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fic - for promis'd joy - part 3 [novella] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - for promis'd joy - part 3 [novella]
Title:  For Promis'd Joy
Part:  3

For Promis'd Joy
sequel to Gang Aft Agley
Part 3

Catherine ruffled his hair, then leaned over the back of the sofa next to him and favored him with an impish smile.  "Well?"

"Well what?" Heero said, settling his hair with a concise shake of his head.  He and Trowa were so much like brothers that even Trowa's sister thought of him as a little brother.

"Forget talking about your classes," she huffed, gesturing at the other two young men with him in the Barton living room.  "That's boring.  I want to hear about Duo."

Heero regarded her with a wry quirk of his lips.  "What about him?  You met him the other day."

She made an exasperated sound.  It was always difficult for her to tell when he and Trowa were simply being obtuse like the oblivious guys they were, and when they were being obtuse deliberately.  "Well, since I only saw him when you two were coming out of Trowa's room, I didn't find out much about him other than he's terrified of clowns.  Tell me something else about him since Trowa hasn't seen fit to give me any good dirt."

"You're just lending credence to their claims," Wufei observed.


Trowa answered the interrogative sound.  "Quatre and Duo decided that we were probably hanging out today without them so we could discuss them in private, so they decided to go out by themselves today and supposedly gossip about us in turn."

"I'm glad they haven't gotten their hooks into Meiran yet," Wufei said, snorting.

Heero happily latched onto the possibilities presented by that statement.  "Wufei's got a new girlfriend," he pointed out to Catherine.  "Why doesn't anyone ever bug him about her?"

Catherine turned bright eyes towards Wufei, then dismissed him.  For her, Wufei was more like a close cousin rather than a brother.  "Well, no one's really shocked or amazed that he got a girlfriend.  I imagine it happened in the usual way.  But you, Heero," she said, poking him in the shoulder.  "For you it must have been a remarkable story."

His eyes flicked down to where she poked him, then back up to her face.  "You're lucky I like you."

She laughed the threat off, confident he would never carry through on such a thing with her.  "Well, tell me more about -him- so I can decide whether to like him or not."

"You'll like him."

"Is that so?" she drawled, wondering if it should truly be taken for granted, or if Heero could possibly be that moonstruck.  Maybe it was both.  Heero wasn't the kind of guy to get moonstruck frivolously, and she had to like anyone that could put such a warm expression on Heero's face, even if that expression had been wielded with a hint of humor while trying to comfort his coulrophobic boyfriend.  "He's gorgeous."

Heero's first thought for an answer was, 'he's mine,' but on a second thought, he decided that that was perhaps not a good idea.  "Yes."

The glint in his eyes clued Catherine in on his hidden thought anyway.    "Good body to go with the pretty face?"

A muscle in Heero's jaw twitched, but something perverse in him decided to play along.  Catherine was the person he'd always gone to on the rare occasions that he needed input from a female perspective.  She deserved a little something in return.  "Yes."

"Good kisser, too, I'll bet."

"Yes."  A slight smirk escaped from his lips, particularly at the sight of Trowa and Wufei blinking silently at him in mild surprise.

Catherine smirked more widely than he.  "Good in bed, too?"

Heero paused, feeling the faintest hint of a blush creeping up on him.  He growled at it and it obediently retreated.  He was about to answer something to a negative effect, wishing he could come up with something suitably suggestive and evasive.  He was sure Duo would have been able to find a good, purposefully misleading yet entirely true answer.  Then it occurred to him that she hadn't said anything about sex.  Yes, Duo was good in bed; they kissed in bed, and snuggled in bed, and studied in bed, and all sorts of things, especially if one considered his futon sofa as a bed as well.  "Yes."

The three of them together looked at him with various levels of surprise.  He met their stares with a sly tilt of his lips.

"You have not had sex with him, have you?" Catherine asked, just wanting to be clear.  Normally, she would assume Heero was just playing with them, but jokes as these were best when they were true, and who knew just what this Duo fellow had done to him?


Trowa knew him best, and took it upon himself to clarify.  "Yes, you have not had sex with him."

"Yes."  Whee.  He was having fun.

"Oh, thank God!" Catherine exclaimed.

Heero raised an eyebrow at her.  "That would have been a remarkable story indeed?"

"Indeed.  Trowa and Quatre haven't even slept together yet."

"Cathy."  Trowa's tone was amused and horrified all at once.

"What?  I mean, surely you'd tell me, right?"

"Absolutely not."

"She'd probably be able to tell, anyway," Wufei opined.  "Either you or Quatre would give it up to her woman's intuition."

"I've slept with Duo," Heero offered, finding it suddenly amusing.  "A few times.  Hmm.  We've showered together, too."

"Too much information, Yuy!" Wufei barked.

Heero grinned sneakily at them.  It was a pity Howard didn't have any embarrassing baby pictures of Duo, or else he could say he'd seen Duo naked, too.  "It's true," he protested mildly.

"On a scale of one to ten," Catherine started.  "Ten being all the way and then some.  How far have you really gotten?"

"Too much information!  Women," Wufei sniffed disdainfully.  "Always with your gossiping.  There are some things that shouldn't be gossiped about."

"Oh, please.  You know you've been dying to ask, only you can't just because you're guys."

"Not true!"

"You should be thanking me for getting it all out into the open!"

Heero disregarded their banter and thought about the question, just for fun.  He didn't have to give an answer, after all, but what he concluded surprised him into speaking of it aloud.  "Huh.  Not as far as it seems, I guess."

Cathy stopped teasing Wufei to delve more deeply into this unexplored territory.  "Oh?  What do you mean?"

He shifted in his seat a little, not quite liking how he was the focus of their attention.  Perhaps it was true that even his male friends had been curious about his relationship with Duo.  "Well... we seem close to me, and it seems like a lot to me, but I guess in the grand scheme of things, it's really not that much at all."

"Say you were a four," Trowa proposed, selecting a modest number.  "But honestly, you probably started out at negative three or so instead of zero, so that's probably why it seems like a seven to you."

"Hn.  This is true."  Besides, the scale as Catherine had defined it measured only physical proximity, where Heero might propose that emotional proximity should be counted as a multiplicative factor to that.  Altogether, he was nearly under the impression they had gotten quite hot and heavy with each other, when objectively, they snuggled as much as they snogged, and had never engaged in a vigorous game of tonsil hockey, which, Heero believed, was a good thing.  If he unexpectedly found Duo's tongue burrowing into his mouth, he'd probably bite it off accidentally in surprise.  No, Duo's tongue was no stranger to him, but little more than just a casual acquaintance, too.  Like a friendly neighbor, perhaps.  Nice to see and talk to every once in a while, but belonging in his place next door.  As things stood now, Heero really didn't see the attraction of having someone else's tongue in his mouth, but he could admit that perhaps it was simply because he hadn't tried it yet.  Maybe he'd put that on his to-do list.

He had the feeling they'd been making progress, but he didn't know where.  Running through their kisses, then and now, he tried to gauge what had changed, but found to his surprise that they hadn't really gotten any hotter or deeper over the last month or two.  But... maybe they'd gotten longer?  Maybe, excepting the occasional bout of extreme breathlessness, they'd gotten more familiar?  Or maybe they'd just gotten better?  Better, after all, didn't have to involve deeper or hotter.  It could involve angles and pressures and degrees and rhythms. 

Or maybe it was that emotional factor after all.  Maybe that was growing as well.

He blinked, suddenly realizing everyone was watching him again as he lost himself in thought.  "What?"

Catherine laughed and shifted over enough to give him a brief hug.  "He's been good for you, hasn't he?"

His expression melted into a shy smile.  "Yes."

What excuse did Heero have?  If there were any clear, rational thoughts running through his mind at the time, they would have tried asking, midterms make him hot?  There had been some unknown aphrodisiac in their dinner?  Duo was just one sexy piece of *ahem*?

Whatever the reason, some bold impulse took a hold of him in the middle of kissing Duo, and he paused only long enough to dismiss his wits and gather his courage, and then he kissed Duo.  Thoroughly.  Wetly.  Hotly.  With hands wandering, body crushing, tongue exploring.  And when he was done, he pulled back with a gasp, stared into Duo's startled but definitely pleased and even a little dazed eyes, muttered something unintelligible, stood, turned around, strode straight into the bathroom, and shut the door behind him.

Duo blinked, still trying to catch his breath.  And then he closed his eyes, willing away that delightful tingle in his groin.  Well, alright, maybe just pushing it aside a bit.  It took a bit of effort.  He got up slowly, shook his head to clear it, futile though it seemed, and stumbled forth in Heero's footsteps.  Trying the doorknob gently and finding it locked, he tapped the door a couple of times with his knuckles instead.  "Uh, is you running off to hide in the bathroom a good reaction, or a bad reaction?"

When he received no response, he leaned in close, and managed to hear someone shifting slightly against the wood of the door over the clamor of his blood still rushing through his veins.  Well, at least Heero was just barricading the door with his body, and not hurling into the toilet.  He supposed that was a good sign.  He tried again, playing a different card.  "Uh, Heero?  You okay in there?  ...  Like, knock back if you don't need me to call you an ambulance or something."

A tentative knock sounded after a few breath-holding moments.

"Okay."  That was a start.  Of something.  "Uhm... Well, now.  Hmm.  So, uh, crazy weather we've been having lately, eh?"

Something rubbed against the door again.  "I'm fine, Duo," Heero answered.  It must have been uttered softly, because when muffled by the door, it was only fuzzily audible.

"Ooookay.  Then why are you hiding in the bathroom?"

"I am not--"  The door opened abruptly, and Duo found himself face to very close face with a very flushed Heero.  Both of them refused to take a step back, and so they stared directly into each other's eyes, each convinced he had the right of it.

"I am not hiding," Heero proclaimed stiffly.  A few haughty seconds later, he pushed his way past his boyfriend and plopped himself down on his bed, his arms naturally crossing over his chest.  His scowl looked suspiciously like a pout.

Bemused, Duo followed him, sitting down carefully on the other end of the bed and trying somewhat unsuccessfully to suppress the twist of his lips.  "Well, in case you were worrying about that kiss... it was, uh... wow.  I think we can safely say you don't have to be worried about your imagined inadequacies any more."

Hmm, if anything, Heero seemed to get even more red.  Duo calmly informed him of this fact.  "Heero.  There's so much heat in your face you're practically glowing."

Heero looked more annoyed than anything else, though more at the relevation and not at him, and appeared to be trying to will the blood away from his face.

Since it didn't seem he would be speaking any time soon, Duo tried to solve the puzzle on his own.  So Heero appeared to be embarrassed about something, and apparently it wasn't because he thought the kiss had been amateurish or something.  So... what?  He was annoyed about his lack of control?  "Are you... regretting you did that?"

Heero shook his head with one soft motion, shutting his eyes briefly as he did.  "No.  No, it was just... mildly mortifying, is all."

Duo chuckled.  "What, the kiss, or you running off to the bathroom?"

He opened his mouth as if to protest again, but couldn't deny his flight, so he frowned and pouted some more.

Duo bit down on the inside of his lip until he could straighten his expression out into something a little less obvious.  He wondered if he'd be irritated if only Heero didn't look so darn cute.  Of course, he knew he'd probably get his balls torn off if he mentioned that, so he wisely didn't.  "Ahem.  So, what, surprised the hell out of yourself there?"

He heard Heero take in a deep breath, then expel it through his mouth.  "Yeah, you could say that.  And not in a good way, either."

It was difficult for Duo to determine whether the strange feeling settling in his chest was disappointment that Heero hadn't liked that half as much as he had, or just preparation for talking this out.  "It seemed kinda good from where I was sitting," he ventured.  Oh, yes.  His tongue still tingled from the memory of it.  He was pleased to note the tingling in other parts of his anatomy had passed.

"Don't get used to it," was the muttered reply.

He tried not to sound like he wanted to.  Honestly, he didn't burn for another kiss like that one, but he had found it, ahem, quite acceptable, and didn't see what was so bad about it at all.  "You... didn't like it?"

"I didn't like it," Heero answered softly, his eyes sliding away to another random spot on the carpet.

"What about it didn't you like?  What about it was so mortifying?"  Something had caused him to blush like that, and it hadn't been the kiss.  Too hot for him to handle?  For someone as intense as Heero could be, Duo didn't feel that was a reasonable conclusion.  And Heero may have been somewhat conservative in this arena, but he was no prude.  Conservative?  No, not quite.  But he seemed to like things slower, more leisurely.  More... restrained?  Yes, restrained was a good word.  Since Heero volunteered no answer, Duo did instead.  "You wanted that, didn't you?  For a few moments, you wanted that, in a desire kind of way, and you don't like that, do you?"

Heero moved to meet Duo's gaze guiltily, lips pursing as he did so.  At length, he shrugged and unwound just a little.  "Maybe.  I mean... seems like it, doesn't it?"  He dropped his eyes uneasily and looked somewhere else again.

Hiding another smile, Duo crept stealthily up the bed until he was seated by Heero's side and close enough to be quite inviting, though not taking the initiative to complete the engagement.  "What's wrong with wanting things?"

"Not just... things.  This is... this is different than just things."  It seemed easier when Duo wasn't sitting in front of him.  He could feel the reassuring presence beside him, but he didn't have to look it in the eye.  "It's... personal, if you know what I mean."

"So what's wrong with wanting personal things?"

Heero shrugged again and continued to talk to the empty space in front of him.  "I dunno.  I just... well, I have, but... I just don't usually act on it.  Never really seems very important, relatively speaking."

Duo naughtily decided that maybe a little shock might jar Heero out of his broody funk.  "You've never jerked yourself off, have you?"

"I beg your pardon?!" he sputtered, sitting bolt upright.

"What, I'm your boyfriend.  I think I'm allowed to ask embarrassing questions like that.  Oh, look, you're turning red again."

"I am n--!"  He put a hand to his cheek and felt the evidence for himself.  "Dammit."

Duo chuckled throatily and reached out to him.  "Come on."

Heero only looked suspiciously at the outstretched hand.

He shook his head and leaned forward enough to pull Heero close.  "Come on.  There you go," he murmured comfortingly, settling Heero's head against his shoulder.  "Now we're just going to rest here for a few minutes and wait for everything to turn back to normal, okay?  And then we'll discuss this like reasonable, rational adults."

"...Since when are you a reasonable, rational adult?" Heero muttered, ungracefully conceding the fact that he could use a few moments to try and recenter himself.

"Well, you're a reasonable, rational adult, anyway.  I'm just along for the ride."  They sat quietly for a few peaceable minutes, and when Duo had judged the color in Heero's cheeks to have returned to a normal hue, he spoke up quietly.  "So, all better now?"

Heero sighed.  "Now?  Sure.  But I have a feeling I won't be a few minutes from now."

"Tough luck."  He took Heero's hand, dragged up it to sit on top of his belly, then placed his hand over it.  "You're kinda repressed, you know that?"

A wry snort made its way to his ears.  "Gee, really?"

"But you're not so repressed that you can't even see it, so that's good.  We can work with that.  I mean, if you want to work with it," he appended.  He really hated it when people just barged in and decided to change things to fit their personal vision without regard for what they trampled in the process.  "What makes other people's desires more important than yours, anyway?"

Heero had never really thought about it that way, and he analyzed the situation from that angle now.  "Well... you know how some people are.  They want things their way, down to the finest detail, and I guess I think... if it's so important to them, then I'll let them have their way.  If it doesn't matter, anyway.  I'm not a doormat, you know.  I will stand up for--"

"I know, Heero," Duo said, squeezing his hand, thinking back to times Heero had most definitely asserted his opinion.  "You are absolutely not a doormat.  On things that matter.  But your 'personal' opinions... you like keeping those cards close to your chest, don't you?"

"Well, of course," he answered, a tad bit defensively.  "That's what makes them personal, isn't it?  They wouldn't be very personal if they were public, now would they?"  Not that Duo was public.  There had to be an invisible line drawn somewhere.  Duo had gotten very personal with him these last few months.  Where was the difference?  It peeved him that he couldn't see it yet.

Duo pressed his lips to the closest point on Heero's head, realizing he didn't even know what Heero's favorite color was, or if he even had one.  A favorite color wasn't anywhere near as personal as what they were discussing, but if Heero didn't even share that, well, one could only imagine the difficulties he might have with something else.  "I can get that.  I mean, it's a really personal thing, this, uh, thing we have.  I didn't even mention it to anyone for a whole semester, so it's not like I don't see where you're coming from on this."  His butterflies fluttered a bit in concurrence, and he would have spared more than just a second to think about that, only he decided this was Heero's moment.  He'd ponder the existence of those nasty little critters some other time.

"But you're the one I'm being personal with, so..."  Heero sighed softly.  "I don't know.  Nothing's ever that simple."

"You don't need to worry what I think, you know.  And... there's no need to be self-conscious if I'm doing the same thing, right?"

"So there's no need to be embarrassed, right?  You're right.  You're absolutely right.  But."

"There's always a 'but', isn't there?"  And Duo resisted the temptation to try and squeeze Heero's butt as he said it.

"But it wasn't... it didn't feel like me," Heero finished slowly.  "But obviously it was me, and... well, there's that little piece of me again, off doing its own thing without consulting the rest of me.  I don't like that."

Duo nodded amiably, even though Heero wasn't really watching him so much as focusing on the weave of his shirt.  "Okay.  So you don't like that.  I can accept that.  Still doesn't explain what was so mortifying about it."  Without directing his gaze downwards, he could imagine Heero's expression of thoughtful concentration.  After a few seconds of inconclusive silence, he reclaimed the verbal ball.  "You're probably thinking way too hard about this, babe.  But you like doing that, which is okay, because it's you.  And you not liking that is also you.  I mean, not everyone gets off on being naughty, Heero.  Although that wasn't really being naughty so much as, I dunno, listening to that tiny little self-indulgent, self-gratification side of yourself, but hey, I wouldn't be surprised if that's as naughty as your naughty side got.  That probably is naughty for you, isn't it?  Thinking about your own desires every once in a while, uber-responsible boy that you are."

"Do you get off on naughtiness?"

How did Heero make a question like that sound completely commonplace?  Duo laughed.  "I hate to tell you this, but if you started talking dirty to me... I don't think I'd be able to keep a straight face.  No offense or anything, but... it's just not you, babe.  And don't worry about being something you're not, and stop trying to live up to popular hype.  Besides, you're really cute when you're repressed, you know that?"  He figured the moment for tearing off his balls was past.  Fortunately, he was correct, and managed to coax another snort from his boyfriend.

Heero absently tapped out a random pattern against Duo's abdomen with his fingers while he thought.  It was a funny sort of thing since his hand was still being covered by Duo's.  "So... this has nothing to do with you.  Us.  I guess that at least removes the matter from immediate concern."  Not that that said he was entirely agreeing to Duo's point of view.

"As long as it's not some sign that there's something wrong about our relationship," Duo began in agreement, twining their fingers together and putting a stop to the tapping.  It kind of tickled.  "I think it's good to think about yourself every once in a while, but, you know, not if it causes you more problems than it solves.  So you don't need to worry about becoming some uninhibited fiend for me or anyone else.  Everyone's got inhibitions, after all.  You just keep on being the repressed, thinkaholic cutie that you are, who I assure you is sexy as hell regardless, and you'll keep on being the person we all know and love."  It took him several breaths' time to reassure himself that the final word he had uttered had merely been a piece of a stock phrase whose meaning lay in the sum of its parts, not its individual syllables.  He also quelled the insurgent butterflies by willing them to be nothing more than a funny feeling generated by the tapping of Heero's fingers.

"...Don't call me a cutie."  Heero's acceptance of Duo's suggestion lay only in the fact that he didn't mention it.

"But that's what you are."

"That's so... undignified."

Duo laughed.  "I could just squeeze you to little itty bitty pieces!"

"If you call me that, I'll be forced to call you 'beautiful'."

Duo stopped laughing, and frowned with a severity he meant only a little bit.  "You take that back."

"I think not."

"You will, too."

"Will not."

Duo tried to make him, but in the end, after much breathless laughing and tussling and kissing, he never did get Heero to recant.

"Hey, I got you something."

"Hm?  What for?"

"No particular reason.  Just thought I'd add to the decor here."  Or maybe he thought he'd make up for the lost birthday and Christmas of yesteryear.  He pulled a bag out of his backpack, and took out a small figurine, which he set down next to the Grumpy Dwarf by the phone.

Heero stared at it.  "Is that... Bashful?"


Heero stared at it some more, then raised his eyes to blink accusingly at Duo.  "Bashful?  You got me Bashful?  That is just so not right, Maxwell!"

"What, better than Dopey, ain't it?  Or Sleepy."  Heero could deny it all he wanted, but Duo knew the truth.  Hiding inside that grumpy exterior was an inner bashful.  On a whim, Duo reached out and moved Bashful back to hide behind Grumpy, peeking shyly out from over the protective dwarf's shoulder.

"Augh."  Heero made several more inarticulate sounds of frustrated exasperation before just turning around in a huff to glare at his dishes as he stacked them in the sink.

Duo's smile grew larger, though he took pains to conceal it.  He knew Heero wouldn't be cruel enough to demand he take the dwarf back.  He sauntered over behind Heero and wrapped his arms around Heero's trim waist, making no mention of the fact that it wasn't Heero's turn to do the dishes.  It took him a moment to say what he had been planning to say since he got a little caught up in enjoying the feel of Heero's body pressed up against his.  "Mmmmm.  So I was out running some errands, and I crossed the path of these little high schoolers that were just loitering around being obnoxious high schoolers, and you know, I swear kids these days are getting smaller and smaller, or else I'm actually growing somewhere because they just looked so young!  Or maybe it was just the immaturity.  And the stupid saggy gangbanger-wannabe clothing.  Oh, and the attitude, that got-something-to-prove attitude.  Oh, and their language, of course, which was the point of my little story before I got sidetracked."

He paused to nuzzle Heero's neck, but only because Heero had finished collecting dishes for washing.  Maybe Heero didn't forget it wasn't his turn since he stopped, washed and dried his hands, and then stood back loosely to enjoy the embrace.  Duo obligingly kept both the hug and the story going.

"So I pass by this little trio of kids, and they're, ahem, 'conversing' with nothing more than a string of swear words, or at least that's what it sounded like.  Not only was it utterly lame, since they were just talking regularly, by which I mean they weren't having a fight or anything, and they kept interjecting the same words and phrases over and over again.  It displayed a stunning lack of originality.  What are kids coming to today, anyway?  I couldn't help it -- I had to laugh when I heard them.  I think they figured out how stupid they sounded, though, because a couple of them sorta glanced at me and got this kinda embarrassed look on their faces, and that was the total highlight of my day.  You?"

Heero leaned back a little harder, causing the two of them to collectively back up a step or two before balance was re-established.  "Does every day have to have a highlight?"

Although the patient look on his face was wasted on the kitchen sink, Duo put it on anyway.  "Well, it ought to, otherwise your day would be full of lowlights, and, well, that'd be a really sucky day.  And your day didn't really suck, right?  Because I'm sure you would have mentioned it if it had.  So that means there had to be a highlight in there somewhere."

"Hmmm.  Does this count?"  It was the first thing that came to mind out of a rather unremarkable day.

Such an innocuously uttered question, and yet it struck at the core of Duo.  He felt an inappropriate moment coming on, and forced it down with a chuckle.  "Heh, what, doing the dishes?"

"No such luck, Duo," Heero answered, removing the hands from his belly.  Keeping a hold of the hands, he stepped out of the embrace and turned around to look at Duo with an affectionately scolding smile, leaning against the counter as he did so.  "Your turn, not mine."  He paused, removed his weight from the counter, and looked over his shoulder.  "I think I just got the back of my shirt all wet."  Well, nothing to do for it now, so he returned his attention to Duo and was treated to a slightly wide-eyed, frozen smile.

"Duo?" he asked with some concern, squeezing the hands a little more tightly.  That wasn't a look he saw very often, but he thought he recognized it as a moment of 'holy crap!' surprise.

The unwelcome moment had sprung upon Duo anyway, leaving him shivering inside from the littlest things.  They were sharing the trivial little moments of their day, and quibbling over whose turn it was to wash the dishes... Added all together, it just struck him as unnervingly cozy.  Practically living-together-cozy.  He blinked himself out of it his trance at the sound of Heero's question.  "Whoa.  That was a rush."

Heero canted his head in a silent question, but received only a weak chuckle of dismissal in response.  He accepted it with another smile.  "Come on.  I'll help out."

Mid-terms produced stress, and stress made being cooped up in the bubble unusually difficult to tolerate, and thusly did Heero, Duo, and the group of Duo's friends go off-campus for dinner and general carousing after mid-terms were over.  Afterwards, it was a simple enough matter to drop the pair off at the market and save them the extra walk.  Once inside the closed store, walking through the aisles on the way to the stairs in the back, Heero reached out and stopped Duo with a hand to his arm and pulled him close.  "Why does everyone assume we're having sex?" he asked in a low voice, as if Howard upstairs might take notice of it.  "Do they really think that, or were they just saying that stuff for fun?"

"Oh, heh, you noticed that, too, did you?" Duo answered glibly, all too aware of how they had ended up pressed together arm to arm.  In the inevitable discussion of spring break plans, they'd suffered a few well-meaning jibes about staying in bed and entertaining each other all week long.  "People should really keep their noses out of other people's love lives, ya know?  I don't know where they get off making these logical leaps.  You know what they say about people that assume things, after all."

Heero only blinked expectantly at him.

"I think people usually get interested in other people's affairs when they just aren't getting any themselves.  I mean, if Alex and Hilde would just hook up for good instead of hovering around it all the time, we wouldn't suffer half the grief we do.  Did anyone ever tell you that?  They dated for a little while early last year, then they broke up and saw other people for a while, but the attraction is definitely still there."

"None of that answered my questions."

"Oh, well, yeah...  So I guess it's probably kind of a combination of both, you know?  They aren't definitely assuming it as fact, but they maybe suspect it, so they go ahead and joke about it that way.  I mean, either way, whether it's true or not, they don't sound stupid for having made a possibly incorrect assumption, so it's a fairly smart move.  I've done similar things in my time.  You know, joking about things to feel out whether I'm right or not."  He blinked back at Heero, but it was clear Heero wasn't letting go of his arm until he did a little more than just buzz around the first question.  "Well, you can't really blame them.  I mean, I'm sure it's the logical conclusion from their points of view.  I could practically assume it myself, if I weren't in the middle of it and in no position to require a mere assumption..."

Heero squeezed his arm just a little to let him know that he was still not answering the question.

Duo sighed, avoided eye contact, and tried to make himself get a little closer to the answer on this shot.  "It makes sense.  Because, well... well, I guess I'm more intimate with you than I've ever been with anyone, on an emotional level, anyway, so I'm sure it seems logical to assume that I must be that much more intimate with you on a physical level than I've ever been with anyone, too, right?  I mean, at least to them."

Heero blinked, then released Duo's arm, and as his hand fell, it brushed down the length of the arm in a light, familiar gesture.  "Oh."

"Oh," Duo repeated numbly, looking shyly up at him through downcast lashes.  "Is that a good 'oh', or a bad 'oh'?"

Heero shrugged, a slight smile playing on his lips.  "Just an 'oh'."


The smile grew fractionally larger.

The calm before the storm.  That was what this time was.  Another semester was winding down on them, and they were just starting that long stretch of last units to cover in their classes before finals smacked them down and danced on top of their broken bodies.  Duo had suggested they take advantage of the too-brief lull to rent one of the movies they hadn't gotten around to watching last semester, and thus they had acquired the DVD and were watching it on Heero's laptop.  The futon sofa had been pulled forth from the wall and unfolded back into a reclining position so they could cuddle in comfort while watching the laptop that had been planted on top of several thick textbooks stacked between their legs.  The arrangement worked surprisingly well.

Once the movie ended, the books and the laptop were set off to the side, and they stayed where they had made themselves quite at home and discussed the merits and failings of the movie they had just seen, along with anything else that happened along their conversational path.  Somewhere along the way, they stopped sitting upright, and laid down along the length of the sofa-bed.  At a pause in the gradually softening exchange of words, Duo started an entirely new thread of discussion.

"Why doesn't this bother you, Heero?"


"Lying here, with me.  Being all comfortable and content and the like.  I mean, I think I was right; I think self-gratification is very low on your to-do list, and I know you.  You like going through things systematically, so I'm not surprised you got bothered by the way you skipped all the way to the bottom of your list one day and ignored all the so-called more important things.  But then... where does... 'this' fit in?  I mean, this doesn't bother you?  You are... enjoying yourself, aren't you?"

"Of course I'm enjoying this.  I wouldn't be here if I weren't."

"But then, you know, repressed cutie that you are, doesn't that, like, go against your grain or something?"

"...You know, I sound more screwed up than I thought."

Duo whapped him lightly on the shoulder, then followed it up with a gentle rubbing over the same place.

Pursing his lips, Heero thought the matter through.  Since they had last discussed this, he had given it some more form, but was far from having reached any solid conclusions.  "I thought it was self-gratification that went against my grain.  In which case, this doesn't bother me at all.  I mean, self-gratification in a... a basic... I don't want to say 'physical'."  He fumbled for the words, trying to give the idea thought.  "But 'physical' being a part of it, in that it's... hn, 'primal' is an ugly word.  And the 'personal' that we were using before is rather unspecific."  He swished the vocabulary words around in his head and tasted them carefully before continuing.

"Hmm, I guess 'basic' is the best word coming to mind right now.  Something so elementary it goes beyond any reasonable level of thought.  That's what unsettles me," he said decisively.  He didn't like things that happened without his knowledge, especially when he was the source.  If things happened without reason, then where did they come from?  He distrusted such things.  If they were baseless, then they were shifting, unreliable.  "But this?  While I admit it does speak to some elementary part of me... it's not like there's nothing, no reasons or anything, to back it up.  I probably wouldn't be comfortable with this at all if I hadn't given our relationship any thought, but truth be told, before we ever really got close, before we ever kissed, I asked myself.  I asked myself if this was okay with me, if this was what I wanted, and I said yes, it was."

"But then... when we kiss, say.  Don't tell me you're thinking about exactly how to move your lips or whatever, every single time.  Why aren't you always running off to the bathroom?"

"God, that's going to haunt me for a while, isn't it?"

Duo squeezed him apologetically.  "Only in jest, babe."

Heero sighed and again applied his mind to the matter, doing his best to answer these odd questions for his boyfriend.  Duo didn't seem to be just idly wondering.  He was trying to figure something out, and Heero would help if he could.  "That was... different.  Our... 'regular' kisses, they make me feel... well, good.  But 'that' one made me feel... horny."

Duo quickly smothered his laugh, turning it into a choked snort.  Heero had said that with such a sound of dismay.  "I hate to break it to ya, but you're a guy.  It's not unusual for a guy to feel horny."

"Well, horny, perhaps," Heero conceded, his dismay dimmer but still present.  "But not... wanton.  I mean, I know it wasn't much, as wantonness goes, but... it was shallow.  It seemed so... passing.  With nothing behind it but pure... physicality."  He stopped when Duo shifted beside him, and it somehow gave the impression of an uncomfortable squirm.  "Is there a reason you ask?"

The question was deftly sidestepped for the moment.  "So I guess I won't be seeing another one of those ever again, eh?"

"If I kiss you like that... it should be because... because I feel motivated to do so from the deepest fiber of my being... Not because I feel possessed by some... fleeting whim, or momentary lust.  Or something."  He paused, then repeated himself.  "Is there a reason you ask?"

Duo hesitated, keeping his thoughts to himself for a good long moment before they burst out of him.  "Now how can that not bother you?"


He supposed he would have taken it back if he could, but he couldn't, so there was nothing left but to forge forward.  "It's just..."  He shivered slightly, his butterflies gathering their pitchforks and torches in preparation for rebellion.  "This... this bothers me sometimes," he confessed with a hushed whisper.

Heero suppressed the initial urge to go 'huh?' again.  Instead, he took a careful breath, reassured himself he had a good, strong grip on Duo, then asked, "What does?"

"You not being horny.  Well, me not being horny, I guess.  Me... not wanting something so shallow.  See, you may have problems with the whole physical thing, once in a while, but your emotional commitment is totally there, and you have no problems with it.  Mine's... running around in circles, screaming its little head off."

"...Oh," Heero said faintly, trying to decide whether this was a good thing or a bad thing.  In general, anything running around in a circle screaming couldn't be a good thing, right?  His hold on Duo tightened as if he could keep Duo from running off again, not just to the bathroom but out the front door and far, far away.

"Hey, get that look off your face."


Duo had tilted his head so he could see Heero's worried expression.  "Yes, that look.  I'm not going anywhere.  I think I just had a little epiphany, that's all, and it's not a bad one, so come on.  Relax.  There... there..."  He watched as the fear slid off Heero's face in degrees, and finally leaned down to peck him on the cheek.  "Alright, that's better.  Now, I think I've got this one under control, so no worries.  So as I was saying... the voice in my head's going, 'Egads, Brain!'"


"Do I have a fear of intimacy?"

"Sometimes," Heero admitted somewhat matter-of-factly, if a bit cautiously.

"...Well, shit."

"How's that?"

"Well, that means neither of us has our heads screwed on straight!"

"...You mean you thought you were actually the stable one in this relationship?"

That earned a chuckle.  "Well, okay, maybe not.  I'm the one with a voice in my head, after all.  You've known this all the time?"

"Well... It was more like one of those things that becomes obvious after it's pointed out."  He'd never thought so in so many words, but it certainly fit all the symptoms he'd accumulated over the months.  "So this bothers you why?"

"Geez, that's such a typically guy problem.  Why couldn't I have something more interesting, like your problem?  Man, I hate fitting a stereotype."

"Um... okay?"

Duo chuckled again, well aware of the fact that he was probably just bewildering the dickens out of his poor boyfriend.  It was surprisingly entertaining.  "I'm not a total idiot; maybe it took me a while, but I saw the pattern eventually.  When you freak out, it's about the physical stuff, but when I freak out... we usually aren't doing anything in particular.  I just see something we do normally and get weirded out by how... utterly 'normal' it is.  Natural, commonplace, relaxed, whatever.  Like... this.  Right here.  Right now.  Being just with you, and lovin' it.  It... just doesn't feel right.  Or rather, it just feels too right.  It feels like this isn't where I'm supposed to be in life.  Thinking about love and all that stuff."

That last bit brought Heero a moment's pause, but in that moment he decided he wouldn't ask and bring attention to it.  "Where do you feel you're supposed to be?"

"We're still in school, for cripe's sake!  We're, what, twenty?  I should be... stupid and frivolous!  And certainly not this... this in to someone, not unless it was some stupid crush, and it's certainly not that!  I feel like it's too early for me to have found someone this special, which I realize is kinda stupid, because what the hell does 'too early' mean?  I mean, it's not like my own parents weren't this young when they met each other."

"Duo, your parents married young, and look how they turned out," Heero pointed out to him.

That made him stop and think for a second.  "Well, yes," he said with some wonder.  "I suppose that trauma would account for that particular quirk, wouldn't it?"

"We're nothing like your parents, Duo."

He laughed -- loudly -- at that, leaving Heero to peaceably ride out the waves against his chest.  "Oh, God.  No, we are nothing like my parents."  He couldn't stop himself from laughing again.  "God, they'd shit themselves if anyone even suggested we were like them.  I can't even count how many things about me they disapprove of."

Heero calmly climbed up Duo to plant his face mere inches away from the face of the young man with the wide, blinking indigo eyes.  "I approve of you," he said quite blandly.  "Howard approves of you.  And if you want me to, I will gladly give them something to shit themselves over."  He patted Duo on the cheek fondly and climbed back down to resume his former position cozy against Duo's side.

Duo smiled in his wake.  "Okay.  So we're nothing like my parents.  Check.  So that means I shouldn't worry about our ages, eh?"


He sighed.  "Okay, I am so not letting my stupid parents ruin my life.  I will get over this age thing out of sheer spite, if nothing else."

"Will you get over the rest of it?"

"The rest of what?"

"You said you have a fear of intimacy, and I agreed.  Is that all because you just don't want to feel this way?  Because you fear that if you do, we'll end up like your parents?"

"It'd... be pretty easy to blame them for everything, wouldn't it?"  Unfortunately, he rarely favored the easy road.  "But I guess, if this is as... important as it seems... I'd hate to mess that up.  I mean, I get these butterflies in my stomach when I think about... us, and how horrible it would be if... if this were gone.  Or how unbelievable it is that you could possibly..."  He couldn't even bring himself to finish the thought, so he quickly moved on to something else, recognizing with a resigned amusement that this was exactly what he was talking about.  "And what was it I said?  This feels like it's so... beyond my control?  Now that... that bothers me, too.  Oh, boy, does it bother me.  You said you felt that way, too.  How do you handle it?"

Heero exhaled audibly in acknowledgment.  It was rather like a long, breathy 'hmm.'  "Sometimes... I wonder, too.  I think, you're my first... well, first lots of things.  How weird is it that you turned out... this... right?  Kind of serendipitous, don't you think?  How many firsts are an only?  But serendipity happens on occasion.  Good things happen, same as bad things.  You can get blindsided by a car, or a person.  It happens.  So it doesn't bother me.  Like I said, if you can't beat it, join it."

"And your journey to the darkside will be complete," Duo intoned with the proper sneaky malice the line required.  Then he laughed at his own corniness.  It ended with a sigh.  "Just give in to it, huh?  That... requires a certain amount of courage, doesn't it?"

"Or a lack of forethought," Heero answered glibly.  "I never really thought that hard about it.  It was more like, in for a penny, in for a pound.  I took the leap of faith when I decided to do this with you, and... I've just been falling ever since."

"Umm."  Duo debated for a moment whether or not he really want to say what was on his mind, then decided to go ahead.  "That's sweet and all, but, uh, isn't the point behind a leap of faith that you won't fall?"

"...Oh.  That's right.  Well, it sounded good when I said it," Heero muttered defensively.

"Yes.  Yes, it did."  And why was it that it seemed to soothe the butterflies rather than stir them up?

"Well, look at it this way: if I fall first, then you'll have something to land on."

Duo laughed, and poked him playfully in the tummy.  "Doesn't make for a cushy landing.  Hey, wait a minute.  Didn't we say we'd fall together?"  He pointedly put his hand atop Heero's.

"Hmm, yes.  Yes, we did."  Thinking back to that day, Heero wriggled his hand over and let their fingers tangle themselves up with each other, free from all the silly little problems their owners were experiencing.  "Well, I've got a head start, so start falling already."

Duo rolled over, pinning Heero beneath him and looking straight into his eyes.  "I think I already have," he breathed.  "I just refuse to admit it."

He gave into the call of gravity, and let his head lower until the distance between them was practically gone, but before their lips could touch, Heero pulled back minutely.  "But you are going to admit it, right?" he asked first.

"Of course.  Just... not... quite... yet."  Duo felt there was still some way for him to go before he could embrace the feelings running through him.  "Can I kiss you anyway?" he asked almost plaintively.

Heero kissed him first.

title: once again, Robert Burns' To A Mouse: the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men / gang aft agley / an' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain / for promis'd joy!

now.  stay down, you cursed bunny.

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