As far as reunions go, I suppose I have to admit that I’m
just not all that fond of them. If I want to see old comrades or talk with
old friends, I’d much rather do it on a one-on-one basis than try
to ‘mingle’ in a crowd. It’s just not something I care
for. Too many people, and somehow the conversations seem so… superficial.
I can only talk about the weather and the current state of Earth-sphere
politics for so long before I just want to… well, before I just want
to disappear again.
If I were honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I only agreed
to attend Relena’s little excuse for a get-together on the off chance
that I might get to see Duo. While I’d not had too much trouble keeping
in contact with everyone else, Duo had recently become a little harder
to catch up with. His job with the Sweepers had always kept him on the
go, and I never knew where he was going to be from one week to the next,
but we used to be better at crossing paths at least a couple of times a
Even jet-setting Quatre was easier to pin down lately.
So when Relena had come up with her silly little idea, I’d rolled
my eyes and mocked her somewhat relentlessly… but I’d still
agreed to attend. I’d even agreed to come in a day early to help
go over the hotel security for her, just for her peace of mind.
Which is how I found myself wandering the hotel grounds at almost midnight
the night before anything was even scheduled to happen. I hadn’t
really counted on how boring it was going to be with no one else around
that I knew. Not being the type to watch bad movies on cable television,
or hang out in the hotel bar, left with me with not much to do until Relena
and her guests were due to arrive on Saturday. A midnight stroll seemed
more interesting than sitting in my room checking my e-mail and staring
at the wall.
I was just coming through the landscaped patio off the fitness center,
when I heard someone in the pool. Curious, I altered my course to head
that way; the sounds of swimming sounded oddly… loud. Like the swimmer
wasn’t experienced and was struggling. It wasn’t a sound I
could walk away from without checking first.
By the time I came around the last boxwood where I could see into the
pool area however, the swimmer had stopped and was resting at the side
of the pool.
I had a moment of almost jolting recognition, followed by a second of
doubt. Duo? Here? Surely I was only seeing what I wanted to see? But then
a toss of a head sent a long braid slapping against the water and there
was no doubt.
I stepped off the patio and called out so as not to startle him.
‘Duo, is that you?’
I startled him anyway, and his head whipped around, his eyes settling
on me and then widening in surprise. ‘Heero?’
I grinned as I came to a stop standing over him and he hugged the side
of the pool to gain the leverage to look up at me. ‘You came in early
too?’ I inquired.
‘What are you doing here already?’ he asked, running a hand
over his face to clear the last of the water from his eyes.
I snorted. ‘Got roped into helping Relena’s staff with the
He hesitated for a moment, blinking at me like he’d been expecting
something different, but then gave me a small smile. ‘I… rode
in with Wufei, and he had some conference he had to attend today.’
‘That man can’t just take a vacation, can he?’ I chuckled
and Duo grinned broadly.
‘You know Chang,’ he quipped. ‘Some people kill two
birds with one stone… he has to take out whole flocks.’
I chuckled again and turned to drag over one of the pool deck chairs,
sitting down so he didn’t have to crane his neck up so far to look
‘So where the hell have you been?’ I prodded. ‘I’ve
been trying to connect with you for three months; you still owe me a beer
and a return match for that last pool game.’
He gave me an odd look, taking a second to dip himself back into the water;
the night air was a little cool. ‘Here and there,’ he replied. ‘You
know how things are with the Sweepers; you’re in Borneo on Monday
and headed for Mars by Tuesday.’
I shook my head. ‘Well now it’s Friday; anything exotic on
The air was pinking his face in a way I found attractive, and he folded
his arms on the side of the pool, letting himself sink into the water a
little. ‘Nothing for awhile,’ he murmured. ‘And what
have you got going on? What’d you say you’re doing for Relena?’
I leaned forward and propped my elbows on my knees. ‘I’m just
lending a hand with security for this… get-together,’ I said. ‘After
the weekend, I’m back to the same old grind.’
Duo chuckled, his eyes suddenly alight with mischief. ‘Get-together,’ he
parroted. ‘Now there’s a polite term for this shindig.’
‘I may be helping out,’ I informed him. ‘But I want
to state right here and now I had not a damn thing to do with the arrangements.’
He snickered at me, raising a hand like he was going to flick water in
my direction, but then he didn’t follow through. ‘Come on,
man,’ he wheedled. ‘You have to have some inside scoop… what
in the hell possessed the woman? Ground-hog’s day?’
I couldn’t help grinning back at him. ‘Maybe all the good
holidays were taken?’
That won me one of his warm, open laughs and I couldn’t help but
admire the way it made the skin crinkle up around his eyes. ‘What
the hell is she going to do if this whole ‘another year of peace’ thing
doesn’t work out? What if the ol’ ground hog won’t even
come out and look around?’
‘And disappoint Relena Peacecraft?’ I deadpanned. ‘Surely
He laughed again, and this time he did flick water in my direction, though
the drops fell short. It made him lose his grip on the edge though, and
he bobbed for a moment before hauling himself back in position in front
of me. ‘The thing is trained, isn’t it?’ he asked, still
‘Would a Peacecraft leave anything to chance?’ I asked, trying
for that haughty tone Zechs can achieve, but I don’t think I managed
Duo just shook his head and shifted so his arms were settled on the tile
again. ‘I swear sometimes that girl is smoking something,’ he
confided in mock severity.
‘The breeding would never allow it,’ I smiled and he smiled
back, before changing the direction of the conversation back around to
where we’d started.
‘So what have you been up to?’ he prodded, ‘Besides
getting into the shady underside of groundhog slavery?’
I gave the line a roll of my eyes but otherwise ignored it. ‘Same
stuff I’ve been doing for the last year; which you’d know if
you didn’t keep disappearing off to Mars.’
He tried for a contrite look, but it just didn’t wash with his hair
plastered to his face. ‘It was… L3, actually,’ he informed
me, and there was a moment like he was waiting for something, but it passed. ‘Same
old, same old for me too, I guess.’
‘I guess we need to get out more,’ I sighed. ‘We’re
starting to sound like two old fogies. When are you coming out to play
pool with me again?’
‘When you learn to play,’ he quipped, and looked pleased with
Had our positions in the conversation been reversed, he’d have blown
me a raspberry, but I just look stupid when I do that, so I flipped him
off instead, he laughed loudly and then immediately stifled it, looking
‘Then we’ll have to play a little handball; you can’t
deny I know how to play that since you have yet to win a single game,’ I
He snorted and looked embarrassed, shifting his grip to duck low in the
water again, warming back up. ‘You cheat,’ he grumbled.
‘’Do not,’ I smiled at him innocently. ‘You just
suck. Now why don’t you come out of there and we’ll go in to
the lounge or something before you freeze your ass off?’
He blinked at me and looked rather horrified by the idea. ‘I… uh… I’m…’ he
stammered, and came in to hug the wall again.
I couldn’t help a bark of laughter as it suddenly came clear. ‘Duo
Maxwell,’ I demanded. ‘Are you skinny dipping?’
It was fun watching him turn colors and sputter before he finally gave
it up and sank down until the only thing showing above the edge of the
pool were his knuckles and his eyes. ‘Maybe,’ he allowed in
a small voice.
I sat back and shook my head, chuckling at his discomfiture. ‘Sometimes
you are unbelievable.’ Then I thought about it and sat forward again,
grinning at him ferally. ‘And what are you going to do if I refuse
to go away?’
He looked shocked for a second, but then slopped water in my direction. ‘Drown
you, you perv!’
‘Hey,’ I reasoned. ‘I’m not the one who’s
naked in the hotel pool. What’s it worth to you to make me go in?’
‘Worth?’ he choked, pulling himself back up close to the wall
and eyeing me speculatively. ‘What do you want?’
‘You could buy me breakfast,’ I cajoled. ‘And we could
finish catching up with both of us clothed.’
He was still blushing a delightful shade of red and it really was tempting
to hang around just to see how far he could be pushed before he got irritated
enough to climb out of the pool. I can’t say I was averse to catching
a glimpse, if opportunity was going to knock. ‘Breakfast?’ he
asked, sounding a bit subdued and I decided to relent before I embarrassed
‘I promise not to eat too much,’ I grinned and stood up to
go. ‘See you in the restaurant at eight?’
He hesitated a moment, hugging tight to the wall and rubbing a hand over
his face again. ‘Make it… make it nine,’ he finally said,
and recovered his grin. ‘Who am I, to deny food to a man so obviously
struggling with his finances that he has to blackmail his friends for meals?’
‘At least I can afford clothes,’ I jibed and he gave me a
I managed not to look back until I got up to the patio, but he was still
in the water and still watching me go. ‘Keep moving, Yuy!’ he
called and I laughed and waved before going in through the gym.
I was smiling all the way back to my room; God I’d missed him. I’d
have to work harder to make sure three months didn’t go by again.
I woke Saturday morning feeling disgustingly good, and rather looking
forward to the day. Surprising, when I stopped to think about some of the
truly obnoxious party-oriented things Relena would probably have planned.
I was just looking forward to being able to catch up with Duo, maybe even
pin him down to some dates that he was free so we could plan some things.
I really hadn’t been kidding; sometimes I really did feel like some
old man locked up in my apartment, slaving away and forgetting what the
sun looked like. Duo had always been the one who instigated things, making
plans and making sure we got together. I wasn’t sure when he had
become as much a hermit as I was, but maybe it was just time I took the
I showered and dressed quickly that morning, and left my room all but
whistling. Striding down the hall well before time, just to make sure I
got downstairs early enough to grab a table to ourselves where we could
talk. I wanted to laugh at myself… I felt like a damn kid again;
you’d think it had been years since I’d seen Duo last… not
just a couple of months.
I was surprised as I neared the elevator alcove to suddenly recognize
Chang Wufei’s voice. I smiled, thinking we’d be able to ride
down together, when the tone of his voice made me hesitate. I’m not
really ashamed to admit that I stopped walking and blatantly eavesdropped.
‘…wait a damn minute,’ he was saying, his voice somewhere
between exasperated and concerned. A strange tone to be hearing from Wufei. ‘You
know damn well if you leave, I have to leave too and I…’
I was even more surprised when it was Duo’s voice that cut him off,
and if I had thought Wufei sounded upset, he had nothing on Duo.
‘No, damn it, you do not,’ he snapped and I heard a noise
that made me envision him stabbing at an elevator button in frustration. ‘I
am perfectly capable of called a damn cab. I will be fine.’
Wufei’s tone changed to something that was trying to be soothing. ‘Duo… come
on, just stop a minute please, and tell me what’s going on?’
‘I just… just changed my mind, ok?’ Duo replied, sounding
almost petulant. Made me think of an angry little boy. I wanted to smile,
but there was some part of me that knew there was nothing here to smile
‘We talked about this,’ Wufei said calmly, still trying to
work toward reasonable, though I could feel Duo’s resistance in the
air. The elevator button took another jab.
‘I know,’ Duo conceded. ‘I know. I’m sorry, but
I just really want to go… ok?’
He was… extremely unhappy about something, and I found myself looking
over my shoulder, the weirdly intimate conversation making me feel like
some kind of voyeur. I was suddenly leery of getting caught, but there
was no one in sight.
‘No, Duo,’ Wufei said firmly, though not unkindly. ‘Not
until you explain to me what’s going on here. You decided you were
ready for this; what happened?’
There was a sigh so heavy it felt like the weight of the world was behind
it. I wanted to move where I could see them, but knew it wasn’t possible.
‘Please, Fei?’ Duo asked, and I knew it for the last ditch
effort it was.
‘Talk to me,’ Wufei responded, a gentleness coming out and
his voice did something odd, like he was suddenly sitting down.
There were a long few moments before Duo finally sighed again. ‘I… I
did something bad, Wufei and I really just can’t deal with it. I
just want to go.’
‘Bad?’ Wufei asked, sounding truly puzzled. ‘How could
you have done anything? I was with you right up until you went to your
Duo’s voice changed so that I knew he had lowered his head, and
decided that Wufei was about to hear something he wasn’t going to
like. Duo has a habit of not being able to look you in the eye when he’s
delivering… bad news. ‘I went back out again last night. I… I
wanted to go swimming for a little bit while no one was around.’
‘You what?’ Wufei blurted, and sounded truly upset. I wondered
about it and wished I dared move forward, but I knew they’d shut
up the minute they saw me. ‘God, Duo… you could have drowned!’
I blinked. Drowned? But Duo was an excellent swimmer; he loved the water.
I waited for him to cut Wufei down for the slight, but he didn’t,
only managing to sound like that small boy again. ‘I was careful,’ he
appeased and it was Wufei’s turn to sigh.
‘Just… just tell me what happened,’ he prompted, setting
aside whatever weirdness was between them over the pool.
‘I lied, Fei,’ Duo almost whispered, and had I been any further
down the hall, I wouldn’t have been able to hear him. ‘I lied
to someone very important and I just want to go now, please… I can’t
But Wufei wasn’t about to let him by with no more than that and
continued to press for details. ‘Lied? I don’t understand… you
don’t lie, you never have.’
The elevator dinged then and I felt a moment of panic, but it was obvious
from Duo’s outcry that Wufei wasn’t letting him board.
‘Not until you tell me what the hell you’re talking about,’ Wufei
snapped, just a bit of his temper showing.
‘I ran into Heero down at the pool,’ Duo snapped back, his
own temper flaring at being thwarted from his goal. ‘And he… he
didn’t see. And I didn’t tell him. And now… now I just
can’t face him…’ his temper left him as quickly as it
had come, and somehow took Wufei’s away with it.
‘Why would you do such a thing, Duo?’ he asked gently, and
there was definitely a quality to his voice that made me think he wasn’t
standing. To both their voices, now that I thought about it.
It took Duo a moment to respond, and when he did, he just sounded miserable. ‘He
talked to me like he always used to,’ he said softly. ‘He didn’t
know, and he didn’t treat me any different. He didn’t look
at me with his eyes all full of pity like everybody else does. I know it
was wrong… I should have told him. I know it was a kind of lie, but
please Wufei… I’m begging you; don’t make me stay here
and face him. I can’t.’
That last came out a bit muffled and made me think that Wufei might actually
be hugging Duo and I dared creep forward just enough to peek around the
corner. Just enough to see what in the hell was going on, and then I drew
back and tried to get a grip on my reeling senses.
Wufei truly was squatting down and giving Duo an awkward one-armed hug.
Squatting down… in front of Duo’s wheel chair.
‘He’s going to find out sooner or later,’ Wufei told
him softly, voice trying for firm, but I could tell he would give in if
Duo asked in that tone of voice even one more time.
‘I know,’ Duo replied, and there was a world of hurt in it.
My head was so full of thoughts I wasn’t sure what to focus on.
There were a million questions I wanted to have the answers to. A pain
in my chest that I didn’t think there was an answer to. And a sense
that I needed to act, wrapped up in the fear of doing the wrong thing.
Oh, and the tiny spark brought by Duo’s words; the part about being
important to him.
And, I suppose, in the end, that was what moved me around that corner
and made me give Duo a cocky grin. ‘Trying to skip out on buying
me breakfast, Maxwell?’ I quipped and though it cost me, I wouldn’t
let my eyes waver from his face.
‘Heero!’ he gasped, and there was a flurry of straightening
and shifting; Wufei regained his feet and looked uncertain. Duo brushed
his hand over his face and looked… scared? I wasn’t sure.
‘Morning, Chang,’ I greeted our other, former partner and
he nodded almost automatically, eyes shifting between me and Duo, not sure
what to say, I don’t think.
I stepped around Duo’s chair and into the waiting elevator and looked
back at them expectantly. ‘Coming?’ It was… difficult
not to take the handles of the chair. Not to help.
Duo blinked at me and then tried out a wan little smile. It was barely
a ghost of his real smile and the blatant uncertainty in it about broke
‘Unless you’re backing out on our deal,’ I accused. ‘Would
be just like your cheap ass.’
‘Frugal,’ he croaked out, trying valiantly to rise to the
baiting. Then suddenly the chair was rolling and he spun himself neatly
around and backed in beside me. ‘I am frugal, and if you paid attention
to the lessons I’ve tried to teach you over the years, you wouldn’t
be so damn broke you had to mooch off your friends.’
I snorted. ‘In your dreams,’ I drawled and then glanced back
at Wufei. ‘You coming, or are you just going to stand there all day?’
He chuckled ruefully and shook his head, boarding the elevator and pushing
the button for the mezzanine. ‘Wouldn’t miss it,’ he
muttered, and managed to gift me with a warm smile over Duo’s head.
I had a million damn questions that I hoped I’d dare ask eventually,
but right then the only thing that mattered was making sure that Duo understood
nothing would change how I felt about him… even if he didn’t
understand just what the depths of those feelings were. Someday, perhaps,
we’d come to that, but for now… he just needed his best friend.
Even if that best friend felt like he was floundering.
But one thing at a time. Answers later. Now was for building
‘So,’ I said, as we watched the elevator numbers light up. ‘Anybody
else up for skipping this whole groundhog thing this afternoon?’
Fiction : GW :