Pairing: 1+2 really. 1xR
Rating: PG-13? I don't know, its a wee bit angsty.
Summary: Duo loves Heero. And in trying to admit that it will never come to anything; and in hiding it from himself and others- Duo has lost his heart. It starts off sad- but it has a very hopeful ending.

NB: Don't look for nasty Relena. I don't write her.

So.

So.

You grow up. You cut your hair. You finish school. You get a job.You wear suits.

You never stop loving him.

You never say anything.

He's married- playing the dutiful father. Sometimes you're sure he knows, sometimes you're positive your secret is safe. You send the family Christmas cards. You play the favourite uncle.

It never gets easier. It just gets harder.

*

"I asked Duo if he could pick up Natasha from school today- we have that thing with the ambassadors." Relena's voice filtered through the half open door between Heero's study and their bedroom; she was getting dressed.

He grunted. "What `thing'?"

"You know-" She padded through, holding her heels in one hand. "The welcome meeting."

"Oh."

She ruffled his hair. Heero hated that.

*

"Heya uncle Duo!"

Natasha Yuy was a funny hybrid child, with dark blue eyes and a mop of blonde hair. She looked like a miniature albino Heero.

"Hey there kiddo."

She wasn't too old to be hefted onto one broad shoulder and carried to the car, so Duo did that. She giggled a lot, so he tickled her. She offered one rosy cheek, so he gave her a kiss.

Duo would have been the first to admit he lived his life a little too much by the `so'.

"So what did you do today?" She had been bright eyed, so he had asked her.

"I drew a picture! A really big one! And then Mrs Tennet put it up on the wall- because she said it was the best!" She covered her mouth after the outburst, as if she thought she had been rude.

Duo grinned at her, flicking his eyes from the road for a moment.

He wasn't allowed to crash, so he looked back quickly.

"Where's mama and daddy?

"They're at a meeting with the ambassador from the L3 colony cluster." Natasha was smart, so he didn't dumb it down. "Your dad will be back tonight- but you mama has to stay out of town."

"Why?" His eyes flickered up. For a moment all he saw was deep cobalt blue. Then he realised he had met Natasha's eyes in the rear view mirror.

"Oh she has a debate tomorrow. I think your daddy would stay with her- but he has a mission."

"A mission with you?" Natasha loved it when Duo told her stories about missions. Relena hated it.

"No." Duo stopped at the lights. It was raining slush and ice. He couldn't crash, so he drove carefully. "A mission with Uncle Wufei."

Duo had realised that Wufei didn't like nicknames, so he had stopped using them.

"Oooh." Natasha was small in the back seat. The rain cast little shadows over her face.

Duo loved her, and he respected Relena. So he had never done anything.

Even though he loved Heero.

*

Natasha was sleeping finally when Heero got back. Duo had just finished reading her a story about a little boy who had lost his balloon. The balloon had been very red and very shiny- but when he found it was burst. His mother had bought him a new one.

Duo felt like the little boy who's balloon had burst everytime he saw Heero, but there was no-one to buy him another one.

"How was it?"

"Boring." Heero was dressed smart. His tie was loose around his neck though, and he smelt just a little of posh parties. Like cigar smoke and expensive wine.

Duo worked up a grin and unleashed it. Lately he had had to start this- power up his grin by thinking about good things before he could use it. He knew it was expected of him, so he did it anyway.

"Relena might be a few days." Heero added. Duo didn't know what to expect from Heero. He didn't look too upset. Duo assumed he loved Relena.

"How's Natasha?"

"She just went down to bed."

During the war there had been a lot of stuff between Duo's words and Heero's words. It had sometimes been to do with sex, and it had sometimes been to do with fighting. It was sometimes violent stuff, or sensual stuff. It had sometimes been friendship stuff.

Now there was nothing. They said more words than they ever had done- well Heero did, but there was no stuff anymore.

"I'll go kiss her good night."

Duo heard him walk up the stairs and pause halfway. There was a little tap- as if Heero had fisted the wall gently.

When he came back down Duo was toying with the idea of leaving. His coat was just at the door, there was little to stay for. When he came back down Duo was ready to leave.

"Do you want a coffee?"

Duo couldn't say no, so he stayed.

*

"Relena was asking after you." Heero made coffee efficiently, like everything else. He rattled spoons in cups like he would disable a bomb, set off the coffee maker like he would fire a weapon.

"Hmmn." Duo avoided the question like he avoided Relena. He liked her, but when he was around her he felt naked. It was if she could see his love for Heero branded red on his forehead. It was if even spending time with her husband was a betrayal. Something to be ashamed of.

"Are you alright?"

Duo realised he had been staring blankly at Heero's hand for a few moments too long. He couldn't have Heero worrying, so he stopped.

"Oh yeah- just tired."

In the silence Duo could almost hear the little sipping noises Heero made as he drank. It was a starkly intimate sound, one Duo didn't really want to think about.

"I heard you opted out of the mission tomorrow."

"Yeh. Not at my best." Duo looked at his coffee steadily. "You and Wufei can handle it."

"Hn." Heero could have handled it alone with a broken leg.

Duo's system of `so' wasn't working too well anymore. He had forgotten what he was supposed to be like, what he was supposed to do. His face was crumbling away. He couldn't remember the last time he had laughed without having the need, having the `so'.

"Relena-" Heero began. Now that Duo looked again it seemed like Heero was bursting to say something. His eyes were cast down instead of even and piercing. His hands were flat against the table. His coffee cup was empty.

Silly me, Duo thought, for not having noticed earlier.

"Relena- says she wants a break."

Duo blinked.

"From work?"

"No, from me."

There was a long brittle silence.

Duo was expecting the shower of fireworks and angels any minute. He kept waiting a little too long.

"Well- is there- is she sure?"

Duo didn't know what to expect of Heero. He didn't look too upset.

"No." Heero frowned slowly. "She's anything but sure. She keeps saying it's for my own good."

"Well it obviously isn't." Duo offered. He was supposed to be caring, so he began formulating supportive comments. Five minutes passed and he had found none.

"Isn't it?" Heero said eventually.

Duo was completely lost.

"I'll see you after the mission," Heero said at the door.

Duo nearly missed the turnoff home.

*

"So did you tell him?" It was the first thing Relena said on her return home.

Heero was too tired to replied straight away. He had returned from the mission to his hyperactive daughter, who had only just that moment fallen asleep.

"Heero?!"

"Yes. I did."

Satisfaction crossed Relena's face- and relief.

"What did he say?"

Heero made her coffee without asking. She kicked off her heels.

"He didn't say much. Seemed to come as a shock to him." Heero passed her the cup.

"You understand." It was a statement.

"Of course."

Relena nodded, eyes cast down at the cup before her. "It's not fair on you."

"Hm." She ruffled his hair. He hated that.

*

"It's Heero."

"Oh, hello." Duo opened the door to his flat slowly, and stood back to let Heero in.

Heero marvelled for a moment at how young Duo looked, even with all that hair gone. He looked rumpled, as if just awake from a nap. His eyes were that peculiar shade of blue that so many people liked to call purple. Heero didn't know if it was really purple, because just then it seemed grey.

"I've been thinking." Duo added, as Heero took a seat on the sofa.

Duo had had a few days to get his supportive comments in order. He was feeling pretty confident.

"You should really talk to Relena, properly, find out what the problem is."

"I know what the problem is."

Duo sat opposite Heero, and his expression wasn't condescending like Relena's.

"You do?" Duo didn't look like he wanted to know.

"Its not fair on me."

Duo didn't offer Heero coffee, he didn't offer any alcohol. He couldn't think of a `so', he couldn't think of an answer.

"I don't understand. If its your problem why is she leaving you?"

"I said I knew, I didn't say I understood."

Duo scowled suddenly. "In the end it doesn't matter man! Understand or go hide in a hole. Just don't let her leave. You have Natasha to think about. Damn!"

For the first time in a couple of years, Duo had said something he himself understood and believed in. Heero gazed at him aghast. Sometimes you don't realise what you're missing until it appears again.

*

A long time before, back when the war was stilling burning, back when there had been stuff, Duo had had a nightmare. He didn't remember what it had been about, only that he had woken in a cold sweat- more terrified than he ever had been before. He never again felt so afraid- so cold.

He had stumbled from the safe house bed, out onto the tiny metal balcony. He remembered it well. Heero had just saved his life, again, and they were holed up in a tiny two room flat on some shapeless colony of grey skies and railings like metal teeth.

There were no sunrises on colonies like that one. Instead the generators kicked up a notch and for a moment there was a soft half light, then day, bright and glaringly awful.

When he found Heero, Duo had still been sweating with the dream. He had needed to check something, something he had now forgotten. When he found Heero, the darker pilot had been crouched on that tiny balcony, watching the street below.

The moment where that odd half light lit Heero's face and made softness there, where previously there had been none- the moment, where he turned deep blue eyes on Duo and the sky had burst into being behind him. That was a moment that had never left Duo.

He couldn't remember what had happened after that, only that he had never really been reassured.

*

Heero and Relena sorted things out. Life returned to its dry little cycle as if nothing had happened.

Heero couldn't forget the one moment where Duo had spoken with that passion. He kept looking now, through barely opaque barriers. Through a brittle shield, a shield made of glass as fine as paper. Duo felt naked again, as if a blue gaze was piercing through his soul.

"Are you alright?" Heero asked once, while he was piloting the coffee. Klunk, rattle, pour.

"Oh me? Hell yeah. I'm great!" Duo was supposed to be positive, so he was. He was a bit slow though. He had been distracted by the photo of Natasha on the counter.

Natasha was the living breathing, biological proof that Heero and Relena had had sexual intercourse once. Duo wasn't normally so petty but it was becoming harder.

"Are you- sure?"

"Of course I am." Duo didn't look up at Heero because he knew he would do something stupid. It had been so much easier when Heero hadn't noticed.

*

"Where's Heero?" Duo had waited a few minutes of polite conversation before asking.

Relena frowned vaguely and waved an arm at the window. "He's out with Natasha, playing I think." She smiled at Duo.

"How are you doing?"

Duo fidgeted mentally. He was positive she knew.

"I'm. . . better." He gave her that concession to distract her. He had been worse before. He could sometimes even convince himself that if he tried. Relena nodded knowingly.

"Heero is worried you know."

Duo nodded faintly, gazing as if uninterested at the patterned carpet. The scrolling wooden leg of the coffee table. The ceiling. He hoped desperately she wouldn't say it.

"He cares about you."

Not enough. Never quite enough.

*

Duo was running terribly late now, almost all the time. He had several reports due- all of which he had done - yet - was unable to hand in. It seemed that the deadlines were charging towards him with no regard for anything but their own self-satisfaction. They gobbled up his work only half digested, tore his words from his throat before they were spoken. They burned out his path of actions for him.

He stalled in delivering Heero the report.

Eventually he had to. It was due the next day and he needed Heero's signature. It wasn't as if he was avoiding Heero- he was avoiding Heero's family. The house. The photos.

Winter had descended again and for a moment he was shocked at how the time had flown by. He was losing his life. He supposed he had better be upset, so he tried his best.

"Hello there!" Relena had a Natasha draped around her neck, blonde hair ruffled, cheeks red and cheery.

It would have been easier if Relena had been a bad mother. Duo was suddenly very nervous; he felt as if he was on trial.

"Uncle Duo!" Natasha was glad to see him, so he pretended to reciprocate.

"I just have a report for Heero to sign, if that's not too much trouble."

"Of course not! We haven't seen you for ages!" Relena ushered him in, Natasha skipping a merry figure of eight around her mother.

"Uncle Duo! Uncle Duo! Is it true you had hair longer than Mama?!"

Duo crouched down, tipping his head. "It is indeed."

Natasha squealed with delight. Duo smiled softly. He had forgotten his hair. He had forgotten that comforting swish of it against his back, the ritual of washing and brushing. He wondered if he grew it again, would it be the same.

No. When he looked up at Heero, curled by the fire he knew that for certain. A new braid would have no meaning anymore. He had nothing to cleanse himself of, nothing to be reminded of.

He got Heero's signature and two unwanted cups of coffee.

The road home was icy and wet. Snow slapped the front of his car like wet little hands. The windscreen wipers cut his hearing up into little sections. Swish, swish.

Duo thought about Heero. He thought for a long time about his blue eyes, and about his inscrutable scowls. He thought about roughly bitten nails, about wire tense muscles and tendons. He thought about a deep voice that used to make him shiver. Heero's voice had always been deep.

He realised too late that he had thought too much. The road had gone- the wipers, ominously, had stopped.

He felt the car slip from under his fingers, but there was nothing he could do, so he let it. There were flashes of light and dark, great rushing noises, and then a sudden colony sunrise, the bright flash of the generators kicking in- followed by black.

*

He woke sweating ice cold, eyes wide with a knowledge he didn't want. The cheap room was suddenly oppressive, the bubbling paint no longer cheery yellow, but dull grey. Fingers shaking Duo tossed back the covers. He had never been so afraid in his life. His future- he didn't want that to be his future.

He groped for the reassuring weight of his braid, tangling fingers tightly in its slightly unravelled length, sniffing the day old scent of cheap shampoo.

Heero.

He staggered to his feet, self-destruction flashes burning behind his eyelids.

The balcony was just visible through glass panel doors. He could already see Heero's shadow, cast across the doorway.

Unsteady terrified fingers slid the door open, icy stumbling feet carried him a few feet over linoleum. He sunk to his knees on the balcony, in the cool night air- infected by the processed feel of the colonies.

When he looked up he saw it again. That odd half light, both harsh and soft, peeling any tension from Heero's features, drawing his blue eyes up, his mouth open slightly.

Duo was a shivering wreck.

"Are you-"

The generators kicked in and both boys were flooded in the bright harshness of morning light. Duo jumped in his skin, fingers flexing in an involuntary way, breath sharp and whistling through his ice filled lungs.

"Duo?"

Heero was more Heero again, scowling in a not quite convincing way.

"I had a - nightmare." Forcing the words out was hard. He edged forwards a little, wanting to feel warm- because he was so cold, so cold.

"You-" Dark brows drew together in confusion. Heero reached out one hand to steady Duo and Duo shook at the touch, tense muscles bunching and quivering.

There was a long silence, filled with tense stuff. Duo could hear Heero's heart beating, just through his palm. He could feel Heero was alive more clearly than he could feel his own heart beating.

"You're freezing."

It was all the invitation Duo needed. With a little desperate shiver he tumbled forwards into a pair of steel taunt arms, so surprisingly warm, so surprisingly soft.

"I dreamed we died." He murmured gently, burying his nose, so young, so young, into Heero's collarbone.

He smelled of smoke and salt. He smelled of Heero.

"Died? It was just a dream."

"Shut up!" Duo said pressing closer. "I saw it all."

Heero remained silent for a while.

"A dream about, the future?" He sounded so unlike Heero.

"I have those." He said finally. "But- in the future- I suppose you- will be there." He sounded so awkward.

"I will?" Duo was embarrassed to be crying, but Heero seemed not to notice.

"It was just a dream." Heero confirmed. "We will both be there, I think. Now."

It was almost a promise.

Duo smiled gently and fell in love with the fake sunlight on bushy brown hair. With harsh dark brows. With fantastic blue eyes.

He kissed Heero, and it was like a sunrise, this time like a real earth sunrise, warm and slow and wet and so soft.

Duo had never felt so reassured.

*

This time it was all very white and clinical, like waking up to an empty canvas. It reminded Duo of an anime he had watched once- where the main character had been given the freedom to completely shape his world. White as far as he could see.

He spent a long time in this empty place, hearing threads of sound and ghosts of shapes- reaching out to them only to have them slip away.

Then white formed four walls and then an empty room. Then an hospital room. The change was slow but eventually he found himself.

And the pain. He felt like every bone in his body had been broken and reset, none too gently. He felt warm though, as if an empty cold space has been filled again by something he had forgotten he needed.

"Duo?"

All of a sudden Heero was there, and he was the old Heero- or maybe the new Heero. He looked pale, and tired.

"Nnngh."

Perhaps Duo had already seen Heero smile like that. It seemed like the first time nonetheless.

"How do you feel?"

"Bad." Duo grinned, he couldn't seem to stop himself.

Heero didn't explain what happened, he just sat- even gaze fixing Duo, pinning him inside his own heart.

"How long?" Despite himself Duo had a morbid curiosity.

"Far too long."

"Debating over the switch off?" Duo was finding his voice, and the feeling in the tips of his fingers. They hurt too.

"Almost." Heero slumped, "Fear of brain damage." He added that soberly, half reaching a hand out to Duo's head.

His wedding ring glinted in the glare of the too white hospital light. Duo smiled at the sight of it.

"Where's Relena?"

Heero gazed at him blankly.

"Oh- oh she's at home, with Natasha." He frowned, "I haven't seen her for a while- she-"

Duo tried to sit up and the room tipped and slid around his head. Heero pushed him down carefully, smoothing his forehead, laying his head down on the pillow.

"Damn Duo- don't do that!"

Duo loved Heero when he was annoyed.

"Sorry."

"Relena- she-" Heero ran a hand through his mop of hair, brows low in a deep frown. "She really leaving me- taking Natasha. I mean, she signed all the forms and stuff."

Heero looked suddenly so overwhelmed. Duo reached out a painful hand, managing halfway before it hurt too much.

"Heero." His throat seemed raw, with hurt and hope.

"But she was right. I think."

"About what?"

Heero looked at Duo for a long time. The artificial light, and the intensity of his gaze, drew Duo into a memory. Into a dream.

"It wasn't really fair."

And suddenly, the stuff was back. It filled their words and sparked along the ends of their phrases and Duo realised that it was everything and anything they had missed over all those years. All the unsaids and might haves.

"Ne - Heero." Duo said suddenly, breaking the overflow of feeling.

"Hn?"

"I think I might grow my hair again."

FIN

I could have taken this lots of different ways but in the end i just let it drop into reality, because the only thing we can change about or lives is our future. Just little points- um the overuse of stuff is intentional. As are the repetitions (there are lots of them. If you find the fic that boring you can try to count them all.)

[back to Singles a - k]