The Beginning's End + Part 19 (cont)

I’m drawn to awareness by a soft chuckle, and the feel of a warm body pressing close up against my side.

I open my eyes, and see Duo’s violet eyes smirking down at me.

"We have got to have more conversations like this, Hee-chan," he drawls.

I flush, closing my eyes again. I briefly wonder if I will ever be able to sleep with Duo without this nagging, lingering feeling of guilt afterwards.

I immediately squelch that pessimistic, petty little mental complaint. Okay, so once again I’ve slept with Duo, while Trowa languishes in severe emotional and physical pain. What’s to feel guilty about, right?

But I…I couldn’t help it. I intended to talk to him - we need to sort out what we all want, what we expect…what we need from each other. I just don’t think it’s logical for Duo and I to approach Trowa - who is, at the moment, the most fragile of us all - without a clear idea of what is going on amongst ourselves. So I wanted to talk about it, ask him…discuss.

But then, suddenly, we were here, in his room, alone, seated on the bed to talk…and I had to touch him. I had to be sure that he was real. The overwhelming loss I had felt when I believed him dead welled up again…and I needed to reassure myself that it really was over, that he really is okay, that he’s here, alive, with me. So I jumped him.

Our lovemaking was as hard and furious as it ever has been, missing the tenderness of the kiss that we shared yesterday, together in the hospital bed with Trowa. Like in the weeks before the battle, our joining was an affirmation of life, a physical denial and rebellion against pain, loss and death. And it was good. Passionate. Satisfying. Vital. Alive.

But suddenly, it’s no longer enough. I open my eyes again and stare into the laughing violet orbs still smiling down at me, and I want more. I want the Duo who sat for hours by Trowa’s bed and watched him sleep, slowly running his fingers through the unconscious man’s auburn hair. I want the Duo that spoke through the pages of his letter to Trowa, and the one that I have glimpsed many times over the years when I spied him in a private moment with Trowa. I want the Duo that kissed me so gently.

I want Duo to love me, not just need or want me.

And suddenly, wrenchingly, I don’t know if he does.

I mean, I made my assertion to each him when he made his miraculous return from the dead, and he said he was happy to hear it... But…that was a very charged experience, and in the heat of the moment, he may have gotten carried away.

Duo never lies. But he could change his mind.

My doubt must somehow show in my eyes or on my face, because the smile slides from Duo’s lips, and he frowns down at me.

"What’s the matter, Heero?" he asks quietly. He doesn’t call me by some silly nickname or diminutive, so I know that he’s serious.

I guess I’m learning to speak Duo.

"I…" I stop. I hate this kind of conversation. Some of my earliest mission orders ever came from Odin, when he ordered me to always follow my emotions. I’m trying to follow those orders now, after years of ignoring them. He never told me to talk about my emotions, though. And I don’t like to.

Duo pulls away as I flounder for the right words and pulls himself into a seated position, wrapping the sheet around his hips. He reaches behind him, and quickly begins straightening his loosened hair, arranging it back in its normal plait.

I lean forward and grab his wrist, arresting the motion. "Don’t," I urge, and wince inwardly at the desperate note in my voice. "Don’t braid your hair."

I’m painfully aware of how idiotic I sound. I fervently hope that he doesn’t ask me why I don’t want him to braid his hair, because I have absolutely no logical reason for asking him to leave it down. I just…somehow I feel that his hair is another wall, another protection against people. And just for a few minutes, I don’t want there to be walls between me and Duo. If he wants to re-erect them later, so be it. But I want my chance.

Fortunately, he doesn’t ask me why. He just shakes his head slowly, disarranging the few locks he had already braided, and looks expectantly at me. Apparently, I am supposed to begin this conversation. Great.

"I…I thought we should…talk…about…well, about…things…before Trowa wakes up."

Good, Heero. Smooth. Talk about ‘things.’ You spend three years married to the world’s foremost orator, and you can’t even construct a sentence with a clear direct object.

"Things," Duo repeats. His voice is totally without inflection. I hate that. It’s confusing enough when Trowa does it, or the occasions when Wufei manages it, but it’s completely alien in Duo.

I sigh. He’s not going to make this easy.

"About…what we’re going to do."

Better. Still weak, but better.

"About what?"

I half-glare at him. Now I know he’s being deliberately obtuse. My glare fades as another idea occurs to me. Maybe…maybe he’s just being that way because he wants to let me down easy. Maybe he doesn’t want me, and he’s searching for a way to tell me.

I feel a blank expression slide over my face as my own walls start to raise again. This was a bad idea. It’s not working. It’s…

"Stop it," he says suddenly, startling me. "If I can’t braid my hair, you can’t wear your Perfect Soldier face."

I nod shortly, but the tenseness doesn’t leave me. I am more unsure than I ever have been. I don’t know how to go about this.

"Can I ask you a question?" Duo asks abruptly.

I nod slowly.

"Why did you marry Relena?"

I blink. That wasn’t the question I was expecting.

"I…thought I should want to," I answer slowly. "She wanted me to. She said that our marriage would help foster world peace. That it would bring together the army and the aristocracy and help everyone adjust." I pause. That isn’t all. It isn’t even the real reason. "And…she said she loved me."

Duo stares at me intently, his eyes completely serious, none of his usual mischief evident. "Did you love her? Do you love her?" he amends before I can answer.

I shake my head quickly. "I don’t," I assure him vehemently. "And I…I don’t think I ever did. I wanted to," I admit. "But she said she loved me. And that was…" I trail off.

"It was what?" he asks quietly.

I shrug, feeling kind of embarrassed to be revealing the pathetic neediness of my seventeen-year-old psyche. Of course, my twenty-one year old psyche isn’t much better. "It was enough," I finish finally. "Noone had ever said that to me before. I wanted…to be with someone who felt that way about me."

He nods slowly. I stare at him, relieved at what I see in his eyes. Understanding, not pity. Empathy, not sympathy.

"So, why’d you leave her?" he continues.

I sigh again. I really don’t want to be on this track, but I messed up my opportunity to be conversational leader, so…

"She didn’t love me," I tell him shortly. "She never did love me. She loved the guy I was in her imagination, not the one I am in real life. After we got married she figured out that I wasn’t who she thought I was. She tried to make me over in that image, but it didn’t work. So, eventually…she hated me. Hates me," I amend, shrugging slightly, trying not to show how that bothers me. It shouldn’t bother me. I don’t love her. I don’t want to be with her. But…I don’t want her to hate me.

"So, what do you want now?"

I stare mutely at him. Too broad, Duo. I need simpler questions, ones with more concise answers.

After a moment of silence he sighs, and leans back, bracing his weight on one hand that rests behind him on the bed.

"Well, you told me some stuff, so I guess I’ll reciprocate," he says finally. "I was relieved when you married Relena."

That’s not what I expected to hear. I stare at him in mute surprise as he continues.

"I was relieved, because it made a decision for me. You were - are - one of my best friends. I relied on you, I trusted you, I liked hanging out with you. I was also incredibly fucking attracted to you."

He’s just full of surprises today, isn’t he?

"I lusted after you. I had dreams about you. But…"

There’s always a ‘but.’

"But…I felt the same damn way about Trowa. And I couldn’t…I couldn’t figure out how I could feel that way about two people at the same time. There’s only one person for everybody, right?"

He shakes his head disdainfully, but I’m not sure whom the scorn is directed at.

"So, when you married Relena, I figured that you loved her, and that my feelings for you were based on our friendship and my admiration for you." Duo chuckles. "A little case of Heero Worship, pardon the pun. I mean, you were always perfect - how could anyone not want you a little?"

I’m going to have to do some serious work eliminating that ‘perfect’ thing.

"So anyway, I decided that my feelings for Trowa were the genuine ones, that I’d just had a crush on you, and that everything had worked out for the best. I hooked up with Trowa at your wedding reception, and everything was nice and neat for everyone."

At my wedding reception. That has always rankled.

"And it was great," Duo continues. "I…I love Trowa. For three years, I have been happy with him. Very happy. I never, ever, want to be without him."

So here’s the ‘but.’ You’re an okay guy, Heero, I like you, but Trowa’s my soulmate.

"But I guess…it wasn’t as perfect as it seemed…even to us. I mean…look at all the stuff we never discussed about ourselves," he points out. "There were a lot of things we just didn’t acknowledge. I’ve been trying to figure out for the last couple of months why that was. And I think I know."

He pauses dramatically, and stares at me expectantly. I stare back, gaping at him like a fish on the hook. I don’t know the answer, Duo, I’m listening to the story.

"It was you," he says quietly. "We, Trowa and I, love each other. But I always have had these feelings for you. And I think," he says quietly, "I think he has them too. I think we were both always aware of that, and it made us a little tentative with each other. We felt a little guilty. And a little unsure. I mean, how could our relationship be permanent, if we felt that way for someone else? For you," he clarifies, smiling at me.

"Feelings," I repeat stupidly, honing in on the one word I really want clarified.

Duo smiles more widely. He leans closer to me, grasping my chin tightly, ensuring that my eyes meet his.

"I love you, Heero," he says slowly, his voice clear, his gaze never leaving mine. "I always have. I tried to convince myself I didn’t, but it never really worked. I love Trowa, but I love you too."

Duo never lies. I stare into the very sincere violet eyes bare inches from mine, feeling a small, idiotic smile spread over my face.

He smiles back.

"I…I do too," I stammer.

The smile widens, becoming Duo’s normal grin.

"You do what?" he inquires wickedly.

"I love you too," I manage.

"That wasn’t so hard, was it?" he teases.

"Yeah it was," I contradict flatly.

He laughs, and closes the few inches between us. His lips meet mine, and he kisses me like he has only once before - gently, with tenderness…with love.

After a few moments he pulls away, and leans back on the disordered pillows, pulling me down with him.

"So," he says, breaking the silence. "Now what?"

"Um…," I suggest helpfully.

"I love Trowa," he reminds me softly. "I spent a long time agonizing over this ‘you can’t love two people’ rule. I’ve decided it’s crap."

I grin. Of course he did. Thousands of years of societal movement toward monogamy mean nothing when Duo Maxwell makes up his mind.

"I love you both," he reaffirms. "I want to be with you both. Is that something you want?"

I’m silent for a moment. "When I was married to Relena, I was…I was jealous of you and Trowa," I tell him. "You were so…great together. Happy. Loving. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to be with you and Trowa - not you or Trowa. So I guess…I guess I’ve always wanted that."

He pulls away a little, so he can look down at my face. "Are you serious?" he demands.

I nod.

"You have feelings for Trowa?"

"You know how everyone always says I’m perfect?" I ask. "Well," I continue at his answering nod, "Trowa is exactly like I’ve always wanted to be. He’s much braver than me, he’s more focused, he’s…"

"Noone is more focused than you," Duo interrupts. He grins at me for a moment, then grows serious. "I know that’s how Trowa appears," he tells me seriously. "But the last few months have shown all of us, I think, that that’s not all there is to him. There’s more than…"

"I don’t just respect his soldier side," I interrupt. "He’s…I saw how he got the circus their permanent location. I…I know that he’s legal co-guardian of Mariemaya, with Une." I see the faint start as I reveal my knowledge of that very closely-guarded secret. Une wanted to ensure that, in the event of her own death, the girl would be taken care of, but didn’t want either Mariemaya or Trowa put in a hazardous or awkward situation if the word got out. Not a few people - Relena included - would be seriously ticked if they knew that Une had trusted Trowa over them with the care of one of the most important people in the world. But it had to be Trowa. Mariemaya herself, rather understandably, trusts almost noone. She loves Trowa, though.

I grin at a sudden memory. "I loved the time he told all the guests at one of Relena’s parties that she had made the croquettes, and was too modest to tell anyone, so they were all complimenting her on her ‘cook’ (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and she had no clue what they were all talking about. And…"

"Ok," Duo interrupts, laughing. "I just thought this might be the hard sell. I’m glad that…"

"Well, you said it," I interrupt. "In your letter. Not two parts to make the whole, but three. How could you feel that way, and I not feel the same?" I ask softly.

He smiles, and touches his lips briefly to mine.

"Now," he says briskly, settling back on the pillows. "Trowa is the most stubborn individual ever born. He’s convinced that two’s company, three’s a crowd, no exceptions. How do we talk to him, without him shutting down and refusing to listen?"

I feel a familiar glow of excitement as I settle back and begin to plot out a strategy with Duo.

Mission accepted.

The stakes are as high as they have ever been.

I will not fail.


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