Author: Ravengirl
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer


// = direct thought
:: = mindspeech

Wet + Part 5

Heero,

I'm pretty sure I've got that spelt right. At least, I hope I do. It feels strange to be writing this. All of us have to learn a human language and English was mine, but though I know grammar and letters in theory, I've never actually written them out before. You're the one who showed me how, even if you didn't know it at the time.

I guess I should warn you right now that this will sound incredibly crazy. I'm almost certain you won't believe me. But you might believe Wufei. He told me you've been friends a very long time, and his memories don't lie, so I trust him. Everything he's said and done leads me to think that you do too, so please... don't discount these words.

I never forgot you. I've seen your paintings, so I don't think you've forgotten me, either. Maybe you wanted to forget. Maybe you won't want me around to remind you of things you'd rather not think about. I can't help hoping you will, though. Stupid, huh?

I am presently staying with Wufei. Somewhere he calls 'Montauk', if that makes any sense. I'm going to assume that you know how to contact him here. If you want to, I mean.

Heero... do you remember? What I said that day? It's still true.

I miss you.

Duo


:: 1 ::

Slowly closing and locking Southgreen's inner door behind him, Heero trudged wearily up red-carpeted stairs to the condo he was beginning to consider his own. On reaching his landing, he fumbled briefly with keys and deadbolts then stumbled gratefully towards the nearest couch.

Sinking into firm, comfortable cushions, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Though his watch told him it was nearly 8 pm, the long-lasting light of summer lingered, softly brilliant against the great-room's whitewashed walls.

It had been one hell of a day. He felt like he'd gone twenty rounds with the reigning champ and come out the loser.

But though his body seemed on the point of collapse, his mind was still restless.

Had it only been yesterday he'd first laid eyes on that damned statue? He supposed so, since he was still feeling the effects of spending a sleepless night sifting through his father's files and letters.

And then this afternoon...

It was one thing to know in the abstract that you'd based the last ten years of your life on a lie. Having someone look you straight in the eye and flat-out tell you so was something else altogether.

An image of Thaddeus Selkirk danced briefly across his shuttered lids.

The man was an enigma. Half human, half mer, all Machiavellian mind. Most of what he'd told Heero was familiar, seeing as the dark-haired artist had already heard it from Duo, but the sheer fact of his existence was fascinating.

Even more fascinating, though, was the knowledge hidden within that labyrinth of a brain.

["So you're part mer. Sorry, but... how the hell is that possible?"

Selkirk laughed.

"Are you asking for the physical details or my history?"

"Both, I guess."

"My past, Yuy, is a long, plodding tale which might bore anyone to tears."

Heero eyed him with acute disfavor.

"So outline it for me."

"Patience is a virtue, I'm told."

"Maybe, but I'm fresh out. Talk."

The blonde sighed.

"The 'how' of me is really not that difficult to understand." Serious silver eyes held cobalt captive. "I won't bother to ask you not to repeat my words. Even if you did, no one would believe you."

Heero chuffed a laugh.

"Got that right. They'd lock me up first."

"And therein lays the main reason the Mer have lived unmolested for so long. Humans are constitutionally unable to believe anything not right in front of their noses. This attitude, however, has been fostered by those 'others' who live around and amongst you."

"Others?"

Selkirk's expression comprised pity and slight disdain.

"Knowing what you do, you can't possibly believe the Mer are the only other humanoid species on the planet? There are many different kinds of shifters. We are quite possibly the strangest, but we are certainly not unique."

Startled by this new concept, Heero almost didn't catch the underlying implications of the half-blood's words. Selkirk waited patiently as he worked his way through the statement.

When dark brows swooped alarmingly, silvery satisfaction shimmered briefly.

"Am I to understand," Heero asked slowly, "that a normal mer would have this... 'shifting' ability?"

"You are. And you are now one of the few sentient creatures on the planet in possession of that fact. The majority of mer have no idea they could leave the ocean and walk, if they so desired."

Thaddeus continued speaking, but his voice was no more than background noise to his audience. Once the word 'walk' passed those finely-sculpted lips, Heero's imagination refused to move beyond yards of silken hair, laughing amaryllis eyes, and long... pale... legs.]Rising from his seat, Heero crossed to the great room's tall, curving windows and watched abstractedly as buses and cars jostled for position on Main. This time of day was fairly busy, even though he was learning that 'busy' in Connecticut was a relative term. Harsh traffic here was a sluggish on-ramp on a rainy day.

Hartford was nothing like Boston and he was beginning to think that a very good thing, indeed. He was even toying with the idea of moving here permanently. The sun-room would make a wonderful studio.

He wondered what his mother would think of him packing up and leaving Mass so suddenly.

He wondered if Duo would like it here.

The wave of euphoria he'd been riding all day descended in a rush.

Somewhere, right at this moment, Duo was alive. And, with the help of one flippant blonde lawyer/mer, Heero just might be able to see him again.

When he realized his hands were shaking, Heero took a deep, calming breath.

Pushing the distracting thoughts down into the depths of his mind before they could drive him the rest of the way insane, he turned from the view, wandering towards the hall and Odin's office.

A muscle in his lower back twinged every time he moved a certain way and he rubbed it absently, rueful amusement filling him. He wasn't used to climbing as many stairs as he had, of late. And he'd had rather more exercise today than he'd expected.

After this afternoon's lunch debacle, Selkirk had dragged him down to the river, which had been a whole new experience in exertion.["Come on, Yuy, and quit bitching. Hell, you're five years younger than I am and I run this route all the time."

"Not after you just stuffed yourself with high-priced Spanish cuisine, I'll bet. I am so going to pay for this later."

"Look, do you want to hear this or not?"

"Don't get your knickers in a twist Selkirk, I'm still here."

In truth, Heero was snarking for the hell of it. The jogging path winding the length of the Hartford waterfront provided a pleasant walk, and the air coming off the Connecticut River was decidedly cooler than that of downtown.

Verbally sparring Selkirk was too much fun to resist, though. The man possessed a rapier wit and he wasn't afraid to sharpen it on Heero, a trait the caustic artist admired in a person.

The path rounded a bend - dipped further towards the river and a pleasantly grassy bank equipped with a pair of benches. The two men turned towards them in unspoken agreement.

Flopping down on one concrete edifice, Heero sprawled its length, head resting against the hard surface, face turned upwards towards unbelievably blue sky.

"Really is beautiful here. Even in Mass, it's not this green."

"It's the home of my heart. I prefer Hartford to all other places I've lived."

Flipping onto his side, Heero propped himself up on one elbow and studied his companion's profile.

Selkirk stood, hands tucked casually into his tailored pants' pockets, staring off into the distance. It occurred to Heero that about ten steps and a few clothes were all that stood between the man opposite him and a transformation that would take him down the river into the great unknown.

Unknown to Heero, at least.

He shivered in a stomach-churning combination of anticipation and apprehension.

"Do you like it more than... there?"

Selkirk turned, facing him fully, an ironic smile gracing his lips.

"I only lived 'there', as you so interestingly put it, for the first two years of my university career. I finished up at Harvard. Mother thought I should get a well-rounded education."

Heero's mind boggled at the mere thought.

"So it was, er, your mom who came from... oh hell, you know what I mean."

The smile grew slightly.

"Yes. A very long time ago, too. She's not seen her family in... well over thirty years."

A frown corrugated Heero's forehead.

"As long as you've been alive, then."

"Longer."

Pulling his hands from his pockets, Selkirk walked to the bench next to Heero's and straddled it.

"My mother is the blood daughter of the current Lady, one of a small, select group who control the Senate. The power behind the throne, you might say. Mother was to be her successor, which is why she knew about the Mer's little talent. They had a falling out, though, and Mum decided a change in atmosphere would be healthy."

"The Lady?"

Heero was feeling a bit lost. Duo had never really explained the Mer's political hierarchy, beyond the bare bones.

Luckily, Selkirk seemed quite willing to elaborate.

"The Lady is the traditional counsel to the Senate. One of the differences between the Mer and humanity is the evolution of mental ability.

We speak mind-to-mind. We also have access to ancestral memory -- a group consciousness, if you will -- that allows us to remember everything every mer has ever done or known. And many of us are born with other mind-driven talents such as empathy, telekinesis, or some variation there-of. The Lady's position has been held by the same line of seers since the dawn of our civilization."

"Seers."

Selkirk sighed impatiently.

"Precogs, Yuy. Those who predict the future."

Allowing his head to thunk back down on the bench's unforgiving surface, Heero threw and arm over his eyes and groaned.

"Every time I think I've got a handle on this, it gets even weirder. So who's your father? The lost lord of Tintagel?"

"The Baron Elswithen, actually. Mother always did like the Isles."

Heero groaned again from under his arm.

"Somehow, I just bloody knew you were going to say that."]

Shaking his head at the memory, Heero pushed the still-busted office door to and plunked himself down in front of the computer.

Life-altering revelations aside, he had pretentious galleries to snub and art critics with whom to exchange gratuitous insults. Both his email boxes were probably so full it would take him hours to go through them.

Then there was his wireless, which had been vibrating non-stop since this morning. He'd have a dozen or more messages, at least one from his mom, and another four or five from his agent, who got twitchy if she didn't hear from him once a day.

Luckily, Odin's DSL connection was still functioning, probably thanks to the ever-efficient Mr. Selkirk.

/I've had about enough of the bastard. If I didn't need him.../

Heero let his blood-thirsty thoughts dissipate.

The truth was, for the moment he had to keep himself within Selkirk's good graces if he wanted to find Duo. In the meantime he'd just have to suck it up and hope the coolly-superior blonde didn't provoke his homicidal tendencies.

A quick look at his sbcglobal.net mailbox made him groan. Deciding to deal with Gmail first, he opened a browser window.

This address linked directly to his site, and it generated a goodly share of his commissions, both paying and charitable.

In fact, one of his first truly profitable projects had begun with on-line communication; a mural for Refracted Light, one of Boston's gay cultural centers.

Heero grinned to himself. That one had struck any number of controversial sparks. His mer-fixation had, for once, been up for public consumption. Male/male, femme/femme pairings of sleek, finned creatures with their human counterparts graced the building's round outer wall. So much for discretion.

Scanning the long row of new messages, he marked most of them for later perusal. About halfway through, though, he hit a jarring note.

Why had Chang contacted him at this address? All of his friends knew to send their mail to the SBC box.

Maybe one of Wufei's snotty NY connections thought having him intercede with his 'old college buddy' might get them on Heero's commissions queue. Wouldn't be the first time. 'Fei always gave him a 'heads up' when that happened. That's probably all this was.

Shrugging mentally at the vagaries of the inscrutable Chang mind, Heero clicked on the email.

He stared at the screen. Read the words one more time. Then did it again, just to be sure.

Five minutes later, he slammed the door without bothering to lock it and took the stairs two at a time towards the back lot, pulling his cell and keys from his jeans pockets.


:: 2 ::

When the buzzer shrieked stridently at what was surely an ungodly hour, Wufei's mind was blissfully free of any thought but that of visiting bodily harm upon the person or persons who dared disturb his peaceful slumber.

No premonitions of doom accosted his sensibilities. Not a single foreboding made its presence known. It never even occurred to him that the obnoxious racket might herald the end of life as he knew it.

Stumbling gracelessly down his stairs in nothing but a pair of hastily-donned jeans, he skidded to a halt in the foyer and flung the front door wide, only to find his second worst nightmare waiting for him on the porch.

"Good morning, dearest... or should I say afternoon? It's nearly twelve, and here I've woken you. My bad."

His gaze drifted slowly from 6'2" of magnificent blondeness to the tall, dark-haired woman standing quietly behind it, then fixed on the girl slouched against an obscenely long black limo, a look of sullen displeasure marring her pleasant features and a pair of microscopic speakers fused to her ears.

His eyes widened in dismay. Oh no. Oh hell no.

"We don't want any," he croaked, and attempted to slam the door in his lover's face.

Zechs foiled him with one expensively-shod foot.

"But I brought Noin, 'Fei, as promised." A wistful, wounded expression molded itself to Zechs' aristocratic face and for one instant (before he remembered what a manipulative bastard the man was) Wufei felt like he'd kicked a puppy. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you didn't want to see me."

"Save it for someone who cares, Merquise," Wufei hissed. "What the fuck are you and your hell-spawned sister doing here? I distinctly recall telling you-,"

"You never said I couldn't come."

Big blue eyes blinked innocently at him.

"I-,"

He stopped. Went over their conversation again in his head. Realized Zechs was right.

/Fuck all./

Then a slim hand touched his shoulder and he turned to find Duo peering curiously at their unwelcome visitors. Zech's smile widened into a brilliant grin the moment he caught sight of the beautiful mer, and Wufei mentally consigned his quiet writing vacation to the scrap heap.

/Sorry Phoebe. You did your best. Guess someone else up there has it in for both of us./

+

Walking silently beside the serene, quietly attractive woman Wufei had introduced as Lucrezia Noin, Duo listened carefully to her harmonious alto whilst studying the shape of her speaking mouth with intense concentration.

He rather thought he liked this human. She explained herself in clear terms and met his eyes with forthright ease. There was no subterfuge or condescension in her straightforward manner, and he -- very much the stranger in this strange land -- greatly appreciated that.

About the other two who'd arrived with her, he wasn't so sure.

Zechs Merquise reminded him too much of the politicians who crowded his father's halls, currying favor with elegant, meaningless words and altering their views to suit the occasion. The tall blonde also had a disconcerting predilection for staring, and he seemed to have fixed on Duo as his prey.

Even now, Duo could feel Zechs' languid gaze on him from where the other man lay, sprawled next to Wufei across the house's ruthlessly manicured back lawn. Its nearly physical touch prickled uncomfortably along his spine.

Then there was Merquise's young sister. Relena Peacecraft couldn't be more than sixteen, and she was a prime example of that unfortunate age. Sullen and haughty, she'd disappeared into Wufei's entertainment room immediately, cell-phone in hand, a sneer on her lips.

She was very much akin to the girl whose presence had precipitated Duo's headlong flight from home. Unlike the senator's daughter, though, she didn't seem inclined to cause trouble, something for which he was grateful.

"From what Mr. Chang has said, I gather that your problem is a lack of experience rather than actual disability?"

Noin's question penetrated the haze of his thoughts, and Duo focused on black-coffee eyes full of gentle curiosity.

"Uhsss."

Frustration welled.

'Yes.' It was a simple word and yet, he couldn't make it come out right. How was he to master two syllables when the singles so easily defeated him?

"That's very good for someone who's never spoken."

Obviously Noin did not share his doubts. She was smiling at him -- beaming really -- as if he'd done something spectacular.

"The letter 'y' is extremely hard to grasp. The tongue plays as important a part in speaking as the vocal chords and that is, in terms of muscle memory, one of the most difficult concepts to grasp."

Duo thought this through. Somehow, it made sense.

Noin watched him closely before nodding decisively.

"We'll start with the alphabet tomorrow. How to pronounce individual letters... how to coordinate mouth, tongue and larynx. I have a feeling that you'll pick this up quickly. You already know the shape of the language."

Tilting his head to one side, Duo looked a question at his prospective instructor.

"You can form the words with your mouth," Noin said. "You just don't know how to project. Yet. That's what I'm here for."

They grinned at each other, and for the first time in years -- since the last time he'd seen Heero, actually -- Duo felt truly at ease in the company of another person.

A door banged somewhere behind them and Noin's gaze left Duo's, drifting towards whatever was causing the commotion. Distant voices -- Wufei's and that of someone he didn't quite recognize -- reached his ears across the yard's green expanse.

Curious as to whom else might take their life into their hands and brave Wufei's antisocial aggravation, he turned... and froze.

/His voice is different. Lower than before./

The words registered briefly, a final flicker of awareness before his mind ceased to process coherent thought.

Then there was only himself and the man opposite him, tousled chocolate hair hanging messily down into achingly familiar eyes.


:: 3 ::

His cell-phone had mocked him from the passenger seat the entire four hour drive. More than once, he'd reached out to retrieve it... but always let his hand drop back down on the steering wheel.

Right then, he couldn't have dealt with knowing for sure, one way or the other.

Around 1 am, he reached Montauk Village and pulled into a small B&B he remembered from a previous summer excursion with his mother.

Luckily, there was a room available, and even though the proprietress seemed rather peeved at being awakened at such an hour, she grudgingly handed over a set of keys before stomping back into the house's dimly-lit innards, muttering imprecations against inconsiderate tourists.

Relieved to discover that the room possessed an attached shower, Heero had tossed the small emergency bag he kept in his car on the bed and shucked out of his clothes, heading for the bathroom and its cramped stall.

Hot, pounding water briefly revitalized him, but his exhaustion asserted itself the minute he emerged from clouds of steam to fall naked onto crisp, white sheets. Dreamy lethargy weighted his limbs as his eyes fought to stay open.

Rolling heavily to one side, he'd stared at the silvery shape of his mobile, perched innocuously on a small, half-moon table.

It was two in the morning. Way, way too early to call Wufei. If Chang was actually in town, that was. Once again, Heero pondered the madness inherent in this impulsive journey. He couldn't have not come, though. That was all there was to it.

Reaching over, he'd flicked the light-switch and closed his eyes.

Now, standing in front of one of the Changs' numerous vacation homes, he felt his stomach roil ominously. The presence of several cars, one of them 'Fei's, informed him that his friend was indeed in residence.

Gritting his teeth determinedly, he jabbed a finger at the front bell and waited.

A petite Latina with flawless, dusky skin answered his summons, dimpled prettily, then directed him towards the rear exit.

"They're out back, right now," she told him in a faintly accented voice, and he thanked her before wandering down the indicated hall.

The closer Heero got to the kitchen and its door, the slower he walked. Was he really ready for this? Was this what he wanted? Needed?

What if... what if he wasn't real, after all?

Before he could work himself into a full-blown panic attack, he was there, standing before floor-to-ceiling glass, staring helplessly at the slender, white-clad figure starkly evident against a backdrop of verdant grass.

Careless sunlight danced over shining chestnut, its braided length even longer than he remembered. Pale flesh glowed almost golden and slim, long-fingered hands moved restlessly against pristine linen.

He didn't realize he'd opened the sliding pane and walked through it until he heard Wufei call out a greeting. He said something in reply -- what, he wasn't sure -- and kept moving.

Then the figure in white turned, drowning Heero in radiant violet.

And he knew.

No other had eyes like that.

No one else had ever looked at him with that expression.

The beautiful mouth parted... moved. Heero could almost taste the shape of his name on those lips.

His legs still seemed to be working, and they carried him forward to stand in front of his fantasies come vividly to life. Hesitantly, his hand rose. Its pale counterpart mimicked the movement.

Then two sets of fingers -- one callused gold, the other smooth cream -- entwined, gripping almost to the point of pain.

The next few moments were a blur of motion as Heero jerked Duo forward, wrapping his arms around the slighter boy, burying his face in one firm shoulder.

Fisting one hand in the dark-haired human's shirt, Duo cupped the back of Heero's neck with the other, stroking silky hair and warm skin.

:Heero. Heero:

Pressing one wet cheek more firmly against the mer, Heero breathed in the scent of home and let the exquisite pain of hearing Duo's voice after so many years of silence wash over him.

:Duo:

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