By : Sunhawk

Conversations (cont)

"Leave it alone, Heero," I warned, looking him hard in the eye. "She's done nothing wrong. Wufei and I do need to work this out."

He deflated, and dropped his gaze from mine, stirring idly at his soup. "I know, but..."

"No buts," I cut him off again. "I wasn't complaining. I was just saying that I already wasn't in the best state of mind when I ran head on into Relena and had that little... discussion." He looked like he was going to apologize again, but I didn't give him the opening for that either. "What I did was careless. I know better. After I realized... I was as embarrassed as hell. Then on top of that, Quatre falling to pieces... and on top of that, you turning it into a three-ring circus... I just had to get out."

How's that for honesty? Did I cover everything? Well... I guess I left out the part where Zechs Merquise came into the same room with me and dared to breathe, but I really didn't know that I wanted to get into that little discussion right now, on top of everything else.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, not even pretending to eat any longer. "I didn't know what was going on. Everything was fine... and then you were suddenly so angry. I didn't even realize at first what you'd done. I just stood there like an idiot and let you... let you..."

"Enough of that, Yuy," I admonished. "It wasn't your fault. It was mine. If I hadn't lost my temper, I'd have noticed that you were using hot pads."

He raised his eyes from his bowl to look at me, and his _expression just about killed me. "I screwed up. I froze. If Rashid hadn't been there..."

I sighed and rolled my eyes. "If Rashid hadn't been there, I'd have figured it out two seconds later, from all the people screaming at me, and dumped the thing on the stove."

There was more staring. He wanted to beat himself up some more, but could see I was going to counter his every argument. Would pop his every justification about how this was all his fault.

He finally tried on a tentative little smile. "You know... we really should stop having these discussions over dinner. We're going to starve to death."

I laughed for him and we agreed we should finish eating before we had to reheat the soup to make it palatable.

He, of course, wouldn't let me help with the dishes, but made me go settle myself in my nest on the couch until he was done. It didn't take him long, then he came to sit with me, offering up a more composed _expression. "So... I think it's your turn. What did you want to talk to me about?" he queried.

I'd been thinking about it, while I had waited for him to finish cleaning up, but still wasn't sure where to start. I had known that he wouldn't forget this, that he would come to finish hashing out whatever it was I had started to say. Not that I had hoped he would forget... but... where the hell to start?

I want this thing that you don't want, but I don't want you to give it to me just because I want it, since I don't want you to...

Oh, never freakin' mind.

"Heero," I blurted, "sometimes it feels like if I asked you for the moon, you'd spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to get it to me."

He chuckled wryly, giving me a bemused little smile. "I... don't think I understand."

I sighed, reaching to run my hand through my bangs, forgetting the gauze until I snagged my hair on it. I dropped my hand back into my lap and almost laughed, suddenly aware of just where this new nervous habit had come from. "Look... do you have any idea what a burden that can be? I have to double think everything, just to make sure that I'm not 'forcing' you to do things just for my sake."

"You don't force me to do things, Duo," he told me, his voice very intent. "In fact... you almost never ask me for anything at all. I don't mind..."

He stopped when I sighed. "That's kind of my point," I said, not able to totally keep the faint dejection out of my voice. "You'd do anything for me... I know that. So how am I supposed to know when you're doing things that you don't want to... just to make me happy?"

Something feral came into his eyes then. "I'd sell my soul if it would buy your happiness."

I shivered and stared at him wide-eyed. "Ok... that's totally my point! Do you honestly think I could be happy if you were running around... soulless?"

He had to laugh, and I'll admit it did sound pretty damn stupid, but he'd started down this particular analogy road. "Duo... it's an _expression..."

"I'm not being stupid, Yuy," I grumbled, glaring at him. "That was just an _expression. But answer me this... what if I told you the only thing in the world that would make me happy was... was for you to quit the Preventors?" It was the worst thing I could think of, for him, on the spur of the moment.

His face went dead still, his total lack of _expression showing me his shock at the very idea. He loved his job. He loved feeling like he was making a difference. It was an honor thing, with him and Wufei both, I think, and I doubt if he could conceive of doing anything else with his life. "Is... that what you want?" he breathed softly.

I thought I would pull my hair out. It was right there in his eyes; if I said 'yes', he'd be on the phone to Commander Une in the next minute tendering his resignation.

"No, you idiot!" I blurted. "I'm freakin' trying to make a point here! That job isn't just a job to you. It's more like a... a damn calling, and we both know it. But if I said 'kiss it goodbye', you'd be working at the local McDonald's come tomorrow morning!"

He blinked at me for a minute, looking rather taken aback. Then he tried on a tiny little smile. "Well... I'd like to think I could do better than wearing a paper hat and flipping burgers."

It was a comment designed to calm me down, and it did make me take a moment just to breathe. But my stomach still felt like it was full of a flock of pissed off butterflies. I had gotten rather wound up over this, hadn't I? Maybe just too much stress for one day? Perhaps I shouldn't have brought this up on top of everything else. But we were hip deep now, with no path back, only forward.

"Heero-love," I told him, voice a little steadier. "You see what I'm saying? I don't want that kind of power. I understand what that says about how much you love me, but I don't want that kind of relationship. It puts all the major decisions on my head. I want... a partnership with you, but that can't be as long as you keep sacrificing everything for my sake."

He looked a little... odd. A parade of strange emotions wandering through his eyes faster than I could read them.

Then he crawled into my nest of afghans and pillows with me.

I ended up with Heero lying on my chest, with his head nestled under my chin and I thought... God, it's stupid, but I thought for a second I would burst into tears.

He'd never sought this from me. This was my position, and it felt... very odd to be the one doing the holding. But it felt... good. Damn good.

"So," he sighed, when he was settled in my arms. "Going to tell me now, what this is all about?"

"If you swear to me you will be completely honest," I told him; not at all sure I trusted that he would be. "If you won't just give in to me, because you think you're making me happy."

He hesitated, which earned him more points than his just blurting out his pledge. "I'll do my best," he finally told me. I wasn't sure whether to be reassured by his honesty, or worried about his evasion.

And then we lay there for a little while. I thought about wording and he waited for me. I thought about trust and he waited for me. I thought about how in the world I would be able to tell what he really thought and he... finally sighed in impatience.

"I liked one of the houses we looked at," I told him, calm and steady and not letting my trepidation come into my voice. "But I didn't say anything because I heard you tell Miss Montoya you didn't want it."

Jeez, that sounded kind of... stupid, didn't it? After all the build up. I was rather surprised he didn't just laugh at me.

I couldn't help thinking the confession should have made me feel better, to have finally gotten that off my chest. To have finally told him what had been bothering me all weekend. But I just felt vaguely sick, waiting for him to answer, Afraid he would insist that we buy the house sight unseen. I could suddenly see how getting what I wanted in the wrong way, could poison the dream until it would be worse than not getting it at all.

He raised his head and looked up at me with a strange little gleam in his eyes, and said, "So sell it to me."

"What?" I responded, sounding quite intelligent, I'm sure.

He stretched up the extra couple of inches required to kiss me gently, and said, "Convince me, Mr. Maxwell. Sell me on this house."

"You mean it?" I breathed, afraid to believe. "You won't just..."

"I understand what you're saying, love," he told me simply, and there was something in his eyes that told me he really did.

"Then let's go!" I grinned, almost laughing at the surprised look on his face.

"Where?" he blurted, frowning at me.

"I work better with visual aids!" I chuckled and began pushing him off. "Come on... before it's too dark."

"Duo," he said reasonably, looking at me with a touch of good-natured indulgence in his eyes, moving off my chest and sitting up. "It's Sunday, Miss Montoya isn't going to..."

"Screw Miss Montoya," I informed him, scrambling to my feet and heading toward the closet to get our coats. "Well... not literally, she's not my type. But since when did I need a damn key to get into whatever the hell I wanted into?"

"I don't know that we ought..." he started to protest again, looking at me as though I'd grown a second head.

"Oh, take a walk on the wild side, Yuy!" I grinned at him. "I need light to present my case properly, and I'm losing the light." He looked for a moment like he didn't have a clue what to say to me, but then he seemed to remember my bandaged hands and couldn't just stand there watching me struggle into the jacket.

"This will constitute breaking and entering," he grumbled; as he took my coat away from me and helped me slip it back on.

"Only if we get caught, lover!" I smirked at him. "And besides... we can always flash that Preventors badge of yours and claim we're investigating... something."

He sighed, managing to sound greatly put-upon, but slipped into his own coat as well. "Only if you promise to be more careful about those hands," he scolded me. "I know you don't feel it... but that doesn't mean you should be using them like nothing happened."

"Yes, boss," I said contritely and headed for the door.

He snorted. "Oh that sounded believable," he groused.

"Just come on!" I laughed and he followed me out.

I hadn't flat out told him which house I was talking about, half because I really did want to be able to show him the things I'd seen about the house that he hadn't, and half because I was just nervous. Afraid that I wouldn't be able to convince him. Afraid that I would.

I navigated while he drove, without giving him the final destination. He responded to my 'turn here, go there' commands with sighs and rolling eyes, but somehow seemed to be... pleased about something. I kept catching him glancing at me with these funny little smiles, though he did his best to keep the 'exasperated' _expression firmly in place.

I was so cheap-watch wound tight excited, so Ohmygawd anxious that I was starting to get a headache. I wondered what it would do for my case if I puked in his car.

I saw when he figured it out, and stopped bothering to give directions. The last mile was kind of quiet. He was frowning thoughtfully. I was trying not to peel the gauze off my hands in my nervousness.

And then we were there.

He pulled up and parked, turning the car off, but waiting for me, still following my lead. I got out; feeling like our whole future was resting on my shoulders, and started the walk up to the porch. Heero followed after me, strangely quiet. Or maybe I was the one who was strangely quiet. I suddenly wasn't so sure this was such a great idea.

Jimmying the lock took no more time than using a key would have, so we didn't have to linger suspiciously on the porch. Not that there was anyone around to see us. Heero sighed softly as we stepped inside, closing the door behind us. "Oh, you are such a little goody-two-shoes," I chuckled. "Relax... bet you've never snuck into a movie theatre before, either."

He raised an eyebrow but didn't comment on the strange _expression. "This is going to be pretty hard to explain, if we get caught," was all he said.

"Then we'll just have to be careful," I teased and guided him into the living room.

I tried to let go of my unease, tried to recapture the feeling I'd had while we'd been here before, however short-lived it had been. "Come on, Heero," I told him. "You have to admit this is the coolest looking fireplace we've seen anywhere."

"Coolest?" he mocked me, archly. "I don't remember 'cool' being on our list of pre-requisites."

It caught me rather by surprise, that he was willing to play the devil's advocate for me. That he was willing to make me win this and not just give in. I felt a flash of hope, and some of my excitement came back. "Cool is always a factor," I informed him haughtily, and wandered over to run my hands along the stones. "Just look at it... it has to be a hundred years old! Can you imagine the man who built it? He probably dug the stones out of the backyard himself!"

Heero grunted and moved to stand beside me, reaching out to touch the stones with a tentative air, as though he thought they might be hot.

"Not like those houses we looked at yesterday," I tried to explain. "There was no... soul to them. They were all alike, built from the same set of plans. The guy who drew up the blue-prints has probably never even been in one of those houses." I moved away, turning about in the center of the room, looking around at the crown molding, at the deep windowsills. "This place has a... voice. It's got history."

I moved to where I saw the ghost of a plush couch, seat deep enough to accommodate two, lying side by side. "Can't you imagine winter evenings here, with just the fireplace for light?" I trailed my fingers along the back of that nonexistent piece of furniture as I went by. "We could put the stereo system there in the corner." I could almost hear the music playing.

Heero cocked his head, his eyes following me as I moved around the room, touching things, pointing out the little details. Then I happened to step where I could see down the hall and realized that the sun was setting. Understanding that I was losing my much-vaunted light, I moved to take Heero by the arm and pulled him down the hallway with me. "Hurry, Heero... before it gets too dark to see."

"Hands," he murmured, gently untangling his arm from my grasp, but his tone wasn't so much irritated, as it was... tender.

I took him to my studio. The room he'd never gotten to. Not speaking for a minute, just watching him as he moved with me into the room.

The setting sun was streaming in the back windows, making the normally white room glow with a warm, orange fire. I saw him recognize it from the drawing and he turned to look at me for a second. I could only smile sheepishly. He stepped away from me and walked around the room, pausing where I had stood the day before, looking out at the back yard, at the willow tree. His fingers dusted through the residue of potting soil, just as mine had, and I say his eyes look for the other signs that had told me this had been a virtual greenhouse, once upon a time. He cast a glance back over his shoulder at me and then walked deliberately to the other end of the counter, climbing up to sit in the very spot I'd drawn him, mimicking the pose. The fading sunlight set him aglow, set his hair on fire and made him look like some damn exotic fire creature come to life. It made my heart ache. It made me wish for my paints. I just stood and stared at the picture he made... determined to burn the image into my mind for later. It was as beautiful as I had ever seen him.

He stretched out a hand and I went to join him, crawling up to sit facing him, feeling almost reluctant to intrude.

His smile was gentle and warm, and just a touch wry. "You never saw the kitchen, did you?" he asked and I had to shake my head.

"It's awful," he informed me flatly. "I completely refuse to do anything until we remodel it. I don't care how bad the rest of the house is, the kitchen comes first... it sucks."

I nodded, staring at him, trying to judge... trying to be sure.

"The price is enough below what we budgeted," he said firmly. "That we should be able to afford a contractor to do that part, but after that... any other repairs, we're going to have to do ourselves."

"I'd like that," I told him, and he frowned at me.

"It's going to be a lot of hard work, Duo," he informed me, wearing the shadow of that concerned look he gets. "Are you sure you're up to this? That's why I dismissed it... I don't want you wearing yourself out."

I looked around, seeing the room in my head the way I wanted it to be. "That's part of what attracts me, Heero," I said quietly and I don't know that he understood. I frowned, thinking about it. "It'll be... building something again." I turned away from him, sliding off the counter and walking over to where I could 'see' my easel, almost reaching out to touch it. "It's been so long since I felt like I've had a... direction. I look at this place and I just ache to fix things. I can see how it ought to look... how it once looked, and I want to make it a home again."

There were hands on my shoulders, turning me around, and when I met his eyes they glowed with an inner fire that the sunset couldn't come close to imitating.

"My Duo," he breathed, looking at me in a way that made me feel warm somewhere inside, but made me shiver all the same. "You've sold me. I won't lose anything that's brought this... life back to you. I've dreamed of seeing you like this again, ever since that damned accident."

I could only stare at him wide-eyed and shocked, while he fairly drank me in with his intense gaze. Then he leaned slowly in to kiss me. Gently at first, bare brushes of his lips over mine until something inside me let go. The headache was just... gone. The vague unease was just... gone. I met his soft touches with more desperate ones and he wrapped me close against him. I suddenly knew that everything was going to be all right. It was all going to work out. He stopped his near frantic rain of kisses, pressing my face into the crook of his shoulder and telling me not to cry, which made no sense, but he held me tight, murmuring soft promises until the sun was completely gone and it really did get dark.

"Let's go back to the apartment and call Miss Montoya," I whispered, suddenly afraid of losing this. Afraid that someone else would move faster and take our house away from us.

"All right," he soothed and steered us toward the door, his arm still around me. "We'll tell her we're thinking about making an offer, but Duo... we really need to come back and look at the rest of it."

"I know," I admitted sheepishly, realizing that the whole upstairs might be gutted and we wouldn't know it. But somehow, I'm not sure it mattered.

I think Heero sensed that, and he sighed, chuckling softly. "You're hopeless," he grumbled. "Let me do the damn talking... one look at your besotted face and the woman will know she can ask whatever the hell price she wants."

"Hey!" I objected, starting to slap at his arm, but he caught my wrist with a growl of warning and I flushed, grinning unabashedly. "I have done this kind of thing before, remember?" I informed him, ignoring the slip.

"We'll see," he grumbled, lifting the arm he still held trapped, to lightly kiss the gauze. I snorted, retrieving my poor, battered hand just as we got to the front door. We took a quick look around, found the coast clear and slipped outside, carefully making sure to lock up behind us.

"Now that's the first thing we need to take care of," I told him. "Those locks are pathetic."

He chuckled at me as we made our way down the front steps. I hesitated as we walked across the front lawn, turning back to look up at the house. Our house. Heero didn't immediately notice and I heard his footsteps, still moving away.

I wanted to offer up a little prayer that nothing had changed, that no one else had made an offer on the place, but I was kind of afraid to push my luck. Sometimes... when I want things a little too much, I'm scared to draw divine attention to it. God sometimes seemed to have a twisted sense of humor where Duo Maxwell was concerned. Having something outside my control take this away from me at this point, would rather fit that sense of humor.

There suddenly seemed to be a shadowed presence on the porch swing and I imagined it gently swaying.

"Don' worry, kid," Solo's voice came to me on the breath of a still wind. "I'll keep an eye on't for ya." He leaned back and tucked immaterial hands behind his imaginary head. "I like it here."

"Me too, old friend," I whispered.

"Duo?" Heero's voice called and I turned to find him waiting by the car. "Is everything all right?"

I smiled and went to join him. "Just fine, love," I told him. "Just about perfect, in fact."

He smiled in return, giving me another quick kiss, looking at me with that strange, contented look again. Then he opened the car door for me, mindful of my hands.

I glanced back toward the porch, watching Solo peacefully swinging, while I waited for Heero to make his way around the car. I wondered idly if I should tell him our new house was haunted.

That thought made me chuckle. Well...perhaps some other time.


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