NOTE: see part 1 for notes, warnings
AUTHOR: shira

Papillion + Part 19

Two days later there was a knock at Duo's door.

"Hey! Come on in!" The injured agent had undergone surgery to place a pin and some screws into his broken leg bone. Now clad in a cast that stretched all the way to the top of his right thigh, he lie in the hospital bed reading a magazine, trying to keep himself from being bored out of his mind.

"Brought you something." Heero handed over a mocha latte with whipped cream and shaved chocolate from the coffee bar next door to the hospital cafeteria in the lobby.

"Oh man! Have I been salivating for one of those!" Duo carefully took the hot cup from his partner as Heero sat in the chair beside the bed. "I couldn't convince the nurses to bring me one with dinner last night." He laughed.

"Going home tomorrow?"

"Yup! I'm outa here! Lots of good drugs in me so, I ain't feelin' a thing!" He knocked lightly on his cast, smiling.

"Good, good." Heero searched Duo's eyes, looking for that little something that he'd thought he'd seen before. That little something that had him guessing and completely confused.

Duo blushed, then forced a conversation. "So, Sally came by earlier. Said you guys did a bang-up job with everything."

"So did you," Heero said, leaning back in the uncomfortable chair.

"Heh, yeah. All I did was manage to nearly get myself killed."

"You got all your men out safely, too. Even Daniels. He owes his life to you, for sending him out the way you did." His eyes glowing brilliantly, Heero caught Duo's bashful look.

"It was nothing. I was just doing what anyone else would have done."

The two partners were quiet now, each reliving their own memory of the raid.

"You know, Heero...Thanks."

"Just doing what anyone else would have done."

His face reddening some, Duo paused. "I know you were but...I was scared there for a little while. Not so much because I could have died there but, because..." His voice drifted off and they just looked at each other, exchanging silent dialogue. I was afraid because I didn't want to have to face the fact that I meant nothing to you. "How's your headache?"

Heero smirked, acknowledging the deliberate change of subject. "Better. I slept all day after we got back, while you were in here having your surgery. I stopped by after you were out, but you were still asleep."

"Hey, thanks man. At least you got some rest, though. I'm sure you needed it." Duo sipped carefully on his latte, managing not to burn his tongue for once. He wouldn't have felt it for long if he had though, with all the strong pain killers that were coursing through his system.

"Yeah."

For a few more moments, awkward silence.

"So how long are you stuck in this contraption," Heero asked, referring to the cast covering Duo's entire left leg, his ankle and half of his foot.

"Eight long weeks, because it was such a big bone that was broken."

"Damn."

Duo chuckled. "Hey, at least I didn't have to leave the leg behind with the boot!"

"Well, I'm glad to see you in such good spirits, considering."

Smiling, Duo's expression turned sort of goofy. "Yeah, I guess I am in good spirits, aren't I?"

Heero smiled back.

"You know...I was thinking while I was lying here."

What about?

"Well," Duo said. "You see this." He pointed to his large, cumbersome cast.

"Yeah?"

"Well, I can't drive, I'm not going to be able to easily get around for a while, and I won't be back to work the whole time, because I need to be off my feet, they say."

"OK." Heero's stomach twinged. He had a feeling he knew what was coming next.

"Is there any way you'd consider...coming to stay at my place until I get out of this thing? You know...to help me out a little?" Duo blushed, then started blabbering. "I mean, if you don't think you have the time, or you wouldn't feel comfortable I can underst..."

"Sure."

Duo stopped, mid-sentence. "What?"

"I said yes. I'll come and live with you to help you out."

He used the word ' live.' "Really?"

"Yes. I said yes." Duo's face showed relief and happiness, and the brightness in him made Heero quiver again. His heart pounding in his chest, he didn't really know what it was that was developing between them, but if Duo had an idea, then he was at least willing to go along for the ride to see what happened. "I'm warning you now, though. I haven't learned how to cook anything besides oatmeal and canned soup yet."

"That's OK. We can order out," Duo teased. "You're sure it's no bother then? I mean, what with work and everything."

"It's no bother, Duo. Really. Really. It will be good for me to be separate from Relena for a while anyway."

"Oh yeah. Forgot about that little detail." Duo smirked. "She isn't going to be happy about this, you realize."

"She may not, but... I will be."

There was a flicker in his partner's eye that Duo caught this time, and it was unmistakable. Duo's face relaxed as thoughts flew through his mind. Then pinning his friend with his heavy gaze, the longhaired man's lips rose into a crooked, wistful little smile. "Heero..." Heero's elusiveness was turning him the hell on.

"Yeah?"

Duo's face reddened. Heero's did too. "I...I need to tell you something. Something that's been on my mind for a while. I suppose now is as good a time as any, since you're talking about staying with me for two months or however long."

"However long?"

"Well, you were saying you were thinking of moving out of Relena's place. I mean, I certainly won't tell you to leave once I get the cast off, not if you'd rather stay that is. Then again, after two months of me in a cast, you might very well be so sick of me that you'll be thanking God you could leave," Duo rambled on, his words rushing, his eyes shifting, his discomfort at that moment making it impossible for him to look Heero in the eye.

"But I could stay if I wanted to, is what you're saying, right?" Heero looked up, his expression bright.

"Absolutely. You're my best buddy, man. Unless we try to kill each other, my place is as good as yours. You have to pay half the rent, of course, but we could work those details out later, after the cast comes off, ya know? Since you'd be doing me the favor, first and foremost."

Heero nodded. His stomach was on a flying trapeze now as the two of them talked about the future so vaguely that neither could confirm anything, yet at the same time he suspected that they each knew exactly what the other was saying. "Duo, I..."

"Let me finish, because I don't know when I'm going to have the courage to say this to you again."

Heero waited. "Go ahead."

"When I was stuck under that beam, when I thought that ol' shinigami had finally come for me, I wasn't afraid, Heero. I was angry. I was upset."

"Angry? At who?"

"At you, first." Heero's expression questioned Duo's comment. "I was first angry at you, Heero, and then I was angry at myself. Know why?" Duo swallowed hard. "I was angry at you because I lay there thinking that I was going to be turned into smithereens along with the rest of the Lunar base, and that would be that. I was angry because I wanted you to, no, I needed you to come back for me."

"I did."

"I know you did Heero, but this is what was going on in my head before you did. I was cursing you, convincing myself that you hadn't changed any, and that I was no more important to you than any little bothersome factiod that would interfere with the success of the mission. I just felt like...like you were going to dismiss me off as careless, or just another one of those expected casualties."

Stunned, Heero was quiet for a few minutes, staring into Duo's eyes, which were now a little moist. "I...Duo, I..."

"I know, Heero. It was unfair of me to say those things about you. I guess the thought that I was going to die there really got to me. Anyplace but there, ya know what I mean."

Heero nodded. He knew exactly what he meant.

"But yeah, it was unfair of me, because you have changed. I can see it."

"I came for you the first time too, if you remember."

"I know you did, buddy. And the time before that, if you count Barouji. And I'm still grateful for that one too. Seems I just don't have any luck with Oz bases -- they seem to have ways of trying to make me stay." They shared a brief chuckle. "Good riddance to the Lunar base, if you ask me. But remember, you came for me the first time at Barouji to kill me, you bastard!" More light laughter. "I just figured each time after that you'd eventually get tired of having to rescue my ass and just blow me away to not have to do it again!"

"But I didn't now, did I."

"No, you didn't. I have no idea why you didn't, considering the frame of mind you were in those days..."

I know why I didn't, now. I didn't know then, but I know now.

"...but thanks for not blowing me away, OK? And for finding me those umpteen times."

"You're welcome." Heero blushed, turning his head away briefly.

Clearing his throat, Duo began again. "I said I was angry at myself, too, and the reason for that was because I thought I was going to die with a secret that shouldn't be a secret anymore, and...I just feel like I need to tell you about it, Heero."

"OK," Heero said as the butterflies on his trapeze turned into bats in his belfry.

Duo sighed. "God, I don't know how to tell you this."

"You don't have to," the Japanese man said with warmth and recognition in his eyes.

"I do, though."

"Alright."

Taking a deep breath as if he were preparing to deliver a speech to the Nation's leaders, Duo said "Heero, the reason I've spent so much time being angry -- both at you and at me -- is because I've realized some things about myself, and for a while it didn't look like I was going to be able to find what I was looking for in life."

"Like...what?" Heero readjusted in his chair now, his clothing suddenly feeling too warm for him as his skin broke a light sweat.

"You asked me once about Hilde, and why we weren't together, and I told you that she just didn't 'do it' for me."

"OK."

"Well, that wasn't it, entirely. It wasn't that she didn't 'do it' for me, Heero, it was...well, it just didn't feel right to me. Being with her. It was...it was...cold."

"Had you slept with her?"

"Yes. And while I don't regret it...something inside me all this time has just been nagging away that she was not the direction I needed to go in. That's why..." he trailed off.

"Why what?"

"That's why I was so damn pissed off at you when you took off, Heero. Because..."

Oh God, he's going to say it, confirming everything.

"...when you went away without telling anyone, you unknowingly took that part of me away with you, someplace that I had no idea where to search for it."

"I... what?" Heero asked, surprised. When he put two and two together, he suddenly came up with ten. "You mean the entire year I was gone..."

"The entire year you were gone I was praying I'd have the chance to see you again, Heero, even if it were only to set myself straight. Or not straight, as the case may be." They got a good, nervous laugh out of that one. "That's why I was so angry at you when you came back. That's why I was such a bastard, Heero -- because the whole time you were gone, I was missing you way more than you could ever imagine. So much that it hurt, Heero. So the other day, when I thought I was going to screw myself out of what I wanted yet again, but then you showed up after all, I decided that I had to say something." Now deep violet eyes bore down on Heero's vibrant blue, despite their uneasiness.

"I, Duo..." Oh God. I feel like I need to be sick. Maybe that's what he's been talking about all this time?

Neither of them able to form a sentence, they just stared at each other. Duo forced himself not to break eye contact, though his body was in an uproar. Please Heero...at least say something. Even if I was all wrong to ever think this way about you. Let me know where I stand?

Heero's face became ablaze with the awkwardness he was feeling. "I...I don't know what to say."

"How about telling me how you feel about this. If it offends you, I need to know." Duo's voice was still and hushed, laced with the apprehension of knowing that he needed to know this, but feeling that he really didn't want to have to face the possibility that he'd be out of luck.

Checking his watch since he still had an appointment yet with Sally that afternoon, a skittish smile flickered across Heero's face. "I have to go now, but what time should I be here to pick you up tomorrow?"

"Huh," Duo said, surprised if not a little disappointed. "They said I can go at ten."

"Great. I'll be by at ten to get you then. We can get take-out for lunch on the way back, so I can get you home and settled in alright." The weird little smile was still there.

Confused, Duo nodded. His mind was going at full speed, wondering what Heero was thinking, but he didn't want to push the issue any longer for fear of the truth. So instead, he smiled back warily, without saying a word. Looked like they were back to ' Hurry up and wait.'

+

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