'BeCoMiNg HuMaN'

~4 months later~

The security guard at the front desk had come to recognize Heero on sight, and he barely glanced up as the younger man strode through the lavish foyer of L4's Winner Corp headquarters and headed straight for the private elevator.

Heero unconsciously readjusted the weight of the bulky gun at his hip, punching the button for the second floor. It was a short trip up, and as he stepped out of the elevator, he paused to glance to his left, where the board rooms were located. No voices floated down the hall, so he took a right, all the way to the office at the end of the hallway. He rapped his knuckles against the thick cedar door, waiting until a voice called for him to enter before pushing the door open.

Quatre was seated at his desk, staring intently at a thick sheaf of papers. He dragged his eyes from his work after a moment to blink owlishly at Heero. "Oh..." he checked his watch quickly. "I completely lost track of the time."

Heero was unsurprised. He'd grown accustomed to Quatre's long hours; the other man tended to get so caught up in his work that he rarely remembered to check the clock. He let the door shut behind him and crossed the room, glancing down at the neat stacks of paperwork and folders spread across the desk's surface. "Will you still be able to take time off for lunch?"

Quatre tossed the papers onto his desk with a loud sigh. "No, no, I can still come. I'm getting tired of all this math, anyhow." He got to his feet, wincing as he stretched. "And now that I think about it, I'm starving."

"Schmidt suggested a small pasta place on Blackstone Street. He said it's not bad for practically-fast-food Italian."

"Luigi's? I've been there a couple of times. Good manicotti." Quatre came around and leaned his back against the desk, smiling at Heero. "It's also a popular place for younger people to take their dates," he said with a light teasing tone. His eyes fell to the bulky gun in Heero's belt. "Finally got your permit for their clunky little stun gun, I see." He looked askance at the other man. "Does it bother you, not being allowed to carry a real firearm?"

Heero shook his head. "It's probably for the best that firearms are outlawed here. More colonies should follow L4's example."

Quatre smiled, pushing himself away from the desk. "Come on. Let's go before I get trapped in a long-winded phone call or something."

The security guard sent them a knowing look as they exited the building, but Quatre ignored him, and once they were on the sidewalk, he reached out boldly and slipped his fingers through Heero's. He took no notice of the few people that did a double take as they walked in the direction of Blackstone Street. Heero had finally gotten accustomed to such stares. It was rare that there was any hostility in these looks, and the women tended to look more disappointed than offended at such obvious proof that the Winner heir was off the market. "So how does it feel to be a full-fledged officer of the peace?" Quatre asked brightly. "I'm sure the Captain is quaking in his boots; you're probably more qualified to do his job than he is."

Heero shrugged slightly, releasing Quatre to let a child run in between them. "It's... different," he admitted. Quatre gave a pleased little smile when Heero reached out and caught his hand again. "Mostly I just do patrols, but L4 seems fairly peaceful. I'm beginning to think I'll spend more time doing paperwork than making arrests."

"That's a good thing," Quatre insisted.

"Yes," Heero agreed firmly. There was still some discontent on other colonies, but L4 was physical proof that Relena's fight for peace had succeeded on at least some level. With the new laws passed by the Gorgenstern Bill, there was now hope that her dream would become a full reality.

Luigi's was only a ten-minute walk away from Winner Corp, and they found a table near the back of the small restaurant and took their seats. Quatre ordered the manicotti, and Heero picked a random dish he had never tried before. While they waited for their food, Quatre began ranting-- in polite Quatre-esque style --about his bull-headed secretary.

"I practically had to threaten the woman to stay home," he complained. "She's been sniffling and hacking for almost a week, but she's just too stubborn for her own good. I only managed to get her to take a few days off by pointing out that she could spread her cold to everyone else in the building."

Heero nodded silently, content to let the other man take up the bulk of the conversation. Relena had always tried to get him to speak more, but Quatre was accustomed to Heero's long thoughtful silences; and being friends with Trowa had definitely made him a semi-expert on taciturn men. And secretly, Heero liked just watching Quatre talk. He wore his heart and emotions on his sleeve, and the more Heero got to know the empath, the easier it was to guess what he was thinking or feeling just by studying the look on his face... Although it still took him off guard when he saw the competent, commanding leader Quatre could become when he was speaking to clients.

And of course Quatre could tell how he was feeling at any given time, which was actually more of a relief than an annoyance. It made it easier for Quatre to gauge his mood even when he said nothing at all.

....And as they'd both finally found out the other night, after tentatively dancing around the actual act for months, sex with an empath had proven to have certain bonuses.

Someone stepped up to the table abruptly and cleared their throat.

Quatre paused politely, expecting the waiter, but Heero stiffened. The hairs on the back of his neck were standing up. He turned his head slowly, hoping he was just being paranoid.

The man at their table was practically hidden under a bulky patched trenchcoat, a skullcap tugged down low, nearly covering his eyes. But even with his hair tucked safely under the coat and out of sight, a familiar taunting smile was already giving him away.

Out of the corner of his eye, Heero saw Quatre's fingers clench around the table edge. "Duo--"

Heero stared up into his old friend's eyes in disbelief, unable to move or tear his gaze away.

"Hey, Quat," Duo said cheerfully, still staring unnervingly at Heero. "Mind if I join you?"

"What are you-- How--" Quatre sputtered.

"Thanks." Duo pulled out the spare chair and sat himself down, leaning his elbows on the table. Heero reached automatically for his stun gun. "Hey, hey, chill out, Heero," Duo cautioned in a low voice. "I'm not here to hurt anyone."

Heero hesitated, glaring at the other man, his entire body tense with the urge to attack. "You're supposed to be in prison," he pointed out coolly.

Duo chuckled. "I told you I'd get out. Took me awhile, but I knew I'd find a way sooner or later. Leggo of your piece, Yuy, you're gonna attract attention. Besides, you really think I'd be stupid enough to come see you unarmed?" He pat a bulge in the side of his trenchcoat meaningfully.

Heero forced himself to release his weapon, lying his hands flat on the table. "What are you doing here?" he demanded from behind clenched teeth.

"Jus' checkin' up on you, buddy! I'd heard rumors that you left miss prissypants, and I had to see it for myself. Though I was a little surprised to hear you were on L4. Couldn't figure out what this place had to offer a guy like you." He studied Quatre's face keenly. "Guess I should've remembered you have a thing for blondes."

Quatre's lips were pressed tightly together, but he made no response.

"You're not going to make it off this colony, Duo," Heero promised quietly.

Duo waved his hand airily. "Oh, come on, Yuy, don't be like that. Relena's done a good job with that Bill. I'm not gonna go anywhere near her. I'm not the Butcher anymore. There's no need. I'm just ready to start my life over. Just thought I'd see you one more time before I disappear for good." He glanced at Quatre again, a faint sneer hovering on his lips. "Looks like I helped you 'discover the gay within' after all. Or maybe not."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Heero snapped.

"Are you kidding me?" Duo jerked his chin towards Quatre. "You dump Relena only to pick up someone almost exactly like her. They're both pacifists, neither of them likes violence, they're all about displaying their affections openly..." He laughed outright. "All you did was find a Relena with a penis. If that's not denial, I don't know what is."

Quatre's face was flushed with anger and embarrassment, and his gaze dropped to the table. Heero's eyes narrowed, and he leaned in towards Duo slightly, his voice full of thorns. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe those are just the traits I happen to want in a person I'm with?"

Quatre looked up at him quickly.

Duo frowned, surprise flickering across his face for an instant. "..All right, fine," he said slowly. He shrugged abruptly, face calm once more. "But whatever. I'm not here to try and ruin anything for you. I just wanted to see you again." He flashed a wicked smile. "Okay, and maybe see if there was maybe a chance for..."

"I'll kill you before I let you touch me again," Heero interrupted heatedly.

Duo laughed shortly. "I figured as much," he drawled. "Oh, well. Can't say I didn't try." He winked at Quatre. "Take care of 'im, buddy. Who knows? Maybe you'll be good for each other." He scooted back his chair and got to his feet. "Well, I need to get going. I've got a shuttle to catch. I don't expect we'll meet again-- or at least not for a long time, anyway. Looks like we've all got to get our shit together. And here I thought the 'starting from scratch' crap would be all taken care of after the war."

"You really expect me to let you leave this colony alive?" Heero demanded quietly.

Duo grinned, but it was a slightly softer version of his normal cocky smile. "Yes," he said simply. He waved, already turning away. "You can't kill death, Heero," he called over his shoulder as he headed for the door.

Heero started to stand, but Quatre reached out suddenly and seized his wrist. He shook his head slightly when Heero glared at him in question.

"Let him go," Quatre murmured after a long moment. It looked like it was a struggle for him to get the words out. "'I run, I hide, but I never lie'... He said he's done killing. I know by all rights he should be back in jail, but... he was our friend once, Heero. If that still means anything to you, maybe it's time to just let him walk out of your life for good."

"He isn't my friend anymore," Heero growled.

Quatre released him. "Then go get him," he said quietly.

Heero hesitated, gazing towards the door. If he hurried, he could still catch up to the other man... Or at least get to the station and put out the alert. Cancel all out-going flights, have the colony searched from top to bottom...

Slowly he sank back into his chair. He stared blankly at his cup for a minute before reaching for his napkin and methodically smoothing it over his lap.

Quatre didn't ask him for an explanation. He reached for his own napkin, unrolling the silverware carefully.

Heero glanced up at him, noting the stiffness to his lover's shoulders. He had been just as shaken by Duo's sudden appearance, but he had also been hurt by the other man's words. He reached out impulsively and hooked his finger in Quatre's shirt collar, tugging the startled blonde his way to lay a firm kiss on his open mouth.

When he pulled away, Quatre was blushing furiously at the unexpected act, but there was a hesitant smile already twitching at the corner of his lips.

Some of the other patrons were staring, but Heero ignored them and reached for his water. Already the tension was beginning to ease from his frame, and he let thoughts of Duo fall to the back of his mind. Duo had spoken of starting from scratch, and Heero took some comfort in the fact that he had gotten a head start on his own life.

There had been the briefest flicker of promise in Quatre's blue eyes; it looked like Heero's plans for the night were set. Heero dipped his hand in his pocket, fingers touching the small keycard he kept there.

"So that you don't have to stay in that crappy little dump over on Fifth Street," Quatre had said awkwardly when he had handed the card over almost a month ago. "I've got plenty of space at my place, if you think you could stand being roommates with me."

The Gorgenstern Butcher had torn everything apart, and left Heero to pick up the shattered pieces of his life. Four months later, Duo was on the streets and on the run, and Heero had a key in his pocket and a warm hand reaching out to cover his own across the table. He had never felt completely comfortable in Relena's mansion, and had always been vaguely bemused by the small plaque she kept in their bedroom. "Home is where the heart is," she had read, making sure to put it where he would see it often; a reminder of a concept he had never been able to grasp after a life of fighting and being constantly on the move.

He had only just begun to understand the meaning behind such a deceptively simple phrase two weeks ago, when Quatre had said three simple words to him as they left Winner Corp for the day.

They'd stopped on the sidewalk, waiting for the driver to bring Quatre's limo around. Heero had been lost in his own thoughts, thinking about his new job, about the relative peacefulness of L4, and the curious feelings he was beginning to develop for a certain blond empath. Quatre had pointed out the limo as it rolled up to the curb, turned to him with the same sunshine smile that Heero remembered from darker days, and said,

"Let's go home."


Author's Notes: Well, you all certainly surprised me with your responses to the last couple of chapters. Honestly, I was a bit worried when everyone kept rooting for 1x2x1 even though what Duo was doing to Heero was destructive and wrong. There was lust in this fic, yes, but I was afraid that people were just completely disregarding the Wrongness of their relationship... and was bracing for the backlash from you all after the Gorgenstern Butcher was revealed and Duo was dragged off to jail. But actually, though some of you seemed somewhat disappointed, you did point out the fucked-upness that has been going on in the fic (and restored my faith in humanity lol). This was supposed to be a dark, twisted fic, and so far I've only seemed to royally piss off one reader, who stopped reading anyway, so oh well. But I'm a sucker for happy endings, even if this one has a slightly bittersweet touch to it (as far as Duo's concerned). Anyway, this fic was hell to write at times, and I've never tried anything quite like it before, but you all kept me going with it with your support. Thank you so much for reading/reviewing and making me feel like I could get this fic to actually work ^___^
<3 Amiko

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