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fic - grief and a headhunter's rage : 5 [novella] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
turnippatch
turnippatch
fic - grief and a headhunter's rage : 5 [novella]
Title:  Grief and a Headhunter's Rage
Part:  5



Grief and a Headhunter's Rage
Part 5


I accidentally went on a date when I was in college, much like how Duo 'accidentally' slept with Hilde once.  I imagine that sinking feeling he got in the morning must have been similar to the feeling my date had when we got out to the car and I asked, 'so, who else is coming?'  I hadn't quite realized that the invitation to dinner had only been given to me until I was met with a blank stare in response.

I had another one of these moments when I met Duo by the elevators one evening.  He had asked me if I was interested in dinner, and I had agreed.  He was already there waiting for the doors to open when I came up next to him, bag in hand, and asked that question once more, "So, who else is coming?"

The doors dinged and he shooed me inside before immediately pressing the 'close doors' button.  "Just you, Heero," he said cheerfully.

There was a stunned moment during which I could have smacked myself on the forehead.  Fell for it again, I did.  Was it really my fault I had thought it would be another department outing?  "Duo," I began patiently.

"Yes, Heero?" he responded, turning to flash me a suspiciously innocent look.

"...Why are we going out together?"

"Aw, come on, Heero.  We had a good time, last time it was just us."

Oh, yes.  I remember what happened the last time we went out, just the two of us.  I didn't fancy a repeat performance.  "Duo, I'm your anthropologist."

"So?  It doesn't say you can't be my friend, too."

"Yes, it does," I answered unreasonably.  It didn't really say so in so many words, but it sort of implied it.  Casual friends may have been okay, but I think Duo and I were a little past that by now.  Then again, after eight months, it was probably inevitable.

He gave me a withering look, which I returned.  "Okay, then here's how we'll relate it to work.  You said death is the flipside of life, so life must be the flipside of death.  So if you understand life better, it can only help your research project, right?"

"...And going out with you will help me understand life better?" I asked dryly.  Well, yes, I could see that was probably true without him pointing it out to me, but I wasn't going to admit that.  I did have a weak grip on life.  That was never so obvious to me than when I was with Duo.

"Absolutely.  You are in definite need of a life."

"As you're so fond of telling me."

"When was the last time you went out with someone?"

"'Went out' in what sense?"

"On a date," he said rather impatiently.  I think my obvious reluctance to answer the question only made him more stubbornly inquisitive.  "Well?"

"College," I mumbled.

Unfortunately, he heard the answer clearly.  "College?  My god, Heero.  How long ago did you graduate again?"

I folded my arms over my chest and glared at his distorted reflection in the doors.  "I don't have to answer that."

"You're pouting!"

I rolled my eyes.  "I am not pouting."

"You're pouting."  He frowned at my frown.  "I fail to see how enjoying yourself with a native could impact your study.  It's not like you don't still talk to everyone in the department at least once a day.  Lucky for you it's a small one.  And it's not like you're here to gather information as a part of the propaganda machine that used to be in place during the good old-fashioned days of anthropology's heyday.  And I'm not trying to subvert you or anything, although what I'd be subverting you to, I have no idea.  And I'm not asking you to shed your ethnographer hat and don some scrubs and dance with the natives in some weird, uh, antiseptic cleansing ritual or... something!  I'm just asking you to be a normal person, and have fun with another normal person.  We can pretend we're both unemployed."

I was failing to see why, too, but I knew there was a good reason.  It was just slipping my mind at the moment.  We came to a stop and he grabbed my wrist to manually haul me towards his car.  "You're far from normal, Duo."

"Thank you."  He finally let me go when it became clear that I wasn't putting up much of a resistance.  I continued to follow him, much to my chagrin.

"I need to maintain my objectivity," I tried.

"For what?"

What indeed?  "The same way you shouldn't get too close to your patients, I shouldn't get too close to my... patient-equivalents."

He snorted.  "Yeah, well, I do get too close to my patients, as we're both well aware, and I still manage to do my job just fine."

But at what cost, Duo?  I knew the price he paid for that, but I didn't want to point it out and remind him of it, so I let him think he'd won me over and followed meekly the rest of the way to his car.  I also didn't point out that he didn't try to take any of his patients outside of the hospital for a little fun.  He got close to them in his professional environment, and we were moving outside of it.  Unfortunately, with the way Duo moved, my professional environment had to stretch from Howard's to a field out in the middle of nowhere.

I guess I got into the car a little too quietly, because Duo started to worry.  "What's wrong?  If this really bothers you, you know, you don't have to...."

I shook my head.  That wasn't what was bothering me.  Objectivity aside, there was something else I was wondering.  "Why me, Duo?"

"Huh?"

"You...."  A dozen thoughts rose up at once and I took the time to sort through them all.  "You said there are times you didn't want to be alone.  I can understand and appreciate that.  But... why have you chosen to spend that time with me?  Why not one of the others?  Surely they could understand all of this better...?"

He toyed with his keys, their light jingling the only sound heard in the car for a while.  "Well, that's the problem.  They understand."  He had adopted that tone of his again, that soft, confiding tone that had taken over many of our private conversations of late.  "They go through it all, too.  A little differently, maybe, but still.  But you're... outside of all of this.  But still inside, just a little.  I think I need that.  I'm sorry if that sounds like I'm using you."

I didn't stop my hand from reaching out to brush against his upper arm.  "No more than I'm using you, I'm afraid."

He jammed the key in the ignition, started the car, and with determination flipped the radio on and to a station he rarely listened to.  It was pop rock, and it effectively killed the mood.

It was bad enough that I had an emotional investment in the locals.  Now I had somehow been turned into a grief ritual myself.  What would J say about that?  Now there was no way that I could both distance myself from his grieving practices and study them, too.  Great job, Yuy.



Duo felt Midii's leukemia was a force of nature.  I felt Duo was a force of nature.

The battle against the disease was sucking Duo under.  He was sucking me under.  Duo was lucky because he had me to hold on to.  I got stuck with Prof. J's admonitions ringing in my ears.

I took a trip back to L1.  Prof. J had invited me back to the Lowe Institute as a guest in a speaker series.  Of course I agreed.  My shuttle arrived a little bit late, meaning I didn't have much time before my scheduled talk, so I didn't get an opportunity to meet with my former advisor until afterwards.

We sat in his office, and it reminded me of old times.  I wasn't his student anymore, but I still needed his advice.

"That was a good talk, my boy."  He had a tendency to call me that, but I'd gotten used to it.  He also used to have a tendency to mispronounce my given name, so for a little while, it had been quite preferable.  I didn't like being called 'hero' all the time.

"Thank you for inviting me, sir."

He may have rolled his eyes at me then.  It was a little difficult to tell behind his thick glasses.  They were auto-tinting, and since we had just been out in the sun, they hadn't yet faded to clear.  Even when they were clear, they still managed to be rather reflective.  Looking him in the eye usually consisted of looking back at myself.  "You've been out in the field for how many years now?  We're colleagues now.  You can drop this 'sir' thing."

"You still call me 'boy'," I pointed out.  'Sir' was really a force of habit rather than a term of respect these days.

"Well, erm," he huffed.  "So how's that project of yours going?"

I found even that innocent question difficult to answer.  "I think I'm close," I answered, somewhat evasively.

"Oh?  That's good to hear, boy.  What have you learned?"

I gave him a brief summary of the people and their customs at the pediatric ward of Peacecraft Memorial.  There was a certain comfort to be found in the recounting of dry, solid facts.

"So where's the problem?"

"Huh?" I answered intelligently.

"You look troubled, boy.  I assume there's a problem."

It must have been bad, if I had actually looked troubled.  I didn't know how much to tell him.  "...I think I may be getting too involved with them."

He harrumphed contemplatively.  "Is that so?"

I nodded, a little grimly.  "I've become the focus of a grief ritual for one of the doctors."  Yes, that's right.  Place the blame on Duo's shoulders, at least while I was dealing with Prof. J.  I might have confided the story of my parents to him, but I wasn't going to be telling him about this strange attraction I had for the doctor.  "He apparently had need of an outsider, and I happened to be convenient."

He hmmmmed again.  That had always unnerved me.  I never could read him as easily as he could me.  "What does this ritual involve?"

I cast about for a succinct description of what we did, and finally settled with, "Being his friend."

The old man had the gall to laugh at me.  His laughs always sounded like a mad cackle.  Despite his sometimes frightening aspect, the kooky old professor and I had always gotten along rather well.  "So you're his friend.  Big deal."

I raised an eyebrow at him.  This was a strange change in philosophy.  "You don't think this represents a conflict of interest?"

"With anyone else, maybe.  But I know you, Heero.  You're a good boy.  You won't let your emotions get in the way of your research.  Doesn't mean that you can't have emotions, or you can't listen to them.  Just that you're a stubborn bastard with a frighteningly can-do attitude.  You're a classic overachiever that has always naturally found a way to be the best at everything.  I don't think being his friend will affect your study.  It'd be just like you to find a way to get around it."

I was somewhat incredulous in the face of his expression of confidence in me.  "What happened to 'don't get involved with the natives'?"

"You can't break the rules unless you know them, boy!"  He chortled again.  "Besides, that old piece of dogma is getting ridiculously outdated with these modern cultural spaces.  The fact that you're sitting there questioning yourself right now is good enough.  We can't have you running around without considering the consequences of your actions, now can we?"

I stared at him long and hard.  It was enough that he had made me think.  He was fond of doing that.  It figured.  Too bad his gracious 'permission' hadn't solved the rest of my problem.



I wasn't as resistant to Duo's efforts to get me to go out after that, but I still didn't allow myself to just jump into a friendship wholeheartedly.  Luckily, Midii was having a good month.  They still hadn't successfully induced remission, but at least she didn't seem to be getting much worse.  Oddly enough, however, it hadn't been the bad days that had been causing me problems so much as the good days.

When Duo needed me on a bad day, I knew, to a decent extent, what he expected of me: that is to say, practically nothing.  He just needed me there to listen, to ground him.  I was pretty clueless on the good days, though.

Ironically enough, after I accepted it, I found that I started spending more time with the others again.  It may have been coincidence more than anything else since it started with a computer crash.

I arrived at the hospital one day and was starting to set up shop in the lobby when I heard a tiny shriek of terror from the nurses' station.  I got up to check it out.  Sylvia was staring at her terminal with wide eyes, her hands held back from the keyboard carefully in that 'what did I do?  I didn't touch anything!' gesture.  "Eep," she uttered.

I leaned over the counter to see what was wrong.  She had been backing up the patient files when it had apparently stopped on her.  Yes.  That could be rather bad.  "Need some help here?"

"Eep."  She merely slid her chair away from the desk with a push of her legs and left me room to work.  I walked around to the door to the station and she silently gave her chair up to me.  "I didn't do anything weird, I swear it!"

"Stand down, Sylvia," I said, deciphering the arcane error messages the OS had plastered on the screen.  Something had gotten corrupted.

Hilde's head popped up from around the corner.  "Forgive me for being obtuse here, but can't we just reset the lil' sucker?"

I tried hitting the close button, but the application calmly informed me that certain files were still open and I couldn't terminate until they were shut down properly.  The OS, ever so helpfully, wouldn't reset until all of its subprocesses had been terminated.

Sylvia stood beside me wringing her hands together.  "Oh, what are we going to do?  All of our patient files are on that thing!"

"You back up every week, don't you?  So at worst, you haven't lost everything.  But I can probably put this thing back together if you give me a little time.  You can keep operating with the hard copies for now, right?"

And so began my short term in the nurses' corral.  I was alternately called a nurse myself because from the outside it looked like I was working with them, or else a doctor because of the 'delicate reconstruction surgery' I was performing on the hard drive's fragged memory system.  At some point in the day, Duo walked by and dropped a nurse's hat on my head, which I promptly removed.

It had been a while since I had been in the middle of the center of activity.  There was almost always something being done in that little area, someone bustling in and out, someone writing up paperwork or organizing files.  It was like everyone was coming to me instead of the other way around.  Suddenly Trowa's office computer needed updating.  It had this persistent bug in the setup that he'd never gotten around to fixing.  Sally had a program she'd been wanting to check out for DNA sequence matching, but it required a connection to an outside server database that she was having problems with because of the hospital firewall.  Quatre's computer had some advertising bug he had accidentally downloaded with a plug-in installed somewhere in the registry and he couldn't get rid of the random pop-up ads.  I even saw the inside of Dr. K's office for the first time in a long time when he sat me down and offered to pay me for my services to their department.  If I hadn't been around, they might have had to call for outside help to fix the terminal and its server.  I declined the offer.

I had thought that I would be annoyed when no one left me alone while I fixed things, but it turned out that we talked, about work and not about work, and in general, we all had a good time with each other.

"So why are you an anthropologist instead of a computer guy?" Sally asked me as I fiddled with her network settings.

"I am a computer guy," I answered.  "I just happen to be more of an anthropologist guy right now."

"Oh.  Well, that's good."

"Hm?"  I sat back to wait for her computer to restart.

"Well, if you weren't here to do a study, then we probably would never have met you."

Well that was strange.  Many people I studied wanted to forget about me since I was associated with rough times in their life.  I particularly recalled one mother that claimed that I had brought death with me when I came calling.  "It's possible I may have come by.  You know, a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, and Heero Yuy visits the pediatric ward at Peacecraft Memorial Hospital."

She laughed.  "What for?  As a computer repairman?  Somehow I think you would have had bigger plans in mind, had you been mainly a computer guy.  You don't have a wife and kids, do you?"

"No, I don't.  I can't imagine that I ever would, really."

"Well, I think that you've gotten along better with the kids during your stay here, compared to how you were when you first came to us."

"Maybe," I conceded.  "But I haven't even had a home for the past, oh, eight years or so.  Probably longer, in a few senses.  Hardly a good environment for a child."

"You just go where your job takes you?"

"Pretty much."

"So you'll probably be leaving when your study is over?"

"Probably."

"That's too bad.  We'll miss you when you're gone."

"You'll hardly notice," I disagreed.  It was better than saying that they'd be glad when I was gone.

"You're one of us now, Heero.  If you're ever more of a computer guy, you might consider settling down around here."

Duo's face flashed before my eyes, and I blinked it away.  "Hn.  Maybe."

A few days later, I was back on the terminal at the nurses' station, securing the lines they used to access their main server.  It would have been more efficient to interact at the server itself, but remote access was fine, especially since the server lacked a keyboard, and the old monitor was fuzzy enough that looking at it gave me a headache.

I was working after hours, trying to interfere with day-to-day operations as little as possible when I heard Hilde stop in the doorway behind me.  She had the late shift that night.  Not far down the hall, the music from the janitor's radio provided us some background noise.

She stood there for a while, watching me I supposed, and I figured if she wanted to talk to me, she already would have done so, so I ignored her and continued with my work.  After a few minutes, I heard some very faint footsteps as someone joined her in the frame of the door.  It had to be Duo.  Only he walked that quietly.

"Having fun, Hil?"  His rich voice confirmed my guess.  He must have been working late that night.

"Mm-hmmm," she sighed in satisfaction, and it suddenly occurred to me that she was ogling me, or at least pretending to.  I thought there was a smirk in that sound.  I refused to turn around to find out.

"So?  Am I right?"

"About what?"

"He is a hottie, isn't he?" he whispered loudly to her, causing me to involuntarily twitch.  Still, I refused to turn around.  He had obviously intended for me to hear that.

Hilde snickered, the sound not quite masked by the music.  "You didn't have to tell me that.  I can tell just by looking at the back of his head."

"Beauty is more than skin deep, Hil," he reproved her gravely.

"I don't need what's under his skin," she replied saucily.  "What's under his clothes will do just fine."

"Okay," I declared loudly, finishing up my work with a final, hurried flourish before swiveling my chair around.  "I think I'm done here.  You can have the terminal back.  Sorry for the inconvenience."

"Oh, no inconvenience at all," she brushed me aside airily, a definite twinkle in her eye.  "You'll have to come back and do it again sometime."

"Hn."  I got out of her chair and ignored the way she quite deliberately raked her eyes over my form.  "If I've done my job right, then I won't need to do this again for quite some time."

"Oh, pooh.  That's too bad."  The pout on her face was over-exaggerated.  "Let's break something else, Duo."

With a smirk on his face, Duo 'accidentally' knocked a pencil off the countertop.  "Oops," he said unrepentantly.  "Be a dear and pick that up for me, would you, Heero?"

I just rolled my eyes at them both and walked past him.  Their laughter followed me out the door.  Those two were trickster, and trickster jr.



I ended up at Duo's house one night after work.  After three days of forgetting to bring me the vid disc from their Christmas party four years ago, he finally just brought me home with him to watch it.  I wanted to see some of the older staff members that I had heard stories about, most notably Dr. G.  It would be interesting to see if there had been a noticeable shift in group dynamic or not.  Dr. K was the eldest of the current group, but the staff didn't interact as much with him as I had heard they did with Dr. G.  Because the hole left by Dr. G still hadn't been filled, I expected the disc to reveal a little something about how they responded to a senior authority among them.

We sat down on an old beat-up sofa in front of a moderately sized TV.  The place seemed fairly homey, not really what I would have expected out of a doctor's salary, but then again, I expected very few of the things that came out of Duo Maxwell.

Dr. G was a man that reminded me eerily of Prof. J.  He had a very sharp set of eyes above an almost comically over-sized nose, and treated his less-senior colleagues with a similar disdainful attitude that masked a certain fondness for them.  He even had the familiar habit of referring to Duo as 'boy'.

We ended up swapping stories about our mentors and advisors until a reasonably late hour.  He was curled up facing me on one end of the small couch while I sat more properly in my seat, facing the TV.  We were laughing about how we really needed to introduce the two of them because they seemed like they would get along really well -- although they would never admit it -- when suddenly, our eyes met, the laughter stopped, and time froze.

Tension held suspended in the air between us, the medium through which some sort of spark crackled, and then he was on his knees and leaning towards me, and then he was hovering over me, an arm braced against the cushions on my far side, one hand coming to lie softly upon my shoulder, and then he was closing in, and I had all this time to stop him, but I didn't.

I watched as he came closer, met his eyes evenly as he did so, stared at his mouth when his eyelids drooped half-shut, and then didn't stop myself from following him after he withdrew, our lips having touched in a singular moment of exquisite first contact.

He stopped pulling back and our lips bumped against each other once more in another short, startling kiss before we separated again, his forehead resting upon mine as we shared the heated air between us.

"Duo...," I managed in an exhalation.  I tried to finish the thought my mind had started, but my concentration shattered when Duo closed in once more, nudging me back against the cushions with the hand still on my shoulder as he pulled the very breath from my lungs.  It was only when his mouth left mine to drop light, teasing kisses up and down my jaw that I managed to gather myself.

"We--"  I was interrupted by the sensation of his lips on my earlobe, but with a swallow I forced myself to continue with a shaky whisper.  "We shouldn't do this."

"Why not?"  His question was breathed directly into my ear in a warm, moist stream of air that made me shudder.  He shifted his position so that he no longer hung above me so much as sprawled on top of me.  That didn't help.

"Because...."  I forgot why for a while when he returned his attention to my mouth, and my own traitorous mouth gave back as good as it got.  I pulled away as soon as I was able, far too soon and yet not soon enough.  "Because... because I... I'm supposed to be...."

His elbows rested on the back of the sofa, one to either side of my head, allowing his fingers to entangle themselves in my hair and tilt my head back.  "I don't care."  He breathed the words into my mouth, returning the air he had stolen earlier, and his tongue followed where his breath had blazed a trail.  One hand, eager not to be left behind in the race to explore, trailed down my face, down my neck, down my chest to tug at the hem of my shirt.

We broke off the kiss again, and I managed to regain my bearings only slightly faster than he.  I laid a previously lax hand upon his wrist through the fabric of the shirt it had wormed its way beneath, quite unfortunately pushing the heat of it even closer to my body, and I nearly trembled with the effort of holding myself still.  "But--"

He knocked me senseless and silent with yet another hot, wet kiss.  "If you haven't lost your objectivity by now, then this won't matter."  His hand slipped through my light grasp to dance its way higher up my chest.  His eyes rose to pierce me with their intensity, and their brightness seemed only emphasized by the relative fogginess that had crept into my mind.  "Screw your study."  The hand still caught in my hair lowered until it could trace a light, almost tickling line along the outer edge of my ear.  "Screw your objectivity."  He moved his lower body to press temptingly against me.  "Screw me."

How could I resist an invitation like that?  His words echoed down to my toes and back again until I could feel them vibrating in each fiber of my body and all it seemed was right.  With a cautious mental toe, I slowly, hesitantly nudged my restraint closer to the edge of a cliff, and Duo, with his caressing fingers and wandering lips, facilitated the final shove that sent it over.



An unfamiliar clock read three o'clock in the morning when I started to wakefulness in an unfamiliar bed.  My body tingled in an unfamiliar way, and there was an unfamiliar weight across my chest.  All of it was explained by the unfamiliar presence of someone in the bed with me.

I turned my head slowly to the other side, and found Duo sprawled beside me, his arm lying on top of me.  I blinked at him for a few moments, wondering how things had somehow ended up the way they had, before I felt the need to rise and clear my head, and maybe scramble haphazardly down that cliff from last night and try to put my self-restraint back together again.

Careful not to wake Duo, I slipped out from underneath his light embrace and headed to the adjacent bathroom first, locating a small handcloth.  I wet it under a tiny stream of water from the faucet and used it to clean myself up enough so that I wasn't reminded of what had just happened with each move that I made.  It was already enough that I was wandering around naked in the middle of the night in someone else's home.

I managed to find a discarded shirt from last night and shrugged it on, only remembering then that I hadn't worn a button-down shirt yesterday.  It must have been Duo's.  With a philosophical shrug, I went ahead and fastened the middle button, enough so that my pertinent bits were covered, before I went over to stand next to the window, to lean against the wall and stare at the thin lines of street light it let in.

One line led straight up the bottom of the bed to fall across the spread of Duo's loosed hair, and with a slight shiver I remembered the moment I let it down.  It had bothered me that I hadn't been able to run my fingers freely through his hair as he could through mine.

I remembered the way his hand had stayed entwined with mine, an intimate hold and a desperate clutch.

I remembered the sound of his breath as it caught in his throat, a gasp of pleasure and a choking sob.

I shook my head to clear it of the images.  This... was not good.  Had it been a mistake?  I had to answer no.  My heart demanded it of me.  But it was still not good.

If you haven't lost your objectivity by now, then this won't matter.  How true was that?  I wondered if I had ever had my objectivity.  I clearly remembered pegging Duo as someone to watch all the way back on my first day in the department.  That had been an objective decision, I thought, based purely on observation and experience, but it had still probably biased my study from the start.

So maybe he was right.  Maybe I had lost my objectivity long ago, and this wouldn't make it any worse.

And if I hadn't lost it?  Well, if, after all the things that should have made me lose it, like the moment I realized that I was attracted to him, or our growing friendship, I had still been able to carry on with my study without difficulty, then maybe this new twist in our relationship wouldn't change things.

Maybe I was just rationalizing to myself.

It hadn't felt wrong, what we had done.  In fact, it felt as if just a few more things had just clicked into place, but that, conversely, troubled me.

"'eero?"  Duo's sleepy mumble shook me from my ponderings.  When he spied me in the darkness by the window, he took the arm that had been draped across me and used it to prop himself up.  "What're ya doin'?"

"...Just thinking."

It seemed the sleep magically disappeared from his eyes at those two quiet words.  "What about?"

I couldn't stop the small chuckle that escaped my lips.  "What do you think?" I asked wryly.

"Oh."  He sat up, and the blankets slipped down to pool in his lap.  The silhouette of his shoulders seemed tense.  "And...?"

I blew my mussed hair out of my eyes with a tired sigh.  "And...," I repeated to myself.  And I knew why we couldn't do this anymore.  "You were right.  About the objectivity part of it, anyway.  I'm way beyond that now."

"...So what's the other part?"

I didn't want to say it aloud, but it would have been unfair not to tell him.  "I am attracted to you, Duo.  There's no denying that."

"But...?"

"...But why?  Is it because of this study?"  He looked uncomprehendingly at me.  This is the right thing to do, I told myself, but it didn't make it any easier to find the words, and then to say them.  "Duo.  I told you about my parents, how I felt, or didn't feel, and why I went out to find out about it.  I found out about it.  I learnt a long time ago about the range of emotions that people can experience over a death.  You know why I'm still in this business?  Because I want more.  Because now that I've seen the depth of emotion, I'm not satisfied with just an intellectual understanding anymore.  I want to feel it, too.  Feel what I didn't feel before.  And just now... just a few hours ago, I... I felt some of it.  I felt more alive than I ever remember feeling.  Being with you was a beautiful thing.  But that's not... that's not right.  That's not... that's not love.  So that's not fair."

He shook his head at my final whispered words.  "I don't get it.  Isn't that... What's so wrong about loving the way I make you feel?  Isn't that what love is?"

I cringed at the bewildered pain I had put into his voice.  "Love isn't... being an emotional leech, Duo.  I don't know right now if... if it's you, if it's you that's making me feel this way, or... or just your ability to make me feel this way.  I know this doesn't make much sense.  But I just can't be sure if... I mean, I know what attracts me is... hell, you're everything that I wanted to experience.  You've got that depth of emotion that I lack, and being near you, sometimes when it overflows I feel like I can soak up just a little bit of it and get just that much closer to the real thing, that much closer to finally understanding it.  Really understanding it, not just intellectually, but deep inside, too.

"But... is that enough?  After I figure it all out, am I going to find you unnecessary?  Will you cease to hold any fascination for me?  Am I just using you to get this emotional rush?  Am I just milking you for all you're worth, and when you've run dry, will I just move onto the next?  I just don't know, Duo.  I just don't know."  Don't get involved with the natives.  God, I thought it was because the relationship would interfere with the study, but what if it was because the study would interfere with the relationship?

"Heero...."

When he said nothing further, I found myself continuing to rave in a strained voice.  "And you, Duo.  I don't know what you're thinking.  Did I just come at the right time?  Right when you needed someone outside and inside of your troubles at work, here I came, ready and willing to listen, practically begging to be purged at.  Is that fate?  Or is that just convenience?  Is it just that I'm available and receptive for you to dump your emotions into?  When all of your patients are well, will you still find me attractive, or will I become unnecessary, too?  Once we don't need each other any more, will we find out that we really have nothing else in common?"

I could see him struggling to find the answers in the faint light of the late night, early morning hours, and finally his shoulders slumped in defeat.  "I don't know," he murmured.  "I don't know."

I bit my lip, then crossed the room with a few swift strides to land myself at his side.  I grabbed both of his hands and ducked my head, trying to catch his downcast eyes with my own.  "Then I'm sorry, Duo.  I'm sorry.  I don't want to use you.  I... I at least respect you too much for that.  But unless you can tell me with absolute conviction that... that if I were just a software engineer, and if you were just a... an allergist or something, and we somehow met... if you can't tell me that we would love each other, even in those circumstances, outside of our jobs right now, then I'm sorry.  I won't get myself into what could be the best relationship of my life, only to have it end very shortly in the worst possible way.  I'm sorry."

His head bobbed up and down in what looked like reluctant resignation and agreement of my point.  "You're... you're right.  But we can... can we wait and see?"  Even that little expression of hope came out flat and depressed.

I nodded, but he didn't see it, so I raised a hand to cup his cheek and tilt his face towards mine.  He automatically turned into the hand, then half-flinched as what we were doing struck him.  "We can, Duo.  When... when this is all over, we can see what we really have, or what we have left."

One hand reached up to grasp at mine as he opened his eyes and pinned me with his stare.  "Can we just pretend?  Just until the sun comes up?  That you're just a software engineer, and I'm just a... no, Trowa's the allergist.  I just do family practice.  And we met each other at a party, through mutual friends, and we hit it off, and fell in love, and now we're just going to make love until the sun comes up because... because you're going off on a business trip tomorrow and I won't get to see you for a while?"

Suddenly, I desperately wanted that all to be true, and I nodded, and our lips came together again for the beginning of the end before we ever really started.




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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 29th, 2016 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've read this story before, and I love it. But i feel like there is a part missing? About the end of the study and the accident?
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: October 29th, 2016 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, bloody heck.

Fixed.  Thanks!
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