"So, you were just going to leave, without saying anything to anyone, without saying anything to me?" Duo blocked the doorway of Heero's apartment, a hand on each side of the frame and gripping hard,as if he would stop him by force.
Heero stood inside, duffle strap in one hand and dressed for hard traveling. He wasn't taking a jaunt to the colonies. Tough soled hiking boots and a thick coat spoke of Earth and spending nights in uncomfortable places. His dark eyes were glaring out from under his unruly hair, almost glowing with a fierce warning.
"I need to go," Heero said simply, voice tight and low.
"Do you know how I figured this out?" Duo demanded. "Your fucking efficiency! That gym membership was a gift from me, remember? When you cancelled it, they sent the credit for the remaining two years to my account. That's all I had to go on. if I hadn't checked my account, I wouldn't have known until Monday morning, when you didn't show up for work, that you were gone."
"I need to go," Heero repeated, body tense, as if he were holding himself back from shoving Duo out of his way. His free hand opened and closed reflexively.
Duo's mouth went into a bitter line. "Guess I had you all wrong. Never thought I'd be stupid enough to be the one to get fucked for kicks. I took my time. I thought I'd made sure you were serious, that you really gave a damn about me. Tell me, did you laugh about it with the guys, the next day, or was it one of those dirty secrets... you know... the kind of thing you try, just once, to see how it is?"
Heero's jaw worked. "It wasn't like that!" he exploded and then raked a hand through his hair, looking frustrated and at a loss. "It was... important. I'm not..." He struggled for words. "It made me realize something important."
"What? That your dick is happy anywhere it goes?" Duo sneered.
Heero grabbed Duo's upper arm, squeezing hard enough to make the man wince. "It wasn't like that!"
Duo's eyes glared into Heero's, "What was it like, then? Tell me! You owe me that much. Tell me that I meant something to you, because, right now, you're saying just the opposite by leaving. You're saying I was just a handy hole and stupid enough to think otherwise."
Heero's hand left Duo's bicep and cupped Duo's cheek fiercely, digging in fingers unintentionally with emotion. They would leave marks. "It wasn't like that! It was so much more than I ever imagined! That's why... That's why I have to go, don't you see?"
Duo searched Heero's eyes, confused. "Let me come in. Let's talk. Tell me what's going on," he begged. "Don't go and leave me thinking that I didn't measure up."
Heero let his face go, but he didn't retreat. He took a firmer hold on his duffel. "You measured up so much, that I found myself lacking," Heero confessed. "What we did together made me realize that I have to go. That I have to make myself measure up for you. I have to stop pretending that I haven't been slowly dying all of this time."
"Heero? What?" Duo was the one to reach out, now, taking Heero's shoulders in his hands. "Tell me, please?"
Heero couldn't meet his eyes, staring over his shoulder as he admitted, "I've been taking drugs, drinking, anything to stop from feeling hollow inside, from feeling that I'm nothing without a war, without Preventers. It takes a great deal to fill up that kind of emptiness. It takes a great deal to stop trying to fill it when you find something else to make that emptiness go away. I'm in a battle, now, Duo, a battle that I can't win alone. It's a battle I can't lose, either, if I ever hope to stand by your side, if I ever hope to measure up and be the man that you deserve."
"I thought..." Duo struggled with his new image of Heero, tried to put 'failure' with the man that he had always thought was the benchmark for all men to aspire to. He firmed, pushing it all aside, suddenly. "Let me help you. Where ever you're going, I'll go, to."
Heero sadly shook his head. "I know a place, a retreat. Wu Fei suggested it once. He saw through me, saw that I was having troubles. I've been ignoring his suggestion all of this time, because there wasn't any reason to go, to save myself. I think, deep down, I wanted to self destruct. I wanted the drugs and the drinking to end my emptiness. I've heard that you need a good reason to end a habit. You're mine, Duo. For you, I'm going to be strong enough to do this. I want my life, now, I want the happiness that I know I can have being with you."
Duo trembled, swallowed hard, and asked, in an emotion choked voice. "How long?"
Heero shook his head, at a loss. "I don't know."
"I'll wait for you," Duo promised with conviction. "I'll never give up on you. I told you that when we were first together, remember? I said, 'Don't do this if it doesn't mean something, because it's as good as marriage, to me. Until death do us part, you know?"
"I remember," Heero told him as he pulled up the duffel. "I'll never forget it. Duo, ever, because it meant the same to me. I want this to be forever. I have to be better than I am, though. Understand, and let me go."
Duo hooked a hand behind Heero's neck and brought them together for a fierce kiss. His intense gaze locked with Heero's. "If you don't come back, I'll find you. I'm never letting you go."
Heero nodded, unable to say anything more without breaking down.
"One more question, before you go," Duo asked him as he began moving aside to let Heero pass.
Heero hefted his duffel to one shoulder and waited.
"Why didn't you want to tell me?" Duo asked.
"I left a note for you with Quatre, explaining," Heero admitted. "When you look at me, I always feel like I'm the best there is, as if I can do anything. I feel perfect. I couldn't face having you look at me, knowing what I really am, and seeing something else."
"Do you see that now?" Duo wanted to know, "or do you just see how damned much I love you?"
Heero smiled weakly. "I hope that I can be someone who deserves that kind of love."
"You are, right now, Heero," Duo assured him. "Never doubt that."
"I will be back," Heero promised him. "I will defeat these addictions, for you."
"For yourself, too" Duo corrected. "Learn that you are worth it, please."
Heero nodded and it was one of the hardest things that he had ever had to do, walking out of the door and leaving Duo behind. The man was firmly in his heart, though, his reason for leaving, his reason for living, and the reason that would bring him back again, a healed and whole man.
Duo stood on the small porch of his house and stared off into the darkness for long minutes. Finally, he seemed to sigh, as his hand felt along an inside wall for a switch. The porch light went on and then the man retreated back into the warmth of his home.
Three nights running, Heero had watched the man's ritual play out, standing out in the shadows, and making sure that entering Duo's life, again, wasn't going to disrupt something good for the man, something that Heero wouldn't want to compete with. There were so many men better than himself, he thought, so many chances for Duo to find happiness that was uncomplicated and without extra baggage.
Duo lived alone, though, not even a pet to give him comfort. The house was a new acquisition. It had too many rooms for one man, alone; a puzzle, that Heero couldn't piece together yet. Duo worked, came home, watched the vid, ate a lonely dinner, and then enacted the ritual on the porch before going to bed each night. His life seemed to be in a holding pattern, waiting, and Heero suspected strongly that he was the one that Duo was waiting for.
Standing out in the cold and darkness, Heero tried to work up the courage to step onto that porch. His breath made smoke as he bowed his head and let out a sound of frustration. Hands sunk deep into his coat pockets, one felt the hard, rounded edges of the chip embedded in his palm. Could he touch Duo with that hand? Could he admit that he still needed that help, that warning that would go out to professionals, if he should slip, backslide, into the world of drinking and drugs again? Wasn't that failure? Wasn't that promises not kept?
Heero could see Duo upstairs, now, a light going on and an open window, and it's fluttering curtain, allowing him brief glimpses of Duo getting ready for bed. Broad shoulders and a slim waist were revealed as a shirt was pulled off and tossed aside. Jeans went down, and sleep pants went on, in a way that made Heero's body flush with heat and longing.
Heero rubbed fingers against the chip in his palm again as Duo turned off the light and went to bed. For the third night, Heero took up his post on the porch, sitting on the top step and pulling the collar of his jacket up high to keep the cold out. When morning came, Duo would come out for his morning jog. Heero had yet to summon the courage to be there when that happened.
He was known for bravery, for being willing to sacrifice himself for others, but, Heero had been too good at hiding the pain and fear inside himself for anyone to realize. Drugs and alcohol had been his crutches, his way of dealing with life. Despite a year of therapy, a year learning how to cope with life, he was still, deep down, the same coward. He was still afraid of failing, of being alone, of a yawning chasm inside of him that could tear open, again, and swallow him whole with his own confusion about how to deal with a life that he had never expected to live after the war.
Heero hunched against the support of the porch, arms wrapped around his middle to keep warm.He told himself, again, that he should leave, that he wasn't going to burden Duo with his cowardice, with his problems, so there was no reason to haunt the man's front steps. It was a tie, though, that was going to hurt when he cut it, he realized, hurt more than anything had ever hurt before.
A last night, Heero told himself, a last chance to see Duo before he left, once and for all. He had repeated that, to himself, several nights already, but, this time, he was determined that this truly would be the last night.
" Heero?" the name was said, breathless, unbelieving.
Heero started awake, chilled to the bone, a powdering of snow on his knees where the overhang of the porch had failed to protect him.
A hand was on his shoulder, shaking at him. When he found it hard to respond, arms went around him and pulled him up. His mind began to slowly register panic as he was dragged into the house and deposited on a couch. His coat came off, his boots, and then blankets were piled on in their place. Hands took his, pulled off gloves, and then chafed them rapidly.
"I'm calling an ambulance," Duo said as he began to turn away for his phone. In jogging clothes, jacket unzipped, and long braid swinging, it was easy to reach out and grab hair and jacket and stop the man.
"Wait!" Heero managed thickly, blinked rapidly to try and make himself more alert, and then reeled Duo back to him by what he held in his hands. Duo ended up sitting on the couch, staring down at him in concern.
"You're frozen through, Heero!" Duo protested. "You need a doctor."
The intense warmth of the house, and the blankets, were already thawing Heero. "I'm... okay," he said, trying to sound as if that were true.
Duo looked as if he would question that, but his eyes were taking Heero in, intense emotion playing over his handsome features. "I've waited for you," he said. "Why didn't you let me know that you were here? Why... sit out there?"
Heero clenched his hands. "I don't want to hurt you," he replied. "I will, if I stay."
"I don't understand," Duo replied in anguish.
Heero took his hand. Duo's hand was fever warm. He knew that Duo could feel the chip. "I can't be trusted. I can't promise you that I can stay clean."
Duo turned his hand palm up and traced the chip with his fingers. He looked at Heero intensely. "Nobody can make promises like that," Duo told him. "You can only try. I would bet my life on a Heero Yuy 'try' any day, though."
Heero pulled his hand away and then embraced Duo, face buried in Duo's chest.
"You didn't lie. You didn't pretend that everything is okay, now," Duo told him. "That's why I'm going to trust you. That's why I think that we can be together. As long as you keep being honest, I can be there when you feel that you need help. You won't be alone."
Heero looked up and cupped Duo's cheek with his hand, his emotions brimming in his eyes. "For you, I want to live... clean... free of my addictions."
"I'll be your reason, then, if you let me, to keep on being clean. Stay with me. Be with me. Don't run away any more," Duo begged. "I bought this house for us, for our new life. I'm not ready to sell, all right?"
Heero kissed him and replied, "I don't think I can run away, again. My heart would break, completely."
"Mine, too," Duo said and pulled Heero in for another kiss."Make sure that doesn't happen."
"I'll try, with everything that's in me," Heero promised and felt a core of strength inside of him that hadn't been there before. For an instant, he could see his future. He knew that he would keep his promise, that, for Duo, he would stay clean, and stay where he was loved.