Pins and Needles
It had been only two days since he had met Heero, but the man filled his thoughts during his waking hours and plagued his dreams at night. He, Duo Maxwell, had spent an entire day with someone not of the rebellion, talking to him about mundane things like what was a good flavor of ice cream and if the city should spray for bugs. The day had been wonderful and he wanted to do it again.
‘Stop it, Heero’s dangerous.’
The fleeting thought stopped his momentum of joyous feelings, casting a dark cloud over his hither to never experienced giddiness at the thought of someone else. True, Heero was dangerous. And true, when Duo had asked him about his job, Heero had said without blinking an eye that he was a computer analyst, only confirming his suspicion that Heero was a soldier and a poor liar to boot. Then again, maybe Heero did not want him to think of him as a soldier, preferring to do something normal just like him. After all, Heero had settled in a completely civilian town so maybe he had been looking for something different, just like he was.
Duo could understand that impetus, so he did not fault Heero the lie. When Heero had asked him about what he did, he had used evasive maneuvers, practically kissing the line between the truth and the lie. Heero was dangerous, yes, but only if he found out that Duo Maxwell was more than the average eighteen year old boy. If Heero didn’t know, then there was no danger, not to him, not to the rebellion.
‘Maybe I should call..’
That brought about feelings of nervousness and anxiety, both quite foreign to him outside the context of a mission gone bad. With fingers slightly cold from the tension, Duo reached into his pocket and drew out a crumpled piece of paper with neatly printed numbers on it. Heero had given him his phone number. To call. Duo had not given Heero his number, but then again, he had not even thought of it. He had never called anyone on a phone before – the rebels dealt in secure lines of transmitters that could be encoded and scrambled, not in phones that could be traced and tapped into with ease.
What would he say? ‘Hello, this is Duo, is Mr. Heero..’
Come to think of it, what was Heero’s last name? The question had never come up. Some time during the day outing, Duo had mentioned his last name to demonstrate the commonness of his last name as opposed to the unusual nature of his first name, but he could not recall if Heero had ever mentioned his full name to him.
Thankfully, Duo was a resourceful guy with good hacking skills. Being in the rebellion had taught him many things, maybe not how to deal with the nervous group of butterflies in his stomach at the thought of Heero, but useful things nonetheless. With a mischievous smile he had not worn since his days on the street, Duo hopped to his computer, booted it up and snuck his way into the phone directory. Duo was fairly certain that Heero would not have his number listed, what soldier would, and therefore, he had to swim around in the private, unlisted numbers hidden within the databases.
Pulling out the number, he input it and waited for the computer to find the match. Heero what, he wondered. He had brown hair and those blue eyes, but his facial features bespoke of an Asian ancestry. Heero certainly didn’t have the pure ancestry that Wufei did, but the bone structure was there. However, the features were sharper, more defined than Wufei’s, so Duo concluded that Heero wasn’t of Chinese descent. So.. Heero.. what? Japanese? Korean? Taiwanese? Nothing else really fit.
He looked at the screen as the computer scrolled through the numbers, eyes lighting up when the screen flashed that it had indeed found a match. Smiling at his sneaky tactic, Duo pulled up the name and the file, only to find his smile disappearing into a frozen look of disbelief.
The phone number belonged to Yuy, Heero.
He was hanging out with one of the Trio. He was mooning over a man who had tried his damnest to catch him and kill him. He was fantasizing over the blue eyes of someone who would not hesitate to put a bullet in his brain.
He had known that Heero was a soldier and had dealt with that fact, damn it. Did he really have to find out that Heero was Heero Yuy, the name he had identified as one of the Trio? It could not be coincidence of names, Heero Yuy was not a name that popped up every day, not like Jim Jones or something to that effect. No, it was an unusual name that had popped up in his search for the Trio and now, in his effort to be cute and sneaky.
If he had thought life was unfair when Heero had been chasing him around the burnt out town.. this was infinitely worse. What kind of gods were up there that they would set him up like this, to have him run into the only person he had felt a connection with turn out to be his bitterest of enemies?
“Damn it all to hell!”
Duo smashed his clenched fists onto the table, shaking the computer and displacing the papers onto the floor. He could not believe that in his dream to lead a normal life just for a short time, he had found Heero Yuy.
What could he do but cut off all connections between them? If he did not call, he would lose touch with Heero and when he went back to the rebellion, he could tell Wufei who one of the Trio was. He should have had nothing to do with him in the first place, it should have been basic instinct on his part when he had sensed that Heero was a soldier. Instead of listening to his long ingrained sense of survival, he had made friends with him. Even worse, he was attracted to the man.
“I just have to forget about him.”
Saying it out loud should have helped him firm his resolve, but it only left a sour taste in his mouth. What was wrong with his survival instinct? Did he want Heero to find out and kill him?
Wait. Did Heero have to know?
Duo thought about it. Unlike Heero, he was not in the system. As an abandoned child of the streets, he had never been tagged by social services. He had always escaped the clutches of authorities and identification. As far as Heero knew, and ever would know unless he told him, would be that Duo Maxwell was just a guy. To Heero, he wasn’t a rebel, he wasn’t Death. He was just Duo.
Breathing shallowly to get his heart rate back to a healthy rhythm, Duo wondered if it would be so damned bad if he did get to be friends with Heero. He would never put Wufei or the rebellion in danger – he wouldn’t have said a word had he been captured and put under truth drugs and torture. Certainly, he would not pose a threat to his friend or his cause. Moreover, Heero would never know for how could he? Heero probably didn’t even suspect that the right hand man of the rebellion was currently on hiatus, taking a sabbatical away from the bloody mess of a war in a city as far removed from the conflict as New Edwards.
Besides, Duo could not see himself selling out Heero to Wufei. It would mean Heero’s death and even though his loyalties to Wufei were ironclad, he would not be able to turn Heero over to the rebellion.
Additionally, he continued to rationalize, he was not a part of the rebellion as of this moment. He was just a civilian. He could enjoy Heero’s company, pretend to be normal for a while and not endanger anything or anyone. He was the only one with the knowledge of the situation in its entirety. As long as he did not break down and blurt out the truth, no one had to know. Not Heero, not Wufei, not anyone.
‘Jesus, Duo, you’re really playing with fire here..’
He knew that. Better than anyone, he knew that. But still.. it could not be so bad to wish to have Heero in his life for a short time. It could not be against the laws of nature to laugh with Heero, talk to him about silly things.
‘You’re the stupidest idiot, Duo Maxwell.’
He acknowledge that as truthful, but idiot or not, why not try be Heero’s friend? Now that he knew, he had a better incentive to be careful. Just imagine if he had not known and said something that the soldier in Heero would pick up as rebel talk or ideology. That would have been infinitely more dangerous. Even more than before, hanging out with Heero had to be safer.
‘If I know who the enemy is, the danger is less. If the enemy does not know me, the danger is almost nothing.’
Duo marveled at the fact that he could convince himself of this, but in the end, he did. He bought his own load of reasoning lock, stock and barrel. He would continue on with Heero, ask him to be his friend.
‘I know who the wolf is. He can’t hurt me if I know him.’
Firmly nodding, Duo decided. He would call Heero and further their relationship, whatever it was. If he could not get the man out of his mind after only one day of meeting, then he had to be worth the time and the danger. His mind made up, his resolve solid, Duo picked up the phone and dialed the number; at least now, after all the revelations and rationalizations, calling him did not seem so hard.
Puzzles had always been his forte, if not his secret obsession. He liked fitting pieces together, putting one unlikely piece of information next another and making them connect until a full picture emerged. Except for Quatre who had a genius level of tactical maneuvering and strategy, no one else excelled at solving puzzles like he did.
Therefore, this odd puzzle named Duo Maxwell should be enjoyable. When he had first encountered him, he had brushed him off as just another kid on a yen for adventure and freedom from his parents. After all, Duo had told him that he lived in the university district, 9th and Brandeman, he had said, and that was where all students and those who believed that there was art to life went to sponge off their trust funds and parent’s bank accounts. At first encounter, Duo had seem no different from any of those kids, his eyes the color that had to be contact lens induced and his hair profanely long, impractical and unnecessary even if it glint in gold and red in the sun. Heero had definitely pegged him as a kid of loose money and means, out to hit on an older man as a pastime, trying out his newly found freedom.
However, that had not been the case. Duo had gone and changed all those opinions and Heero now found himself mired within the young man. He still did not know why he had volunteered, not even forced, but actually, out of his own free will volunteered, to show the boy around the town. New Edwards was not a hard place to navigate, just a strict grid of squares that only a completely directionless moron would get lost in. Duo was not one of those.
The tour of the town, as impromptu as it was, had been quite pleasant for Heero. They walked everywhere, with Heero pointing out various shops and markets to Duo, making a show of the fact that yes, indeed, he did live there. Heero omitted few bits of vital information, such as it had been four years since he had last seen his apartment in New Edwards, that he did not really live permanently in the town as he had implied. Above all, he did not reveal that he was a soldier, nevermind that he was one of the Trio. For some reason, he had not wanted to scare Duo away from him as the day elapsed into evening. Surprisingly, he had liked the boy’s company, Duo showing more maturity than most people his age, his comments and questions intelligent and dryly sarcastic. It had been a great day for Heero, though he would never say it out loud.
There were some things that Duo had said, though, that made for the puzzle. Heero had said almost nothing about his personal life, had not even given the boy a hint as to where he lived exactly or what his occupation was, but that was with good reason. Duo, on the other hand, should not have had anything to hide. What did a civilian eighteen year old boy have to hide? But there had been hiding and Heero’s keen soldier instincts had picked up on them. For instance, Duo had evasively and skillfully dodged any questions about where he had lived and what he had done before he had come to New Edwards. Simple questions had been brushed aside in favor of a different subject, while the more complicated ones had been answered in vague terms and nondescript words.
What would Duo have to hide? Or was he one of those who did not like revealing information about himself to a man he had just met and inadvertently picked up at a coffee shop?
Heero pondered some more, his thoughts lingering on Duo and his dodgy answers, but his revelry was broken when the phone rang. Normally, he would not pick up his phone, no one he knew called him there because everyone who counted had his military cell that was always strapped to his body, but he had given Duo the phone number to the apartment. Duo had suggested that he might call and arrange for yet another pleasant day out and Heero had not disagreed. It wasn’t wrong, especially since the military had shafted him so harshly after one measly failed mission, for him to enjoy himself with a non military personnel. Nothing wrong with it at all.
“Hello,” Heero clipped into the mouth piece, walking away from the phone stand to his dining room table where his dinner awaited, “Heero speaking.”
“Hey,” came a voice after a miniscule moment of hesitation, “it’s Duo. Remember?”
Heero grinned at the nervous voice coming across the line and pictured Duo sitting on his bed, or maybe his couch, probably crushing the life out of his phone with his fingers. It was an endearing sight.
“I suppose I do recall someone by the name of Duo. Was he an annoying brat who followed me around the town the other day?”
The laughter that invaded his ears was clear and husky at the same time, all traces of nerves gone. Heero’s heart skipped just a little bit, but he refused to dwell on it, blaming his reaction on his too cold tea he had picked up.
“That’d be me, yeah, but I’m not a brat. Brats are kids. I’m not a kid.”
‘No, you certainly aren’t, thank the gods.’
That made Heero pause. Since when did he start being grateful that Duo was an adult, as in legal for various things?
Hastily covering for his errant thought, Heero blurted the next thing that popped into his head.
“Have you tried out that Italian place I pointed out? The one on Third by Loren?”
“No,” came the reply, his voice strangely breathless, “but I thought I’d try it tomorrow night. Around eight.”
“Sounds wonderful. Mind if I join you?”
Just when he had gotten so damned forward and confident, Heero had no idea. In fact, he did not know just from where half of these lines were coming from.
“Is this going to be classified as a date?”
That was just too much. Duo had sounded very excited and scared at the same time, as if he had been asking Heero to kiss him and kill him at the same time.
Wait, kiss? Why the hell was he thinking about kissing?
“Date. I have not been on a date before, so I suppose you can call it that if that is what you call two people having dinner at a restaurant.”
An amused chuckle flowed through the ear piece and Heero realized how naďve and silly he had sounded. For some reason though, he didn’t mind much. In fact, since the two days he had met and gotten to know a certain Duo Maxwell, he did not mind much of anything.
He must be losing his keen edge. Not that he minded.
“I guess,” came Duo’s reply, “but I’ve never been on a date either so.. huh.”
“Then we’re on even ground. That is acceptable.”
Heero let himself be taken by the gentle flow of the conversation, not noticing that the lights of the city outside was dimming and his own apartment was turning into a dark room. He enjoyed the light banter, the sudden questions Duo would ask about various things around town like how many pounds of kidney beans a grocery store could sell before they realized that no one liked the blasted things, and the general, friendly tone of it all. It was different than how he spoke and interacted with Quatre or Trowa, the two other people he might have considered as friends. With Duo, he was more frank about his opinions, more open about his humor and more indulgent with the oddities that tended to flow out of the violet eyed man’s mouth.
But as much as he enjoyed the conversation, he could sense an underlying tension. Maybe Duo was nervous about the supposed date the next night, maybe he himself was a bit aflutter at the idea. Or maybe, it could have been because every time Duo asked him a question about his job or his friends, Heero was lying through his teeth to preserve his secret of being a soldier. As far as Duo knew, he was just a computer analyst, a normal, every day office worker who wore a polo shirt and khaki pants to work, who liked his coffee black and his scones fresh. As much as he told Duo, his friends from work were also normal, boring people with perfectly nuclear families at their beck and call.
As far as Duo was concerned, he was just a package of lies.
“I like this warm weather. I definitely like wearing short sleeved shirts.”
The day was more than warm according to Heero’s internal thermometer, but Duo seemed to think differently. To Heero, the more accurate description of current weather would be hot with a side of mildly suffocating humidity. This type of weather was normal for New Edwards, being so close to the equator and the sea, but no one who lived in New Edwards would call it warm.
“Duo,” Heero drawled with sarcasm, “if this is warm, I’d hate to know what your definition of hot is.”
Duo merely laughed and put his hand on Heero’s arm, ignoring the light sheen of sweat. He had only known Heero for scant three weeks and already, he was so comfortable with him, enough so that casual touching was the norm and spending every day in each other’s company was routine.
“Hot is when stepping outside causes your skin to blister. This.. this is definitely warm.”
Noticing how Duo’s hand was on his arm and how pleasant the sensation was, Heero could not come up with a pithy comment to counter Duo. According to the pattern established in the short time he had known Duo, their conversations were filled with observations, intelligent comments and the occasional come-back that was worthy of notice. Yet, this hot day, walking by the ocean front, Heero felt no need to continue the common routine. All he wanted was to enjoy the warmth of Duo’s touch and the gross weather.
“So,” Heero restarted the conversation, “I take it that you’re not a fan of the cold?”
Duo shook his head ruefully and bent his neck to bury his head into Heero’s shoulder. He could smell the faint hint of spicy cologne that Heero apparently used and the masculine odor that had to be pure Heero. It was true that Duo did not much like the cold – after all, he had spent most of his life in the cold, whether it be on the street searching for a warm place to lay down or cursing the non-working heating units in the rebellion base.
“The cold.. I got used to it, but I never liked it.”
From that, Heero deduced that before coming to New Edwards, Duo had lived in colder climes, perhaps near the northern hemisphere. Duo’s skin was still fair, the sun having no effect, not even leaving a pink tinge after hours of outside walking. Therefore, Duo had to be used to the darker and colder weather common in the northern sectors.
If Duo had known that Heero was speculating about where he might have been before coming to the pleasantly warm city of New Edwards, he might have stopped talking about the weather entirely. More than anyone, Duo knew the dangers of revealing too much information before Heero, but under the warm sun and the pleasantness of leaning against Heero, Duo forgot about the dangers and spoke his mind.
“Cold can seep into your bones, you know? Even when you’re inside and near a heat source, if it’s cold outside, it can really get to you. For most of my life, it was really cold. But here.. it’s different. It’s warm.”
There was a deep, wistful wanting present in Duo’s voice that made Heero’s heart ache. It hurt to know that Duo’s life had been so cold, enough so that he would talk of it with such a yearning for warmth. Heero had to wonder, what had happened to this young man that could have put such a sorrowful note in his usually cheerful alto voice, to have made him get that poignant over something as inconsequential as warm weather.
“Was it bad for you, Duo? Where you were?”
Such a deceptively simple question, but it made Duo’s heart beat double time in both anxiety and fear. There was no way Heero could know where he had been, that he had spent many years on the streets, that the first time he had met Heero was under bad circumstances in the pre-winter cold.
The pause before the answer made Heero wonder if he had asked a sensitive question. He knew for a fact that some people did not like talking of the past, after all, he was a prime example of that. But Duo had been so open with him, even if some questions were answered in vague terms still. It pulled on his heart painfully to think that Duo might be harboring a dark past, perhaps filled with unmentionable events.
On the tails of that, Heero thought that if anyone had hurt him, abused him in some way to make him silent and depressed even to this day, he would find who they were and carve out their internal organs with a dull shrimp fork. He did have training for such a thing.
Duo cleared his throat. It wouldn’t do to sound so.. guilty. Or nervous.
“It wasn’t that my life was so bad. I just.. I just hate the cold.”
Heero paused in mid stride to turn and face Duo, placing his hands on his slender shoulders and forcing him to look up at his eyes. Something about that answer bothered him, how it had sounded so desolate and empty. He wanted to comfort Duo, he realized, make him feel better, make him forget that the past was filled with memories that he’d rather not think about.
“Forget I asked, Duo. I didn’t mean to.. I don’t want.. Please, don’t be sad.”
When had he ever pleaded with anyone to stop being sad? When had he, Heero the remarkable soldier, ever tried to bring a smile to someone else’s face? Again, this was a new thing for him, one of many new things he had so far experienced with Duo.
“I’m not sad, Heero. Not when you’re here. Never when you’re here.”
It was impossible resist the impulse to lean down the mere inches to kiss Duo just then. Duo’s words brimming with sincerity and longing coupled with the warm, welcoming light of his violet eyes could not be denied. Heero had to kiss him, he felt it in his marrow, and he complied.
When his lips touched Duo’s firmly but hesitantly, he felt his heart melt. Duo’s lips, salty yet sweet, tasting of heavenly things that he had never anticipated, filled all his senses, overflowed within him. Then Duo molded himself into his body, his arms going around his neck and pressing his lips harder and more insistently, Heero could think no more. There were only waves upon waves of sensation, overwhelming and glorious, wiping out all things logical and reasonable from his mind and leaving only a ball of fire and heat deep within his gut.
It was primal, sensual and.. so damned innocent. The combination was intoxicating like the finest of cognacs, drugging his nerves and snuffing out everything around him except for the man he held in his arms.
Their first kiss ended with both of them dazed and amazed, their hearts beating frantically and their breaths coming quickly. Neither could say anything as they stared into each other’s eyes in awe in the middle of the boardwalk by the ocean. They did not see the people passing by them, glancing at them in curiosity and faint disapproval, but stood wrapped up in each other, letting the feeling grow into something more than just friendship and comfort.
Heero had never thought that a kiss could turn a man to mush in a public setting, but apparently, it was entirely possible. After an eternity of staring into Duo’s eyes, Heero could finally feel the world intrude in on them, from the thick wind from the sea to the tapping of other’s shoes on the wood of the boardwalk. He watched Duo’s eyes eventually lose the glaze of amazement and snap back into reality.
“Okay,” he heard Duo say, “that was something.”
Lips quirked in a roguish smile, Heero bent down to touch Duo’s nose with his lips. It would seem that all of a sudden, Heero could care less about displays of public affection, complete opposite of his usual self who avoided touching anyone in any setting. What was it that made him act like this with this one particular man?
“Duo, that has to be the biggest understatement.”
Duo withdrew slightly away, not breaking the hug but leaning back far enough to look at Heero full in the face, and grinned from ear to ear like a cat with a basketful of milk-fed mice.
“Just going for subtlety, Heero. If I’d said it was unbelievable and you didn’t agree, I’d be kind of embarrassed, you know?”
“Now, that’s just silly,” Heero replied, his own smile widening, “because I would have agreed.”
They stood in each other’s arms, grinning like fools at each other in the middle of the boardwalk for quite some time. They were in their own little word, made up only by and for the two of them.
“You might be right, Heero. It is hot.”
Yes, it was. To Heero, it was not only hot, but sweltering. The weather hadn’t changed, the temperature hadn’t suddenly taken a spike, but the fire burning within them was only making things hotter and hotter.
“Let’s get where it’s cooler, then.”
Duo nodded in agreement, disentangling himself from Heero long enough so that they could fast time it back to Heero’s apartment. Although he did have central air, Duo got the feeling that it would be hotter in there than it was outside.