Disclaimer: Don't own them and don't make any money off of them. Warning: Male/Male sex, language, sexual descriptions and situations.
"I don't know why you decided to dress 'that way'," my companion said in a nasal, condescending tone. I murmured some sort of apology as I sipped at my strong drink. It seemed that I was always apologizing to the man. "Black jeans and a t-shirt that barely covers your naval, I swear you do these things just to embarrass me!" I assured him that I hadn't, but he continued, "I knew I shouldn't have come early. I should have waited until you came home and made certain that you put on the clothes that I had laid out for you!"
I snagged another drink from a passing waiter and deposited my empty glass on his tray. I heard my companion sniff. It said volumes. I ignored it as I ignored him. I was getting rather good at that.
I hadn't realized that I was expected to reply, he didn't usually want one. "Well?" I echoed uncertainly.
"Heero Yuy, are you even listening to me?"
"The music's too loud," I replied lamely, even though the strains of a full string orchestra were barely audible. "What did you ask me?"
"I asked why you dressed this way!"
I sighed, took a sip of my drink, and relished the burn before I replied in a clipped tone, "The invitation said that it was a party at the beach and that it was casual."
"Did you really expect that 'casual' would mean jeans and a t-shirt to important people like Quatre Winner and his associates?"
I glanced around at the pressed pants, polo shirts, diamond rings, expensive watches, and Italian shoes. The women were in high heels and tight, designer dresses totally unsuited for our surroundings. Not that it mattered. We weren't even allowed to touch the sand. Decking had been laid out especially for the party and a bar and expensive catering service waited on guests. I was the only person in jeans.
"I'm sorry," I apologized again, automatically, and then couldn't help a biting addition, "Etiquette at important parties wasn't part of my training." It was a reminder of my past, the ugliness that I had wanted to leave behind forever. To bring it up now, I realized, and to use it as a weapon, meant that I was getting upset. I calmed myself with an effort and was almost ready to apologize again when my companion decided to get in the last word and make it sting.
"You have to rise above your upbringing, Heero," my companion said condescendingly. "If we're ever going to BE someone, we have to make friends in the right places. I can't do it all alone."
No, I thought, angry again, he needed my reputation to open the first doors for him. Being the companion of Heero Yuy guaranteed that he would be invited to parties with Quatre Winner. Being the companion of a war hero, opened a few more beyond that. At least he was taking me with him in his climb up the social ladder, I thought, but, deep down, I couldn't help wondering if that were really true. When he had what he wanted, and he didn't need me to open any more doors for him, would he still want me around? Thoughts like that one weren't uncommon to me, but I wondered why, this time, it elicited so little real concern.
I was so tired of being lonely. Perhaps that was part of the reason for my lack of caring? It's true that the man beside me shared my life morning, noon, and night, but he was cold and distant at the best of times and I, well, I didn't think that I was much better. What had attracted me to him to begin with? I wondered. When I had joined the Preventers after the war, he had been working at their headquarters as a secretary. He had appeared in front of me one day, made small talk, and had stayed glued to my side ever since. A complete loner, I had decided to dedicate my life to my career, still pursuing my mandate given to me by Dr. J. I still wanted to protect and bring about peace. I couldn't understand, no matter how charming my companion was, why I had allowed him inside of my self imposed isolation to distract me from my goal. In my bleaker moments, I doubted that I even liked him.
I looked sideways at my companion. He was smiling engagingly at the crowd as if he thought that they were all watching him. He was outgoing, bright, and beautiful. Any man... any woman for that matter, would have been happy to hang him on their arm as a trophy. He looked very smart in his upper crust casual clothes. His blue polo shirt and dark gray, pressed pants showed his flawless skin, and his fall of chestnut hair, to best advantage. He had his hair loose tonight, even though he knew that I preferred that he braided it. My desires were never a consideration, though. Everything, even his smile, was for the benefit of his imagined audience and not for me at all. He had long ago stopped playing the game of 'lover'.
Left on my own, I would have avoided any parties or meetings with officials wanting to rub elbows with a war hero and a friend of Quatre Winner. Now, it was a periodic torture that I was forced to endure, all for the sake of my 'future' my companion assured me. At first, I had though that he meant the future of my career as a defender of peace, but, after a time, I came to understand that the men I was being scheduled again and again to meet were not interested in anything other than a photo op and a chance to look important.
Why did I still go through with it? Why didn't I leave a man who was so obviously using me? I tried never to think of an answer to those questions, but I couldn't deny that there was something about him... I liked to stare at him, sometimes to the point where he shouted at me to stop. As for sex, he sometimes graced me with his presence in my bed, but most times he spent his evenings in his own room in our apartment, trying his best to find yet another party to attend, yet another contact that would help us climb higher in the social stratosphere. Those times that I was allowed to have his body under mine, I invariably lost myself in fantasizing about the war. This seemed sick and strange to me, especially when one Gundam in particular appeared again and again in my fantasies. Visions of Deathscythe, the huge black Gundam waving its glowing scythe, never ceased to stimulate me.
It was hard to admit that I kept my manipulative companion, not out of love or even like, but because I was addicted to the sight of him and the sick fantasy of a death dealing Gundam that his presence in my bed never ceased to generate. It wasn't a comfortable realization and I avoided completely accepting it. It was better to pretend that I just didn't know why than to admit to uncontrollable perversions.
"My God!" My companion hissed. "Would you LOOK at THAT!"
I turned my head to look, eager for a distraction of any kind from my uncomfortable thoughts, yet wincing inwardly as I imagined some poor guest about to be ridiculed for some social faux pas. At first, all I saw was a spot of black among the pastels of the other guests, and then a confident young man, head held high, walked out into a clear space and looked around as if in defiance.
A hand seemed to take hold of my heart and squeeze as I realized that it was Duo Maxwell, one time pilot of Deathscythe, that my companion was pointing at. He was still tall and thin and his heart shaped, impish face was still dominated by sparkling amethyst eyes full of humor. His mouth was quirked in a smile, but the smile was irreverent. So too was his clothing irreverent. He wore a copy of an officials' fancy dress coat that fell to his knees, but his was black with white embroidery at sleeve and collar, giving it a more solemn, priest-like appearance. His gold cross still hung from his neck, glittering and flashing as he turned to look around him. Only the black, velvet bow at the bottom of his meter long, chestnut hair, and his black knee boots cut with a military flair at their tops, stopped his outfit from looking completely austere. Instead, those touches gave him a sensual, almost dangerous looking, poise.
"Duo," I whispered and he seemed to hear me over the loud talk and the music. His head turned and he saw me. I saw something electric in those eyes, some violent recognition, and then they were sliding sideways and taking in my companion. A definite frown developed on that handsome face and then he was turning and making his way to the large group around Quatre Winner. I saw people make way for him, startled by his dark clothes and his confidence. Quatre saw him and shouted his name happily. They hugged and then the crowd closed and I couldn't see him any longer.
"Well," my companion sniffed, "at least people won't be staring at YOU now! Have you ever seen such a ridiculous outfit? What was he thinking and who the devil is he anyway going up to Mr. Winner that way?"
I blinked. He didn't even know who Duo Maxwell was. He could almost be excused for that kind of ignorance, Duo had been absent from all the press photo ops, the endless parties, and the strings of events where a Gundam pilot/ war hero was in demand. Wu Fei kept to himself as well, but he at least showed up at charity events. Trowa, when he wasn't performing at the circus, was always one step behind Quatre, his silent shadow. Duo had become invisible, dropping out of the Universe as soon as the war had ended and the Gundams destroyed. I had thought about him often, at first, but then had accepted that I would never see the young man again. I was glad to be wrong, so glad, that I wasn't aware that I was in trouble until my companion sneered something. I registered the tone, if not the words.
"See something you like?" It was an accusatory hiss.
I looked at him and saw his anger and his fear. I rarely questioned his hold on me. It had seemed unbreakable, some sort of spell that he had cast over me with the power of his beauty. Now, that hold was suddenly gone and he knew it. Things had changed between us that quickly, as if someone had held a mirror up and shown me that the person I was with was in truth, not the beautiful, competent, companion he had seemed, but in fact an acid spitting monster.
"I'll take you for everything you're worth, got that?!" His face was red with anger now and very ugly. "The court will side with me! I'll ask for support and I'll drain you dry of every penny you'll ever make!"
"What are you talking about?" I wondered sharply, confused as I tried to follow what he was saying and keep my eye on where I thought Duo had gone.
"I invested a lot of time in you!" my companion snarled and pointed a manicured finger at me. "If you think that you're going to run after that piece of tail and make a laughing stock of me at this party-"
I blinked. Was he seeing something that I was still unaware of? Chase after Duo? Leave him? I tried to bring my thoughts into order and... yes, he was right, I did want to go after Duo. I did want to talk to him. I saw him in my mind's eye even now, standing confident and beautiful, speaking to me with his eyes.
For the first time I 'looked', really 'looked' at my companion. I think I had blinded myself on purpose, not wanting to admit to myself how much losing track of Duo had meant to me. I think, back then, I had planned to approach him after the war, when things had calmed down, and after all the awards and the hype of being a hero had faded away. The last thing that I had expected was for Duo to disappear immediately and to cover his tracks so well, that no one could find him. It had hurt... no, that was an understatement. I had been in agony, my heart breaking and my life stretching out before me with no Duo and only a cold career for company. I had never been good at dealing with emotions. Sticking them in a box and covering them over had come naturally.
"You look just like Duo," I said in amazement, finally facing it.
It was true. Chestnut hair, shoulder length, but still often braided, Wide blue eyes that I could pretend were sparkling amethyst. An impish face with wide lips, that, though they smiled crocodile smiles, could still mimic the ghost of a memory. He was a crude copy of Duo Maxwell, a vain, shallow, opportunistic, cold copy that had latched onto me and sucked me dry of will and emotions for far too long.
"I never want to see you again," I said with bitterness turning my stomach sour. I tossed my empty drink glass aside and it shattered against the wood of the deck as I strode towards where I had last seen Duo. My rejected 'lover' didn't stop me or say anything, perhaps too stunned to realize that not even threats were going to keep me in my place.
I breasted through the crowd. When I reached Quatre, he was chatting with an elderly women, his golden charm like sunshine. When he saw me, he cried out in pleasure. "Heero! Where have you been? You should have come over to speak to me before now. Where's Darrel?"
I scowled. Darrel, who? My mind replied derisively, but I kept my voice calm as I asked simply. "Where's Duo?"
"Ah, yes! Duo!" Quatre beamed at me and his light blue eyes danced. It seemed, for an instant, that he was looking right into my heart , and then he was pointing towards the beach and the crashing waves of the surf. "He went that way, Heero. Isn't it wonderful that he decided to come? I know that you've been waiting a long time to see him. Don't stay and waste time with me."
It was an odd thing for him to say, but it was true and he some how knew it. Reaching, he picked up a cream colored wrap from behind his chair. "Put this on. It gets cold after the sun sets. Your t-shirt won't be warm enough."
I muttered an embarrassed 'thank' you as I took it and I felt his gentle smile following me as I stepped off of the deck and made my way across the shifting sand towards the surf.
The sun was setting in a spectacular explosion of orange, reds, and yellows. The water sparkled as if it had caught fire. Sitting in the sand, just shy of the water, was Duo Maxwell. His hair was down from its braid, a chestnut waterfall down his back, and he was watching the sun set, arms resting on his knees and chin resting on top of them. He was also bare to the waist and his boots were gone, his discarded clothes strewn all about him. I saw him shivering.
I bit back an exclamation, a demand to know if he had lost his mind. It was getting cold and my t-shirt was lifting up in a rising breeze, affording only a little more protection than bare skin. I had a feeling, though, that the last thing that Duo wanted to hear was my criticism. He had thrown off his clothes for a reason. It was a display of some strong emotion. It wasn't right, I knew instinctively, to question it just then.
I stood indecisively, wrap clutched tightly in my hands, fearing rejection, and then I slowly lowered it and draped it over Duo's shoulders. He let out a long sigh and pulled it around him as I kneeled beside him in the sand.
"Sorry I took the long way," Duo said quietly, not talking about the party at all. "Guess I'm too late."
"Why?" It was a question I had asked myself many times in those first months after I had found him gone.
"I needed to see who I was," Duo replied. "I went back to L2 and tried to figure out what sort of person Duo Maxwell was when he wasn't being a street child, an orphan, or a murdering terrorist. I needed to see if that person had it together enough to be with you." He looked pained. "I don't know why I thought that you would wait or why I even thought that we had something between us. You didn't say anything then to make me think that you cared about me. Maybe it was all in my head, just some wishful thinking. I did a lot of that during the war."
I was quiet, staring at him while he watched the tide and the sunset. A thought occurred to me, that he might have been preparing himself to walk into the surf and swim towards that flaming horizon. I was suddenly shivering and it wasn't from the cold.
"I thought that you would wait for me too," I told him, dredging the words from the box of pain that I had buried deep within my heart. "You didn't."
"I didn't find someone else," Duo replied, parrying my attack with one of his own and causing me more pain.
"I DIDN'T find someone else," I corrected him, bitterly. "That person I was with... I was dead inside. He took my corpse, gave it a schedule of parties and appearances, and made it do what ever he wanted. I didn't care. Why should I? What was there to care about?"
Duo looked at me then, the setting sun still dazzling his eyes, and he seemed to think about what he saw in my face for some time. Finally, he said, "I had to go. If I had told you, you would have followed me. It was something that I had to do by myself. I'm sorry if it hurt you. That's probably not good enough, but it's all I have to give you. I can't make it go away. It happened." He picked up a handful of sand and threw it at the surf. "Maybe you should get back to the party. You don't have to stay and talk to me. I'm not going to give you any answers that you're going to like."
"I think you can," I replied.
"What?" he said in absently, not really listening as he began to close me out and contemplate the surf.
I was afraid. The intensity of his gaze told me that I was about to lose him again, only this time he wouldn't be sweeping into my life at a later date when I least expected it. I didn't have the luxury, just then, of rehashing my pain and betrayal. What had been between us anyway? Not promises. Not confessions of love. Not even much in the way of friendship. It was hard, even then, to put my finger on the tie that had bound us together, that had led us both to believe that, somehow, we were to be together at some point in time. It had been the 'when' that had been our down fall. Each of us had had a different notion of when that time should have been.
"There is one answer that you can give me that I WILL like," I said to him as I moved to crouch in front of him. Blocking out the light, his face fell into darkness. I knew that my face had as well. Hidden in the shadows, unable to see his expression and wanting it that way, I asked the question that would either breathe life into the corpse that I had become, or bury me once and for all. "Duo, do you... do you want to be with me now? Is that why you came here?"
I could tell that he was afraid of answering. He didn't want to be buried by rejection any more than I did. The darkness gave him privacy to gather his courage. At last, he replied in a small, forlorn voice, "Yes. That is why I came here."
I found his lips with mine. They were surprisingly warm. I turned us so that the light struck his face again, showing me the tears on his cheeks. I felt tears on my own as I kissed him deeply and pulled him into my arms. I held him and felt a melding 'wholeness' that I had never felt before in my life. This was right. This was the way it was supposed to be. We were supposed to be together. That certainty sang through my blood, my bones, and my heart. I could see that he was feeling it too.
Finally, we broke the kiss and Duo lay in my arms, cheek resting against my collar bone as I stroked a hand down his hair, caressing over and over again. "I-I love you," I said, unable to help myself, wanting him to know, wanting to know from him, even though I knew the answer in my heart, whether he loved me or just wanted to be with me.
"What about- What about that guy I saw you with?" Duo asked against my shirt, muffled and uncertain.
"He's already gone," I told him. "I knew, as soon as I saw you, that I was with the wrong person, that I had been living a terrible lie."
"That's good," Duo said. He sniffled and then looked up at me with shinning eyes, "because I do love you, Heero." As I held him tightly, feeling overwhelmed by passion and happiness and seeing a bright future ahead of me at last, he added, "What made you choose a person like that anyway, Heero? He didn't look your type at all. He looked completely ridiculous!"
I never did tell him why I laughed.