Innocence Faded, Part 5
by Kea & Jenn

Warning: Lemon in this part....

***********************************
Beyond the circle's edge
We're driven by her blessing
Forever hesitating
Caught beneath the wheel
************************************

We stayed outside until the sun settled into a fiery glow across the waters, not speaking or communicating beyond a rare and surprisingly pleasant quiet. I may have to try shutting up more often if it means I get to be this close to him. Truthfully, I think in some ways we were both still too overwhelmed for words. Ironically, it was Heero, not me, who broke the silence. "We should go back inside," he said, softly, the breeze taking his words and teasing them around my ears. "She needs to know what we've decided."

He turned, the remaining sunlight washing his hair nearly golden-brown and throwing half his face into dark shadows, and almost shyly held his hand out to me. I took it, never realizing until our skin touched how cold I was. On the average, my body temperature is roughly two degrees lower than human normal, which makes for a Duo-sicle below ambient temperature of about eighty Fahrenheit. I shivered as his warm hand enfolded mine, and that concerned look leaped through the normal blankness again. "I'm fine, just a little too cool," I assured him, drawing my braid over my shoulder with a free hand and fidgeting with the end. I still wasn't entirely comfortable seeing that much concern from his eyes. I especially wasn't comfortable seeing his concern directed at me.

With a fluid motion that barely separated our hands, Heero shrugged out of his jacket and draped the warm leather around my shoulders. Softened by his body heat, it smelled of cowhide and soap and skin, clean smells that had my insides doing flips Trowa would envy. That led to thoughts of borrowing things from his wardrobe, just to constantly have the scent of his skin on me. I'm not sure if I grinned crazily or just drooled as he led me into the house.

The kitchen and living room were both empty, eerily still and quiet. "Becky?" I called out, not letting go of Heero's hand. "Becky? Are you here?" Some of the many papers from her portfolio were on the kitchen island, but no sign of our agent. I rifled through the sheets...a contract, a bunch of legalese, a note with our names on it, a property inspection report.

Waitaminute. I dropped his hand as I snatched up the note and scanned it quickly, rereading it a second and third time in a sort of disbelief. Heero quirked one brow in question and I started reading aloud, my voice echoing off the high ceilings.

'Heero and Duo,

The rest of the contracts will be delivered by courier sometime tomorrow. I
took the liberty of checking you out of your hotel in Brussels and bringing
your things on the plane; you'll find them upstairs. The house is fully
stocked in keeping with Sanctuary's move-in policy. There are a few more
amenities that will also arrive tomorrow. Keys are on the coffee table, and
the alarm system codes are in this package. If you need anything else, my
number has been programmed into the phone.

Be happy.

Becky'

An ironic laugh slid past my lips as the note dropped onto the counter. We had been outfoxed and all but stranded here. I drew the jacket tighter around my shoulders with a fierce shiver and treated my comrade to my most skeptical of looks. "Tell me, are all Winners genetically sneaky or have they been taking lessons from the Great Infiltrator?" I don't think it had quite occurred to me that this too-good-to-be-true house really and truly belonged to us. Then again, it had to compete with the realization that I was here alone with Heero, and any other thought was destined to fall to that one.

***

Becky Peterson was gone.

I snorted softly. Duo had a point, this was definitely reminiscent of Quatre. However... along with that went the knowledge that everything had been done with the intention to help, not hurt. I glanced towards Duo and my breath caught in my throat. Twilight cast him in silver, gleaming indigo in his eyes. I ached with sudden, inexplicable longing, one that went beyond the physical.

Duo and I were alone, with nothing to hold us back from what this house represented...from what it meant to be alone by choice, to leave the war behind. I turned towards him, reaching out a hand to brush it across his hair, trailing lower to caress his cheek. "This is our house," I said quietly, testing how the words felt on my tongue. "A place... just for us." There was relief in my voice...but also fear, and the same need that I kept finding myself helpless to deny. I wanted him in my arms...I wanted him in that bed at the top of the stairs.

I realized then, that I was allowing myself to buy into the promise he'd made. He wasn't going to leave me alone, not ever. God, I was beyond help. But I couldn't stop myself. He has that effect on me, I think he always has. When I'm with him, no matter how hard I fight against it, logic and rational thought escape me, and I'm left trying to muddle through a chaos of emotion.

I needed him, I was finding a way to accept that now. We needed each other, which gave me a reason to fight, to hold on. I lowered my head, seeking his mouth with mine, and in that moment I had but one intent, neither gentle nor innocent...but we'd neither of us been those things for a very long time.

***

I'm man enough to admit when I've been had. Trowa and Quatre and Becky Winner Peterson had executed one of the most flawless examples of the bait and switch in recorded history, collectively abandoning me to the company of Heero Yuy in the secluded beach house of my dreams in a small, sleepy California town, with a lifetime full of languid, lustful thoughts taking aim at that piece of cherry-wood heaven one flight up.

I'd been had. And I had no idea how I would ever thank them enough.

I still felt slightly chilled as Heero stroked an impossibly warm hand across my face. My body shivered in the confines of his jacket with cold and something much deeper. I turned my cheek into his touch, like a flower seeking the kiss of the sun, and a slow smile curved my mouth as he rubbed his thumb over the tip of my snub nose, trying to fuse his heat into that extremity. His own smile wobbled on his face, a newborn colt on unsteady legs barely staying upright. I wrinkled my nose and nuzzled it against his thumb; the smile strengthened, just a bit.

"There's no place like home." The irreverent quip flew out of my mouth long before the synapses that formed it finished firing in my brain; despite the grin, though, it carried at least a little of the wonder swelling inside me like a living thing. I glanced down at my boots, absently noting that the left one was untied. "And we didn't have to go over the rainbow or use the ruby slippers to get here." And yet, this felt far, far more magical than that well-loved primer of childhood imagination. Not that I'd read it while in childhood, or even had a childhood to read it in, but one of the schools we infiltrated required a thematic analysis of the use of color in the book and movie. Guess which one of us got the A that time?

Meeting his eyes, I shivered again. They were hot, liquid pools of cobalt fire, their flames rising out to lick hungrily at my skin. Heero doesn't often think himself capable of feeling anything, but I know better. I'm the one who sees his eyes.

In his eyes, I saw a need, a desire, a passion that had everything and nothing to do with my body...need, desire and passion that my own eyes greedily answered. I kept shivering, violently, desperate to bathe, to drown in him. I wanted his warmth in the worst way, I wanted it inside me so badly I felt I would split apart and shatter into a million pieces without it. His eyes flashed, his head dropped, his mouth claimed me. His tongue met mine, stroking, dancing, running over the flat surfaces of my teeth. I trembled, my hands fisting in his shirt, his arms around me the only support against a long fall.

"Warm me up," I begged, not caring if it sounded pathetic and desperate. My voice shook almost as badly as the rest of me. The scents of him from the jacket surrounding me, combined with the actual scent of him, no more than a whisper away from my nose, spun my head in dizzy circles. I was falling into infinity, falling deeper and deeper into Heero Yuy. And I never wanted to crawl back out.

"Take me." Against his cheek, my pleading voice grew more urgent; the arms that responsively drew me closer against him transmitted that urgency in the press of our hips against one another. "Take me...upstairs." I kissed him back with the full force of the storm rising in me.

***

This was a language I could speak. Closing my eyes I let it form its own words, translated through touch. Ravenous, desperate touch, pouring over Duo's soft skin like a living thing with a mind all its own. I was a slave to its whims, banishing thought entirely.

"Can't you feel it?" I gasped, my hungry mouth descending to the slim column of his neck. I nipped him, hard, lingering to soothe the angry welt with the stroke of my tongue. "Heat..." Jerking my head up impatiently, I fed him a taste of the fire burning me up inside, rasping hot breath across his cheek as I restlessly pulled away again. I was drunk on the taste of him, obsessed with his scent. The hot, tight feeling inside of me was moving lower, and I realized that upstairs was exactly where I needed to be.

I scooped him up in my arms, moving with a single-minded focus. My body was a well-trained instrument, long used to obeying my commands, that was the only reason I was able to climb the stairs at all. I paused at the top, panting from exertion, but  not from the climb. Willfully, willingly, I drowned in those simmering pools of molten amethyst, my lips worrying restlessly over his until I finally nuzzled against his cheek in an attempt to allow myself to speak.

Words wouldn't come. I buried my head in his neck, trying to process everything that was going on inside of me. It was impossible. It was overload, and I almost cried out in protest. 

***

In an instant, I was weightless, buoyed by a boundless supply of strength and power. Shaking, I clung to his steadiness, the fire his touch stoked deep in me slowly beginning to smolder out through my frigid limbs. Every kiss burned, seared and branded part of him into me, stamping ownership on my heart and soul. He walked the path as confidently as going to battle, clutching me tightly, possessively against that hard, sinewy twist of muscle and skin that formed his chest. Heat emanated from every pore of his body, thick and sensual and male. Utterly, uncompromisingly male. 

A small whimper formed in the back of my throat as I nestled my face next to that hot, throbbing pulse in his neck, feeling it flicker fiercely against my skin as he climbed. Upon reaching the zenith, he attacked my mouth with a blessed tenderness that finally spread the warmth in my groin through the rest of me.

He paused, hesitating and caught in emotion, halfway between bathroom and bed. I opened my eyes to small slits, like a cat, and gasped out direction. "Bed." Thoughts of languid lovemaking in the water made me quiver, but in that sweating, trembling moment what I desired more was baptism by fire. The pure, downy whiteness of the thick comforter seemed to swallow me when he laid me down on it, stretching that wiry body over mine in a motion that left me without breath or speech. 

One of my legs snaked its way around his waist--the left, the untied boot having thudded to the floor already--and my bared foot cupped the weight of his backside against the arch, squeezing and pushing him closer to me. I shivered convulsively-- though no longer from cold--and echoed his groan. "Undress me," I sighed, my hands already tugging his shirt over his head, baring the full measure of his upper body to my hungry eyes and hands.

He was beautiful--a litany of small scars before me telling the tale of his life, and before I could think better of it, my tongue swiped down one of the newest ones, still pink and healing, the skin slightly puckered as it held together. It was recent, but still before Christmas and Mariemeia. What had happened to him in the year between the Colony War and now? I could see the ones on his body, but what other scars had the ensuing time left on his soul? Gently, I kissed that scar in silent acceptance. 

His skin trembled beneath my touch as my eyes drifted back up to those impossibly dark blue depths, studying every hue and value and shade in them, feeling the infinitesimal puff of breeze from each blink of those long, long lashes. Still lost in those unshuttered soul-windows, one of my hands slid up the tight landscape of his stomach to his pectoral muscles and brushed lightly against one of his soft male nipples. It hardened, and I felt the air between us ignite, the flame in those eyes turning white-hot.

***

Touch has power, and in so many ways, Duo's power over me was absolute. My head whipped back as his hands made contact with my skin, fingertips making a slow spiral around one nipple. I arched my neck, nuzzling at that questing hand, darting forward to capture his index finger in my mouth. I suckled it, dropping my eyes to his face as I slid that lone digit in and out before moving to its sib. What is it about him that does this to me? Physical torture, mental interrogation, I'd been trained to withstand them both. It's why it was so critical to keep him at a distance during the war. If we'd been like this then... I pushed the thought away impatiently. I didn't want to think right now.

Pulling away, I pushed his shirt up, tugging it over his head and banishing it to the floor. Fair skin stretched over hard muscle lay beneath and I surveyed it like a general planning a siege. Choosing my angle of attack, I pursued it ruthlessly. I lowered my head and he arched his back beneath me as I left a trail of lovebites over his breastbone, soothing them with a swipe of my tongue.

His scent, the taste of his skin, was burning out my patience. I'd forced myself away from him for so long, and only now was I aware of the agony of that withdrawal. It's the ironic lie that pushers will tell about the drugs they deal, that once or twice won't make you dependent. I was addicted, had been from the first taste, and I wanted more. I tugged at his pants, directing his wandering hands to my jeans. "I need you," I breathed against his mouth, just before I sealed the words to silence between us. Is that what kisses are meant to do? Silence words so that they no longer get in the way?

I wanted nothing more than to make love to him in this bed, to fix in my memory what it felt like to make him mine all over again.

***

His tongue demanded entry against mine, and I welcomed him inside, only to spring my own attack as he crossed the threshold. The burning had begun,  rendering my earlier cold a hazy, formless half-memory, as though the body that had trembled in off the rear deck was not the living inferno currently domiciling my soul.

Heero yanked my hands down from their exploration of his chest, setting my fingers on the waistband of his jeans in a barely-concealed demand. My own demand ached against the confines of a freshly-revealed pair of boxers; I realized then my pants and the remaining boot had already fallen against the invasion of the Yuy Brigade. 

I tilted my hips slightly down and then abruptly arched them upwards in a long, slow stroke of cloth against cloth that mimicked the impending flesh against flesh. Fingers made clumsy by unforgiving desire at last fumbled Heero free from denim; God, I wanted to touch him so badly, to contrast by touch alone that intermingled rough and smooth lingering beneath his clothing.

"Baka," I gasped out, gulping down a giant measure of our shared breath. "I need you." I didn't want words from that wonderful mouth of his, but actions. More actions. More actions that would never be enough. Could never be enough. 

I hooked the waist of his shorts with my thumbs and scooted them down over his hips, gliding them the rest of the way off with one foot and reveling in my own discovery that the perfect soldier hadn't been sunbathing naked. His backside blushed with a slight rose-tinged fairness, stark against the exposed tanned skin the rest of him sported.

Something firm and male nuzzled at my stomach. The sudden compulsion to write "Duo Maxwell" in magic marker on his most intimate flesh trainwrecked into my feverish brain; much like me, this part of him never lied. I glanced down, taking the full measure of him in with my eyes.

I almost lost it then. In the past two days, when a desperate bid for his life had utterly changed my own, I hadn't allowed myself to fully acknowledge how beautiful he was. Unclothed, prostrated atop me, he was like some wild, primal, gorgeous god. The type of beauty lyricists and poets forever hope to convey in their words, the type artists leap to immortalize.

He was beyond human.

He was a god.

But he wanted...me. Flawed, fragile, human me.

And God, how I wanted him.

"I need you...inside me. Can't...wait." The strangled urgency in my voice leaped back out at me from his eyes...God, he felt it, too. "Don't hold back."

***

In the back of my mind lies a memory of the first time we were together like this. A night a thousand lifetimes ago, when the war still raged just beyond the doorway of a borrowed room. The fury never penetrated past that barrier. Inside there had been only twinned heartbeats, ragged breaths, and  need. A need that never stopped, that pounded within us even now.

Does it seem surprising that I remember it so clearly? That night Duo Maxwell seared himself into my blood, setting me on a path that would eventually lead me here. I couldn't have forgotten if I tried... and I tried, God I tried to forget.

Attachments are nothing but a liability in war. I did the best I could, I pushed that night so deeply into my mind, that its memory lay quiet...until now.

The urgency, the desperation, every bit of it was there. But ultimately, everything we had gathered in experience in the interim was sacrificed to the inferno of the moment. That alone  made me as clumsy as a virgin as I reached for him. I could feel it. Need was burning its way outward through my skin, I felt like it was turning my body to ashes as it manifested physically, demanding to be driven deeply inside him until the ache was quenched. My hips moved restlessly in response, a low growl beginning at the back of my throat as the hardened length of his shaft grazed against mine.

My control was slipping, and I turned my back, not even caring to watch it go.

Animal ferocity surged beneath my skin and I claimed his mouth again, urging his thighs apart. My hand closed around him, stroking slowly as I swallowed his moan of pleasure. The other hand quested lower, seeking...and finding. My fingers slid  inside of him, he tensed, then I felt him clench around them, his nails digging into my back in mute encouragement, and that was all it took. The beast shattered its chains and I pulled free, bracing myself above him and nipping his neck as he wrapped both legs around my waist. There were no questions, no solicitous requests or pleasantries. It was not a moment for pretty words or imagery, it was raw, and as inevitable as death. A low, animal sound of pain or pleasure or both wrung itself from my chest as his body yielded beneath me.

The moan that won free from his clenched teeth was his only reply.

Maybe this is what insanity feels like... I was embraced, caressed, buried in his tight heat, subject to its maddening constriction. A sob nearly choked me as I eased myself inside him, and. I bowed my head, tangling my fingers in the sheets as I fought again for control....

Damn control.

I pulled back. "Mine." The word was punctuated with a single, swift thrust... and that declaration of possession  became a litany as desire finally slipped its leash.

**

Lost in a maelstrom sea of want and desire that utterly stole my power to form thought, my body embraced him, drew him deeper with every frantic, needy thrust. It hurt like hell, but I wasn't conscious of pain. Pain had crested into something far more powerful, more demanding, more addictive until the very concept of pain became meaningless. There was only the mind-numbing, body-blistering ecstasy flooding me, filling me as surely as Heero did.

Without the burden of conscious thought to hold it in place, my mind arrowed into another place, another time with those powerful thrusts, harder and faster and driving us towards an inevitable conclusion. Saa, I had said, glancing towards him with eyes half swollen shut, cracked ribs whistling the breath in my chest, I'm destined to be killed by you.

And I was. His final thrust knifed into me, body and soul, and he killed me. I died, and culmination claimed me while I sobbed out his name as a prayer.

Le petit mort. The little death. French, for orgasm.

Reality splintered around me, fracturing like brittle glass as I slammed back into that shell called my body, awareness returning of the weight inside and on top of me. As he collapsed on me, gasping, I realized Death had claimed Heero, too, in more ways than one. "Yours," I whispered fiercely against his ear, maneuvering my boneless hand to place it palm-to-palm against his equally boneless one. "Mine," I echoed, giving that hand a fragile squeeze. His head lay on my chest while his breath pooled hotly over one of my nipples as he fought to catch it. Fatigue was drawing her night-dark cloak over me and I was helpless to resist, my eyes heavily lidding despite my earlier nap.

"Ours," I pronounced with finality.

***

I lost myself for a little while, aware of nothing and everything. After what seemed like hours of drifting, I opened my eyes, blinking owlishly as the light from the bedside lamp stung them. I felt warmth from beneath me, inhaled and felt the taste of sex brush my tongue on the way down. Startled, I forced myself to awareness, tried to move and winced as overtaxed nerves lodged a fervent complaint. It wasn't pain exactly, but overstimulation. Lifting my head, I looked down into Duo's face.

Damn.

I pulled free and rolled to the side, pushing up on an arm that trembled with exertion. My mind was racing through what had happened, processing my feelings and intentions. Comparing it to what could have happened. It made my heart clench with fear, nightmare images passing before my eyes, summoned by one inescapable fact. I'd lost control.

No. Not true. I'd willingly, willfully, let it go.

I swallowed hard. "Da--daijoubu desu ka?" I asked softly.

God I'd hurt him, I know I did. I could almost remember feeling flesh tear... and enjoying it. Dammit, what's wrong with me? Why can't I do this? Why am I ruining something-- something wonderful?

***

I lay there for what seemed a long time, surrounded by this pure, perfect lassitude that had taken all will to move from every part of me, leaving behind a peculiar, acute awareness of my body that rarely came in even semi-conscious moments. I felt...hypersensitive...that's the only way to really describe it, my brain hardwired to every whit of sensory input available. There was some pain, yes, centered in a small, slowly pulsating wave at the very base of my spine, and it throbbed in my consciousness, but despite my increased sensitivity it could be ignored.

Pain, after all, was the body's signal that something was wrong, and its source was something very, very right.

A still, small part of me latched onto the tether of his voice, letting it pull me hand over hand out of the warm, comfortable sleep void my body craved after the exertion. My eyelids rose little by little until they opened on an endless sea of Prussian blue. 

I think my heart stopped again.

Daijoubu desu ka? he asked me. Oh, Heero, if you only knew...

"Nan demo nai. Hontou ni." It's nothing. Really. I willed my left hand to move, to lift and stroke away in reassurance that unruly half-curl falling just over his eye. 

I willed harder. My pinky twitched.

At least my face obeyed into a smile, not one of my normal repertoire of good cheer. This one touched my eyes completely. "I'm a little sore," I confessed, my smile turning wry and the words loosening the immobility below my waist, "but just fine." My hips squirmed a bit and I wasn't fast enough to cover the small wince that escaped. 

He had asked me another question, not with his mouth but with his eyes, the concerned look that had so unnerved me earlier hammering out from their depths. Perhaps it was the afterglow of having held him in my body, but it no longer seemed quite so strange to see.

Was it worth it? my eyes answered. Every bit.

***

From where did this feeling come? It welled up inside of me, an ache as fierce and demanding as the one so recently sated. Instead of urging me towards heated, desperate union, however, this one called for gentler action. I shivered, brushing my lips across the fine bones of his cheek as they crested upward towards the summer-wheat silk of his hair. "Gomen," I said quietly, and meant it. If not for the strange glow in his eyes that made my heart lose its steady rhythm, I would have been furious with myself. My loss of control had hurt him. I had hurt him... Damn it, I'd hurt him.

That was unacceptable. I didn't deserve to be anywhere near him, not if this is what I was capable of. 

I rolled away, so angry with myself that I was shaking. I'd sworn to protect him. *Kuso.* A hand stayed me as I moved to leave the bed, and I could almost feel him willing me to look at him. As though obeying a spoken command, I turned. Helpless, I drowned, unable to get the message to my eyelids fast enough to close them before he captured me with those impossible purple-dusk eyes.

"Gomen," I whispered again, at a loss of what else to say.

"Iya. Kitte kudasai." No. Please listen to me. "Daijoubu desu yo. Hontou ni." I swallowed hard, realized I was holding my breath. His touch gentled me, coaxing me back towards him. He was my undoing...Not all the training in the world could prepare me for the kind of war Duo waged when the outside world was no longer a concern. It was the sort of battle in which he was the perfect soldier and I was merely a man, like any other.

***

Slowly, carefully, I tugged him back inch by inch to our bed. Our bed. "Listen to me," I repeated in English, my hands returning to service and
stroking gently over his tanned pectoral muscles, feeling the tension in them flicker beneath my fingers with every tender touch. "Who asked...no, begged you to bring him upstairs? To take him?" The unblemished hurt that briefly flashed through those indigo-blue eyes confirmed I was on the right track. 

I wanted you so badly, please don't blame yourself.  

I fumbled through the infinite words in my mind for the ones that would soothe the self-recrimination rising off him like heat off the road. One hand wandered up to his cheek. "There's not just an 'I' or 'you' anymore. You're part of a 'we' now, ne?" It had never entered my mind to blame him for the results of our skyrocketing libidos and desperate urges for one another only moments before. 

I wanted him. I...I loved him, and that far outweighed some mild discomfort.

A contented smile spread itself over my face as my fingers tiptoed around the back of his neck, lacing together behind and drawing him down to meet me. There was nothing to be sorry for, nothing to forgive. I loved him, and my lips whispered it without words as they joined with his.

***

In spite of myself, my body relaxed. I swallowed hard, turning my head to avoid his gaze, but I couldn't bring myself to avoid his touch. Have you ever needed something so badly that your body hurts with craving for it? That's how I needed his touch on me. Don't, my eyes said. Yes, my soul cried, restless in its newborn strength.

He tamed me like a wild horse, pulling me down to drink at the sweet water of his lips. I drank, taking long, deep draughts of him with helpless abandon. But I didn't let go this time, keeping a tight rein on myself. Instead I tugged him into my arms, cradling him against me. I needed to get out of this bed, right now. I was afraid I might see blood on the pristine sheets...but I couldn't be apart from him. Irony, bitter irony, I'd hurt him, but I couldn't stand to let go of him.

The rug was velvet soft beneath my bare feet, giving way to the smooth coolness of tile. I paused at the lip of the tub, still holding him against me, pulled tight to my chest as I leaned forward to start the water flowing. "We'll sleep better if we're clean," I murmured quietly, brushing a strand of hair from his face without meeting his eyes. It was a small comfort, you learned to take them when you could get them during the war. Now I just wanted us both to be clean. The uncertainty of but a few days ago was still with me, still ready to pounce if I let my guard down.

Taking a deep breath, I stepped into the warm water, lowering us both down into it. If the tub were any bigger, it would have been suitable for swimming. As it was, we could both comfortably stretch out in the heated water. Impulsively, I pulled him back against me, hard, burying my face in his hair. God, I... I don't know. I just don't know what I feel...

***

He was hurting, a lot more than the minor ache in my backside, I realized, and for several moments as we thoroughly explored one another's mouths, I puzzled over exactly what was setting him off, what had strung this impossible tension and almost fearful gentleness through his body. This was hardly the first time we'd had sex, hardly the first time we'd had urgent, impatient sex, and certainly not the first time I didn't think I'd be able to sit down afterwards. The first time had actually been the worst, neither of us knowing technique beyond what felt good and drowning in wild, desperate, teenaged need. So what was so different this time?

He reached for me, snuffing my theories like a candle, hauled me into those improbably strong arms yet again and carried me into the bathroom like I weighed nothing. There wasn't even enough time for the oxygen to rekindle the sparking thoughts in my head before warm water closed around my body. I think I even forgot my name for several minutes as he drew me close against his chest, gently rocking me back and forth, his breath warm on my neck as he nuzzled against my dampening hair.

During the war, I was never conscious of the miniscule difference in our heights and weights. A few centimeters here, a kilo there, never enough to matter. The Eve Wars and what followed had passed in such a rush that my powers of observation had failed to notice what my body was telling me now as Heero abruptly pulled me into his arms.

In that year we'd spent apart, he'd gained at least two, if not three, inches on me and probably close to fifteen pounds...still slender, still wiry, but
if it was possible, he was harder and stronger than the perfect soldier who unwittingly had stolen my breath and my heart with those intense blue eyes. I studied the legs that stretched past mine under the rippling waters; we'd been around the same height for a long time, but his was always more torso while mine was leg. Not anymore; his legs now seemed determined to win the race. 

Gently, I stroked my foot along the underside of his firmly muscled calf, falling deeper into my inner musings, the buoyancy of the water and the strong arms around me proving quite relaxing. In some ways, he had changed so much; in others, not at all. 

Cautiously, reluctantly, like the first rays of morning sun a slow smile of comprehension dawned on my face. In some ways, some very important ways, he hadn't changed at all.

I wriggled just enough in his arms to turn over, my legs and hair trailing behind me as I fit myself to his body, my arms around his neck and my face just inches from his. Strange wariness clouded his eyes, and I forced myself to look past it, look deeper into what those shadows sought to conceal. He made a move to speak, my name formed on his lips, but I quelled it with my fingers, pressing against his mouth, and a slight shake of my head. 

God, it was so surprisingly simple; all it took was a backwards glance at our history together. Heero Yuy could be brusque, dismissive, uncaring, and downright rude, but there was one thing that, no matter the circumstances, he wasn't.

"I want you to tell me," I began, easing just slightly my pressure on his lips, "just with yes or no, if what you wanted was to hurt me. That's all that matters."

***

I swallowed hard, feeling a painful stab of hurt somewhere in the vicinity of my chest at the implication. Could I hurt him? God yes. Unbidden, my mind offered up any number of quick and efficient ways to hurt, maim, even kill him. What was truly frightening was that, in a certain mindset, I could have done it without flinching. The consequences would hit me later, when I allowed myself time to consider them, but in the cold clarity of the moment...

Can you see the monster lurking beneath the guise of the man? I can. Sometimes I pretend that I've lost sight of him, but he's there. He's always
there.

However, the question was whether I wanted to hurt him. "No." When Duo's around, sometimes I can pretend the monster doesn't exist at all...

***

My face softened into a gentle, slightly weary smile. "I know," I assured him, my thumbs rubbing in small circles behind his ears. "There has never been any doubt in my mind of that. You aren't the type of person to want to hurt. I wanted you to say it so you could hear it and believe it as strongly as I do." 

Heero, I keep seeing glimpses of this wonderful, tender heart inside you. They make me want more. They make me want all of you.

Quid pro quo, Duo, I told myself. Wanting all of him entitles him to the same from you. "Did what we did scare you like it did me?" I ventured softly, baring just a little more of my soul. After all, just by being here with me, it was his to accept or reject, no one else's. "Not the sex at all, but the...intensity? It was like flying without a Gundam, wonderful and terrifying at the same time. Suffocating and liberating both. I don't have better words for it, but my heart still pounds just remembering it."

***

Fighting the desire to look away again, I took several slow, deep breaths, trying to calm what I felt welling up inside. He just kept breaking my
barriers down, refusing to let me stand behind what I had used for protection all those years... I was left naked, shivering...afraid. I did shutter my eyes then, twisting my head to the side as I struggled for words, or perhaps to keep the words in. "Hai," I said at last and I did shiver, then.
Swallowing hard, I threaded my fingers through the hair at his nape, pulling him forward until our foreheads touched. "You always make me feel that way. Like I can't...control...." I broke off, closing my eyes.

***

Suddenly, I knew why he had been upset before, and I kicked myself for not noticing what had been right before my nose. I told him I needed him. And in thinking he hurt me, he had failed to protect me. It bothered him, because...he cared. There was no other logical conclusion. It was a good thing I was sitting down, albeit in a tub of water; I wouldn't have been standing long against that realization. Heero Yuy cared about what happened to me. 

Heero cared...about me.

I shook my head just a bit, marveling at the irony. "All that time, I thought it was just my hormones and emotions on overload, but...you were feeling it, too," I whispered, something akin to wonder in my voice. We had wasted so much time, it seems, but could either of us have effectively fought the war we needed to fight, knowing that the feelings throbbing inside with a maddening pulse were felt by our occasional lover, too? I couldn't have, I know. It was hard enough loving him and fighting when I thought he didn't give a damn. Loving him and fighting when I knew he felt something back? I would have been hobbled and helpless.

But there was no more war. Nothing and no one but us. Already, I was helpless, the warm presence of his forehead seeming to physically fuse our thoughts together. "I can't, either," I confessed. He had to know that this--not just the sex, or the house, but all of it--was both of us. "It's
too much, there's not enough of me to hold it back." My fingers drew small curlicues in the patterns of water on his chest, feeling the slick droplets slide down to join the pool of their fellows. "And I don't want to."

***

All that time... All that time, you were my worst enemy, my strongest liability. You committed the worst sin of all... You made me feel. That's
part of the reason I ran for a year, because not only could I not face the fact that I was a soldier in a time of a peace...I couldn't face you.

I kissed him then, gently. I wanted to quiet what was happening between us. I didn't trust myself, not tonight. I wrapped my arms around him, pulling slowly away from the kiss to speak. "Tonight... just be with me." I said quietly. "I can't...It's too much tonight."

***

The tempest slowly stilled, the storm at an end. It might only be the oasis in the desert, the eye of the hurricane, but for the moment all that
surrounded us was refreshing calm. I turned around and curled my body to his once more, my head fitting nicely against the solid support of his shoulder, the fierce, steady pound of his heart against my back rhythmic and comforting. "I want to be with you," I whispered, the sleep I'd been denied earlier launching a stealthy attack on my consciousness. "Just hold me, please?"

***

I let my breath out slowly, leaning my cheek against his, breathing in air that was rich with his scent. "Itsumo," I replied softly, my arms tightening around him. Always, Duo... Always...I'll do whatever I have to, to protect you...

***

Part 6
Back to Innocence Faded Main