Author: Bane's Desire
see chao. 1 for warnings, disclaimer

A Grudging Seduction: Chapter Nineteen
A New Dawn

Duo watched with his heart in his throat as Heero flew off to engage Zechs in Tallgeese.

"Work together!" Quatre shouted through the com, his frustration sounding loud and clear as he, Trowa and Wufei had gone out to wreak whatever havoc they could in breaking up the swarms of mobile dolls aiming for Peacemillion.

Deathscythe proved lethal in each and every swing of the scythe, bringing down one enemy suit after another. Then a faint, frantic voice called out to him. He recognized it instantly as Hilde's and wondered what in the hell she was doing out in the middle of a battle. He knew she'd been dishonorably discharged from OZ after she'd helped him at the moon base after escaping the transport ship. The last time he'd seen her she was safe and sound on L-2 adjusting back into civilian live.

Leaving his assigned task with a brief explanation to Quatre, Duo went after the girl, hoping he wouldn't be too late.

+

"Relena's on Libra," Duo said to Heero after he'd met the other pilot in the hallway as the medical team wheeled Hilde away. "Hilde risked her life to bring us the printout of the fortress," he reported sadly. "She told me that while she was there she found and talked to Relena Peacecraft. Her brother's in command of Libra and that she refuses to leave there without trying to talk him out of his plans for destroying Earth."

Heero nodded, and Duo could only wonder what was going on in his lover's head. "Whatever you decided to do," Duo said quietly. "I've got your promise."

Startled, the blue eyes shot open and looked into his own. "And I've got yours." Those words seemed to pass between them like a lover's caress whenever they chanced to see pass other in Peacemillion's corridors. Neither boy smiled as they continued to drink up the vision of the other with their eyes. The situation was too tense for any further emotional exchange or for either of them to pretend that everything was going to be alright. They both knew that their futures were uncertain in the days or even hours ahead. For now, the two could only try to memorize the face of his lover before they parted once again.

After several moments, Heero gave a curt nod, then turned on his heel and walked down the corridor towards the docking hangar, leaving Duo standingalone in the hallway watching his retreating form. Closing his eyes, the braided teen offered one of his rare prayers, asking for the safety of the boy he and the scientists had known along was the hope of the colonies.

Hacking through the inner corridors of the partially destroyed Libra had seemed a good idea at the time, but Duo knew they were running out of time before the enormous chunk of the former battleship would enter the Earth's atmosphere. If the monstrous, split-off section of that station metal hit Earth, he knew the consequence to the planet would be devastating, causing death and destruction that would affect the entire planet's population for decades to come. He shifted in his pilot chair, feeling waves of exhaustion deep within his muscles and bones, threatening to overwhelm him.

"Heero?" he called out, needing to know the other was still fighting.

"Get out, Duo. Remember your promise."

The braided teen swallowed down all his emotions and weariness and replied with a firm voice. "And you better remember yours."

Over the communications board, Duo could hear that Quatre and the Maguanacs were also struggling to exit the wreckage. Then Wufei's voice, which had been silent since his victory over Treize Kushrenada, cried out, "Heero, I've got your buster rifle."

Hope billowed within his chest, and Duo made an extra effort to get out of the falling deathtrap, wanting to see what Heero was going to do. He knew the power of the buster rifle could eliminate the hunk of junk if it was aimed correctly; and Heero's aim was seldom off. He broke free of the falling wreckage and moved quickly to distance himself from it as it began its entry into Earth's atmosphere. He moved closer to where Shenlong, Heavyarms and Sandrock had positioned themselves and floated close to each other, facing earthward.

Duo joined them and positioned Deathscythe so that he could watch the show. It was then that his eyes widened in fear and his heart felt like it would hammer out of his chest. "Heero," he whispered in a choked voice. Horrified, he watched as Wing Zero plummeted backwards towards earth, the back of the gundam radiating red from the heat of re-entry.

Slapping his hand on the communications board, he tried to raise his lover. "Heero!" he called out sharply. "Don't you dare. You gave me your word," he said, hoping beyond hope that the suicidal lunatic could hear him. Torn between anger and fear, he held his breath and watched as Heero made a last ditch effort to save the planet by raising his powerful beam cannon towards the falling mass of debris above him. It was obvious to everyone watching that Heero was having a difficult time controlling the backward descent of his gundam and locking his weapon system on the portion of Libra above him that was now also burning red from entering the atmosphere.

Grabbing up his crucifix, Duo clutched it in his hand and held it against his chest over his heart as he uttered a silent, desperate prayer, hoping for some kind of divine intervention on Heero's behalf because he was pretty damn sure it was going to take nothing short of a miracle to save not only Earth, but Heero also.

"Blast it, damn you. Shoot!" he shouted, only to see the bright burst of light at the tip of the buster rifle flare to life then rupture into a brilliant, straight line of power into the center of the falling debris. On impact, the chunk of the once mighty fortress shattered into pieces, the majority of which would easily burn up in the atmosphere.

Duo swallowed hard, his eyes unblinking as he stared at the viewing screen for some sign of Wing. His eyes began to water and he was quick to brush any moisture away to clear his vision with a grunt of irritation. And then he spotted it, a vague white dot shooting out of the top layer of the Earth's atmosphere. His relief was almost overwhelming, and vaguely heard the other pilots cheerfully commenting about Heero's unbelievable but welcomed survival. Duo managed a few similar words, but then cut off the communication board as he choked up. It was over. The war was over and they had all survived. He didn't exactly know what it was he was feeling at the moment. He felt too numb to be happy, too relieved to celebrate, and too exhausted to think about it.

Running both hands through the damp fringe of hair at the front of his face, he let everything sink in, that OZ and White Fang were defeated and the war was really over. With that idea settling into his brain there came the realization that along with the end of the war, his mission pertaining to his involvement with Heero was also over.

Burying his face in his hands he felt the overwhelming need to cry, but his motto had always been, 'boys don't cry', never mind he couldn't live up to that phrase. He'd cried plenty of times in his life. Still, he tried not to, it just didn't seem manly.

A beep sounded from his computer as new coordinates flashed on his display board. Heero was instructing all the pilots to meet on the nearest colony, L-4. He took a deep breath and struggled to compose his riotous emotions as he entered the information into the navigation computer and activated the auto pilot that would take Deathscythe to L-4 while he contemplated what he was going to do next.

As he approached the unfamiliar docking port, Duo came to the decision that once he and Heero were alone, he would make a confession to him about the mission. He would quickly add that somehow during said mission, he'd fallen in love with him, that Heero had become much more than an assignment and that he didn't want things between them to end.

Would Heero believe him after all the lies he'd told? Had he really lied? He asked himself. Maybe a little, in the beginning, but he'd been as truthful as he could be given the circumstances. He honestly didn't believe he was gay up to the day he'd accepted his mission, but maybe he'd been deluding himself. He hadn't been attracted to Heero in a sexual way before the mission order, but he had always been drawn to the stoic, handsome teenager who seemed to epitomize everything a gundam pilot should be. He'd admired Heero and his dedication before, but that certainly changed into something else once the Wing pilot had touched him, shown an interest in him, and definitely when his knees buckled after one of his intoxicating kisses.

He felt terrible, mentally and physically, as he neared the open port and took over the manual docking procedures to enter the colony. He realized that the unsettled feeling that was churning in his gut was fear. He was afraid of Heero rejecting him once he learned the truth. He hadn't gone into this mission with any intention of falling in love with Wing's pilot; he'd gone into it with the idea to stay straight and not become physically involved with his new friend. But his seemingly demented mission orders had led him to the best thing in his life, to a companionship he knew he'd not find in anyone else, to a level of trust he never imagined, to a love that was unexpected but so needed.

"Please understand, Heero," he whispered to himself, wishing for that result with all his heart.

Moments later, Deathscythe was locking into a port made for shuttles. Duo locked down the systems and removed the seat's restraints. He almost fell over as he pushed himself up from the pilot's chair to stand. His legs and arms were weak from the strain of battling for hours on end. His hand caught at the door and he paused to wait for the world around him to stop spinning. He needed some food and sleep, and not necessarily in that order.

With a push of a button, the cockpit door hissed as the seal was broken and the light and recycled air of the colony entered as the hatch lowered. Taking hold of the cable above the hatch, Duo hoped he had the strength to hang onto it as he made his descent to the hanger floor. As the cable began to lower, he surveyed his surroundings and noted the other gundams were lined up and fully secured in the docking bay. Wing was the first in line, obviously having arrived at the colony before the others. Next came Wufei's gundam, followed by Sandrock and Trowa's Heavyarms. It was to Sandrock that Duo's eyes went, seeing some movement coming from the open cockpit door.

Trowa was backing out of Sandrock's hatch, and as he turned to find the exiting cable, Duo saw that he was carrying Quatre in his arms. Even from the distance that separated him from his two friends, the American could see the dark stain of blood that covered the Arabian's exposed white t-shirt that they all wore under their flight suits. The blond's silky-haired head rested heavily against the taller teen's shoulder as Trowa struggled with the weight in his arms and the cable's footing.

"No way," Duo hissed to himself, fear for his friend giving him the adrenaline he needed to ignore his weariness and jump the rest of the distance to the hanger floor and run like the devil himself was after him to the bottom of the tall white gundam to offer his help.

Trowa's gaze was fixed on Quatre's pale face until he noticed movement below. He turned his head to see Duo standing at the foot of Sandrock, his face turned upward, looking anxious.

"What the hell happened?" Duo questioned, reaching his hands out to steady Trowa as the cable's foothold stopped a foot above the metal floor.

"Dorothy Catalonia was in the control room for the mobile dolls and challenged Quatre to a sword fight."

"Swords?" Duo asked, incredulous. "Since when to people fight with swords?"

"Evidently the aristocrats on Earth deem it a worthy pastime. Thanks," he acknowledged the supporting hand Duo had given him as he stepped down a bit awkwardly from the foot hold. He readjusted Quatre's limp body in his arms and began to walk towards the door labeled EXIT with Duo running alongside him. "Quatre knows how to fight with a sword, but he didn't want to injure the girl." His eyes narrowed slightly. "He even tried to get me to take her with me and leave him there. As if that would ever happen," he scoffed angrily.

"Sometimes Quatre's too kind for his own good," Duo said, observing with increased worry the lax and blanched face of the boy they were talking about as they hurried along.

The door exiting the hanger opened at their approach and the warmth of the colony and its light engulfed them. Suddenly, as if appearing from out of nowhere, a team of medical personnel and a gurney appeared.

"I radioed ahead," Trowa explained the presence of the medical support without looking away from Quatre as he gently placed the smaller pilot on the stretcher where he was immediately strapped in and wheeled away, even as the medical team began to assess their patient. Duo ran behind Trowa as he walked with long, hurried strides beside the gurney that was taking Quatre to the ambulance waiting outside the building. As the blond was being loaded into the emergency vehicle, Duo looked up around, scanning the area in search of Heero and Wufei. At first he didn't see them, but a commotion near the far door drew his attention towards it. A large group of people and reporters were gathering off to the side. As the crowd shifted, Duo saw two recognizable dark heads near the center and recognized the unmistakable head of long blond hair and the voice of Relena Peacecraft speaking above the murmur of the group surrounding them.

"Please, ladies and gentlemen, hold your questions and comments. The pilots are exhausted from the battle that has just concluded. I will confirm for you, however, that the rumors you've heard are indeed true. The war is over. Treize Kushrenada was killed in battle and OZ has conceded defeat. White Fang has been neutralized by the destruction of Libra. And less than an hour ago, the pilot of Wing Zero saved the plant Earth from certain devastation by destroying an enormous, broken-off section from that battleship, Libra. Negotiations between Earth and the colonies will begin immediately now that all hostilities have ceased. Now please, let me escort these pilots to a place where they can rest. I promise more information later."

Jealousy again reared its ugly head as Duo observed the scene and scowled at the fact that Relena must have rushed to Heero's gundam and gotten to him the moment he got out of the hatch. He had to hand it to her, she certainly knew how to use Heero's heroic act to further her own political aspirations. His resentment of her grew at her snagging Heero at such a momentous moment. After he'd been scared almost shitless, fearing he'd have to face a postwar era without the person who was of the greatest importance to him, he wanted to be reassured his lover was alright. He needed to touch and hold him. He sullenly realized that his so-called lover didn't seem to feel the same way because he hadn't even come to meet him as he docked. Upset at the way things were turning out and not wanting to make a scene or look insecure and needy, he went against his emotional judgement and turned to the more practical. He raced after his other two friends. Heero had Wufei guarding his back; he would be alright for the time being. With Quatre down and Trowa concentrating on him, Duo determined that they needed him more. He took upon himself the job to guard their backs until the five colony-born teens could regroup, then he would square things with Heero.

+

During the course of the two days that followed the final battle, he and Heero had somehow managed to miss each other in passing. Duo learned from Trowa, a constant at Quatre's side, that the other two pilots had shown up at the hospital six hours after their landing on L-4, twenty minutes after he had been led by Rashid to a nearby hotel where the Maguanac took the time before he left to check on his band of brothers to arrange for a room for the weary pilot to rest. After six hours of sleep, Duo had been woken by his aching and hollow stomach begging for food. He showered then left his room to go down to the hotel restaurant to get something to fill his cramping stomach. He learned later that while he'd slept, Heero had gone in search of Rashid, found him and obtained direction to the hotel and his room number. But upon his arrival, he found the unmade and bed empty. Feeling too tired from the day's events to keep looking without some hint of direction, Wing's pilot took advantage of the soft bed and decided to take a nap while he waited for Duo's return.

Not knowing at the time of their passing each other again and of Heero's presence in the hotel, Duo finished gorging himself, then took a slow walk back to the hospital to check on the status of his wounded friend. His disappointment at not seeing Heero there was eased somewhat by finding out that Quatre had regained consciousness and seemed to be on his way to recovering nicely from his surgery. Surrounded by a gaggle of fussing sisters, he managed a brief visit before his droopy-eyed and drugged friend drifted back to sleep. Quatre had weakly pleaded with him to take Trowa to his home so that he could rest properly. Of course, Trowa wasn't all that amenable to the suggestion, but with the older women dominating the currents of the recovery room, the idea became a little more appealing.

So it was a half hour after arriving that Duo literally pulled the semi-reluctant Heavyarms pilot out of the hospital. With the hastily scrawled directions to the Winner house in his hand, Duo shoved the nearly comatose pilot into a taxi and handed the slip of paper to the driver, requesting him to take them to the written address. It was almost comical to see the man's eyebrows disappear up to his hairline at seeing where he was driving his passengers.

It shouldn't have been surprising to find that Quatre's home was an enormous mansion, but its grandeur had the former street kid's eyes bulging. As always, Duo found himself awed by any such large domestic dwelling. The two climbed the steps to the front entry and rang the door bell. As Duo steadied Trowa as he began to sway, he explained to the tall, dark-skinned butler who had promptly and properly answered the door who they were and Quatre's instructions. The two gundam pilots were assured that they had been given word to expect them and they were promptly ushered up the grand staircase to one of the dozens of rooms they passed within the large, opulent home. Though they were offered separate rooms for their comfort, Duo insisted the two of them stay together, not knowing the specifics of this resting place or the many personnel that he'd seen tending to it.

The room itself was much like the rest of the house, elegant and decorated with expensive furniture and wall hangings. The large, king-size bed was inviting, but it was the promise of a warm, home-cooked meal that kept the two boys awake for longer than they thought possible.

Observing his comrade as they waited for the promised meal, Duo could see that Trowa was almost beyond exhausted and feeling unsettled in the unfamiliar surroundings as well as from being away from Quatre. By the shifting of the green, half-lidded eyes, he knew that if he didn't keep a close watch on him, the Heavyarms pilot would bolt back to the hospital and Quatre's side and would probably end up being hospitalized himself. Putting aside his own need to find Heero and to set things right between them, Duo knew he was needed right where he was. Quatre would rest better and heal faster knowing Trowa was being watched over as he rested. And Trowa, capable and stubborn as he was, needed to know that his back was being watched as he gave into his exhaustion and slept.

Duo talked to the taller boy in a gentle but firm manner, insisting he take a short, hot shower, telling him he would feel better for it.

Trowa reluctantly agreed and shuffled off to the bathroom. He remained behind the closed door for no more than ten minutes before he re-emerged, looking fresh, damp and more than ready for bed. Wrapped in a borrowed bathrobe, he sat half awake in one of the chairs in the bedroom and watched as Duo sat cross-legged on the bed, using the remote to change the channels on the television, looking for any news updates. A knock sounded on the door just as Trowa's head began to drop towards his chest as sleep came closer. A moment after the cart of food had been brought in and uncovered, Duo excused the household-staff person and then forced the hot, delicious meal on the sleepy young man. Duo's prodding to eat didn't stop until the braided teen was sure Trowa's appetite was sated, then the American promptly sent him to bed.

The exhausted Heavyarms pilot slept for ten hours without moving or even rolling over. Duo kept watch for an hour or so, then locked the door, put his gun under his pillow, then climbed up on the bed next to his friend and slept for six hours. He awoke feeling refreshed and spent the remainder of the next three hours silently pacing the room. He felt irritated by the fact that he'd had no word about Heero or Wufei. Added to his irritation was his hair. The band securing his braid had broken during his rest, leaving the long mass tangled and in messy disarray as it fell heavy against his back. He was anxious and feeling desperate with the need to leave and find Heero, to settle things with him. But he couldn't. To leave now would be shirking his duty to his other friends.

A light tapping on the door came as a relief to him, breaking up the monotony of listening to Trowa's gentle breathing while he paced. He went to the door expecting a member of the household staff on the other side, and opened it a crack to peer out. He was more than a little surprised to find Wufei on the other side.

Turning his head, he checked the person on the bed behind him and saw that Trowa was beginning to stir from the slight sound. So as to not disturb his friend further, he eased himself out of the room and shut the door quietly behind him. Turning to look into the Chinese boy's face, he smiled and noted that Wufei looked rested. "How are you?" he asked in a hushed voice.

"I'm well," the other replied. "How's Trowa?"

"It looks like he's finally waking up. He was pretty wiped out." Duo answered.

"Heero's been looking for you," Wufei said casually. "I understand we missed you at the hospital a couple of times and when he finally tracked you down at your hotel room, you gone. We found out from Quatre when he finally woke up an hour ago that you'd brought Trowa here to rest. We didn't know if you were still with him or not, so I offered to come and bring Trowa back to the hospital. Heero's checking your hotel room again." He gave Duo a slight, amused grin. "Quatre's beginning to get anxious at Trowa's long absence, and Heero at yours."

Duo nodded, a smile teasing his lips. "Let me get lazy bones up and fed, then we'll all go back together."

Wufei nodded, his eyes rising to the top of Duo's head. "You better fix your hair, it's a bit... mussed. Wouldn't want to look less than your best for Heero, would you?"

Duo, though surprised at the other pilot's teasing, gave his friend a playful warning look, then moved with lightening speed to snatch the hairband from off Wufei's pony tail. "I'll just borrow this, if ya don't mind," he chuckled and scampered back into the bedroom, leaving Wufei standing in the hallway with his hair falling loose over his shoulders and a forced scowl on his face that slowlygave way to a smile as the bedroom door closed behind the long-haired maniac.

+

The five pilots met up again at the hospital. Upon entering the room, Duo's eyes met with Heero's and the principal emotion they shared between them was longing. Their lingering gaze ended when Trowa voiced his pleasure that Quatre had some color back in his face. Duo moved across the room to stand at Heero's side. He quickly embraced him and felt a surge of relief in feeling Heero's arms holding him with just as much desperation. No words were able to be exchanged between them as the doctor arrived and began to tell the five of Quatre's progress and giving them the happy news that the prognosis for a full recovery was excellent. The five then took time to quietly celebrate their victory. The war was over and they'd somehow, miraculously survived. Trowa stayed close to Quatre's bedside, their hands occasionally touching. Heero remained close to Duo, their shoulders bumping occasionally and both of them sporadically reaching out to touch each other. Duo felt like his body was thrumming with happiness at being with his friends again, that they were all facing a future that had always been questionable, until now. Yet he was more aware of the boy that stood next to him and that he needed desperately to be alone with him and to talk about the past and present. He needed to confess his love and then his mission, hoping Heero would understand. The coming conversation filled him with both dread and anticipation. His future and his heart lay on the line at Heero's reaction to his confession.

After an hour of visiting with each other, the nurse came into the room with the intention of chasing the three visitors out, allowing Trowa alone to stay while the famous L-4 patient rested. The three comrades walked out of the back door of the hospital, having been told by the guarding Maguanacs of the growing numbers of members of the press at the front door and lobby. Someone had obviously leaked information that the Winner heir had been wounded and that the gundam pilots were visiting him. It wouldn't take more than a day or two for them to figure out that Quatre Winner, the prince of the colony, had been one of their number and then all hell would probably break loose.

The three boys, appearing to a passerby as relatively the same height and build and of reasonable good looks, managed to successfully escape the attention of the gathering press at the hospital's front doors and walked several blocks together in the direction of Duo's hotel.

"So where did you two disappear to after the last battle?" Duo asked as nonchalantly as possible. He was still somewhat irked that Relena had manipulated Heero again to her side.

"Relena met us at the gundams and warned us that the press was gathering like a pack of rabid dogs outside the terminal," Heero answered, his eyes shifting to Duo to gauge his reaction. "She said if we met with them, giving them a brief statement, that we would be able to escape them sooner than if we didn't."

Wufei snorted at that. "They weren't easy to appease. Though Relena handled them fairly easily, they wanted to know who we were and what colonies we came from. Like that would matter. We fought for all the colonies, not just our own."

"It took us a good hour to break away and we decided you three had made a clean escape from the madness. Relena ushered us into a taxi cab and took us to the home of a family she knew, offering us a chance to recoup from the media mess," Heero continued the narrative. "We were given food, a chance to shower, and then the phone to try to figure out where everyone else had gone. We finally reached Quatre's home and was told by one of his sisters that he was in the hospital."

"Unfortunately," Wufei spoke up. "L-4 has four hospitals and Quatre's admittance was withheld from the public at that time. We ended up going to each hospital and wandering through the hallways trying to find three gundam pilots. At least we found Quatre at the third and not the fourth one. But by that time you'd gone and there was no one there to tell us where Rashid had taken you."

Duo nodded, that explained a lot of the time that had separated himself and Heero. Wufei then looked at his watch, and casually announced, "I've got some business to attend to. I'll catch up with you later." He then turned and left his two comrades before either of them could protest or ask questions.

Duo looked at Heero and gave him a shy smile. They were alone at last and the time for his confession was at hand. "That was a bit obvious, but nice of him to bug off, wasn't it? Want to go to my room and talk?" he asked.

Heero nodded. "It seems like a respectable establishment," he said, the corners of his mouth twitching slightly.

"Rashid got me the room. I guess Quatre's paying."

Heero nodded. "Is it secure?"

"It was when I checked in, but I've been gone awhile. We can check it again when we get there." He then started to walk in the direction of the hotel with Heero matching his stride.

"So how did you escape Relena?" Duo asked, trying to mask his jealousy.

Heero snorted. "It wasn't easy. But I find dealing with her in a direct manner is very effective."

"What did you do?" Duo's curiosity was piqued as the approached the front doors of the hotel.

"She began to make plans for my future, offering me a lucrative job on her security staff back on earth and a fully-paid college education as an incentive."

Duo's eyes widened. "What did you say?"

Humor lit the deep blue eyes as he held the door open for the other boy. In a sexy, low voice he answered so that only Duo could hear. "I told her I'd have to ask my lover what he thought about it and that I'd get back to her."

Duo's bark of laughter caught the attention of everyone in the lobby of the hotel. "What did she say to that?" he asked, unable to stifle his laughter altogether.

"She sputtered a lot before she muttered something like, 'You do that.'"

Both of them sniggered at that as they continued into the large hotel, and became aware of the stares of other people in the lobby. It seemed that news traveled fast as to their identities. With their hands brushing against each other, Duo led the way to the elevator. As the doors closed behind them, Heero turned and pulled the braided teen into his arms giving him a kiss that bordered on desperate and an embrace that was almost crushing.

Duo was breathless when the ding sounded, alerting them that the car had stopped and the doors were about to open. They moved apart and watched as the doors parted as well. Duo led the way once again to the door of his room. The card was slipped into the slot and the door's lock clicked opened.

No sooner had he entered the room but Heero grabbed him from behind and propelled him to the bed. Duo laughed at his lover's antics as he was tossed playfully onto the mattress only to have Heero dive onto the top of him, their lips hungrily tasting each other's.

Duo knew he needed to stop before they went any further, but Heero's lips were magic, his touch bewitching, muddling his mind with passion and pushing aside his common sense. Before he knew it, both sets of clothes were off and their bodies were moving erotically against each other, their moans of pleasure mingled with their breath.

"I want you, Duo," Heero whispered against his lips. The braided teen knew exactly what Heero was asking for, a consummation of their relationship, a physical promise of a future. With the way he was feeling at the moment, Duo was ready to give everything to the boy who was teasing his body so perfectly. But guilt lay on his mind and brought him quickly to his senses. Putting his hands against Heero's chest, he gently pushed, forcing Heero to back away, a perplexed look on his face.

"Listen, Heero. Before we go any further, I need to talk to you. There's something I've gotta tell ya."

Heero gave him a lazy smile as his hands kept roving over the other boy's back and hip.

"I'm serious, Heero. There's something I need to tell you," Duo insisted, though his eyes closed and his body leaned into the tempting touch.

"I need to tell you something, too," Heero said, leaning forward to place a chaste kiss on the tip of Duo's nose.

"You do?" The braided teen asked, feeling and sounding a bit confused as he opened his eyes once again.

"Maybe I should go first," Heero offered. "I don't know that you're going to like what I have to say."

The words, spoken quietly, were like a bucket of cold water thrown over his aroused body. Duo pulled back further and looked into Heero's face as a feeling of foreboding grew between the two. He knew what he had to say to Heero might upset the other boy and that the only thing he didn't want to hear from Heero was that it was over between them. Unsure of himself and the situation, he looked into Heero's eyes to see they were guarded. "Go ahead, I'm listening," he said.

Heero nodded, then paused as if to consider his wording. "I have a confession to make," he began, his voice small as if he were ashamed of whatever was on his mind. "Do you remember the day at the cabin you showed me Deathscythe's cloaking system?"

Duo nodded, it was a day he'd never forget, the one that was a part of his confession.

"I received a message on my laptop of a transmission from Dr. J. I remember you were sleeping when I left the safehouse and went to Wing and opened the channel to receive my new mission orders." Heero paused, his eyes looked as if he were pleading for Duo to understand. "G was there also, and they had a long term mission for me."

Duo's body shot up from his reclined position on the bed to sit upright. His eyes were wide as his face lost all color and a look of horror came to it.

"They were concerned because you'd attempted to self destruct several times and that your continued existence was essential to winning the war," Heero continued, having risen to sit alongside the other dumbstruck teen. "I was told to seduce you, to get you to fall in love with me so that you'd have something to live for."

Duo jumped out of bed to stand naked and stunned next to it. Betrayed, hurt, and knowing he'd been manipulated not once, but twice by the two sick bastards made his stomach threaten to empty itself on the hotel's carpet. He wrapped his arms around his bare midriff in an attempt to hold himself together.

"Duo." Heero's voice and arms came around from the behind him in an attempt to hold him. Duo hadn't even been aware he'd gotten off the bed, and violently shook the other's arms from off his body.

"Don't touch me, Heero," he warned, his voice and expression were dark and threatening.

"Please, Duo, listen to me," Heero implored, looking miserable.

"I was a mission, right? You came onto me all those times just because I was a mission."

Heero was surprised there wasn't as much accusation in Duo's tone than there was the hint of a need for confirmation. He stepped closer, but kept his arms at his side, his nudity not an issue. "I accepted the mission, Duo, but you were never just a mission to me." The long-haired boy looked up at the him with pained, liquid eyes and Heero could see his own expression, looking unsure and upset, in their reflection. "I have always been drawn to you Duo. When we first met, I did everything I could to find out who you were. I even asked G for information."

Duo nodded, he'd heard that much from the crazy coot when he'd received his mission regarding Heero. Some of the hurt and shock he'd felt diminished slightly at Heero's admission. Maybe the two old men hadn't lied in order to manipulate their two pilots.

"But I couldn't show you how I felt, that I really liked you and wanted to get to know you better, to have a closer relationship with you. I had been trained to believe that my personal feelings and needs weren't important unless they pertained to my physical health; they weren't a part of the war," he confessed in a quiet voice. "So I ignored my previous growing curiosity and desire for you in order to focus on my missions. Early in the war," he continued in a calm voice, "when we had teamed together on missions, it was obvious to me that we worked well together. But we were only teammates, comrades with a common goal. Regardless of my training, I decided to learn how to be your friend. Then you started touching me, without seeking permission or for any reasonable cause. I wondered if maybe you felt something for me, and that gave me hope. I thought at that time that maybe I could be content with just friendship between us, but secretly I'd hoped for more. Then I received the mission from Dr. J while we stayed at that cabin, and I was... elated. It gave me permission to do something I'd wanted to for so long, but hadn't been allowed to have because of my former restrictions. I remember that night, Duo." Heero reached up and pushed some of the hair hanging over the other boy's solemn face away from his eyes. "I remember you touched me like this, and we talked. It was the start, wasn't it?"

He waited until Duo gave him a nod of his head, showing that he remembered that particular moment too before he continued. "Then you were captured and injured during the next mission." The eyebrows above the deep blue eyes pinched together, the memory was obviously an unhappy one for him. "Even with your injuries, we managed to get out of there and, after I'd been shot, you risked your own health for my safety by protecting me with your own body when the motorcycle crashed," Heero paused to brush the fair cheek under his fingertips. "Did I ever thank you for that?" he asked. As Duo's head tilted to rest his face against his open palm, Heero continued. "When I woke up and learned from Wufei what you had done, I think that was the moment I finally understood what it felt like to care for someone enough to risk your life for them."

Duo lifted his hand and put his fingers to Heero's lips, not needing to hear any more. His own heart was beating rapidly now that it was his time to make a similar confession. "Heero, that day at the cabin, I also received a mission, identical to yours. I was instructed to seduce you, bind you to me so that you would have a reason to live." He paused for a moment, watching as Heero's eyes widened with surprise and his jaw dropped open. He hurried on before he could be interrupted. "Dr. J said he'd made an error in your training. That telling you to ignore your feelings and not forming attachments made it easy for you to hit the self destruct button. He believed that you were the hope of the colonies, that you would win the war, so you had to survive to see the end of it." Duo shook his head, a sad expression on his handsome face. "Damn if the bastard wasn't right. You did save the Earth and brought about an end to the war."

"I didn't do it myself, Duo," Heero said, frowning.

Duo shrugged, not wanting to get sidetracked. "I didn't want to accept the mission. In fact, I was pretty damn upset at them for even suggesting it. But Dr. J said I was the only person who had a chance of accomplishing the task because you showed some sort of fascination for me. The two mad men decided that your not-too-subtle curiosity about me could be used as a reason for you to quit self-destructing. I guess they were right. Shit, I never dreamed they'd give you the same order."

"Then you only responded to me because you were ordered to? You weren't attracted to me at all?" Heero asked, sounding and looking hurt and unsure of himself.

"I didn't lie to you, Heero, when I said I'd never been with a guy before," Duo rushed to try and explain. "I honestly believed I was straight, that is, I did until the moment you touched and kissed me in the shower, then everything began to change. I tried to deny my feelings and my body's reactions to you. I couldn't understand at first why I enjoyed your kisses so much and got turned on by your touch." Duo put his hand to his head and rubbed at his temple where a headache was beginning to form. "I was so damned confused about what was happening to me. I tried to tell myself that I was only following orders, giving you friendship and affection in order to complete the mission, giving you something worth living for while trying to remain at arm's length." He sighed then. "But somewhere along the line it all changed."

Heero moved away from Duo to sit dejectedly on the edge of the bed, his skin beginning to tighten from the chill of the air-conditioner and goose bumps formed all over his body as their recent passion cooled with the revelation of their twin missions. "So we were both manipulated into a relationship," he said, looking dazed and suddenly fearful of what the disclosures would mean to them. "Why would they do that to us?"

Duo's eyes turned to Heero and his heart constricted. He couldn't bear to see his lover so dispirited. He sighed and moved to sit on the bed next to him. He pulled the top blanket from off the bed and threw it around both of their bare backs and shoulders. "If those two aren't already dead, I'm going kill them, slowly and with a lot of pain," he said.

Heero remained contemplative and silent, no further comment coming from him, which made Duo nervous. "Are you alright, Heero?"

The other boy nodded, then sighed as his eyes remained focused on the floor. "I don't like that we've been manipulated into a relationship, but I feel strangely... grateful to them." His deep blue eyes rose to meet Duo's concerned gaze before they quickly dropped again. "Maybe they really believed we needed each other, that both of us would have a better chance of surviving the war if he developed true feelings for each other. I know that without the thought of you being here for me after the war, I might not have pushed so hard to make it."

It was Duo's turn to go silent, his eyes open but unseeing, leaving Heero unsure of what the American was thinking, so he continued. "Dr. J knew me very well. He'd trained me to be what he needed. He understood that I wouldn't have acted on my own to form a relationship with you, but that doesn't mean I didn't want you, Duo. I may have taken some predetermined actions to gain your attention and to try and make you desire me, but I can't say I'm sorry." His face and voice became soft as he continued. "I'm not sure what I'm feeling is love, but I do know that I've never felt for anyone what I feel for you. I don't want to be without you. I know I need you, that you... make me feel calm and excited at the same time. You make me want to be a better man. Do you think that's love, Duo?" Having asked the question that had been on his mind for so long, Heero then cautiously looked askance from out of the sides of his eyes to the boy sitting next to him to gauge his reaction. Seeing Duo looking at him wide-eyed, he added. "I was afraid to tell you about the mission, afraid that you'd be so angry that you would kick me out of your life. But I knew that if we were going to have any kind of a relationship after the war, that I had to tell you the truth. I want things to be right between us because I do want there to be an us, Duo, regardless of how we got together."

With his shock and resentment at Heero's confession diminishing, any anger Duo had felt followed. His instinctively reached out for the other boy; his heart was already residing in Heero's hands. "I fell in love with you, Heero," he stated in an emotional voice. "I didn't understand it at first. I denied it and tried to fight it, but I slowly came to the realization that I need you, that I want to be with you in every way, Heero. When I thought you might die during the last battle, I... I couldn't imagine how I could go on living without you if you weren't in my world, in my life. I know what I feel for you is love, and if you don't mind my saying so, I think it's what you're feeling for me too."

Heero felt a flood of relief course through him, and with a deep, relieved sigh, he turned his body so he could pull a very willing Duo into his arms and held him fast against his chest. "Are we okay?" he asked in a shaky voice, the uncertainty that had been there earlier was still present. "Can we get past this and try to make a life together now that the war is over?"

Duo's own arms were wound around Heero, his fingers clinging to the blanket that was barely covering the other boy's back. Heero's feelings for him were being reaffirmed by the simple embrace and his humble words. "I don't think I can make a life without you, Heero. I really believe that if this is something we both want and if we work hard at it and not quit when times get tough, we'll make it work. Is that what you want, too?"

"Yes," Heero answered, sounding convinced in his decision.

The two teenage warriors continued to hold each other for a long time, drawing reassurance, support and comfort from the contact. Chilled by the low temperature in the room and their lack of clothing, they soon returned to the bed and pulled all the covers up and over them. For hours they lay in a tangle of arms and legs while they talked about the past and the future that stood before them like an open doorway, where they were poised upon the threshold of a new life that they were willing to step into together.

They made plans for the next few weeks, agreeing to hide their gundams, avoid the press and Relena, find jobs and share an apartment, a bed, and a life together. As for their relationship, they would take it a day at a time. For the moment, they temporarily tucked away the passion that had propelled them into the room earlier, choosing to save it for another time when things felt more settled. It was the kiss they shared just before falling asleep that sealed their futures together, speaking more clearly of the strength of their devotion to each other than any further words could express. A new day had always held the element of the unknown to the two teenage pilots and lovers and, for the first time in a very long time, the coming new dawn was something they were both looking forward to.

Finished

[ch. 18] [back to Singles a - k]