Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence, abuse,talk of non consensual sex.
He had his white hair pulled back in a very long pony tail and that silken hair brushed shoulders and back, and swung when he bent to do something. Duo enjoyed watching Milliardo pace, fiddle in a bored fashion around the room, and stretch and yawn, once or twice, while he, Duo, pretended to still be asleep.The man had come back, after getting rid of Hilde, and he showed no signs of leaving any time soon. It made Duo wonder what he had told the hospital staff. Everyone probably imagined that he was a criminal being guarded, or some sort of informant needing a body guard.
Duo could have asked the man many things, just then, but finding the strength to do so wasn't appealing.He wasn't ready for answers that would also force him to deal with his life. It was much better to just drift and let it all go away. Milliardo was intriguing and handsome. That was enough for now. Let him stay. Let him pace on the edges of his life.It would all become clearer when he was ready for it.
A nurse came in and Milliardo gave her a small, formal nod. The nurse dimpled at him, a bit of a flirt, as she moved to Duo's bedside and checked his pulse and the instruments keeping him alive. Her chill fingers made Duo shiver a little. He must have made a movement, or a noise, despite his best efforts not to, because Milliardo was suddenly at his bedside and looking down at him.
"It's just the nurse, Duo," Milliardo soothed. "Relax."
Those ice blue eyes were worried. Duo couldn't help but drown in them.
"He seems disoriented," Milliardo told the nurse anxiously.
The nurse smirked as she made a note on computer pad. "I would be too, if you looked at me that way." then she reassured him, when he looked confused, "It's all right. His vitals are fine. The drugs are probably making him a bit groggy, though."
"Of course," Milliardo replied, looking a little embarrassed.
"He is scheduled for his first visit from the staff psychologist, tomorrow," the nurse informed him as she headed for the door. "He won't be released from the hospital until the doctor certifies that he isn't a danger to himself. He will probably suggest a rehab clinic and therapy sessions."
Depression, post war syndrome, feelings of anxiety and a lack of self confidence, Duo thought to himself. Those would be the least of the doctor's diagnosis, he was sure.
Alone again with Milliardo, Duo felt that lack of self confidence keenly. He couldn't see anything in himself that wasn't screwed up.
"It's my hair isn't it?" he managed.
Milliardo blinked. "Hair?" and then he understood. There was a dance of expressions on his face as he tried to think of a response.
"So'kay," Duo said and then coughed through his next words, "Everyone likes the hair."
Milliardo patted his hand and replied, finally, "People love my hair as well. Sometimes, I think that they never see the man underneath it all." His blue eyes became intense. "We don't have that problem, though, Duo. We can see clearly, that we're more than our hair."
Duo didn't want to laugh. It hurt too much. Stifling it was almost as bad. When he settled again, Duo saw Milliardo's contrite expression.
"So'kay," Duo managed.
Milliardo's grip on his hand tightened and he suddenly became serious. "Duo, I find you intelligent, strong, handsome, and infinitely interesting. I want you to believe that, but I think that it may take you some time. I am willing to wait until you're ready to accept that I want..."
"Want?" Duo prompted, not sure that he wanted to hear it, to deal with the fact that Milliardo was still interested in him.
Milliardo used both hands now, to caress Duo's hand between them, as if he felt that he needed to soothe Duo with his touch. "I would like a relationship with you."
So formal. Duo almost laughed again. He said, instead, "Maybe I'm not gay."
Milliardo cocked his head and looked disbelieving.
"Okay... so I am... but... I'm not sure..." Duo amended.
Milliardo kissed Duo's hand, warm lips giving fingers a gentle pressure. The touch was electric and Duo gasped.
"You've been hurt," Milliardo said softly. "I want to show you how beautiful, how wonderful, it can be."
Duo was done trying to speak, but he returned the pressure on his hand, with his own grip. He did want to try, after everything was better. He only hoped that he would get better.
Duo drifted into sleep, after a time, but he heard Milliardo moving about the room, and speaking to him once in awhile, and that was comforting. When he heard Heero's voice, suddenly, it brought him back to consciousness with a sting of guilt.
"Are you sure, that it will be all right for me to speak to him?"Heero asked.
"I think so, but keep it brief. Speaking is very hard for him," Milliardo replied.
"Perhaps I should come back later," Heero began, but Wu Fei's voice was suddenly there as well.
"You need to speak to him," Wu Fei told him. "He needs to hear that you are all right."
Duo opened his eyes to sunlight. He had slept much longer than he had imagined. Heero was slowly approaching his bed with Wu Fei behind him. Milliardo was on his right, looking ready to intercede, but also looking pleased. Duo felt almost betrayed by that, understanding, the Milliardo had arranged this meeting.
"Duo," Heero said softly. "I want to apologize, to tell you how very sorry I am for what happened between us. I don't think that I can ever do enough, to make up for it, but I want you to understand that I would never-"
"Shut up," Duo wheezed. When Heero blinked at him stupidly and Wu Fei looked slightly fearful for Heero, he saw how things were. He'd been stupid not to see it before. Heero and Wu Fei were a couple. Heero hadn't run off to an empty apartment, not like he had. Wu Fei had been waiting for him.
"When?" Duo wanted to know.
It took Heero a moment to understand and then he looked embarrassed as he glanced aside at Wu Fei. "I didn't know that I was.. gay, not really," Heero explained. "After that night... and after you rejected me... I began to see Wu Fei differently. We began to have a relationship. I wanted to thank you and I couldn't understand why you were so angry with me."
"Don't apologize to me again," Duo told Heero. "That was a screwed up night and it wasn't your fault. Get on with your life. I'll get on with mine."
"Can you?" Heero wondered, anguish in his eyes.
"I'm going to try," Duo replied, not really knowing the answer.
It was awkward after that. When Heero and Wu Fei finally left, Duo was certain that he was angry at Milliardo, but he was also grateful.
"I thought that you needed to know," Milliardo told him, coming close to the bed.
Duo glared, reached out, and gave Milliardo's pony tail a small jerk. "You shut up, too," he growled. "It was... okay."
Milliardo relaxed and he was holding Duo's hand again. The warm strength of him was comforting.
"I'm glad," Duo said. "I'm glad Heero has someone."
He didn't want to try to talk after that, especially when Milliardo suddenly leaned down and gave his cheek a small kiss. The man was telling him that he had someone, now, too, but it was still hard to believe.
Neutral ground, Milliardo had called it. Not public, but not in an intimate setting either. The rolling hills and small, manicured gardens of one of his estates, was good for a walk, and the birds and occasional rabbit, didn't care what they said to each other, or how uncomfortable they were.
Duo wasn't uncomfortable because he didn't want to be there, he was uncomfortable being with a man who could have anything and anyone that he wanted. Knowing that the man was truly interested in him, and wanting to spend time with him, was hitting more buttons than he cared to experience, just then.
Milliardo seemed stiff and correct in his casual pants and button down shirt. He looked as if he were on a formal review of the troops, blue eyes raking every leaf and flower, as if looking for a fault.
"I think that one's not in proper uniform," Duo joked, pointing to a wilting, purple flower. "Two days in the brig?"
Milliardo winced and made an effort to relax. "I suppose that I'm nervous."
"Me too," Duo admitted."Tea and biscuits on the veranda. A walk in a backyard bigger than some countries. Being with Prince Milliardo Peacecraft. Maybe I'll wake up and find myself still in the hospital, under the influence of some really good drugs? I mean, it's not something that I ever imagined would happen."
"I'm not a prince," Milliardo began, but Duo snickered.
"I think you're born with the title," Duo reminded him as he pulled a leaf off of a manicured bush, and eyed it. "It doesn't matter whether you still have the country or not."
"It's archaic," Milliardo amended. "Meaningless."
Duo eyed him, "Look, I appreciate the effort, but we both know that we are damned far apart in class."
Milliardo nodded. His loose hair caught in a breeze and fluttered, as he replied, "You're right. After all, you are a the best pilot on Earth, or in space, and a war hero. I'm merely a Preventer commander, and a prince in an antiquated monarchy. I am a fool, for believing that you could ever show a serious interest in someone like me."
"Ha, ha," Duo growled. "Don't be stupid."
Milliardo stopped and faced him. He reached out and lightly brushed a thumb across the mark, by Duo's nose,that still lingered from his time with a ventilator in the hospital. "I won't, if you promise not to be one. We are equals in what matters most in life, Duo. Our manners are different, our experiences, and our lives, but that doesn't make either of us superior... or inferior."
"I can out pilot you," Duo agreed and managed a grin.
"Perhaps," Milliardo hedged, as they began walking again.
"I can, and you know it," Duo countered, but then swayed a little.
Milliardo caught him under the elbow and supported Duo's weight, asking in concern,"Are you all right?"
Duo replied in embarrassment. "I still get a little tired..."
"Let's sit over here," Milliardo suggested, and carefully led Duo over to a shady oak tree on the edge of a small brook. He helped Duo sit and then settled beside him.
Duo rubbed at his face, trying to stop the light headedness. "I'm okay," he assured Milliardo, liking the hand still on his arm.
"Why don't you lay back?" Milliardo suggested.
Duo grimaced at the feel of hard acorns. "Too lumpy."
Milliardo edged closer, not caring as the knees of his pants ground into the soft leafy loam under the tree. "Put your head in my lap. I don't mind."
Duo snorted, "I bet you don't."
Milliardo frowned. "Sex wasn't on my mind."
Duo faked a stricken look, "No?" and then an outraged one. "Why not?"
Milliardo chuckled. "Just lay down before you fall over, idiot."
Duo laughed lightly as well as he cautiously stretched out and put his head on Milliard's lap. "Now we're doing pet names?"
"Idiot is a pet name?" Milliardo wondered as he bent to look into Duo's face. His pale hair made a curtain all around them.
Duo rubbed at his nose, as the hairs tickled it, and felt self conscious. "Well, I wouldn't call you idiot."
"No?" Milliardo arched a pale eyebrow. "What, then?"
Duo considered for a moment and then replied, "Blue."
"Blue?" Milliardo smiled softly. "I sound like a pet dog."
"Only if you want a leash and a collar, but I'm not really into that," Duo replied and then blushed. "Forget I said that. I'm just... nervous... and blathering...first time in your lap.... and all that."
"Understandable," Milliardo replied.
There was a moment of silence as the sound of the small brook bubbled close by and birds sang in the branches of the tree. Duo broke it by asking, uncertainly,"Well... am I 'idiot'?"
Milliardo shook his head and laughed, his hair brushing all over Duo's skin. "No."
Another pause and then Duo groused, "Okay, what, then?"
Milliardo's smile turned warm and melting. "Love."
Duo blushed to the roots of his hair. "Ah... isn't that kind of... soon?"
"Is it?" Milliardo wondered, eyes going serious.
"I..." Duo found it impossible to go on.
"Not for me," Milliardo assured him, "but I'm a patient man. Maybe, in time, my pet name will be more than 'Blue'?"
"It could," Duo managed.
"Hope is a wonderful thing," Milliardo replied. His fingers rubbed along Duo's face, soothing him. "Let's leave serious matters behind, for now. Rest."
"Okay," Duo sighed and wondered how the man could find what it was that his heart wanted that quickly, when he, himself, was still confused, to disbelieving of what the man was offering him. He needed time, maybe a lot of time.
"He said that I'm supposed set down roots and believe in myself and my future," Duo said as he flipped through the listings on a realtor web page.
"Why don't you move in with me?" Hilde suggested as she put a stack of files on Duo's desk.
Duo shoved them toward another pile as he went through yet another page of listings. "That wouldn't be the same," he explained. "I'd be living with you, and not making permanent plans. That's why I was living where I was, you see. It wasn't nice, I wasn't comfortable there, and I didn't have anything there, except fish that I didn't really care about."
"They're such nice fish, too," Hilde sighed.
"Which is why they're going to you," Duo told her as he book marked a page. "They like you better."
"Because I actually feed them," Hilde snorted. She sat in a chair and slid it, along the floor, closer to Duo. "You know," she said. more seriously. "There are other ways of putting down roots."
Duo glared at her and then went back to his screen. "If you're talking about Zechs, I'm not ready for that. The doc says that I have to learn a lot about myself, and how to have a good relationship, first."
"Learn anything so far?" Hilde wondered, her chin resting on one fist.
"I learned that getting someone drunk, and getting laid, is a bad idea," Duo replied harshly.
Hilde winced. "I'm sorry, Duo. I didn't mean-"
Duo sighed. "I know... It's just that I'm still sensitive about it. I'm still dealing with what I did."
"You always seem so confident... and grounded...," Hilde pointed out.
"I wasn't. I'm not," Duo replied. "I'm still living like I'm going to die in the next minute. I'm still packed, like I have to make a run for it. I still won't let people get close to me, because that can be used against me... and they can get hurt."
Hilde reached out and squeezed his arm. "I won't get hurt. I'm a tough gal, remember?"
Duo smiled. "That's why you're my closest friend."
"Heero would be too, if you let him," Hilde pointed out. "He's ready to forgive and forget."
"I'm not," Duo ground out.
There was a pause and then Hilde asked softly, "So, how's the sex ed class going?"
Duo took in a sharp breath and looked around them to make sure that no one else could hear, and then he leaned in close to Hilde and said, "Don't talk about that. I don't want to be the joke for the next year... or longer."
"I could have told you all about it," Hilde replied with a salacious grin. "You didn't need to take a class."
Duo pushed her chair so that she rolled back on it's wheels a few feet away. "You are too damned nosey, Hilde. I don't 'want to share' everything with you."
Hilde grunted and made a face. "Just like a man. You guys never want to talk about feelings, or what's going on inside you, unless it's digesting pizza and beer."
"I'm just not ready to talk about stuff with anyone, not even you," Duo replied as he went back to his computer, "especially here."
Hilde shrugged and stood up. "If you don't want personal things going on at work, then you should be doing your job, not apartment hunting."
Duo rolled eyes at her and closed the real estate listing. "Satisfied?"
"No," Hilde pouted and then put hands on hips as she said, "Maybe you think you're trying to be 'permanent' and stop the running away, but you're still running from the one man who can help you get through all of this."
"We did have a date," Duo reminded her.
"Then have another," Hilde suggested, "and this time, do more than take a walk in a park. Have dinner at his place... or your new one... or just move the hell in with him and stop trying to pretend you don't feel that way about him."
"Hilde!" Duo protested. "I have enough going on in my life, right now. If I want to go on missions again, I have to pass my psyche exam. That means doing what the doc says. If he says find a place, take sex ed, and don't have any relationships for now, I'm following those orders."
Hilde reached out and grabbed Duo's braid at the back of his neck. He grunted as she leaned by his ear and said, "If you're doing all of this just to get back in action, I'll..."
Duo reached back and slapped her hand. She let go and rubbed it as he growled,"I'm not, okay? But it is one of the carrots on a stick that they're dangling in front of me as a reward."
"There's more than one?" Hilde wanted to know skeptically.
Duo nodded and turned to his work as he said, "The other reward, is maybe having Milliardo in my life."
Hilde's eyes softened. She gave Duo a quick kiss on the cheek, startling him, and then said,"Then you better work hard at following orders."
Duo nodded determinedly and Hilde left him with a smile on her face.
On to chapter Eight
Back to chapter six