by Kracken




Bottle of whisky, half gone, on the coffee table, and an empty glass beside it, Heero sat hunched on the couch, glaring, as if that empty glass had betrayed him, somehow. He refused to meet Duo's eyes.

Duo slowly loosened his tie, standing on the opposite side of the coffee table and staring at his lover. Heero's Preventer uniform was off, his casual clothes not looking so casual, though. They looked like traveling clothes, and that gave Duo a warning that his next words had to count. They didn't drink, normally, and they certainly didn't own any bottles of whiskey. That Heero had felt the need to buy one, spoke volumes for his state of mind.

"I love you," Duo told him firmly. "I'm not going to hate you, or throw you out, no matter what's happened. If you try and leave, I'll tie your ass up, until you believe me."

Heero raked fingers through his unruly hair and that hand trembled. "I quit my job. I'm not a Preventer agent any longer."

Duo sighed softly with relief. He had never liked Heero's choice. He had always felt that the man needed to put away the guns and let the rest of the world deal with the bad guys. They had both earned retirement with honors. Knowing that something had gone wrong to cause Heero's decision had to be dealt with, though. It wouldn't be something trivial to cause the man to down whiskey and rethink his career choices. It wouldn't be something trivial that would make a man look ready to leave his lover.

Duo unbuttoned the top of his dress shirt. "There's openings in the defense systems department. Nice and quiet. Just us and the computers. They'd jump at the chance to have you on board with me."

Heero made a strangled sound and poured more whiskey into his glass. Duo watched him take a long, stinging drink as Duo unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt. "Not when they hear... Not when they know."

That was said low, almost lower than Duo could hear. Duo kicked off his dress shoes under the coffee table and stood, braced as if ready for a fight, in only his black socks. "That bad?"

Heero said nothing, staring into his glass.

"It's not going to get easier to tell me when you're totally plastered, Heero. Tell me what happened, now," Duo pleaded.

"Just putting off the end of my life," Heero grumbled. "Can't I have a few more minutes?"

Duo gave up his stance and sat beside Heero, studying his tense features. "When I first saw you, I thought, 'That guy is crazy!', but when I thought about it some more, I realized how 'right' you felt. I realized that you and me... we belonged together. I've never questioned that since. It's tough knowing that you don't feel the same way."

Heero looked suddenly irritated and he took another swig of his drink. After he swallowed, he said bitingly, "Don't be stupid. Of course I feel the same way. Always have. This..." He looked haunted and pale. "This will kill it, though. I know how you feel about... kids.. You won't love me after I tell you." His voice had trembled on the word, 'kids', and Duo felt his gut tighten in trepidation.

"Tell me," he whispered, suddenly afraid himself, but then added, with complete certainty, "I won't hate you, Heero. I won't tell you to leave me. I promise. Maybe I'll be angry, or sad... maybe even disgusted... I don't know... but it won't kill what we have. Nothing can do that. We'll work through it, okay?"

Heero closed his eyes tightly and then found a scuff on the table to concentrate on as he confessed, "I was part of a swat team that cornered some terrorists. We found their hostages... it was... bad. They had mutilated them. I was pissed. I wanted... I wanted to make them pay for that. I wanted them to give me an excuse to kill them. One of them did. He was right in front of me and drawing a gun on me. I shot... reflex... to protect myself... He had a kid, a five year old boy... one of the hostages. He used the boy to shield himself. I killed him, Duo!" Heero sank his face into his hands, shoulders trembling.

Duo took a shuddering breath, shocked, outraged, and sick at heart.

"I wanted to shoot. I ignored everything on the books," Heero sobbed, voice muffled by his hands.

"He was going to kill you. You shot back," Duo managed, though it was hard to speak with the image of a child getting blown away, playing in his minds eye. He had enough war time experience to make it gruesome. "You couldn't have known."

"I didn't tell him to stop, to put his gun down, that he was surrounded and it was useless to try and shoot me," Heero sobbed. "I didn't say anything! I just wanted to kill him!"

"He was going to kill you," Duo repeated with certainty. "It wouldn't have mattered. You are not responsible for him being a... a monster."

"I'm supposed to die to protect people," Heero complained. "I was supposed to take that bullet. I wasn't supposed to shoot back."

Duo grabbed Heero by the shoulder and pulled him in close with a harsh movement. He held Heero tight enough to hurt. "Bullshit! You had every right to defend yourself. You protect people, and , yeah, maybe you will get called on to hand over your life, but not for something like that! Nobody, including me, expects you to just let someone kill you."

Duo saw it clearly, then, even as his heart ached for a lost child, and he was trying to hold the pieces of his lover together. Heero couldn't quit Preventers. He couldn't go down thinking that he was a murderer, that he had failed. He would never recover from it. It would eat at him until there was nothing left to love.

It took time. Heero finished his bottle of whiskey and fell asleep in Duo's arms. They slept on the couch, tangled together, Duo holding Heero together protectively and making sure that he knew that he would never stop loving him.

When morning light finally woke them, Duo spent the morning convincing Heero to return to Preventers. When his lover finally put on his uniform, and his gun, and left him to go to headquarters, it was only then that Duo let himself feel his disappointment and his own grief for a lost child, fully.

Heero was the other half of his soul, but Duo had fallen in love with a man who couldn't not fight when it was called for. Accepting that was hard, but being who they were had never been easy. Duo was certain that there would be other evenings like that one, fraught with sadness, anger, and loss, but their love wouldn't weaken because of it. It was too strong, too integral to their beings. It would keep surviving, no matter what happened.

Duo picked up a picture of Heero in his Preventer uniform. "Stay safe," he whispered to it. "Come home." Without anymore late night confessions, Duo added silently, but even then, love wouldn't fail them. Of that he was certain.



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