The Long Way 'Round (cont)

Heero nodded. Duo had always liked to surround himself with a gang of people, in a way that Heero had never been able to understand. Heero hated to be around other people. Except Duo.

"...and it's handy to Saint Pats."

"Oh?" said Heero curiously, wondering why Duo would want to be near a church. Duo had never been particularly religious, despite the priest's collar that he'd worn during the war. Heero had long ago come to the conclusion that that was probably some sort of disguise. Or, maybe, just the only clothes that Duo had been able to scrounge. Unlike him, Duo had not had a ready supply of funds from Dr J.

"Yeah." Duo sighed and stretched, before wrapping his arms around his knees and curling into his seat again. "The refuge. I help out there whenever I get time. Weekends and so on. Saturday's are usually the busiest. A lot of people have drunk their pension money by then."

Oh. Covertly, Heero eyed Duo, trying to reconcile Duo's life with what he remembered of Duo. Duo had loved people, and fun and lots of action. Parties, and mischief, and chaotic games of basketball, where Duo was usually the star of the show. This did not sound like the Duo that Heero remembered at all. Heero did not want this for Duo. This Duo sounded as lonely as Heero was.

"But what about..." Heero stopped. He wanted to ask what about having fun, and ‘hanging out’ and all the other things that Duo used to like to do, but instead he asked, "What about your partner?"

Heero knew Agent Amber by name, because he was Duo’s partner, and appeared on the roster sheets, although not by sight. Jealously, he thought that Agent Amber would probably love to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon with Duo, helping out a bit, and then going out, or whatever it was that they did afterwards. "Agent Amber. Does he help out too?"

"Marko?!?" Duo rocked back in his seat, laughing, and Heero basked in the familiar riot of sound, captivated and charmed, almost forgetting to listen.

"Naah." Duo sat back up, and grinned. "Tony Markowitz is a good catholic, with a wife and seven kids. Oops. Eight kids," he corrected himself, still grinning broadly. "Heck." He shook his head. "That means I owe him another present. Naaah. Marko’s a good bloke, but he’s got no time for that kind of stuff. Charity really begins at home for him! Guy’s always asking me to bring him some soup. Says Josie can’t cook for peanuts. Poor girl's probably got no time for cooking," he added, grinning. "Soup!" He shook his head again. "You know? Soup kitchen? Funny ha ha. Guy’s got a sense of humour, I’ll say that for him."

"Oh." Said Heero. It sounded like Duo was fond of his partner, but he didn’t hang out with him either. Heero ached for Duo. He wanted Duo to be having fun, with friends, even if they weren’t Heero. He wanted Duo to be happy. Duo didn’t sound very happy to him. He tried to think what to say next. He wasn’t very good at being tactful, it wasn’t a skill that either Dr J, or Odin, had thought that he needed, but he didn’t want Duo to think that he was being critical of his life either. Duo could be very proud sometimes. Carefully, he chose his words. "You sound very busy. Do you have time for anything else?"

"Naaaah. Not really." Duo didn’t look offended, and Heero let out his breath with relief. "When I’m not at the refuge I’ve got homework. Doesn’t leave much time for anything else."

"Homework!" Heero smiled. He couldn’t help it. "Duo you hated school. Why are you doing homework?"

"Mmm. Well..." Duo was looking down, and clutching his ribbon again, his cheeks dusted with pink. Heero thought that he looked adorable. "I want to make something of my life Heero. And to do that, I need an education. It’s taken a while to catch up though. I kinda missed a bit of school, what with the war and all."

"I could help," offered Heero eagerly, before he could stop himself, compelled by his age-old compulsion to help Duo. He blushed fiery red. Duo didn’t want his help. Didn’t want anything to do with him.

"Thanks Heero." Duo’s smile was soft, and he let go of the ribbon to pat Heero’s leg gently. "But you’re busy with your own stuff. You’re at Calvin U aren’t you? And looking after Relena. How is she?" he asked politely.

Heero blinked, wondering how Duo knew what University he was studying at. "Relena's fine," he said, smiling a little. "She works too hard and doesn't eat enough. She thinks that the peace will collapse without her."

"Hmm," Duo snickered. "Same as Quatre. Someone should get those two together."

"I don’t think that Wufei would like that," said Heero seriously, and Duo grinned.

"Naaah. Probably not. Or Trowa!"

"She asks about you sometimes," said Heero softly. "Where you are. What you're doing. " It was hard to admit that even Relena had noticed that he and Duo were not close any more.

"Well now you can tell her," said Duo. "You’ve asked lots about me. You haven’t told me anything about you yet." He was curled sideways into his seat, cheek pillowed on the back, face tilted to watch Heero. Curious and intent, his eyes roamed Heero's face in the darkness.

"No." Heero stared back solemnly. "I wanted to know what you were doing." He wanted to know everything about Duo, now that he had this chance, before Duo disappeared out of his life again.

"Oh." Again, that soft smile and pat. "That’s nice."

Duo had always touched Heero more than anyone else. Hung over his shoulder, or tickled him, or grabbed him by the hand, or arm, to drag him somewhere. Duo was always dragging Heero somewhere. Initially, Heero had hit him, or pushed him away, but Duo had kept doing it regardless, seemingly unable to stop. It was just something that Duo did, touching Heero, and Heero had come to accept it, with all the other things that went to make up his best friend. Had missed it, when he stopped seeing Duo. Absently, he wondered if anyone else had touched him recently. Apart from Relena. But that was different. Motherly, maybe, although he didn't really know what that was like.

"But it’s your turn now." Duo was still watching Heero intently. "Is your course going well? Sounds like you’re having fun with Queenie..."

Heero didn’t think that he could tell Duo that he was miserable. He searched for something to say that might interest Duo. "I am working on the Mars data with a grad student. Zechs is my contact. It’s odd. I taught Relena Poker." He corrected himself. "Texas Wildcard Poker. Like you showed me. We play on the shuttle." Duo had his fist tucked under his chin with a handful of ribbon, and was nodding to himself. "And I got shot when we were on L3."

"Damn! That sucks!" Duo grimaced in sympathy. "Me too. I’d forgotten how much it hurts."

What?! Heero jerked upright.

"Where! Show me!"

The command was out before Heero could stop it. Mortified, he blushed furiously, looking away and reminding himself sternly that this wasn't the war, when he needed to bandage Duo; to tell him to hold still, to stop being such a baby, to take his antibiotics. To ride roughshod over him, when Duo tried to brush him aside, because, sometimes, Duo needed looking after. Duo had never taken care of himself properly. Had sometimes acted as if he thought he deserved to be hurt. To be punished for something.

But that was then, and now, Duo had other people to look after him.

"Sorry," said Heero miserably, cursing his ridiculous protectiveness, hands locked in his lap. Fingers feigning an interest in the snap and twirl of his wristband. "I didn’t mean...I just wanted to check that you...that it was.... I... Sorry."

Unhappily, he peered out the window.

Hell.

Duo blinked at him.

"No. No it’s okay Heero. No problem. I don’t mind."

Calmly he unbuttoned his jeans.

What??!

Open-mouthed, Heero stared, shocked and speechless, instantly hot with shame and desire, as Duo paused to push up his towel, baring the smooth ripples of a six pack. Wriggled and arched up off the seat, lithe as a cat.

"Damn," said Duo, writhing sinuously, and Heero’s face flamed. "Damn jeans’re impossible when they're wet." Thumbs in the waistband, Duo wrestled them over slim hips, and peeled down his black boxer briefs, just far enough to bare the smooth skin of his thigh.

Heero swallowed, hard.

Duo’s pubic hair was a soft chestnut, just a little darker than his thick braid. The skin of his hip, smooth and white against the light tan of his flat belly. Duo had a tan. Heero had never seen Duo with a tan before. But last time Heero had seen Duo’s body, it hadn’t looked anything like this. Back then, you could count every rib. Back then, Duo had been cute. Now he was gorgeous.

Wide-eyed and open-mouthed,. Heero stared.

A puckered red scar marred the pale skin of Duo’s thigh, round and shiny, and flanked by small, red dots. Desperately seeking distraction, Heero counted them. Six. Only six stitches. That was good. That was very good. That was...

Frantically, Heero struggled for something to say, unable to say any of the things that sprang to mind, like ...can I... would you... what if I... Duo please... please Duo...

Instead... "Boxer briefs?" Duo had always worn boxers, back in the war.

"Yeah. Kinda reminded me of you. Spandex you know?" Duo’s voice sounded odd, but Heero couldn’t look away to check his expression, mesmerised by Duo’s torso so temptingly bared before him.

"Does it hurt?" Heero struggled to keep his voice even and matter of fact. To remember to breathe. Biting his lip, he clenched his fists so that he wouldn’t be tempted to touch that perfect body.

"Naah. Hurt like heck at the time but not any more. You can touch if you want."

Shocked, Heero’s gaze jerked up to Duo’s eyes. Did Duo know...?

"You can. I don’t mind." Solemnly, Duo gazed back. Inched his briefs down further to reveal more pale skin. More muscled thigh.

Heero stared back, his heart pounding frantically, suddenly unable to breathe, his fingers uncurling and stretching towards Duo, almost without his volition.

Oh God. Would Duo let him... Was Duo going to...

If he touched Duo now, he wouldn’t be able to stop. He couldn’t. He just couldn’t. Would have to have more and more, until he had all of Duo. Would take more, want more...

And did Duo really want him to? Did he know that Heero wanted more? Surely he would say something if he did.

Duo had never been shy, back when they shared a room. What if he was just offering because he thought that Heero was worried about his leg? Which he was, but...

What if Duo wasn't really gay? What if Heero had based his entire adult life on some horrible misunderstanding, based on five minutes in the Preventor toilets on the third floor?

Or...what if it was a game? Heero’s stomach churned sickly. One of Duo’s jokes. Heero had never understood jokes, the way that Duo had.

What if he was just playing with Heero, wanting to see how far he could make him go before he pushed him away? Heero didn’t think that he could bear to be pushed away.

"It’s okay Heero," Duo said softly, easing the taut fabric down a little further. "I don’t mind. Status check. Yeah?"

Status? Always, they would ask each other that, after each shared mission. As they collapsed into their room, beaten, and bruised, and dirty and afraid.

Trembling, Heero’s fingers hovered over Duo’s thigh.

Status check Duo.

Ever so gently, he stroked one finger over the mark.

"Does that hurt?" Heero whispered, eyes on his gently moving finger. "Don’t let me hurt you..."

"No..." Duo’s answering whisper was caught somewhere in his throat. "You can press harder if you like ..."


Reverently, Heero placed his palm over the mark, cupping Duo’s thigh. Duo’s skin felt so much silkier and smoother than Heero’s skin. Or maybe that was just because it was Duo. Gently, hardly daring to move, he stroked his thumb across Duo’s hip, and Duo’s belly vibrated like a harp string.

With dawning wonder, Heero watched the undulations of Duo’s belly. Duo liked it. He liked Heero touching him.

Experimentally, he explored the exposed skin of Duo’s thigh; slowly down, and then back up over the crest of Duo’s hip, to rest on the heat of Duo’s quivering belly, and Duo gasped. Heero flushed hotly and shifted in his seat. Burned with the need to hear more and better sounds from Duo. Eagerly, he leant across the gear stick and it was as if he was falling through water, sinking down to press his lips to the scar. Duo trembled beneath him and that was good, but he wanted more, so he opened his mouth, sucking and licking the smooth skin, then pressed hot sucking kisses up onto his stomach. Duo gasped and undulated beneath him, with little breathy moans, and fascinated, heady with power, Heero stroked his tongue over Duo’s hip, then bit down gently. Duo jerked and whimpered.

"Heero..."

Vaguely, Heero was aware that Duo was trying to touch him back, petting him, stroking his shoulder and hair, but mainly Heero was hard and aching with the knowledge that he was the one doing this to Duo. That it was him making Duo make those maddening, intoxicating noises. That he was pleasing Duo. All he’d ever wanted was to please Duo. He wanted to do more. Wanted Duo helpless and desperate for him.

There had to be more...

Carefully, blood roaring in his ears like the drumming rain, he peeled down Duo’s briefs, and Duo gasped and shivered, fingers finding their way into his hair...

"Oh...oh God...Heero... Heero Heero please..."

+

Uncomfortably twisted, gear stick digging into his hip, Heero Yuy had never imagined that anything could be so euphoric.

Overwhelmed and astounded, aching with love and desire, he pressed fervent kisses into Duo’s stomach, not sure what to do next. Duo’s fingers were still loosely twined into his hair, but...was that it? Should he kiss Duo? Could they do more? Would Duo even want to do more?

Would he ever want to do this again, or was Duo going to disappear from Heero’s life after tonight, just like before?

Panic-stricken, Heero clung tighter and press his face into the sweat-sheened skin, clinging to Duo’s scent and feel and salty taste. Warm and soft and hard all at once. Sticky, damp curls glued to Heero’s cheek. Duo's stomach still rippled with his shuddering breaths and Heero burrowed into it, unwilling to lift his head and see the end in Duo’s eyes.

"Shit!" Duo laughed breathlessly above him. " Heero! The road gang. They're here!" He tugged at Heero's hair, dragging Heero up to blink stupidly at the lights blazing through the back window.

"Holy shit! Hell! Shit!!!" Duo was giggling and squirming underneath him, trying to drag his pants back on. Duo bucked beneath him, and Heero dazedly realised that he still had his hand planted in the middle of Duo' stomach. He jerked upright, and wriggled stiffly back into his seat.

Hell..

He snatched his shirt from the back seat.

"If I help it will be quicker..."

Still completely unable to face Duo, Heero grabbed the opportunity to escape, and flung the door open, scrambling out into the rain.

The road gang were already hard at work in the light of the headlights, chain-sawing limbs, and setting out witch's hats and warning signs.

Heero trudged across and offered to help, but they waved him away, citing insurance, and liability, so he stepped out of the way, and stood watching, hands thrust deep into the pockets of his jeans, until he was distracted by a Preventors jacket being thrust under his nose.

Duo stood beside him, shoulders hunched against the rain.

Heero glanced at him sidelong. Duo's hair looked as if it was melting into his eyes, the t-shirt as if it was painted on. "You have it," said Heero gruffly.

"Naah. I'm okay," said Duo, and waited until Heero put it on.

The rain lanced down in the headlights, a wall of silver spears. The buzz of the chainsaw drowned out everything except Duo's low voice.

"I've missed you Heero," said Duo softly.

What?? Heero turned to stare at Duo, suddenly overwhelmed with old hurt and confusion. And anger. Duo had left him, not the other way around. He would never have left Duo.

"But I was there! You could have found me! You could have..." Words clamoured and tumbled from his mouth, and Heero took a deep breath and swiped rain from his face. That was not what he needed to say.

"Why did we stop being friends Duo?"

"We were too different Heero." Duo fiddled with his necklace. "It could never work out."

"But it wasn't a problem during the war!" Heero struggled to understand. "We were a team!"

A great team. Not very often, but when they'd worked together it had been like the purr of a well-tuned engine. Unstoppable.

"Yeah..." Duo clutched his ribbon tightly. "...but that was all gonna change in peacetime."

"Why?" Heero glared at him. "Why did it have to change?"

"Well...you were gonna be doing different things. Seeing different people."

"What? Who?" Heero stared at him in bewilderment. Duo was the one who had done those things.

"Well...Relena for one. You were hanging out with the princess and stuff, going to balls and all, and there was no way that she was gonna want me hanging around. I just don't fit in with that kind of crowd. You do Heero." Duo smiled at him warmly. "You're amazing. You can do anything."

"So can you!" Said Heero hotly. Nobody was more amazing, or better at blending in than Duo. Duo could do anything that he put his mind to.

"Relena was always asking for you." Duo stared into space. "To escort her to some ball. Eating with all those posh people. Dancing. You were a great dancer Heero. Still are," he added softly.

"But I could have taught you to do that!" Heero protested furiously, brushing Duo's compliment aside. Dr J had made sure that Heero could do all that stuff, in case he needed it for infiltration, and, earlier, Odin had demanded it as well, because it was always very important to blend in. And he certainly wouldn't have let a younger Heero eat with sloppy table manners, no matter how tired that little boy had been. "And anyway Relena likes you! You know that. She wouldn't care. She's not like that. She doesn't mind about...about...table manners and so on. You know she doesn't!"

"Yeah," said Duo softly, back to playing with the ribbon. "But I would. I know she's not like that Heero. And it's not just how to use a fork, or stuff like that. I mean...it'd be a synch to learn that stuff really. But... I used to watch you dancing with her. Back in the early days. When we were all guarding her before she got her own security detail. You looked so perfect together. Waltzing and stuff. You were the handsome prince and I was just some scruffy kid who needed you to do his tie." He grimaced, looking away. "You were both sitting there, trying to decide which University courses you were going to do, and I'd hardly even been in school. Maths was okay. I'm good at that. But I could hardly read until I met Professor G Heero!"

Heero blinked at him, wondering why he'd never realised that before. Dr J had made him stick with his schoolwork, but Duo had led a nomadic existence for most of his life. Duo was smart, and clever, clever enough to hide his lack of schooling, but that wouldn't be enough to get him into higher education.

The road patrol had finished clearing branches, and were packing up, throwing equipment into the truck with a metallic clang, obviously in a hurry to move on.

Heero ached for the pain that he could hear in Duo's voice. He remembered that time.

Heero had been excited, to finally be making his own choices. Had spent hours with Relena, checking course outcomes, and pre-requisites, and alternative pathways. Duo had been there, hovering somewhere in the background. It was just before he'd gone back to Preventors Ops. He'd made some crack about Safe-cracking 101 and then disappeared somewhere...

Heero clenched his fists. "So what? You're one of the cleverest people I know Duo."

"We were just too different Heero. You were making something of your life and I couldn't follow you. We were just going to drift further and further apart." Duo looked away, and Heero strained to hear him. "I figured that it'd be better if I just got it over with. Do it on my own terms. Save breaking my heart further down the track."

What?!! Heero stared, appalled that Duo had done something so terrible to him. To both of them. Duo wasn't happy either.

In the rain, Duo's profile was pale, and beautiful, and solemn as a statue, dark tendrils of hair painting sinuous patterns.

"And I was glad that you had such a good friend Heero. Somewhere to fit in. You were going to be someone important. I didn't want to spoil that for you. The rest of us all had other stuff, but you didn't. You'd always seemed so alone."

Heero thought about that, listening to the slam of doors and the roar of an engine as the road gang drove away. He supposed it was true. Duo had gone to the Sweepers, and Hilde, between wars. Quatre had his family and the Maganacs. The entire Winner empire. And Trowa had the circus and Wufei had a clan to rebuild, but...

"I had you!" Said Heero hotly, wishing that Duo would look at him. "You were my best friend. I didn't need anyone else." And he hadn't. "Just you! How could you think you would spoil anything?!"

"You were my best friend too Heero." At last, Duo turned to face him, solemn and serious. "And you wouldn't have wanted me hanging around. I'd just have dragged you down."

Heero stared at him, feeling a horrified twisting in his gut, to think that Duo had done this to him deliberately.

"Duo I could never not want you. I loved you! I'll always love you and you left me!!!"

Rain poured between them.

Sluiced down Duo's face, and into his open mouth, and his wide, shocked eyes.

Numb and cold, Heero stepped towards the car, fumbling for his keys with frozen fingers.

He'd shocked Duo. Upset him. He'd never wanted to upset Duo.

His car was covered with a blanket of torn leaves. He hadn't noticed before.

The tree was cleared, they could back out now, they should go, if only he could just find the right damned key...

He had his hand on the door handle, about to pull open the door, when he felt a touch on his arm.

"Heero..."

Cold fingers locked around his arm and spun him around, Duo's mouth finding his, ice cold momentarily, and then hot and hard and demanding, licking and sucking, Duo’s tongue setting fire to Heero's chilled skin. Duo pressed up against him and Heero stumbled backwards willingly, and slammed against the car door, locking his arms around Duo and opening his mouth eagerly for Duo's seeking tongue, shaking with love and desire.

Duo was touching him everywhere, kissing him frantic and fast, holding Heero in place with his body and his hard thigh, and it was so good, Heero couldn't focus, couldn't think, desperate to touch Duo back, but unable to stop holding him and rocking helplessly against him. He wanted Duo so much. Needed Duo to touch him more than he’d ever needed anything else in his entire life.

"Oh god Heero...I..."And then Duo was sliding away from him, slithering downwards, and Heero moaned helplessly and his knees buckled and he tried to follow, lips clinging to his kiss with helpless adoration, eagerly seeking, trying to catch Duo's mouth with his, but Duo was holding him in place, Duo's hands pushing roughly against his clothes, Duo's voice, a desperate litany against his skin, soothing him with lips and hands and warm, stroking tongue...

"Shhhh... it's okay... it's okay Baby... I'll look after you... I'll take care of you... just let me... let me... it's okay... Heero..."

Duo's eyes seeking his, through his sodden fringe, the only spot of colour in the drowned world, laden with some unnamed emotion.

"Oh...oh God...I...I... Duo!!!" said Heero, arms wrapped around Duo's head, trying to pet and stroke as much of him as he could reach.

"Mmmmm..." said Duo lovingly, somewhere deep in his throat, and Heero shuddered uncontrollably and curled over him, clawed fingers scrabbling for purchase against Duo's slick back.

+

Heero fell to his knees in the mud in front of Duo, blindly searching for his mouth and letting Duo support him with his strong hands and broad shoulders. The air was still cold, but Duo was surprisingly warm, and Duo's mouth was soft; so soft and warm and gentle as it explored his tenderly, all previous desperation washed away.

After a long time, Heero realised that mud was soaking into his knees, and Duo's hair smelled like wet dog. It had stopped raining. He supposed that his hair smelled like wet dog too, but he couldn't seem to care when Duo's tongue was tracing lazy patterns against his neck, leaving an alternating trail of hot and cold that made Heero shiver and shake. Duo's tongue found his ear and he shuddered uncontrollably. Duo released his ear with a sucking smack and pulled back just a little, to give him that gentle smile that Heero loved.

"Damn Heero. Take me home. I'm frozen."

+

There was a sopping Preventors jacket on Heero Yuy's doorstep. Dirty shoes lay every which way in the hall, and a trail of clothes and muddy footprints led from the door, detoured past the refrigerator, via a pool of rice, and tracked up the stairs, stalling at Heero’s bathroom door.

With his responsibilities as host, Heero thought that Duo might like a shower, because Duo was shaking against him. And muddy, but mainly because he was worried that Duo must be frozen. But Duo had other ideas.

"No way," said Duo, with a warm swipe of lips and tongue, trembling beneath Heero’s hands, as if he was hypothermic. "Bed first, then shower. Maybe. If we don’t do this soon I’m going to explode Heero Yuy. I’ve waited four years and I’m not waiting a second longer."

Lips glued to Heero’s, fingers busy with his jeans, he shuffled him backwards towards the bed. Heero was perfectly willing to be manhandled, and allowed himself to be manoeuvred, but balked again as the back of his knees hit the mattress. He sat down with a thump.

"What's wrong?" asked Duo softly, reading Heero like a book. Kneeling in front of him, so that he could see up beneath Heero’s bangs, and kneading his thighs gently.

Heero stared at the floor unhappily.

"Lube," he said. Not that he minded so much for himself, he supposed; he had been shot, and tortured, and blown up out of his gundam, after all, but he wanted this to be perfect for Duo. "I don't have any lube or..."

"Oh. That's okay. I do," said Duo, turning back to fish in his jeans, "Comes in handy," and Heero chewed his lip and tried not to think about why Duo might find lube handy.

But then Duo was climbing onto him, and pushing him down onto the bed, spreading his legs apart and crawling between them with practised ease, and that was just the way it should be, because Heero had always learned new things with Duo, and it was everything that Heero had ever wanted, right there in his arms, and Heero held him, and clung to him, and thought that if he got any happier he just might die.

+

Afterwards, Heero pulled Duo down until Duo rested against his chest, stroking his back, his hair, as much as he could reach, without relaxing the death-grip that he had on Duo, and Duo relaxed against him with a sigh of contentment, flushed and sweaty.

"Mmm...Heero..." Duo sighed happily, shifting around until he had his head nuzzled under Heero's chin, and his leg between Heero’s, his fingers contentedly wound in his necklace.

That damned ribbon again.

Heero wanted to rip it off. Wanted to cut it into tiny pieces, and burn it up, and send the ashes into the sun with the gundams. He didn't want Duo to play with it now, when he was with Heero.

"Who gave it to you?" asked Heero, and Duo lifted his head in surprise. Heero winced at the bitterness in his voice, but was completely unable to help himself. He pressed on. "The ribbon," he said. Jealousy burned like fire in his gut. The ribbon, the lube... He couldn't share Duo with anyone. Not now. "You must have liked them a lot."

Duo stared at him solemnly, and Heero stared back. He had to know. The cross, he knew about. It was something important from Duo's childhood, and that was fine. But the ribbon was new. Who had been important enough that Duo treasured their gift? And, most importantly, where were they now? Were they...oh God...waiting at home for Duo? Surely not. But then, there was that handy tube of lube...

"Heero..." Duo's cheeks were faintly flushed. "You gave me the ribbon. It was a long time ago." He buried his face in Heero's chest, clutching the ribbon protectively. "I'm not surprised you don't remember."

What?

And, just like that, Heero remembered.

He and Duo, stuck on Peacemillion, just before the last battle, and Duo had run out of hair ties.

The last one had broken at breakfast, when Duo had accidentally sat on his braid, long silky strands wafting over his shoulder to get in his cereal and Heero's breakfast, eyes and mouth. And Duo had cursed, mopping cereal out of his hair with his shirt, and demanding of the world at large, how in the heck he was ever supposed to pilot a gundam when he was being strangled by his own damned hair. And Heero had pushed his breakfast safely away from Duo's hair, on his self-appointed mission to take care of Duo, and marched across to Sally Po, who happened to be the only girl in the canteen at the time, and demanded that she give him something to fix Duo's hair. Or at least a spare bandage, if nothing else.

Heero's face burned in recollection. Sally had laughed. And laughed even louder, when he'd told her defensively that it was preventative medicine. It had been completely mortifying. Worse than when she'd fished shrapnel out of his upper thigh. He wondered how he could possibly have forgotten.

But after she'd stopped laughing at him, she'd unhooked her glasses from around her neck. Heero hadn't even realised that Sally wore glasses, but she'd had a tiny pair of reading glasses fastened around her neck with a long ribbon, and she'd untied it, and handed it to him, telling him that if it didn't work he could always just tie Duo up with it.

And then... as if that wasn't embarrassing enough...when he took the ribbon back to Duo, trying to shove it discreetly into his hand, Duo had complained loudly that he wasn't some damn girl, and that Heero could find somebody else if he wanted to play dollies, thanks very much. But Heero knew that he'd appreciated it anyway, mainly by the fact that Duo hadn't punched him, when Heero had lost his temper and held him down and tied up his annoying hair. Loose hair was a nightmare in low gravity. Kneeling on Duo's chest, Heero had wrapped the black velvet ribbon around Duo's plait half a dozen times, and tied it in half hitches and several, very un-girly reef knots, that had taken Duo half an hour to undo that night.

And after that, Heero had kept an emergency hair band around his wrist, and forgotten all about the ribbon.

Until now.

"You kept it," said Heero, recognising the truth with a joyful leap of his heart, but wanting Duo to say it out loud anyway. "Because I gave it to you..."

"Yeah." Duo was still buried in Heero’s chest so that Heero had to strain to hear him. "Pretty dumb huh."

Duo had kept it all this time. Had used it for his cross. Had worn it close to his heart...

"You love me," said Heero softly, awestruck and hardly able to speak. Hardly able to breathe, or think, except for... "You really do love me."

"Yes!!! Idiot! What did you think?!!!! Geez!!!" Grinning, Duo butted Heero's sturdy chest with his forehead in time with his words. "Heero...idiot...I really..." thump "...really..." thump "...really love you. So what are you going to do...umph!!"

"This," murmured Heero Yuy against his lips, as he rolled him over and stretched out on top of him. Warm, and content, and suddenly blissfully, gloriously happy. "And this...and this...and probably this..."

"Oh." Said Duo Maxwell. "Mmmm. Oooh. Good."

And it was.

Very, very good.

(end)

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