[ dacia's note: mistakenly replaced the quotes in this part with apostrophes. deal ]

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

Afterwards + Part 15

I suddenly didn't want to be here, in bed, about to have this discussion with Duo. I didn't want to hear what I knew he would say. I got to my feet while he was still looking at me in shock, threw on my jeans and left the house at a near-run.

Hadn't I done this before? When I left him on a crowded street corner after telling him that he was the one I loved? Left him staring after me in shock? Was history going to repeat itself?

I ran down the beach, feet slipping in the sand, not sure of where exactly I was running to, just away. I needed to get away from him. Away from that look on his face that told me I had hit too close to home, too close to his true feelings.

The sand under my feet was damp, the waves soaking the edges of my jeans and the cold was like a shock, slapping me back into my senses.

What was I doing?

I stopped on the water's edge and a moment later nearly fell in as Duo practically tackled me. I don't know how I managed to keep my balance and not fall into the freezing water.

His arms caught me tight around the waist even as I struggled for balance. He pulled me backwards, away from the water's edge and up into the drier sand.

Then his arms released me and he pushed me down.

Contrary to popular belief, sand is not soft. It is little pieces of rock after all. I landed nearly flat on my back and then Duo sat down on my stomach. Hard.

'Oof!'

'What the hell did you think you were doing?' He demanded. 'Don't you ever do that to me again Yuy! Do you understand me? You run off on me one more time and I will shoot you.' He leaned forward so we were practically nose-to-nose. 'I am sick of you running off all the time!' He growled.

'What?' I managed, still struggling for a deep breath.

'You know what I mean!' Duo snapped back. 'Three years ago- 'Love you Duo' and you vanish for years! Not to mention the 'I'll go off and confront the bad guy by myself' speech that I've gotten how many times? You run way more than I ever have!'

Ouch. That stung. He was right though.

'Duo-'

'No! You are going to listen to me, this time. I don't lie and you know it! I love you. And yes,' his hands brushed my scars, 'this... ability of yours has helped me say it.'

I opened my mouth, but he slapped a hand over it.

'My turn, remember? I said it helped me say it. Not helped me feel it! I don't just love you because Dr. J gave you a freaking healing factor! I love you because you're you!'

I blinked at him in surprise. He was really upset with me. He wouldn't be this upset if he didn't really care- would he?

'Don't you start!' He snapped. Start what? He wouldn't let me talk! 'Listen to me Heero! Don't try and explain my love away. Don't do this to us.' He moved his hand away from my mouth and put his head down on my chest. 'I love you. You drive me crazy sometimes and right now I want to beat the crap out of you but I still love you- you idiot!'

I put my arms around him carefully, hearing the slight hitching tone in his voice.

'I've lost a lot of the people that I loved. I figured I was cursed, that it wasn't safe for me to care about anyone that way. But I fell in love with you anyway.' I tightened my hold on him. 'Yes, I figured if anyone could survive me, it was you. That's why it was safe to tell you how I felt. I've seen you come back from things that would've killed anyone else. But that's not why I love you.'

He raised himself up a bit to look in my eyes. 'I love you because you're my best friend. Because you laugh at my stupid jokes. Because you put my life before yours. Because you make my life better just by being in it.' He drew in a deep breath. 'And because even if I am cursed and you die, I don't want you to go alone. I want to be with you even then.'

His explanation was hesitant, his voice hoarse as he explained. My doubt tried to rise up again, but it couldn't. I couldn't doubt Duo anymore. He did love me.

It was like that first moment all over again. Then I realized how very close I had come to destroying what was between us all on my own. I would have to be more careful in the future.

'I'm sorry Duo. So very sorry...'

'Stop it,' he frowned slightly. 'I know you are. I accept your apology.' He got to his feet and pulled me up after him. 'Just... don't do it again, okay?' I heard the hurt under the light tone and mentally berated myself.

'Okay,' I agreed, sliding an arm around his waist. 'I love you too, Duo.'

'I know it,' he smiled, his frown vanishing. 'You've never let me doubt it. Let me return the favor now.'

I kissed him then and he leaned into me, shivering in the cold, though his mouth was warm.

'Let's go inside,' I released his mouth and tugged him towards the house. 'It's freezing.'

'You're the one who came out here,' he reminded me, as he cuddled closer to my side. 'We could've just had this discussion in our nice warm bed. Now, unless Val has curled up in our place, the bed is going to be cold again.'

'We'll warm it up,' I told him and he grinned.

'I'm holding you to that, Yuy. You owe me.' His tone was teasing and he smiled at me.

I did owe him. More than I could ever repay. Only Duo would forgive me so easily, and yet I knew the hurt I had done to him would be a long time fading.

[part 14] [part 16] [back to Merula's fic]