Illusions of Love + Part 2 (cont)

"I felt that way about the Tallgeese," Zechs confessed and stepped a little closer to his guest. "It was the first time I felt challenged as a pilot."

"Hmm," Duo responded with a little nod. He knew that Zechs had been a career military man, but he did not know what that was like. "How did it feel to take orders and give orders?" Duo asked as he turned to face the man fully.

"Giving orders is far more satisfying," Zechs admitted with a small smile. "But when you believe in your superior and your cause it can be just as satisfying to take orders. To do your duty." He raised his chin and straightened his shoulders at that last statement.

"You took orders from Treize?"

"That's right, but our friendship and our association ended before I went to outer space. We had been very close, but in the last couple of years drifted apart. It was impossible to maintain what we had when things turned political. Politics and the military do not mix."

Duo thought the words, but more so the tone in Zechs's voice seemed to imply that he and Treize had been more than friends. That however, was for another conversation, and another lifetime, since Duo was only going to be here a couple of hours.

"I digress. It was not my intention to expound on my time with OZ."

"Right, you wanna know about me."

"Yes, I would. But first, may I offer you anything to drink? I could open a bottle of wine."

"Wine, huh? Is it non-alcoholic?"

"No, I'm afraid not. Would you care for some sparkling water instead?"

"No, the wine would be great. Quatre never let us drink anything alcoholic at his place," Duo said, and then suddenly blushed. This was the first truly personal thing he had revealed about himself or any of the Gundam pilots and it seemed somehow wrong.

Zechs found the blush totally disarming. He had never expected a former Gundam pilot to be so easily flustered. "I'll get the wine," he said, trying to give the impression that he had not noticed the rosy cheeks. "Please make yourself comfortable in the living room."

Duo walked over to a grouping of furniture. The decor was all in creams and whites and looked very expensive. Several wide upholstered chairs and a deep, cushioned sofa were placed around a low glass table. On the table sat a crystal bowl with a white flower blossom floating in water, and behind the sofa on the wall hung a tapestry also in creams and whites. The neutral colors were soothing, but Duo suspected the precise arrangement of the furniture and simplicity of the decor spoke of a man who liked order and control in his life. Or wanted to get that control back.

When Zechs returned with the opened bottle and two wine glasses, Duo had yet to choose a place to sit. Zechs grinned internally, realizing that the young man was being cautious. He poured the white wine and handed a glass to Duo.

"Thanks," Duo said and held it up to his nose, but did not take a drink.

Zechs sat down in one of the chairs and crossed his legs. "Please," he said, gesturing to all the choices.

Duo finally sat down at the farthest end of the sofa. He felt out of place here among such finery. Even Zechs was dressed impeccably in a navy suit with a crisp white shirt. Duo was dressed as he always dressed--in black jeans, a plain white t-shirt, black jacket and boots. "So," he said, holding the glass in both hands, worried that he might drop it. "What would you like to know?"

A smile curved Zechs's lips. "I'm not sure. When I said I wanted to get to know a Gundam pilot, I thought that meant I wanted to learn more about the Gundams and the pilots' battle techniques... but now I think I'd rather hear about Duo Maxwell."

"Huh?" Duo asked, his eyes widening.

"The Gundams were effective because of their pilots, and from what I've seen, you're all very different. I'd be doing us both a disservice to ask you to talk about battles and Gundam capabilities."

"Okay, it's your party," Duo said, shrugging.

Zechs took a sip of his wine and leaned back in his chair. "Tell me why you're here in Boston? I seem to recall you're not originally from Earth and I don't believe any of your former colleagues are in the vicinity."

"You get right to the heart of things, don't you?" Duo asked, sighing.

"Oh, have I stumbled onto something I shouldn't have?"

"Nah, it doesn't matter," Duo said, realizing it would probably do him good to talk about it. "I'm here to be as far away from Heero as I possibly can... without having to go back to outer space."

"You're talking about Heero Yuy, the pilot of zero one?"

"You got it."

"And why would the pilot of zero two, pardon me, Deathscythe, be running from the pilot of Wing?"

"Let's just say things got a little complicated." The boy finally took a sip of his wine.

"You were lovers," Zechs said, perceptively.

"Right again," Duo said, this time taking a good swig of the wine. "Wow, that's good stuff."

"Thank you," Zechs nodded, then narrowed his eyes on the young man. So, Duo Maxwell and Heero Yuy had been lovers. This was far more interesting than he had expected. "Were you lovers during the war?" he persisted.

"Yeah, that's when it started, but there wasn't a lot of time for that sort of thing. If you know what I mean?"

"I fought Heero several times. He was the best pilot I had ever come up against. Quite a challenge."

"Yeah, I'll say he's a challenge," Duo chuckled and took another big swallow of wine.

Zechs was about to tell Duo to slow down on the wine, but he decided it was not his place.

The wine tasted good and eased Duo's discomfort of being here with Zechs. He still did not know why Zechs wanted to talk to him, but he was finding that it really did not matter. It felt good sharing a little of what had happened between him and Heero. He had not spoken of it to anyone since that last day in Arabia.

"Heero wanted to kill you, you know," Duo said, setting the glass down on the table.

Zechs bowed his head, remembering his last battle. "He had his chance on Libra."

"But he didn't kill you. So what happened?"

"Didn't he tell you?" Zechs asked, looking up through his long bangs.

Duo shook his head. "Nah, he didn't want to relive all that. He said the war was over and we should leave it in the past."

"He's a wise man," Zechs said, sipping his wine. As he set the glass on the table he decided to open up more to Duo, that it felt good sitting here, talking to each other. "He told me Relena would be sad if he killed me. That's why he spared my life."

"But Relena doesn't even know you're alive. No one knows..."

"She thinks as everyone else does, that I died on the Libra, but at least she does not think that her friend killed me. Heero is too pure and too kind to burden my dear little sister in that way. Unlike me, he has a strong heart and has made the right decisions."

Duo's brow knit as he listened to Zechs. Obviously fighting Heero had given Zechs an insight into the other boy. It made Duo uncomfortable to hear of Heero's connection with Relena once again and how that connection had kept the pilot of Wing Gundam from killing his enemy.

He turned his face away.

"What is it?" Zechs asked, concerned. "Did I say something to offend you?"

The boy swallowed hard and clamped down on his unhappiness before looking back at Zechs. "You do have a way of getting to the heart of things," he said, repeating the statement from earlier and forcing a little grin.

"Heero still has a connection to Relena," Zechs surmised, and then leaned forward adding, "You're still in love with him."

Duo closed his eyes briefly and sighed. "Yeah, I'm cursed. It's been four months since it ended and I still feel the same."

"Give it time. I know what it means to end a loving relationship. You never completely get over it, but it does get easier."

The warm advice surprised Duo. "You know, you make a lot of sense for a guy who supposedly made all the wrong choices."

Zechs chuckled. "I'll take that as a compliment."

"Good, because I meant it as one," Duo said with a smile.

For the next couple of hours, the two young men spoke of anything but lost lovers. Duo told of his growing up on L2, of living on the streets and then his time at the Maxwell Orphanage. He was honest and open about the tragedies he had witnessed and in turn Zechs shared something of himself, telling of how his parents were murdered by the Alliance.

It was close to midnight when Duo first started to yawn. "I guess I'd better be going," he said, standing and stretching his arms over his head. "I've got deliveries to make for Mr. Brentwood in the morning."

A flash of light from outside turned their attention toward the window. They had been so engrossed with their conversation, and finishing off the bottle of wine, that they had forgotten about the storm outside. And by now, it truly was a storm.

"It's not safe for you to drive home," Zechs said as he stood. "You can stay here the night."

Duo looked with wide eyes at the tall man. "Oh, I couldn't do that."

"As you can see I have room to spare. You may sleep on the sofa."

The boy looked down at the couch. It was quite large and comfortable, and Zechs was right, he should not ride his motorcycle home in a downpour. "Okay, why not?" Duo asked with a shrug.

"Good. I'll get you a pillow and a blanket. I won't be a moment."

Zechs cleared away their glasses and the empty wine bottle and was gone less than a minute. When he returned he set the pillow and blanket on the sofa.

"The bathroom is down the hall on the left," he said, pointing in the direction from which he had come. "What time do you need to be up?"

"Oh, I'm sure I'll be out of here before you're awake," Duo said, laughing, and hoping to God he would not have to face Zechs in the morning. Just staying here the night was awkward enough.

"That's fine," Zechs said with a little grin. He turned to leave, but then stopped and looked back at Duo. "Thank you. It was good talking."

"Yeah, I thought it was all right, too," Duo agreed.

"Good night, Duo Maxwell."

"Yeah, good night."

Duo waited until Zechs had retreated down the hall to his room before padding off to the bathroom to relieve himself. He then returned to the living room, switched off the lights, and took off his boots, jeans and jacket, and piled them on the floor next to the sofa. He removed his gun from his coat pocket and tucked it under the pillow, and then plopped down on the sofa with the blanket over him.

A couple of hours later, Zechs emerged from his room. He could not sleep. His conversation with Duo had his mind racing with memories of the war. Frustrated with lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, he got up and put on his silk robe and slipped quietly into the kitchen for something to drink.

As he stood in the middle of the dark room, drinking a mixture of pineapple juice and sparkling water, he reflected on his evening with the former Gundam pilot. Despite Duo's initial nervousness that the wine seemed to alleviate, the evening had been a success. But Zechs now regretted they had not made plans to further their acquaintance. That fact stung all the more when he got the notion to look in on his little guest before returning to his bedroom.

To his wonderment, Zechs found Duo sprawled on the couch sound asleep. The boy was the picture of sweet innocence. His long, chestnut braid trailed behind him and onto the floor. He lay curled on his side, blatantly displaying a lovely, round little ass in bikini underwear.

Zechs swallowed at the sight. Duo Maxwell was quite the beauty, but this was not the first he had noticed it. That evening as they had talked, Zechs had found himself transfixed by the boy's animated personality and large, blue eyes. His diminutive guest's good looks had more than once distracted him from their conversation. And now, to find that Duo had kicked the blanket down to his feet, exposing his bare legs to the coolness of the room, Zechs felt the urge to touch him. His fingers twitched at his side as he imagined pulling the blanket up over Duo and in the process brushing the length of those slender legs with his hands.

The surge of desire surprised Zechs, and when Duo's leg twitched, it sent the man quickly from the room. He should not have intruded on the boy's privacy.

+

The next day at the coffee shop, Duo reflected on his evening with Zechs. Had he really shared a bottle of wine with Zechs Merquise, his former enemy and the man Heero had sworn to kill? It all seemed a bit surreal now as he blended another specialty drink for a waiting customer.

The machine was acting up again, but that was no surprise. It was the middle of their late afternoon rush and the damn thing never faltered unless there was a line half way out the door. Duo banged its side and it sputtered to full power again. When things slowed down, he would take it apart.

"You're not gonna believe this," Rikk whispered into his ear, giving him a nudge.

"What?" Duo asked, his mind on getting the drink made.

"The Ice Man cometh..."

That got Duo's attention. He twisted around nearly spilling the drink, to see Zechs standing at the end of the line.

"Damn, he looks good today," Rikk said, admiring the long fall of platinum hair and the silvery gray suit he wore.

"Yeah," Duo said, and nodded to Zechs as he looked his way.

For some reason, seeing Zechs again made Duo's heart beat a little faster. Duo guessed that it was because the man still made him nervous and that he still could not trust him. Their conversation had been pleasant enough, but Duo had not expected to see Zechs again... ever.

When it was Zechs's turn at the counter, he leaned over and smiled at Duo. "You were gone this morning when I got up," he said.

Duo's co-workers all stopped what they were doing and stared with wide eyes and perked ears.

"I slept on the couch," Duo said, rolling his eyes at their filthy minds.

Rikk and a couple of the girls chuckled and then busied themselves with their orders once again.

"Black coffee?" Duo asked Zechs, impatiently.

"Hmm, I seem to recall that you are quite good at guessing people's drinks."

"And yours is black coffee," Duo said, flatly.

Zechs noticed the boy's change in attitude, but did not let it stop him. "I'd like you to fix me something special," Zechs said, his voice dropping into a sultry range.

Duo swallowed. Was Zechs hitting on him or just being playful now that they were better acquainted?

"Sure. Have a seat and I'll bring it to you," he said, and turned away from the counter.

Duo poured some coffee into a metal container and then proceeded to add his special touches. At the blender, he kept his head down watching the progress of the foam, but now and again looked up through his heavy bangs. Zechs was seated facing the counter. Duo ducked his head again. He could not understand why the man was here. Of course, he had every right to be here, but Duo had assumed that once they had talked that would be it, they would stay out of each other's way.

Rikk grabbed him by the waistband as they switched places at the blender. "You didn't tell me you shagged ol' blondie."

"I haven't shagged anyone," Duo said, his tone edged with embarrassment and anger.

"Then what's up? I doubt the Ice Man took you up to his place just to talk."

Duo was mortified. "Of course that's all we did. We know each other from... before. We were just catching up on things."

He poured the blended coffee into a serving mug and shot Rikk one last glare before he stepped from behind the counter.

Zechs smiled as Duo handed him the drink. "Thank you," he said, taking a sip. "Mmm, it's smooth... I like the mixture of cream and spices."

"Look, I don't know why you're here."

The accusatory words stopped Zechs from taking another taste. He set down his mug on the small table next to him. "You mean you don't want me here."

The boy's eyes slid away. "I thought last night would be it."

Zechs looked up, studying the discomfort in the boy's posture and face. "Do you think you've betrayed your friends, because you had a pleasant conversation with the former leader of the White Fang?"

Zechs's voice was sharp and very much reminiscent of the tone he had used during war, but this time Duo thought he heard it laced with hurt.

"It's not my friends I'm worried about," he admitted and turned away.

"Then what are you worried about?"

Duo did not respond, could not respond. That question cut too close to something he did not care to explore. He returned to his work behind the counter and Zechs remained only a moment longer. Once the man was gone, Duo could breathe again.

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