Getting Away (cont)

I watched him move and found his motions to be... hesitant.

I was careful as hell not to let him see any hint of my own sore muscles.

Lunch was long past, so even though it was a bit early for dinner, we were hungry enough that we decided to go ahead and fix it.

And if nothing else so far had told me just how much the attack had taken out of him, the fact that he simply came and sat at the island, keeping me company in the kitchen while I cooked, would have.

I was pleased that I had put out the makings for liver and onions the night before. Duo has few comfort foods, and somehow that dish had become one of them. Not to mention that, despite my own lack of enthusiasm for it, it was good for him.

He pulled one of his bottles of soda out of the fridge while I worked, daring me to reprimand him for it, but I wouldn’t rise to that bait. It was almost the first bottle he’d had since we’d arrived, and I wasn’t going to fight such a small thing. I got a tiny little salute and a grin for my trouble.

Duo was fairly quiet, watching me work, and there was something oddly calculating in his gaze. It was disquieting at the same time that I found it... comfortable. Something familiar.

He wanted to eat by the fireplace again, and I went to throw a log on, while dinner finished, so that there would be something to sit in front of. There were still hot coals from the morning, and it didn’t take long before the fire was burning cheerfully. As the day was waning, the unseasonable warmth was fading with it, making the fire a pleasant thing.

I didn’t bother fixing anything other than the liver and onions; I knew he’d not likely eat much more than that anyway. When it was finished, I dished it up and carried it to the living room. Duo brought the drinks and we settled in the corner where we’d slept that morning. Duo grinned at me as he tossed aside the afghan we’d used.

‘Do you realize that all the afghans in this place have gravitated down here?’ he chuckled, trading me my glass of water for his plate of dinner.

‘We do seem to be spending a lot of time here,’ I agreed and debated tucking one of the things around him, but he’d put on his sweatshirt when we’d gotten out of the tub and seemed warm enough.

He took a bite and chewed absently for a moment, looking into the flames. ‘Why don’t we ever use the fireplace at home anymore?’ he suddenly asked.

I looked up from my dinner and regarded his profile for a second before answering. ‘I suppose because nobody supplies the wood for us?’ I ventured and he did smile, though he didn’t turn my way.

‘We should get some wood for the winter,’ he said, taking another bite. ‘It would be nice... every now and again.’

‘We can do that,’ I agreed, then grinned. ‘You can pose for me by firelight.’

He snorted, and did finally look over at me. ‘I don’t do kinky, Yuy,’ he quipped.

I chuckled lightly, but couldn’t help studying him for a moment. I’d only been teasing, but it made me really look at him. ‘Not kinky,’ I told him. ‘But I like what the firelight does to your hair... to your skin.’

I chuckled again, as his skin took on an even deeper glow, coming entirely from within. ‘Knock it off,’ he grumbled, but his next bite was covering a tiny, pleased little smile.

Compliments to Duo sometimes have to be delivered... the long way around.

I couldn’t help notice that he stole a couple of glances my way after that. Oddly circumspect, and it came as something of a shock to me to realize that he was seeing me in the same light. Seemed to like what he saw. I felt myself blushing as well and gave my dinner my full attention.

How very strange to be sitting with the man who had been my lover through all the years since the war, and feeling like a damn teenager on a first date. It was a disconcerting, and somewhat melancholy, sensation.

The rest of the meal was rather quiet.

He managed most of what I’d put on his plate, before swearing he couldn’t eat another bite, and I was surprised that he handed me his dirty dishes when he was done without complaint. Simply asking, ‘Leave the cleanup until later, and come back?’

I readily agreed, and ended up with Duo curled against me, lying between my legs, with his head pillowed on my stomach. I played idly with his braid, while he settled himself until he was comfortable. While he’s miles past the point of only being able to lie flat, it takes a bit of adjusting sometimes before he can relax.

Between the full stomach, and the gentle warmth of the fire, I fully expected him to fall asleep. Especially after the afternoon he’d had, and the pain pill he’d taken afterward. His attacks always leave him feeling drained, and this last one was by far one of the worst ones he’d ever had.

It was sometimes hard to believe in the reassurances of Duo’s doctor when he said this would fade.

I felt Duo sigh, and wasn’t sure if it was in contentment... or something else.

‘All right?’ I whispered, somehow not wanting to disturb the quiet.

‘You’re thinking again,’ he complained, though there wasn’t any real heat in it.

‘So now I’m not allowed to think?’ I asked, theatrically put upon.

He snorted. ‘You know what I mean.’

I echoed his earlier sigh without even meaning to. ‘You can’t honestly expect me not to worry.’

‘I suppose not,’ he conceded. ‘But I just wish...’

‘What?’ I prodded, when he just trailed off.

‘Just wish that you made a better pillow,’ he quipped, doing a complete one eighty on me. ‘You don’t fluff very well.’

It was so obviously not what he had been going to say, that it threw me. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to such a pointed change of subject. But then he chuckled and dug his fingers into my ribs.

‘Maybe I just need to fluff harder?’

I squirmed and caught at his fingers. ‘Watch it, Maxwell,’ I grumbled automatically.

He chuckled again and somehow escaped my grasp. Then his touch changed, his hand settling on my stomach and smoothing up my chest. ‘You know... I’ve always loved you in this sweater.’

It was a caress that was... suggestive, and it caught me completely off guard. My defenses, my resolve, slipped. I couldn’t help a shiver as his fingers traced their way over my chest, hunting for, and finding my nipple through the weave of the sweater.

‘Duo, what are you doing?’ I hissed, feeling my damn cock twitching to life despite my best efforts.

He chuckled throatily, and those deft fingers wandered back down, hunting for the hem of the sweater and worming their way underneath. I gasped at the feel of his palm smoothing over my skin. ‘You seem to have a problem here, lover,’ he teased, as he drew his hand down my belly, and then lower, tracing the outline of my obviously swelling erection.

My damn traitorous voice wavered as I told him, ‘Stop, love...’

I had the warning of cool air as he pushed the sweater up, then soft, warm lips brushed over my stomach. ‘Why stop?’ he breathed on my skin. ‘I can do this... let me do this...’ and his nimble fingers were tugging at the button on my jeans.

I am ashamed to have to admit that almost, I let him. Almost... I gave in. I was so hard, and trapped inside my pants, that it was painful. Just that damn fast. It was the sound of my own voice groaning erotically, that shook me back into control.

‘Don’t,’ I said, in a firmer voice, and this time caught his hand and held it.

He gave me a look that would have gotten him the moon, had he been asking for something that simple. ‘Please, Heero? he pleaded softly.

‘No,’ I told him again, with a little more conviction. ‘I don’t want it like this; I want it for the both of us... when the time is right.’

His eyes clouded and he sighed softly. Somehow, there was distance between us without him ever moving.

‘Duo,’ I said earnestly. ‘It just doesn’t seem right this way. I can wait for you... it isn’t that important...’

Something came over him then that spoke of anger, though I couldn’t understand, and I was far from sure of it. But he was suddenly sitting up, pulling away from me physically, as he had already pulled away emotionally.

I let go of his hand and sat watching him use it to scrub over his face. ‘That’s a hell of a thing to say,’ he muttered, almost to himself.

‘I didn’t mean it that way,’ I frowned, wondering where in the hell this had come from all of a sudden. What had I done to push him into trying this? ‘It’s just not as important as your health.’

His hand dropped away from his face and he gave me a pained look. ‘It won’t hurt me to... to... touch you. I don’t like that you’re... that you’re...’ He blew out a frustrated breath, looking irritated with his hunt for words.

I reached for his hand, and though he let me hold it, it felt like I was holding a bird that wanted to fly free. ‘Damn it, Duo, we’ve talked about this. I don’t feel right about it. When you’re able to enjoy it... when you’ve healed...’

‘And if I don’t?’ he snapped, that anger blossoming. I lost his hand then, as he threw himself to his feet and paced away to the other end of the hearth. I just stared after him, speechless, remembering him saying the same thing the day before. ‘What if this is as good as it gets, Yuy?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I scolded, not understanding what was fueling his obvious frustration. ‘Your doctor and your therapist both have told us this will pass. You’re going to get better; you just can’t expect it to happen overnight.’

‘It’s been a little fucking longer than ‘overnight’,’ he grumbled, his back to me and his hand scrubbing over his face again.

‘And look how far you’ve come,’ I said, not letting myself rise to go after him. ‘You’re pushing yourself too hard again...’

He snorted, and that hand found its way around to rub at the back of his neck for a minute before dropping all together. He glanced at me over his shoulder, before turning away again. ‘What is so wrong with my wanting to... make things easier for you?’

I heaved a sigh, wishing he’d get the hell off the damn sex topic. ‘Because it’s too Gods damn much like my using you!’ I growled, a little more harshly than I’d intended. ‘Why can’t you understand that when the time comes... I want to be able to make love with you, not just...’ I trailed off, all the phrases I could think of, seeming too blunt. Too crude.

‘And what the hell, if I never can, Heero?’ he asked, whirling around to face me. I couldn’t identify what all was fighting for control of his expression. ‘Are you going to just take a bloody vow of celibacy?’

I found my feet under me, his aggression making me need to be on the same level with him. ‘What the hell is driving this?’ I snapped. ‘Why are you so damn...’

His fists were planted firmly on his hips and I could see the muscles in his jaw tensing. ‘I haven’t had a damn erection since before the stupid accident!’ he yelled, and suddenly looked stricken; I don’t think he’d meant to impart that information in quite that way. He flushed to the roots of his hair in the next heartbeat and suddenly couldn’t look at me.

‘Is that...?’ I began, and stopped, unsure of just what reassurances he needed. I took a step toward him, but stopped when he almost unconsciously retreated. ‘Duo?’ I called softly, and held out my hand.

‘Oh bloody hell,’ he muttered, and scrubbed a hand over his eyes again.

‘Duo... love...’ I began, trying for soothing. ‘You know that isn’t what’s important...’

That spark of irritation flared in his eyes again, and he glared. ‘Oh thanks a lot!’ he snapped, voice fairly dripping sarcasm.

‘Damn it, Duo!’ I rebuked. ‘Stop twisting my meaning! You know damn well that isn’t what I meant! I’m just saying that what’s between us isn’t fucking...’

‘That’s for damn sure!’ he growled, and suddenly was storming toward the front door. I think my mouth dropped open.

‘Where the hell are you going?’ I yelled after him, completely incapable of achieving the reasonable tone my head told me I needed.

‘For a damn walk!’ he barked, and he already had the door flung open.

I darted after him, my heart in my throat as I watched him stomp his way down the front steps. He was limping before the third step, but refused to acknowledge it.

I hit the front porch and stopped; chasing him was only going to make matters worse. Way worse. I took a breath and called after him, ‘Duo? Please?’

He slowed. Then he stopped. I could see him heave the sigh from where I was standing. It took a very long minute before he finally called without turning, ‘I just need some space, Heero. I’ll be back in a little bit. I’m just going to walk for a while.’

He started moving again without waiting to see if I would acknowledge him. But his pace was more self-controlled, slower and not an accident looking for a place to happen. After a few yards, he jammed his hands in his pockets and seemed to pick a direction; angling toward the path through the woods.

It was a very damn hard thing to stand there and watch him go.

This was a pattern that we’d followed almost from the first day we’d confessed our feelings for one another. We are neither one of us anything less than volatile personalities, and there had been more than one argument in our past. Would most assuredly be more than one in our future. And somebody storming off was usually how the yelling part always ended. The one of us with enough sense left to admit that it was time to but some space between us until we’d cooled down, would usually take off. Standing on the porch of that cabin, watching him limp into the forest, I remember wondering just what it said that it was usually Duo who did the running off.

Did it mean I was the more stubborn?

Or he was more avoidant?

Knowing that something is the right thing to do, and actually doing it, are two entirely different things.

I watched the place where he disappeared for a long time, mind whirling with thoughts. It was starting to truly sink in, what he’d just confessed to me. It was something of a shock at first, when I let myself really think about it. But the more I worried at it, the more it put certain things into perspective. His sudden body-shyness might not entirely have to do with scars.

I had not lied to him. Not there in that cabin, and not in a shared room a life-time ago, during a war. Our relationship was not based on sex. I loved Duo, and I wanted to be with Duo, and that was not contingent on his ability to perform in the bedroom.

Though I would not be stupid enough again, to try saying that it wasn’t important. I stood there for awhile, listening to the sounds of the woods, and thinking... wishing. I wished he’d taken his jacket. I wished he hadn’t gone. I wished I’d had a better reply for him. I wished I’d known about this aspect of things sooner. Hell... might as well wish the tornado had never happened. Or... a lot of other things.

‘Damn it to hell,’ I muttered to no one in particular and went back in the cabin.

Doing a search on the internet for ‘erectile dysfunction’ was a decidedly uncomfortable task. I was surprised at how many porn sites came up; it seemed somehow... rude. Like rubbing salt in the wound.

I felt stupid as hell, sitting in a strange place, reading such clinical things that suddenly pertained to my Duo... and blushing. I had to fight the urge to look over my shoulder, like a little kid sneaking peeks at his daddy’s Playboys.

Somewhere in there, I started to understand why he’d had so much trouble talking to me about it. Why it had taken him so long to bring it out in the open.

When I’d gleaned everything I felt I could from what was available to me, I shut the system down and went to clean up the kitchen. Idleness only chaffed at me; Duo’d already been gone over an hour.

It took a depressingly short amount of time to wash two plates, two forks and a frying pan.

While I was not quite ready to say that the vacation had been a bad idea, I did think we’d lost some stability with the loss of the routines we’d established at home. Our days had been more structured, and while I still contended that on some level this distraction had been good for him, on another I think it was allowing too much time for introspection. Too much time to worry at fears like a dog with a bone.

I shouldn’t have allowed him to completely blow off his exercises and massages. Back at the apartment, they had become a major part of our day. I think they had granted us some small physical connection, even if Duo did sometimes seem to feel guilty about them. For the space of those few hours, we were working together toward a common goal, and I think we’d been taking more away from that than either of us had realized.

I decided as I worked to clean up the kitchen, wiping down countertops and surfaces we’d never even used, that it was as good a time as any to remedy that lack. We used the coffee table at home for his personal ‘therapy’ sessions, though it was an awkward height for me. It dawned on me as I dried the solid butcher block kitchen table, that it was a bit higher than the standard, and would be perfect for the job.

I went to fetch the supplies I would need, not intending on taking no for an answer. Duo’d had a damn physically rough day, and I refused to let his pride keep him from accepting the things that would help.

As soon as he came back.

I went upstairs and remade the bed.

I went downstairs and stoked the fire.

Folded the afghans.

And still managed to end up back out on the front steps, watching for him, though I’d had every intention not to. I realized, sitting there, that it was the first time we’d really been apart since he’d gotten out of the hospital.

It was almost dusk when I saw him making his way slowly up from the lake shore. I did manage to keep myself from leaping to my feet and going to meet him, just staying on the steps as he made his way up the path. His pace was measured, his hands jammed in his jeans pockets, eyes on the ground.

I stood when he was almost to the steps. ‘Hey,’ I called, and he stopped walking to look up at me.

‘Hey,’ he responded, looking like a little lost puppy out in the cold.

‘C’mere,’ I said, opening my arms, and he took the last few steps to me.

‘I’m sorry,’ he breathed, as I folded him into my arms.

‘Me too,’ I replied and nuzzled my face into his hair. His... damp hair.

I won’t say I froze, because my body went right on holding him, but some part of my mind went very still. His hair had been wet from the swim, and then the hot tub, but it had been hours... surely it couldn’t still be damp after all that time? My brain made several sporadic leaps, piecing together the possibilities. He had walked off up the hill into the woods, but had returned from the lake. Granted, I had not stayed outside to verify that he’d come back down the hill and then on down to the lake, but I couldn’t help thinking that there was another way he could have gotten from point A to point B.

Had he gone back up to the ridge and jumped? My mind ran in frantic little circles, playing it out, remembering his strange glee the day before, wanting to make that leap. His clothes weren’t wet... but he could have shed them and tossed them down to the shore to retrieve later. They would have still been damp... unless he’d waited until he’d air dried before putting them on. He had just almost drowned... but wasn’t it just like Duo to want to take the bull by the horns? Poking at a thing that had tried to best him?

I wanted to take him by the shoulders and shake the crap out of him.

I wanted to wrap him up in cotton and bubble-wrap and keep him safe forever.

I wanted to demand that he tell me what he’d done.

Then it just sort of came to me that it didn’t matter; he was back... he was safe... he wasn’t yelling at me anymore. I just couldn’t let it matter.

‘Come on,’ I said. ‘Let’s go inside where it’s warm.’

He nodded wearily, and let me lead him up the steps and I locked the door behind us. I had meant to steer him to the couch, to warm up by the fire for a bit, but he noticed the strange light coming from the kitchen and went that way instead. I resisted the urge to sigh; I’d meant to talk to him first.

The corner of the kitchen where the table sat was bathed in gentle candlelight. I’d scoured the cabin from one end to the other, finding that there was a large variety of the things, presumably for ‘atmosphere’, and I’d brought them all into the room. I needed light to see, but sometimes things are easier without the harshness of strong lighting.

Our first time together had been by candlelight.

‘What’s all this?’ he asked, giving me a raised eyebrow look, and I was relieved that he didn’t sound irritated.

‘I was thinking that the table was just the right height for your exercises,’ I ventured. ‘We’ve been... slacking.’

I felt a little bad for the tiny reprimand, but knew him well enough to know that if anything was going to get him on that table, it was a hint that I thought he was being lazy. And I wanted him on that table, working with me, no matter how I had to get him there.

Something like resignation crossed his features, and I felt a little worse, so I took his hand and gave it a tug leading him closer to the table. ‘Just let me help, ok?’ I asked gently.

I suspect it was his desire not to discuss what he’d revealed before he’d stormed out of the cabin, as much as anything else, that made him follow me.

I’d padded the table with a folded up blanket and there was a pile of towels and other things waiting there for us. He looked dubiously at the setup, then glanced sidelong at me, trying gamely to meet my expectations. ‘Thought of everything, huh?’

‘I hope so,’ I told him and reached for the hem of his sweatshirt, tugging at it until I got a kind of half-hearted sigh.

‘Ok, Yuy,’ he grumbled. ‘You win.’ And he began undressing. I took the lotion to warm while he did.

When I came back, he was standing there in nothing but his shorts, his arms crossed awkwardly across his chest, so I tossed my own shirt aside. Sometimes it helped if I wasn’t completely clothed while he was not. But he just avoided looking at me, dubiously eyeing the table instead. I reached out and hooked the waistband of his underwear. ‘Forget something?’ I teased, and watched him frown. I don’t usually make a big deal out of it, but I’d decided it was time to stop letting it be a big deal. ‘Come on,’ I prodded gently. ‘It makes it easier to work.’ I could tell he knew damn well that wasn’t the point, but he let it go, dropping the shorts with an almost angry gesture, his cheeks flushing lightly.

I pulled a chair over and helped him climb up and get settled. I took pity on him then, and unfolded a towel to toss across his hips. He gave me a kind of pained apologetic look and I guess he was thinking about... before. When it wouldn’t have bothered him. When it wouldn’t even have been an issue.

‘So,’ I asked, trying to ease the tension in the air. ‘Where all did you walk?’

But he took it as prodding for information, not just idle talk, and he sighed. ‘Nowhere we hadn’t already been,’ he grumbled.

I took hold of his leg and he automatically drew it up to begin the first of his stretching exercises. ‘I’m sorry,’ I sighed. ‘I didn’t mean anything. You’re just so quiet.’

His eyes flicked my way as I leaned into his push, and he looked regretful all of a sudden. He blew out a breath. ‘Just a lot to think about, I guess.’

‘I know,’ I soothed, and our eyes met for a minute. Gods, he was so wound up. I eased off and we straightened his leg, before beginning another curl. ‘I did a lot of thinking too.’

He flushed a deep red and broke eye contact. I took one hand off his shin and reached out to touch his cheek. ‘There’s never been anything we couldn’t talk about,’ I told him. ‘You’re not going to start now, are you?’

If anything, the blush got darker. ‘It’s just freakin’ weird, Heero!’ he blurted, fingers picking at the blanket beneath him.

I let his leg straighten and went around the table to do the other side. He frowned slightly; we hadn’t done a half a dozen reps, but this wasn’t really about exercise.

‘Duo,’ I said firmly, as I took hold of his other leg. ‘If you think for two damn seconds that we’re only together because of the sex, I’m going to have to be seriously pissed off.’

There was a moment of almost stunned silence, then he gave me a tiny, desperate little grin. ‘You mean you love me for my mind?’

‘I love the whole package, Maxwell,’ I growled, pressing a little harder since we were working his good leg. ‘And I’m a little tired of you acting like I’m so shallow that...’

His fledgling grin was gone in a heartbeat and he was suddenly frowning at me fiercely. ‘Ok, could you just fucking stop that?’ he snapped, and I froze. He rolled his eyes in exasperation. ‘Not the stretches, asshole! The belittling something that’s been eating me alive for months!’

I’m afraid I blinking at him like a moron for a full three seconds, turning it around and around in my mind. I could feel from the tension in him that we were on the verge of another argument. I resumed manipulating his leg and gave him a small smile. ‘I’m trying to be reassuring here.’

I watched his temper deflate a little, and breathed an internal sigh.

‘It’s just...’ he muttered, his hands finding their way up to cover his face. ‘I mean... Gods! This isn’t exactly something a guy likes to think about, you know?’

I kissed his knee just before straightening his leg again. ‘Yeah, love... I know.’

He dropped his hands and looked at me, his fears in his eyes. ‘Heero, I just... I just don’t like the idea of this... depriving both of us. I mean... there’s nothing wrong with you!’

I laid his leg back down flat and picked up the lotion bottle. ‘Duo, there’s nothing wrong with you.’

He just stared at me blankly while I started the massage, his surprise keeping him from even mentioning my cutting his normal half hour of stretches to less than ten minutes. ‘What the heck is that supposed to mean?’ he asked, and only sounded curious... not pissed.

‘Think about it,’ I said calmly, working on the tight muscles of his calf. ‘Think about your injuries; there’s nothing that should have affected you... that way.’

‘Then you want to explain the total lack of... you know?’ he muttered, looking embarrassed again.

‘Negative reinforcement,’ I replied, feeling how his body had reacted to all the extra exercise with knots and sore spots that were making him wince as I worked on them. ‘The body is quick to learn what causes pain, and is even quicker to put a stop to it.’

He looked doubtful, but fell quiet while I just continued to work, letting him digest it. It took him most of the time I spent on his legs.

‘You’ve been reading, haven’t you?’ he finally said, somewhat suspiciously, and I wasn’t sure if that was irritation in his voice or not, so I only smiled benignly.

‘Of course,’ I informed him haughtily. ‘Isn’t that the first thing I do when presented with a problem?’

He snorted, and I wondered that he hadn’t done the research himself. I think he saw the question in my eyes and he looked away. ‘It was... easier to hope it would just... I mean, if I didn’t...’

‘I understand,’ I soothed, just so I didn’t have to hear him struggle with the words. He looked grateful

‘So,’ he said, with an artificial nonchalance. ‘What’d you find?’

‘That it isn’t uncommon to have a loss of function after a major trauma,’ I said matter-of-factly.

He was quiet and I moved around the table to begin working on his torso. He looked up at me, and there was so much need in his eyes for guidance that I had to lean down and kiss him. ‘Really?’ he asked, and I was swept back a half a dozen years by the sudden vulnerability in his voice.

‘Really,’ I whispered against his lips and decided in that moment to move ahead with the thing I’d been contemplating all afternoon. I took his mouth with mine again, but not so gently... not so chastely. He surrendered to me instantly, and I was finally sure that his temper and his bluster were all just to cover up this uncertainty... this fear of a need for a thing that his mind told him would bring pain.

‘Trust me?’ I asked, when I drew away, and got a small smile.

‘I always have,’ he replied in a voice that made my heart do something odd in my chest.

I kissed the end of his nose. ‘You have only one job here,’ I told him then, more sure of myself as we went. ‘To keep yourself completely relaxed no matter what.’

He looked confused for a second, before his eyes went a little wide. ‘What are you saying?’ he asked, breathless.

‘That you’re not on this table for a massage,’ I grinned, and stroked my thumb over his bottom lip while I watched him process the height of the table and the mechanics of the thing. ‘If,’ I had to ask. ‘You’ll let me try.’

I couldn’t have told you which was the stronger emotion running through him... hope or fear. But he nodded after a moment, so I bent to press my lips to the side of his neck. ‘Just remember to stay relaxed,’ I breathed into his ear. ‘And let me do everything.’

I could feel him swallow convulsively, and nibbled my way around the shell of his ear, making him shiver. I settled a hand gently over his ribs, making sure he didn’t forget himself. Making sure we were being careful. He loves it when I nuzzle against his throat and I did so with abandon, enjoying beyond measure the kinds of touches that had been off-limits for so long. I was hard before I worked my way down to suckle at his nipple, was aching before I wrung the first gasp from his lips.

I wondered at my own ability to handle this. I’d been deprived of his touch every bit as much as he’d been deprived of mine.

I raised my head and looked down at him, his eyes were wide and he was watching me like a thirsty man looking at an oasis. I stepped away from the table and finished stripping, letting him see me, then moved around to stand at the end of the table, by his feet. Taking hold of the blanket, I slid him bodily toward me, until his legs were hanging off the edge. I positioned the chair under his bad leg for support and leaned over to press a kiss to the center of his chest, feeling the trip-hammer beat of his heart.

His eyes followed my every move, his expression a cross between openness and trepidation. ‘Remember,’ I told him softly. ‘Just stay relaxed.’

It was... damned electrifying to be standing there, my body between his spread thighs after all that time. I was so hard, I ached. I kissed my way down his belly, peeling the towel away as I went and finally found his cock, resting flaccid against his thigh. I had a momentary pang of worry that I didn’t know what in the hell I was doing, then, before I had a chance to falter, I took him into my mouth.

Above me, he hissed in surprise and I slid my hand up over his stomach to rest on his ribs again, keeping watch on him.

It was very strange, to feel him like that... we’d never gotten this far before without us both being fully aroused. I’d never felt him, soft against my tongue. It was so familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The scent was Duo, the hip under my hand was Duo... but the rest was strange. The sounds he was making were so shaky and unsure, the feel of him in my mouth was so strange... for a moment I despaired that I’d been wrong about the whole thing.

But, damn it, I was sure there was nothing physically wrong with him. I was sure of it.

I stopped for a moment, releasing him long enough to nibble at the inside of his thigh; a thing that he loves. ‘Stop thinking,’ I ordered, before returning to my original target, renewing my efforts.

I suckled and worked him, nibbling and licking and listening to the sounds of his ragged breath. I was just so sure...

And then he began to swell under my ministrations. His cock twitching and responding to me, and by the Gods above, but feeling him pulse and harden within my mouth has got to be the most erotic thing I’ve ever felt.

There was a great, sobbing moan from Duo; his breath going out in a rush as though someone had just punched him hard in the stomach. Like he hadn’t properly been able to exhale in months.

I felt his body tensing, and I gave him a gentle touch over his ribs to remind him, because I couldn’t have stopped what I was doing to speak. Couldn’t draw away until he was fully erect and that sweet feeling of him swelling and filling my mouth was complete.

I looked up the length of his body to find him staring at me so wide eyed that I couldn’t help grinning at him. ‘You ok?’

‘Oh Gods, Heero,’ he groaned, then had to close his eyes with the intensity of it. I just waited, gently stroking his hip, and watching as his whole being seemed to shiver in relief. When he had himself under control, he sought out my gaze and breathed, ‘how far can we go?’

‘All the way, if you can just do your part,’ I told him, and saw hope spark to life behind his shell of apprehension.

I hadn’t been sure about what I’d planned. Had not been sure at all. But in that moment, seeing the raw relief in his eyes, I knew it had been worth the risk, and I was glad I’d worked up the nerve.

He watched me while I moved the towel that I’d used to cover up the rest of my ‘preparations’, and gave me a shaky little smirk when he saw the lube and condom. ‘So you were planning to seduce me from the beginning?’ he quipped.

‘Always be prepared for every eventuality, remember?’ I responded, and gave him a warm smile of encouragement.

‘You’re such a boy scout,’ he said with a theatrically exasperated sigh, but the hungry look he gave me put the lie to his flippancy.

He was quiet for a moment, while I arranged things to my liking, his eyes flicking about, following the movements of my hands. ‘I can’t believe it was that easy,’ he finally muttered, his cheeks a little red.

‘You were just worrying at it too much,’ I soothed, running a hand up and down his thigh. ‘Tonight is about feeling... not thinking.’

But then I was opening the tube of lubricant and he couldn’t think of an answer.

I shivered at the mere thought of what I was preparing to do and had to stop to lick at dry lips. It had been so long. So very damn long.

Automatically, he started to shift his leg as I moved in, and I gave him a light tap on the hip. ‘Totally relaxed, remember?’ I chided, then hooked his good leg in the crook of my elbow and leaned in. It was his turn to shiver.

When my fingers found their way under him, searching for his entrance, he let out with a tremulous, ‘Oh Gods...’

I watched his erection twitch with the first brush of my fingers and smiled up at him. ‘I think things still work.’

He let out an unsteady sound that was supposed to be a chuckle, but didn’t try to tease back. It was taking all his concentration not to tense up.

It wasn’t about foreplay this time. It wasn’t about teasing my partner until he was begging for release. Neither of us needed to be aroused any more than we already were. I didn’t leave him waiting.

As gently as I could, mindful that it had been a very long time since we’d come together like this, I began to press into his body.

Duo hissed, but remembered to bear down to help ease the passage. I had to bite back on a groan as my finger sank into him.

I worked him, and stretched him, only having to remind him once to relax, when I accidentally thrust in too far, hitting that spot that usually drives him to bucking motion. He held himself still, but couldn’t help tensing, and he let out with a desperate cry.

I stilled my hands until he’d settled, and he looked up at me, wild-eyed. ‘I don’t think I can do this,’ he told me bluntly.

‘Yes, you can,’ I soothed.

‘Heero... Gods... I need to move! I need to...’

‘No,’ I corrected, deciding that he was prepared enough, and sliding out of him. ‘You want to move. There’s a difference.’ He couldn’t contain a strangled little sound of almost disappointment as he felt me leaving his body and I grinned at him. ‘Besides... do you really want me to stop?’

‘You’re a sadist,’ he growled, but I couldn’t ignore the nervousness he was trying to mask.

‘You know I’ll stop the minute you tell me to,’ I said quietly and he gave me a nod to acknowledge he was listening, even though his attention seemed to be completely on my hands as they opened the condom and I began to put it on.

We don’t always bother with the things, but I would not have him dealing with the... mess afterward. He didn’t need that extra bit of stress.

He tried to find some level from which to tease with me. Tried for that safe point, but the moment was just too intense, and even though I saw him open his mouth to speak more than once, the words kept dying on his tongue.

I leaned down and kissed him in that concave where hip joins to body. ‘Love...it’s all in your head, you know that,’ I told him, breathing the words against his skin. ‘Things like wet-dreams wouldn’t be possible, otherwise.’

I raised my head to smile reassuringly at him and thought I would fall into his gaze. There was nothing in his expression beyond his absolute belief in me... something I hadn’t seen there in a long time; not like this. He wasn’t hiding anything from me. Trusting me without question.

‘Please, Heero,’ he sighed, reaching to touch my arm. ‘Take me now... just in case I can’t manage. I want to feel you inside me... even if I can’t...’

I couldn’t speak for a moment around the lump in my throat, and covered it with the last of my preparations. I draped a towel pointedly over his stomach, there to catch his completion, just as though there was no doubt we would need it. Then I spread the lube over my erection and slid him into position. ‘Ready?’ I asked one last time and got a sharp nod. I wanted to laugh at how serious we were being over something we’d done a million times, but the mood would not have borne it.

Then I was sinking into that unbelievable tightness, forcing my way into his heat, into his core, and I thought for a brief moment that I would come right then and there.

He cried out, a desperate, exultant, unsteady sound, and I heard my voice join his in incoherent counter-point.

Why do we need this so much? I don’t know. Maybe just that when we come together in body, we can’t hide what’s in the heart. Maybe because, for us, there just can’t be any walls when we’re joined like this. It seems impossible for us to be anything but completely open with each other. I just don’t know.

But we do need it. Desperately, sometimes. I need it, anyway... I need him. And I think he feels the same.

I made that first penetration as slowly as I could manage, careful as hell; the last thing on Earth I wanted to do was hurt him. But watching his face, all I saw was a gentle kind of... joy. A look of near relief, that let me almost believe that he really would be content if we managed nothing more than that.

Feeling his body opening to me, clamping around me spasmodically as he tried to relax, I didn’t think I could achieve that same contentment. I had told him I would stop if he told me to, but in that moment I doubted my ability.

Desire was a heady, intoxicating thing at best. So long denied... I felt like it would overwhelm me.

Damn,’ I groaned, voice harsh and twisted tight. ‘Duo... you’re so damn tight. Almost like our first time.’

He shivered at my words, sending a vibration through us that had me seated fully in a sudden surge forward. I froze, but he gave me a smile of encouragement.

‘You feel so good,’ he whispered, and I saw his hands twitch, wanting to reach for me. If we’d been in our normal position, he’d have long since grabbed my hips, pulling his body up to meet mine. Deep inside him, my cock twitched at the memory.

I held very still then, and he might have thought I was waiting for him to tell me he was ready, but it was as much for me to regain control over myself.

‘Heero,’ he called, voice bordering on pleading. ‘Please?’

‘Are you sure?’ I asked though I hardly had to, everything about him spoke to me of need, of hunger, of desire.

‘Yes,’ he replied... implored.

I could barely hear him over the sound of the blood pounding in my ears.

I began a slow, almost languid roll of my hips, and he met me with voice since he couldn’t meet me with his body. ‘Yes,’ he hissed, eyes falling closed and his head lolling to the side. ‘Don’t stop... no matter what.’

‘You just... do your part,’ I told him, having to struggle to maintain my watch over him. I let my hand slid up to caress his ribs, guarding him.

I wondered where my control was coming from, because my own body was on fire.

‘Oh Gods...’ he moaned. ‘More! Heero... please!’ and it really was pleading this time.

‘I don’t want to hurt you,’ I growled, trying to be gentle.

He thrashed his head back and forth, body needing motion... needing action, but he did as I bade. Only moaning, deep-throated and erotic sounding as hell.

It set my blood on fire. Seeing him spread out under me... seeing his surrender... seeing his trust... his faith... his need; my command over myself began to slip.

Slow and easy became something more.

‘It’s been so long,’ I think I told him, feeling it cresting in me already. ‘Oh Gods, Duo...’

I was afraid of the passion that was flooding through me, afraid and helpless before it. I knew I was long past being able to keep an eye on Duo, and looked down to beg him in a voice not my own, ‘Baby... don’t let me... please don’t...’

But his voice cut across mine and I knew I wasn’t leaving him behind, ‘That’s it, Heero! Let go... Gods, yes!’ Then his words were just cries and I had to trust him to remember his part, because I got lost in mine.

We came at almost the same time, the Gods only know how, voices a primal chorus of screams and it was as intense as I’ve ever felt, no matter how quickly it had ended. I swore I’d been turned wrong-side out, and it was only knowing how badly I’d hurt Duo if I fell, that kept me on my feet.

On the table, he was gasping and panting, but only looked surprised... not in pain.

Not hurting. Not. I hadn’t...

His semen lay thick and starkly white on the dark colored towel. I found myself mesmerized by it, as I almost absently folded the towel in on itself, making sure he was clean. I wasn’t even aware I was trembling until Duo reached for my hand as I lay the mess aside, calling my name softly.

I met his finger tips with my own, touching gently, marveling at him. At the things he could make me feel.

All through the years of our partnership, if there has been one thing that has granted Duo the ability to give in to his emotions, it’s been our love making.

It had been in the back of my mind all afternoon that he needed that kind of release as much as he needed the physical kind. I’d been anticipating breaking through to that hidden place he has where all the hurt goes.

I’d been anticipating tears.

But when the storm finally broke, when the walls cracked and all the grief and fear and pain came bubbling out, the tears... were my own.

There was a look on Duo’s face for a moment that was pure shock, but it was quickly gone, replaced with something that was sharp and focused and not to be identified in the shape I was in. ‘Up.’ he said, holding out his hand towards me, and when I was slow to comply, he demanded, ‘Up!’

I got my hands under him, helping him sit up, and though I’d had some vague thought of cradling him to me... instead, was quickly buried against him. Sitting on the table, he had just enough height that he got his arms around my neck and I found myself sobbing brokenly in the shelter of his embrace.

‘That’s it,’ he breathed, raining kisses on the side of my face as he rocked us gently to and fro. ‘Let it go. Let it all out. I’ve got you.... I’m here. Gods, I knew you were in there somewhere... It’s ok... it’s all ok...’

I couldn’t get words out, didn’t even know what in the hell to say to him. Could do nothing but tremble and weep for all the pain that I hadn’t been able to stop... for all the suffering I hadn’t been able to bear for him... for all the struggling I had only been able to watch.

For how near I had come to losing him.

‘I’m right here, love,’ Duo whispered between those desperate kisses, somehow understanding even more than I did. ‘I’m here and I’ve got you and I’m not going anywhere.’

Somewhere deep down inside, I was appalled at my inability to do more than cling to him. But he held me strong and fast and all the needs I’d been pushing aside for so long, just wouldn’t be denied any more. I was helpless in the grip of it; and for a very long while there was nothing in my world but the heartache, and the solid feel of Duo sheltering me from it.

I became aware of Duo’s legs, trembling with fatigue and I tried to pull away, to get myself under control. ‘I’m so sorry...’ I murmured, the first words I’d managed in a while, and it got me growled at.

‘Don’t you dare, Yuy,’ he snapped. ‘Don’t you shut yourself away from me.’

‘You’re shaking,’ I pointed out, though I doubt he needed me to.

‘So what?’ he replied. ‘You just blew every neural circuit I own. So I’m shaky, it doesn’t mean I’m not right here for you.’

I laughed, or I tried to; it only bubbled up for a second before exploding in another round of helpless sobs. ‘I love you so much,’ I had to tell him.

‘Can you pick me up?’ he suddenly asked, and I nodded. ‘Then take us to bed.’

I don’t remember him cleaning me up. Hell; I can’t even remember when I pulled out of him. Or where the damn condom wound up. I was just aware of the feel of him in my arms; his weight and the way his arms felt around my neck.

I don’t really even remember the climb up the stairs.

I just remember being tucked into the warmth of the bed, where we curled up together, and then just the sound of Duo’s voice whispering me to sleep. I just let go. I couldn’t recall the last time I had slept so deeply without drugs being involved.

It was the first glow of dawn that woke me, and I blinked my eyes open to find my head pillowed on Duo’s shoulder, his arm curled around me. There was a moment of utter contentment before senses and memory engaged and I tensed, meaning to get the hell off him, terrified that I’d hurt him.

‘Move and die, Yuy,’ a gravely voice told me. ‘It took me twenty minutes to get us settled so nothing hurts.’

I froze. ‘You sure?’

‘Positive,’ he said firmly and I dared a glance to find him lying with his free arm thrown wide, and a slightly pleased look on his face.

There was nothing about him that looked uncomfortable, so I laid my head back down and let myself relax back against him.

‘Good boy,’ he mumbled, voice drifting somewhere between sleepy and teasing.

‘Duo...’ I began and got hushed almost immediately.

‘Do not apologize,’ he instructed, as calmly as if he were reading off the grocery list. ‘Do not tell me you are remorseful. Do not tell me you are sorry. Do not ask me if I am ok. Do not ask if you hurt me. Do not tell me to rest or to eat or to sit down.’

I blinked and thought about it; he hadn’t left me a lot of options. So I ventured, ‘Is it ok to tell you I love you?’

He lay as though pondering it. ‘I suppose that fits the criteria. Assuming you can do it without moving.’

A glance up told me he still hadn’t opened his eyes. ‘Are you sure you’re... comfortable?’ I asked and saw his lips twitch just a bit.

‘Perfectly,’ he replied.

I shifted a tiny bit closer and breathed, ‘Me too.’

‘Then just rest, love,’ he told me softly, the teasing tone gone. ‘It’s your turn.’

‘What?’ I asked, and this time when I looked up, his eyes were open and he was watching me.

‘You’ve been on point for months, Heero,’ he said, sounding wistful. ‘It’s ok to stand down.’

‘I haven’t...’ I said, but he cut me off again.

‘You have,’ he chided, voice a little sad. ‘All I have to do is sigh at night to bring you out of a sound sleep. You’ve been on a hair trigger since... that night, and this can’t go on. I thought you’d get over it when the cast came off. I thought...’

‘I don’t think I can ever get over this,’ I blurted, taken aback at how much my voice wavered. We were both quiet then, and I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised by my words. Duo’s free hand came to stroke over my hair and I closed my eyes. ‘That night... when we finally found what was left of Misty’s house... when I thought that you... when...’

Duo turned, gently kissing my forehead, and I took a breath while he waited for me.

‘My whole world turned to glass,’ I told him then. ‘I thought... I would shatter.’

‘I know,’ he sighed, and just kept running his fingers through my hair. ‘I know, love... I know.’

I thought about standing in the middle of that emergency room while they wheeled him away from me and when my mouth opened next, it seemed someone else was speaking. ‘You... promised me we’d always be together!’

He completely ignored the hint of accusation in it, the note of hysteria, only hooking his hand behind my neck and holding me tight against him. ‘And I’m here, aren’t I?’

It was a stupid thing for me to have said. Childish. Just... stupid. So don’t ask me why his calm answer made the tears threaten to well up in my eyes again.

‘You’ll always be here?’ I whispered, feeling the utter fool, but sometimes I just have to hear it.

‘Until all the world’s oceans are dried and gone,’ he said, and though the words were ridiculous, the tone was full of love. ‘And there’s no one left but you and me, and we’ll build sand castles out of what’s left.’

I snorted softly because anything more than that would have turned into something else entirely. Something I was ready to be done with. ‘You’ll forget the damn shovel and then where will we be?’ I tried, and though it fell a little flat in my own ears, Duo chuckled for me anyway.

‘There’s my Heero,’ he whispered against my hair, and we got quiet for a bit. Long enough that listening to the sound of his steady heartbeat under my ear started making me drowsy. I roused up when he spoke again. ‘Do you remember how we used to lay around in bed together in the mornings, after we first moved into our apartment?’

I hummed an affirmative and couldn’t help smiling at the memory.

‘This reminds me of those times,’ he sighed, and I wasn’t sure if it was a wistful sound or an amused one.

‘Why don’t we do that any more?’ I asked.

‘Guess we grew into responsible adults,’ he chuckled. ‘It seemed so... self-indulgent.’

I twisted to look up at him. ‘Sometimes indulgent is ok... don’t you think?’

‘Sometimes,’ he agreed and there was something in his voice that was just so assured... so strong, that I was taken back in time, and I shivered at the memories.

‘You know,’ I ventured. ‘I don’t suppose it would kill me to skip getting up and running one day a week... if you’d like?’

‘I would like that very much,’ he replied, and smiling, kissed my forehead again.

I lifted my head to meet his gaze, letting the teasing slide away. ‘Duo, I...’ I began, but hesitated, thinking about his list of forbidden subjects.

He gave me a mock-glare for a moment, before relenting and telling me, ‘It’s ok... go ahead.’

‘I just feel like a total idiot,’ I blurted out, needing to get it said. ‘I’m just so sorry; I don’t know what came over me...’

He cupped my face in his hand, and rubbed his thumb across my cheek. ‘Heero, you’ve been shoving your own needs away for too long. You’ve been putting me first... and you haven’t given yourself the time to heal...’

‘I’m not the one who was hurt!’ I said, frowning up at him.

His smile then held more sadness then mirth. ‘Yes you were, love, and don’t try to tell me otherwise. Every wound on my body, was a wound on your heart... I know how you are.’

I couldn’t have denied it without breaking down again, so I just shut up and laid my head back on his shoulder, closing my eyes and trying not to think about much of anything.

‘It’s time you stopped worrying about me,’ Duo scolded gently. ‘And started taking care of yourself.’

‘You... needed me,’ I said stubbornly.

‘I did... I do... and I always will,’ he agreed, then quite suddenly, ‘We’re going back to work when we get home, Heero.’

‘I don’t know...’ I objected, but he stopped me with a sigh.

‘I do know,’ I was informed. ‘It was completely unnecessary for you to take off too, Heero; you could have gone back a month ago.’

‘I... couldn’t leave you,’ I said flatly, feeling something in my chest drawing up tight.

‘I was capable of taking care of myself,’ he told me, though his voice was a little tired sounding. Like he was weary of the argument.

‘You don’t understand,’ I whispered. ‘I couldn’t leave you.

He got very still then... not just quiet, but absolutely still. When I chanced a look up at him, there was this bastard mix of joy and pain in his eyes that made me rise up to look down at him.

‘What is it, love?’ I questioned gently.

He swallowed and reached to trace a finger along my jaw. ‘Just...’ he began, and faltered on the words for a moment. ‘Sometimes... sometimes it’s just nice to hear that you need me too.’

‘Always have,’ I echoed. ‘Always will.’ It made him smile.

‘Lay back down,’ he commanded gruffly. ‘I’m getting cold.’

It made me think, and I curled an arm around his hips, daring quietly, ‘You were cold when you came back from your walk last night.’

I could hear the puzzled frown in his voice as he replied, ‘It got cold when the sun started to go down.’

‘It wasn’t because... you were wet?’ I tried again, but I wasn’t hearing anything in his voice that made me think he was evading me.

‘I suppose that was part of it,’ he said, sounding a little confused. ‘My hair was still wet when I went out.’

I picked over words, not wanting to accuse, but suddenly needing to know just what he’d done while he’d been out of my sight. I took so long choosing my approach that he prodded at me.

‘You’re getting all introspective, Yuy,’ he grumbled. ‘What’s going on in that head of yours?’

I sighed. ‘I just... I was a little surprised that your hair was still that damp is all.’

Sometimes when Duo thinks, it’s almost a physical process. I felt him let out a heavy breath and knew he was getting exasperated with me. For a moment, there was nothing but the steady play of his fingertips over my back, but then he stilled and I felt him tense a little. ‘What in the hell do you think I did?’ he asked then, voice dancing right on the edge of pissed off.

‘Please don’t be angry with me,’ I implored, feeling like I just couldn’t handle that right then. ‘I just wasn’t sure... You were so upset with me, I thought maybe...’

‘You thought I went up to the ridge and jumped off the damn cliff,’ he finished for me and suddenly, it sounded kind of... stupid.

‘You just seemed so... depressed about it when I wouldn’t go along with the idea,’ I said and hoped it didn’t come out as defensive as it sounded in my own ears.

There was a bit of a pause and then he snorted. ‘I think I resent that you take me for a moron.’

It finally made me raise my head and look at him. I was relieved to find an odd little quirk of a grin on his face. ‘Never,’ I told him vehemently, and it made that grin soften.

‘I didn’t, Heero,’ he told me, brushing my hair aside and meeting my gaze head on. ‘I swear it. I’ll admit to having the urge the other day, but I’m not stupid enough to go out alone and do something that reckless.’

I have no idea what possessed me to say what I did next, but when my mouth opened, ‘Do you want to go up there together?’ was what popped out.

I don’t know which was the better reward; the shocked look that overtook him first, or the pleased one that quickly replaced it. ‘Nah,’ he said dismissively, letting his fingers trail over my face. ‘I really just don’t feel the need to anymore.’

I laid my head back down, nuzzling gently into his shoulder, and hoped he hadn’t caught the relief on my face. His chuckle let me know he had.

‘Hey,’ he said after a moment. ‘Are you about ready to go home?’

‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Are you?’

‘I think so,’ he said, sounding a bit sheepish. ‘I think I’m a little home sick.’

I tilted my head and our gazes locked for a moment. I smiled and he smiled back and neither of us had to say a word about the days when we hadn’t known what home sick was.

‘When do you want to leave?’ I asked carefully, mindful of the mood, but his sheepish look turned into a bit of a grin.

‘How about tomorrow morning?’ he suggested, and there was a hint of something... indulgent, in his voice.

‘We could still leave today, if you’d like,’ I replied, not sure of what he was thinking.

He leaned in to kiss the end of my nose and grinned wider. ‘I want another go at that hot tub first.’

‘Oh, you do, do you?’ I teased and twisted to look up at him.

But then his tone changed and his voice was suddenly a husky purr near my ear. ‘Yeah... and maybe that table too.’

‘Not a problem,’ I agreed, and rose up so that I could lean down to kiss him.

Like I meant it. Very much like I meant it.

And for the first time in a very long time, there was no hesitation in his response.

‘Or,’ he whispered, when I drew away. ‘Maybe the day after...’

end

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