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fic - de natura amoris [haven] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - de natura amoris [haven]
Title:  de natura amoris
Series:  Moments of Haven
Summary:  On the nature of love.  Duo takes a moment to try to figure out their relationship.

de natura amoris
A Moment of Haven

He could never bring himself to walk into the church like a normal person.  He couldn't help it.  It was just a thing that seemed embedded somewhere in his psyche.  It just didn't seem right to walk confidently into a place he still felt he didn't belong in, so he typically slipped inside with a terrible grace that could have been called the grace of a thief in another situation, only now, it was simply the grace of someone that hoped to avoid being noticed by the eye of God.  It was his policy to try to evade His attention in the hopes that He might forget about one little street rat and all the twisted things He could make happen to said rat.

Sharp, indigo eyes swept across the room as he entered, marking the presence of Haven's resident priest in the corner.  With a silent sigh, Duo noticed that Father MacKenzie didn't seem to have noticed his entrance, so he nudged the front door back open a little and let it shut behind him again with some noise this time.  It was also very not right for him to sneak up on a priest as silently as death, no matter how unintentional.

Father MacKenzie looked up from his perch in the corner to see who had entered his domain.  "Ah, Duo," he said, genuinely pleased to see the young man.  He still didn't understand Duo under most circumstances, but he liked him nevertheless.

"Father Mac," Duo said automatically in return, but after that, he ran out of words.  To cover up the lack, he wandered his way down the center aisle slowly, trailing his hand over the backs of pews as he went.  He'd announced his intention to get some fresh air to Heero, who had acknowledged him before returning to his work, and then he'd left the house with no particular purpose in mind.  Perhaps inevitably, he had ended up here.  He wasn't too surprised.  Sometimes he felt the urge to be here when something weighed upon his mind.  Most of the time, the issue pushed him into the companionship of his partner in so many things, but occasionally there were things that not even Heero Yuy could help with.  Especially when the issue lay with Heero Yuy himself.

Duo reached the front row of pews and ran out of carpet to traverse, forcing him to take a seat near the priest, not really close enough for it to be said that they were sitting next to each other, but still close enough for them to be recognized as in each other's company.  Father MacKenzie didn't press him into conversation.  Duo tended to do this from time to time, this wandering into his church for a bit of quiet time.  Sometimes they had a little chat, and sometimes they didn't, but so long as the boy seemed to leave the church looking no worse than he did when he walked in, then he felt no particular need to press.  Still, he made sure it clearly looked like he was willing to be interrupted if Duo wanted to start something.

After a short silence, Duo did.  "Hey... so, um, hmm...."  He aborted that attempt to get it out and tried again.  "Say.  I can just talk to you... like a regular guy, right?  Of course, right, we've discussed this before...."  He still had problems dissociating the man from the priest, and yet it was the priest-like nature that drew him instinctively to the man, while it was the affable and very human quality of the man that allowed him to accept this man's friendship and guidance.

Father MacKenzie shut his notebook and gave Duo his full attention since it seemed that eventually he might get around to saying what was on his mind.  He absently noted that he wasn't in his clerical outfit today, and that was probably a good thing where Duo was concerned.  He tried not to remind Duo that he was a priest.  To him, it didn't really matter how he helped someone, so long as he helped them.  "Something bothering you today, Duo?"

"Bothering?  Oh, no, I wouldn't say 'bothering'... I'm just... you know... thinking about something."  He said it disarmingly, modestly, in just such a way that you knew it was the complete truth, but also that there was so much more he wasn't quite saying.

"I see.  Were you considering discussing this something with me?"

"Well, sort of, I mean, it's just that you're the only one left that knows about it.  Heero's gone and commandeered Lena, and I don't really think I can trust Suzuhara-san to give me any unbiased answers, but at the same time, I don't really know if you're the right person to be talking to about this, you being you and all, no offense, but..."  He shrugged, and the action accompanied a tiny sigh.  "I mean, I know you said you were all for it and stuff, but that was then, and this is now, and maybe you being all for it doesn't mean that you actually want to think about it or anything...."

Father MacKenzie smiled encouragingly at him.  It wasn't too often that one could catch Duo Maxwell acting young and unsure of himself, although in truth, if he did it more often, he would probably be even more irresistable than he already was to the local community.  The boyish charm partnered spectacularly with his good nature and non-affected appearance to grace him with a rare boy-next-door air.  All the girls would be deliriously overjoyed to bring him home and introduce him to their mommas.

If only they knew his heart was already taken, Father MacKenzie thought.  "I'm guessing this is about you and Heero, then.  I don't know how much help I can be, but whatever it is, you can certainly feel free to ask."  He waited a bit for Duo to volunteer his thoughts, but the boy stayed silent, so he thought he might try helping matters along.  "So how are the two of you doing?"

"Oh, great, fine, no problems...."  The answer was swift, just this side of hasty, but confident.

"But...?"  They'd only had the big talk a few weeks ago.  How much trouble could they have possibly gotten into already?  According to Muchi, they seemed to have decided to go ahead with it, but she wasn't allowed too many details.  With the way Duo was hemming and hawing, he was fairly certain that she would never be allowed too many details.  It wasn't just that Duo seemed unsure of himself; part of the awkwardness seemed to stem from him being uncomfortable talking with others about this sort of thing.  He never went about frivolously sharing his personal information.  For instance, Father MacKenzie was pretty sure that he would probably never find out exactly what Duo felt about the church and why.  Even now, he had managed to speak so many words, but all only in a dance around the topic.

"We're not diving into anything, of course.  You know, just letting things happen... and it seems to be working and all, I guess...."

"But...?" he prodded again.

"But...."  Duo's eyes closed for a moment as he took a slow, deep breath.  "I'm pretty much past the weirded-out stage now, but I think I'm still in the wondering stage."

"Wondering about what?"

"About... if this is really... the way to go?  I guess I'm just wondering... how will I know?"

"Know what?"

"If... argh, but this is hard to figure out.  I must sound like a clueless idiot--"

"It's okay, Duo.  I understand.  You're feeling something, and you're still trying to figure it out, and I don't mind listening if it helps you to just try and explain it aloud to someone.  Heck, I like these sorts of talks -- I'm not the one that has to do all the hard thinking."

Duo smiled briefly.  Little statements like that helped him forget that Father Mac was a priest.  By this time, the 'Father' was more of a habit than a title, much as he was simply used to 'Suzuhara-san'.  He didn't stop to think much about what it all meant anymore, although the 'Father Mac' tripped him up sometimes simply because his tongue occasionally felt like finishing the name as 'Father Maxwell' instead.  Half the time, that was why he ended up abbreviating the name -- to avoid making the mistake where mortal ears could hear.

"I... I probably love him in some way," Duo started again, an oddly resigned tone to his voice as he delivered his point to the empty lectern in front of him.  Love did not come easily to him, nor did it come cheaply, and he said the words softly as if that would make them less real.  He couldn't quite pin down the reason for it, but he felt compelled to try avoiding the trap for as long as he could hold out, even though he knew he would probably be happy if or when he fell.  "You know, as a friend, almost definitely.  So I just wonder... why or where or how does it become... something else?  Something more?  Something different?  Something hot and passionate and... and... you know, romantic-like.  There's gotta be a difference between love and an appreciation for a few physical indulgences between the two of you, and then being in love, ya know?  I mean, people can be friends and do casual sex, too.  People do it all the time, and they know it, too.  It's not like they delude themselves into thinking that they're in love with each other."

"Hmm," the priest said, tongue held lightly between his teeth in a habitual sign of contemplation.  This wasn't a matter he normally counseled on, but heck, he did enjoy a change of pace now and then.  "I think you're just going to confuse yourself if you keep trying to draw such a strict line between the two of them, at least as it relates to you.  After all, Heero is your friend, and he will always be your friend.  You're never going to get away from the fact that you love him as a friend.  It's going to be there, underlying everything you feel for him in the future.  So I would think the question you have to ask would be, not necessarily how are the two different, but what is there that you have on top of what you had?  I think you should take it for granted that you're going to fit the definition of friendly love, and friendly attraction, or what have you.  But hopefully somewhere along the way you'll surpass it, too."

Duo looked at him long enough to make a sour little face.  "You know, I think that both simplifies and complicates things, all at the same time."

Father MacKenzie shrugged.  "You came here seeking clarity, not simplicity.  If I were going to promote simplicity, then I'd say that love is love, no matter what.  Stop worrying about the details and just love him, purely and simply."

The young man snorted, the boyish charm gone for now in favor of the rogue.  "That sounds like it came out of a fortune cookie or something.  That may sound simpler, but I think it may actually be harder."

"Who said love was easy?"

"Probably the same guy that claimed love was simple."

He laughed.  "Need I remind you that you're only, what, seventeen?  Eighteen?  No matter that you two rarely remember that.  There's no need for you to be in a rush to figure this out."

"Huh," Duo sounded contemplatively.  "Only seventeen, eh?"  He shook his head in dark amusement.  Seventeen long years that seemed like so much more.  There was so much behind him that it sometimes obscured all the time left to him.  But he wasn't in a rush, per se; he just wanted to get a better idea of what the heck was happening.  He may have been perfectly okay with where things were going, but he was still completely bewildered as to how things got that way, and even how they were going to get where they were going.  Maybe if he could figure it out, it wouldn't weigh on his mind anymore.  "Well, okay, so assuming, then, that this new state builds on top of the old one, then what sort of new things would we be talking about?"

"Well, are you thinking different things now that you're... well, now that you are where you are?"  It was as difficult to classify their relationship as it was to describe the quality of their love.  Friends, yes, forever and always.  Lovers?  Not yet.  Boyfriends?  Well, they weren't even dating or anything, technically speaking, and the term just seemed somehow shallow anyway.  Significant other?  Seemed the most accurate, if both unwieldy and just a tad premature.  But only just a tad.  It amused him that they spoke of love not in terms of 'if' but 'when', as if it was already a given that only needed to be realized.  He wondered if Duo had even noticed that.

"Yeah."  Of course things were different.  That was the whole point.

"Then there you go."

"...You're not helping."  It didn't bother him that Heero might not be 'the one', because whatever else Heero might be, he was and always would be special in a very singular sort of way.  But he was, oddly enough, worried what would happen if he found someone else that was actually 'the one', which only led him to thinking somewhere beneath his consciousness that he was hoping he never did find his one, if Heero weren't it.

Father MacKenzie grinned apologetically before it melted into something softer and more sympathetic.  "You wanna know what my final answer is?  I think you'll know without a doubt that you love him when you don't have to think about it anymore.  When you think 'I love him' and it's the most natural thing in the world."

"...You're suggesting that I just wait for it?"  Heero would have been proud of the implied disgust of such inefficiency.

"It's not like waiting for the other shoe to drop, Duo.  I mean, what else were you planning on doing?  Forcing something to happen?  No.  You'll just know when you know, because when you do, you will believe it with every fiber of your being, and that will be that."

"I'll just know when I know, huh?"

"Yup.  Think you can handle that?"

"Hn.  Guess I'll have to, eh?"  He frowned, and sat a little more upright in his seat.  "No, wait.  That only tells me if I love him.  What if I don't?  What if I never know it?  It could turn into some sort of horrible existentialist waiting for Godot sort of thing."

Father MacKenzie favored him with a mild look that wanted to be something so much harder.  The idea that the two of them didn't love each other was absurd, but he supposed he couldn't just tell Duo that.  "Then I would also strongly suggest not holding your breath.  Just forget about it, as much as you can.  You're only going to mess yourself up if you think about it constantly."

"That doesn't answer anything," Duo protested, shortly before a tiny scrap of horror began blooming on his face.  "I might never know.  It might always be just around the corner.  And then, what if one day I decided that it wasn't, when it really was?  Then where would I be?"

Father MacKenzie sighed discreetly.  No wonder Muchi went out of her way to hammer the facts of their relationship into them with a large mallet.  "Duo," he interrupted.  "Do you really think you don't love Heero?"

Duo ground to a halt as his vocal cords seemed to freeze for long enough to pull his thoughts together.  "Well, no?" he squeezed out sheepishly.  "But I already said that.  Because this whole thing wasn't about love, but being in love."

"Then I fall back on my simple answer from before, Duo.  Love is love."

"And I reject that answer from before," he muttered half-heartedly.

"I certainly hope you didn't come in here looking for an absolute answer, Duo," the priest chided.  "Because you may well be asking one of those questions that man will never be able to answer."

Duo let that lie for a moment of silence before he sighed.  "Sorry," he murmured contritely.  "I guess... yeah, I guess so long as we're happy, right?"

Father MacKenzie favored him with one last smile and a few more words of encouragement.  "You know, I've known you two to constantly defy definition, convention, boundaries.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if you came up with a whole new type of love, just for you.  Don't let yourself be bound up by the definitions of others, Duo.  If you can't find yourself a niche that you belong to, then carve yourself a new one."

Duo responded with a somewhat thin perkiness.  "Hey, carving.  I like carving."

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