Warnings : Yaoi, angst, sap, OOC, Duo POV, limey stuff... several lemon/lime things actually, and language. This is a direct sequel to the 'Road Trip' series.
Thanks to Christy for the beta job. You're spoiling me, sugah!
Feedback, as always, is kept in the feedback shrine and worshipped daily.
I do not own Gundam... Oh, you've heard this one already?
by Sunhawk

[ note: usually I go through and change the apostrophes to quotations marks, if only cuz *ahem* I'm anal that way, but this go around I found I didn't have the time. so the reason this fic is showing up as times instead of my beloved arial is so that, hopefully, it will be easier for you to read. ]

Long Road Home

We have an apartment. It's not very big, but it doesn't really need to be. It's not like we have a bunch of stuff to keep in it.

We... Heero and I... have an apartment.

Stop laughing at me. I've never had anything like this before. I mean, I know it's not ours exactly, we rent the thing, but we have a lease and as long as we keep the rent paid, nobody can make us leave.

I know, every day, where I'll be sleeping that night. Every day! Do you get that part? When I get up in the morning, I know that I'll be coming back to the same place that very night. And the night after. And the night after that.

I'm not living under an assumed name. We don't have to sneak in and out by the windows only after dark. I don't sleep with a knife strapped to my arm and Heero doesn't have a loaded gun under his pillow. We don't keep all our clothes and vital belongings in a duffle bag at the end of the bed in case we have to run. We actually unpack and hang stuff in the closet. On hangers. We bloody well own hangers.

It's such an alien concept sometimes, that I'll find myself just standing in the middle of one of the rooms, staring at whatever's in front of me. The bed... the single dresser... the couch. Just staring and trying to get my head around the fact that that bed is mine. That dresser is mine. Well... ours. Which is an alien concept all on its own, but a whole other topic.

We haven't lived here very long, and we still need a lot of things. A second dresser would be nice; the closets are kind of small. We've talked about another couch or at least a chair for the living room, and I want a coffee table for in there. Right now we only have two kitchen chairs and it's pretty awkward if we want to have anybody over for a meal. At least the apartment came with the major appliances.

There's an afghan on the back of the couch. It's made in this strange wave-like pattern out of a bunch of shades of brown, ranging from cream all the way to walnut. Sally Po gave it to us as an apartment-warming gift. We own an afghan.

But best of all, though I won't admit this out loud to anybody, is the little doily on the dresser in the bedroom.

We don't have jobs yet, but Quatre has helped each of us get started with a bit of financial backing. So Heero and I have purchased most of what we do have at garage sales and auctions. Heero found, at one of those garage sales, a pile of those crocheted doilies like we both remembered from that safe house we'd been consigned to due to 'stress' issues. He'd bought one for me, because I'd told him once that I wanted a home like that one some day. It's kind of ugly, really, and I think he had meant it as a joke. It's crocheted with a variegated thread of tarnished orange and white. There are three-dimensional flowers crocheted and attached around the edge of the lacy thing in shades of blue with green leaves. It lies on top of our dresser and my CD rack sits right in the middle of it. I spent a lot of time in those early days, organizing and filing my twelve CDs.

Until Heero took to calling it my 'shrine to materialism'. Then I settled on alphabetical order by artist and left it alone. We don't own anything I can play them on yet anyway. I'd had a player once, but I think I lost it on one of those occasions that we'd had to abandon everything and run for our lives. About the only thing that I had managed to come through the war with, besides my cross, was my pair of hunting knives. Only because I had seldom not had them on my person in those days. They're in the bottom of my underwear drawer now. I sometimes missed the comforting feel of their weight. And I sometimes thought about throwing them away.

We had ended up staying with the other guys at Quatre's estate for a couple of months. It had taken us that long to get ourselves figured out. Or maybe we'd just needed that buffer between 'war' and 'not war'. We'd talked a lot. I don't much like to think about that period of time, so I'm not going to talk about it. I'll just say that I think I was the one, out of all of us, who had the most trouble adjusting, and leave it at that.

Wufei had been the first one to pack his bags and move on. He had decided to hook up with the new Preventers organization that Lady Une was starting up. Commander Une, they call her now. Wufei had wanted in on the ground floor, to be involved right from the beginning. He'd gotten himself an apartment and jumped right in to life with both feet. I sometimes thought he was the most grounded, together, one of us. And sometimes I thought he was just trying to move faster than his memories.

I think Quatre would have been next, if not for his convalescence. Winner Industries was more than ready for him to move in and take over the reins of power that his father had let fall. And Quatre seemed eager enough to step up to the plate. He seemed to feel a certain obligation to his family and to his father's memory. But I always thought a little bit of it was Quatre's own brand of flipping the bird to the old man's ghost. The guy hadn't thought too much of Quatre's life choices, and I think it gave our boy a bit of a rush to step into his father's place with his ideals intact and proven quite sound, thank you very much.

As it was, Heero and I were the next to go, leaving Trowa to make sure Quatre didn't drive himself back to work before he was ready. I think the two of them kind of needed that time to themselves anyway. They had their own adjustments to make. Adjustments that I think were just as difficult as Heero's and mine... only in different ways.

We'd had no idea where in the hell we wanted to go. Where we wanted to live. In the end, we had followed Wufei, our decision made by the possibility that the two of us might just follow him right on into the Preventers. Heero's reasoning was to make that our fallback plan. We'd both been offered positions, so we knew we had jobs waiting for us if we chose to accept them. This way, if nothing else panned out, we wouldn't have to move half way around the world to take those jobs. Leave it to Heero to plan our lives out like a mission.

We had found a nice little second floor, walk-up apartment that we felt we could afford for quite a few months on Quatre's gift alone, if it came down to that. It would give us time to take a breath and get used to the idea of living together, before the pressure of dwindling funds forced us to make some sort of move.

It had turned into some kind of weird... honeymoon period.

I will cherish those first months in my heart for the rest of my life. They weren't perfect; hell, sometimes things were almost awkward, but it was wonderful all the same.

It shouldn't have seemed all that strange by then, we'd been staying together in Quatre's house for months prior, but it wasn't the same, somehow. It felt different... in a lot of ways. Scarier, without the other guys there as some sort of strange backup. Liberating, without the other guys there as a constant presence.

We moved in with nothing. And I mean that in the truest sense of the word. We walked in with a duffle bag apiece containing our respective laptops, about three changes of clothes each, and a double handful of miscellaneous stuff like my knives and my new CDs... some of them still in the wrappers.

There's a little fireplace in the apartment and we'd gone out the afternoon we moved in and found an army surplus store that sold camping gear. We spent the first week sleeping on the floor in the living room next to the fireplace, rolled up together in a double sleeping bag.

I swear to the Gods, we spent the first two or three days just holding on to each other. I don't know about Heero, but I had trouble getting my head around that whole 'living together' concept. I kept waiting for a damn mission to come. Kept waiting for someone to kick our door down and come bursting in with guns blazing. The sound of car doors slamming outside in the parking lot was enough to bring me scrambling from sleep. And the Gods forbid people in the neighboring apartments raised their voices at odd hours. It somehow didn't seem to bother Heero as badly. Though the night that Wufei showed up for a visit unannounced, would go down in our collective history as one of those things we never let each other forget about. Wufei's calm, reasonable knock on the door had sent us scrabbling for weapons we didn't have on us, rolling to opposite sides of the room. We'd been laughing our asses off when we finally got around to answering the door, but it was mostly to cover up how bad we were shaking.

We're a bit removed from those days now. We have a bed, though the sleeping bag had converted into a comforter because Heero plans ahead that way. We can offer our company a place to sit, though Heero and I have to drag the kitchen chairs into the living room to sit down with more than one other person. So we're a bit removed... but we're not.

I still have trouble believing in it all. Heero still has trouble with letting me out of his sight. And we're getting real close to the money running out. I suppose you could say the honeymoon is just about over.

Maybe that was what brought about our first big fight; that stress of uncertainty. That sub-conscious knowledge that we were to the point where a decision was going to have to be made... and soon.

Ah hell... it wasn't a fight, really. We just scared the crap out of each other and didn't know how to handle it, I guess. It was a nightmare that started the whole thing, but for a change... it wasn't one of mine.

We hadn't owned the bed long, were still at that loony stage of play-wrestling over who got which side when we turned in at night. It had been a good day. One of those where the sun seems to be shining just for you? You know what I mean? Gods, we probably would have made Wufei gag if he'd been around us that day.

So it was kind of a shock when Heero's cries woke me out of a dead-sound sleep in the middle of the night. It was that dark hour, well after midnight, we'd been in bed for hours. I wasn't sure what to do at first, Heero has bad dreams now and again, but he usually wakes right up from them. This time, he was moaning and thrashing, obviously lost in it, and I wasn't positive that trying to shake him awake was such a great idea.

But then he called my name, and the fear in his voice was evidence of what he was dreaming about. So I started calling out to him, calling him back. 'Heero... I'm right here. Everything's all right. You're dreaming... come on, wake up... it's all right.'

When his eyes finally snapped open, all I saw at first was raw panic. I'm not even going to swear he knew who I was. But then recognition came clear.

'Duo!' he fairly sobbed, and grabbed on like a drowning man. 'Oh Gods... oh Gods... '

I wrapped him close and stroked my hand over his hair, trying to calm him down. I could feel his heart against my chest, beating so fast I couldn't tell the beats apart. 'Hush, love... hush. It's all right. I'm here, I'm right here.'

He just... couldn't seem to get close enough. Didn't seem to know whether to bury himself in my arms, or try to drag me into his. He was trembling, panting harshly, obviously fighting with tears. That alone was enough to frighten me. All I could do was hold him tight.

'Can you tell me about it?' I whispered softly and got nothing for a minute but a violent shake of his head.

'Don't want to think about it,' he finally choked out. 'Don't... want to make it more real.'

He wouldn't say, so I can only guess that the nightmare involved some harm coming to me, because his protective streak suddenly kicked into high gear. He seemed to want me close. Seemed to want me protected. He squirmed from my embrace to crawl on top of me; it felt like he was doing his best to tuck me completely underneath him, safe and covered. Wrapped up in his arms, pressed in tight against his chest, my name was a murmured mantra on his lips.

'We're safe,' I told him, as best I could with my face buried in his shoulder. 'Everything's ok, Heero. I'm here... you're here... we're all right.'

He just seemed to need more contact, his trembling was easing, but he just couldn't seem able to touch enough of me. Like he was all that was keeping something horrible from ripping me away. He was starting to... frighten me.

'Damn... Damn... Oh my Duo,' he choked out, arms tightening around me even more. I started to fear he might crack bones. 'Oh Gods... ' He just wasn't making any sense.

But then he began kissing my neck, lips moving almost frantically up my throat, hunting for me, taking my own lips in a hungry frenzy. I could barely move, couldn't keep up, couldn't half think about responding. He was just so... desperate. I'd never seen him like this, and there was a sudden shift in what I was feeling. His weight, pressing me down into the bed, a thing that had brought me comfort on more than one night, was suddenly... oppressive. Instead of shielded, I felt trapped. Instead of protected, I felt... overwhelmed. I began to panic.

'Heero?' I ventured, when his lips left mine long enough to allow it. 'Heero... please... '

His knee was trying to find purchase between my thighs to press my legs apart. I have no idea what he had in mind. I have no idea if he was even thinking. I have no idea why I was suddenly so scared. We weren't even naked for the Gods sake! We owned a pair of pajamas, and on chilly nights, Heero wore the bottoms and I wore the top. It had been a chilly night. It was all just... happening too fast, and Heero wasn't talking to me, wasn't making sense. It felt like he wasn't altogether in there. He wasn't hurting me, but... I panicked.

'Heero, stop!' I begged, trying to push back a little, trying to lose that trapped feeling. 'Please!'

Something, some coherency, came clear in his eyes and he gasped, levering off me in a heartbeat. He scrabbled backward, away from me, until he fell clear off the bed, landing on his ass on the floor. There was this frozen moment while we just stared at each other; I thought we just needed a minute to get our breath, to engage our brains. But he seemed to need more than that.

'I'm sorry,' Heero whispered, voice so soft and broken, I almost didn't hear him. His eyes were wide and he looked... stricken. Horrified. I was struggling with just what the hell to say, when he suddenly scrambled up and ran from the room.

I was still sitting in the middle of the bed doing a damn fine impression of a deer in headlights, when I heard the front door of the apartment slam and I realized he was doing more than just leaving the bedroom.

'Heero!' I hollered after him, damned with what the neighbors thought, but it didn't do any good. By the time I got my shit in gear, jerked on a pair of pants and went after him, he was so far gone I couldn't even guess a direction.

So, three o'clock in the morning found me sitting in a huddle on the front step of our apartment, wearing nothing but yesterday's dirty jeans and a pajama top, trying to figure out what in the hell had just happened.

I was swinging like a pendulum between kinda pissed off and kinda scared. Trying to decide if I wanted to kiss him or deck him.

I wasn't really angry over his frightening me. I mean, I can't deny that he'd scared me, but I wasn't afraid of Heero, I could never be afraid of Heero. I had not for a minute, truly believed that he was going to hurt me. It had just been a knee jerk reaction to feeling trapped, a response ingrained so far down in my psyche that I really couldn't hide it. Though, in that moment, I wished to the Gods that I could have.

No, I was angry with him for running off like this. I was angry because I was scared. But I wasn't scared about what had happened, I was scared because he'd run off.

Thoroughly confused? Me too.

Yeah, I had that moment of stark terror that he wouldn't come back, but come on... really; it was three in the morning, he was only wearing half a pair of pajamas, he had no money on him, where the hell else was he going to go?

I was kind of confused about the why, though. I was kind of stunned, if the truth be told. I mean... this was my stunt. Heero had never run out on me before.

I couldn't stop thinking about it, couldn't stop replaying the damn thing in my head. What had I done wrong? I obviously hadn't handled his nightmare well... what should I have done? Would it have been better if I had tried to shake him awake? Would it have been better if I'd left him alone and let the nightmare run its course? That didn't seem right, but I just didn't know where I'd messed up.

Because sitting on the cold front steps at three in the morning was obviously pretty messed up.

But the more time passed, the more I leaned toward scared. Where was he? Was he all right? Would he come back? Should I go looking? It was bloody chilly out, and he was practically running around naked. But where the hell would I look? He'd been... so upset.

And then it started to rain. Just to cap the evening.

I suppose I should have gotten up and gone back into the apartment. I could have waited for him just as easily in the nice, warm, dry living room as I could out front. But I didn't. This is going to sound somewhat asinine, but there was this perverse voice in my head that said if Heero was going to end up soaked and miserable, then by the Gods I would end up soaked and miserable too. I'm not even sure if it was a 'fuck him' voice, or a 'fuck me' voice.

The end result, by five in the morning, was that I was indeed pretty damn soaked and miserable. Huddled on my step and shivering like hell, hair and clothes fairly well permanently plastered to my body. The anger was gone. The fear was even a little numbed. I was just kind of baffled, really damn cold, and getting tired of sitting on the hard step.

I think I saw him before he saw me. If I am any judge of Heero posture at all, he was pretty damn soaked and miserable too. He came walking across the parking lot, his shoulders sagging as though he were carrying the weight of the world there, the rain pouring down and drenching him. I thought to get up and run to him, but that would have required uncurling from my ball of soaked misery, and he seemed to be headed my way anyway, so I just waited.

It was a couple of long minutes before he noticed me, and I did scramble to my feet then, because he stopped walking and I was afraid he was going to run again.

But he didn't, coming to meet me on the sidewalk in front of the building the minute I moved his way. He hesitated in front of me, so I just threw my arms around him, right there in the damn parking lot, though I suppose there was no one to see us at that hour anyway.

'Where... '

'... I'm so sorry... '

'... have... '

'... Gods, you're freezing... '

'... you... '

'... forgive me... '

'... been!'

'... so damn sorry... '

'Inside... let's take this inside.'

I practically had to lead him by the hand, and he made me feel like I'd kicked somebody's puppy. He let me pull him, unresisting, inside the building, and we left puddles of water all the way up the stairs.

He stopped me once we were in the apartment, taking me by the arms with an oddly tentative touch. 'Duo... I am so sorry. I swear to you I never meant... '

'That's enough of that, Yuy,' I grumbled, not liking this strange uneasiness in him. 'You did not hurt me. I never thought you would hurt me.'

He frowned, looking uncomfortable. Looking pretty damned miserable. 'I scared you,' he whispered. 'Don't try to tell me I didn't... '

I sighed and moved closer to him, trying to get him to put his arms around me. 'I was not scared of you... I was a little confused, and the situation alarmed me.'

His frown deepened. 'Damn it... ' he began, but I cut him off.

'I mean it, Yuy,' I growled, putting my arms around him and jerking him against me, squeezing hard. 'I got a little... claustrophobic, and I said 'stop'. And you stopped, no questions asked. End of story.'

His expression cleared a little and I could see him searching my face, my eyes, wanting to believe. 'Duo,' he breathed, and his arms finally came up to slide around me, but you still would have thought he was holding a carton of eggs. 'I love you so much... And I... want you, sometimes... so damn much. I... '

'Hush, love,' I told him, laying my head on his shoulder. 'You don't have to explain to me. You don't have to apologize. Heero, you just woke up from some kind of nightmare... don't you think I can understand that?'

'I could hurt you,' he blurted. 'My Gods... so easily. Sometimes... sometimes... '

'Stop it,' I whispered, bringing a hand up to the back of his neck to pull his head down to my own shoulder. 'You would never hurt me. Never. You stopped, Heero. Why can't you see that? You did nothing wrong. You did not hurt me.'

'But I could... I could,' he whispered and I couldn't even begin to untangle his thinking. I pushed back, putting a little distance between us.

This was unnerving. This was scary. Scarier than sitting on the front steps in the rain, wondering where my lover had run off to. I hate when he gets like this... he can beat himself bloody over the damnedest things. I didn't like him looking at me with that weird fear in his eyes.

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