issues. Steady me. Well Duo needs steadying too," Duo had added a napkin to the puppet show. Apparently his braid puppet was trying to strangle it. "As his old partner and best friend, I'm glad to help him. But it would be nice if you could show me how it's supposed to be done, and maybe help us both for a few days. Right, Duo?"

Duo was looking at his braid's end fixedly. "Pretty... " he whispered.

"Ah, I'm sorry about dinner, Relena, but I think we'd better go. I'll call you and let you know the address, OK? Can you be there tomorrow? Ten o'clock? I know it's a lot to ask. You don't have to help me with him if you don't want to. But I could really do with the support you always give me, and I'm sure Duo would like to talk about something other than the war. You always have such interesting topics to discuss, and your peace speeches are so inspiring I'm sure it will do him a lot of good." Heero was talking quickly as he maneuvered Duo up from the chair, and away from the table where he was attempting to juggle the silverware. "So see you tomorrow at ten, right?"

He didn't wait for an answer. It wasn't very informative anyway. Unless you were a duck.

+

Three days later...

Heero walked through the beautiful silence. He smoothed the bed again. He'd already remade it twice with military correctness ­the corners could have been used in precision instrumentation- but he smoothed it again anyway. He lingered at the dresser, wonderfully empty of any beige or pink suits.

He caught himself sharply. He should stop lingering. He had a duty to perform to a fallen comrade.

He picked up the tray again, left the wonderfully empty suite and walked past his room to the third door.

He entered as quietly as he could but the figure laid out on the bed still twitched and trembled.

"Duo?" he whispered.

There was a groan.

Heero sat on the edge of the wide bed and looked down at the remains of Shinigami. The black clothes stood out in stark contrast to the white bedcover he was laying on. He had a wet washcloth over his eyes. Occasionally he'd jerk and groan.

"Duo, here. Take this."

"Mf?"

"Extra strength throat lozenge, aspirin, and I want you to drink this milk."

"Milk?" The bed jerked under a violent tremble. The voice was a hoarse caricature of Duo's usual cheery tone.

"The caseine will soak up some of the damage. Duo, drink it, or I'll drag you off to a hospital."

"Mf." A hand reached for the beaker, with a cap and a straw arrangement to avoid spills. Heero kept a hold on it as well, since Duo's hand was trembling so badly the milk was going to be a shake by the time it reached him otherwise.

Heero stared at the bag near the bed while Duo slurped the milk. The bag full of 'medication'. The 'little round brown things'.

"God, Duo... how many of these were you taking?"

"A dozen or more, five times a day, like I told her. You know I don't lie!" Twitch.

Heero carefully picked up the bag of chocolate covered espresso beans as if they might explode. There had been a lot more than that in the original one kilo bag.

"I think I should take you to a hospital, baka." He muttered.

Silence fell again. It was a nervous silence; it had been severely thrashed every hour of the last three days and nights. It wasn't used to being left intact for more than five consecutive seconds.

Heero looked down at the quivering figure on the bed.

"Duo... I don't know how to thank-"

"She held out a lot longer than I thought she would!" Duo's voice was all over the scale. Every one of his muscles was thrumming. He felt like a percussion orchestra in the middle of some particularly vigorous concert. "Three days! Who knew she was that tough! They should have made her a Gundam pilot!"

"Hn."

Duo practically flew off the bed as he felt a gentle hand take his, feel his pulse. Heero muttered 'hospital' but Duo shook his head. It took him a minute to stop once he'd started.

"Nononononono, I'm ok, I'm ok. Just need to sleep! Should be able to by this weekend."

"Duo, it's Tuesday."

"Ok, maybe by next Monday then." He sucked the throat lozenge and felt some small relief to his shredded vocal cords.

The hand on his pulse was still there. That was probably increasing it, Duo thought skittishly.

"Did-did she really leave? I mean, leave you?" Duo was tough, but he'd just about reached his limits. His heart was thumping and squirming against his chest like a sack full of cats.

"Yes. She gave me a short speech that boils down to the fact that she is no longer interested in rehabilitating shell-shocked soldiers. At all. She was screaming at the end so I think she meant it."

"I wonder what clinched it. Sleep deprivation? The strip poker-solitaire? The whipped cream incident? The Shinigami episodes? The photos? 'Ninety-nine thousand bottles of beer on the wall'?"

"I think it was me reminding her that I'd promised your 'doctor' not to let you out of my sight for the foreseeable future."

"Ah, yeah, good thing that you can lie if you need to!" Twitch.

"Hm, talking of lying... "

"What's that, bud? Don't whisper, the blood is pounding in my ears a bit."

"I said, talking of lying, or not lying... All that stuff you told her. Was everything true?"

"Yeppers! Well not the bit about the underwear, that was an exaggeration. And the thing about the bread, that was just a joke. And-"

"-being bisexual?"

"Oh that's true enough. The thing about the umbrella was true too, and the bit about what I did to Wu-Fei's ponytail is true and nearly-

"... and are you seeing someone-"

"-got me killed, the boy reaaaaly needs a sense of humor. Now, the bit about being the swinger in a three-way party, erm-"

"... that's right, you are seeing someone... " several someones by the sound of it.

"-well, that, to be honest, was a-... ah, flight of fancy, shall we say. I was trying to scare her but she didn't catch my drift at all. Hehehe. Or maybe she realized no one's been able to put up with me for more than a few days." Twitch, twitch.

"... ah so you are not seein-"

"What's that, man? Speak up, my ears are ringing. Might be my brain, mind you."

"I said... you're ok with no caffeine."

A trembling hand lifted the washcloth from a single red eye.

"... You mean that?"

"Sure, Duo."

The eye looked him over carefully. Heero's face was as unreadable as ever. "You do actually look okay. I was afraid you'd have shot me by now."

"I wouldn't do that. Not after you went through all that to get rid of Relena for me."

"Mf." The washcloth dropped down again. "I couldn't leave you at the mercy of the enemy like that... and I didn't want to shoot you... sure I've got the jitters, but I'll be fine; hope you can put up with me for a few more days."

"For the rest of my life, if you'll let me."

"Whazzat? Speak up."

"... I said... you need rest, to get over the coffee."

"You're probably right. I'll close my eyes and stare at the pretty pictures there. Erm, I guess you've got stuff to do, right?" He noticed the hand still on his, no longer on his pulse.

"Nothing right now, no. I'll stay."

The extreme nervous twitch made the washcloth fly off. "You want to stay with Duo Maxwell on a caffeine high? You nuts?"

"We've been through a lot together, won two wars, beat Oz and Romefeler, took out Libra, shared a dorm... I think I can manage this mission." He took Duo's hand in both of his.

"You won't get me to leave that easily."

For the fist time in three days, Duo's mouth was open but no sound was coming out.

- OWARI    -

A/N: I place the entire blame for this fic on an evening of writer's block, my night job, a very busy time on the phone talking to very stupid people (the existential crisis thingy), too much caffeine and not enough sleep (which is a useless pandering to the body anyway, who needs it?). Anywhoooo, hope you enjoyed it. (Twitch twitch)

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