Winter of '98

"Do you love me, Heero?"  A soft voice whispered in his ear, filtering through the stifling silence of the night.  The light touch of hair? . . . fingers? brushed over his face and lips, gently tracing his features.  Heero knew the other pilot thought him asleep and continued the pretense.  It was better this way, even though his stomach clenched slightly at the deception.  He didn't know how to answer Duo.  The feelings he weren't supposed to possess swirled within him confusingly.  So he feigned slumber during these moments.  One part of him whispered coward tauntingly.

"Ah . . . as talkative as ever." A soft sigh of warm breath caressed his face.  "It's okay if you don't . . . . I love you anyway." Duo's voice sounded unusually subdued.

The Japanese pilot had found that the pre-dawn conversations from his lover was as close as anyone could hope to get behind Duo's laughter and smiles.  In the daytime, the other would be chattering twice as much, but the words spilling from his mouth never pulled at Heero's heart as they did during these quiet moments.  The laughing pilot had never told him I love you to his face, never spoke about the throughts and dreams he would spin before his supposedly slumbering partner.  While one part of Heero was relieved at not having to deal with the other's emotions, another part of him, a steading growing part, longed for Duo to push for something more.

"Ne, Relena came looking for you while you were out.  For all that she's annoying, she does love you."  A brief pause as the warm body against his side shifted in their bed.  "Not as much as I do . . . but she does.  Do you love her, Heero? . . . I think you do. . . "

The silent boy wanted to call out.  No!  She represents something I fight for, something I want to preserve.  Peacecraft was a distant ideal in his mind's eye.  She's not the person I want to kiss, to comfort, to hold.  She's not the one that flashes in front of my face everytime I want to die, everytime I confront death.  He wanted to rage against the paralysis that bound him, voiceless and motionless.

"There's something in your eyes when you look at her, something whenever her name comes up.  Is it love?"  The voice paused to let out a low, dry chuckle, " . . . Or is it because you're trying to keep yourself from killing her? . . . or maybe both."

Heero maintained his silence, wishing he could sort out the confusing welter of emotions.  Wishing he knew how to reach out to the other boy, but he couldn't.  He couldn't say anything, do anything to comfort the other.  He didn't know how or even what he wanted.

The voice continued, relentless.  "Do you think. . . " The other boy swallowed convulsively."Do you think there's a future for us?  Is it more than just sex for you? If I die tomorrow, or the day after . . .will you mourn for me?"  A warm hand gently sifted through his short hair.

Questions he couldn't possibly hope to answer.  Did he love Duo?  He didn't think of the future, past ending the war.  All he knew was that Duo's laughing eyes, gentle hands, cheerful voice, those things kept him captive.  Recently, he felt himself wanting to make the other laugh, to bring a spark to those beautiful violet eyes.  But the things that made him perfect for war, for killing, also prevented him from reaching out for the other.  No matter how much he wanted . . . and he did so want to . . .

A soft kiss brushed against his lips.  The other pilot rose from the bed.  Briefly Heero wondered what would happen if he reached out to grab Duo and *show* him what he couldn't say, couldn't express in words.  But he kept silent, as the other dressed and gave him another kiss.  Duo left the room quietly, unknowingly leaving the other in a state of turmoil.

Heero's eyes flickered over the kitchen table, as he walked into the room, where the others sat.  Where was . . . Quatre piped up.

"Heero-kun.  Duo had to leave this morning on a mission."

Aa, sou ka.  He grunted noncommitally in response, refusing to meet the amused glances of the couple before him.

The Japanese pilot stalked over to his desktop.  If Duo had been here, the American would have tried to feed him breakfast.  Or maybe make another joke at the time he spent in front of the "damned machine" as he called it.  Heero's lips tightened slightly . . . if the other had been here.

He turned on the screen, listening to the familiar hum as it logged on.  Heero scanned over the information quickly, noting no new missions.

Throughout the entire day, thoughts of the laughing pilot lingered in his mind.  If Duo was here, he would have said this...made this joke, touched him there..just so.  If he was here...

His fingers hovered above the keyboard before slowly typing out search strings for the mission Duo had been assigned.  His blue eyes widened slightly at the words that followed.

Mission failed

He was dreaming.  He knew he was dreaming, but it didn't keep him from reaching out for the laughing vision of Death before him.

It spoke out, flashing playful violet eyes.  "Ne . . . Do you love me Heero?  Do you?"

The words echoed and re-echoed in his mind.

Do you love me?

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