Author: Sunhawk

Release (cont)

"Which one, Heero?" he asked, and I didn't hesitate, taking the one from his hands.

"This one." I told him firmly, "definitely this one."

He bought it on my say so, not even asking until we were on our way out of the store, "What's it say?"

"Long life." I translated, not looking at him, but smiling softly.

From the corner of my eye, I saw his head whip around as he looked at me sharply. I could see the suspicion in his eyes, but again, I gave no other sign, and the moment passed as we came abreast of the pet store.

He had to fondle every puppy that was out where he could get to it, letting them lick his face and nip at his fingers. His face was delighted; I was enchanted, and it took every ounce of will power I possessed not to pull him into my arms and kiss him breathless in the middle of the damn store. I vowed to buy him a dozen puppies when this was all over.

We left the mall in the late afternoon, finding a restaurant on the way back to the estate. I seriously was not in the mood to cook, and Duo's culinary skills... leave a great deal to be desired.

I insisted on choosing the place this time, and picked a rather nice café. We enjoyed a pleasant steak dinner, drawing only a few stares, more, I think from our jeans and t-shirt attire in the suit and tie crowd, than anything. Though Duo did risk a light kiss on my cheek in the parking lot.

"Thank you." He told me warmly, "It's been a nice afternoon."

We pulled back into the grounds in the early evening, and somehow, the mood darkened almost imperceptively as soon as we got out of the car. The distraction was gone. I was desperate not to lose the afternoon.

"Why don't you put your stuff away, and meet me on the back porch." I suggested, smiling lightly, and he brightened immediately.

While he was upstairs, I went and fetched an afghan out of the living room, and a couple of drinks out of the refrigerator. When he joined me on the kitchen porch, I took his hand and lead him off through the grounds up the slight hill on the west side of the estate.

There was a large rock there, at the top of the rise, and I spread the afghan on the ground, sitting down with my back against the stone, facing the distant horizon where the sun was just beginning to touch the tree line. He stood for a moment, looking down at me, before settling himself, not beside me, as I had expected, but between my legs, leaning back with his head resting against my chest. I opened his bottle of soda and handed it to him, receiving an impish smile in return as he sipped. I opened my water, and squirmed until I was comfortable, pulling one knee up, and Duo curled his arm around my leg.

I wanted to give him these things; the puppies, the dinner, the sunset, just the day together. I wanted to say to him, See! There are reasons to go one! There are reasons to live!

The sun dipped below the distant trees, casting up a wash of rich reds and oranges, painting Duo's face in a warm glow. He sighed contentedly, watching the colors darken as the sun slowly disappeared below the horizon, and I watched him. When the last rays of light faded, I leaned down and kissed the top of his head. He tilted his head back, arching to raise his face high enough to reach me, and kissed me softly, almost tentatively. I slid an arm down to support him. I couldn't keep from deepening the kiss, the tenderness of the whole afternoon, turning to something a little stronger. I felt his lips part under mine, and the delicate brush of his tongue. He turned in my arms, the better to reach me, and his hips slid across my groin until he was facing me, his taut stomach pressed against me, and I was instantly aroused, gasping with the suddenness of an aching erection. I broke the kiss, meaning to let him go; he had to be aware of my hardness, swelling against him, but he was just looking into my face, searching hard for... I'm not sure what. Then he very deliberately slid upward, pressing himself against my groin, his eyes never leaving my face. It pulled a moan from my throat, and my eyes fell closed as I savored the feel of him in my arms. I forced my hands to remain still at his sides.

"Still testing, my love?" I managed with a wry chuckle after a minute of that sweet contact, and he kissed me lightly again, before scrambling up and walking several paces away to stand with his back to me. I almost laughed; I wasn't sure, but I think he might have been struggling with an erection of his own. That seemed a great victory to me; a progress.

I rose and found the night air was suddenly chill. I retrieved the afghan and shook it out, throwing it around my shoulders and going to Duo's side to open it wide in invitation. He came slowly in against me, and I wrapped the blanket around us both as we walked unhurriedly back through the dark to the house.

"I think I'll go down to the gym." He told me, once we were back in the harsh light of the kitchen, and I knew he was just staving off the night.

I put the afghan back before going down to join him. We all kept workout clothes down here, and he was changed into a pair of loose, black shorts by the time I got there. I changed as well, going to the open end of the gym to begin a rather demanding jujitsu routine. I worked to the rhythm of the clink of his weights, and caught him, more than once, gazing at me from his end of the gym. I lost track of time, caught up in the stress relieving exercise, stopping only when I realized that all sound had stopped from Duo's area. I turned to find him watching me openly; sitting on the bench press, body glistening with sweat. I was surprised to see that three hours had passed. His shirt was in his hands, and he was wiping his dripping face with it. He looked completely drained. I was angry with myself; I should have been watching him closer; he had pushed too hard, perhaps trying to wear himself out enough that he might sleep.

I went and straddled the bench beside him, "You Ok?" I asked, tempting his anger.

But he just grinned shamefacedly, "You know me too damn well, Yuy."

"Can you make it upstairs?"

"Not... not right now." An embarrassed duck of his head.

"Then I get to carry you." I grinned at him and he looked at me in mock horror.

"You are disgustingly sweaty!"

"And you are not?" I demanded, indignant.

He laughed, wrinkling his nose, "You need a shower!"

He was smiling again, and I would do anything to keep that look on his face. I stood and pulled off my shirt and kicked off my shoes, bending down to pull off his shoes and socks.

"What... what are you doing?" he sputtered, and I swept him up in my arms.

"You need a shower too." I told him simply, and carried him into the locker room, with the wide-open shower stalls. It took a bit of work to get the water turned on, with him clinging to my neck, laughing like a child. It spurted out, icy cold at first, and he yelped, ducking his head against the shelter of my shoulder. He groped passed me, and got the temperature adjusted, and I moved us both under the warm spray. He was delighted, laughing and splashing me, the water running over us in a torrent. We laughed together, turning under the spray, and then he sobered slightly and reached for the soap. Gently, he began to massage his fingers through my hair, and I had to close my eyes to keep the soap out. It was the first time he had ever done anything like that for me, and it felt incredibly intimate. I sighed, enjoying the feel of his hands, ignoring my screaming muscles.

"Put me down, you idiot, and just hold me up before you drop me." He chuckled next to my ear, and I complied, setting his feet on the ground, and wrapping my hands around his waist. I could feel the faint trembling of his weakness under the palms of my hands, but his face was happy, and I liked the feel of his fingers working through my hair, so I kept us there a little longer.

"Rinse." He finally commanded, amusement in his voice, and I did so one handed, wrapping the other arm around him for support. When I was finished, I looked at him critically.

"Want to wash yours?"

He shook his head, and the tiredness was finally overcoming his enjoyment, "I don't think I can stand here that long." He said, almost a little sadly, and I shut the water off and lifted him back into my arms. There were benches out side the stall area, the whole set-up reminded me of nothing so much as a school locker room, and I sat him there while I went and found towels and fetched our dry jeans. I gave him a few moments of privacy, to change out of the sopping shorts into his dry pants, while I did the same, and then I returned to get us both upstairs. My own arms were trembling with fatigue now, and I was afraid to trust them on the long climb up the stairs.

"Sorry." I muttered, chagrined, "Think you can make it?"

"Between you and the rail." He grinned, and we started slowly up. It was frightening to me how easily he still tired. But we made it, and I helped him to his room. I found him clothes for bed, and left him sitting there while I went to my own room and dug up the gray sweat shorts and tank top that I had adopted as pajamas. I spent a minute in the darkness of my own room, taking deep breaths and preparing for the battle I knew was about to come.

+

When I went back to his room, he was changed, and the jeans were tossed into the corner, but he was sitting on the side of the bed with the beginnings of a faint frown on his face. I decided to cut right to the heart of it and not dance around the edges of the issue.

"We have to come up with a compromise." I told him flatly, moving briskly passed him to dig the new CDs out of the sack he had dumped on the desk earlier.

"Heero... " he began, but his voice already sounded tired and defeated.

"I'm not leaving. Period. End of that part of the discussion." I turned with the CD in my hand to look at him, but he was just sitting there staring at me, a little wide-eyed. I think he was just too tired to work up to angry.

"That's my one point of non-negotiation. What's yours?"

He looked at me sharply, the defeated look changing to something remarkably like hope.

"You... you can't talk the nightmare away." He ventured, obviously gauging my reaction. I gave him only a curt nod; having known that one was coming. I bent to tearing the cellophane wrapper off the CD.

"Would you consider my allowing it only every other night?" I tried, against all hope, "I'm concerned that you're wearing yourself out."

He frowned but shook his head, "No. Heero, I'm afraid we're running out of time."

I sighed, I'd been pretty sure of losing that one, but hoped to use it as a bargaining chip for the next one, "All right. But I get to hold you through it. Like... like Wufei does. So you don't hurt yourself thrashing around."

He chewed on that, and his response surprised me, coming so low I almost didn't hear it, "Can... can you leave your shirt on?"

I turned wide eyes on him, understanding instantly, and he saw it in my eyes and got scared.

"Please don't tell him, Heero! Please don't... it would... hurt him."

I nodded, "All right, love. I promise; not a word."

He looked relieved and bent doggedly back to the negotiation, "Afterward though, you have to let me... be."

"I won't leave. I told you that's the one point I won't give in about."

"That's... Ok. Just... you just have to let me get myself together. You can't put me back together."

I worked studiously at loading the CD into the player, sighing heavily. "Within reason, Ok? I'm still not convinced this is the way to deal with this. If it gets too... rough, I'm going to intervene and we'll just have to try something else tomorrow night."

"What else is there, Heero?"

"I don't know, damn it! Hypnosis? Acupuncture? Aromatherapy for Gods sake! I don't know, and I don't care! Anything else. I hate this, it's killing me by degrees, and I'm not going to sit by and watch you... " kill yourself. It was right there in my mouth, and I almost let it pop out. Almost. I'm not sure where I lost the calm I had walked into this room with, but it was completely shattered and I had to take a couple of hard, panting breaths to win a measure of it back. "Sorry... I'm sorry... "

"It's all right." He whispered, "It's... it's a start."

"All right then." I tried to lighten my voice, "We have a deal... of sorts." I hit the play button on the stereo and went to get my mattress to the sound of an oddly sprightly tune.

He chuckled as I drug it in, already sprawled out on his back, arms behind his head. "I had to make Wufei bring his in here that first night; he had planned to sit in the hall on a desk chair for the entire week."

I shook my head, "That's our Wufei." And on the bed, Duo chuckled again.

I turned out the lights, and threw myself down on the mattress, pulling my blanket up.

Duo giggled across the room in the dark, "Good-night, John-boy."

"Go to sleep, baka." I muttered, and he laughed out loud.

The CD played softly, and despite everything, his exhaustion caught up with him, and I could tell by his breathing he was asleep before the third or fourth track. I hadn't slept much the night before either, and I felt myself fading somewhere around the sixth or seventh.

I came awake, my heart lurching in my chest, a booming male voice was proclaiming, "O for a voice like thunder, and a tongue to drown the throat of war! When the senses are shaken, and the soul is driven to madness, who can stand?"

From the bed, there came a whimpering, terrified cry, and in the next moment, I heard Duo struggling up. It took me a twisting, blood-pounding moment to realize the sound was the stereo. I couldn't have slept more than a matter of minutes, and it had left me disoriented. I rolled off the mattress and staggered to my feet.

"... When Sin claps his broad wings over the battle, and sails rejoicing in the flood of Death: When souls are torn to everlasting fire, and fiends of Hell rejoice upon the slain, O who can stand? O who hath caused this? O who can answer at the throne of God?... "

I heard Duo fall, tangled in his blankets, "Turn the Gods damned thing off!" he wailed, and I knew just how he felt. There was a whole other level of nightmares being drug out by this thundering voice, and I found the damned switch in the dark and hit it hard.

"Duo? Where are you?" I panted, staggering around the bed, the voice still ringing in my ears as though it had been talking to me... right to me.

He was fighting his way out of the blankets, and we found each other in the dark, clinging and holding on for dear life. I could feel Duo's heart pounding in his chest every bit as hard as mine was.

"New rule;" he gasped out, "no more music at night unless we've already heard the whole CD before hand."

"Agreed." I muttered, "What the hell was that?"

"I have no bloody idea." And he began to giggle, "I thought it was the voice of God and we were both on our way to Hell."

I couldn't help laughing with him, though there was a note of hysteria in both our voices, "Nothing like a guilty conscience."

"Shit!" he wheezed, "I can't believe how bad that scared me."

"You?" I panted around helpless snickers, "If I'd been in a real bed, I would have fallen out of it!"

"I did fall out of it!"

The laughter died quickly though, and we sat wrapped around each other on the floor, each of us lost in our own battle memories. I held him until I felt his heart rate return to something akin to normal, and then we pulled ourselves up on the side of the bed.

"No more music tonight, Ok?" He said as he climbed back into bed, and I straightened his blankets back around.

"No problem." I assured him, making my way back to my own bed, "No problem at all."

I threw myself back down on my mattress, hunting for my own blankets, feeling strangely chilled and wishing I hadn't been evicted from Duo's bed. We lay in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts, but I could tell by his restless turning, that he was as wide-awake as I was. It seemed like I stared up at the ceiling for hours, but my internal clock told me that only about a half an hour had passed, when I felt eyes on me. I turned to see Duo sitting on the side of his bed, his sheets wrapped around him like a mantel, the black puddle of his shorts on the floor.

"Heero?" His voice was a deep-throated, tremulous thing. "Love me."

My breath caught, and the blood sang through my veins with just that simple request. I suddenly felt myself standing precariously on a landscape of eggshells. He was asking me to give him the one thing that I had been aching to share with him for months, the one thing I didn't think I dared.

I pushed down the sudden wave of heated desire. This was a plain full of landmines, and I had already hit the first one; my very hesitation was causing the form on the bed to hunch up in pain, fearing rejection.

"Duo... love, what are you asking me?"

"I want you to love me. I want you to wash me clean with... with your body."

How in the hell had Quatre gotten to him? That was all I could think. How else had this idea, which so correlated with Quatre's plan, been planted?

I couldn't do this; couldn't have this bizarre conversation from across the room. I rose slowly and padded the few steps to the bed, then stopped. I needed to be able to see him, but I didn't think this... moment would survive the harsh light of reality.

"Duo, where did you put those candles you had?" I asked calmly, and he pointed to the drawer in the nightstand. My questing fingers found both candles and matches, and I lit several, setting them about the room, bathing us in the warm glow that I remembered from before. Then I went and sat on the bed beside him, not too close, but where I could see his face.

"Duo... you know how much I would... like that." I tried to keep my voice level and calm, "But I have to ask you; why now?"

He ducked his head, "I... I don't know... "

I sighed; I didn't know how to ask him if Quatre had put him up to this. If he hadn't, the question would hurt. But if he had, if this wasn't Duo's idea, then I couldn't be sure he was ready for it.

"This afternoon... " he continued, looking off at something other than me, "watching the sunset... I felt something... it just got me to thinking about it... that's all."

I believed him. I remembered his face in the last rays of the sun, and I believed him.

"Duo... what are you asking me to do?" I was flustered, but there could be no mistake.

His head dropped, and I had no doubt that he was blushing furiously, then he cocked his head and peered up at me through the veil of his bangs. His eyes were fever bright, "I want you to take me."

My heart lurched. "Duo! I... I... don't know that I can do that... not this first time... "

But his voice was firm, "Heero, it's important. Please? It's what I want."

Gods. I was so aware of the burden settling on my shoulders. I was in the center of the minefield now, without a damn map. I could do so much harm. I could mess this up so very, very badly. All complicated by the fact that I wanted him so much I ached with it. Did I have the control for this?

"Duo, if we do this... it has to be slow. It has to be at your pace."

He nodded, hearing in my voice I think, that he was near to winning the argument.

"You can not let me hurt you. More than anything, I do not want to hurt you. We... could make this so much worse, you understand?" I made him raise his head and really look at me.

Again, the tight nod.

"Duo?" I put a hint of warning in my voice, "tell me you understand."

"I've thought this through, Heero." There was just a touch of annoyance in him, "Don't think I don't understand how this could all go to hell, and don't think I don't know what I'm asking of you. But... I ... I trust you."

I went to the bathroom to find the bottle of massage oil; not thinking my voice was steady enough to answer him.

He trusted me. How the hell could three little words make your heart soar like a hawk and plummet like a stone all in the same breath? The weight of responsibility settled over me, and at least, served to dampen some of my own aching desire. I didn't know that I could do this. I was terrified.

He was still sitting there on the side of the bed, his good leg curled under him, the bad one dangling, the sheet had fallen around his waist in a sea of white, leaving his chest and arms bathed in the warm glow of the candles, and despite his reassurances, when I came back from the bathroom, his eyes were wide and fearful. I pulled my tank top off and tossed it on my mattress, but left my shorts on. Slow, Yuy; slow.

I put the bottle down on the nightstand and sat beside him again. "Love; are you sure about this? Absolutely sure?"

He met my eyes of his own accord, this time, and I could hear a little desperation in his answer, "Yes. It feels right... something inside me is telling me this is... this is the answer."

I reached slowly out, and gently placed my hand on the curve of his shoulder, and felt the muscles there tighten. He lowered his head again, looking up at me with a vaguely guilty expression.

"Understand me, Duo. Nothing happens until you say it happens. All right? I will lead, but you are in total control. No surprises. I swear."

His eyes lost a little of their wide fearfulness, and he smiled at me, soft and warm... and trusting.

"You need to relax." I returned the warm smile, "Lie down and let me rub your back a little bit."

He managed to turn and stretch out in the bed without ever letting the sheet slip away from his waist. It was... tantalizing. It was ridiculous; I had helped bathe him in the hospital, I had seen him naked before. How could this be so different? This was the same man I had been roommates with for... forever. But knowing there was nothing but that sheet between me and the sleek rise of his hips was driving me crazy.

I sat beside him, even though it made it awkward, because I didn't think straddling his thighs was a good idea. I poured a little of the oil in my hands and rubbed them briskly together to warm the cool liquid. Then I gently began working on his tense shoulders, careful of the cuts, stroking the length of tight muscles, moving down his spine, down his arms, staying clear of all the places I thought would make him uncomfortable. Slowly, he began to relax under my hands, groaning softly when I hit a particularly tight place, where I had to work at it to loosen the muscles.

At length, he moaned under my hands and sighed deeply, "You're very good at that."

I nudged him, "Move over a little, lazy." He scooted over to the side, and I stretched out beside him.

"Talk to me?" I asked softly, laying where he could put his head on my shoulder, and he came into that familiar position, though I noticed he cocked his hips away, not comfortable with laying against me full length in his nakedness.

"What?" he asked, sounding apprehensive.

"Tell me what not to do?" As gentle as I could manage.

He sighed, and had it not been so important, I would have regretted it.

"Not... not from behind." He whispered at some length, and it cost him, I could feel it.

I let my hand slide soothingly up and down his back, and waited.

"Don't... pull at my hair." And there was a tiny shiver. I kissed his forehead.

"Is that all?" I asked against his brow.

He managed a husky chuckle, "As long as you're not planning on bringing any knives into this."

I chuckled for him, "No knives. Got it." I traced small circles on his back with my fingertips and felt him shiver.

"Ok, love?"

He gave me one of his lop-sided grins and I raised a finger to his lips before he could speak.

"Rule number one; no masks. It all has to be out in the open."

The grin changed subtly, became more real, "All right, then. I think I'm Ok. That's the best I can tell you."

I smiled, "Vague, but honest. It'll do."

I ran my hand up and down the length of his spine, "Relax, love." And I could feel him make an effort.

"Duo?" I breathed softly, kissing the top of his head.

"Hmmmm?" he asked, sounding contented under the brush of my fingers.

"Touch me." My voice sounded husky to my own ears, and he froze beside me.

"What... what do you mean?"

"Calm down, little one." I chuckled, "I'm not pressing for that. Not yet. Just... explore me. Aren't you curious?"

"Maybe a little... Ok; maybe a lot... but I don't... " He shrugged.

I raised his face to mine with a hand under his chin, and kissed him. I kissed my way across his cheek, finding his ear and letting my breath wash warm across it, then nibbling my way down his throat. Duplicating the path he had taken when he had teased me the day before. He shivered, and gasped, eyes flying wide as he realized what I was doing.

I chuckled as I ended the trail in the hollow of his shoulder, "Don't tell me you don't know what to do. You've been very inventive in the last couple of weeks."

He laughed and shivered all at once as I nibbled at that hollow. I lay back and offered myself to him again. This time, his eyes sparkled in the candle light with just a hint of mischief.

His hand reached slowly out, almost seeming to act without his knowledge, and simply came to rest on my abdomen. He was propped up on one elbow, his head tilted to the side, watching me. I carefully tucked my arms behind my head, giving him the promise of complete control.

For a heartbeat, his hand just lay warm and rough on my skin, and then gentle fingers began to trace the line of muscles, brushing feather light across my stomach. I closed my eyes with a sigh and just lay back; losing myself in the sensations he was giving me.

He was cautious and hesitant, his fingers heart-breakingly gentle. But once he started, his curious nature got the better of him. Soon his hands were wandering about my stomach and chest, stroking up the length of my arms, caressing my face, tangling in my hair, and I let him hear my pleasure; sighing and moaning as he found the sensitive places. He never violated the border made by the waistband of my shorts, though I thought once he might when he slid his hand down my side, eliciting a gasp from me as he reached the top of my hip, but instead, he turned his hand and simply trailed his fingers across my stomach.

Then he surprised me, his hands slowed, and I became aware that he was shifting beside me. Before I realized what he was up to, my right nipple was enveloped in the warmth of his mouth, and he was suckling gently at my chest. My breath went out in a deep-throated groan, and it was all I could do to keep my hands where they belonged. He jerked back, eyes wide.

"I'm... I'm sorry... "

I curled an arm around him to keep him from pulling any further away.

"Don't be sorry," I panted, "Do it... do it again... please?"

He blinked at me, eyes wide in the flickering light, and then slowly lowered his lips back to my chest, finding me again, pulling me into the moist heat of his mouth and suckling gently at first, and then with more force.

"Oh Gods, Duo... " I moaned, having to pull my knees up a little to keep my hips from bucking up off the bed. I allowed my hand to stroke up and down his side in gentle encouragement, but nothing more.

He became fascinated then, with my chest, noticing my nipple becoming erect and hard, and had to experiment with both of them, warming them with his tongue and then blowing cool air across me until I thought I would lose my mind. At length, I had to catch his hands in mine and draw him away.

"Gods, love... stop that or we're going to be finished before we ever start."

He was delighted, grinning down at me, drinking me in with his eyes. Seeing me, I knew, flushed and panting and completely aroused. I remembered his voice from several days ago wickedly informing me of his 'New found power.' I had to wonder, not for the first time, if I truly had the control for this.

I gently pushed him back, bringing myself up on one elbow, mirroring his earlier position, "My turn." I smiled as gentle and warm as I could manage. I began as he had begun, by merely laying my hand on his abdomen. I felt his stomach tighten, and his expression went just a little pensive.

"It's all right, little one." I told him softly, kissing his temple, "No more than you can handle. I'll stop any time you say."

He nodded, eyes still betraying a hint of fear. I simply started with a placid massaging of his stomach muscles, cautious around the still healing scar of the knife wound, savoring the firm planes and taut curves, nothing more than getting him used to the feel of my hand; just giving him a chance to relax again.

"That... feels nice." He told me after some moments, and I took it as permission to expand my range. I slid my hand up his chest and began working the hard muscles there, careful for now to avoid the sensitive nipples. Working across his shoulders and chest until I felt him begin to loosen up. Then I slid my hand down, never breaking contact with his skin, and gently cupped his nipple into the palm of my hand. Just letting it rest there, and gauging his reaction.

Where I had closed my eyes, and just lay back and enjoyed the feelings he had invoked in me, he lay with eyes wide open, watching every move I made like a deer poised to bolt.

"All right?" I breathed softly next to his ear, kissing his throat.

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