By : Sunhawk
Warnings : Yaoi, angst/sap, OOC, discussion of NCS of OC in the past, language, Duo POV.
Thanks to Christy for beta reading in spite of near Armageddon!
Feed-back is a dream I have.
And I don't own anything in this series, either.


House hunting is a bitch. There's just no other way to put it. I never in a million years would have guessed how damn hard it would be. Buying my own ship had not been this difficult; they only make so many kinds, after all. I wanted a transport class cruiser. I narrowed it down to five models just from research. Eliminated three of those on first sight and finally settled between the last two after a test flight. Done, I had owned a ship. The hardest part had been coming up with the money.

But houses. Dear God, do there have to be so many choices? Brick, frame, one story, two story, a story and a damn half. Full basement, part basement, crawl space, slab. How much land? What about location? Taxing district? Commute distance? I determined really damn fast that whatever we bought was going to be our permanent home because I was never doing this again.

We had a kind of faulty start, as we wandered into the realtor's office with only vague notions of what we wanted. I honestly think the woman was ready to throw us out on our ears after the first couple of visits. We didn't have answers to any of her questions, which made it damn near impossible for her to do her job. I thought she was going to throttle us as we dismissed house after house. We figured it out when she stopped returning our calls. So we regrouped.

We took her questions and a handful of house listings and went home to plan the mission. Yeah, that was how we got through the whole damn thing. We turned it into a mission. We started with a map centered on Preventors headquarters and calculated what we deemed 'acceptable' driving distance. Then we began doing research. I think everybody we knew was so sick of getting grilled about their homes, that they started avoiding us after the first week.

But we figured out that garages are a good thing, especially attached to the house. Basements only seemed to serve the purpose of collecting junk. Attics were kinda cool. A second bathroom was not an altogether bad thing. Frame or brick didn't really matter as long as there was siding on the frame, because painting sucks.

We started to narrow down the parameters, but it was a hell of a struggle. It took me a bit to figure out exactly why things were so difficult, and why the whole process was exhausting the hell out of me. Heero was making me make all the decisions. Oh, he was being subtle as blazes about it, but he somehow managed to make everything my choice. He was still hung up on this house being 'perfect' for me, and was bound and determined to see that I got the home of my dreams.

We won't even delve into the whole issue of my dream home being out among the stars, because we all know there was no way in hell that was ever going to happen again. Those days were long over.

So we were to the point of making a trip back down to the realtor's office with answers to questions the poor woman had never even dreamed of asking, when it finally dawned on me.

Unless I was very damn careful, we were going to end up with a house that I liked and Heero didn't. Oh... stop laughing at me, I see the irony. It smacked me in the face every time I climbed behind the wheel of my much-hated car. A car I hated more with each passing day. I didn't want that to happen to Heero, didn't want him living in a home where things at first annoyed, and then infuriated him, just on general principle. You can start out with the best self-sacrificing intentions in the world, but you can't force yourself to love something you hate. Living with a less than appealing car was one thing; the damn things don't last forever. Living with a less than appealing house was another thing all together, especially since I'd already established that I wanted the place we found to be our home for the rest of our lives.

We had sent our new list of requirements off to our reluctant real estate agent, Marla Montoya, and must have convinced her we were serious because we had an appointment with her on Saturday to go look at houses. There was a list of six places we were scheduled to visit that day and I have to admit to having a hard time deciding whether to be excited or nauseous thinking about going. I really was anxious to get out of Heero's third floor apartment, to be someplace where I could go outside and just sit if I wanted to. To feel like we could make major structural decisions without having to get permission from the landlord. To be able to come and go without feeling like old Mrs. Hitchcock was tracking our every move. And most of all, to live someplace that I felt was as much my home as it was Heero's. I wanted to lose that sense of being a guest. I wanted to belong again. Heero had been right about that much... I'd never truly, deep down in my bones, felt at home in his apartment. He had too much history with the place that didn't include me.

But I was also terrified of reliving that horrid experience with the car. I didn't want either one of us to go out and 'give in' to the other one. I didn't want to get so exasperated that I just caved to his wishes again, but even more than that, I didn't want him settling for something just to try to make me happy.

I'm afraid I had a headache before we ever left the house. I've thought a couple of times that it was a damn good thing that I hadn't suffered so much with tension headaches during the war... we would probably have lost.

We met Miss Montoya at her office and just let her do the driving. We went through the first couple of houses like the proverbial shit through a shingle. The places were totally wrong, I didn't even have to worry about trying to unravel the truth behind what Heero really thought. I had mentioned a fireplace at one point and nothing would do now, but that the house have a functioning fireplace. The first house had one, but the chimney had been bricked up and it was just for show. The second house didn't have one at all. Heero walked out of it without looking further than the front room. The third place had a fireplace all right, but the bathroom was so tiny you couldn't have gotten a regular tub in it, much less the more elaborate fixtures I had teased Heero about getting someday. Then we pulled up to the fourth house and I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven.

It was out near the edge of town, on a dead end street. The nearest neighbor probably could have heard somebody screaming if they stood on the front lawn, but a rise in the land and the vegetation made it impossible to see them. The house made me think of... stray dogs. The kind that just need a couple of good meals and a bath? We had to step over the bottom step to get to the front porch because of a broken board. The porch, though, was massive; deep and shaded, wrapping clear around two sides of the house. The front door was a beautiful, heavy slab of oak with scars and tales to tell all on it's own. That was a weird thought, I suppose, but I remember standing on the porch waiting for Miss Montoya to unlock the door and thinking just that. That here was a house that had seen whole generations come and go, that had stories hidden all through it.

Miss Montoya led us into the living room to prove that the place had the pre-requisite fireplace, a huge stone thing with a massive, carved mantelpiece. I barely heard her begin the spiel about the house having been on the market for over a year, I wandered away while she was still explaining about the former owner having been in a nursing home for the last ten years, refusing to give the house up until the bitter end. The relatives had apparently put the place up for sale within days of the settling of the poor woman's will.

There was a hallway that took me to the back of the house and I went that way, drawn by a light that I couldn't explain, because there was no electricity. The place was completely empty, and obviously had been for ages. There was wallpaper on the walls in the hallway and a small place where it was peeling showed me that there was layer upon layer. The topmost was a rich crimson brocade stuff, but underneath was a pale yellow floral. I wanted to pick at it and see all the layers, wanted to ponder the hands that had put each layer in place.

I reached the end of the hall and came out in a bright, wide-open room. It looked like it might have been a porch at one time, but had been enclosed and finished. There were windows all along the wall directly across from the doorway, the source of the bright illumination I had seen. It was my studio. The one that Heero had envisioned for me. I could see it all cleaned up and painted. I could see an easel there, could see my paints and supplies all neatly put away in the floor to ceiling cabinets there. This was it. This was the house. I could feel it in my bones; the place was so old, rich with history and character. Unique and wonderfully mysterious. It was everything I hadn't understood I wanted. I'd bet anything that we'd find odd little things here and there when we moved in, things that the former owner's relatives had overlooked as they had abandoned the place. Hell, there might even be things that were left here from before the previous owner. I found myself wondering about the woman who'd lived here, who'd made this her home. Probably widowed and holding on to the place she'd lived in since she was first married.

I moved almost reverently across the floor of the studio to look out through the windows, delighted to find a backyard gone wild from neglect. There was a massive weeping willow way out across a sweeping sea of thick grass; it's branches hanging so low they swept the ground. Everything was brown and dried looking this time of year, but I could imagine what it would look like come spring. I wondered about wildlife, I'd bet there were rabbits in that grass, maybe even other things. I could imagine a hammock or a porch swing under that tree, where you could lie at dusk and watch the animals come out of hiding. There were built-in cabinets all along the wall under the windows and looking down at the countertop, I found bits of pottery and a dusting of dirt. I could visualize the woman who had lived here working with her tools, repotting flowers and ferns, watering and tending. An outlet for her attentions after her children were grown and moved out. I'd bet this room had been a veritable greenhouse.

I turned and left the room, hunting for Heero and Miss Montoya, using the sound of their voices to trace them to the kitchen.
"... really just too much work," I heard Heero telling the realtor. "It needs more repairs than I'm prepared to take on."

"It's quite a bargain, Mr. Yuy," she replied and I slowed my steps to listen to them without them knowing I was there. "The house has been on the market for some time and the price has come down substantially."

"We both hold rather demanding jobs, Miss Montoya," Heero told her patiently. "We just don't have the time or ability to tackle something of this magnitude. I'm sorry."

She replied with something I didn't hear, because I was too busy trying to figure out why the backs of my eyes felt so funny. How very... odd. We hadn't been in the house ten minutes, but listening to Heero dismiss it out of hand was making me feel like I hadn't felt since the day my ship had sold. I could honestly have stood there and wept from the feeling of loss. God, but I wanted that house. I wanted to repair that front step and strip away that wallpaper. I wanted to explore every last square inch of it. Wanted to paint and furnish and make it ours.

But here we were in that moment I had anticipated. Heero did not want this house. Heero was standing around the corner from me voicing his honest feelings to the realtor. But I knew as well as I knew what color the sun was, that if I went into that kitchen and told Heero I loved this house, he would buy it right there on the spot. Would make poor Miss Montoya draw up the paperwork before he let her walk out the door. Would pay whatever had to be paid to get me this house. Despite the fact that he didn't want it. So I knew what was required of me. What I hadn't anticipated was how much it was going to hurt.

I didn't let myself look any further, didn't let myself go up the stairs, didn't even go on in to see the kitchen. I walked with measured tread back across the living room and took myself out to the front porch to wait for Heero and Miss Montoya.

I found a thought hamster sitting on the porch swing, and when I stepped through the front door, he gave me a rather mournful look and half-heartedly waved a little banner that simply said, 'Ouch.'

"No shit," I agreed and watched him fade away.

"What was that?" Heero asked from the doorway, and startled me.

"Nothing," I sighed and was able to turn and greet them with a bright smile. 'Sure is a beautiful day out, isn't it? Are we still on schedule?'

Miss Montoya glanced at her watch as she locked up behind us and couldn't quite contain a chuckle. "Way ahead of schedule, actually. You two are rather decisive."

I led the way back to the car and the house was so far away from what Heero thought of as 'acceptable' that he never even asked me what I thought of it. We looked at two more houses that day, I know we did because it was on the agenda, but I'll be damned if I can tell you what they were like.

Miss Montoya dropped us off at the office to pick up Heero's car, giving us a look of mild reproach before driving off and leaving us there. I'm sure she was thinking that we were wasting her time again.

I must have been awfully quiet on the trip home, because it wasn't long after Heero got us back to the apartment that he sought me out.

"Hey," he said gently, slipping his arms around me from behind, settling his chin on my shoulder and giving me a squeeze. "We'll find something, don't worry. We've only been seriously looking for a little while."

I sighed, trying to dispel the visions I had of that house, and leaned back into his embrace. "I guess I just didn't think it would be this complicated," I temporized, thinking that it was him and me that were the complicated aspect.

He sighed in his turn and lifted his chin from my shoulder. "I know... I guess I'd hoped that being able to give Miss Montoya a list of parameters would help speed things up." He tilted his head then, and dropped a kiss on that spot where neck curves into shoulder, and made me shiver. "You're very tense," he noted and his voice took on that worried tone I knew so well. He stepped back a pace to turn me around and I was greeted with the worried look that went with that tone of voice. "Why didn't you tell me you had a headache?" he suddenly asked and I was left blinking at him.

"What?" I blurted. "You're a mind reader now? How the hell did you know I have a headache?"

He raised a finger to gently trace between my eyes. "You've got that little frown you get when you're in pain," he told me and couldn't quite hide the spark of satisfaction that I had admitted to it.

I snorted and looked away, trying to clear the _expression from my face, but he took me by the hand and with a tug, led me toward the bedroom. "Strip," he commanded, giving me a nudge toward the bed and then left me there, disappearing into the bathroom. I heard water running in the sink after a few minutes. I dutifully began undressing, wondering just what he had in mind. By the time he emerged from the bathroom, with a dripping bottle of lotion and a towel in hand, I was starting to feel a little weird standing there buck-naked, wearing only a faint blush.

As he walked across the room toward me, he gave me an appreciative rake of his eyes that only made me flush harder. "Face down on the bed," he told me then, kicking his own shoes off as he moved that way himself.

I stretched out as instructed and he came to straddle my thighs, carefully tucking my braid out of the way. "Relax," he murmured and I heard the cap on the lotion bottle pop open. I braced myself for that first touch of cold liquid, but it never came. Instead there was the delicious feel of heat pooling low between my shoulder blades.

I couldn't help a soft sigh. "You warmed it."

"Of course," Heero chuckled, his fingers coming to smooth the lotion over my back. "I'm assuming this is a tension headache... you need to relax, not tense up more."

He is so very damn good at this. I've thought more than once that somewhere in his mysterious past, he'd had professional lessons. His touch is firm where it needs to be, gentle where it should be. He never forgets things like my still healing and somewhat tender burn. He is tireless, seeming to draw pleasure of his own just from touching me, just from easing my aches and pains. The headache didn't stand a chance. It wasn't long before he had me groaning quietly in appreciation, and all of the pain and frustration of the day just seemed to melt away.

His hands slowed after a bit and he leaned down to place a gentle kiss on the side of my face. "Headache all gone?" he sighed near my ear.

"Hmmm," I agreed amiably. "I am goo... watch me turn into a puddle."

He chuckled and slid off to lie beside me, his hand still gently stroking up and down my back. Despite its barely being evening, I think I could very easily have fallen asleep there, I hadn't felt that relaxed in a long damn time. Movement was just too much of an effort. Heero's hand left my back for a second and I heard the lotion bottle open again. "I think I missed a bit of dry skin here," he murmured softly, with a pitch to his voice that told me he had begun to think more erotic thoughts. His hand settled on my thigh and began massaging upward, working the lotion in and kneading up the length of muscles, following the line of thigh into hip and finally onto ass. His fingers massaged and squeezed, and a small sound escaped his lips, telling me when the touches began to be as much for his pleasure as mine. His fingers, working reflexively over my skin, put me in mind of a great cat helplessly flexing its claws as you scratch behind its ear.

Then his slick fingers dipped cautiously toward that place he'd only ventured once before, and he whispered, "May I?" next to my ear.

I suppose it shouldn't have caught me so by surprise, but it did, and I couldn't help but jerk away. It was just too sudden, before I had a chance to think. I was instantly sorry, but couldn't retract my body's rather blunt reaction.

The look on his face was this strange mixture of shock and regret and he was reaching to gather me to him, before I even had a chance to decide just what I had meant to do. "Hey... hey... it's all right. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that... I'm sorry."

I felt myself blushing half way down my chest and burrowed into his embrace as much to hide as anything. "You... just surprised me, that's all," I managed to tell him. "I didn't mean to..."

"Hush," he soothed, holding on like he was afraid I might run away. I was vaguely aware of his wiping his hand on the towel he'd brought with him, then that hand came to stroke over my hair. "Don't you dare apologize for letting me know what you aren't comfortable with. I moved too fast, that's all... my fault."

He was still mostly dressed and it was starting to make me feel extremely ill at ease, very vulnerable and exposed. "It's... kind of...uhmmm... chilly now that the lotion is cooling off..." I mumbled and it was enough to gain me the blanket. I pulled it up around us, feeling much better, shielded again, and settled into his arms.

He was chewing on something that he couldn't quite seem to get spit out. I thought he was going to speak a half a dozen times, but each time nothing came out and he subsided again.

"What happened to our new resolve to speak plainly?" I teased after a little while of feeling him struggle.

He sighed heavily and his arms tightened around me, taking on an unconsciously protective air. "I want to ask you something that I think might upset you," he blurted, and when I tilted my head back to look at him, he really did look troubled.

"Just ask," I told him, trying on a small smile that didn't seem to reassure him much.

"You told me once," he began, and then hesitated. "We talked about..." he didn't seem to like that either, and blew out a frustrated breath. "You hide things and I don't know..."

I pushed back a little, so that we were lying where we could see each other instead of me having my face buried in his collarbone. "Heero... what is it?" I prodded, reaching to smooth his hair from his forehead.

"You told me once that no one has ever... hurt you..." he flushed slightly and for a second couldn't meet my eyes. "Sexually. You said that you'd never been... harmed that way."

Once it was out and in the air between us, he did look up to meet my gaze. Fiercely, hopefully, fearfully, desperately. It was a little bit overwhelming. "I would not lie to you about something like that," I told him firmly. "If I have any bad memories at all that even border on sexual, it was that mission with Jenson."

I felt him shiver and he reached to cup my face with his hand, gently brushing his thumb over my cheek. "Then why do you react so strongly sometimes, to the things I do?"

God, his damn heart was right there in his eyes, and I couldn't miss how... unsure of himself he felt over this. Trying to please me and afraid that he might be wandering around in a minefield that he didn't understand.

I sighed. "I... I think we need to talk about something," I told him, and saw the most stricken look come over his face. I heard what I'd said about two seconds before he got the irony of being on the wrong side of that line, and we laughed together like a pair of loons for a couple of minutes. It helped. It eased the tension. Talking about sex is... damn difficult.

"I'm sorry," I murmured when I could stop chuckling, and leaned my head to rest against his shoulder.

"Point made," he laughed in return. "I'll be more careful delivering lines like that myself."

There was a bit of quiet then, while I thought about what I wanted to say and couldn't quite seem to come up with the words. Heero shifted away from me, so that we were lying face to face again, with a bit of space between us. "Just say it, love," he coaxed with a gentle smile.

I couldn't help a heavy sigh and felt myself flushing, just thinking about bringing this up. I focused on a spot in the center of his chest. "Look... I've never... actually... been with anybody but you, ok?" I blurted as fast as I could manage, and then waited, all but holding my breath, to see what his reaction would be. There wasn't one. He made me look at him and when I finally did, I found this... strange _expression on his face. One part... amused, the asshole. But about two parts pure, unadulterated joy, and the rest was some kind of bastard mix of possessive and aroused and predatory.

"That's what you've..." he began, but then thought better of it. "Never?" he had to ask, his voice just a bit incredulous. I gave my head a tiny little shake and before I knew what was happening, he had me pushed over on my back and was kissing the hell out of me, his hands in my hair, his body pressed tight against mine.

The kiss was deep and fierce, possessive and gentle all balled together into something that left me wanting to curl into his arms and stay forever.

"My Duo," he breathed, when he drew back, his eyes alight with some inner gladness. Some deep joy that I found myself aching to share. But... I knew better than that.

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