Illusions of Love + Part 5 (cont)

Duo looked in at Zechs, studiously reading in the next room, his long platinum hair falling forward over the documents. He wouldn't disturb him. He would head down to the library for a book and be back within the hour to enjoy his lover fully.

Duo slipped out of the suite and headed down the marble halls in search of the library. If he remembered correctly it was on the second floor next to one of the large meeting rooms. There were three hundred rooms in the palace and Duo had seen only about a third of them and, being as distracted as he had been, he wasn't quite sure where he had seen what.

After about twenty minutes of peeking inside doors, Duo finally found the library. He gasped at its beauty in the evening light, the moon illuminating its book lined walls with a bluish hue.

He stepped inside and closed the door behind him, and then walked over to a large desk to turn on a lamp. The room now played more in shadows as the lamplight only reached several feet. Duo turned and gazed at the wall of books before him. How would he ever find what he was looking for? He scanned their spines, tilting his head to read the horizontal titles, his braid sliding on his back with the motion. There was a wealth of information here, everything from poetry and art history to autobiographies and encyclopedias of flora and fauna.

He remembered Zechs that day in Mr. Brentwood's bookshop, holding a copy of a rare botanical guide. He had wanted to kill Zechs then, put him back in the grave he had crawled out of, but now he shivered at the thought. Zechs was a good man. He was generous and kind and had made Duo whole again.

The creak of old leather startled Duo out of his silent reverie. He turned and peered into the shadows.

"Who's there?" he asked, the hair on the back of his neck standing on end.

From out of a large, leather chair rose a figure of slender, but muscular build. "It's me, Duo," the familiar voice said.

"Heero," Duo said, in a shocked whisper.

"You always did know where to find me," Heero said, stepping into the lamplight to reveal himself fully. He was dressed casually in a white shirt, jeans and tennis shoes, and his relaxed demeanor made it appear he had been there for some time.

Duo stepped back, shaken to have run into his ex-lover. "I wasn't looking for you," he said, defensively.

"Really?" Heero asked, his eyes intense. "But I'm sure you remember that I spent every evening in Quatre's study."

"That was a long time ago," Duo said, making a move to leave, but Heero blocked his way, holding out his arms wide to prevent him from passing.

"I've sat here many evenings remembering those weeks in Arabia," Heero said.

Duo took a half step back. To hear Heero speak of their time together sent a spike of warmth through him, coloring his cheeks. This wasn't a good idea, being here alone with Heero, and having those impossibly dark blue eyes staring at him, challenging him. He tried to get by again, but Heero stood firm. Then Heero moved forward, prompting Duo to back up against the bookshelves.

"I've missed you," Heero said sweetly, putting his arms on either side of Duo and grabbing onto the shelves to trap the other boy to the spot.

"You said that before," Duo said, panicked by this closeness.

"And I'll keep saying it until you believe me," Heero replied.

Duo shook his head. "How can I? You left me there..." Choking up, Duo turned his face away.

The emotional response surprised Heero into pulling back slightly. He had been getting so much venom that he hadn't expected this. He dropped his arms to his sides.

"I admit... I made a mistake," he said, hesitantly. It wasn't easy for Heero Yuy to admit failure, but he knew it was important to do so now. "I'm sorry."

Duo's eyes widened as he looked back at Heero. He couldn't believe his own ears.

"The Perfect Solider is apologizing?" Duo asked with a snort, trying to regain his hard edge.

"Yes. And you know better than anyone that I'm not perfect," Heero said, locking his gaze once again with Duo's. "I never expected things would turn out like this," he admitted. "I hadn't considered how it would be... without you."

No, Duo thought as the words swirled in his head. His breath was coming harder now as he realized Heero was saying all the right things.

"It'll take time," Heero continued, inching closer again until he was sure Duo could feel his breath ghosting his skin. "But I'm going to do whatever it takes to regain your trust."

Duo pressed himself flatter against the bookshelves, his eyes wide like saucers.

"How?" he asked, wetting his lips with his tongue. Heero was standing so close...

Heero's eyes focused on the moistened lips. Everything about Duo was coming back to him in waves. The how and why he had left suddenly didn't make sense anymore. Duo was so beautiful, so strong, and yet in this moment so vulnerable. They had made a good team. They had been perfect lovers.

"I'd like to start with this..." Heero said, leaning in and taking Duo's lips in a kiss.

In shock, Duo accepted the kiss, his eyes falling shut as he tasted the lips he had missed with a desperate ache. Heero was enchanting tonight and after all these months felt just the same... no, better. Heero's lips were warm and soft and the touch made Duo tingle with deeply buried memories. Those memories enticed him to wrap his arms about Heero's narrow waist.

Heero put his arms around Duo as well, pulling the other boy to him as he took the kiss deeper. He wanted to convey so much in this kiss. He wanted to bleed his apology into Duo and promise that he would put things right.

The kiss went on, and Duo wanted to live in this moment forever. It felt as if he was in a dream... it had to be a dream being in Heero's arms again. But if this was a dream, then what was the reality?

Zechs, Duo thought with a start.

His eyes popped open. He had to get a grip on himself. He pulled out of the kiss, breathing heavily, and pushing Heero away with a hard shove. Heero stumbled back.

"Bastard," Duo said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He was shaking. How could Heero have done this to him? Transporting him back to a time when they had been lovers.

This time Duo pushed past Heero and made for the door.

"I realized something in the months we've been apart," Heero said, speaking quickly in the hope of stopping Duo's retreat. "I knew there was something special between us, but I never understood what I was feeling..."

Duo was at the door, throwing it open.

"I love you," Heero said, his heart pounding hard.

Duo froze in the doorway. The very breath knocked out of him by those words. God, it seemed he had been waiting forever to hear those three little words from Heero. And now that he had, he didn't know what to do. But he was just as guilty of caution, pride, and youthful nonchalance. He had never told Heero of his love either.

With effort, Duo turned to face him, his eyes filled with brimming tears. But those tears and those quivering lips were a result of the war within. Duo's mind was telling him that Heero was playing games and that this was a trick, while his heart thumped with hope for the boy he had never wanted to be parted from.

When at last he spoke, his voice was shaky. "W-why... why couldn't you have told me that before?" Duo asked, hanging onto the doorjamb for support.

"I didn't understand what I was feeling back then," Heero said, his tone pleading, but firm. "But I know now, and I want you back. We can make it work this time."

They stared at each other for seconds, neither saying a word. It was as if a great chasm lay between them and Heero had just thrown a line over. The rope had snagged on a tree branch, but hadn't anchored securely, and any strong wind might dislodge it... and then they would be miles apart again.

Heero had spent the first couple of months in Sank intermittently thinking about Duo and pushing the memories aside. But instead of his memories fading over time they had strengthened, and Heero came to understand what a fool he had been. In his arrogance he had pushed away the best thing that had ever happened to him. With this realization came the biggest realization of all... that all those indescribable feelings he had been wrestling with had been love forming and taking hold.

Now he hung on the silence between them, watching Duo intently, knowing the other boy was processing what he had said. He had lost Duo's trust and he knew it would be an uphill battle to regain it. But it was a battle Heero was willing to fight, a mission he heartily accepted.

Even though Duo was reluctant, no, downright stubborn about letting him back in, that kiss had told Heero all he needed to know. It was a little-known secret that Heero could read Duo's emotions by the intensity and enthusiasm of his kisses. And that kiss had proven, without a doubt, that Duo had not only missed him, but that he still had a soft place in his heart for him.

His loud-mouthed former lover might try to hide his true feelings behind snide remarks and stern looks, but the truth had shown in his kiss. Zechs or no, Heero had the proof in that kiss. Duo still wanted him.

And so, when Duo finally broke their gaze and hurried from the room, Heero let him go. Hope was now his ally.

+

When Duo came to a stop on the third floor landing, he doubled over, trying to catch his breath. A flicker of déja vu returned his thoughts to the night in Arabia when he had raced from Heero into the house. Back then, Heero had seemed devoid of feeling and anxious to be rid of him. Now, as Heero had said, things had changed.

"He loves me," Duo said, trying to wrap his mind and heart around the words and their true meaning.

He stood upright and touched his lips with the tips of his fingers. That kiss... that kiss had felt like a homecoming.

He looked back down the marble stairs and smiled shakily. The warmth that had settled in his cheeks earlier now covered his entire body. Heero loved him and wanted him back. The proposition was so fantastic, so unexpected that it made Duo laugh. The impossible had happened... Heero Yuy loved Duo Maxwell.

"I must be imagining things," Duo said, shaking his head as though clearing away cobwebs.

Despite still feeling the tingle of lips and hands on his body, Duo half-believed that he had been sleep walking and his mind had played a trick on him. Or was that wishful thinking? Yes, this encounter had been real... all too real. And now Duo's mind and heart became painfully aware of the fact that there were two men who loved him.

The giddy laughter stopped abruptly. As flattering as it was to have two very handsome men vying for his attention, Duo knew this could not end well. Someone would be hurt.

"Zechs..." he said, looking toward their shared suite.

The last thing he wanted was to hurt Zechs. Though a former enemy, Zechs had persevered and won Duo's affection. And he had picked up the pieces of Duo's shattered love life. It still amazed him how Zechs had overcome the barriers the war had placed before them. He was an honorable, gentle and beautiful man.

And I think I've come to love him, Duo thought with tears again brimming in his eyes.

It suddenly occurred to Duo that although Heero and Zechs had confessed their love for him, he had been unable to tell them his deepest, truest feelings. He sighed, realizing he had a lot of hard thinking to do. And so, instead of returning directly to his suite, he trod down the corridor to an elegant bench at the end of the hall. Beneath a large window accented by azure draperies, Duo sat on a cushioned bench and looked out onto the cloudless night sky. It was the kind of night made for lovers, but which lover did Duo want?

His thoughts went back to Heero, his first love. Heero had turned his world upside down, fought by his side, and melted him into a puddle of goo with every kiss. Heero had been a hard battle won, and a continual challenge, but somehow they had connected and found a balance. There was something to be said for first loves, but could the magic and intensity they had shared so many months before be recaptured? And was that what this was about regaining the past? Or making a future?

Wufei had once counseled Duo to live in the moment, and to expect change with every breath. Had so much changed in six months that a relationship with Heero was no longer a possibility?

"What am I thinking?" Duo asked himself aloud. How can I even consider a relationship with Heero again? I'm with Zechs...

Just then, Duo heard the click of a door opening. He looked up to see Zechs stepping into the corridor. The man cut an impressive figure against the empty, but ornate hallway. This was his home. This was where he belonged. It was as if the palace itself was brighter for his presence.

Zechs was still dressed in his white Sankian uniform, save for the burgundy tie and gem encrusted pin at his throat. Those had been removed shortly after beginning the tedious review of documents.

The Sankian heir looked both ways down the hall before spotting Duo on the bench. He smiled and then walked toward his lover.

"I was worried when I found you had gone," Zechs said. He came to stand before Duo, noting the look of concentration on his lover's face. "Have you been sitting here all this time?"

"No," Duo said, softly. With Zechs standing over him, wearing the official uniform of the Peacecraft family, Duo suddenly felt the inequality of their positions. In Boston they had been equals, but here... how could they ever be that again?

Duo's head tilted back, his eyes traveling up Zechs's tall form to his eyes. "I wanted to do research... on the Sank Kingdom."

Zechs grinned, pleased at Duo's initiative. "Then you were in the library? You never fail to surprise me," he said and bent to kiss Duo's lips.

Duo accepted the kiss eagerly, hoping desperately that nothing had changed. That the kiss he had shared with Heero hadn't been as mind blowing as he had thought in that moment. When Zechs began to pull back, Duo took his hand and pulled him in again, deepening the kiss, trying to cleanse himself of what he had done.

Zechs's free hand came up to cup Duo's face as he pressed for entrance. When Duo's lips parted, they both groaned as their tongues met and intertwined. Soon, Duo was on his feet, standing and being held in Zechs's arms. What had started as a sweet kiss of approval for Duo's efforts had turned passionate and inappropriate for public halls.

At last, Zechs broke away, his eyes dilated and body aroused. "I believe we have a special night planned," he said in that deep, velvet voice.

Duo gulped at the predatory look in Zechs's blue eyes. They had planned a bit of a re-enactment of their time in Boston, and certainly that look was a reminder of their very first sexual encounter.

"Uh... yeah," Duo said, suddenly shy and unsure of himself.

Zechs narrowed his gaze. One minute Duo was all fire and temptation and the next he was meek as a mouse. Could it have something to do with the serious look that had covered his face when he had first found him on the bench?

"Is everything all right, Baby?" Zechs asked.

Duo nodded. "Sure," he said and then whisked past Zechs in a blur of motion, braid flying behind him. He looked back over his shoulder at his stunned lover. "What are ya' waiting for?" he called and then ducked inside their suite.

Zechs shook his head and gave a low chuckle, walking at a dignified pace back to their room. As he was about to step across the threshold, he got the feeling he was being watched and turned to look down the hall. There, on the stairs, he thought he saw a man... or was it just a shadow from the columns? He took a step back into the hall and squinted, but by the time his eyes adjusted to the dim light the shadowy figure was gone. Or had it been there at all?

+

Retreating, quickly and silently back down the stairs, Heero's blood pulsed in his ears. This was madness, wanting Duo this way. Wanting him so much that he would spy on his private moments.

And he had nearly been caught. Zechs's instincts were good and it was obvious he had sensed his presence, but Heero had been fast. He was sure that Zechs had not seen him.

So what game was Duo playing? Kissing him with vigor and then fleeing to his current lover to fulfill his passions? The image burned in Heero's eyes and in his belly. He had never been so sure of anything or anyone since his mission to free the colonies. Then why was Duo hesitating to come to him?

"Because he doesn't want to hurt Zechs," Heero said in realization.

He didn't like to think about it, but he had put Duo in a terrible situation. He had created a triangle. One of them was going to get hurt, and after witnessing the way Duo had just kissed Zechs, Heero felt the ominous gnaw of rejection roil inside him.

+

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