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

Afterwards + Part 7

So, Duo moved in. I was surprised how quickly it was accomplished. It took him a week. I had forgotten how fast 'Hurricane Maxwell' could move. During that week he got Une to give him a job as a consultant, so he could work from home like I did. He talked Wufei into taking Noin on as a partner, and Sally into partnering Zechs since Hilde would be on maternity leave soon. He packed up, gave notice at his place and was moving boxes to mine by the middle of the week. Once Duo decides on a course of action, there's no stopping him.

I was busy too. I withdrew my resignation from my job. Ange and I had a long talk, and I stayed on. Fortunately, only she and Sophie had seen the broadcast and they had kept it to themselves. That worked for me- I sure as hell didn't want Jack knowing what I used to be. It would be just one more thing for him to hold against me.

I also had a long talk with Quatre. He had protested that he hadn't had time to tell me about Hilde and Relena- that phone call had come right when he was about to. Quatre also said that he wasn't sure how Duo felt about me- probably because Duo himself was unsure. He hadn't wanted to raise my hopes. He grinned a bit after that and said his own were raised so far up at the moment that we'd better not disappoint him.

Duo didn't have much stuff to move. He gave away most of his furniture, though we replaced my futon with his sofa. It was a huge black velvet monstrosity, but Duo wanted to keep it, so we did. It was more comfortable than my futon had been. We also gave my stereo system to Marie and kept his. His was bigger and had better sound quality- according to him. It all sounded the same to me, but I didn't care. As long as Val was allowed to stay, I told him he could do whatever he liked.

I was in a bit of a daze. I'll admit it. I still couldn't really believe that he was doing all this for me. Totally turning his life upside down. The one time I mentioned it to him, he had just given me a hug and told me that I was worth it.

The Sunday morning after he moved in found me flipping through the news files on the sofa while Duo was emailing his extensive network of friends with an update on his life. I glanced up from the reader several times, still amazed that he was actually there. We had finished moving him in and arranging the house yesterday. I had offered to let him keep the bed while I slept on the sofa, but he had refused. So I had slept last night with him curled up beside me. It seemed almost too good to be true.

Duo cared about me, enough that he didn't want me to be alone. That wasn't the same as loving me, and I knew it. I knew that maybe someday he'd leave and I'd be alone again, but I couldn't bring myself to care. I was going to enjoy whatever time Duo let me have with him. It would be enough.

"Any interesting news?" Duo asked me, looking up from his keyboard.

"A man tried to stab his wife with a plastic fork at MickeyDs," I said with a smile.

"You are kidding?"

"Nope, that's the top story."

"Must be a slow news week," Duo leaned back in his chair and stretched. "Does it say why he suddenly felt the urge to stab his wife with a plastic fork?"

"She took his French fries." He raised an eyebrow at me.

"You are making that up."

"No I'm not," I waved the reader at him. "Look for yourself." He leaned way back in the chair and I handed him the reader.

"You really weren't."

"Of course not," I said with a sniff.

"I wasn't sure- you've changed a bit you know." He grinned at me. "Do you get homicidal over French fries?"

"Nope. Coffee- now- that's a different story. If someone tried to steal my coffee I'd stab them with my spoon." I took the reader back from him and turned it off. Val looked up at me expectantly as I stood up and stretched. "All right, girl, I know, breakfast."

"So you get murderous over mochas. That's good to know." Duo moved from his chair to the couch, where he stretched out. "Anything else? Now that I'm living with you I need to know what other little quirks you have."

"Little quirks hm?" I grinned at him as I poured food into Val's bowl. "Well, I'm totally devoted to my dog- even if she does only love me because I feed her." Val had stuck her head in the food bowl before I finished putting the food in.

"Ah, I'm sure it's more than that." Duo grinned back. "You take her for walks too after all." I made a face at him and he laughed. "Anything else?"

"You know everything else," I pointed out to him. "I spend a huge amount of time staring at my computer screen. I watch the History channel. I don't like to make the bed."

"But it's made," he pointed at the bed. "You made it up first thing in the morning."

"Yes, but I don't like to. It's only because you're here." I admitted. "I like it better messy." Duo laughed.

"Now there's something I thought I'd never hear! I think this is going to work out better than I hoped." He got to his feet. "Ready for breakfast?"

That first Sunday went well. We fell into a pattern that repeated itself every Sunday. Email, news, breakfast, chores, lunch, gardening, shopping, dinner, movie or video.

The rest of the week fell into a pattern too. Monday I went into work, Duo went into Preventers HQ on Wednesdays. The rest of the week we worked at home, only a few feet from each other, occasionally talking if something interesting came up, lending a hand if needed.

I introduced him to my work friends. He'd go out with us on Fridays and dance. We went out occasionally with the other guys if they were around.

I was happy. Duo was there, with me, every day. He slept by my side every night. I didn't push anything, I never kissed him or tried to. I never said anything that I thought would make him uncomfortable. I did my best to see that he was happy. He had rearranged his life for me; the least I could do was adapt mine to his. It wasn't hard to do. Duo was easy to live with, at least it seemed that way to me. I don't know how easy it was for him to live with me, but I tried my best.

It was three months after Duo came to live with me that I began to wonder what I was doing wrong. Duo never said anything, never got angry or upset with me, but sometimes I would catch him looking at me with the oddest expression on his face. One time I came home on a Monday to find him on the phone with Quatre and I had the strangest feeling that the subject had been changed when I walked through the door.

I began to panic. I was going to lose him. He was unhappy with me, like I had feared he would be. I knew there wasn't anything I could do to change his mind and I decided that when he left I wouldn't get mad at him. I should be happy that he had stayed with me as long as he had. Tension seemed to grow between us. I had a hard time talking to him, so sure that anything I said might be turned around as an excuse for him to leave. Duo doesn't like it quiet. He scolded me several times for not talking to him, ignoring him, but I wasn't. My fear was paralyzing me. I was afraid that I'd do or say the wrong thing.

One night, several weeks after Duo's strange behavior had started, I woke up in the middle of the night. The space next to me, Duo's space, was empty. I sat up, my eyes moving around the darkened room but there was no sign of him. No light under the bathroom door, no bundle on the sofa. I got up, flipping on the lights. Val whined at me from her place on the foot of the bed. Duo's clothes were gone, his stereo was gone, his computers were gone. On the fridge was a note: Sorry Heero, but I don't love you and I never will. Duo

I stared at the note feeling my heart explode in pain. Tears streamed down my face as I went and threw myself back in bed. Duo's scent rose up from the sheets and I choked, knowing that he would never ever come back. I had failed.

Cool fingers were stroking my cheek. "Heero?" I blinked. The room was dark except for the tiny lamp Duo kept on his side of the bed so that he could read after I fell asleep. "Heero?" Duo was leaning over me, looking concerned.

"Duo?" I reached up and ran my fingers down the side of his face. "Are you real?"

"Of course. You were having a nightmare," Duo smiled reassuringly at me. He lifted his hand and I could see the moisture on the tips of his fingers. "You were crying," he added softly. "I was worried, so I woke you."

"Thank you," I lifted my hand to scrub at my face. Duo batted my hand away and lifted the corner of the sheet.

"Want to talk about it?" He asked as he used the sheet to wipe off the tears. "It must've been pretty bad."

"It was awful," I shivered and looked up into the violet eyes that were looking at me with such concern.

"Can you tell me? Was it the about the war?"

"No," I shivered. "It was about you." He slid back down beside me in the bed and pulled me into his arms. I could hear his heartbeat as I rested my head against his chest.

"What happened?" He asked softly, his fingers stroking the nape of my neck gently. "Can you tell me?" Gods, could I tell him? If he was contemplating leaving me, this would just make him feel guilty. I didn't want to do that to him. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath; ready to tell him it was nothing. His scent surrounded me, just like it had in the dream and I felt myself start to shake. "Heero?" Duo's voice sounded faintly alarmed.

"You left," I told him, the words spilling out without any permission from me. "I woke up and you were gone. All your things were gone. You left me a note on the fridge. It was like you had never been here." I clung tighter to him for a moment and then made myself let go. "I'm okay. It's late, you have to go in tomorrow..."

"Shh," Duo pulled me back against him. "Don't Heero. Don't. I want to talk to you about this. Please?" I couldn't refuse him anything, so I let him hold me against his chest, wrapping my arms around his waist.

"All right," I said into his t-shirt.

"Are you worried that I'm going to leave?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"You aren't happy here."

"And what makes you think that?" Duo's voice was warm with affection. I opened my mouth and closed it again. It seemed silly to tell him that he had been looking at me oddly. "Heero? Why do you think I'm going to leave?"

"Something has just seemed- wrong with you. I didn't know what else it could be." I felt him sigh.

"I forget sometimes how well you can read me," his arms tightened a little.

"What's wrong?"

"Heero- you love me, right?" He sounded hesitant, unsure of himself. It was odd, hearing him sound like that.

"Yes," I told him, confused.

"You never say it. You never- do anything about it." I pulled a little away from him and looked up into his eyes.

"I didn't want to make you uncomfortable," I told him. "I didn't want to push." He smiled then.

"It doesn't make me uncomfortable, Heero. I just-," he sighed, and lowered his voice. "I was thinking that you were having a hard time adjusting to the reality of me- living with me." I understood suddenly. "That maybe you changed your mind about me." He finished softly.

"Oh no," I reached up and ran my fingers over his cheek unthinkingly seeking to reassure. "I love having you here. The reality of you has been better than any dream." I saw relief wash over him. He had been worried that I wasn't happy living with him. I understood now what he needed from me. Giving into impulse, I reached up and captured his mouth with mine, kissing him lightly. I moved back after a moment, smiling involuntarily at his wide-eyed expression. "Do you like being here?"

"Yes," he answered after a moment, his lips curving into a smile. "Very much. That's why I was worried." I lay back down flat again and pulled him close beside me. He put his head on my shoulder and cuddled close.

"Idiot. You should've said something sooner."

"Baka. You should've said something sooner," he replied with a grin.

"You have work in the morning, you need to sleep." I murmured into his hair.

"Yes mommy," he chuckled back.

[part 6] [part 8] [back to Merula's fic]