Author: Merula
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing.

Please don't get mad at me for the Hilde/Relena thing in here. I know MANY couples who are like this and they do exactly what Duo says they do. Warnings: In the great forest of life, all I have to offer is the sap.

Afterwards + Part 11

Weeks passed. We went out with our friends, worked, played and spent Sundays running searches looking for traces of Duo's past. I had run through most of the birth certificate databases, with his help, with no luck. Last week I had suggested that he start perusing news articles for L2, hoping that some news item might jog a memory. He had balked at first, but finally agreed after I told him not to go past the time when he would've been 4 or so.

I knew he had to be frustrated with our lack of progress, but he never complained. He never let me spend more than part of a Sunday looking through the records. Duo said we stared at computer screens enough during the week as it was.

So I had started getting up a wee bit earlier on Sundays, walking Val and starting the search before I checked the news. I always managed to get some work done before Duo started stirring.

Sunday morning came around again, six weeks after we had started the search and had nothing to show for it. I glanced towards the bed and smiled at the sight of Duo's braid sticking out of the heap of covers.

It wasn't just six more weeks of running fruitless searches; it was six more weeks of wondering if Duo was ever going to figure out how he felt about me. I had told him that I would take whatever he had to give me, and I meant it. But it was getting harder and harder to hold myself in check. Six more weeks of cuddling, frequent casual touches, kisses that got deeper and... I stopped that train of thought right there. Things had been easier before Duo had told me that he didn't mind open affection. I wanted Duo. I could only hope that eventually he'd want me.

I was staring at the screen, my thoughts running in little fruitless circles, when Duo leaned over my shoulder.

"Good morning," he said in my ear as his arms came around my shoulders in a loose hug. I looked at the clock. It was 7 am.

"Isn't it a bit early for you?" I asked, leaning back a little into his arms.

"And isn't it a bit early for this?" His voice was teasing, but I knew I'd been caught.

"I didn't think you'd be up this early," I hedged.

"I heard you tapping away over here and I got curious. I'm starting to get jealous of your computer." Duo laughed.

"Ha ha."

He let go and moved to lean against the desk where he could face me. He was grinning. "Sheesh, Heero, I just thought- what if we find out that we're brothers or something?" I raised an eyebrow at him.

"Don't be stupid. We don't look anything alike."

"Some siblings don't." He countered.

"And you aren't half-Japanese."

"Oh, oops, good point." He grinned, then added: "But we could be half- brothers." I reached out and pulled his braid.

"Are you trying to give me a heart attack, baka?"

"Is it working?" I reached up and tugged him down onto my lap, so we could both see the screen.

"Not yet." He laughed and put an arm around my shoulders.

"What am I looking at?"

"Nothing. I'm finished." I sighed. "I'm sorry Duo. It doesn't look like you were born in a hospital on L2. We'll have to look elsewhere."

"Relax, Heero," he hugged me. "There's no rush. You know that." We sat quietly for a moment, staring at the monitor, before I pulled myself together.

"Do you want breakfast?" I asked him.

"I always want breakfast," he told me and I let him up.

We had decided on omelets for breakfast, and Duo was pre-grilling the onions as I chopped the mushrooms. Val was underfoot, as she usually was when we were in the kitchen. She nudged me when I wasn't expecting it, and I ended up cutting my hand.

I swore and grabbed a paper towel. Duo was beside me a minute later. "Let me see," he said, tugging the towel.

"It'll be okay in a minute," I told him, but Duo was not to be stopped.

"Heero, let me..." he paused as he managed to get the towel pulled away. The shallow slice on my hand was already closing, the skin knitting itself together as he watched. "Oh..." His eyes were wide.

"I told you," I muttered, wiping the blood off with the towel quickly.

"That's amazing," Duo looked at me. "What else did J do to you?"

"Just some things that make me damn hard to kill," I told him lightly. A strange expression passed over Duo's face as I picked up the knife, wanting to get off the topic. Duo, of course, didn't get the hint.

"Why does it make you so uncomfortable to talk about it, Heero?" He asked.

"The modifications make me feel less human." I replied honestly.

"You shouldn't feel that way." He touched my hand, running his fingers along the palm. "Just because you heal fast doesn't make you inhuman." He lifted my hand up to his lips and kissed the palm. "You're a wonderful person and very human. Okay?"

I had to remind myself to breathe. "Okay," I managed.

The phone rang shattering the moment. Duo dropped my hand and I went to answer it.

"Heero?" A tearful Hilde was on the other end.

"Hilde? What's wrong?"

"It's Relena..." She hiccupped, tears streaming down her face.

"Did something happen to her?" Oh god, she hadn't gotten kidnapped again? Or shot at? A number of possibilities ran through my head and I gave Duo a panicked-filled look. He was already headed my way.

"She... she..." Hilde was really sobbing now. Duo sat down next to me, nudging me over so that we could both look at Hilde.

"Hilde, sweetie, take a breath," he told her. "It's not good for you to be so upset." She drew in a long shuddering breath. "Another one... Another... Good girl. Now, tell us what's wrong."

"It's Lena," Hilde was still crying, though thankfully less so. "She's going to go on a trip next week."

"Okay..." Duo said encouragingly.

"Without me." Hilde ended.

I'll admit that I was lost here. Relena had gone on several trips without Hilde recently. It only made sense- Hilde was too far along to travel. Was Relena going to miss the birth? Hilde wasn't due for another month.

"And why does that upset you, sweetie?" Duo asked patiently. "Is she going to miss your due date?"

My cell phone rang before I heard the answer. I glanced at Duo and he gestured for me to go answer it.

I admit that I went to pick it up with a sigh of relief. I am not good with crying women. "Hello?"

"Heero?" A voice snapped.

"Relena?"

"Did Hilde call you?" She sounded pissed. Great, I didn't do well with angry women either. I looked at Duo and mouthed the word 'Relena'. I saw amusement flickering in his eyes and snarled at him. "Heero?!" Relena snapped.

"Uh yeah, Duo's talking to her." I answered without thinking.

"Where is she?"

"Huh?"

"We had a bit of an argument this morning and she left." Relena explained huffily. "Where is she?"

"I don't know..." I looked at Duo again. He was speaking softly to Hilde.

"Well, FIND OUT!" I winced. Relena could be quite loud when she chose to be. I walked back over to the vidphone and sat down next to Duo again.

"Hilde, Relena's on the phone. She wants to know where you are."

"What does she care where I am? She doesn't care about me at all anyway!" Hilde was looking more furious than sad now.

"Now, you know that's not true," Duo scolded gently.

"That's NOT TRUE!" Relena snapped in my ear. "Tell her that Heero!" Oh good lord, I was beginning to feel like I was caught in a schoolyard fight.

"She says that's not true, Hilde."

"It is so or she wouldn't be going on that trip with that... that..."

"He's a diplomat! I have to take him!" Relena yelled back, as if somehow Hilde could hear her over my phone line. I looked at Duo. He shook his head at me. No clue.

"STOP IT!" I snapped in my best 'perfect soldier' tone. "This is just silly. Hilde, you are going to hang up and Relena is going to call you. You two can fight it out. Call us after the fight's over and we'll help you make up. We are not going to help you fight." I ran out of breath, but Duo jumped in.

"You two know this is silly. Hilde, I know you don't want Relena going off right now, and I know Relena is feeling guilty that she has to go. I also know that you two love each other very much. So, work it out." He snapped off the vidphone and I hung up the cell.

"Thanks Duo."

"You got their attention. That was great. I usually have to yell louder than they do to make them stop."

"They do this often?" I gaped at him.

"They used to, especially at the beginning of their relationship. They like to fight, I think. Some people do." He grinned. "They'll call back in half an hour, problem solved and apologize for dragging us into it."

"I hope so," I muttered and got up from the vidphone.

"They will." He reassured me as he followed me back to the kitchen. "It seems odd to us, but then," he laughed. "Think what they must say about us! Every romantic relationship is different."

I couldn't help but feel hopeful at his words- did he think we had that kind of relationship?, even as I wondered what had gotten into my other two friends.

We ate breakfast, cleaned up the dishes and fed Val. I offered to start helping Duo search through the news stories from L2, but he refused.

"We've spent enough time in front of the computer this week. Let's go for a swim- it's warm enough."

We changed into bathing suits and T-shirts and walked down to the beach. It was pretty much deserted this early on a Sunday as the weekend tourists were packing up to go home and the vacationers were sleeping in. Val chased us into the water and then ran back and forth on the water's edge, dodging waves. We swam and splashed around a bit.

I got out first, feeling waterlogged. Duo had definitely come out the winner in the splash battle. Val sat at the edge of my towel panting happily as we watched Duo bodysurf for a bit.

Duo joined me on my towel and I raised a hand to fend off his wet braid as he toweled himself off briskly.

"Watch it!"

"Ha! You're just jealous," Duo plopped down next to me and tugged on my ponytail.

"At least mine's not a weapon." I retorted.

"That's why you're jealous." He laughed and leaned over to kiss me.

I'm not really sure what happened. His mouth was cool and salty, and I remember pulling him closer to get a better taste.

When my senses returned, I realized I was flat on my back, Duo sprawled on top of me, my hands tight on his back, wrapped in his braid and I was kissing him fiercely. I let him go quickly, scared that I had panicked him.

Duo pushed himself up on his elbows and gave me a quizzical glance. "Why'd you stop?"

"I didn't mean to do that," I apologized. "I got carried away." I sat up carefully, sliding him off of me gently.

"It's okay to get carried away Heero." He told me, frowning slightly. "You're acting like you hurt me."

"It's..." I took a deep breath and decided to come clean. "Look Duo, you know I love you. You have to know that I want you. But I don't want to push you into something you aren't ready for."

"What if I am ready for it?" I took a deep breath.

"You don't know how you feel yet," I looked out at the ocean, not meeting his eyes. "I don't want more until you're sure of how you feel. If you aren't and then you decide that you don't want this- I couldn't handle that."

There was a long silence. I watched the waves roll in, hoping that I had not just wrecked any hope of there being anything more between us.

Eventually I felt Duo scoot closer to me, and he put his head on my shoulder. His hand reached out for mine and I felt his fingers caress my palm.

"But I do want this," he said in my ear. "I love you."

[part 10] [part 12] [back to Merula's fic]