Heero: My name should not be Heero Yuy. Not anymore. I didn't deserve that name –if I were truly honest, I was pretty sure that I never had. The original Heero Yuy –he had been a pacifist martyred for his beliefs. The child of war that later bore his name had been violent, cruel, calculating, cold, distant: the epitome of the perfect soldier. I couldn't be either of those men –I'd never been the first, and never again could I be the second. It seemed that all I was capable of being now was the epitome of a perfect mess. It was strange. They would release me tomorrow. After close to three years of inpatient therapy, the Mental Institute of Tokyo wanted to release me. They wouldn't release me on my own recognizance: they would only allow me to leave if there was someone to care for me. Despite everything, I wasn't really all that sure that I wanted to leave. This place had been my sanctuary, my oasis when I was losing myself. Now, even though I wasn't so sure I'd managed to dig through the fragments to find myself, they wanted to release me. I was sure outpatient therapy on a 21-year old ex-soldier with PTSD to spare would be a picnic for whatever poor schmuck got stuck with me. Not. I wondered if they would tell me that wanting to recreate myself was normal. I supposed it might be, but that wasn't what I wanted to do. That wasn't the reason I shunned the name Heero Yuy. I wasn't the same man I had been three years before, and there was no way I could return to the perfect soldier. Not when it had broken me this badly. So perhaps the recreation of myself was already complete. Maybe all I really needed to do was give myself a new name. Shaking my head, I tried to dislodge that train of thought. I focused my attention on my tremor-laced hands. Gods, these hands had never trembled, never hesitated –not before. I touched the phone that hung on the wall and tried to ground myself to my current purpose, my current task. Somehow, I had made up my mind to make this the first step on a long road of fence-mending in my future. With trembling hands, I picked up the phone and allowed my fingers to dial the phone number that had tormented me in the sweetest of dreams and the darkest of nightmares. It was stupid to recall that the number belonged to the partner I had drawn portraits of on the floor of the isolation room in my lowest moments. There were some things you couldn't change, and remembering wasn't enough to undo it. Even the perfect soldier had suffered because of his inability to change the past. I didn't see why the perfect mess should be above that. A groggy voice answered the phone. Had my phone call awakened him from a deep sleep? "Maxwell." A smile tugged at my lips. At least some things never changed. The way he answered the phone was one of them. "Konban wa, partner," I greeted, making note of the fact it was after 2000 hours. "Heero?" That ever-lazy sleep-laced drawl became sharper, all drowsiness forgotten. "Yeah," I confirmed. "Where have you been, man? We thought you were dead!" he accused suddenly. I had to take a deep breath. They had worried over me? It warmed me in some ways, but I had no time to deal with that feeling right now. Instead, I pressed on, ignoring the comments for now. The mission comes first, I told myself mockingly. "Duo, I need a small favor." "Sure, man. What do you need?" he asked. I appreciated his candor, especially the fact that it somehow still remained for a teammate who had routinely made him miserable, used him, and frustrated him. Shaking my head, I tried to push the thoughts out and focus on his voice and his soft breathing. "Can you pick me up from this address tomorrow?" I rattled off the address I'd seen printed on so many letters from Relina, the address I had printed as my own return address for three years of return mail. He was silent for a moment. Duo was never silent. I had to wonder if my request had been that surprising, if perhaps he knew the address by some cruel twist of fate. "Will you tell me where you've been?" His question was surprising, but his persistence made me smile slightly. "It will make sense if you retrieve me. Can you?" He was silent for a time. "Yeah. Yeah, I can. It's good to hear from you, Hee-man," he said softly. Gods above, right then I loved that stupid, annoying nickname. It had been the only nickname I'd ever had, and something about the way he said it made me feel less afraid and less ashamed. Hell, it even made me smile. "It's been good to hear your voice, Duo." –Outside a delusion, my mind snarked at me.– "And arigato." "So, I'll see you tomorrow, then, Hee-man?" "Hai," I agreed, nodded my head. "I'll see you tomorrow." "I'm glad you aren't dead, Heero," he told softly, then hung up. For the first time in three years, so was I. Something about Duo could always make me feel something, and I treasured him in a strange sort of way. Of course, it was that moment that I came to a startling realization: of the four men I could have contacted, of the four men that might still care or feel that they owed me enough to do me a favor, I had chosen to contact the one that I had a childish crush on –the first and only crush I'd had in my short lifetime. I ran a rough hand through my hair and slammed my palm against a wall. Stupid, thoughtless boy, I chided myself. You always were a stupid, thoughtless boy, Yuy. Trying to convince myself that anticipation wasn't coursing through my veins like wildfire, I returned to my cell –I mean room. Looking at the Spartan room spruced up only by the stacks of brightly colored canvases and piles of sheet music, I decided I'd been detained in more comfortable cells. But at least I didn't have to bust myself out of this one. I smiled as I decided that this situation reminded me of one of my first meetings with Duo Maxwell. History was repeating itself. How interesting.
Duo: I looked over at the man beside me on the bed for a moment. Wufei slept like the dead beside me. Watching him try to cope when his son's life was in dancer had been incredibly painful. I'd felt like a voyeur watching the deep, restful sleep he'd found only when his pretty wife had called to tell him Wushon was fine. The exhaustion of watching him try to deal had worn me thin as well, so I honestly followed him quickly into Dream Land after that. Now, it was excitement that made me shake his shoulder to wake him. "Wufei!" I exclaimed. "Wake up, Wufei!" Dark eyes peered out grumpily from beneath heavy, sleepy eyelids. "What?" he growled at me as those hungry eyes took in his surroundings. "What is it, Duo?" I was sure I was grinning like a deranged lunatic, but I couldn't help it. They'd told me I was wrong. They'd all told me I was crazy for believing, but I knew that Heero Yuy was a man Death refused. Now I couldn't wait to tell them that I was right –not for the rights to the I-told-you-sos, though those would certainly provide me great entertainment, but for the fact that our comrade, our brother in arms was alive. "He's not dead, Wufei. Heero is alive!" He sat straight up in my bed, suddenly wide awake. Well, nothing wakes you up quite like highly improbably good news, I supposed. "How do you know?" I saw it in my crystal ball. Alright, so apparently the good news I'd been waiting three years for wasn't enough to kill my snarkiness. At least I hadn't said it aloud. "He just called me," I told him. "And I, uh, get the notion that he's a little different from before." "What makes you say that?" Wufei asked, starting to crawl out of my bed. His question reminded me that Wufei had certainly been one of the most fervent of those who had doubted me when I claimed my partner was alive. Still, the question was valid enough, so I answered him. "Well, I've never heard him string together that many words in a single setting. And he called me 'Duo'. And he didn't yell at me for calling him 'Hee-man'. And he… he said 'arigato'." I wasn't sure if it would mean anything to him, but I knew for a fact that Heero had never ever said that word to me before. He'd been trained since birth to be the perfect soldier, and apparently manners hadn't been part of the training regimen. Wufei stared at me with an unwavering gaze. "It certainly does make one wonder," he remarked slowly, "what could have happened to change Yuy so much." Damn it, now he wanted to throw logic into my joy. Luckily, I was well-trained in the ability to ignore logic when at all possible. "Heero said that it would make more sense when I came to pick him up tomorrow," I told him, shrugging absently at the Chinese man who was still half on my bed. Those cool, wary eyes probed at me. "Might I be allowed to accompany you?" Such a question actually warranted a moment of thought before I completely waved it away. "I got the feeling that calling me was harder than he wanted me to think. Let's not push too much too fast, yeah?" I wasn't sure what it had been that made me think Heero might be fragile. 'Fragile' and the Heero I knew probably couldn't coexist in the same sentence. But there were so many changes to be noted from such a short, simple phone call, and that made me believe that the Heero I had known had evolved into something else. I hoped it was for the better, but I wouldn't be sure until I saw him again, spoke to him again. Wufei finally slid off my bed, mussing the covers he'd been laying atop. "True. In that case, you probably shouldn't tell him about Barton and Winner." Wufei did have a point: finding out that two of our teammates had embarked on something as complicated as a relationship together might be a shock to the system. "Probably shouldn't tell him you're married, then, either. Though, he might have been keeping tabs on us. That's definitely something 01 would have done." Of course, the fact that I'd kept the same home number for three straight years strictly because I'd given it to him was not something to bring up at the moment. When Wufei laughed at me, I figured he was going to bring that up. I was quite surprised by what he said instead. "If that's the case, Duo, you may want to rid yourself of the 'I'm so happy I'm stupid with it' grin you're wearing, or he might figure out you're in love with him." Huh. And I'd thought I'd hidden it so well. Still, my normal sarcasm and quips leapt to my rescue. "Are you recalling the same man I am? The Heero that we fought alongside knew squat about social interaction, sexuality, and sexual interest." When he laughed again, it grated on my nerves. "You're the one who insisted that he changed. If it's all for the better… well, he might just surprise you." When I inquired as to what, exactly, he had meant, he refused to clarify –he only gave me that annoying, infuriating knowing smile as he shrugged into his coat and walked out my front door. What in the hell was that supposed to mean? I shook my head. Why do I still hang out with that over-bearing smug Chinese bastard, anyway? Because you've been through hell together. Because you're his son's godfather. Because he may be a smart ass –emphasis on the smart– but he's family. I sighed, then wondered if Heero would be interested in become a part of this war-forged family. After all, he had been our brother in arms, and he certainly deserved a place with us.