Author: Merula
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is not mine.

Written for the Vault's Spring Songfic Challenge.

The song this is based on is Everclear's I Will Buy you a New Life.

New Life

Duo walked into the kitchen and dropped into the chair across from me. I glanced up at him, mind still on the bills in front of me, organized into neat little stacks. Paid, not paid, can wait, won't wait... I smiled a welcome at my roommate, waiting for him to speak.

"Here," he said, and placed a pile of bills in front of me. "My part of the rent and utilities and all that... you never said how much... but..."

I blinked, faintly surprised. I hadn't expected him to start contributing so soon...

He was waiting for my reaction, watching me with faintly anxious eyes. I had told him not to worry about this, but I knew he had been.

"This is fine," I flipped through the stack and smiled at him. "Are you sure you can afford so much? I know that Une's got that draw on your salary..."

Duo shrugged. "The damage is paid off now- plus it was mostly Chang's fault, so his half came out to more." He frowned slightly. I was glad to see it- eight months ago he would've snarled out that name, if he consented to use it at all. 'Bastard' was more frequent, and another one that I never recognized at all- an L2 word that I more than likely didn't want to know the meaning of anyway. Chang was still nominally my friend after all.

"Then this is fine." I tucked the money carefully into the back of the checkbook, I didn't really want to take it, but I knew it was important to Duo, so I did. I continued writing checks. Duo sat quietly watching me.

"It's less than what half would be, isn't it?"

I shrugged. "I guess so." I hoped to convey that I wasn't worried about it, and so he shouldn't be either. But this was Duo...

"It doesn't bother you? I said I'd pay it all back- and I can definitely give you more after my next check..."

I looked up and met Duo's eyes. "I told you when you moved in that it didn't matter- I knew you'd pay me back, and I know you will. But at the same time, I got this place knowing that I could easily afford the rent and utilities. All you cost extra is groceries- and you've been buying most of those." Duo had gotten into a habit of sneaking out to do the grocery shopping without me; otherwise I wouldn't have let him pay for those either. "Not to mention doing most of the cooking and more than your fair share of the chores."

"I just don't want you to feel like I'm gypping you." He looked uncomfortable.

I knew why. "You aren't. And I know you haven't been squandering your checks- no matter what the others say. No one that grew up the way you did would be cavalier about money. You promised the shelter part of your checks- I know they depend on your contribution. Relax, okay?"

He smiled. "You're a great guy, Heero, you know that?"

I shook my head back. "I think you might have mentioned it, once or twice a day since you moved in."

He laughed at my tone. "You know that the others think you were insane for letting me live here- after what happened."

I lost my smile and met his gaze evenly. "That's all in the past Duo. And I said then that I understood it. I know the others took his side- but you know why they did."

Duo got to his feet, stretching. "I guess, but..."

"Don't look back," I told him and started writing out the bills again.

"Fine advice coming from you." His voice wasn't mocking, just soft. He ruffled my hair and headed to the fridge.

I focused on my task, the sounds of Duo making dinner keeping me company. I liked having him here; the apartment had been too quiet before, though I hadn't known it at the time.

Duo's dinner was excellent as always. I helped him wash up; we watched some TV and went to bed.

As I lay in my bed, staring up at the ceiling, I wondered again if we should move. My apartment was a one-bedroom, since Duo moved in; he'd been sleeping on the pullout bed in my couch. He never complained about it, but I knew it couldn't be comfortable. I knew that he had been used to far more comfortable beds before he moved in here.

I had tried to make him use mine, and I would've slept on the couch, but he'd felt bad enough about moving in. He insisted that the couch was fine, and refused to put me out of my bed.

I had been planning to buy a house before Duo moved in. Put my money towards something more stable than an apartment. There was no reason that I couldn't do that now and keep him as a roommate.

Duo would like a house. Someplace far from the city and all the memories he had here. I knew he wanted to leave the Preventers- it was sheer torture for him there now. But he had to work off his debt first. A debt that was paid off now. I wondered if he'd start looking for a new job.

I didn't need to be close to anything. I had turned down both Relena and Une and had gone into freelance programming. I made good money- better than Duo suspected- and I didn't have to deal with anyone I didn't want to. I was getting busy enough that Duo would be able to help me if he wanted. If he worked with me he could leave the Preventers with the promise of a job waiting instead of having to find one. Plus, I wasn't too sure that Une would give him a glowing recommendation- despite the fact that Duo was the best agent she had.

I don't know how long I lay there, staring at the ceiling, making plans before I fell asleep, but when I did, the nightmares visited. Unpredictable, my unwanted companions, they always shook me, leaving me trembling when I woke.

I got to my feet, feeling the moisture drying on my face, and staggered out to the other room.

Duo sleeps like a cat, always alert. The first time my nightmares had visited, after he moved in, he had woken up fully, in total surprise. He said afterwards that he had never ever seen me that way before. I hadn't meant to wake him, but Duo was very understanding.

Now, he slitted one eye open at me as I approached the bed. The cover lifted up a little in welcome and I slid under the covers next to him.

"Y'kay?" he murmured.

"Fine." I murmured back.

"Sure?" He persisted.

"Yes." I told him, closing my eyes and relaxing into the warmth that he generated. Duo was always warm.

Usually he just let me lay there beside him, soaking up his warmth. I was always so cold after the nightmares, as if they were sucking up my life, my small bit of warmth. Before Duo moved in, I would usually go stand under a scalding shower, trying to warm my skin back up to normal temperatures.

Tonight, Duo surprised me by throwing an arm around my waist and pulling me closer. "You're shivering. Why do you get so cold, Heero?"

"I don't know," I told him. "I don't remember the dreams. I just wake up cold and..." I moved a hand over my cheek, wiping off the faint wetness there.

"You should go talk to someone." Duo snuggled against my back. "Someone who can help you."

"I talk to you," I told him and closed my eyes, letting him take that however he wanted. It was easy to fall asleep in Duo's arms.

I woke up alone, the couch mattress poking me in the back. One of the springs had evidently given up the fight. All the more reason to move, get Duo a real bed to sleep on. He was off today- it would be a good chance to go looking for places...

I sat up, my ears catching the soft sound of Duo's voice coming from the kitchen. I walked quietly over to the door, wondering who he was talking to...

"Really, Hilde, it's fine. Work sucks, yeah, but I'm all paid off there- I can start looking for something else now..." Duo was at the stove, head tilted, the phone trapped between head and shoulder.

Ah, Saturday morning- Hilde's call. Of course. Bless her, the only other one of Duo's friends that had stuck by him.

"Heero?" Duo laughed. "Yep, still a great roommate. I finally got to pay him back a little yesterday... I know, he's been patient..." He laughed again, a little darker. "No, not since that one time in the hallway. Chang has avoided me like the plague- same as Barton and Winner..." I watched his shoulders move in a shrug that Hilde couldn't see. "Nah, it's fine. They didn't really know me at all, I guess..." He chuckled, dark tone vanishing at something Hilde said. "Heero? Didn't I tell you what he said the first day I moved in? 'Quit acting around me Duo, I don't like it. Be yourself.'"

I remembered that. Duo had been so anxious, emotionally overwrought after the incident with Chang. I had dressed the wound on his throat- a challenging task with him vibrating under my fingers. He had started making some joke, brushing off the pain I knew he had to be feeling.

I didn't like it and I had told him so.

And then I had held onto him as he'd cried, the one and only time I had seen Duo collapse like that.

I waited a few minutes until Duo was teasing Hilde about her boyfriend, before I swung the door all the way open and walked into the kitchen.

Duo turned and gave me a smile as I poured myself a cup of tea. He always made sure to have some ready for me in the morning.

"Hey Hilde, Heero's up and I gotta feed him and stuff.... Yeah... You too."

Duo hung up the phone and after scooping the contents of his pan onto two plates, joined me at the table.

"Breakfast," he said, placing the plate in front of me. "Sleep well?"

"Yes, thank you," I told him, picking up my fork. He sat down opposite me and started eating. "How's Hilde?"

"Doing well, as always. She's hoping to make a trip down here in a few months to see us." Duo gave me a quick glance. "She wondered if it was okay if she brought a sleeping bag and bunked here?"

"I'd let her use my bed," I told him. "She wouldn't mind the tight quarters?"

"Nah," Duo shrugged.

"I was thinking..." I put my fork down. "This apartment is really too small for two people-" Duo looked up at me, eyes wide. "I was thinking about looking for a house. I'm a bit tired of throwing rent money away every month..."

"Oh," Duo looked down, started playing with his fork.

I blinked at him and then realized that he didn't get it. "And I'm sure you're tired of sleeping on the sofa. If I got a house you could have your own room. And when Hilde came maybe we'd have someplace to put her too."

Duo's fork dropped. "You... want me with you?"

"I don't want to lose my roommate." I smiled at the surprise on his face. "I was just waiting for you to finish with the Preventers. Now that you have you can look for something else."

"What if I can't find anything?"

"Then you work with me. I'm getting too busy as it is. I could use the help."

My chair was suddenly pushed away from the table, and I was enveloped in a hug.

"You are the best guy Heero."

"Not really," I told him, giving him a squeeze back. "I'm too lazy that's all. Where else am I going to find a roommate who cooks and knows his way around a program?"

Duo let me go, but the smile on his face was as warm as the hug. "Thanks Heero."

"Let's finish breakfast and do some poking around?" He agreed, happily.

After breakfast I went and booted up my computer. Duo leaned over the back of my chair as I pulled up real estate listings and began defining parameters...

"A little out of the city maybe?" He asked as I paused on location. Couldn't blame him there.

"Sure thing." We went through other questions, all fairly routine until the end, when we got to 'yard'.

"I'd like a garden," Duo said quietly. "Or the space for one..."

"Okay," I nodded and added it, wondering what had prompted that request.

A list of houses that met our requirements popped up. I took note of the ones that were listed as having open houses today, and which ones were open for a look on Sunday.

"Shall we go for a drive?" I asked him, waving the list.

The first house was cute, but too close to a freeway. The next we didn't even go in. The next few were built in confusing patterns, meant to have lots of space and bedrooms, but feeling like mazes. I didn't like the confined feeling they gave me.

We drove out to the last house on our list in the late afternoon. It was up on the west hills, above the city. I imagined the view at night would be spectacular- a sea of lights.

The driveway was cracked and little weeds poked their heads up through the cracks, waving tiny leaves. The lawn in the front was mowed though, and I was relieved to see the house looked to be in better shape, freshly painted and with what looked like a new roof.

It was a one-story house, with Victorian style accents. We walked up past the 'open house' sign and smiled at the pretty agent who stood in the hallway.

"Here you go," she handed us a flyer and waved her hand in the direction of the house. "Take a look around. I'm Carrie. If you have any questions, let me know."

"Thanks," we told her and walked down the hallway. The floor was a dark wood, the paneling slightly lighter. Rooms opened up into one another with sliding doors between- a bathroom with a claw footed tub and modern shower, two bedrooms, a study, a living room, a dining room and kitchen that overlooked the city.

The house felt warm and welcoming. I liked the layout, the way the rooms flowed into each other- I could see myself living here happily. Duo had a small half-smile on his lips as he looked around. I wondered what he thought of the house.

We stepped out onto the patio. The house did indeed have a garden- a wilderness of flowers that had grown tangled together, spilling over small paths. I liked the look of it, the smell of the plants in the air and the soothing sounds of water splashing. I looked for the source and saw a small overgrown fountain in the corner.

"Do you like this garden?" I asked Duo, standing silently next to me.

"Yes," he stepped off the patio and onto the soft-looking grass. "It needs some care, but it's really lovely... lovelier than the one we had behind the church. Sister would've loved this one..." He bent to run his finger over a tiny jasmine flower. "There's room for more flowers too..."

"I like the house," I told him. "What do you think?"

"I do too," he turned and met my eyes. "But picking on the first day?"

"It meets all of our requirements," I told him. "I think I'm going to go talk to Carrie. Keep looking around, okay?"

Carrie was more than helpful. Sensing that I knew little about houses, she hastened to reassure me that everything was up to date, the house had been completely redone, rewired and everything before going on the market, and showed me all the documents to prove it.

"The back garden is a bit out of control," she smiled. "But the owner likes it that way- she wouldn't change it when I told her..."

"That's okay. I think we like it that way too."

Duo came to join us, listening quietly as Carrie walked me though the making an offer process.

After we finished, she shook our hands and promised us a phone call by Monday.

As we drove away from the house, Duo leaned on his door. The window was down and the wind was playing with his hair.

"You don't think it's too far away from town?"

"No. There's a grocery not too far away, and I don't need to go into town all that often," I told him. "You'll be finished at the Preventers before we'll need to move."

"I can't wait for that..." He smiled tiredly. "Being away from them will be such a relief. I hate the way they look at me. It's like none of us were ever friends- ever were happy together...."

He'd never admitted that before.

"I'm sorry," I told him, not knowing what to say.

"It's not your fault Heero. You're the only one that stayed my friend." He turned slightly to look at me. "Why? I know they were after you when you let me move in. I know they were- are- mad at you..."

"I don't really give a damn." I shrugged. "Let them be mad."

"But why my side?"

"Why not your side?"

"That's not an answer."

I shrugged again. "It is to me. You were my friend first. Since that moment on the beach- even after I swiped the parts from Scythe, you stuck by me. You stuck by me when I didn't want to work for Relena and Une and the others thought I was crazy. Why shouldn't I stick by you?"

"But after what happened with..."

"You and Chang were not suited for each other. Anymore than you and Quatre were." I saw him tense. "I know- with you and Quatre it was a war thing, and afterwards when he dropped you for Trowa, you never blamed him. You should have, and you didn't. You stayed his friend."

"He loved Trowa even then..."

"And he used you until Trowa was ready. So why should I trust someone that uses people like that?" I raised my eyebrow at him. "And Chang... that was a mistake from the beginning."

"Why?"

"Because Chang is an obsessive personality. It was an asset during wartime, but it also clouded his judgment. That and his seeking for perfection. It's not that I don't think he loved you- I think he was just too wrapped up in it. Why else would he forget the kind of personality you have Duo? I know how you are with your friends. If I walked into an office and found you hugging a coworker, I would assume that you were either comforting or congratulating or thanking... my first thought would not be that you were betraying your lover."

"Sally had just lost a patient..." Duo said, his voice soft. "She tried explaining, but Wufei wouldn't listen."

"No, he jumped to the worst conclusion first. And then you..."

Duo laughed. "I know. I let my mouth run off with me... and he tore the place apart... I forgot how mad he could get..."

"He still shouldn't have gone after you with that katana."

Duo's hand reached up to touch his throat. I hadn't seen that gesture in months. "And then he couldn't understand why I couldn't forgive and forget..."

"It's in the past Duo. On Monday you can walk into the offices and hand in your notice."

"But... we're going to be moving- we'll need the money..."

"We'll be fine. I have plenty to see us through. And you can start working with me- I told you I needed the help."

Weeks passed. Duo turned in his notice, decided to give them two last weeks and finished up his career at the Preventers quietly.

On his last day, Trowa called me.

"Duo quit."

"Yes, I know."

"You going to keep on supporting him? Letting him leech off of you?" I gritted my teeth.

"Yes."

"Why? You know he's just..."

"Fuck off." I snapped. I heard Trowa draw in a deep breath. I hadn't ever said that to him before. I had always just replied that I was everyone's friend and that I wasn't going to listen to more. I was tired of these conversations. It was time to end them for good. "Get your jealous head out of your ass and remember that it was your lover who used him first. And then remember that his next one damn near took his head off in a jealous rage. Once Duo walks out of that building I never want to hear from any of you again."

"Heero, he's-"

"No. I've listened. I've tried to stay neutral. You all keep calling and trying to get me to kick him out. He never says a damn word against any of you. He wouldn't even let me file assault charges against Chang. And he damn well should have! Once Duo leaves, he's starting a new life. He can find new friends and so can I. We don't need you."

I slammed the phone down and heard a soft noise behind me. I turned to find Duo standing there, a hand over his mouth, eyes wide. I hadn't heard him come home.

I cast about for something to say. "Sorry?"

"They've been calling you?"

"Yes."

He sat down on the floor in the doorway, hunched over on himself. "Why do they hate me so much? Why couldn't they understand?"

"Because they saw you as the cause of Wufei's rage. They thought you should've been more conciliatory when he flew off the handle. Then they thought you should forgive him."

"But..." Duo curled up tighter. I got up from my chair and joined him on the floor.

"I know you forgave him. But you didn't take him back."

"I couldn't... Solo said never to stay with anyone who..." Duo's hand drifted to his throat.

"And he was right." I put an arm around his shoulders. Time to change the subject. "Carrie called. We'll be closing on the 29th. We can move in anytime after that."

His face brightened. "Really? That's soon! We'll have to start packing!"

I was relieved to see the joy banish the hurt.

A few weeks later, and we were in our new home, boxes spread out over the house in various stages of unpacking, making lists and enjoying ourselves thoroughly. Hilde was due in a few days- she promised to help us get settled.

Duo had been helping me in my freelancing, and in consequence I was able to take on more jobs, and get through them faster. Plus Duo was an expert when it came to dealing with clients- he had a nice personal touch that got us a lot of repeat business.

I watched Duo move around our house, tucking things into corners, placing pictures against walls and I was happy because he was. The others hadn't called me since I'd hung up on Trowa. Now our number would be different and I doubted we'd cross paths again.

"Heero?" Duo stood by the sliding door that led out to the patio. "Come here."

I joined him at the door, admiring the sun hanging low in the sky, gilding the garden with gold. Duo's arm went around my shoulders.

"It really is the start of a new life, isn't it?" He said softly.

"Yes," I told him as I watched the light move around the garden.

"Thank you," he told me. "I'm still not sure why you go to so much trouble for me, but I appreciate it. I'm happier now than I've been in a long time."

"I'm glad. I want you to be happy." I reached up and patted his hand. "You're too cranky to live with otherwise."

He laughed, his arm tightening for a minute. Then he let me go and went back to unpacking. I was glad that he hadn't asked me why I had wanted him happy.

I found out later that he already knew.

As I lay in bed that night, staring up at my unfamiliar ceiling, thinking over all the things that we needed to do, happy and content, a light footstep made me turn my head towards the door.

Duo stood there, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

"Is something wrong?" I asked.

"The bed's too comfortable," he told me with a chuckle as he stepped closer to my bed. "There's no spring in my back." I heard him take a deep breath. "Can I share with you?"

"Sure," I lifted the corner of the blanket, as he had so often done for me. He slid in next to me, dropping his blanket on the floor. His arms reached out for me and pulled me close to him.

"Are you okay?" I asked, returning the embrace.

"I want to stay here," he said softly.

"Then stay," I told him, unsure of his meaning.

A moment later and his lips were on mine, his warmth enfolding me, pulling me underneath him. "I thought if I was starting a new life, then I wanted to start it here, tonight, with you," he whispered against my ear. "I want to share this house with you, teach you how to garden, work with you... but I also want this..." He kissed me again, coaxing my lips open, leaving me breathless. "Can I have this too?"

"You've had it for a long time," I told him; reaching up to anchor my hands in his hair, hold him close to me. I opened my legs, felt him settle between my thighs. I kissed him gently below his ear and heard him sigh happily.

"I know," his voice was soft. "I was too scared to reach for it... but now-" his hips rocked against mine and I gasped. "Now we can start. No more looking back. Only here and now with you."

His hands moved over me in the dark, teasing, claiming, taking, and giving... starting our new life together.

And we've never looked back.

end

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