Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence.
Tin Soldiers Series
Sequel to Unmasked
So, Heero was staring at his image, a frozen moment in time of a fifteen year old terrorist who, for once, wasn't looking like the cold blooded killer he had been then. "You took this," Heero asked at last, eyes not leaving the image.
"Yes," I replied, glad that he wasn't at my throat, yet. Next came, 'why', of course, so I decided to plow onward, "You saw that I wanted to remember things, that I wanted a memento-"
"You didn't capture the images of the other pilots," Heero pointed out, short circuiting my lame excuse. "Just mine."
I swallowed hard.
"You've looked at it often," Heero noted, looking at the worn button.
"Yes." If my voice were any smaller it would have been nonexistent. I had a fleeting plan of pretending to pass out. I did feel like it, actually, and it wasn't just the residue of the pills in my system.
I waited. He continued to stare at his image and his jaw looked very tight, his blue eyes full of... something... whatever it was, it made them almost glow.
I couldn't stand the tension any longer. I blurted out, "Aren't you going to ask why?"
"I know why," Heero replied and, very slowly, almost reluctantly, he pulled a vid clip from his pants pocket. It was older than mine, one of the flat, button like, low resolution types. Heero held it in his free hand and turned it on. My jaw dropped. An image of me, grinning and wearing my old priest outfit, sprang into view. I was on Howard's ship, that time after I had rescued Heero from that Oz hospital and he had been trying to repair his damaged Gundam. The ocean and some metal railing was a blur behind my image.
"I took it so that I could do a background search on you," Heero explained. "I transferred it to this clip device afterward."
I asked the question he hadn't, completely mystified, "Why?"
Heero put the images side by side and studied them. "We were together such a short time, but... I wanted to remember you. You seemed..." he blushed and his shoulders tensed. He struggled to speak and then said, "Before I met you, I had firmly believed that certain things were necessary to be a good soldier. I had been taught to be totally dedicated, to not question, and to give up all hope of a life other than being an extension of my superiors." He paused, perhaps deciding whether to go on or not. I kept silent, willing him to go on. My 'psychic' powers must have had some effect. Heero continued haltingly, "My life had been like living in darkness without hope or knowledge of anything else. When I met you, it was like being shown a light. You turned some of the things that I had been taught on it's head. You..." He stopped again. I wanted to scream at him, 'Go on, dammit!' He did, but only after some thought. "I felt that, if I remembered what you had been like, If I could emulate you somehow, learn from your example, then, after the war, I could perhaps climb out of the darkness all together and find a normal life."
"So.... I was an inspiration to you?" I was dumbfounded. I couldn't wrap my head around it. When Heero nodded, I ran my hands over my face and almost pinched myself to make sure that I was really awake.
"I guess it was a big shock when you thought your 'inspiration' was whoring and being a party animal, right?" I stung myself with the words and saw Heero tense and become uncomfortable. I knew what ground I was standing on suddenly and it wasn't what I had expected at all. "Guess I made you reevaluate just how good my happy go lucky lifestyle was."
"No," Heero replied quietly and then turned both vid clips off. "I wondered what had happened to take you into the darkness that you had helped me to escape. I was self destructive in the war, because I knew that the end of my mission meant the end of me. I didn't have any other purpose. You showed me that a person could be a soldier, a killer, and have terrible things happen to them, and still come out smiling and hopeful for the future. I wondered what had killed your hope and made you self destructive."
"You have such a colorful way of putting things," I said and sighed despondently. "You should write poetry. Simple fact, I didn't fall from the 'light' into the 'darkness', as you so nicely put it,... I just got damned lonely." I turned my face away and stared at a crack in the wall.
Heero stared at me and then he said, almost apologetically, "You took a vid shot of me because you thought that we had been friends and you wanted to remember that. It's nearly the same reason only-"
"That's not it at all!" I snapped and then, okay, so I was tired of this dance, this game, this damned heartache. Let him beat the hell out of me, let him hate me, let him laugh. I don't know whether it was the drugs or my own hard bitten, 'don't give a damn' attitude that was at the core of me, the attitude that had 'inspired' him, but I was done, well done, and getting burned. "I took it because you were looking so damned good just then and... happy... and I... I wanted something that I could have, because I knew that I could never have you! I took it Heero, because I was... am... in love with you!"
I wasn't looking at him when I spouted all of this. I was staring very hard at my hands twisted in my blanket. I waited... and waited... and then... There was a double clink and clatter and then the door banged open. By the time that I raised my eyes, Heero was gone. What the-?!
Geez! I blinked, stunned. Why would he... I levered myself off the bed, still feeling shaky from the drugs and my confusion., intending to go after him, catch him before he reached his car... if that was where he was running too. My foot stepped on a vid clip. I awkwardly hopped to keep from crushing it and that threw me off balance. I ended up sitting on the floor and picking both vid clips up.
Okay, in retrospect, I had done a very stupid thing. You don't have to tell me so, okay? Heero had idolized my free spirit and maybe he had expected something of the same sort from me about him. I guess spouting out that I loved him had really shocked him. For some reason, I think if he had just decked me or even laughed at me, I would have felt better than... well,... THIS.
"Everything all right?"
I blinked at my neighbor who was standing in my doorway and looking unsure of his welcome. I couldn't think of anything to say. He stepped inside cautiously. He was wearing nothing but a bathing suit and looked as if he had just come from swimming in the surf. He smelled like suntan oil and salt water.
"That guy..." He ran a hand through what was left of his gray hair. "He didn't hurt you, did he? I saw him carry you in here, but he was looking worried about you, so I thought that it was okay." He forced a chuckle. "I thought maybe you two had knocked off early from work and you had downed a beer too many." His chuckle died when he didn't get a reaction from me. "Come on, Duo. Did he hurt you or not?"
"Yeah, I guess he did," I mumbled, but then when he started, added, "We kind of had a... misunderstanding. He thought it was better to just leave. I guess..."
"I see," Romie said slowly as I trailed off and I wondered if he did. "Why don't I help you up?"
"Okay," I said and sounded... lost.
Romie put a hand under my arm and gingerly helped me up. When I swayed, he looked even more concerned. "The bed?" When I nodded, he helped me get there. I stretched out and just stared blankly. Romie stared back and asked, "Need a doctor?"
"No, he didn't hit me," I told him, "Just sucker punched my mind, that's all."
"Ah," Romie nodded and then cocked his head at me. "Want a drink?"
"Sure." I watched him dig through my refrigerator and pull out two sodas. He came and handed me one. I popped the top open and then just sat there holding it. He must need a better explanation of why I was finding it hard to walk, I thought, but he didn't say anything about it. I have to give him points for that. He had seemed like a 'nosy neighbor' type.
"You know," Romie said at last, after a few swigs of soda, "Gay guys aren't much different from regular ones. We'll all high tail it from men and women when the 'S' word comes up."
"S word?" I blinked at him.
Romie looked uncomfortable and paced as he explained, "Serious.... Guys just don't like to get serious." It was an offer of comfort, an offer to lend an understanding ear if I needed it, but I shrugged.
"I don't know what the hell happened," I growled and was suddenly angry. Screw Heero anyway! If he couldn't at least stay long enough to give me some sort of reaction, if he had to run off like I had the plague... yeah, just screw him!
Romie took my rejection in stride. He waved his can of soda at the beach. "I'm having a party tomorrow night. You're welcome to come. Sometimes, it's best just to pick yourself up and forget about your troubles."
I hadn't forgotten them since the war, I doubted that I was going to forget them because of a party. I almost turned my anger on Romie, pissed that he was trying to 'be there' for me when he didn't even know what was going on or anything about me. I wasn't going to tell him either. It hurt too damned much. It was a ball of hurt with spikes.
"Sounds good," I muttered.
"You don't look so good," Romie said, giving up the 'buddy' act at last and deciding it was time for a grandfatherly one instead. "Maybe I should hang out here while you rest?"
"No, I'm good," I replied and then rethought that. I wasn't going to be stupid about it. I knew I WASN'T good. "Why don't you let me sleep for awhile and then come back around to check on me in a few hours?" I suggested.
Romie brightened. I suspect that he was eager to get out of that situation, of trying to comfort a gay man rejected by another gay man when he had probably thought he was just checking up on someone who might have been in physical trouble. "Sure thing," he replied. "If you need anything before then, just ring the local line. Mine's 334. I'll get you anything you need, okay?" He started heading out the door, but then turned and said earnestly. "Don't forget about the party. There's more than one fish in the sea."
I wanted to throw my soda at him, but he was already gone. Of all the cornball things to say. My anger wrapped around me and burned for a good long time and then, it couldn't cover up my real feelings any longer. I curled on my side and couldn't stop the utter misery from tearing my heart into pieces.
What had I really expected? I couldn't tell you. All I knew was that I had carried that secret in my chest for too many years and... I guess I had done a quick, 'gnaw off my leg to save the rest of me' stunt. I had gotten it over with, going in head first and shouting a battle cry, just like I had during the war. Well, I had almost died a few times for pulling stunts like that one, but it had never felt like this, like such complete defeat. Maybe this was the darkness Heero had been talking about, the feeling of not having any future, of not caring what happened next, of having no one and nothing to look forward too. Heero had been my 'inspiration' to keep on living a life. I guess he had been right about that after all. Now that he had taken that away... what was left? What was there to hope for when I had pinned everything on a fantasy, on believing that Heero Yuy might care about me, might one day... But that was all gone. He had run away, whether in anger, disgust, or... well, fill in the blank, it just didn't matter. 'Love you, too' hadn't been said, or even, 'That's okay, we can still be friends.' It was over, over for a lot of things..
I curled up and pulled the blanket over me, ignoring the fact that it was too hot for that. I just wanted to hide. I wallowed in my misery, but I didn't cry. It would have been nice to say that I was too much of a man for that, but I think I was just too numb, too shell shocked. My entire being was centered on, 'What am I going to do in the morning?"
I took a cab the next day, my gut clenched around a poor attempt at breakfast. I tried to get into a war mind set. It was a mission: Go into work and forget that I had ever told Heero Yuy that I loved him. I was fully ready to resign, even had a letter of resignation I had printed out in my satchel, but I knew it was very possible that I would run into Mr. Hundred Yard Dash before then. Quatre would question me, demand several weeks to replace me, get highly pissed when I refused to answer the 'why' of the whole thing, and then sign off in the end, because I knew that I wasn't going to back down. I could not work with Heero, not now, not ever again. He had crushed my dream, and, yeah, my heart, too, dammit! I wasn't going to wait around while he crushed the rest of me. If I left now, I might actually be able to live a relatively hollow life from this point forward. If I stayed... I really didn't want to think about what that kind of daily hurt would do to me, would maybe MAKE me do after awhile.
So, I ended up sitting at a boardroom table, feeling small and lost in an expensive leather chair, and ignoring the curious looks of anyone who passed by the open door and saw me sitting there. Quatre took his time. Well, he's a busy man and I'm sure his secretary didn't inform him that a heart broken employee was close to tears in his boardroom.
"Well, at least it isn't of me this time," Quatre said in his beautiful voice from over my shoulder. I jumped, my pencil making a thick line on my doodle pad. I tried reflexively covering over the sketch, but he added, "That's Heero, isn't it, having his eyes pecked out by seagulls... and being eaten alive by... crabs?" I mumbled something and closed the pad. "What's this about, Duo?" he asked seriously.
I looked down at the cover of my pad and strangled the urge to start another doodle. I was nervous, embarrassed, and not sure how I was going to justify my decision without revealing the cause behind it. To start, I slid my resignation towards him.
Quatre settled in the chair next to me. His golden head bent and his blue eyes looked thoughtful as he read the paper. He smelled like some exotic Arabian spice and he was dressed in a baby blue and silver gray suit. They had a soothing effect on my nerves. When his eyes raised to me at last, full of concern, he didn't ask me 'why', he told me, "You and Heero are two of the most dense and pig-headed people that I know."
I blinked and grunted, "Huh?"
Quatre sighed and dropped the resignation letter onto the highly polished table top. He steepled his fingers, sat back in his chair, and regarded me. "When it comes to war, training, and operations, you two are the definition of 'genius', but put you in a room together... Trowa warned me that this wouldn't be easy."
"Look, Quatre," I replied defensively, "I'm a professional, you know that. I may fool around a lot, but when it comes to my work, I don't let anything distract me from doing my best. Heero and me... we just don't get along. We're like oil and water. We gave it a try. The experiment was a failure. I'm sorry you have to replace me, but it's the right decision. We can't take care of business when we're at each other's throats."
"Duo," Quatre sat up, looking concerned. "Have you been fighting?"
"No, just not getting along," I replied dejectedly. "He just..." What to say that didn't sound like my heart was a shattered mess? I really couldn't think of anything.
"Heero didn't come into work today," Quatre said, hand pressing down on the resignation letter as if he wanted to cover up what it said.
That hit me broadside. Heero Yuy NOT working? Had the sun not come up? Had hell frozen over? Had I been dreaming all of this time? I pinched myself. "Ow!" Yeah, I was awake, awake and damned confused. "Why... What did he say was the reason?"
"He didn't say anything," Quatre told me. "He just did not come in. When I called, his answering machine picked up the line."
I felt a jolt of worry. What if... Okay, I couldn't begin to imagine a situation that Heero couldn't handle. "When he left my place..."
Quatre jumped on that, interrupting, "You saw him this morning?"
"Yesterday," I told him thoughtfully and then felt guilty. Stupid, right? Guilty that I had made Heero so mad, so upset that he hadn't come into work.... or maybe I was thinking too much of myself. Maybe it didn't have to do with me at all. "Can I have his address? I should go check on him, don't you think?"
Quatre smiled and it was soft and far too wise. I was suddenly very suspicious. "You know something," I accused.
Quatre shrugged. "I know something that is plain to everyone, but you and Heero, it seems." He kept smiling like a damned Mona Lisa, completely enigmatic. "As to where Heero is or what he is doing now? That, I don't know. I think that you should go and find out. Consider it a mission."
"Quatre...," I sighed. "If you say it that way, then I have to tell you... I pissed him off yesterday. I might not be the best person to look for him. "
"But you want to go?" Quatre asked pointedly.
I hesitated, wondering about it. I did want to go and I struggled to explain why to myself more than to Quatre. "I guess I like sticking my head in the lion's mouth and seeing if it gets bit off. Maybe I should join Trowa in the circus and become a lion tamer?" I said and then frowned, thinking that Quatre wouldn't understand what I was talking about.
"Maybe you just think it's a lion?" Quatre wondered gently and I stared at him owlishly. He patted my hand and stood up, holding my resignation. "The mission is still yours, if you want it. Report back to me only after you've found him and talked to him."
"All right," I replied.
Quatre sighed and said, "Duo, sometimes you just have to believe and stop doubting what you know."
"What do I know?" I wondered. Quatre was being worse than some mystic on a mountain top and he could see that he wasn't getting through to me.
"Duo," Quatre replied in exasperation, "That man, the one that you always bought hot dogs from outside of Preventer Headquarters... Do you think that he liked you?"
I was completely confused now, but I nodded and couldn't help a fond smirk. "Yeah, he did. He sounded like an asshole, but... yeah."
"How did you know?" Quatre persisted.
I rubbed the back of my neck, thinking about it, and then replied, "Well, if you looked real close, you could see it in his eyes. Most people are like that. You can't really hide the way you feel about someone."
"Unless the person you're hiding your feelings from never looks hard enough," Quatre pointed out. He gave me a blue eyed, knowing look, and then he was gone, off to another meeting with someone else.
I sat in my chair and tried to sort it all out. I'm not THAT stupid. Quatre was trying to tell me that Heero didn't hate me, and that I was making assumptions that he thought were wrong. I wondered why he was so damned sure about it. I was the one who had spent the most time with Heero, not him. If anyone could evaluate Heero Yuy correctly, it was me. Quatre hadn't been there when Heero had run out of my house. He hadn't seen... well... I hadn't either. I had pretty much stuck my head in the sand while I had said my piece yesterday and I hadn't seen how Heero had taken it. Running away seemed a good indicator, but... shit! I really didn't know, did I? I guess finding him was going to be the real moment of truth. When he told me to fuck off and die, I could report back to Quatre that he didn't know shit about nothing.
I looked down and saw that I had been doodling again. I'm sure Quatre had seen it too. On the cover of my notepad, I had drawn a heart being blown to bits by a beam cannon.
Go to Chapter 11
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