Pins and Needles
The heat had abated to an acceptable degree, not to the point where people shut off their central air, but enough so that going outside was not an exercise in pain. Especially in the evenings, it was exceedingly delightful, the breezes from the ocean cooling instead of sticking.
Duo and Heero walked the boardwalk hand in hand in this mild weather, silent but comfortable. The sun had set, letting the dark blues and violets of dusk settle into the atmosphere, blending the sky and the ocean to into each other. The scene was perfect for lovers, as evidenced by many couples strolling about the walkway.
As they walked in the direction of Heero’s apartment, Duo let his feet take him closer to his boyfriend until he was nearly tripping over the man’s feet. His heart was beating fast, ramming against his ribcage as their legs brushed up against one another, creating a delicious kind of friction. He felt Heero’s hand tighten the grip on his hand and heard the quickening of breath. It may have cooled down outside, but the temperature was rising in the scant millimeters between their bodies.
Something was crying out for release, for attention. Both felt it, this increasing need for closeness, and without any verbal communication, their feet propelled them faster towards the apartment. Their breaths hitched and their bodies burned, not from moving so quickly but from that same heat that had built between them for a little more than three months. Eventually, they broke into a run, rushing to get to the apartment. Something had to be done. It was screaming at them, insistent and needy, spurring them onwards to the next step.
Heero knew exactly what his body craved. He had never felt the need to such a degree, but he recognized it for what it was. This intense desire to feel skin upon skin, to share sighing breaths and wordless sounds, the ache in his groin. They were familiar, even though they were stronger and sharper than anything before, and he knew, tonight, they would consummate their relationship. He had thought about it a lot, of course, but tonight, he would do more than thinking. Fantasies would come to life in his apartment, dreams of long, chestnut hair and sparkling violet eyes glazed over in passion.
Sex. Making love. Whatever it was called, it would happen. He craved it, needed it. For the mission, for himself, for his goddamned sanity.
They were clumsy as they grabbed at each other frantically at the threshold of the apartment, barely registering enough thought to close the door behind them. Their hands roamed busily and hungrily, ripping off clothing and throwing them aside as they stumbled, collapsed into the bedroom as one mass of tangled limbs.
Lips ravaged sensitive skin, tongues traced lines of abstract poetry across the dips and curves of muscle, and fingers worshipped at the altar of their bodies. It would be a long time before either would surface from this sensual ravishment, the reverent veneration of each other. It would be longer still until they would remember who they really were.
He held Duo in his arms, letting his new lover rest his head against his shoulder. The way his head fit against his neckline, the way his body seemed to click so comfortably against his own.. it filled him with a feeling that he could not quite define.
When Duo shifted ever so slightly, Heero shifted with him, making sure that his skin would maintain maximum contact with Duo’s. Heero had never held a lover after love making, never indulged in the salty and sweet tang of the afterglow. Even though sex was nothing new to him, this felt very new, this feeling of contentment? Happiness? What was it?
Duo certainly seemed satisfied, Heero noted with a grin. He was currently busy snuggling, letting his long, beautiful hair cover them in a satin blanket, making these deep throated purring sounds of contentment. So, it was now or never. Right now, Duo was at his most peaceful, most vulnerable. He had made love to a man for the first time, had felt the release with another for the first time. If there was a time to ensnare this boy completely, now was the time.
Heero ran over his plans in his mind once again, searching for cracks. No, all the pieces were there. Duo was now entirely his, Heero was sure of that, as sure as the fact that Duo would never have slept with anyone unless the feelings he had were so strong that it would erase all common sense. The only thing that would completely tip him over, make him useful to Heero and the government, was to make him trust. Trust in him. Then he could drag the information about the rebellion out of the besotted man and then dispose of him.
That was the plan. So then, why did it make him nauseous?
Now or never, Yuy. Do it.
“Duo..” Heero said, his voice still husky from the love making and the inexplicable slice of guilt, “I..”
“Hrmm?” Duo replied, fractionally raising his head to look at Heero with his drooping, sleepy eyes.
“I love you.”
There. He had said it, the final three words to make Duo completely vulnerable to his plan. If he had calculated right, it should have an enormous impact, destroying all the walls Duo had, weakening his loyalty to the rebellion and making him the perfect, unaware spy.
If that was all there was, then why did the words feel so right?
Was that panic on the edges of Duo’s voice or was he imagining things? Also, that response was not what he had expected. According to his scenario, Duo should have either been so ecstatic at the declaration that he was speechless or he would have repeated the words back to him. There was no room for ‘you what.’
“Love you.” Heero tried again, making sure to emphasize the words and pronounce them clearly. Again, the words rang true to his heart and he ignored the twinge in his gut. They were just words, nothing more than that. They should not be making him feel so.. so..
“You love me?”
That was definitely panic, laced with a judicious amount of disbelief. Heero wondered if he had said it too soon, if he had missed something. No, it had been the perfect time to say it. So why wasn’t Duo telling him that he..
“Yes, I love you.”
The third time he had said these words ever in his life and they were feeling more and more comfortable with each utterance. Unfortunately, it seemed that the sentiment was only felt by him for Duo suddenly sat up, the sheets sliding down his chest and pooling at his waist. If he had sounded panicked before, what followed was that magnified and amplified.
“What?” Heero said, his face crinkled in confusion and the sick feeling of rejection, “why the hell not?”
“You can’t. It’s not fucking possible. It can’t be true.”
If it wasn’t for the dull, glazed shock in his eyes and the fluctuating pitch of his voice filled with horror, Heero would have yelled at him for so quickly and cleanly denying his declaration of love. Yes, the only reason he had told Duo that he loved him was in furtherance of his plan, but damn it, what did that matter? He had meant it.
Oh gods, he had meant it. He really was in love with Duo. Truly. Deeply. Dangerously.
And Duo was.. refusing it. It hurt. It hurt more now that he realized that this love wasn’t only a part of the plan. Heero Yuy had actually gone and fallen in love with the target, the rebel.
In shock over his own revelation, Heero did not see Duo literally dive out of the bed and snatch on his clothes. By the time he had recovered enough to refocus on the outside world, Duo was already gone, leaving only his scent behind to tantalize Heero as to what he had held only moments before.
Duo made sure that the communication lines were secure, that there was no leak either electronically or physically, before he called out for Wufei over the line. It shamed him that ever since he had met Heero, he had not bothered to contact Wufei, but then again, his friend hadn’t exactly been buzzing him either.
“For I was molded in the face of the Father.”
He waited for return transmission, knowing that sometimes, he would have to say the code at least five times before someone on the other end picked up. But not tonight. Only three scant minutes after his first message, the line crackled into life.
“He who has forsaken me and my children.”
Duo found that his voice was rather lackluster, but he could not help it. Right now, he needed someone to talk to, maybe not to understand his dilemma, but at least to give him a sympathetic ear. Four months ago, when he had still been in the heart of the rebellion, it would never have occurred to him to talk to others about his problems. But now, after Heero, after his confession of love, he needed someone to listen.
“Duo, I was wondering if you forgot about us.”
It was teasing, but also admonishing. He deserved it, maybe, for not bothering to contact them for so long, but he had never expected that he would have spent those blissfully happy and heart breaking months with Heero either.
“How could I forget? I am sorry about-”
“Don’t say you’re sorry. It’s only natural that you’d want to keep away. How is everything?”
There were tears of gratitude in Duo’s eyes. Wufei had excused his behavior, forgiven him before he could even apologize. Hell, he had even rationalized for him. How could he have not contacted him sooner?
“It’s all strange, Wufei,” Duo began, his voice unnaturally quiet, “and I was hoping you could give me some advice.”
“Of course. What’s the point of being older and wiser if not to give you advice, right?”
Wufei was trying to lighten the mood, having sensed the gloom in Duo’s voice. He hoped that it was working because he had not sent Duo out to feel pain, but to relax and get rested.
“There’s this guy.”
Ah. Wufei nodded sagely even though Duo could not see the action. From that one statement, Wufei had gleaned much, as if Duo had told him what was going on word for word. There was confusion, signifying that this guy meant more to Duo than he had wanted. Also, there was a tinge of sadness, something Duo’s voice did not carry often, so something must have gone wrong. Or terribly right.
“Tell me about this guy.” Wufei encouraged, hoping to coax out words from his friend. Long ago, before the rebellion and the loss of his right arm, there had been a time when he had someone special. She had been a hell of a woman, courageous and sparkling, seemingly invincible to all things bad in life until the government had come and taken her away from him. But that would not help Duo. No, he had to concentrate on his friend.
“He’s wonderful in many ways, I suppose,” Duo began, his eyes glazing over as he thought about Heero, “and he has a great sense of humor. I think he could make you laugh, even. He and I can talk for hours, he’s so gorgeous that it hurts and he has these eyes.. blue upon blue, I can’t even describe them.”
When Duo paused for breath, Wufei quietly smiled. It sounded like his friend had found someone wonderful, someone that he could be himself with. That had been all he could have wished for his most loyal and beloved friend.
“So, what’s the problem? He seems great.”
“Problem is..” Could he say that Heero was one of the Trio? Could he tell Wufei that on good days, the knowledge simmered in the back of his head while on bad days, it came out to haunt him? Sometimes, when he looked at Heero, surrounded by normal things like the kitchen with a toaster, he could almost forget what Heero was and who he worked for. During those scarce moments, Duo saw a future with Heero, bright and glorious, filled with impossible things like a house to share, dogs to feed and lawns to mow. Those moments of almost forgetfulness hurt the most, because Duo knew how everything would end and it was not happy.
“Problem is,” Duo tried again, this time erasing all thoughts of Heero’s occupation out of his mind, “he said he loved me.”
That had stuck in his mind. Three days ago, he had heard those unexpected words flow out of Heero’s mouth as if he had always meant to say them and he had panicked. He vaguely remembered that he slipped out of Heero’s arms, having lost that unbelievable feel of his body next to him, inside him, and run off with his clothes barely on. Heero had called at least three times a day since, leaving messages on his voice mail, asking him to please come back, let him explain, let him fix it.
So far, Duo had played the coward and had not called back.
“He loves you? That is fantastic, Duo.”
Oh, how could Wufei say that to him? Couldn’t he see how terrible it was? Heero Yuy, the soldier, a man of the Trio, loved him. Him, the rebel, Death, terrorist. It wasn’t tragic, it was apocalyptic in its implications. How could he have allowed Heero to fall in love with him when he himself had resolved to never let that happen? Heero did not know who Duo Maxwell really was. He did not know that Duo was an enemy. What would he say when he found out? What would he do?
For that matter, what would happen to them?
“He can’t love me, Wufei. He just can’t. It’s not right.”
“Why not? Because you are in the rebellion?”
Duo couldn’t stop the helpless smile that bloomed on his face. Leave it to Wufei to hit the nail on the head, straight dead center.
“Yeah. Once I return.. I’ll have to leave him behind.” And go back to being enemies, he added silently.
“Maybe he’ll understand.”
A sharp bark of laughter tore itself out of Duo’s throat, its harsh sound vibrating across radio waves to Wufei.
“Oh, believe me Wufei, he most definitely will not understand. In fact, he’ll hate me. Really, truly hate me.”
“Don’t be so pessimistic,” Wufei replied soothingly, “if he loves you, the fact that you’re part of the rebellion should not matter so.”
“Since when were you such a sodden romantic, Wufei? Love is beautiful, yeah, but in the face of reality, it falls apart so damned easily.”
Wufei collected his thoughts, trying to formulate something uplifting and helpful to say to Duo. But what could he really say that wasn’t a lie? Wufei knew for a fact that love did not survive very well. It was too fragile, too ephemeral to win over the onslaught of so many obstacles. He had loved Meiran, his wife, his one true love, so very much, more than life itself, but that had not been enough to save her. Love had not been nearly enough to drive back the men of the government as they shot her graceful body full of bullets.
Knowing all that, how could he tell Duo anything?
“Tell me, Duo,” Wufei finally said, breaking the heavy silence, “do you love this man?”
Duo should have seen the question coming a mile away. Was it not an obvious question for Wufei to ask him when they were talking about love and relationships? Then why did he feel like he’d been broad-sided by a blunt mace?
“Do you love this man?” Wufei pressed, his voice insistent and commanding. Duo could not refuse that tone, not even if it meant his life. He had to answer. But what was the answer?
“I think.. I might.. maybe.. love..”
‘Stop it, don’t say it, it will ruin you.’
Oh, gods, he really should listen to that voice in his head. He should not answer Wufei, he should not admit anything that could tear him apart.
“Love..” Duo’s voice moaned out, unable to finish the sentence. ‘Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!’
“Don’t make me say it, Wufei!”
There was a shocked silence after his heated, pleading demand. Duo was afraid for a moment that he had disappointed Wufei, but honest to god, he could not say it out loud. It was much too big.
“Hey Duo, do you remember those fairy tales you used to read?”
The sudden change in topic confused Duo. The conversation that had tried to drag the agonizing confession out of him was over and Wufei had introduced something new. It was sudden, too sudden. His brain could not follow.
“You used to believe in fairy tales. You used to come to me and say your life was a fairy tale and because of that, you knew how your life would be.”
“I was right. I’m still right.”
“If you believe in them,” Wufei told him, “then you shouldn’t worry about loving this man.”
There was nothing but silence that greeted his hopeful words. Wufei took that as a good sign that Duo was turning it over in his head, thinking about the good things instead of dwelling on the scary side of love.
“Wufei,” Duo’s voice crackled over the line, sounding tired and defeated much to Wufei’s worry, “I gotta go. I need to tell.. I just have to go.”
“I understand. Good luck, Duo. You know I’m here for you, right?”
“Yeah. Later, Wufei, take care of yourself.”
Duo cut the connection before Wufei could say goodbye. He was feeling so low, because Wufei had reminded him of a few things that he had forgotten. But the conversation had helped him see a few things. There was only one way to go. He had chosen a long time ago which path to take – as soon as he had sat down for coffee to contemplate Heero, he had chosen a path. Now, all he could do was follow it, see it through.
All he could do was enjoy what he had with Heero before the path came to an end. Stretching his face out into a smile, Duo packed up a few things and left his apartment, knowing that he would not come back here for a while. He had to apologize to Heero, maybe even explain himself, but he would go back.
If anything, at least he knew what it was like to love and be loved in return. It was something most people didn’t experience even once in their lifetime and here he was, deep in it, drowning with no wishes to be saved. He loved Heero, there was no doubt.
There were no more doubts at all.
“Say, Heero,” Duo said into the quiet of the night, “do you believe in fairy tales?”
Heero chuckled lightly at the question. His lover had some strange quirks, one of them being the asking of random, insignificant questions without warning. Had it come from anyone else, he would have ignored it, but Duo had asked.
“No one believes in fairy tales, Duo. I certainly don’t. There is no happily ever after, you know.”
Heero felt bad to have answered so bluntly, but it was his nature. He had told too many lies to Duo already, all in the name of the self imposed mission to bring down the rebellion. On this little thing, this trivial thing, he could be truthful.
“I believe in fairy tales, Heero,” Duo replied, his voice somber and serious, very different from his usually casual tone, “because I don’t believe in happily ever after.”
“That makes no sense,” Heero reasoned, trying to puzzle out just what his lover was saying, “because every fairy tale starts with once upon a time and ends with happily ever after.”
“No, not my fairy tale. No, definitely not.”
The ominous reply was followed by a soft laughter so dark and tragic that Heero had to turn his head to Duo to make sure that it had come from the man whom he held in his arms. The sound scared him, made him nervous and anxious enough to tighten the hold on Duo, pulling him even closer to his body.
“What kind of fairy tales do you read, the evil ones?” Heero said, making his voice light and humorous in an effort to dispel the sudden gloom in the bedroom.
“No,” he replied, “just the real ones.”
“But fairy tales aren’t real, Duo.”
“Yes they are. They are very real. Even more real now because I love you.”
Duo smoothed his lips over Heero’s collarbone with a soft sigh. He had said the words that he should not have. He knew there was no going back, that he could never take those words back, but that did not matter. All he wanted was for Heero to know that he was in love with him, and that would be enough.
“I’m glad,” Heero said, kissing Duo on the crown of his head.
“Spoke too soon, my love.” Duo chuckled mockingly as he squeezed his eyes against the hot tears. Heero knew nothing. He didn’t even believe in fairy tales.
Heero could not find a suitable reply to that. He could not think of anything to say to make the feeling between them soft and cozy again, to dissipate the sudden weight of sadness that emanated from Duo. In silence, he held Duo, hoping that it would be enough to bring Duo out of this strangling mood, not letting go until he heard the subtle change in breathing signifying that Duo had fallen asleep.
Even then, Heero held on, afraid that if he let go, it would be the end.
Duo let the shower run, sitting on the edge of the tub and watching the water sluice down the tiles to the drain. The water had warmed and he could step in now without fearing goosebumps, but in his current, pensive mood, he did not feel much like moving. There was a feeling, an intuitive nagging that prevented him from just stepping under the spray of water.
The day had been wonderfully normal so far. He had woken up in Heero’s arms, his nose filled with the scent of sex and Heero. Then Heero had woken up and they had made love. It seemed that they would never tire of exploring each other physically, not that he minded. The sensations still blew his mind away. More than that, as the days passed by, the love that he had for Heero kept growing larger and larger until it felt like it would explode out of his pores. It made him happy that he was in love like this, uncontrollably and deliciously cocooned within the hot fires and the cooling peace. He no longer gave any thought to what would happen. It would happen no matter what he did, so he no longer worried about it. He was at peace with everything.
Not too long ago, when he had been falling in love with Heero, he had felt disoriented, lost and afraid. Perhaps that was why people called it falling in love, because one had to fall, gracelessly, unexpectedly and painfully before love rose up to claim them. He was past all that and could see clearly what was happening. Soon, it would be time for the fairy tale to end and reality to begin.
Shedding his clothes, Duo pushed back the shower curtain to step in, but saw that he had forgotten the conditioner. It was still sitting on the kitchen counter, right next to the toothpaste and the cereal, still in its grocer’s packaging. Heero may not have needed the conditioner because his hair did not like being tamed in any case, Duo would not do well without it. It had been the one luxury that he had allowed himself even when he was a street rat, always stealing a bottle when an opportunity to wash came his way.
Opening the door only slightly so that the steam in the bathroom would not fog up the rest of the apartment, Duo padded out silently. He had a towel wrapped around him in case Heero saw him. Even though he had seen Duo’s naked body quite often and in detail, it still brought a flush to his face when the laser blue eyes trained themselves on him.
“So that’s it then.”
Duo paused as Heero’s bitter voice filtered through the wall in the bedroom. He had never seen Heero talk to anyone on the phone, so it was curious. Curiosity made him edge closer to the wall, his sharp ears picking up Heero’s end of the conversation.
“How did that happen?”
It sounded serious, whatever it was.
“Are you accusing me of something?”
Ice. Cold, harsh ice. Duo almost felt sorry for the person talking to Heero.
For a long while, there was nothing but the occasional snarl of affirmation from Heero. He could hear the agitated pacing, nine steps one way, nine steps back, as Heero continued to listen to whoever was on the other line. He had rarely heard Heero so angry and uncontrolled, and that nagging intuitive feeling came back full force, hitting him between the eyes with a realization.
The end was coming.
“Fine! Leave it to me. Mission accepted.”
Duo carefully walked to the kitchen, picked up his conditioner and fled into the bathroom. He knew what he had to do now, his role as clear as day.
It was a close thing, throwing his military cell into the wall, but he restrained himself just in time. Damn Quatre, he had gone and ruined everything.
Duo was in the shower still, he knew how his lover loved the long, hot showers. He still had time to brood and grit his teeth before he needed to show his lover a more pleasant face. It was all coming to a head, his loyalties called in and his ability as a soldier needed.
How Quatre had found out Duo’s information had been simple enough. Run enough searches and given time, it would not have been impossible for someone like Quatre. It had been Duo’s downfall that the name he used to rent his apartment in New Edwards was his actual name rather than a false one. He had probably figured that such a precaution was unnecessary for no one knew his name outside of the rebellion.
But Quatre had found it and it had led to further research. He had been relentless, driving even Trowa mad in his quest. Once the name Duo Maxwell had been uncovered, he had done background searches that had yielded next to nothing, and then without the permission of their superiors, he had taken Trowa on a mission to capture a rebellion terrorist.
He had been successful, of course.
Whatever Quatre had done to question the poor soul, Heero would never want to know, but one thing had become clear. Duo Maxwell wasn’t just anybody in the rebellion. He was the Dragon’s right hand man, the man they had only known as Death.
Maybe he should have realized. The way Duo moved, shouldn’t it have evoked memories of that chase all those months ago, the way he unconsciously blended in with shadows? Shouldn’t it have tipped his senses when he saw how agile and quick Duo was, so sure in his movements that it had made him envious?
Who else but Death could move like that?
Perhaps Quatre was right in that he had been blinded. There had been a long, ire filled lecture from Quatre, accusing him of carelessness. How could he have missed the fact that Death was in New Edwards with him?
Then it had come down to one thing. Quatre, in a bold move to redeem the Trio, had taken the information to Lieutenant General Marquise, demanding that they be put back on the assignment and the bastard of the man had agreed. Tomorrow, Quatre and Trowa would be arriving in New Edwards to meet up with Heero. By tomorrow, his teammates would expect that he be done with his part of the mission.
Death for Death. That had been Marquise’s explicit order. Information was no longer vital. Death was one of the lynch pins to the Dragon’s rebellion and with him eliminated, the rebellion would not be able to launch any more operations. Had he kept his ear to the ground, Heero would have known what Quatre had known, that the rebellion had been unusually silent in the last few months.
It made so much sense now. They could not act without Duo in their midst. Without him, the Dragon was merely the head of the snake without the body.
Quatre and Trowa would arrive tomorrow to collect Heero back into their midst. All he had to do was give them Duo Maxwell, Death, packaged up in red ribbons of his blood.
All he had to do was kill Duo, as he always had anticipated.
There wasn’t much time. Heero would be back soon with their dinner and he never dawdled to converse or window shop. No time. He was running out of time.
This was their last night together, Duo was as sure of that as the fact the sun would rise in the morning. After the quickest shower in the history of his life, Duo had put on a happy, brave face and coaxed Heero into agreeing to stay the night at his bland apartment. They had each packed a small bag, Heero’s noticeably larger and bulgier, and had come to Duo’s place.
Duo did not want to tarnish Heero’s apartment. It was a place that he wanted to associate with happy times, not with what would have to happen come the next day. He had brought only one thing with him, the only thing he would need tomorrow.
Sighing, Duo pulled out his laptop and set up a secure line, quietly intoning the code phrase into the microphone. This would be the last time he would speak to Wufei. He had to make it good.
“Duo. What’s wrong?”
That was why Wufei was the leader. He was so damned perceptive, picking out nuances of emotion from a static laden voice that had said nothing more than the passwords.
“Nothing,” Duo reassured, “it’s all going like I thought.”
“Yeah. My fairy tale will soon be done.”
Wufei had no idea what that could mean, but it did not sound good. Duo’s voice was too quiet, shaded with something inevitable.
“I don’t know what the hell is going on,” Wufei said, the alarm he felt evident, “but don’t you do anything! I’m.. I’m coming for you. I’ll be there soon.”
“No, it won’t do any good, Wufei. Just.. goodbye, friend. Thank you for letting me out, for giving me a chance to walk my own way even for a short while.”
Ignoring the pleas and the curses that flowed out of his earpiece, Duo picked up his laptop and hurled it against the wall, watching as it shattered and splintered. The black plastic cracked, the screen went blank and all the circuits fell out onto the carpeting. This would be his last act for the rebellion.
By the time Heero returned with containers of food, all traces of the broken laptop were gone. They ate, each thinking about the next day. Heero was solidifying his resolve, repeating to himself that Duo’s execution was for the greater good, an order straight down from his superiors, a last chance at redemption. Duo was at peace, having seen the end long before Heero had, and only wanted to enjoy Heero’s company for one last time.
They did not make love, opting instead to hold onto each other. There was something sacred about the moment, transcending the bounds of reason and reality.
“I love you. Never forget that.”
Heero nodded into Duo’s hair, knowing that he did not deserve those words but unable to resist accepting them.
“I love you. Never forget that.” Heero said, needing Duo to know, for one last time.