of Change (cont)
I squirmed under that green-eyed
gaze, and I didn't quite know how to answer him.
"Come on," he said gently. "Think about it. Maybe it's
easy for me to see how he's feeling because I came just as close to losing
Quatre that day. I was pretty damned upset myself."
I frowned, feeling oddly defensive of my concerns. "You may have
been upset, but did you take off and disappear for over thirty-six hours?
Did you come back an emotional wreck? Did you spend half the morning cry..."
I snapped my mouth shut on that just a split second too late. "Never
mind," I mumbled.
Trowa sat and blinked at me until I started to feel uncomfortable. I was
sorry I had let that slip out, Duo would not thank me for it, but I was
pleased that it had served to wipe the smug look off Trowa's face.
"There's something else going on here," I finally said, unable
to take the silent scrutiny. "He's obsessing over what we're going
to do now that the war's over. He seems terrified of... of... tomorrow."
That damned little smile was back and I just shut up again. "I know
how he feels on that count, Heero," he told me softly. "You
have to live like he and I have... from hand to mouth, never knowing what
the next day is going to bring, to understand."
I lost my irritation and looked across at him, willing to take whatever
insight he could give me.
He sighed and rubbed at his eyes. "I'm not saying the training you
went through wasn't... your own brand of hell, but you had a kind of...
security. You never lacked for food or shelter. Never had to do without
the basic necessities."
I grunted, but held my tongue, just listening to him.
"This is... very unsettling for me too," he confessed, his voice
dropping a little, as though he unconsciously didn't want Quatre to overhear.
"Most of the major changes in my life have not... been for the good.
I have trouble believing... believing..."
"That you deserve what we've won?" Wufei's voice, soft as it
was, still made us both jump, and we turned to find him on the stairs
"Yeah..." Trowa agreed. "Like this peace is for everyone
Wufei snorted softly and came around us to find his own seat on the stairs,
a few treads further down. "You mean, everyone but... us?"
Trowa shook his head. "No, that's the stupid thing. I feel like you
guys have earned it." He quirked one of those sardonic grins, "And
yes, I know what a double standard that is."
Wufei chuckled lightly, though there was little humor in it. "No...
I know how you feel. I can't quite... quite..."
"Get your head around it?" I supplied and he tilted his head
back to glance up the stairway at me. I shrugged. "Duo's term."
"Apt," he murmured, turning to sit sideways and lean against
the wall. "I guess I'm just having trouble believing in it."
"Like it's a dream you're going to wake up from?" Trowa asked
and got a nod.
"Duo just seems so overwhelmed," I murmured, thinking about
the morning in the woods, thinking about the sudden laughter and the equally
sudden tears. "I don't understand..."
It was Wufei's turn to give me that damned annoying amused look. "Yuy,
why is it so impossible for you to understand just what you mean to him?
I flushed darkly again, but growled at him anyway. "Will you two
knock it off? You are not seeing a... a third of what I'm seeing. Why
do you just assume that I am over-reacting?"
"Maybe because you always over-react where Duo is concerned?"
Wufei joined him with a muttered; "You do have a tendency to treat
him like..." but he petered out under my dark glare and they both
seemed to wilt a little bit. A very little bit, not nearly as much as
"I'm sorry, Heero," Trowa finally said. "But aren't you
even a little bit... unsure of what you're going to do now?"
I opened my mouth to retort and closed it again. I was most certainly
not going to give them the answer that was on the tip of my tongue; I'm
going to love Duo. I thought about it, tried to think of something to
say that wouldn't have my face spontaneously combusting again.
But before anything occurred to me, there came a discreet little cough
and we all turned to look towards the top of the stairs. Duo stood there,
his shoulders hunched and his arms crossed over his chest, not quite looking
at us. "If you guys are going to indulge in the group therapy session,
you mind moving it in here... you're making Quatre feel left out."
I was gratified to see blushes on the faces sitting across from me as
we all realized that our voices had obviously carried. Trowa scrambled
instantly to his feet, brushed past Duo and disappeared into Quatre's
room. Wufei stood and followed him, leaving me sitting there alone, staring
up at Duo... and waiting for the explosion.
But it didn't come. I could see his chest rise and fall as he heaved a
great sigh, but otherwise he just stood looking down, apparently captivated
by the pattern in the carpet. I rose and went quietly up the stairs, taking
his arm to pull him to the side. That staircase will forever be associated
in my mind with Duo falling and it unnerved me to have him just standing
there at the top of it. He went docily and it was my turn to sigh.
"Please don't worry so much," he suddenly blurted. "I'm
fine... I'm really all right. I'm just a little confused right now...
a little overwhelmed by it all."
I slipped my fingers under the edge of the sweater and hooked them in
the belt loops on his jeans, pulling him toward me. "You know worrying
is just what I do," I told him, trying to make my voice warm.
He finally unwrapped his arms from around himself and settled his hands
on my chest. "I just need to find my balance is all," he murmured.
"You know I'm here for you, right?" I whispered, very aware
now of how voices carried, reaching to brush his cheek with the back of
He gave me a smile that was more like the ones I remembered and chuckled
softly. "Always there to catch me when I fall?"
"Always," I said, and it came out a little more fiercely than
I had intended.
He inclined his head toward the bedroom door, looking up at me through
his bangs. "Come on... they're waiting." He reached up and took
my hand, stepping away and giving me a tug. "Quatre was a little
peeved that you guys were sitting out here talking all this heavy shit
When we entered the room, I saw that Trowa had reclaimed his chair on
the far side of the bed and Wufei had settled on the floor against the
wall directly in Quatre's line of sight. Duo let go of my hand before
we passed through the doorway and I was moved for a second to reach out
and take hold of him again, sure that he had broken contact for my sake.
But then I wasn't so sure and I let it go. Duo folded himself on the floor,
as Wufei had, only at the side of the bed, not far from the only other
chair, the place I ended up by default.
I watched discreetly while Duo tried to sit cross-legged as Wufei was,
though I don't think he did it consciously, but his bad knee wouldn't
let him get comfortable. After a minute of squirming, a tiny little hint
of a frown creasing his brow, he gave it up and stretched his legs out
in front of him. After a few more minutes, I noted movement out of the
corner of my eye and saw Wufei shift, stretching his own legs out. I wasn't
sure if it had been deliberate or not.
"Well you three were certainly vocal enough a minute ago," Quatre's
sudden voice made me jump, breaking through my reverie. "Mind sharing
with the rest of us?"
There was an uncomfortable moment of shifting eye contact before Wufei
finally inclined his head in some sort of acquiescence and said, "Our
apologies, we did not mean to exclude the two of you. We were merely discussing...
There was a small snort from Duo and I looked down at him, but he didn't
raise his eyes to meet mine, simply staring ahead, seeming to be interested
in something under Quatre's bed.
"Heero seems to be having trouble understanding why the rest of us
find this..." Trowa waved his hand idly, managing to encompass the
entire universe with that small gesture, "whole situation somewhat...
I saw Duo glance up at him, but he didn't speak
"We've achieved our goals," I stated my position for the room
at large. "This is what we've been working towards for over a year."
I hesitated on the wording, not wanting Duo to feel like I was singling
him out. "It seems we should be able to enjoy the peace we bought."
There was an odd little bark of a laugh from Duo that had no humor in
it what so ever, but he didn't speak, still staring at the floor.
"What, Duo?" Quatre asked gently and I held my breath waiting
to see if he would answer.
Duo's eyes flicked up and he hesitated for another moment before blurted,
"It was a damn sight more than a year that we've been working towards
Wufei grunted in understanding, nodding slightly. "My training too,
consumed a large part of my... childhood."
They made me regret the comment; I hadn't been thinking of things that
way. I had only been considering the time since the start of Operation
"I'm not sure I would say I ever had a childhood," Trowa murmured
from the other side of the bed and I saw Quatre look to him with an _expression
of pained guilt. But then Trowa chuckled darkly, "At least... not
what you would call a normal one."
I thought about my own training. My own lost youth. I have no real memories
before working with Odin Lowe. I go by the name of Heero Yuy, mostly because
that's the name I had been using when my teammates met me. They were comfortable
with it. But 'Odin Lowe, Jr.' was just as viable, and... neither of them
was my birth name. If I'd ever had one of those, I had no memory of it.
"But," I ventured, "doesn't that mean that we deserve to
enjoy our lives from here on out? We've earned this peace that we fought
Beside me, Duo drew his good leg in toward his chest and wrapped his arms
around it, an unhappy frown on his face. I wished I hadn't spoken, I'd
obviously upset him and I wasn't sure why.
"I don't know about everyone else," Trowa said slowly, "but
the war has... shaped me. Every aspect of my life. I can't believe sometimes
that it's really over..." he just seemed to peter out, as though
he were having trouble finding the right words to express himself.
"Like a dream you're going to wake up from?" Quatre quoted in
a soft whisper, and Trowa reached to take his hand, smiling gently.
"Well," Wufei interjected, "I'm not entirely sure that
this peace can be trusted to begin with. Man is a damned foolish animal
who continually amazes me with his propensity for making kaa-kaa in his
own nest." It might have been funny if it hadn't been for the dark
scowl on his face... and the truth of the statement.
I glanced at Duo and found him staring avidly at the others, but he didn't
seem inclined to enter the conversation himself. I repressed a sigh.
"There will always be the potential for a return to war," Quatre
mused after a moment. "But I honestly don't think we're going to
see it in our life times. I truly believe that Earth and the colonies
have learned their lesson this time."
"For the time-being, perhaps," Wufei grunted.
"As you say," Trowa interjected. "The peace may not last
forever, but I think it will last for a long time to come. I think the
harder thing is going to be learning not to be what we've been all our
I saw Duo's ears perk up at that comment, but he still didn't speak and
I all but seethed in my frustration. I felt like it would be beneficial
for him to enter into this discussion... get some of the things off his
chest that had been bothering him, but he seemed hesitant to voice his
"What do you mean by that?" I dared, hoping to keep Trowa on
the track he was on, hoping to draw Duo out.
Wufei chuckled. "Well, for us mere mortals, Yuy... change is a frightening
I grunted, but didn't speak, carefully watching Duo.
"The war has been going on our entire lives," Wufei continued.
"It colors every aspect of what makes us who we are. Its suddenly
being over is very... strange. Like... like..." he hesitated and
I saw him look toward Duo, wordlessly asking for help in expressing himself.
Something Chang Wufei seldom needed help doing.
"Like going outside at night and suddenly finding all the stars gone,"
Duo fairly whispered. Wufei nodded his encouragement.
Duo was still staring under the bed and I had the urge to lean down to
see if there really was something odd under there. "The war,"
Duo said softly, his voice almost reverent. "It's been the shadow
over my whole life... drove me from my first memories. I don't know that
I know how to... be anything else but a warrior." His eyes came up
finally, and I was a little hurt that he sought out Wufei's gaze and not
mine. Looked to our Chinese partner for reassurance, but then... I suppose
I had made it fairly plain that I didn't understand his position, where
Wufei seemed to.
"Don't know how to take the armor off?" Wufei asked him gently
and Duo dipped his head in the ghost of a nod.
"So does anybody have plans?" Quatre interjected suddenly and
I was a little irritated at the alteration in the course of the conversation.
There was a bit of silence while the five of us looked around, each waiting
to see if someone else would speak. I couldn't say that I had any concrete
plans of my own. Just vague notions of starting a normal life with Duo,
of finding a place to live... of finding jobs.
Wufei gave an uncomfortable little cough and said, "Well... before
we left the Peacemillion, I was approached by Sally Po. She and Commander
Une are starting a... an organization. A kind of elite peacekeeping force."
He glanced around at us, trying to gauge reactions. "She invited
me to join and I'm giving it serious consideration."
Duo tilted his head and eyed our partner. "What kind of organization?"
he asked suspiciously. Duo has a deep-seated distrust of gangs masquerading
as something... legitimate.
So we got a brief and somewhat sketchy introduction to a thing called
the 'Preventers'. I was a little intrigued by the idea, but Wufei really
didn't have all that much information yet. It was something I resolved
to look into.
When Wufei finished relating what he had learned aboard the Peacemillion
and grew quiet again, I began to contemplate trying to turn the discussion
back toward what Duo had been saying. But the sound of soft whispering
stopped me and I glanced up to find that Trowa had risen from his seat
and was leaning over his partner with a slight frown on his face. "I
think that will be the end of 'group therapy' for today, gentlemen,"
he said brusquely. "Quatre needs to rest."
There was murmured disagreement from our injured teammate, but there wasn't
much energy behind it, and Trowa wasn't having any of it anyway. We made
a hasty exit.
Wufei informed us that he was going to clean up for a trip into town,
and Duo and I soon found ourselves alone again. There was an odd moment
while we stood and stared at each other, not quite knowing what to do,
before he suddenly chuckled. "I suppose Gundam repairs would be...
kind of stupid."
I smiled. "Not if it would make you feel better."
His _expression flared into something almost hungry for a moment, before
fading into embarrassment. "I know you think I've lost my damn mind..."
he began, but I stopped him.
"Hush," I scolded. "That's enough of that. You and I don't
feel exactly the same way about this... but that doesn't make either one
of us wrong."
He gave me a shaky little smile. "I truly don't deserve you,"
"The hell," I mock glared at him. "You deserve the best
of everything. You... deserve to be happy."
Something... haunted seemed to come into his _expression. "Heero..."
he began, but then didn't seem to know what it was he wanted to tell me.
"I just want to be able to make you happy," I told him. "I
want us to be together... forever."
Those amethyst eyes of his spoke to me of hunger and need, of weariness
and emotional turmoil. Just as I was moved to reach out and take him into
my arms, he sighed heavily and swept a hand up through his bangs. "I...
think I will go out to the hanger for a little bit," he said, then
looked at me searchingly. "If you don't mind?"
He was asking for some space. Some time alone. I chewed on it, feeling
a certain anxiety coiling around in my gut, but had to smile at him. "As
long as... you'll come in for dinner?" I teased, as close as I could
come to asking him to promise not to disappear on me again.
He guiltily dropped his eyes from mine. "I swear to the Gods, I'm
not going anywhere. I just have some things to... think about."
I did reach out then, brushing my fingers along his jaw line and coaxing
his eyes back up. "I love you," I whispered. "Have I told
you that today?"
That won me a bright, honest smile and a sudden embrace. "Actually,
I don't think you have," he said, and his tone finally managed to
recapture some of the lightness we had achieved between us while in the
So I told him. And I kissed him. Then I told him again. And I kissed him
some more. Until, finally, he was grinning at me and some of his melancholy
mood seemed to lift away.
"So what are you going to be doing while I stare at my Gundam and
try to convince myself that I don't have a responsibility to bust all
my knuckles on it any more?" he asked, when I let him go.
"If it would be all right," I ventured. "I was thinking
I might see if I can catch a ride with Wufei into town. I thought I might
cook tonight, but I need a few things."
His grin widened. "Something special?"
"Maybe," I teased.
So we went our separate ways, each of us uncomfortable with it, but equally
uncomfortable with the realization that we were having trouble being...
apart. I suppose there was a little bit of denial going on there, a little
bit of poking at the bear. Neither of us quite ready to admit that we
couldn't handle something as simple as an afternoon apart. Duo would call
Wufei seemed surprised when I approached him, but pleased, and we borrowed
one of the Winner cars to make the run into the little college town. At
first, things were relatively quiet, each of us lost in our own thoughts,
but then I felt eyes on me and glanced Wufei's direction.
"What?" I murmured, a little afraid I was going to get another
little lecture about treating Duo like, as Wufei liked to say, he was
a sniveling onna.
But he surprised me. "Do you have plans for what you want to do now?"
I grunted, wondering what everyone's obsession was with the future all
of a sudden. The war wasn't officially even over yet... all the paperwork
hadn't been signed. "Nothing concrete," I told him.
He snorted in wry amusement. "No plans and preparations? That is
so unlike you."
"No," I told him with a little more solemnity that I had intended.
"That is very unlike the soldier I was two days ago."
I saw him glance rather sharply my way, but he quickly returned his eyes
to the road. It was his turn to grunt. "What did you think of this
idea about the Preventers?" he ventured after a moment or two.
"Honestly?" I said. "It's necessary. There will always
be those people who are unhappy with the current state of things. No matter
how much better we make the world... there will always be someone who
will think that they could make things better."
I glanced his way in time to see him nod. "My thoughts exactly,"
he said and his eyes slid my way again. "You know... you and I think
rather alike, sometimes."
I couldn't help but smile; that was probably a true statement as long
as we weren't thinking about Duo. For some reason, Wufei always seemed
to take exception to the way I treated Duo. He found me to be over-protective
and, I suspect, overly sentimental.
"So," I asked, "you're really contemplating joining Sally
He hesitated, gnawing on his lower lip for a second, a nervous gesture
he rarely makes, then said, "I think I've just about made up my mind
to do it."
I turned to look straight at him. "You think?"
"Sally has told me that they are intending on using a traditional
'partner' system." His lower lip took another bit of abuse and then
he blurted, "I was rather hoping that I might convince you to join
If I hadn't been looking right at him, I might have missed the faint hint
of a blush that rose to his cheeks. I'm afraid I just sat and stared at
him for a moment.
He had gotten past the initial broachment of the subject though, and was
warming to the topic, not waiting for me to give an immediate reply. "I'm
very intrigued by the whole idea. I think it would give me someplace to
take my skills... someplace for us to take our skills, where they won't
be wasted. But I don't think I could work with just anybody. I've come
to trust the four of you and I think I could partner with any one of you
without any misgivings." He had been glancing at me out of the corner
of his eye as he spoke and drove, but now he looked away completely and
I saw that color come back to his face. "You... would be my first
choice. We've always worked well together."
[cont] [back to