Pins and Needles
His military cell was going off, ringing incessantly into his ear, but he did not want to be bothered with it. The night before, he and Duo had gone to a movie that had been filled with talentless actors and a hackneyed plot. Heero had never enjoyed a movie quite so much before, hell with the horridness of the movie, because Duo had been there. He had made snide comments about the lead actress’s overly impressive rack that must have doubled as a flotation device, the plot holes that a train could have whistled through and the supporting cast’s inability to form a coherent sentence. That had led to them going to a late night coffee shop, which in turn had led to an interesting conversation about everything under the sun. Then there had been a long bout of kissing and tasting, hands roaming over bodies and lips leaving trails across skin. Until about five in the morning.
Heero, of course, was used to not sleeping much. As a soldier, as part of the Trio, he could go for a week without any solid rest and still function. But right now, after two hours of sleep filled with dreams of Duo, he really could not be bothered to get up to answer the phone. The military phone that everyone was obligated to answer when it rang.
Oh yes, obligated.
Groaning, Heero reached over and flipped the cell open, his rusty voice growling into the mouthpiece.
“Good morning, sunshine.”
Who the hell would sound that obscenely cheerful and gleefully aware in the morning?
“Quatre.. how the hell do you know it’s morning here?”
Heero was quite sure that he had never told anyone where his apartment was. This place was a sanctuary of sorts, a place he came to rarely, but when he did, he could feel like he was not just a soldier. He had been damned sure about not telling anyone in the military about it.
“Heero, please, you insult me when you ask such things. New Edwards treating you badly?”
“Quatre,” Heero fiercely growled into the phone, “there better be a mission or I will have to kill you, leader or not.”
Over the phone line and across the ocean, Quatre frowned into the phone. This was quite unusual, for Heero to act so blatantly hostile towards him. After all, he had called Heero at more ungodly hours before without getting threatened or growled at. He hoped that the enforced leave was not messing with Heero’s well being. It would be a shame to lose such a spectacular soldier.
“No mission, but it is my duty to check on those under my command once a month. Plus, I want you to check something for me.”
As grumpy as Heero was, he could not refuse something asked of him by his leader. If it had not been important, Quatre would not have called, even if under the pretense of checking up on him as duty imposed. But then again, this was as long as he had been apart from Quatre and Trowa ever since the three of them had gotten together in the unit. In the past, they had only taken short breaks, eight hours at the most, away from each other. Now, it was over a month and perhaps Quatre had been genuinely concerned. And in need of a favor, of course.
“What is it?” It was his duty to follow his superior officer, but he was under no obligation to sound pleasant about it.
“The naval forces captured one of the Dragon’s rebels three nights back.”
“Are they rubbing it in our faces?”
“No,” Quatre said, suddenly turning pensive, “in fact, they didn’t even know about our failed mission. Anyway, the important thing is, the rebel cracked under interrogation.”
Interrogation. That was a nice sounding word for what the navy did to their prisoners. It would have been more apt to say ‘severe beating followed by drugs disallowed by every treaty of the earth,’ but Heero didn’t want to argue semantics or methodology with Quatre.
“So, what did he reveal?”
“According to the navy intelligence, the rebel didn’t say anything until he finally died. Even then, all he could say was beg forgiveness from someone he apparently considered as his leader.”
Now that was interesting. For five years now, the armed forces and the Trio had been on the tails of the Dragon’s insurrectionist group and they had never pried any names out of the captured rebels. Whoever their leader was, the Dragon as he called himself, he garnered a fierce loyalty that the army itself envied.
“So,” Heero spoke, suddenly more alert and awake, “do we have the name of the Dragon? His real name?”
Oh the possibilities.. with the Dragon’s real name, the army would be able to track his past, find pictures, family, anything to aid in capture. With the Dragon captured, the only real threat to the peace of the government would be eliminated and he would have more time away from the military. Time he could spend with Duo, time he could use to fix the inevitable breach that would be caused when he finally revealed to Duo what and who he really was.
“I don’t know if it’s the Dragon’s name or not. The prisoner died before he could confirm.”
“Don’t leave me in suspense, Quatre,” Heero spat out, “just give me the name and I’ll check it out.”
“Thanks Heero. I don’t much count on the naval or army intelligence. They are incompetent at best.”
“Name?” Heero snapped out, finally losing patience. He had heard of lengthening out the final conclusion for drama’s sake, but this was verging on cruel.
“Duo. Apparently, he kept saying ‘please forgive me, Duo.’”
Quatre waited for Heero’s response, something along the lines of ‘I’ll get on it right away’, but all he heard was harsh breathing.
“Heero? Hello, are you going to investigate or not?”
Heero did not hear Quatre. In fact, he had stopped listening to his superior officer as soon as he had said Duo. How many men on earth was named Duo? Not many, he’d wager. What the hell was going on?
It couldn’t possibly be Duo. Not his Duo. It could not be the same Duo he knew, he was only eighteen for Christ’s sake. More than that, Duo had these amazing violet eyes that could not possibly belong to someone as vile as a rebel. He also had that long, braided hair that had a life of its own, something that could not be practical for a terrorist. He was too bright, too beautiful, too wonderful to be a part of the rebellion.
Then again, how much did he really know about Duo? He had no idea where he had lived before New Edwards. For that matter, it seemed that he knew nothing about Duo’s past at all, except that it seemed abnormal. He had learned nothing about Duo’s past in the month and a half he had known him, nothing worth mentioning. All he knew was that Duo was kind, funny, sometimes annoying but always interesting. Then there were those rare moments of introspection Duo seemed to have, moments when he was quiet, untouchable in his solitude. At those times, Heero had wanted to reach out and surround him in a hug, to give him warmth and comfort.
Basically, he did not really know Duo. He only knew what Duo had chosen to show him, and the only person that he understood was the man Duo had constructed for his benefit.
“Quatre,” Heero grated, “are you damned sure.. that the name was..”
“Yes. When have I ever made a mistake?”
Never. Quatre never made mistakes. He was too thorough, too professional to make a mistake. Then it was set, Heero thought with a sickly grin, Duo was.. he was the enemy.
Without waiting for Quatre to bid him luck, Heero closed his cell and padded into the living room. So, that was the game Duo had been playing all along, to pretend to be a civilian.
‘Well, it isn’t as if you had been so honest with him either.’
Squashing guilt that he should not be feeling, Heero ground his teeth together in an effort to calm his raging head. So he had been lying to Duo, but in retrospect, it had been a blessing. Had Duo known of his true occupation, his treacherous, wonderful man would have taken off without a trace. Because of the lies, he had gotten closer to Duo. He had allowed Duo into his world, let him come into his sanctuary, his life, something he had never allowed anyone else. What had once been a simple plan to act the civilian for the sake of having a normal experience had turned out to be the best thing of all.
Lies, though they still stuck in his gut like a barb, would now serve a bigger purpose. Duo liked him, he spent time with him. In a month and a half, he had become a major part of Duo’s life, something that he was sure wasn’t in the rebel’s normal modus operandi. He could use Duo’s affection, make him love, make him trust.. make him betray.
In order to do that, Heero had to crush the feeling of betrayal in his heart, get over the terrible remorse he still felt for lying to Duo. If anything, he had to get more affectionate, more loving and more understanding. He had to drag out of Duo the little, essential pieces of his rebellion life, enough so that he could bring down the rebellion.
Then, only after all that had been accomplished, could he kill Duo.
Duo sat fidgeting on Heero’s couch, his fingers drumming incessantly against the fabric of the cushion. He did not know why or how, but for the past few days, Heero had been tense, distant and aloof, often brushing him off or ignoring the things he said. Conversations had been short and pointless, mostly carried on by Duo, as Heero sat and brooded over something.
The tension was getting to Duo, and the soundless, wordless shell that Heero had created between them only seemed to increase the gulf between them. When the rift had been born, Duo knew. It had been give days ago, when Duo had come over for their lunch date with a smile and a bag of fast food. He had not gotten a smiling greeting he had become so used to, nor even a simple ‘hello’ that the cashier at the grocer’s got. Ever since then, though he and Heero still spent a significant portion of each day and night together, things had been off kilter and Duo knew not how to fix it.
Maybe he had done something wrong, but how would he ever know what it was if Heero did not say anything? And even if he had committed an act of indescribable indiscretion, Heero should not have frozen him out like this. Duo understood the kind of person Heero was. Heero might not have been the friendliest or even the nicest, but he was fair. He was not the childish or perverse type to engage in the silent treatment. Hence, it was even more disturbing that it was happening.
Duo’s thoughts circled in his head until he could feel a migraine begin on the lower left base of his skull. The pain was not welcome, but it could play distraction to the awful blanket of silence that hovered between them. They were supposedly watching a movie on the television, but Duo could not concentrate on it due to his thinking and he could see that Heero’s eyes were too far away to be paying attention to it. Whatever it was that had gotten between them, they had to solve it. Duo had not ignored all common sense and warning signals about Heero only to lose his friendship and affection because of something he did not know.
“Say, Heero, what is going on?”
It was tentative, not accusatory or aggressive. Duo had modulated his voice just right so that it had sounded casual, almost nonchalant, as if he did not care if Heero answered or not. Of course, he wanted an answer, a straight, honest one, but if he seemed like he was too eager, Heero might not respond positively. It was a fine line he walked, and he was bound and determined not to fall off it.
“What do you mean?”
Now, was Heero playing dumb or did he really not see what was going on? Heero was an intelligent and perceptive man, so he could not be that dense.
“Heero.. please, don’t play games.”
Heero heard the frustration and hurt in Duo’s voice, quavering through his larynx like a too taut bowstring. But Duo did not know the dilemma of his soul. He did not know what kind of war he was waging within himself. A part of him wanted to just lash out at Duo for tricking him this way, for hiding the fact that he was a rebel. He blamed Duo for lying to him – or rather, not revealing it. Duo had never lied, of course, only dealing in half-truths and deceptive double talk.
His plan.. hadn’t he set up a plan? Had he not decided to play the fool for Duo, make the boy fall for him completely so that he could be used effectively? Then why was it so hard to hide away the hurt and the bitter taste of Duo’s duplicity?
If it had been anyone else but Duo, he would not have been so affected. Had it been Quatre or Trowa, Heero would have been able to bury all feelings of loyalty and bonds of friendship without feeling a hint of guilt or sadness, giving it all over for the sake of the mission. But it had been Duo who had lied to him. The damned rebel had taken a large chunk of his heart before he had even realized it and then unknowingly crushed it underneath the weight of reality.
And now, what was Duo’s true purpose? Why had a rebel high enough in the ranks to receive an apology from a dying man come to this town? There was nothing of import in this seaside city, no bases, no secret information databases, nothing. More importantly, what of their relationship? The touches, the laughs, the kisses..
What would he do about those precious things?
“Duo, I wish I could tell you what was on my mind..” Heero mumbled, knowing he had to say something. Yet, after he had said it, he saw that it really was his wish that he could talk to Duo about what was bothering him.
‘Well,’ Heero thought with a derisive snort, ‘that’s fucking rich. Talk to Duo about his own traitorous acts. I must be crazy.’
That had not helped Duo in his effort to get Heero to tell him just what the hell was going on. Perhaps it was not a matter Heero could talk to him about, such as all things pertaining to his status as a soldier and part of the Trio. If that was the case, Duo would not press the issue for if the situation had been reversed, he would not have wanted Heero to pry into it either. In a relationship built upon lies and omissions, no matter how enchanting and lovely, truth could destroy everything. Duo did not want to lose anything that had to do with Heero, even if it meant that the lies had to continue.
“How can I help?”
How could Duo do that, ask something so simple and trite, yet still make him feel better?
“I don’t know.. I don’t know if there is anything you can do.” Maybe except not be in the rebellion.
The despair and pain were so obvious, the way Heero had tore out the admission out of the depths of his heart. It made Duo hurt for him and he did the only thing he could do. He moved close to Heero and carefully, lovingly, hugged the man who had come to mean so much to him.
Heero wanted to pull away from the warm embrace. He wanted to stay within the encircling arms forever. The dipolar wishes clashed against one another in his head, making him squeeze his eyes shut to drive away the insanity. But his body relaxed into Duo’s and in time, as Duo’s hands rubbed soothing circles across his back and arms, his head relaxed with the body.
It was the plan, was it not, to make himself indispensable to Duo? Then what the hell was he doing, driving him away? It was right to relax thus in his arms. It was right to feel comforted and safe with Duo. It was right to bask in his presence, enjoy his laughter and crave his touches. It was the plan.
There was no room for feeling betrayed or shocked at who Duo was. He had to bury those confusing thoughts deep within himself so that he could spend the days with Duo in the glow of their affection and shared need for each other. He had to encourage Duo’s affections, be kind to him, be loyal to him.. all in the name of the mission.
For the mission, he had to be with Duo. Even if he loved it.
Heero’s first visit to Duo’s apartment was filled with surprises. Ever since Heero had committed to Duo and the mission completely, they had not had problems. In fact, Heero would have said that they were closer than ever, constantly seeking each other out until it seemed that they spent no time apart. So far, they had spent their time together about the city in the various locales it housed and in Heero’s apartment. Not once had they gone to Duo’s place, but finally, they corrected the oversight and decided to spend some time at Duo’s apartment, if only for a change of pace. For Duo, it was nerve wracking, his eyes constantly shifting throughout the apartment looking for signs that he was Death. Heero took it as an opportunity to find much needed information.
Knowing of Duo’s preferences for the bright and warm colors, Heero had expected a cornucopia of reds and yellows, but he had been confronted with a drab, brown rug and a drabber looking couch that sat unceremoniously in the middle of the small studio apartment. The bed in the corner was no prize either, the sheets white and plain with no blankets or comforters. There were no posters or wall hangings, all the walls bare and stark white from one end of the apartment to the other. Heero also saw no evidence of magazines or books, the fridge had been stocked with a can of soda and a carton of take out Chinese food that had grown legs. In fact, no where in the apartment could Heero see any signs of Duo’s personality or tastes. It was an empty, soulless place.
“Yeah, not much of a place, huh?” Duo said with a rueful smile, knowing that he had done nothing to decorate this place. After all, this place wasn’t home, not really. It was just a place to sleep and hang out while he pretended normality, not a place to settle down in. That was a blessing in disguise as well, for he could not pick out anything out of the ordinary and Heero would never suspect.
Heero could somewhat understand why Duo hadn’t decorated. As a soldier, whether it be for the government or the rebellion, one never put down roots in a place that he knew would not be permanent. It was more apparent to him more than ever that Duo was in New Edwards for a temporary time. Duo wasn’t free of the rebellion as a small, insignificant part of him had hoped.
If that was the case, if Duo had no thoughts to settling down, then why had Duo bought so much stuff to go in Heero’s own apartment, things that were not to Heero’s tastes at all? There was a throw pillow that graced Heero’s couch, a burgundy velvet decorated with gold trimmings, that Duo had brought over a couple of weeks ago. Then there was that Matisse print in bold colors and arrogant strokes that contrasted rather horribly with Heero’s own soft impressionist prints. And how could he forget the gaudy wind chime built out of copper and bronze pieces of incongruous mass and shapes that now hung from the curtain rods above his patio doors?
Yet, Duo had bought nothing for this place. There was only a couch, a carpet, a table and a bed in the far corner.
“At least you have technology,” Heero finally said when his eyes landed on a black laptop that sat partially hidden beneath the bed.
“Yeah, well, I need something to do when I’m not with you.”
Heero wasn’t fooled. He knew what that computer meant and what information it might hold. If he had that within his grasp, then he might not need Duo at all. It was the answer to his prayers.
Heero only half listened as Duo related a story about the games he played on his computer and the junk emails he got on a daily basis, surreptitiously eyeing the machine every chance he got. He nodded at key moments of the monologue and even answered in succinct phrases when called for, but all the while, he focused on the thing that could make the mission to find out about the rebellion a success beyond belief.
“Great!” he heard Duo say, but what had been said just before that? Heero ran the conversation back in his mind and saw that he had agreed to go back to his apartment for the night.
‘Great, now how am I supposed to get my hands on that laptop?’
Had Duo suspected anything, he would not have been so willing to be blindfolded and led about the city by Heero’s hand. Knowing that Duo had an excellent sense of direction and a perfect memory of the city’s layout, it had been necessary to make many circuitous routes, detouring through alleys and double backing more often than during an official military strategy. What should have taken five minutes had Heero taken the direct route took nearly an hour under the setting sun and by the time they arrived at their destination, Duo was more annoyed than excited and Heero was just tired.
Perhaps, Heero thought, he had overdone it a little.
More groping footsteps, a couple of stumbles down the stairs and a few mishaps involving the maitre d’ later, they were seated with a breath of relief from the patrons of the restaurant. When the blindfold finally came off, Duo stared hard at the décor, the menu and Heero before he deigned to speak.
“I know you wanted to surprise me, but was it really necessary to drag me around for an hour like that? I’m all hot and sticky now.”
Heero took a cleansing breath, expelling it slowly through his lips.
“I wanted to make you smile.”
“That’s nice and all, and it might be nicer if you can say that without ripping the enamel off your teeth.”
Zen. Think Zen. Calm, flowing waters and tall, majestic trees. Oh the hell with it.
“I must apologize,” Heero said through his clenched jaw muscles, “for trying to surprise my goddamned ungrateful boyfriend for a romantic night out.”
If Heero had not been so angry at Duo’s unreasonable reaction, he might have gotten a laugh out of the way Duo’s jaw had dropped. But he was in no mood to appreciate the expression and he had long ago abandoned the notion that this night would turn out as he had hoped.
“The next time I decide to treat you to a surprise, I’ll just save myself the trouble and throw myself onto a bed of sharp knives.”
Irritated and bothered, Heero snatched the water off the table, wishing that it was whiskey, and guzzled. He nearly choked and spat the water out when Duo suddenly launched himself at him, holding on tightly as the rest of the restaurant pretended not to notice.
“You don’t have to sound so surprised.”
Just one more step in furtherance of the plan, Yuy. No need to get sentimental. Heero blamed the near choking incident for the tight feeling in his chest. He blamed the ice for the light headedness. It was nothing special.
“Boyfriend sounds nice.” Duo said, burying his face further into Heero’s shoulder. It was wondrous, being called that. It was a designation of affection and loyalty, something he had no right to ask of Heero, not when they were the people that they were, but still..
It could not be so wrong if it felt this beautiful.
“Shall we start this evening over?” Heero whispered as he gently disengaged Duo’s arms from his neck before he lost all airway passage to his lungs.
“Sure thing,” answered Duo, slowly moving back into his seat, “and I give you permission to surprise me all the time.”
“It would only be fair since you surprise the hell out of me on a daily basis.”
Laughing, they linked their hands over the table and held on tight.
In the past, Heero had been the kind of man who finished his missions with alacrity and precision. Whenever he had a mission, he would take care of it quickly and efficiently, never lagging or delaying. Therefore, it came as a surprise to him when Quatre called and asked him about the investigation, he had nothing to tell him.
He did not think twice about not telling Quatre about his relationship with Duo. That information was necessary to no one. Moreover, he rationalized, he could be wrong about Duo and his affiliations and telling Quatre so soon before any information had been gathered would be jumping the gun, opening himself and the Trio up for further humiliation.
All that really meant was that he had nothing to report. He honestly hadn’t tried to do much, he admitted to himself, except spend time with Duo. Surely, he kept telling himself as often as possible that the only reason he was with Duo was for the mission’s sake, but still, he had not asked him anything. He had even forgotten about the laptop until Quatre had squawked at him for being lax in his duties.
None of that really mattered to him, however. Was he not spending every waking and nearly almost all sleeping hours by Duo’s side? It was as if he had put the rebel under twenty four hour surveillance, wiretapped his phones and bugged his house. He was present for every conversation Duo had, even if most of them were with him alone, and he was privy to all his moods, desires and needs. He knew what Duo would say before he said it, he knew what each glance and quirk of lips represented and he could even decipher the mood Duo was in just by the way he twirled the tip of his braid. If that wasn’t dedication, then what was?
But Quatre would not be interested in those things. He had nearly screamed at Heero for not having found out anything of vital importance, such as if the person named Duo was the Dragon or one of his officers, or where he might be at this present time. He had wanted height, weight, hair color, eye color, size of the man’s pants.
Though Heero knew all those things, he had not told Quatre. There was no need for his leader to know any of this. Had the blond known, he would have come with Trowa in tow to take Duo away to some military base to question him. Heero was absolutely sure that Duo would never give up any information in such settings. The only way to discover anything was by being with him, developing this relationship they had to the point where all that would matter to Duo was Heero.
Then and only then could the mission be successful.
Quatre did not know of this and that was the only reason Heero had not yelled back at him for being an ass. Quatre should have known better than to accuse Heero of slacking off on a mission. It was insulting, degrading and most of all, a terrible blow to his ego. His superior officer did not know it, but he was putting all of his time into figuring out who Duo was. Even if the time spent was peaceful and soothing to his soul, it did not obstruct his ultimate mission.
Not a single bit.
Duo understood how stove ranges worked. They were fed by a gas line, the flames were controlled by the knobs, and if the pilot light went out, all he had to do was turn off the gas to relight it. It was a simple appliance that he had used often while in the rebel base, making explosives and heating water.
That apparently did not mean that he could cook things on it.
For three months, he and Heero had either eaten out or Heero had fixed simple sandwiches using precut meat and fresh produce. They had not cooked together, finding the procedure much too tedious and unnecessary since the city had a variety of eating establishments most of which delivered directly to the door. But Duo had gotten rather curious about cooking as of late, and he blamed it all on the movie he had watched with Heero earlier that week.
It had been a romantic comedy about two people who obviously had mental issues and problems communicating. Added on to that had been a group of friends who constantly had gotten in the way of the romance, inadvertently and otherwise, fending off the obvious conclusion until the end of the movie. It had been trite, overdone and a little too sappy for his taste, but it had impressed upon him the importance of cooking for one’s boyfriend.
What could be more normal than that? What could state as plain as yogurt that he was not a rebel and Heero not a soldier than a romantic night in with food cooked with his own hands?
When Heero stepped into his apartment after having been gone only for an hour to run a simple errand to the post office, he was greeted with what Duo had done to his kitchen all in the name of romance. Apocalyptic did not quite do the scene before him justice, for he was sure that an apocalypse would have been neater.
“Duo..” he trailed off, at a loss of words. All he could think was that Duo had somehow found out that he was not a computer analyst but a member of the Trio and had decided to blow up his apartment.
“I don’t know how the hell this happened! I swear, I don’t.”
Nodding absently, Heero wandered into the kitchen on auto pilot and looked around with a disbelieving eye. His white countertop was lost somewhere beneath a quivering pile of.. brown and there was something smoking and twitching in the sink. He did not want to know.
“What..” Heero cleared his throat, wiping a finger down the brown goo that clung to the digit with tenacity, “what were you doing?”
“Uh.. cooking, I think.”
Sparing a glance at his contrite boyfriend, Heero shook his finger to dislodge the sticky substance.
“What were you cooking? C4?”
Though his eyes were still in shock from the state of his kitchen, he did not miss the guilty looking twitch to Duo’s shoulders. That made him angry, more than the mess in the kitchen possibly could have. Had Duo really been..
“No,” Duo said as he scraped at the countertop with his nails, “just dinner.”
The relief that washed over him was so swift and sudden that it nearly brought Heero to his knees. Of course Duo had not been making illegal explosives in his kitchen. He was a terrorist rebel, but he wasn’t stupid or conniving. It wasn’t in his nature.
“The dinner was supposed to be that?” Heero pointed at the smoking pile of something in the sink and sighed. In the wake of the relief was a deep seeded amusement at the situation, but he would not show that to Duo.
“It was a roast. Or something. Not too sure.”
Shaking his head, Heero muttered out that they should order out and never use the kitchen again unless it was for making coffee. Duo happily agreed, pleasantly surprised that Heero had not been mad, and readily phoned out to their favorite Italian place for some decent, edible food.
They decided to clean the kitchen immediately following dinner before the mess could take root and the process turned itself into a pleasant endeavor for both. Heero’s constant wrangling of Duo’s nonexistent cooking abilities and Duo’s clever come-backs made the job a fast one, the kitchen returning to its sparkling glory before they knew it. When they were finally done, Duo looked around and smiled, knowing that this was yet another precious memory he would have of Heero, filing it away into his mind to hold. Their time together would not last forever, much as he wished it fervently, and he would not waste a single moment. Every minute was tucked firmly into his heart, never to be forgotten.
Heero had much the same thoughts and for a moment, he wanted to forget that Duo was a rebel. He wanted to tell Quatre that he had no idea who Duo was, that the investigation had been a complete bust. He wanted to hold onto the feelings Duo evoked in him in moments like this and hell with the consequences. But that was only a fleeting thought, chased out quickly and abruptly by the soldier in him.