Quiet mornings don't always end up quiet. A morning's happiness can degenerate so swiftly to dismay, but likewise can cold empty sobriety splinter to pieces under the weight of an instant's molten euphoria.
Things don't always turn out the way they're expected. It was part of one of those despised truisms that most people learn quick from the cradle, little thought of but present in every moment. Hopes and dreams by themselves can't build up a life more substantial than those fragile fantasies alone.
If something was to be accomplished, it would require a push.
Maybe just a little one, but he wasn't sure if he was prepared to take that step necessary to uncover what lay in the silences between them. After all, it was another of those proverbs that continually made his teeth ache that some things were better left unsaid.
Still, action was the best refuge in a world where every other word from his mouth meant more than one thing. It would take more than just words to breach the weight of those things that had been left unsaid. They'd been that way for too long now. And so with a decisive nod and a firm set to his mouth a choice was made and it was as simple as that. And after all, just because his target hadn't said anything didn't mean he was safe from intentions.
The museum was a relic; it was a holdover from the twentieth century, and that was the latest possible dating for it. It could be even older. Duo thought he had seen a plate somewhere that mentioned commissioning of certain paintings in the eighteen-hundreds. For something so long ago to survive in their adamantly modern world was a little astonishing.
Most of the boarding school students were strolling around with bored looks on their faces. They had no idea what they were missing; no idea of the intrinsic value of an afternoon free to wander around such beautiful, undoubtedly priceless artifacts. Wandering through a hall of Renaissance oil paintings and captivating Botticelli eyes, Duo was free to pretend the war didn't exist and it was worth a lot more than the door price of the museum to him.
His eye lit on something -- so he was still here after all, and hadn't cut out -- someone far more interesting than the centuries-old painstaking reproductions of classic art. Duo grinned, pleased.
Although, he admitted privately to himself in his own thoughts, Heero was every bit as captivating as anything Michelangelo had produced.
He snickered. Considerably more endowed than David, too -- he had snuck covert glances in the gym showers, and Heero wasn't fussy about stripping in front of him.
The Japanese pilot was leaning over a railing, looking as if he'd become a permanent fixture, joining the cavalcade of statues that graced the halls, lifeless and perfect. Duo walked up to him at a casual pace. Where he was the epitome of careless down-dressing -- tie undone and loose at his collar, top button or two open at the throat and his shirt untucked -- Heero was the exemplar of model student, everything still done up and looking starched in perfect order. But there was a wild restless look in his eyes that didn't fit the profile of that model student.
He cast his eyes up at the painting Heero had been staring at for an indeterminate amount of time. They were in the Impressionist section now, and his roommate was gazing with fixed concentration at one of Monet's famous water lilies.
"You're still here?" Duo spoke up, hands buried in his pockets. He looked up at the painting and not Heero. The other pilot seemed to find this one positively fascinating, and damn if he could figure why. He would've thought Heero would be strictly a Realist fan, or maybe -- stretching it thin -- Renaissance, but never Impressionism. Too vague. 'Sloppy.'
"Man, I would've thought you'd have left by now," Duo continued when he received no reply. In general he had given up expecting to get one, unless he was trying to irritate Heero. "I mean, I didn't think this kinda thing was your scene. Guess I was wrong, huh?"
A faint smile tugged at his lips. If he thought silence was a refuge, he was kidding himself. Duo had mastered the knack of the one-sided conversation since meeting up with this guy. "So, you like old paintings?"
One dark eye angled to fix on him and he was obscurely pleased. Heero didn't look irritated.
"Eheh!" he sweatdropped. "I just say it 'cause I like old music! Y'know, composers who lived and died before the twentieth. So maybe we're not entirely dissimilar, huh?"
"......" Heero replied.
Such a chatty fellow, his roommate.
Duo pulled his hands free of his pockets, made a face at the amount of lint that had gathered there, then tucked his arms over the railing. It took a bit of squirming to get comfortable; guard rails didn't encourage lounging. "You know, we've been rooming together for over a month and you're still an enigma to me."
Whoops, that was the boldest thing he'd said yet. He ought to be careful before he stepped beyond the bounds of a passing stranger. It wasn't anywhere near the caliber of what he might like to say, but it approached a congenial sort of breaking the ice. That is, if he were engaging in discussion with any normal person.
Heero Yuy turned from the railing to face him, his features wooden. "You talk a lot," was all he said. Duo got a great rear view as he walked away. That was all there was to it. Conversations with Heero often went in a similar vein.
Duo gazed after him and scratched his head. "No more than normal," he said defensively, "but you're an unusual kind of guy."
He watched the play of muscle and flexing shadow afforded by the slanting afternoon light and the fabric of Heero's forest-green uniform. It was only after Heero was safely beyond the point of turning for a parting shot -- not that he ever would -- that a wistful smile curved Duo's lips, made heavier by the burden of longing he would never be able to divulge. After all, if he couldn't get past casual, polite social nothings what chance did he stand at reaching any deeper than the surface? It was so frustrating precisely because it was that surface facade Duo wanted to break through. He wanted to experience the wild glitter that made concentrated fire of Heero's eyes. "My kind of unusual, I guess..."
The museum gift shop was a curious clutter of old and new art. Duo had decided upon first exposure that he didn't like modern art and his snap judgment was only confirmed as he rifled through the prints that the museum had to offer. But if he could find some Dali or Van Gogh or Raphael -- his tastes were eclectic when it came to ancient art -- to pepper the colorless dorm walls that would be even better than using up his money on manga. A faintly mischievous grin crossed his face. Maybe they had a Monet print.
Finally he gave up in disgust and flounced over to the display cases. The museum must get a hefty cut of the money for carrying all that modern junk as their exclusive prints for sale. Not even a dusty torn-up copy of one of the ancients remained. Or hell, more likely those with good taste avoided the new stuff like the plague, and the older stuff went fast.
Duo bent over a case, his attention snagged by the familiar shape of a piece of jewelry.
"Ohh..." he exhaled, a long mournful sound. He leaned closer, nearly plastering his nose to the pristine glass as he peered at the necklace with longing scrawled over his face.
"If only I hadn't blown my last few hundred bucks on that stack of CDs..." Duo straightened upright, eyes anguished. He gave it a last yearning look. Some things were just never meant to be had. "Damn, it has to be seventeenth-century design. Maybe older."
He walked away from the display case, resolute with his hands stuffed in his pockets. If it was one good thing about growing up on the streets, it was that he had learned early on that he would never get everything he wanted. Besides, it was just another material possession.
Duo closed his eyes, anguished for a different reason. It was only a worldly thing, even if it reminded him of a gentle voice and soft hands, and an older, kindly face with the reassuring soft-spoken words. It whispered recollection of the two people who had been fleeting comfort to assuage a little boy's shattered world.
The lean figure of Shinigami's pilot had departed from the shop several minutes before Heero stepped from behind a rack of miscellaneous junk. He walked up to the display case to look at whatever trinket the American had been eyeing with such wide wistful eyes. Duo had never looked so vulnerable as he'd seen him then.
It was all part of the puzzle Heero was pondering. Why?
How could these things make people feel?
It was just brush strokes on canvas. And there, lying on velvet beneath glass, it was just an assemblage of metals and small semi-precious stones. However aesthetically pleasing they were, he was still trying to fathom how a person could work up genuine emotion over such things.
He shrugged and moved to the cash register. It didn't really matter what he thought.
The warm lights of the dormitory gave off a soft, filtered-yellow glow against the gathering dusk. Within, their current hideaway consisted of a nine-by-nine box that Duo was convinced took up no more space than the size of two bathrooms crammed together. He was woefully convinced most people had larger storage closets. Their two single beds on either side of the door took up most of the available room space, and when two wooden desks were stuffed at the end of the beds, it didn't leave much space for movement. Only the wide, open window opposite the door gave the room any illusion of space and prevented it from being completely stifling.
Then again, he was used to spending hours in the tight cramped space of Shinigami's cockpit; a room of this small size could hardly induce claustrophobia. It was something a pilot couldn't afford.
Duo gathered up a few of his second-hand manga, only slightly ripped. He pitched them on the bed and flung himself after, determined to be absorbed to the fullest when Heero returned. He had recently discovered a reprint of a very, very old manga, "BRONZE," and it was a naughty sort of fascination to be reading boy-boy stories.
Besides, if he was caught up in flipping through pages of entangled half-naked bishonen, Heero would be that less of a distraction in his life. Damn Heero's lack of body modesty, anyway. The boy had no compunctions about wandering around the room dressed only in his briefs.
The door opened and shut with such a smooth whisper it could've been a shadow penetrating the room. Duo barely glanced up, all affected carelessness, then his eye lit on the sack Heero had tucked under his arm. He pushed himself up and bookmarked the manga, remembering to set it face-down.
"You're late," he ventured, with a tentative smile tugging at his lips "Been out busting OZ skulls?" Although the possibility of that was unlikely; he just tossed it out as a conversation gambit. Not that Heero would say anything other than a simple denial. He simply wasn't a conversational type of fellow.
A rustle was the only reply, as Heero set the sack down on his desk. "Oooh, what's that!?" Duo demanded, bright-eyed. "What is it, huh?" He bounced into a sitting position on the bed, starting to tease Heero like it were a reflex kicking in. "Huh? What is it? I bet it's something lovey-lovey! Who would have thought it of stern Heero Yuy! A love-love boy!" He laughed heartily. It was funny.
With swift steps Heero had already crossed the room and one hand seized at the braid that dangled over his shoulder, pooling in his lap. "Duo."
Shit. Shit. Not the hair!!
He gulped hard. "You're going to...kill me...?" he wavered, eyes wide.
Heero's face fixed on him, expressionless, as he considered it. "There are other ways to silence you," he said finally.
Explosions. Big guns. No no -- big, exploding Gundams. Duo's panicked mind offered up several possible alternatives. Heero was an expert with guns and explosives, and manufacturing an 'accident' for poor Duo Maxwell wouldn't be too difficult. Had he pushed Heero too far?
Duo gritted his teeth, an anxious expression flitting over his face. "Heero, I--"
Heero hesitated for a moment, eyes still locked to his. Then he bent forward and that clear precise face blurred as it moved too close for focus, and something warm and pliant was pressing against his mouth. Kiss. Lips. Heero...
Shit, Heero was kissing him!!
A soft noise escaped his throat and Heero's lips moved against his, clumsy but stirring up the strangest sort of static electricity he'd ever felt, crackling over his skin. He half-moaned and tried to move his own lips in encouragement. Neither of them were too good at this but hell, his first attempt at firing a gun hadn't been so hot either.
Finally the warm pressure was pulling away and he half-opened his eyes, dazed. Heero's face was in seeing range again and he looked so intent and serious. Duo was faint. "Dreaming...must be..."
Heero leaned into him again, one hand resting on his thigh. Heat stirred up in his middle and he nearly moaned again as Heero traced his lower lip with his tongue, then drew back again. His deep blue eyes with all the concentrated fire of night skies were heavy-lidded as he regarded him with that same intensity that he gave to every other task he put his mind to. Duo nearly purred. So that single-mindedness carried over, did it?
"This isn't a dream," Heero husked, tracing the wetness of his lip with one rough finger.
Duo looked back, tentative all at once. "Promise?" It was too like a dream, one of his personal fantasies, to be anything more.
The bed shifted as Heero sat beside him, leaning in to kiss him again with parted lips and both arms slid around him, one hand moving past his waist to pull him close, settling at the base of his spine. Duo melted. "Ohhh... Oh-kay..." he acquiesced.
Those parted lips formed a seal over his mouth and sucked, coaxing his mouth open. Duo's heart was fluxing in his chest, beating so fast it felt like the sheer liquid pleasure that had overtaken his body was coursing through his heart, too. He parted his lips and Heero's tongue ran along the upper one, exploring. He pressed closer and Heero's mouth moved back to nibble at his lower lip. He began to voice a wordless murmur and his mouth was captured in a deep kiss, all probing tongue and enthusiastic spit-swapping until Duo began to wonder seriously how long it took to asphyxiate.
Heero pulled back and quick nipping kisses descended down his throat. Duo's eyes popped open. "Why?"
The Japanese boy paused, eyes flicking up to meet him, concentration diverted. His expression was questioning.
Duo was determined. He put a hand to Heero's chest, reclaiming a small measure of his space, keeping Heero at bay. "I mean it. Why?" The answer was terribly important. All of a sudden, for Heero to make advances like this, either it meant a great deal -- or nothing at all. He had to know which it was.
Heero's brow creased. "You talk a lot."
"So...?" Duo shot back, faintly injured. He only hoped his eyes wouldn't reflect it. He was too transparent sometimes.
Heero favored him with his small smirk of a smile. "So, I listen."
Duo was stunned. His hand fell away. "You do!?" He lowered his head, braid slithering in a gold-brown pile in his lap. "I...I've been wanting this for so long..." He twisted his hands together. So long, it didn't seem real that it could finally be happening.
Heero's smirk broadened. "I know. I listened to what you didn't say, too."
Duo's head shot up to regard him with an incredulous, wondering expression. Could it be, that Heero had been harboring his own desires for nearly as long? He was such a methodical person that to let something happen now it would have to be something he had planned and thought through, in great detail. It was overwhelming.
Almost shyly, Duo wrapped his arms around the slender waist of his roommate and partner and...something more, as yet undefined. He lifted his face and let his eyes slide closed and sought Heero's warm, still-moist lips with his own. Heero brought him body-meshing close with an arm around his waist and the free hand clasped at his braid; fingers wove through and tugged with soft sensuous pulls against his scalp.
Heero's tongue pushed into his mouth again, wet and demanding. Duo met it with equal force, determined not to give ground, tongues wrestling and testing the issue of dominance. Then Heero made a strategic retreat, drawing Duo bit by bit into his mouth and Duo groaned, nearly climbing on top of him, tasting him deeply and feeling Heero's hand slip lower, pressing hard for a moment against the base of his spine then slowly, ever so slowly... He nipped Heero's bottom lip and drew back, panting, as the hand stayed where it was. Heero's eyes were darker, dilated. He nuzzled at Duo's mouth and his hand began an infuriatingly slow downward progress again. "Heero... I -- I want..."
Duo wanted to be grabbed. He wanted Heero's hand cupping his bottom. Having Heero touch him was so fundamentally different.
He licked Heero's lips, a flickering taste, and drew back satisfied at the flash of Heero's eyes. Heero released his braid and both hands slid down to cup his rear, pulling him close as that mouth clamped over his again.
He moaned and opened his mouth, surrendering completely. Score a round for Heero, he thought absently as the other's tongue played slick invader to a foreign cavern again. Their kisses still had more clumsy force and raw need than any kind of skill but Duo was completely happy to be crushed under this kind of tide. Then Heero was easing him back, down onto the bed and a bolt of unease rippled up his spine.
He pulled his mouth away. "H-Heero?" he gasped, unsure. He wanted...well, everything...but should they?
"Let me," the hot breath shivered to splinter in the most delightful frisson against his neck. "You can say no, Duo -- you can say no and I'll stop, but just let me--"
Fumbling fingers were at the front of his shirt, undoing the buttons. Duo opened his eyes in surprise. Heero, his fingers knotted and unsure? It didn't seem possible. Heero's face was flushed, his eyes hectic and Duo understood for a piercing instant. He was feeling something finally, and he, Duo Maxwell, was the one who could make Heero feel this way. They hadn't given this something a name yet but right now it didn't matter. For this moment Heero was wholly his as Duo gave him something no one else could evoke. And for this moment, Heero belonged to him as much as he did to Heero.
Finally the white shirt lay in ragged halves to either side of his chest and Heero paused, kneeling over him, then unbuttoned his own shirt with consideration. Then he lowered himself to lie beside Duo, the bed so narrow that they pressed close together, Heero half-draped atop him. Fire crept up his face when he felt a throbbing warmth press against his thigh. Heero lifted a hand to toy with his bangs, stroking aside wayward strands before his head bent. He latched onto a nipple, startlingly direct and Duo cried out, shutting his eyes tight against pleasure-sparks.
Heero sucked until it felt nearly raw, pulling sensation out of him, then with a wet sound released him and nibbled on the other half-hardening bud. Duo thought his body might go spung before they got much further, he was so unused to feeling this way. His hands that had always itched to bury themselves in Heero's thick, tousled mop of hair slid tentatively into the mass of silk. It was softer than it looked, which was amazing. Heero kissed further as his fingers clenched, soft mouthing kisses that explored his ribs and the center line of his body and then his mouth was a gentle tickle at the button of his pants.
Duo tensed up. He couldn't help himself; Heero's kisses were driving him insane -- just the mere fact that Heero was kissing him made him question if he was in his right mind or not -- but the sudden immediacy of his lips at the waistband of his pants, and then his fingers moving over the first button, was too much.
"Duo?" the Japanese boy boy lifted his head, obviously sensing the abrupt tension in his muscles.
"I..." Duo half-sat up, wanting to look anywhere but Heero, but his eyes fixed on him nevertheless. The bright blue eyes were assessing him. "I -- it's so much, Heero, all at once, I just..."
"I understand," Heero nodded, shifting his position closer. He scooted over the bed until they were side by side, and Duo buried his face in Heero's shoulder.
"I can hardly believe you like me, let alone want..."
A strong finger tipped his chin up.
"You'd better believe it," Heero informed him, mouth solemn. "It's your fault."
Duo chuckled and tugged at his braid. "I can live with that!"
"We don't have to go all the way, you know," Heero murmured as he gathered Duo loosely to his body. They lay back, bodies fit close together to avoid falling off the bed and Duo was transfixed by those eyes. They were Heero's most piercing feature.
"I... I want to share myself with you," Duo admitted, daring to reach up a hand and curl one soft tuft of hair around his finger. Heero's skin was soft, too; something he never would have imagined when the Wing pilot seemed all rough corners and sharp edges. "I just..."
"It's too soon," Heero nodded, then swooped forward to plant a kiss on his lips. "That's why I said you should tell me no, Duo -- I don't want to force the issue. I don't want you to hate me."
"I couldn't hate you," Duo protested, amazed.
Heero's expression was a little dark. "You would if I didn't stop when you told me to."
Duo scowled. He was firmly convinced that Heero could never hurt him. The Wing pilot was sudden death as far as the enemy was concerned -- but somehow, he, one Duo Maxwell, had managed to work his way up in Heero's esteem and batter down those adamantine defenses enough to get him to admit he liked him. Wanted him, even -- maybe more...?
No, he told himself -- no use speculating. He was used to snatching what happiness he could from the moment, and that was how matters would have to stand with Heero.
"Would you do something for me?" Heero voiced after a long moment of silence, breath breaking over his cheek in a gust of warmth.
"Well, sure," Duo replied, nuzzling at Heero's mouth like a playful kitten. Heero had already done so much for him today that things might never be the same.
"I want to see your hair down..."
A broad grin crept over Duo's face. So that had gotten to him, had it? He squirmed away to give himself some space and sat up, tugging off the band of elastic. He had made a point every night to let his hair down, loose and flowing around his body for at least an hour before lights out. He did it because he loved the sensuous feel of the thick heavy cascade, and he knew it looked good. But he'd never before been aware of Heero watching.
Heero sat up, his expression inscrutable. He seized the end of the rope of hair, examining it trapped in his hands. He tilted his head this way and that, looking into Duo's eyes with a quizzical sort of expression. Then he began to unlace the rich twists, combing the braid out with his fingers, unraveling it until it formed a loose silken curtain around his shoulders and torso. "It's very beautiful," Heero admitted. "I used to think it was useless but...it suits you."
"I'll take that as a compliment," Duo waggled his eyebrows with a wry smile. "Hm?"
Heero gathered his hair carefully to the side and tugged him back down to the bed. With a happy sigh Duo snuggled next to him. This was going to change everything.
Duo kissed him again, a long, slow, leisurely brush of their lips and took hold of Heero's bottom one, worrying it gently between his teeth. Heero opened his mouth and he slipped his tongue inside, hesitant but determined to quest around and show the same boldness Heero had. The warmth of Heero's tongue met him and they shied away at first, then locked, wrestling for control of the kiss.
Their faces drew apart once more. "Hmm," Duo smiled, eyes half-lidded with pleasure.
Heero toyed with a lock of Duo's loose hair, then fisted it possessively. "Mine," he proclaimed.
"Promise?" Duo murmured with a lazy, playful smile. He rolled onto his stomach and planted a kiss on Heero's throat, the closest thing in reach.
A pained expression crossed the cold decisive features. Heero was frowning. "I..."
The pause was too long. Something twisted inside of him, something that had been so contented and happy and finally willing to take this crazy dreamlike scene at face value. Heero was being so...different, focused on him for once, for a change. He should have known it couldn't last. Heero couldn't promise him anything, because his real focus was this war.
"Right..." Duo declared without much enthusiasm. "I get it, Heero." Jagged-cut fringes of dark bang fell into his eyes as he looked away, down at the sheets and his own hand that suddenly fisted itself against the scratchy school-issue material.
In a rustle of cloth, the Japanese boy pushed himself up and swung his body in one lithe movement to the edge of the bed and then stood in the same liquid gathering of muscles. Duo watched fascinated by simple locomotion but still had enough presence of mind to sit up. He sank onto his elbow to watch Heero walk away, hurt the most prominent expression flashing over his face.
Heero might have caught it in the corner of his eye; maybe not. He padded over to his desk. His rear was an even better sight now that Duo had the rights to stare openly. "I almost forgot," his quiet voice punctured Duo's helpless appraisal.
Duo blinked at him, puzzled, as the Japanese boy turned to look at him. It was just a simple look but Duo was coming to recognize that this one said more to him, without the clumsy fluidity of spoken words. It wasn't Heero's forte but his actions always spoke his intentions.
The shadows clung thick to the underside of every slow-rippling, perfectly defined muscle revealed by the open shirt as Heero returned to the bed. His body was a weapon and it showed; like Duo's, there wasn't an ounce of fat on his frame. Every last bit of bared flesh was toned muscle. Heero sat beside him in the messy, rumpled sheets and with one hand thrust out the small sack he had returned to their room with. That small brown paper bag that Duo had teased him about.
"Here," he grunted, his face a cipher.
Duo hitched himself into cross-legged sitting position and pawed the bag open as strong fingers sought another long lock of his hair and twined into it.
"Oh... Oh... God!" Duo looked up, his eyes sheened over and shimmering. He closed his hand around the necklace and threw his arms around Heero. It was the last emotional straw, coming on the heels of seeming disappointment. "Oh, HEERO!"
For a moment strong supple arms returned the embrace, every bit as fierce and then Heero was regarding him at arm's length again, a scowl carved into his perfect features.
Duo couldn't stop the manic grin that welled up inside of him to burst onto his lips. "It's perfect," he stated, still grinning fit to kill. He opened his hand to display the crucifix proudly, an ornate piece of ancient design, probably Catholic, all scroll and point and embedded with a few sparkly semi-precious gems. Probably the work of some sixteenth-century Fra, a man of the cloth. "You noticed..."
Those strong steady fingers took it from him and he half-turned, gathering up the masses of his hair with both hands and lifting it up off his neck so that Heero could clasp the crucifix around his neck. He did so without comment, stone-faced.
Duo nearly chuckled aloud, so consumed was he by this unearthly giddy sensation. It was all a front, he knew it. Heero did have a real person inside of him, but it took some doing to provoke. He moved close to snuggle, their bodies fitting cradled one against the other, hips and chests pressed and one of Heero's legs flung over him. It was necessary or one of them would fall off the bed, or the other in the crack between bed and wall.
"You're human," Duo pronounced with a drowsy air. "There's some sentiment in you, buried deep." He grinned somewhat foolishly. His love-love boy. "You're a true romantic... who knew...?"
Intense blue drilled into him as Heero gave him the eye. "Just remember."
Duo closed his eyes, unheeding of threats and on the verge of the most delicious slumber he'd had in months. No need to worry about toss-and-turn dreams and sweaty sheets! "Mm?" he responded, barely aware Heero was saying something. Finally he cracked one hazy violet eye open.
His partner gave him a slow, genuine smile. "I know how to silence you."
(*) Fra is an Italian term for "Friar;" some of these brothers were notable pre-Renaissance or Renaissance painters or sculptors in the service of God, most notably Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi.