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If You Love Me (Part 5)

The golden spill of sunshine could hardly contain the hopes of the sky, let alone the wills of the three boys who poured all their fighting spirits into peace's contradiction. Yet it was over; once more the fires of war had been doused and there was no need for Gundam. Duo knew his eyes were a little too bright with unshed moisture as his thumb hit the button and -- for once -- Shinigami lit up before him with a keening, final death knell of high-pitched explosives. He wondered if Heero had done the same, alone on a wide plain somewhere, putting Wing Zero and his own attending demons to rest.

He scrubbed at the back of his cheek with one hand, turning his eyes away from the bright-lined mobile suit. "This time it's really the end, partner," he bantered in a tone of affection. No long trek to the sun this time.

"Now, I'm nameless again."

Trowa's quiet, inflectionless tone intruded on his thoughts. Duo regarded him in vague astonishment. Oh, yeah...Heero had said something about the Trowa they knew not being the real Trowa Barton. So that meant this one, their Gundam pilot comrade, had probably taken the real Trowa's place. With the Gundams destroyed, his purpose was fulfilled...

"Nah, you're still Trowa," Quatre denied, tossing him a sweet smile.

It was the kind that warmed you clear through, that could bring a sense of almost unwilling elation from head to toe. Damn, he missed Heero.

"Names are decided by others, so stop meddlin'!" proclaimed Duo. He himself was self-named, and couldn't see what all the fuss was. It was just a name. It didn't determine who you were. The people around you did. Friends, and family... "Besides, we have a home to return to. Don't we?"

"Aa. You're right," Trowa turned from watching the Gundams burn, his eyes containing vague surprise.

"What about Heero?" Quatre put forth after a moment's silence.

Damn it. He *knew* that question was directed at him. Hells, who else would it be for?

He tipped his head, expression becoming guarded. "I...I don't know."

"Didn't you visit him at the hospital?" Quatre wrenched his eyes from the crumbling, glowing-hot hulk of Sandrock to regard the American with concern.

Duo gripped his braid in white-knuckled fingers, his own gaze fixed on Deathscythe as it melted to pieces. "Yep. He wasn't there. He had been checked out by Relena-ojousama. Hospital personnel saw him leaving with her."

".....oh....." Quatre said in a very small voice. "But, Duo, surely you don't think..."

"I don't know what to think," Duo returned, finally meeting his eyes. "I know how she feels about him, and I know that *I* love him. That's all." He put a note of finality to it, discouraging further discussion. ~I also know she thinks he owes her something. Whatever that may be.~

"Let's go," Trowa turned his back to the three burning Titans. "There's nothing left here for us."

A wry grin seized at his lips. Perhaps there *was* nothing left for him on Earth. And maybe, just maybe, he was standing in the way of Heero's chance for a normal life.

Quatre favored his lover with a brilliant smile and Duo turned away, shoving his hands deep in his pockets. He was a little jealous of them. They were together, after all. And it was a beautiful afternoon, golden threads of sunshine falling everywhere and he just knew that Quatre would suggest something for the three of them to do, a partial celebration with the Gundam's pilots only partly assembled but he wasn't in a third-wheel frame of mind.

"What should we do now?" Quatre put forth as he turned to go, too.

"Well....I figure I'll be heading back for the colonies," Duo replied, scratching behind one ear and giving him a good-natured grin.

"So soon?" Quatre turned, an anxious expression flitting between his brows.

"Hai-hai," Duo returned, stretching both arms wide then dropping onto his heels. "There's not much here for me, eh?"

Quatre shifted uncomfortably, his look speaking unhappiness louder than words. "Demo, Duo -- " he protested.

"I need to return to someplace that feels like home, Quatre," Duo interrupted him, quickening his pace to counter the slowness that had overtaken their steps. "Y'know? And Earth is nice, it really is... but it's not where I wanna be right now. I'm a colony brat."

"Oh-kay..." Quatre exhaled, still troubled.

He kept a smile on his face as they returned to the jeep the Maganacs had driven out for them to come back in. Quatre was the one who kept up the steady flow of polite conversation, his face growing animated as he discussed plans for the upcoming year, plans that could only flourish further in peace.

There were things *he* wanted, there were plans that had matured and sprung up in his heart over the past week with Heero's return that he was unsure, now, if they would ever achieve completion. He had gone to Heero, but it was Heero who had gone.

The question now, provoking a wry-wrought smile, was where on Earth *was* Heero?

Was he looking for him? Or securely by Relena's side, claimed by obligations Duo couldn't understand, and wasn't sure he wanted to?

He didn't know where to wait; he wasn't sure if Heero would come or if he would even know Duo was waiting. So instead he would take refuge in action. The war was over, and this time it was real. Heero had said he was sorry, that he loved him -- he, Duo, had forgiven him -- but now somehow they were lost again.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets, wheeling with a grin alight to cast a glance over the scattered parts of the destructed Gundams.

~You'll find me again. And I'll be waiting.~

* * *

With cool dark eyes trained on the gleaming bulk of the Gundam, Wufei thumbed the switch.

A smile flickered before his eyes and was gone as the keen rose up and he was forced to look away, forced to blink as the high-grade explosives did their work. The giant battered frame of Shenlong blazed up, was haloed by the streamers of light that rose up to eclipse it. The flare of light wiped away everything else, burned tracks against his eyelids, transformed the molten body of a mechanized fighter into his warrior of light, his Nataku. Pried free of the namesake, the gundanium bulk that housed her, she moved to take her place in immortality.

Death transcends.

"Nataku, rest in peace," he murmured, withdrawing his upraised hand and the destruct switch nestled in his fist.

He was saying goodbye.

"Wufei..." Sally's calm sweet voice intruded on the close storm of his introspection and he half-turned. He was grateful for the relief, the interruption that aborted partly-formed tears at the corners of his eyes. Fighting was all he had known, but in the end he believed more than anything that Meiran, too, would have approved of his choice.

There would be no more fighting.

"Noin and Zechs are nowhere to be found," she continued, approaching with a slight smile on her face. "What do you say? Want to work together?"

A half-smile curved his lips, fitting easily. "Extinguishing the last few flames as a Preventor?" he returned. That fit, too, even more comfortable than the smile. It was a means of safeguarding the peace that they had all paid so dearly for. "Sure."

Well, perhaps there was some fight left in him, yet.

* * *


Relena fixed her eyes on his face, the sight she had wanted to see for so long and now he stood before her. Heero's expression was vaguely abstract, his eyes not quite meeting hers, as if he were someplace else. Listening to someone else's voice. Her smile turned a trifle strained.

In a way, she knew now, he'd always *been* with someone else.

Ever since she had checked him out of the hospital, he'd been acting this way. The doctors had assured her that none of his injuries had been serious, and Heero had never once complained of pain. He never would.

Yet his eyes looked only past her, and she knew why, and it hurt.

"Stay until after my speech, kudasai," Relena requested, her voice quiet, her eyes unwavering. His cobalt eyes leapt up to meet hers, finally, and he looked startled as if caught out of context. "It's the last I'll ever ask of you."

"I've discharged my debt to you," Heero returned, his own gem-bright eyes fierce. "You saved me in space, before we returned to Earth, and you told no one. I was indebted to you for my life. Now, no longer."

"I know that," Relena bowed her head, a small smile playing across her lips. "But please. If you will."

His lips tightened and he bobbed his head, once. "Right here?" he gestured to the Peacecraft box of the large auditorium, a place the Romefellers had used, and in centuries before had been used as an opera house.

Relena inclined her head. "Here is fine." She hesitated, then reached out one gloved hand.

For a moment Heero looked as if he would refuse to take it, then he stretched out his own hand and clasped hers with a firm grip.

"Thank you for saving me again."

"I didn't do it for you," he retorted, and her smile wilted around the edges before she renewed it with vigor.

"I know that," Relena said, serene. "But along with my life, you saved that of millions. And that's what I'm truly grateful for."

As she left the box, back straight, chin high, her hands were trembling a little. She had asked him to stay, but that had never precluded his leaving before. Relena acknowledged to herself with a rueful little smile that he would probably leave before the first few sentences were out of her mouth. And tonight would probably be the last time that she saw him.

"Peace has been returned to us," she began, her voice gaining strength as she looked out over the crowd, gripping the edge of the podium in both hands, "thanks to the tireless efforts of the Gundam pilots, and the Preventors. Marimeia's ascension would have meant terror, but even as she was losing, she was able to admit she was wrong."

Relena lifted her head high. In the corner of the Peacecraft box, she thought she caught a flicker of a tousled dark head. She would have to speak quickly, before she lost his interest.

"Yet even we can be wrong, for expecting our peace to be bought with other people's pain." She fixed her eyes on the edge of the red curtain. "*I* have been wrong. I have caused pain. But no more would I wish to continue to make my old mistakes. Otousama once said, 'if you love someone, you must let them go.'"

*Heero. Its not you I let go its what I wished you to be, for me.*

The curtain fluttered, turning against her eyes, and with a bittersweet smile Relena fixed her attention back onto the waiting, listening crowd. "I have loved our people very much. I love our Earth, but only *you* can make your decisions for peace. Marimeia sought control, but *I* seek to let you go, and choose your own path to end the fighting."

He was gone. She wasn't sure how, but she knew.

"If you truly wish for peace," she continued with her speech, "I am willing to help you, all of you, to seek it."

The roaring thunder of the applause eclipsed the own sudden flood of blood through the bones of her ears. She nearly sank to her knees but made it to the edge of the stage, where Pargan supported her to a chair. "There, Relena-sama," he murmured comfortingly. "It's all over."

She smiled though her eyes were too bright. "Hai, Pargan. It's all over..."

* * *

Heero stood with the spaceport roster in his hands and scowled. He was stupid to have stayed for as long as he had, with Relena. Now Duo was gone, and it might take another whole year to find him.

"Duo no baka," he muttered, staring at the list of names on the shuttle that had so recently departed. One 'Maxwell, Solo,' was among them and the dodge didn't fool him in the slightest -- he knew Duo too well for that.

At least he knew where Duo was going.

And, miracle above all, Relena had released him from any and all obligations, real or imagined. A small smile flitted over the edges of his mouth. She had grown up in the past year, as they had.

Heero turned back to the helpful young woman behind the counter, who took back the roster with a professional smile.

"One ticket to L2, please," he told her quietly.

"Will that be round trip?"

"Iya," he denied. "There's only one place I need to go."



Epilogue II

He paused a moment on the catwalk that stretched wide over the strip of street, homes and neatly-trimmed lawns and kids laughing and tumbling along the sidewalks, and smiled to himself. He was home again amongst the colonies, finally returned to one place that had always *felt* like home, and therefore worth fighting for. Above his head, the thick pressure glass that kept them safe from cold vacuum glittered a reflection of the people and buildings below, with a faint hint of starshine gleaming through.

Above that, the stars.

He shoved his hands into the pockets of his pants and hurried off the catwalk back into the junkyard. Salvaging parts wasn't his idea of much fun, but at this colony it paid to know a hundred and one uses for dead mobile suits.

Duo started to grin again. It wasn't such a bad life when you knew how to take the remnants of the war and forge it into something new, something that could help other people. He came to a halt beside the latest pile of scrapped Leos and Tauruses after punching in his timecard, and sighed.

"Yosh'..." Today's job was salvaging engine parts, for a new kind of car.

"Duuuu~ooo! Deeeeeew-oou!" a female voice split the air.

Duo turned, eyebrows raised inquisitively.

Hilde Schbeiker ran up, waving a thin electronic pad in her hands. "Duo! I've been looking for you everywhere!" she panted, skidding to a halt near him.

"I was on break," he returned, with an injured expression. "Perfectly legit, eh, Hilde?"

Hilde favored him with a wry twist of her lips and presented the pad. "Well, today maybe. But not all the time."

"I am shocked and amazed that you would accuse me so!" Duo reeled, clutching at his heart.

She laughed at him. "Baka. I found the information you were looking for."


Hilde waved the pad in front of his nose. "About Heero, silly. You were saying you wondered where he was...oh, I know you weren't *asking* but I went ahead and looked it up anyway."

Duo blinked at her in astonishment. "H-honto...?"

"Take it, before I whack you over the head with it," Hilde grinned impishly. "Is that what it takes, all the time?"

Duo stuck his tongue out. "Beeeda. Well, sometimes." He took the pad, his fingers shaking a little. He *hadn't* asked. He thought it might be better not to know.

"According to this, he left Earth not long after you did," Hilde went on, as if he couldn't read the information for himself. "He was seen briefly at Relena's address to the people, and then he vanished."

"Thank you," Duo returned, feeling somewhat numb as his eyes confirmed what Hilde was saying. He shoved the pad back at her, and she looked at him in surprise before she took it.

"Duo, don't you want to know..."

"...where he went?" Duo finished, with a wolfish grin. "Well... Let's say I'm hoping I'll find out."

Hilde sighed as he began to move off among the scattered piles of junk, rolling up his sleeves and rubbing his hands together briskly. "Ano baka," she said affectionately, and her eyes were bright and clear.

* * *

Duo walked through the door, humming to himself, leather jacket slung over his shoulder. "Aaa~ah, what a long day...I think I hate that job...time to move on." He smiled to himself. He said that every day, but he didn't mind the job.

It was more like he was getting a little edgy, being in one place for so long after a life of moving around to keep from getting killed. But it was nice to set out some tentative roots.

He froze halfway through the kitchen, expression poleaxed.

On his kitchen table, which had been bare this morning but for a bowl of cereal he'd bolted and then hurried out the door, were a few items, laid out quite innocuously. Keepsakes. *Their* keepsakes. A battered, worse-for-the wear snapshot, the "lucky yen" piece he had loaned Heero, a tarnished brush that was missing more than a few bristles, and last of all a small oval-shaped black case.

The last time he had seen them had been their hotel room, that awful night Heero had -- *iya,* HE had challenged their love.

*If you love me...*

*Then maybe I don't.*

He closed his eyes briefly, that old hurt welling up in an instant. He had left their keepsakes strewn all over the bed, and when he had returned they'd been gone.

Duo picked up the oval-shaped case he had left on Wing Zero's hatch, a final goodbye, and held it up with a smirk. "This is..."

Their Christmas present. Jesus, from such a long time ago.

" kept these, did you? I can't believe it."

His eyes were a little sad and wondering. "Heero..." All this time, Heero had kept them. He had never thought a romantic nerve remained in his lover's body, and now this.

Opening the case, Duo lifted out a pair of gleaming silver handcuffs. He grinned again, self-satisfied, remembering an afternoon of trust and a little laughter and their happiness together. Then a hand reached past his shoulder, swifter and there before he noticed it then gone, snatching the cuffs out of his hand and he whirled, even more surprised than before.

"Heero!" Duo exclaimed in shock, confronted now by more than just keepsakes. It was the face for a mournful few weeks he thought he'd never see again.

Heero cocked his head slightly, expressionless. "You were thinking Santa Claus left you these presents?"

Duo blinked furiously. "Heero...oi...what are you doing here...I mean, I thought..."

Heero gave him a very tiny smile. It was a wicked expression. "Merry Christmas, Duo."

Duo's expression turned wary.


* * *

Duo's head was thrown back, eyes squeezed shut tightly. Small noises emerged from his clamped-shut lips, little erotic hitching sounds. Heero had cuffed his hands above his head, linking them to the headboard.

Heero paused to observe the effect he produced in the beautiful young boy, so finally and satisfyingly locked into one place, then bent his mouth back to Duo's bared chest. He licked and teased at him, and with a free hand one finger traced the other nipple.

His hand moved up, brushing over Duo's lips, and Duo opened his mouth to suck on the fingers furiously, eyes still closed.

Heero was lying on top of Duo on the bed, still mostly clothed still frustratingly wearing his jeans although shoes had been kicked off long ago. His dark head bent to Duo's chest -- which he had stripped before cuffing Duo to the headboard, although the American was still wearing his pants, too.

Not for long.

He rocked between Duo's legs, sucking harder now on the other nipple, and Duo groaned, still sucking on his fingers.

Heero pulled his fingers away abruptly and moved back.

His eyes were heavy-lidded and full of anticipation. Finally, after enduring frustration and almost a near miss again, almost another year of pain and recrimination and self-doubt, he had Duo's undivided attention. He looked Duo over again, thoroughly. The chain jingled a little with the tremor of Duo's arms.

Heero removed the rest of Duo's clothing and carefully contained a smile as Duo made impatient noises, then he skinned off his own top. With a lazy smile, he settled between Duo's legs again, bare velvet skin so much more satisfying, and kissed his stomach.

Duo arched up as Heero licked at his bellybutton, teasing him.

Then Heero grabbed his bottom, roughly, pulling him close. It was time to make his point. Duo groaned and lifted his hips, trying to gain a little friction. Uselessly; Heero held him just at the right angle so that he couldn't reach anything satisfying. He wanted very much for Duo to pay attention to his next words.

"You thought I would leave you again." Heero's eyes were accusing.

Duo's eyes popped open wide, and he had to hide a smile again. Duo had thought he wouldn't notice, perhaps?

"Even after everything that happened, you thought Relena's claim on me *meant* something."

Duo bit his lip, body stilled. He said nothing.

Still holding his buttocks in both hands, Heero shifted down until he was just barely breathing over the tip of Duo's arousal. "You think *we* mean nothing? To me?"

"He-heero..." Duo's face was pained from more than just the physical satisfaction Heero witheld.

He eyed him sternly, judging the progress of his words. Duo wasn't precisely thinking in crystal-clear terms right now, but he knew at least *some* of it had to be seeping through. Heero licked him and Duo gasped, his hips lifting automatically.

"" Heero punctuated each word with a squeeze and a nibble at the tip of his erection.

Oh, he *definitely* had Duo's full attention, now.

Duo's face was crimson and his eyes squeezed shut again. "Heero, please..."

Heero finally smiled again, a wolfish grin, and took Duo's entire length into his mouth, wrapping his arms around the lean hips, driving him deep into his throat.

The chain rattled furiously against the headboard as Duo's body arched up ecstatically. That noise was intermingled with Duo's soft needy gasps, and the soft sucking noises. Heero's head moved back and forth and his eyes fell shut, too.

Then he pulled away, wiping at his lips, cobalt eyes slitted and gleaming.

"Heero!" Duo cried in frustration, legs bent at the knee and splayed open, hips lifting up again.

Heero just fixed him with a considering glance and removed the jeans hastily. Duo would get it soon enough. He tossed them onto the heap of clothes at the foot of the bed.

He rummaged around the nightstand. "Where is it, Duo?" He tossed his lover a teasing, almost soft glance. "I don't see any toolboxes..."

Duo was blushing. "Uh..."

"I know you still have it, Duo." He gave the American an amused, almost affectionate glance. "Even based on the *hope* that I would come back."

Duo growled at him. "It's in the medicine cabinet."

Heero smirked at him knowingly.

From the bathroom Heero retrieved a medium-sized tube, partly rolled-up from the bottom. His expression changed. Only last week iya... almost three weeks ago they'd used this. And things could have gone so terribly wrong. Maybe Duo was right to no! Those were the useless, circular thoughts that had nearly lost him Duo in the first place. He rejoined Duo on the bed and squeezed some of the contents onto his hand, then reached between Duo's parted legs.

"Ahh!" Duo's eyes shut tightly again, a mingled expression of surprised pleasure and small discomfort, his head thrown back. "K'so!"

Heero grabbed the outside of one leg, grasping the knee gently, his face focused on Duo as his other hand worked down there to push inside of him. A second finger joined the first.

Duo bit his lip, nearly drawing blood. Heero pushed a third finger inside of him.

His face relaxed as Heero bent down, taking him into his mouth again. Almost delicately he nibbled at the head, looking up the length of him, gorgeous naked expanse of flesh, face flushed and lips trembling, arms stretched tight above his head and pinioned.

"Ahh..." His face was much less drawn.

Heero kissed the tip of his erection, then pulled his fingers out. He quickly spread a little more lubricant on himself, then settled himself securely between Duo's legs.

Duo lifted his legs and wrapped them around Heero's waist, his face utterly trusting. It was a pang that rifled through his chest, pushed into him by that simple giving look.

"!!" They both threw their heads back as Heero entered him, and the chain of the cuffs jangled furiously with the tense bow of Duo's arms.

Heero moved on top of him, eyes closed, mouth drawn in a fine line. So tight, a warmth all-enclosing, like coming home. And this, beautiful Duo beneath him, was all he had ever needed to feel like home.

Duo slowly opened his eyes to watch Heero's face during the thrusts. His mouth reached up, wanting to kiss him, but unable to pull his face closer. Everything he'd wanted was his, the worst of fears groundless, everything finished now with only happiness left to seize.

Heero stared at him again through slitted eyes, panting, still moving and he bent down to kiss him again.

"Heero..." escaped Duo's lips as Heero thrust harder, his bottom moving steadily back and forth. He groaned.

"I told you..." Heero gritted out, braced above Duo, moving rhythmically, and he kissed him again. Duo's expression was a little confused, then he closed his eyes and thrust back, enraptured.

*Mine. Always mine, forever.*

Heero moved faster, frantic, and Duo's legs drew him closer, urging him on. "You first," Heero panted, hands braced and gripping Duo's slim shoulders.

Duo cried out first, eyes shut tight, arching up, in the throes of it.

Heero bit his lip and shuddered.

"I love you..." hung in the air.

Duo's breath streamed hard, trembling with the aftershocks, as Heero shouted out, still moving fast, then slowed down abruptly. He collapsed onto Duo, pushing deep inside of him as he did so, and Duo's face jolted a little with the feeling. The final climax rolled through him, pushing at every inch of skin, and he kissed Duo again and again, lips working slowly. Tasting him. The cuffs rattled as he tried to bring his arms down to encircle Heero.

Heero kissed the hollow of his throat, then pulled out.

His face was expressionless again as he lay beside Duo, draping one arm over the flat belly, studying him minutely. "Well?"

Duo sweatdropped. "Heero, I hope you have the key."

Heero glared at him. Was that *all!?*

"Ehehehehehe..." a few more sweatdrops joined the first one. "Eh, I meant, Heero..." His face turned adorably serious. He was breathtaking. "Heero, that was...." Words failed him. Duo, at a loss for words?

Duo grinned bravely, not quite the familiar self-assured one but something willing to believe. "It was wonderful, Heero!" He tried to move closer, to snuggle, the handcuffs clinked again, and Duo made a face upwards at them. "If you're trying to tell me you're not going anywhere this time, I think you cuffed the wrong person..."

Heero growled at him, and Duo mock-blanched.

Heero pondered him for a moment, then he reached for the key. "Duo...I..."

He uncuffed him, and Duo curled up in his arms at once. "I know, Heero."

They settled onto the bed together, Heero stroking his hair. "Later I'll brush it for you. After the shower," he promised.

"Not with *that* old brush!" Duo made an appalled face.

Heero shrugged, eyes half-lidded. "I only brought it to make a point."

"I'm surprised you kept it..."

"Like you kept our ring...?" With one finger Heero traced the gleaming gold line of the long chain that was plastered to Duo's sweaty chest. "It's a reminder of what's really important. Isn't it?"

Duo buried his face against Heero's damp hair. "Hai-hai," he replied, voice muffled but cheerful.

Heero unfastened the chain with slow careful fingers, tugging the ring off. "Will you wear it again?"

Duo regarded him with an impish expression. "Ask me properly," he chided.

Heero scowled. Duo waited with expectant eyes. "...Duo. Will you be mine, for the rest of our lives?"

Duo scrunched up his face and considered it. "Well..... You're bad-tempered. You have trouble displaying emotion. You have *awful* communication problems, and you're a literal-minded bastard sometimes... You take things to extremes, and you have a really short fuse..."

Heero blinked.

"...sometimes you get this paranoia complex, ya know, where you figure anyone who's not with you is out to get you, and therefore must be killed... You have kinda sort of a suicidal streak. Sometimes, when we're sleeping, you hold me so tightly you cut off my oxygen supply and maybe it's accidental but it's a little uncomfortable..."

Heero sat up, a sour expression working its way over his face.

"...and the Queen of the World has been following you around like a tracking hound," Duo continued, oblivious. Then he beamed mischievously over at him. "But you have your good points, too, and more of 'em, so I'll keep you."

"Thank you," Heero tried not to be *too* dry.

"Welcome!" Duo spilled over the sheets into his lap. He laid the gold ring in Heero's palm. "Will you put it on me?"

"Aa." Gently Heero picked the ring up and slid it over Duo's left-hand ring finger. When the American looked up, small dots of moisture glistened in the corner of his eyes.

"I missed you, too," Duo whispered. "And, Heero, if you love me...?"

Heero tensed. "Yes?" he replied warily.

"You'll never let me walk out like that again."




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