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Have you ever known someone who annoyed you purely by seeing them down the hall? The sound of their voice drove nails into individual vertebrae and made you grit your teeth in your eagerness to get out of their presence? Each second spent in their company was an infinity of irritation, wasted instants never to be reclaimed?

That's what Duo Maxwell was to me, the first time we met.

And the second. And the th--eh, well, maybe not the third.

He's one of those invariably cheerful people, unfailing in optimistic outlook and unbearably smug in the department of smiles and good nature. So much my opposite that I thought hate was inevitable. I could make trite comparisons to light and darkness, but it doesn't cover the depth and complexity of our relationship. And Duo isn't merely a bright foil for my tarnished self; he has his own share of guilt and pain and scars on his soul, as numerous as my own. If he didn't possess that bitter flood of dense experience I wouldn't love him nearly as much as I do, because he understands.

Yes, love.

As much as it's possible for Heero Yuy to love.

I considered myself the perfect soldier. That was before Operation Meteor started, before I'd truly experienced the extent of defeat. I failed my first encounter, even, but no failure was more profound that the contradiction to my basic training that succumbing to Duo's advances represented. Oh, not the physical release -- satisfying lust would be perfectly acceptable. It's the mental yielding I refer to.

Duo has chained me more securely than real bonds could ever prove. It scares me, the power that gives to him, and I don't know what would change if he knew -- it's why I can't say it, can't tell him.

Duo, I love you.

Saying it is harder than failure. Losing to Duo -- losing *it* to Duo -- wasn't easy. By contrast, failing the perfect soldier motif was the simplest part; that didn't take any effort.

I wonder when it changed, being with him. The boy I thought I would despise became the boy I couldn't leave behind, inextricably entwined in my mind, turning me upside-down until the infuriating grin was a welcome smile. He opened his mouth and I didn't cringe.

Honto ni, it was a simple thing.

He liked to touch me.

A kiss, a brush of the hand, a bright smile preceding the tumble into my lap while he wound his arms around my neck. One finger stroking the nape of my neck, distracting me while I worked on my laptop and pretended to be pissed at the interruption. At night we turned the lights off and locked the door and he popped under the covers with me to cuddle. His fingers, on occasion, would tease the shyness out of me and it wasn't long before I let him explore every part of my body like Braille. I wouldn't admit it but I think my favorite part was the snuggling mood. When he would put his arms around me, and I'd put mine around him, pulling him possessively close and that was all, breath and the heartbeat tucked against my ear, for hours.

I had never before Duo been touched with anything but violence. Life learning to be a soldier was hard. And when it came around, I almost lost my chance at a forever-after kind of love because the path to my heart was harder.

Duo, ai shiteiru.

I can't say it yet. Maybe someday. All I know is, you're the one thing I can't let go. My strong hands have found something that they can't break, because it's not a tangible bond you've entangled me in.

* * *

The moment Duo bounced through the door and slammed it shut, a familiar mischievous gleam in his eye, Heero knew he was up to something. It didn't take any great psychic ability. Duo was as transparent as cling-wrap and every bit as hard to handle, sometimes.

"Tadaima!" Duo beamed at him. He was hiding something behind his back. Ah, so the plot thickened.

"Okaeri," he muttered back, looking him up and down. Other than his too-innocent grin nothing seemed particularly out of place. "Where did you go?"

Duo wiggled a finger at him. "Ahh, the proper response is, 'I missed you, Duo!' 'You were gone for so long, Duo!' 'My life was bleak without you-' Eep!" He shut up with considerable haste as Heero got up from the table and began to stalk him. " wouldn't...I just cleaned the kitchen..."

"It's tile," Heero responded. "Blood cleans up nicely." He pounced.

"Ack!" They went rolling across the floor, and something flew out of Duo's hands as Heero landed on him and they both hit the tiles with a heavy thud. He didn't have time to snatch it because Duo was squirming underneath him, punching and reaching for that ticklish spot near his


"K'so!" Duo's fingers hit it unerringly and then the braided pilot took advantage of the opening to flip him, slamming him to the tiles and sitting on his stomach.

"There are other fluids that clean up nicely," Duo purred into his ear, then kissed it.

Heero glared at him coldly. "If you expect me to let you kiss me after that, you're kidding yourself."

Duo blinked at him, then shrugged and scrambled off him, grabbing the anonymous object off the floor and getting to his feet. Heero was obscurely disappointed that Duo hadn't pressed the issue.

"Well, where did you go?"

Heero climbed to his feet as Duo turned to face him again, flipping the long chestnut braid over his shoulder. He was grinning like a maniac, and whatever it was had been hidden behind his back again.

"Out," Duo replied evasively.

Heero heaved a sigh. "All right. What did you get?"

"I'm so glad you asked!" Duo exclaimed. The idiot was positively grinning from ear to ear. Then he raised his eyebrows, lowered them, and put on a very mysterious expression. "I just thought it was finally time..."

"For what?" Heero prompted, uneasy.

"For...this!" Duo whipped the box from behind his back, displaying it proudly. "Jaa! Merry Christmas!"

Heero sweatdropped. "'s the middle of August."

Duo looked injured. "Well, it's the thought that counts."

He shrugged and took the box. He poked it suspiciously with one finger. Nothing ticking. It was flat and long, almost oval-shaped. Well, that ruled out a wedding ring - he wiped away beads of sweat in relief. Finally, satisfied that he was safe, Heero opened the box.


"Do you like it? Do you like it?" Duo pranced around him enthusiastically, grinning again. He draped his arms over Heero's shoulders and nuzzled at his ear. "Even if you don't like 'em, I sure do!"

Heero regarded his gift sourly and lifted them up out of the case with one finger. They dangled in front of his face, a gleaming silver figure-of-eight. "Duo...they're handcuffs."

"Haaaa~ai," Duo purred into his ear.

He blinked. "Well I hope you didn't pay money for these. You could get 'em off any cop on the street."

"Puh-leeze!" Duo exclaimed, bouncing around them and taking the case from Heero's hand. He snapped it shut. "I only bought the case, not the cuffs." He leaned forward to kiss him again.

Heero rocked back, just barely out of range.

"Does that mean you don't wanna use 'em?" Duo assumed a pleading puppy demeanor. "Hidooiii~i!"

Heero tilted his head slightly. "I didn't say *that*."

Duo's grin lit up his whole body with its brilliance.

* * *


They both froze for a moment at the sound, registering its implications, then Duo stroked Heero's back lightly. Heero just bent his head, scowling, but his body was tense with expectation. "I'll be careful," Duo promised, bending to kiss his ear. He was always careful, but this little addition to their sexual equation seemed to have put Heero on his guard.

Actually Duo was starting to wonder whether this was a good idea or not. Because of what they were, anything reeking of restraints or bondage might not be good for Heero - he was already tense enough.

"Oi, Heero." He planted a kiss between the bare shoulder blades.

"Oi, what?" His voice was rigid with control. Duo winced.

"We don't have to do this, you know. I won't be disappointed if you say stop." Duo kissed the back of his neck, then grinned against the tickle of hair at the nape. "You could always cuff *me* to the headboard."

Heero snorted. "Hentai."

"You know it!" Duo agreed with cheer. He grasped Heero's side with one hand, the other rubbing over his chest, stroking in soothing motion. With light fingers he tickled a nipple and Heero gasped.

"No...don't stop."

"You sure?" He kissed his neck again, moving his lips down the curve towards the collarbone.

"I'm sure."

Most of Heero's clothing was already gone. What there was of it - only the ubiquitous black shorts remained. He pressed a kiss to the base of Heero's spine, enjoying the intake of breath, and the skin that tightened under his fingers. Heero's stomach was a taut line. Duo looked at him for a moment, eyes playing up along the tense slender body kneeling on the bed, hands outstretched and cuffed to the wooden headboard. Heero's dark head was still lowered.

It lifted sharply, neck snapping back, as his hand reached between his legs and grasped the bulge of his erection. Heero was hard - painfully hard, and Duo took a moment to re-evaluate the impact of the handcuffs on Heero. Judging from the rhythmic tremors against his hand, Heero was enjoying this quite a bit. Or at least, he amended, turned on by it - the two weren't necessarily the same thing.

He squeezed a little, and the penis jumped against his fingers beneath the cloth. Duo blinked in surprise. Anything he did at this point would probably send Heero over the edge.

Duo changed his course of action. He reached up further, grasping Heero's waist, and provoked another inhalation. Then he slipped his fingers around the rim of the spandex shorts, toying with the rim, and......

........Heero's body tensed again, his lover swallowing.....

.....he tickled his bellybutton.

"Shit! Duo!" Heero complained, bucking away from his hands. The handcuffs rattled against the headboard with dull clicks muffled by the wood.

"Hmm...what else should I do?" Duo mused, absently biting one spandex-covered buttock.

Heero jerked and started to sweat.

Duo grinned and kissed the base of Heero's spine again, lips tickling over the cloth, then slipped his fingers under the rim to snap the shorts against his skin. Heero tensed reflexively. He reached down to cup the bulge in his shorts again, and was pleased to find his tactics had worked. Heero's erection was still throbbing, but not as cum-right-now urgent as before.

He peeled the shorts away and kissed him again, his lips to bare skin. Heero moved a fraction, pushing into the caress. Duo sighed and let him, the silky feel of his bottom rubbing over his cheek. Then he worked the shorts all the way off and stripped his own pants off, catching his

breath, suddenly *really* eager to finish things. He couldn't wait anymore.

From the nightstand, he retrieved a much-used little jar of lubricant and Heero glanced over at him, slitted eyes burning through with a gleam of cobalt. His chest was moving more rapidly with his breath.

The sight of him like that was absolutely irresistible, as he'd known it would be. Hastily Duo rejoined his lover on the bed, smothering bare skin with his kisses, then popped open the jar.

Heero arched into the touch of his hands like a cat, pushing back into the attention, stifled noises wrenching up from his throat. He practically impaled himself onto Duo's searching finger and Duo grasped his hip with the free hand, trying to soothe him, pushing his finger all the way in with one (hopefully less painful) movement.

Heero would have none of it. He gritted his teeth and hung his head, panting, pushing back further, then retreating a little. He groaned, and Duo moved it back and forth to prepare him. With a second finger Duo stretched him out, then jabbed inwards, for the g-spot.


He was ready.

Duo bent his head and kissed the very pit end of Heero's spine, pulling his fingers out from Heero's rocking body, dipping his tongue into the little cleft at the joining of spine and crease of his buttocks. He did it just to enjoy the sound of Heero's breath hissing between his teeth. This was the moment of anticipation.

He paused with Heero's waist gripped in his hands, looking down at the bent shoulders and lowered head and the bottom presented and gravitating towards him, Heero silently urging him to hurry up and do him already, satisfying them both. His lover's hands were gripping the headboard and Duo's eyes were fixed on the chain that linked them together as he pushed into him, slowly, excruciatingly careful even with the lubricant coating them both.

"Ahh!" The head tossed back again, thrown back in pure abandon as Duo settled all the way in and began a round of shallow thrusts, pushing up to the root each time. "Duo..."

Without words the rest of the sentence was still explicit and Duo moved faster, desperate, claiming Heero the only way Heero would let him, taking what he could. They groaned together as the rhythm quickened, and the bed creaked to the cadence of their sex. The mattress shook beneath them. Duo was absurdly reminded of the one time the frame had broken underneath them, and even then he couldn't stop grinding into Heero's body, as they pounded each other literally to the floor.

Heero was taking great shaky gulps of air, still arching into each driving jab and Duo couldn't stop looking at the handcuffs, at Heero's outstretched supplicant hands clinging to the bedframe as his fingers dug into his waist. From the noises Heero was making, every thrust was hitting that spot now, as they banged hard and faster and more wasn't enough and the mattress was making godawful noises now and Duo's eyes were riveted to the silvery jangle of the cuff chain and he wasn't sure *which* one of them was shouting but they were both coming, unable to stop and tumbling sweaty together.

The mattress creaked a protest once more as they sagged, limbs weighted with lassitude. Duo settled on top of his lover, stroking the sweaty glistening back, panting and still buried inside of him. Heero's arms were stretched out and beginning to quiver with strain.

He kissed the salty skin once more and then dragged himself out of the tight embrace, squeezing Heero's narrow waist a last time and giving his flank a lingering caress. Even though he was utterly expended, quite happy with himself and their sex and the world, he just couldn't stop touching Heero. It was never enough.

Duo uncuffed Heero from the headboard and he released a tiny sigh, then relaxed onto the bedspread. Then he blinked and scooted over, out of the wet spot. Duo grinned at him and curled up next to him, tossing the cuffs onto the nightstand.

Without opening his eyes, Heero reached out and drew him into his arms. Duo kissed his closed eyelids, wandered over face and lips and chin and paid especial attention to his throat, and then with a satisfied smile he hooked an arm around Heero and closed his own eyes.

"Did you like it?"

A pause. Heero's mouth developed a frown as he considered it. "Yes," he finally answered, opening one piercing blue eye to examine him. "Did you?"

Duo just grinned rather foolishly at him and snuggled closer.

A light sensation fluttered over his forehead, then mimicked his own earlier track and pressed over eyelids, nose, and mouth as Heero squirmed in his arms to reach them. Duo opened his eyes, stunned. Heero was kissing him -- gently, a little frown of concentration between his brows, his eyes considering and not precisely soft, but certainly not as hard as he had ever seen them. "You didn't say it."

Duo hesitated. Then he kissed him back, tugging at the bottom lip to prolong it. "I love you, Heero."

More than he'd ever know.

* * *

He thinks that I don't know, just because he's never said it.

I love you, Heero.

Every time I get the same response -- silence, so it's a good thing I've learned to listen. Not with my ears but with the heart and I watch him, as I've been watching for a long time to detect those minute bodily and facial expressions. You say it back in your head every time, Heero.

At least....I think he does.

God, I can't stand it sometimes, the weight of unspoken...just *things,* the sheer volume of things lying unsaid between us. How long? How far will this go? Does he love me? ....Of course he does, I reason to myself, otherwise he would never let me do these things. Relena never gets his smiles. She never received his kiss or his growling fierce form of playfulness or felt his arms tight around her waist in the middle of the night, his nose pressed deep into her hair to catch its scent. She never provoked him to the limit while he was typing away and got away with it without having a gun barrel shoved up her nose.

I wonder why he lets me do this, get this close to him, when no one has ever gotten here before. Relena would give away her entire fortune for this, I feel sure of it. All I had to do was touch him, and his face turned into my hand after the initial hard stony glare.

It scares me sometimes, how much I need him. How much I want him. In a fight-or-flight life, it's not a good thing to have ties to anything else. Any*one* else, when you or they could die the next day. But for better or for worse, I.....I do love him. Otherwise he could never bind me like this, so closely to his heart and body where I long to be.

Heh. Did I say bind? Chigau yo., I've never felt more free in my entire life.

Heero -- someday, I will say this to you and you will believe me. And maybe, just maybe, you'll say it back.

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