"Heero," Quatre greeted, smiling as the stoic pilot entered the den. The young heir was tuning his violin. Trowa, seated on the couch, was sipping champane and watching him. Wufei had already retired to bed. Relena and the other girls were nowhere to be seen.
"Is Duo all right?" Quatre asked. "Relena was looking for you, Heero. I think she went to get ready for bed."
Heero nodded, striding over to the window to stare outside at the twilight. He didn't feel like talking; his emotions were in a turmoil, making it hard for him to even think straight.
As Quatre began playing a simple tune, Heero glared at his own reflection, tension making his body rigid. Suddenly Quatre's fingers slipped, and a sour note came out as he said brightly,
"Good evening, Relena-sama. I thought you'd gone to bed..."
Heero glanced over his shoulder. Relena stood in the doorway, dressed in a long white nightgown, looking a little sleepy, but smiling. "Oh, don't stop," she urged. "I heard you playing; you're very talented. Please, continue."
Quatre smiled a little sheepishly. "I'm no professional," he admitted, looking ruefully down at the violin. "And I haven't played this in a while, so it's a little out of tune.." To demonstrate, he played a few quick bars of music. A few notes seemed to fall flat, and he shrugged. "See?"
"Would you like another?" Relena asked, seating herself in a chair. "I'm sure we have one lying around somewhere.."
"Iya, that's all right," Quatre said quickly, cradling his violin almost possessively. "Actually, wrong notes sometimes make the music more interesting." He played the bars again, and this time when the flat notes came out, instead of stopping, he simply changed the tune, making it up as he went along. He stopped, smiling slightly. "Improvision. Life is like that, actually; it's like playing an instrument, and you have everything planned out how you'd like it to be. Maybe you plan on growing up and becoming a teacher. Or maybe there's someone you think you might marry someday."
Heero glanced up, his eyes narrowed slightly as he listened.
Quatre continued, oblivious. "But life is full of mistakes and surprises. Disappointments, even. Sometimes you hit a wrong note.." He deliberately struck a sharp note. "But I think that instead of letting those difficulties get in your way, instead of just stopping, you should make the best of them." He smiled softly, beginning to play a tune, once again improvising as a note went awry, ending up with a tune that wasn't perfect, but pretty nonetheless. "If you just follow your instincts, at least you'll be sure you're making the right decisions; decisions that will make you happy."
No one spoke for several minutes as Quatre played quietly, his eyes closed. Trowa was watching him, a small smile on his face, and Relena was nodding and smiling. At the window, Heero stared at the golden haired boy, swallowing hard.
Follow your instincts... Make the best of things.
Quatre was absolutely right; wise beyond his years. Life was not a smooth road, and sometimes difficult choices were thrown at you. Like the problem he was having.
He knew now that Relena loved him, and he felt strongly for her.
But he didn't love her.
Maybe if he hadn't been the Perfect Soldier; if he hadn't been stripped of his emotions so early in life, he would have fallen in love. Or maybe just being able to spend time with her would have helped. If he hadn't had to keep her away for her own protection, he could have loved her. But he didn't even know her as much as he should; he'd pushed her away too often. Only his teammates-- his...friends --had ever gotten close to him.
And one in particular.
He didn't know what he was doing, and he sure as hell wasn't sure he was right, but if what Quatre said was true, then trusting to his own instincts was the only way to solve his dilema. Taking a deep breath, his gaze settled on Relena, and he forced himself to relax, reluctantly letting down a tiny part of his wall, letting the emotions he had stuffed deep inside peek forth just barely. He felt warmth inside him as he gazed at the smiling girl...
Affection. Protectiveness. Respect.
But not love.
~"Oniisan... are you lost?"~
No.. not anymore.
Turning, he strode from the room without a word.
Duo sighed, a little huff of annoyance as he studied himself in the mirror. "God...that's the last time I drink alcohol when Heero's around," he grumbled, finally succeeding in unplaiting his braid. He shook his head, letting the silky tresses fall loose around him. He picked up his brush and began brushing out the tangles, wincing every so often until all the rats' nests were gone and he just ran the brush through his hair, enjoying the feel of it falling over his bare shoulders and chest. "I almost told him...." He snapped his mouth shut, setting the brush down quickly and turning towards the bed, stretching and yawning like a lazy cat.
"Awwhh! I'm pooped.." He blinked sleepily, padding towards the large bed, hoping he would be too tired to dream.
He couldn't handle another dream like the ones that had started plagueing him weeks ago, while the war was still going on.
Dreams about a certain Perfect Soldier..
Who just happened to be practically married to the Queen of the World.
Scowling, he stopped by his bed, looking down at the framed picture he'd set on his nightstand. It was a photograph of all five of them, taken only after five minutes' worth of weedeling on Duo's part. Smiling wistfully, he shook his head again, giving a little chuckle, and began to pull back the quilt on the bed.
He looked up as someone rapped on his door. Probably Hilde, making sure he hadn't snuck any beer into his room.
Grinning, he called cheerfully, "Come in!"
The door opened and shut quietly, and in stepped...
For some reason Duo's cheeks flushed.
"Uhh..." Duo quickly turned back to his task, yanking at the sheet, which seemed to be stuck, tucked into the mattress. "How ya doin', Heero?" he asked brightly. "What can I do for ya?"
There was no answer. He struggled with the sheet for a few more moments, then gave up in disgust and looked up, his eyes questioning. "Ne, Heero?"
Heero stood rooted to the spot, completely thunderstruck at the sight of Duo with his hair down. He had never seen it out of its efficient braid. He'd always called it a waste and stupid, but he had secretly admitted to himself that it suited the cheerful pilot. But now that it was down...
The chestnut hair, shining a little in the lamplight, was still wavy from being plaited all day. It fell down his back and over his shoulders like a silky waterfall, shifting slightly with every breath he took.
He was wearing some kind of pajama bottoms, and no shirt. His violet eyes, while a little sleepy, were bright and inquisitive, and his face, which had always seemed handsome before, was as beautiful as any girl's, now that Heero was actually really *looking* at him.
Heero swallowed hard, at a loss for words.
Duo watched him expectantly, then shrugged and returned to the bed, yanking at the sheet. "Well? What's up? Cat got your tongue?" he teased. "Whatcha want?"
Heero opened his mouth, then closed it again.
Duo gave an annoyed mutter as he jerked on the sheet. "Dammit...leggo..*my* sheet. Stupid mattress.."
Suddenly he felt the presense of someone standing right beside him, but before he could look up, a hand reached past him, seizing the sheet and giving a sharp tug. The sheet was freed.
Duo grinned, turning to thank his comrade...
And nearly reeled back. He hadn't realized Heero was *that* close.
In turning to face him, he'd nearly bonked noses with the stone-faced pilot. Feeling his cheeks burning, he stepped back quickly before Heero could punch him, stammering, "Uh, uh, gomen, Heero, didn't know you were that..whoops!" He bumped into the bed and lost his balance. Arms pinwheeling, he fell back in an ungraceful heap, grabbing wildly as he fell, seizing onto something, pulling it down with him.
"Oof!" he grunted, wincing. "Duo the clutz strikes again," he grumbled, opening his eyes. He immediately paled.
The 'object' he'd grabbed at blindly had been none other than Heero himself. Or a fistful of his tanktop, anyway.
Heero was practically sprawled on top of him, hands propping himself up as he glared down indignantly at the Shinigami pilot.
Duo giggled nervously, quickly releasing him. "Deja vu.." He gulped when Heero didn't move, still glaring at him. 'I'm dead,' he thought mournfully. 'I forgot how cranky he gets when he's tired.' "Um, er, g-gomen, Heero," he stammered, flinching as Heero shifted a little. "Don't kill me, it was just instinct..."
"Hn." Heero's deadpan voice silenced him. "So is this."
"What--" Suddenly Duo couldn't talk anymore. After all, it's hard to talk when something is covering your mouth.
SHIT!! Heero's KISSING me!! Duo gave a little noise of surprise in the back of his throat as he went completely still, his heart leaping into his throat as Heero kissed him, firmly but not hard enough to bruise him.
Duo's eyes slid closed as something warm in him began to expand, and he responded to the kiss, letting his lips flow over Heero's, earning a surprised grunt from the other pilot. Obviously Heero hadn't been expecting acceptance.
"D-Duo.." the word seemed to trip from Heero's mouth as he pulled away slightly, staring down at the other pilot, his eyes washed with confusion, desire, and...*fear*??
Duo swallowed past the lump in his throat, offering a smile that was completely different from the maniacal one he usually wore.
"Why..why are you letting me...?"
Duo reached up, placing a finger against Heero's lips to silence him, his face somber but his eyes shining as he responded quietly, "Heero, shut up. You have no idea how long I've waited for you to do that."
Heero stared incredulously down at him, then suddenly gave a short burst of laughter, sounding shaken and a little relieved. Startled by the unexpected noise, Duo didn't have time to sit up before Heero surged forward again, seizing his lips once more, fiercer this time.
"Mmph!" Duo sank into the pillows, reaching up and grabbing Heero's face tightly, closing his eyes and battling to gain control of the kiss and failing miserably; he'd been caught off guard, and the other pilot was taking full advantage of it.
Then Heero's hands began tracing his sides, and he began to squirm, making noises in the back of his throat. God, it felt like his skin was melting... He deepened the kiss, wrapping his arms around the other boy's neck, joy sparking in him like firecrackers.
Heero just barely managed to bite back a groan as he allowed Duo to embrace him. The sensation of the Shinigami pilot squirming like that under his touch was driving him mad. He pulled his head back for air, then began experimenting, kissing Duo's jaw and neck, a small grin stealing across his face at Duo's enthusiastic responses. He boldly slid his hand lower, and then...
They both froze at a knock on the door.
"Fuck!" Duo hissed, his tone still husky, but full of frustration. "It's Relena. What does *she* want?!"
Heero hesitated, then growled and rolled away, rising to his feet in one lithe movement. Duo gave a whimper of regret, then reluctantly sat up, grinding his teeth. "What is it, Relena?" he demanded impatiently.
"May I come in?"
"I'm kind of tired..."
Duo bit back a sharp retort, and motioned to Heero to hide. The other boy raised an eyebrow, his own frustration churning in his eyes, before ducking into the closet.
"Come in," Duo sighed, burying his face in his hands to try and compose himself.
The door opened, and Relena stepped in, looking a little hesitant. She quietly shut the door behind her and padded across the floor, halting a few feet from the bed and playing nervously with her hair as she stared at the ground, her usual self confidence absent. Duo sat up straighter, curious.
"What's up? Why the long face, Relena?" he inquired.
"Ano.." she glanced up at him. "You know Heero well, ne?"
Duo blinked, a slow smile curving his lips. "Hai, well enough. Not as close as I wish we were, but.." he shot a smirk towards the closet, unseen by Relena, who had turned her eyes downward once more. "Why do you ask?"
"Well.." she took a deep breath for courage and looked him in the face, opening her mouth to explain. Then her eyes widened and her mouth sagged open wider.
Duo blinked, confused. "Relena?"
"Relena, daijabou?" He rose, concern flickering in his violet eyes, his curtain of hair whispering over his shoulders at the movement. "You look like you've seen a ghost or somethin'."
"Oh.." To his surprise, she blushed suddenly, fixing her eyes firmly to the ground. "Gomen nasai," she muttered, sounding embarrassed. "I've... I've never seen you with your hair down before. It makes you look.." she hesitated. "Beautiful."
Duo blinked, then looked down at the curls of chestnut hair cascading over his chest. "Me? Beautiful?"
In the closet, Heero gave a barely audible grunt of astonishment. Could it be that Duo was oblivious of his looks?
"But.." Duo was looking a little uncomfortable. "Guys aren't beautiful.." He regained his cheery mood quickly. "Hell, I always knew I was handsome.." He swayed his hips slightly, toying with his hair, a sultry smile on his lips, completely unaware of the hungry eyes watching him from the closet. "But I'm not beautiful."
"Baka," Heero muttered softly.
Relena looked a little surprised. "But you are," she protested. "It's no wonder Hilde likes you so much." She smiled slightly. "You're even more bishonen than Heero-kun."
Heero almost gagged.
Duo laughed merrily. "Thanks, I guess." He smirked. "The way I see it, though, the only one unaware of Heero's good looks is Heero himself."
Heero's eyebrows shot up. Good looks? Him?
Relena smiled, nodding shyly. "Hai. He.." she stopped suddenly, looking flustered, looking down at her clasped hands. "Actually, that's what I came to talk to you about."
Duo twirled around, his hair fanning out before he plopped down in a chair, waving a hand in invitation, smiling widely. "Ah, a heart-to-heart. About Mr. Yuy, ne? Have a seat."
Relena seated herself on the end of the bed, still staring at the hands fisted in her skirt. "So.. you're good friends with Heero, ne?"
"Hai, hai, like I said. So what's up?" He grinned suddenly, leaning forward slightly, a conspiratol smile on his face. "Does this have to do with your attraction to our dear Perfect Soldier, perchance?"
Relena looked up quickly, her face flaming as he continued smoothly,
"It's quite obvious, you know. The way you fawn over him... You're totally into him, aren't you?"
"A-Ano.. Watashi.." she stammered, lifting a hand to her mouth, the very picture of embarrassment. "I-Is it really that obvious?"
Duo laughed merrily, leaning back once more, crossing his wiry arms over his chest. "More or less. To everyone, of course, except the object of your affection." He cocked an eyebrow as if exasperated with Heero's blindness. "Annoying, ne?"
"He protects you because of what you stand for, you know." Duo said suddenly, face serious. "Not for who Relena Darlian is or used to be."
Relena blinked, startled by his sudden blunt manner.
He continued ruthlessly, in a quiet voice, "You are the only one capable of keeping Earth and Space united in peace at this time. Without you, things will revert to the ways of war, and pacifism will be lost. If you die, war will erupt once more, many more lives will be lost, and the fight will be harder to win without a leader such as yourself."
She opened her mouth, but he didn't allow her to voice her opinion on the matter.
"Heero knows this. He *is* the Perfect Soldier, after all. All his struggles-- the struggles of all the Gundam pilots --would have been partially in vain if he had not stepped in and saved you time and time again. It does not mean he holds you anyplace in his heart."
Relena's eyes widened, and her mouth trembled, but no sound came out.
Duo's voice and eyes softened. "Gomen.. I don't say this to hurt you, Relena-sama. Only to let you know the facts before you hurt *yourself* by running after a treasure you can't possibly obtain. If Heero truly cared for you, he would not still be.. the Perfect Soldier." He sighed, looking up at the ceiling. "Because you asked him not to be... and yet he remains who he is." He gazed at her once more. "Don't you think he would try to change who he is for you if he really did love you?"
Heero leaned against the closet wall wearily, closing his eyes. It was true... Duo had blatantly stated the facts that Relena had been trying so hard to ignore and Heero himself had been unable to pin down. The mild affection balanced by irritation he held for the former Queen of the World was only that-- brotherly affection. Perhaps less than that. It was more... respect than any other type of feeling.
Nothing close to how he felt for the pilot of Deathscythe.
Duo reached out and touched the back of Relena's hand, staring into her face solemnly. "Gomen.. I just thought I'd tell you...."
She was silent for a long moment. Heero held his breath. Then..
Suddenly Relena gave a stifled sound-- not unlike a sob --and wrenched her hand away, leaping to her feet. "Who is it?!" she demanded furiously, glaring down at the startled pilot with eyes filled with tears. "There's someone else, isn't there? Tell me who took my Heero from me!!"