The Space Between
"No way. Really?"
The expression on Duo’s face rivaled his voice in disbelief. It had only been a short month since Trowa and Quatre had come to an understanding. A short month since Trowa returned to L4 with him and Quatre with his meager belongings. Only a month since the three of them had started to live together like a family. And of course, as with all things that went well, they hit a slight snag.
"Truly. I can’t believe it myself."
Quatre’s stunned tone did much to assuage Duo’s shocked brain. When Trowa had come back earlier from his job at the Preventers, Duo had been lounging comfortably on the living room couch with a good book while Quatre had been listening to his favorite classical operas. It had been tranquil and then Trowa had shattered the mood with news. Not just any news. News about Wufei.
"I have confirmed it. He really is going to be a father."
Trowa’s deadpan voice did not betray the surprise he himself had felt when he had first heard the news through the Preventer’s grapevines. They had known that Wufei had married Sally a scant year ago after much badgering and persistence from the former federation doctor. From what Quatre had gathered through his information network, the courtship had been fraught with danger from the beginning. Only someone as stubborn as Wufei would have wrung a proposal out of him and Sally had fit the bill to the tee.
But a father! Duo’s mind spun at the possibilities. If it was a boy.. Well, he knew Wufei would drill justice into that poor kid’s mind unless Sally interfered. And if it was a girl.. The only thing that came to Duo’s mind was Wufei with a large gun standing by his daughter and chasing all boys who went near her out of the solar system.
"I hope to God that it’s not a girl."
Duo’s thoughts verbalized and Trowa nodded in agreement. Quatre only looked at Duo with a raised eyebrow, asking him silently to continue his train of thought.
"You know, Quat, Tro, Wufei’s kind of protective. I mean, if he had a boy, I wouldn’t worry about Wufei’s sanity as much. If you have a boy, you only have to worry about one dick. With a girl, you have to worry about every dick in the entire fucking universe."
Quatre choked on his tea and Trowa gently patted his back until the coughing fit passed. Once he regained his ability to breathe, all Quatre could do was laugh. What Duo had said was crude and crass, yes, but completely true. Poor Wufei.
"So, should we send him and Sally a gift? Some sort of congratulations?"
Ever thoughtful, Quatre was already considering the appropriate gifts for the couple. Duo and Trowalooked at him rather dubiously, wondering if they had any right to barge into Wufei’s life again. They hadn’t seen him since the war ended and there had been no contact. Hell, they had heard the news through a gossip chain - Wufei hadn’t even called them to say he was going to be a father. They hadn’t been invited to the wedding the year before either.
Whatever the situation, Duo found himself suggesting that they buy him and Sally a nice set of baby clothes. Perhaps they were no longer friends with Wufei, but maybe, with a bit of effort, they could be friends again.
Maybe, Duo could banish a little more of the loneliness that screamed in his heart.
Duo pressed his ear against Sally’s stomach and listened. He imagined that he could hear the baby’s heartbeat - he refused to believe that it was Sally’s. The thrumming of a new life just beneath his ears gave him a thrill, the thrill he used to get when he got a new kid at his orphanage.
Wufei looked on with a scowl, trying to pretend that this whole ordeal was making him angry. Unfortunately, his eyes refused to cooperate and everyone could see that there was a soft light in them. Sally smiled brightly at her husband. He looked happy. Four months ago, when the three ex-pilots had shown up at their house with a large fruit basket and a mountain of presents for the baby, Wufei had been angry. Not because he had not missed them, but because he had tried all those years to forget them, to bury his past. But as it was the way with friendships, the gentle fires had been relit and the four of them became as close as friends could be. Wufei had been happy before they had reentered his life, but now, he positively glowed. Even when he was yelling at Duo to get his filthy paws off his wife and future child.
It was quite interesting, the dynamic among these friends. Quatre and Trowa, the lovers and soulmates, shined like a bright star whenever they were near one another. Those two lived with Duo in Quatre’s large manse like a family. And Wufei and Sally had willingly transferred their Preventer’s assignment to L4 to be closer to the refound friends. They lived only a short distance away and visited as often as their schedules allowed. The family was growing and soon, a new life would add more meaning to their lives.
And yet, throughout these happy times of reunion and friendships, Duo felt like he was missing something. He knew what it was but refused to acknowledge it. Quatre and Trowa, Wufei and Sally. The gaps in their souls had been filled by each other. And as close to them as he was, Duo could never quite forget that he was the odd man out, the singular one. The irony hit him hard sometimes. The one whose name implied coupledom was the only one who was single. Lonely. Alone.
Every passing day only brought his loneliness to the forefront of his mind. He saw his best friends literally glowing from joy when they were with their soul mates. He wanted that too, to feel cherished like that. He wanted someone to fill the space in between, to banish his loneliness completely. Someone. He might as well substitute that word for Heero. It would have meant the same thing anyway.
Duo buried his head deeper into the pillow, but the insistent buzzing of the doorbell still came through loud. It was only six in the morning on a Saturday! And there was some early rising psycho with a sick penchant for repeatedly ringing the doorbell. Whoever it was, he was going to die if he didn’t stop.
Duo moaned as the doorbell kept ringing. Neither Quatre nor Trowa would answer since they were at a resort for the weekend to celebrate.. oh, something or other. He forgot what the occasion was, but the important part was that no one would relieve his misery by opening the door. Which meant that he had two options: one, stay in bed and hope the rude visitor went away until a decent hour in the day, or get up, yank open the door and give the guy on the other side hell for waking him up.
Option two was chosen when Duo finally decided that whoever was tormenting him would not go away. Grumbling and cursing, Duo shoved his legs into his pajama pants and stumbled out of bed. He didn’t bother with a shirt since his plan was to yell at the guy and trudge back into the comfort of his bed.
"I’m coming, goddammit, stop the fucking ringing!"
Duo had never claimed to be a morning person. In fact, if he could have it, mornings would be banned from the rest of his life. That and early risers who rang doorbells. And perhaps the deathly stuff the Preventer’s offices served to them as coffee.
Finally, Duo reached the door. The doorbell was still ringing. His left eye ticking dangerously, Duo practically ripped the door off its hinges as he filled his lungs. It was going to be an impressive tirade.
Unfortunately, words never came. In fact, the breath stuck in his lungs and nearly choked him to death. On the other side of the door stood the last person Duo would have ever expected to see. Blue eyes stared back at him fiercely.
Duo let out the air in his lungs with a loud whoosh. Words were still lost to him, but his jaw worked itself and his throat clamored to release a sound.
"Ah.. Ah.. Ah.."
"Hello, Duo. May I come in?"
Duo stared dumbly as the figure moved past him into the house. He had yet to speak, but there was one question burning in his mind.
What the hell was Relena Darlian doing here?
Awkward did not cover Duo’s predicament. He was in his pajama pants which needed to see the laundry, he had yet to put on a shirt and he was sitting across from the former Queen of the World with bed hair. For her part, Relena was looking quite beautiful and composed in her light blue suit and modest high heels. Her hair was perfect, all the blond strands in a tidy bun. She sat with her ankles crossed like a proper lady, her hands folded on her lap. She was staring at Duo with her powder blue eyes, her head tilted to the side slightly.
"How are you doing, Duo?"
"F.. Fine. You?"
Duo curved his lips into a smile, hoping that it did not look as painful as it felt. He wanted to diffuse the tension in the air, not add to it. To his relief, Relena smiled back at him softly and relaxed into the couch a little more.
"This is a situation I never would have thought can happen. You and I, in the same room, having a conversation."
Relena’s cultured voice took on an edge of hesitation and her fingers twisted in her lap nervously. Duo raised his eyebrows in curiosity.
"So, Relena, what do you want from me?"
It was a simple question, perhaps even the logical one, so it surprised Duo when a look of deep sadness entered her eyes.
"What do I want from you. I.. Well, I want you to make me happy."
It was a pure miracle that Duo did not fall out of his seat or faint from the shock. What kind of a request was that? They had hardly known each other during the wars, had barely spoken in fact. They didn’t even have what most people would have construed as an acquaintance. But here she was, asking him to make her happy.
"What? Why? How?"
Somehow, her eyes managed turn a shade more sad and tears glimmered in them. Duo, horrified looked around the room frantically for a box of tissues or something. He could not stand to see anyone cry since he got teary when others did. Damn his sensitive side.
"Duo.. You must realize that Heero makes me happy."
Duo stopped his search for tissues and fixed his eyes on Relena. Perhaps she did not know about his feelings for Heero, but hearing her talk about him hurt. Maybe she was not being cruel, but she was still showing him how she had something that he longed for with every waking moment.
"And you must realize that for the last nine years, he has been by my side."
Duo felt numb. Was this a cruel joke of fate? Was Relena here at an ungodly hour to tell him how Heero was so happy without him or something?
"Those years.. I thought I was happy with him. I thought he was happy with me."
Duo could only listen as Relena spoke of her life with Heero. It must have been wondrous, like the life that Quatre and Trowa shared. They must have not had to worry about being lonely at all.
"But it wasn’t really true, Duo. We wanted to believe that we were in love with each other, that we were happy. We weren’t. Not at all."
What was she saying? She wasn’t happy with Heero? They weren’t in love?
"So, Duo, please, I’m asking you to make me happy. Make me happy by going to Heero. I would be happy if he was happy, and I believe with all my heart that you can do that."
"What.." Duo cleared his suddenly dry throat and tried again. "What do you mean? Heero and I.. well, we haven’t spoken in.. and we were just friends back when.."
"Silly Duo.." Relena said in a lightly admonishing tone, "Heero has always loved you. He and I were only together, I think, because we were afraid of being with someone who could overwhelm us with feelings. All those years, he kept you close in his own way, you know. The way he said your name when he was dreaming.. Or all those newspaper and net articles he collected about you and your work with the L2 orphans.. The expression on his face when he stared at the violet colors of the twilight."
Duo mind spun and raced madly. This was a chance for him. A chance of a life time, to restore his heart and permanently banish the loneliness.
"Relena.. I.. Thank you.. Damn, that sounds trite. I.. I gotta pack. I.."
Relena handed Duo a piece of paper and folded his hand over it. She kissed his knuckles gently and smiled into his eyes.
"Go Duo. Make him happy. Make me happy."
The house had a little garden in the front that had every color of flower imaginable. The small pathway from the waist level wire gate to the bright red door was made of worn bricks and trimmed on the side with green grass. The house itself looked inviting with its red shutters and white trimming, wide open bay windows and yellow curtains. It was literally a house made straight from Duo’s vision.
Duo checked the piece of paper again. This house was it, the address of where Heero lived. Duo swallowed thickly. This was harder than he had thought. Much harder. His legs were rooted to the ground and his arms refused to move at all. He was petrified - of Heero, of rejection, of loneliness. After the huge speech about this being his chance that he had chanted like a mantra throughout the shuttle ride to earth, he had thought that he was prepared for this. But no, he wasn’t ready at all.
What would he say? After the greetings were done, what could he say? His heart sped up at the musings of his uncertain mind and his muscles contracted almost painfully. He had not even walked to the door and already he was a mess. If he actually saw Heero, there was a strong possibility that he would just combust. So he stood at the wire gate, admiring the beautiful house, frozen solid by trepidation. Ten minutes turned into an hour, then into two. The sun traveled merrily across the sky, ignoring his internal dilemma.
Then at the end of the second hour, the red door creaked open and a gorgeous vision of Heero Yuy stepped out.
"How long are you going to stand there?"
Duo could feel his heart stop completely. There was a strange ringing in his head. Everything seemed to be moving slow motion, as if time itself was afraid of what was to come.
"I don’t know."
Duo thought he saw a look of irritation and nervousness (was it?) streak across Heero’s face at his answer. He had no idea if that was a good sign or not.
"Come in, Duo. I’ve been waiting for you."
At those words, Duo could finally move his jelly like legs toward the door, to Heero. He had been waiting. For him. He couldn’t have asked for a better start.
Once he had stepped into the home, it had been surprisingly easy to speak to Heero. They sat down at the breakfast nook with the window facing the garden and spoke for hours on end. They spoke of the last ten years of separation, what they did during that time, how they were living now, how lovely the weather was. Nothing sensitive was breached, but they needed to get comfortable with each other’s presence before anything could be solved. Heero, for his part, had surprised Duo by knowing precisely what he had been up to on L2 for the last few years and then of the past year he had spent with Quatre and company. Duo could only stare amazed as Heero practically recited every aspect of his public and personal life with dead accuracy. Duo had an inkling that if he had asked Heero how many people he had slept with in the last ten years, the number would have been dead on, not to mention that he probably knew all their names.
Throughout the long initial conversation, Duo finally figured out that Heero had been watching him all the time, taking note of his actions, his emotional state and well being. All those years of being lonely without acknowledging it, Heero had been there silently, watching, waiting, wanting. And Duo had not even bothered to keep tabs on him. Not after he found out that Heero had gone off to Relena. After that, all he had done for Heero was to bury him into the deep recesses of his mind. A small sprout of guilt wormed its way through Duo’s system for being so careless with his best friend, his secret love.
"I miss you."
The blush that crept up Duo’s face was a brilliant red color. Whatever little demon that had made him say that was going to die. After he died from mortification, that is.
"I know. I miss you, too."
Duo decided that the little demon could live after all.
"I’ve been so lonely. Even in the last year, surrounded by my closest friends, I was so lonely."
Heero reached out his hand towards Duo’s face. Duo noticed how Heero’s usually strong iron arms trembled and how it almost hesitated to make contact. Duo met Heero half way, leaning his face into the outstretched palm.
"But now that we’re here, together.. I know the loneliness will vanish."
Heero stared into Duo’s violet eyes, the eyes he had missed so much. He caressed the skin of his face, reveling in its softness. Breathing softly, he broke the news gently.
"You will be lonely, even with me. It will be the same for me, Duo."
Stunned, Duo pulled away from Heero’s hand. He could feel the bitterness of rejection and the widening space of loneliness. Was this the end? Would they be finished before they had even begun?
"Don’t be angry, Duo. And please, don’t be sad. You must understand, people are lonely creatures. You and I can be together and be happy, but somewhere inside, we’re always going to be lonely."
"Heero, that’s not how it works!" Duo yelled, Heero’s words having cut through the bone. "You’re supposed to fill the space between our souls! We’re supposed to be one complete being, one half of each other. We’re supposed to be together to fill each other. Loneliness, it should be gone!"
Heero looked at Duo’s anguished face with saddened eyes. He had not wanted to hurt Duo, but if they were to go forward, if they were to be together, the small fact of life had to be realized.
"Duo, being lonely is part of all of us. Even when we are together, you will have moments of loneliness. I know it hurts and I know you hate it. I hate it too. But it is what makes us who we are. It is the one thing that gives love meaning."
"I don’t know what you’re talking about.. I.. I wanted you for so long.. Loved you.."
"I love you, too, Duo. And I want to spend my life with you. But loneliness, that is something we must always live with. I cannot fill the space between, no more than you can. We are two separate beings. We can’t be one like that - it would be impossible. And even if it were, would you want to? Without the space between, you would lose your identity, your individuality. You would just be a part of someone else. Do you want that? Do you want me to be just a part of you? Don’t you want me to be me, the one that loves you, cares for you, misses you?"
Duo slowly nodded. He was trying to understand what Heero was saying and strangely enough, it was making sense. He let Heero continue.
"I just want you to know, no matter what, there will be that loneliness. It won’t be as great as now, but it will be there. I just don’t want you to leave when you realize that even with me, you’re still lonely. I want you to see that I can only offer so much. I can’t banish your loneliness, but I can keep it at bay. Being an individual is a lonely thing, Duo. But only as you are now can you love me. And I you. Please understand. Please."
Duo could hardly believe that Heero was begging him. The plea was in his voice, the desperate need for understanding plain in his speech. He had wanted Heero to love him and to fill in the lonely gap in his soul. He had thought it possible. But now, maybe he had been deluding himself. Duo closed his eyes and thought back to his happiest of moments. Spending time with Heero, talking nonsense with Quatre, arguing semantics with Wufei, listening to Sally’s baby kick, picking on Trowa, playing around with his kids. Every moment crystallized within his mind and he saw that in every one of those instances, the loneliness had been there. Yes, those moments had chased it to the farthest corner of his heart, but in the end, the loneliness had still been there. It had always been there.
"Heero," Duo finally replied, "I’ll always be lonely, right? You and me together, it will only lessen its magnitude, right? No matter what, it will always be there."
Duo opened his eyes and looked deeply into the cobalt eyes swimming in fading hope.
"But you will always be with me too, won’t you."
Tears rose to the surface of Heero’s brilliant cobalt eyes, making them sparkle.
"Then I can take the loneliness. As long as you’re there."
Heero let out the breath he had been holding. After all the mistakes, the time lost and heartache, he could finally be with Duo. Duo had understood and accepted everything. Heero felt his body move as it fell into Duo’s arms. He buried his head into Duo’s chest and knew that he was truly happy. The loneliness receded from their hearts to the edges of their soul.
The space between could not be filled, but the two souls could travel side by side until the end of eternity. Duo and Heero intended to do just that.