Upon my return, we worked on refining our plans until late evening, only slowing down for dinner. Living on my own, I had figured out how to cook, and did so regularly. In the last week, I had seen more take-out than I had in the last couple of months, but it was rare that we were willing to stop for an hour for something as trivial as food. We could certainly handle thinking and eating at the same time.
Late morning the next day, we would transport ourselves and our equipment out to Luxembourg, where we would set up shop somewhere out of sight and conduct a little external reconnaissance to acquire the information we needed to polish and confirm our plans. Since we would be up for most of the night that day, we considered ending our night early, but decided that our time would be more wisely spent getting as much done as we could early, in case we hit a snag. It would be more effective to rest up right before the mission.
We were fairly confident in our plans by twenty-three hundred, skilled as we were in throwing together complex operations with little warning. Meridian Biotechnology's offices weren't entirely a black box to us since we had been in there to some extent before, so this wasn't a case of going in blind. Given that Meridian had no reason to suspect an attack from outside, despite their previous 'attack', they would not be in a heightened state of security. In the worst case scenario, we could always push the mission back, or go in multiple times. Though sooner was better, we had no deadlines to limit our options.
It was little comfort to us that the information for which the Condasans had paid such a high price would help us in the endeavor to put their murderers away. From the notes that Duo and Wufei had brought back from Africa, we had a decent idea of what to seek in their labs. Their reports also confirmed for us that their satellite operations were for the most part innocent of such discreet experiments. Most of the corruption seemed to be concentrated at the top and corporate levels.
Left to my own devices, I naturally went back to my room to brood. Something kept me from sleeping, so I stood by my window, staring out into the night and thinking about the days to come, when a very soft knock sounded from my door. It took me a few moments to recognize it for what it was. I could see a shadow beneath the door. I nearly called out to ask for identification, but before I had uttered a sound, I suddenly knew who it was. I opened the door, completely unsurprised to see Duo standing on the other side. In a flash of déjà vu, I stood aside to let him in wordlessly.
"Hm, didn't think you'd be asleep yet," he said as he slid into my space smoothly. His hand went automatically to the light switch as he entered, but it paused, perhaps respecting my need for the darkness. It was just one of those nights. He shut the door behind him, and soon all that illuminated the room was the ambient light of the compound at midnight. The moon was faint, the stars practically non-existent. Such was the night on Earth. Light pollution was one thing I was not fond of here. It made space seem somehow less significant and meaningful.
He joined me by the window, opposite me. There had been a similar night on the Peacemillion when he had knocked quietly on my door. Just as now, I had let him in, only there had been no porthole to gaze out of. We'd sat quietly, the nightlight in my quarters doing little to illuminate the scene, leaving us shrouded in a hazy cocoon where we as ourselves didn't exist. There had been only sound, touch, and all the things we wouldn't let out into the light.
Silence made itself a third companion to us. I wondered what Duo was seeing as he studied the landscape outside of my window, if he was even seeing anything at all. Apparently, he had been seeing me, instead. "Have you always been so melancholy, Heero, or have I just missed it?"
The question caught me offguard. "...'Melancholy' is not a word I would have used to describe myself. That implies a certain level of sadness." I shrugged. "I just think too much, that's all."
He made a tiny sound of acknowledgment to show that he had heard me, but continued to study me silently. I could have borne his amiable scrutiny all night, but that would have been something of a waste of time. "Why are you here, Duo?"
Maybe he was thinking of dropping his eyes when they lost their focus, but he stubbornly resisted the temptation. "I don't know," he said softly, a small shrug accompanying the admission. "Like I told Fei... just felt like there was something I had to do."
And it seemed right that we be here, now. "I'm backing you up tomorrow," I proposed as an explanation. I think that, too, had been the case six years ago, when he'd come to me.
He mulled it over carefully. "Where do we stand, Heero?"
I blinked a request for clarification at him.
"I mean, there were things between us... things we never talked about. And now, maybe I need to know where we stand, if I'm going to trust you to back me up."
I hadn't thought those things were relevant to this matter. We hadn't discussed it before, and still he had trusted me to watch his back in battle. "It was never necessary to talk about it before."
"We thought we'd be dead before the week was out, before. But hey, guess what, we weren't."
"We didn't talk about it after the week was out, either." Not that I was really opposed to talking about it now. I was just saying.
"Had other things on our minds, then." He went ahead and finished the progression for me. "Then we parted ways, saw each other again a year later, still had things on our minds then, and before you know it, five years have passed and it's nothing more than a memory."
"Then why are we talking about it now?"
He closed the distance between us as he spoke. "It's not just a memory anymore. We're here again, and maybe we've still got stuff on our minds... but not so much that it doesn't leave room for anything else anymore, I think."
I looked up at him across a five centimeter height differential. "You've grown," I observed in quite the non sequitur. We were level before.
He smirked, close enough to me and the window that I could actually see it. I got the feeling it was trying to be something more, but he successfully wrestled it down. He sobered after a moment. "In more ways than one."
We fell into that silence again, heavy with potential, where so many things were being said without anything being spoken aloud, and finally, at that crucial point when it all demanded release, he leaned towards me slowly. I accepted the action with a feeling of inevitability.
When his lips touched mine, I was brought back to the past. We had been awkward and shy at first, though earnest enough to make up for it. We got to skip past that phase now, settling easily into the slow, comforting rhythm we'd soon discovered for ourselves. I was a little surprised by how quickly it came back.
We parted gently, leaving me as warmed and cozy as ever our past encounters had. Two lingering breaths were shared between us before he pulled back just far enough for him look at me without going cross-eyed, even though there wasn't much visible in the dark. "So where do we stand, Heero?"
Against the wall, at the moment. I had turned to my side at some point, uncomfortable with being exposed in the frame of the window, and he had followed along. I hadn't been aware of the moment his left hand had come to rest on my hip. His right hand was planted next to my head, his forearm resting against the wall. I was equally unconscious of my left hand at his waist until it slipped off to mirror my right, pressed against the support at my back. With a minimal exertion of force, I could have pushed myself toward him.
"From what I've seen," I said carefully. "I think it's up to you."
Something in his expression tensed. I don't think he was pleased by my answer, but he was the one that seemed to be in question here, not I. I knew what I thought about all of this, and I could have lived in peace without it ever having been brought up aloud again. It didn't need discussion. It just was.
He considered the matter with equal care, during which I simply relaxed in the closeness we had conjured. No matter the outcome, this moment would be packaged up with care and tucked away with the rest of our feel-good run-ins.
Thus it was that I was caught unawares again when he kissed me. I retreated reflexively, but there was nowhere to go. Both my hands jumped up this time to counterbalance my shoulders being pressed back, and being raised, they decided to wrap themselves around him to simulate a control over the situation that I just didn't have. He commanded my attention wholly, his lips pulling me into a pleasantly mind-numbing whirl of subtle shifting and soft sounds.
I was pinned to the wall with a firm steadiness, but that displeased me. I needed to be able to tilt my head upwards to meet the kisses that now rained down on me from above, so I used my leverage to push us away from that unyielding surface. I couldn't say how long it was before we got ourselves turned around and across the distance, but when I felt the bed behind me, it seemed only natural that I bend my legs and allow him to press me downwards. He settled a knee on the mattress beside me, then the other joined it, and soon enough I was flat on my back, legs dangling over the side of my bed as our mouths leisurely continued to reacquaint themselves with each other.
The haze receded a little when his lips drifted off to my left to explore the contours of my cheek, the line of my jaw, the pulse at my neck. If I hadn't stopped us, I don't think I would have regretted it in the morning. All the same, some things just had to be done.
"Duo," I whispered roughly, becoming rather self-consciously aware of his saliva smeared across my lips. "What is this? What's going on here?"
His mouth traced a trail up to my ear, his hand wandering down my chest in the opposite direction. "We never questioned it before."
"This is different from before."
"I fail to see how." His words were murmured around my ear lobe.
I swallowed. "Well, you never did *that* before." It was just an ear lobe. What was it that made the action so intimate? Maybe the way his warm breath traced the path of a shiver down the side of my neck? His errant hand wandered over to palm the lower edge of my right pectoral, rubbing surprisingly distracting circles over it. My feet lifted off the floor as my whole body tried to curl involuntarily at the sensation. Remnants of my willpower and Duo's weight on top of me combined to halt the motion before completion. I swallowed again. "Or that..."
"We're older..." He swiped his tongue across the skin right beneath my ear. "Wiser..." He nipped at my neck. "Things change." He moved to capture my lips.
When I was free to speak again, I did. Breathlessly. "So that means... things are different..." Were they ever. We'd always been about comfort and companionship. The night had started that way, but we were adding whole new dimensions right now that I couldn't even begin to define.
He groaned softly against my skin. "God, Heero, don't try and spew logic at me now."
I had started this; I wasn't about to give in now. I wasn't the sort to act first and ask questions later if I didn't have to. Seizing control of my body, I commanded my hands into action. One rose up from where it had fallen beside my head to align itself to the curve of his cheek, fingers tangling in the loose hair framing his face. The other stilled his hand on my chest and moved it somewhere a little less distracting. He tried to stall by occupying my mouth again, but I managed to get the words out, smothered though they were. "Duo, please."
He stopped, sighed, and retreated, escaping my hands as he rolled over on his back to lie beside me. We touched at the shoulder and wrist. He stared at the ceiling with resignation. "What?"
I had my reasons for asking, but it took me several long breaths to piece them together again as I stared at what may have been the same point on the ceiling as he. "I know why we used to do this... but why are we doing this now? Why resurrect something from the past?"
"This isn't about the past," he said softly. "It's about the present."
I don't know if the 'future' that I imagined tacked on to the end of that sentiment was what I thought he implied, or if it was what I wanted to hear. "What do you mean?"
"You're right; things are different now. Things got different. We were fifteen, Heero. What were we doing? Looking back on it... barely makes any sense anymore."
There were very few things that did make sense during that time. I had never been sure of why I had let him into my room that night. We hadn't been particularly friendly. As comrades, we'd ran a few missions together, watched each other's back, trusted each other... but we weren't really friends. And yet when he knocked in the middle of the night, I let him in. We talked a bit about the battles we were fighting, about how OZ could wear us down until we had nothing left to give. "The world was a cold... dark... lonely place."
He chuckled nostalgically. "And I kept extra blankets to ward off the chill."
"And I kept a light on at night to stave off the dark."
"And the loneliness..."
"...We took care of together." Sitting on my bed, our shoulders touching with a reassuring solidity, we turned to each other somewhere in the middle of all that brooding, and we sought out a little something to soothe our souls. Why it ended up as two people brushing their lips against each other's, I don't know. The prompting of our pubescent bodies, perhaps.
We kissed once and startled ourselves with how comforting it had been. Staring hesitantly at each other for a few long seconds led us to repeating the experience. No, we didn't know what we were doing... but our adolescent fumblings made us feel better, and that was all that was important. As to what it all meant... it didn't matter. In a week or two, we'd be too dead to care. We put all that aside, and just concentrated on making it to the end without cracking.
It had nothing to do with sex. We never even strayed anywhere near that. It was just about being with someone, someone who understood, someone who was just as cold and tired and lonely. We talked a bit, too, sharing our burdens, confessing our sins before our deaths, but the kissing... just helped us get past those times when it was just too hard to put it all into words. Communication passed between us directly from one set of lips to another, without all the terrible trouble of struggling with their form in the air.
For me, that was how I got through the war. I found simple things, things that were just so basic, so elemental, that they didn't need to be questioned. With all of the things going on at the time, it became vitally important to me to find things that wouldn't turn on me. When I needed to, I could pull these constants out and ground myself to them. These anchors that were just axiomatically right were few and far between, but they could be found: maintaining one's weapons, not stepping on the daisies, supporting the princess struggling for peace, kissing Duo.
"It was so simple," he said, echoing my thoughts. "It didn't need understanding, discussion. But I didn't stay a fifteen-year-old with a life expectancy measured in days. I grew up... hormones finally kicked in all right and proper." He laughed softly. "Got me some height, finally. Inevitably started thinking about girls... and about that one boy I used to kiss. And I wonder what it all means."
"It didn't mean anything... even though it meant the world."
"That's what it meant. I wanna know what it means now. I mean, they were good times, good memories, a little something to keep me going 'til the end... I see where you're comin' from," he conceded. "But then one day, as I'm growing up, I realize, 'Wow. I used to make out with Heero Yuy.' I mean, that's not really what it was... but that is what it was, and suddenly I'm just not that sure anymore what went on. I hadn't thought about it for years, and suddenly, I used to make out with Heero Yuy. What the hell does that mean? You ever think back on the things you used to do, and think, what the hell was I thinking? Or, I could never do that now. Or, if I did do that now, it would be something else entirely. 'Cuz that was what I thought. If I did that now... what would it be? What if we'd been in a different situation? What if..."
He shifted against me before continuing. "But you know, it was an interesting thought exercise, but that was it. Didn't matter since Heero Yuy was long gone and I'd never see him again, so what might or might not have happened was totally unimportant..."
"...Up until the day I came back," I finished, finally beginning to see how everything fit together to explain his behavior towards me. I liked that feeling of revelation creeping up on me. It felt hard-earned and honest. "I guess... I never really thought about it. I mean, I've never really started thinking much about kissing girls, so it's never bothered me that I used to kiss this one boy. But... in retrospect... I guess I can see how that might be confusing, looking back on it without the blinders on. It's almost funny to think how innocent it was. ...So... does this mean we're gay?" It was just an idle thought.
He laughed again. I found it an attractive sound. "I don't know about you, but I've kissed a girl or three in my time. I liked it. Of course..." He turned over on his side to face me. I thought a dark figure looming over me should make me feel threatened, but it didn't. Maybe it was just because it was him. "I've kissed you a time or three, too, and that was at least as good. I thought maybe it'd be just a thing from before, that maybe it wouldn't be good anymore, six years later and a little more knowledgeable and worldly about these things... but I think we proved that wrong just a few minutes ago. For me, anyway. Dunno about you."
He tried to offer that with an artless nonchalance, but I felt a sort of tension beneath it anyway. I turned my head towards him even though eye contact was rather less meaningful when I could barely even see his eyes. Then again, I think that was what we'd always found in the darkness. It took away the immediacy of things without dimming the intensity. There was no body language to worry about. We didn't have to fret over giving away something we hadn't chosen to. Smiles and tears were equal creatures, although we somehow had a sense of what we were each doing without having to see it happen. Perhaps it was as they say, that being deprived of one sense, the others strengthen to compensate. Perhaps not being able to see each other led us to learning how to understand each other in different ways.
"It's not the same anymore," I mused, sharing my thoughts with him. "Is it because we're not quite so... desperate anymore? Or are we just not fifteen anymore, and are all of our hormones finally getting routed into the proper channels? Or maybe there's just a different connection..."
"...An interesting thought exercise, Heero, but...."
My rambling around my point must have confused him. I was just trying to understand where that new, rather captivating edge came from, but I could put that off to another time and give him something more concrete now. "Hm. I've never really kissed anyone else but you, but you I've kissed a time or three. And I rather liked it. Then... and now." I hadn't stopped us because I didn't like it, or because I was confused. I just wanted some things cleared up first. It kept things cleaner on down the road.
"Oh. Well... that's nice. So... where do we stand?"
That really depended on what he meant by that. Where did he want us to stand? I found myself rather intrigued by all the possibilities I had never considered. "I don't know where we stand. But at least it seems like we're on the same page, now."
My weak offering amused him. "Woohoo! Strength in numbers. Although I guess I was the only one trying to figure this out before, and now I've just managed to drag you down with me into this mess, so maybe that wasn't the smartest thing to do, putting us both in a state of confusion."
I shrugged lopsidedly. "You said it yourself. This isn't about the past, but the present. Now that we don't have a life expectancy measured in days... things have changed. We can stand wherever we want, and we can stay there for a while. So why don't we just start all over again from the present, from the fact that you liked it, and I liked it, and just figure it out from there? Is that enough resolution for you to get through the next few days?"
"The mission," I clarified. "Because I'm backing you up tomorrow."
"Oh yeah." He hung his head for a moment. "I guess I came in just... wanting to know who it was that was going to be backing me up."
"Is that enough of an answer for now? I don't know where we'll end up standing, but..."
He nodded. "At least we're on the same page... Finally." His exasperation hinted at a roll of his eyes.
"Good. You staying, then?"
"Huh? Uh..." He glanced reflexively at his watch before realizing that he couldn't see the numbers. It didn't matter anyway. Maybe we didn't know the exact time, but we both knew it was late, and there was a lot of work to be done the next day. "Um, sure, I guess."
"Then can we actually get completely on the bed?" I straightened out my legs, which were still hanging over the side of the mattress. "My knees are killing me."
I won another of his low chuckles as we dragged ourselves up the length of the bed and attempted to settle down in a mess of arms and legs.
"Well, this is a little more cozy than it used to be," he observed shortly after meeping out an apology for accidentally squashing my hand beneath him. We'd both been rather scrawny kids, and though neither of us had become a wide person, it still seemed we took up substantially more space. "We actually used to fit on a twin-sized bed?"
"We can still fit. All we need to do is..." While it certainly wasn't as easy as it used to be, I squirmed around a bit, moving his limbs as necessary, and finally got comfortable with him spooning up loosely behind me. It worked out surprisingly well, considering the mishaps we had getting there. "There. We still fit."
I felt his breath stop for a moment before it resumed its steady pace. "Yeah... Yeah, we still seem to fit pretty well." He hesitated again before disturbing our arrangement briefly. His lips descended from nowhere to brush against mine. "Good night, Heero."
I smiled in their passing. "Good night, Duo."
last modified : 12/30/2005 14:41:38 PST