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Sub Rosa: Let Me Let You Know
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Sub Rosa

Chapter Two

Let Me Let You Know

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing still isn't mine. Dammit.

Because, you know what? These guys need to actually frickin' talk.







Okay, so things had never been perfect. Heero's smiles were oddly timed, during things that had annoyed him during the war. And I couldn't always predict him. And there had been an argument once, when I'd been ready to say 'fuck it' and get out of my wheelchair for a few minutes. And things were always tense when Trowa was here, which meant I could never have a good time with Quatre, who was escorted by his lover everywhere. So yeah, things weren't perfect. I hadn't expected them to be.

But I hadn't expected this, either.

Not once had Heero asked me that dreaded question since The Mission. Not once had I had to worry about Heero trying to delve into that particular part of my psyche. Granted the man could be obnoxious when it came to learning something about me, but this... wasn't good.

“Heero, no.” I shook my head. “Ask something else.”

The serious look deepened into an all-out frown. “You won't tell me, and you won't tell anyone else. Duo, we used to be able to talk to one another about anything. You especially. Why won't you tell me anything now?”

“Heero...” It was true that we'd opened up to one another, but all Heero would tell were things related to the war or his missions. His irritation with Relena and his ongoing plan to kill her had been one of the most insightful things he'd mentioned. (1) “This isn't the same.”

“Isn't it?”

“We didn't force each other then,” I argued, but stopped cold. Shit. I hadn't meant to say that. Not at all.

Heero's gaze wavered. Those eyes turned sad for the first time in a long time.

I quickly backpedaled. “I mean... Heero, it's not that-”

Heero sighed. “No. It's true. I just wish...” And here his voice turned wistful. “I wish I had opened up before.”

“No point in regretting the past,” I said sternly, not liking where this was going. “Besides, you did everything you could. And everything you needed to. If we'd done anything different, who's to say we'd have all ended up alive?”

Heero's eyes were dark. “Who, indeed,” he murmured, then cocked an eyebrow. “You said I know him.”

I groaned. Leave it to Heero to not leave well enough alone. “Not this, Heero. Ask another question. I'll answer that instead. Okay?”

Heero thought for a moment. “Promise?”

Uh-oh. “Uh... yeah?”

Heero smirked. “Why are you still here?”

Oh shit. “What?”

“Why are you still here?” he asked again, his face turning dead-serious. “Is it really because you agreed to stay for a month? Answer me honestly, Duo.”

My face flamed, even as I felt relief loosen the knots inside me. “U-Um...” I looked away. “Well, it's part of it.” I was telling the truth, no matter how one looked at it. After all, I was here for more than Heero's conditions. I was here for him. And for the smile I'd stupidly taken from him recently.

“What's the other part of it?”

I was already thinking fast. “Well...”

“Duo...” Heero sighed.

Okay, so it was embarrassing – and extremely vulnerable – to admit even this much. “I... like being around you guys.” Very, very important to add the word 'guys.' “Okay?”

Heero's smile returned. “Will you stay, then?”

Blush blush blush. Gods, why was he bringing this up now? Especially when... the box flitted through my mind with painful visions of getting everyone involved in another battle. Would we all be so lucky next time? “We... We'll see.”

Heero's smile dimmed a bit, but he nodded. “I understand.” He turned back to the cooking utensils, then straight back to me. “Duo... one more?”

I shrugged. “Just the first one's off-limits. It's time we get into this, I guess.” I wasn't going to enjoy it. And I would have to be careful. But if it helped Heero... well, it was why I was here, wasn't it?

Heero nodded, returning to the stuff around him. I'd offered to help him once, but he'd quickly seen how useless I was in the kitchen. He'd joked that he now understood why I had ration bars. It made me smile to remember. Heero grabbed a sharp knife and started peeling potatoes. It was strange, because he had those peeler things. But he always managed to pull it off with one long string of skin. “Then... how do you feel about the four of us... as a group?”

He, too, seemed to be carefully editing himself. I was just as hesitant when speaking. “I feel like a fifth wheel.”

The knife slipped, smacking into his finger. He didn't move it, but I thought I saw some blood. “Heero!”

“I knew it,” he murmured to himself, and walked calmly over to the sink. He ran the water and placed both the knife and his finger under the water's spray.

“Heero, are you okay?” A stupid question; it was just a tiny little cut. Still...

“I'm fine,” he said quietly. “A fifth wheel? Care to explain?”

“Maybe we should wait on this until all dangerous utensils are safely out of your hands.”

“I'm fine. I would like to know.”

I hissed, watching his hand as he returned to cutting off the potato skin. “Well, you guys all formed your group a long time ago, and you all have these little bonds because of it.” If his hand started to slip, I was shutting up and demanding we wait. “I walk in and it feels like I'm stretching those bonds, like they have to work around me. If that makes any sense.”

“Like you've been invited to a table full of strangers,” Heero said simply.

Leave it to Heero to state emotions so plainly. “Yeah.”

Heero was silent, staring at the potato like it held mystery's answers. “I'm sorry. Especially... especially since you're the one who put us together.”

I gave him a skeptical look. “Look, I know you want to put the whole Trowa-and-Quatre thing on me, but...”

Heero sighed. “Quatre got Wufei and me after hearing where we were. Granted it was Quatre who took the step, but he said...” Heero hesitated, then bulldozed on. “He said he didn't want to lose another.”

I winced.

“He doesn't blame you, Duo,” Heero continued quickly. He put down one potato and substituted it for another. “None of us do. We all tried it. We would have continued trying if...” Again Heero hesitated.

I almost asked him to continue, but was afraid of what I might hear.

Eventually Heero took the decision out of my hands. “If you hadn't left.”

“Making it me again, huh?” I said breezily. “Hey, my motives were purely selfish.” Escape while I could, I added silently. I wished stupidly that Heero hadn't put this one on me, too. Like I didn't feel enough useless guilt. And hopefully find myself in the process. Which didn't work, I might add.

“Duo, we'd all believed that, even if we remained distant, you would always be there.”

I winced again, understanding that what Heero left out was, 'you had been our constant.' And I'd let them down. How many times would I do that before I died?

I looked away again, unable to face him.

“No, Duo,” Heero sighed, “that's not what I meant at all. Finding out you'd left... it hit us then. We'd expected you to keep coming back, when what you'd be coming back to was...” He smiled crookedly. “Well, it wasn't the most welcoming of attitudes. Surely we've already said this? We realized we were giving nothing and expecting everything. We'd hurt you.”

I shrugged, but I could never shrug off the truth of it. “Water under the bridge, man,” I said, waving my hand negligently. It hurt a bit to move it, but I didn't show the pain. I'd found out that Heero had a certain mother-hen streak when it came to my injuries.

Heero scowled. “Would you stop doing that? We know better. We never felt that emotion, but we know how it felt to search and search for you and never find anything. We found Hilde easily, but you'd broken away from her, just as you had with Quatre. You disappeared.” There was a hint of remembered panic in Heero's voice. “We remember the fear that we would never find you, that...” Heero stopped, then shook his head. He put down the second now-skinned potato and reached for the last. “We... had some trouble... about a year after you left. Some crazy guy talking about killing all of us Gundam pilots. He bragged...”

I felt my eyes widen.

“He bragged,” Heero forced out, “that he'd killed you. We lived in fear for... months.” Heero rubbed his chest as if remembering an old pain. “Then,” he sighed, “you sent Quatre an on-line Christmas card. Do you remember? You had an old joke in it that only Quatre recognized.”

Oh yeah. The joke about beanstalks and golden eggs. “'So your swan shitted a Winner,'” I quoted.

He smiled. “Yes, that. It was only then that we knew you were still alive. Somewhere.”

“Sorry,” I said softly.

“You couldn't have known.”

“I wish I had. I would've helped.”

“From the sidelines,” Heero finished for me.

I could say nothing. It was the truth, after all.

Heero shook his head. “That panic was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I'd known you were skilled, that you could take care of yourself. But...” His breathing was oddly heavy. I was back to watching that knife hand. “But I couldn't know. We could take care of each other, but we could do nothing for you. If you did get into trouble...” Heero hesitated. “We lived off of Quatre's reports. He wouldn't tell us much, but he did tell us that you called, that you seemed well.”

Did that knife just wobble?

“It was all we had,” Heero sighed. “so I don't understand what it was like to be hurt over and over, but I do understand the fear... I kept wondering if I would ever see you again. I swore that if I found you, I wouldn't let you go. No matter what.”

Well, that would make the escaping option difficult. “Heero, how is the fear like getting glares from you guys? Doesn't quite seem the same to me.”

“Yes, you had it much worse.”

I scowled. “Not quite what I meant.”

Heero sighed. “Of course not,” he grumbled. Then, “the fear ate at us. We all suffered for it. We turned to each other, over and over again. Somewhere in there, it hit us all over again: while we now had each other to turn to, you'd never had anyone.”

“Quatre,” I blurted without thinking.

Heero's smile. “Yes, and thank God for him. If it weren't for him...” Heero's smile disappeared all over again. He finished peeling the last potato and threw the string of skin into the trash. Then he grabbed one potato after another and started chopping them into pieces. “Of course, Quatre's pain was worse than ours. He felt everyone's pain, not just his own. Trowa became upset at first, then angry. Quatre was hurting, and there was nothing he could do. He... started to blame you.”

“As well he should,” I said airily. “Quatre never let me know, or I swear I would've come to see him.”

“Exactly why he didn't tell you,” Heero noted gently. “He didn't want to force you back on his account. He kept saying that you'd feel trapped.”

Quatre knew me far too well.

The potatoes, now chopped, were quickly placed in a mixing bowl. I stared at the contraption. I was good with machines, but not if they included food in any way. That particular machine hated me.

I sighed. “Look, Trowa's got his reasons, okay? I don't blame him one way or the other. I was the one who left, after all.” I had to speak up for Heero to hear me; he'd turned on the dreaded machine of doom.

Heero muttered something. I read his lips quick enough to see, 'in circles.' “Look, Duo,” he said loudly, “you've admitted you feel like a fifth wheel, but then you say...” He paused. “No, you never did say you don't have a problem with Trowa's attitude, now did you?”

Shit.

Heero scowled. “You always speak in half-truths and riddles. Why don't you speak plainly for once? Does Trowa's attitude hurt you?”

Shit shit shit. “I don't think-”

“Yes or no, Duo.”

Didn't I say Heero could be downright obnoxious? “I'm not-”

“Yes, then,” Heero answered himself. I growled. “In any case... dammit, Duo.” Heero turned on me, turning off the mixer. “How can I ask a question so that you won't be able to skirt around the real answer?”

I gave him a shocked look. “What?”

“Duo,” Heero said slowly, “are you happy here?”

I gaped. “I... what?”

Heero sighed. “Sometimes... I wonder. Your eyes sometimes tell me things they don't mean to. Like whenever Wufei comes over... you seem sadder.”

Oh shit oh shit oh shit.

I shrugged. “Well... you guys are...” I waved my hand at him, hoping whatever sadness entered my eyes wasn't too... big. “I feel like I'm in the way...” Oh god.

Heero's eyes flashed a lot of things. Embarrassment was the one I saw first. “That was...” Heero? Flustered? Shit.

“Hey, hey,” I waved my arms wildly, then winced. Loudly. Uh-oh.

Heero's eyes zeroed in on my pain. “Duo.” He rushed over, gently checking my arm. “Don't overdo it, Duo,” he warned. “You're still recuperating.”

“Why thank you, doctor,” I teased. “It's not that bad. I just forget sometimes.”

Heero frowned. “Duo...”

“Yeah, yeah. Look, anyway, it's not that big a deal. You two have a thing. Okay, so? You think I'm gonna freak out or something?”

Heero shook his head, then looked away. “It's... not...” But his face was beet red. And very, very close to mine. “Um, don't move that arm.” He got up and hurried back to the mixer. “Duo?”

“Huh?”

“You didn't answer the question.”

I blinked. So I didn't. I carefully stalled for time. “Uh, what was it again?”

Heero gave me a knowing look. “Are you happy here?”

I was about to shrug, but it would be useless. Heero had already turned back to the mixer, carefully watching it. “I guess.”

Heero's eyes hardened. “You guess?”

“Well, yeah. It's not all fun and roses, but then who expected it to be?”

“'Not all fun and roses,'” Heero quoted, seeming frustrated. “And what does that mean?”

“It means there are ups and downs.” An obvious evasion.

“Specifics, Duo.”

“Well, Trowa's not the nicest guy to be around. It's hard to talk to Quatre when I have Mr. Silent glaring at me.” I carefully didn't shrug. Heero turned off the mixer, looking thoughtful. “And I guess it's hard, being out of the loop. But I only have myself to blame for these things-”

“Dammit, Duo.” But Heero's voice switched immediately from frustrated to gentle. “You're too kind for your own good,” he murmured.

I almost laughed, but Heero looked dead serious. He turned back to me, ignoring the steak and the spices he'd been about to add to it. “Um, Heero, I'm not kind.”

Heero smiled again, a simple little quirk that brightened his face immeasurably. “”No, you're definitely kind. You kept reaching out for far longer than Wufei or I ever could have. During the war, even though you confused me, you were my sanity. If it weren't for you, I would have continued to question my existence.”

Whoa, whoa. Did Heero Yuy just say that?

Heero chuckled and returned to the steak. “Yes, he did.”

I blinked. “Shit! I said that out loud? Oops.”

Heero grinned at me. “You should feel free to say whatever you think to us. We all share our secrets with one another now.”

I didn't know how I felt about that. I wanted to scoff at it – whatever I learned from everyone was by them accidentally slipping it out or by me asking directly about it, though the latter didn't occur too often. Then I thought about it a bit more and wanted to sigh. They were an ironclad group, definitely closer than family. Shared all their secrets with one another, huh? Nice, but I wasn't one of the four. Their family didn't include me.

Although Lord knew Heero wanted it to.

I grinned at the wall, unable to watch Heero. I saw him bend over and place the steak in the oven. It never failed to shock me, Heero's odd domesticity. Heero could whip up anything practically from scratch. Me? Not so much.

“Duo, why did you leave?”

When would I stop being surprised? “Quatre didn't tell you?”

“He just said you needed time to figure everything out.”

“Well, yeah. That's the reason I left.”

“And did you?”

I thought about it, about everything I'd learned about myself. “A bit. But not enough.” And I would never learn it all. Not now.

“I see.” Heero did something with the green beans, I'm not sure what, and placed them in a pot. “Duo. What exactly were you trying to figure out?”

It wasn't any of his business. But then again, I had a feeling I wouldn't be able to worm away from him without answering... and maybe we needed to start talking. I didn't want to find myself in a situation like that day, that god-awful day when I'd heard the truth about Heero and Wufei... “Myself.”

I said it so quietly I didn't think Heero could hear me – but then he sucked in a sharp breath. “I... see.”

I hurried on. “It sounds cheesy, but I needed to know.”

Heero frowned. “It doesn't sound cheesy. We all had a hard time finding ourselves outside the soldier we made ourselves become.”

I nodded. But had they had to look beyond two people, the soldier and the person beneath that? My entire existence was false. But at least I'd been able to see a bit more... my fear, my confidence in my abilities but lack of confidence in myself... yes, I'd begun to understand. But I wasn't there yet. Not by a long shot. And now I never would be.

“Duo, we found that it was easier for us to get to know ourselves when someone else was there to help us.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “Want to run that by me again?” I asked, amused. Like that made any sense.

“Duo, can you describe me in a few words?” Heero did something foreign with the mashed potatoes, too, then turned to me.

“The you now or the you before?”

Heero's mouth quirked. “How about the me now?”

I thought for a moment. “Loyal, headstrong, and kind.” And it was soooo weird to use the last one in definition of one Heero Yuy.

Heero's eyes warmed. “And as for yourself?”

Selfish, lazy and depressed. The words were there, right there, but there was no way in hell I was saying them. Still, Heero's eyes sharpened. Maybe I should have added on 'astute' to his little list of virtues. “You thought of something, Duo, but it wasn't very good, was it?”

I clamped my mouth shut against the sardonic remark that wanted release. Maybe back during the war Heero wouldn't have thought much about my self-deprecating joke, but now he would catch it. “Huh?” was all I said instead.

“Generous, kind-hearted and dependable.” Heero shrugged. “Just off the top of my head.” He smirked. “Stubborn as a mule, and righteous. And a worrier. You tend to take the blame for things, too.”

“That's more than a few words,” I pointed out weakly.

Heero shrugged. “As I said, it's a lot easier to see someone else than to see ourselves. Who was it who said that one can only see the reflection of oneself, but never actually oneself? I believe it was Shakespeare.”

I scowled. Leave it to Heero to know something like that. I liked the sound of it, though. It explained why we couldn't see ourselves easily – why I couldn't see myself too easily. And wasn't it true that whenever we looked into a mirror, we always saw our imperfections? For instance: my nose was girly, as was the shape of my head. I was a bit short. Dammit. Very short. And my fingers were more musician's fingers than anything else, and you could hardly see the calluses on them. Heero's were long and slim, too, but they looked like those of a warrior. Mine looked like those the damsel in distress might have.

“Duo? What are you thinking about?”

I blushed. Like hell I was going to tell him I was thinking about his fingers. “Just that I like that quote.”

Heero hummed in agreement. “As do I.” He opened the oven, apparently checking on the steak. “I won't pressure you, Duo, but I would like to help you.”

I couldn't look at him. He'd labeled me off with lightning ease, pointing out facets of my character I couldn't bring myself to believe were true. Kind-hearted? Generous? Dependable? What kind of dependable person was I when I almost got everyone killed? How kind could a mercenary ex-Gundam pilot be? And Lord knew mercenaries weren't righteous. No. Heero was wrong.

But I wanted him to be right.

I turned to the trash can with a frown. Right now, again, I had no time to worry about who I was. I had someone I needed to stop – before someone else got hurt. Too bad, I thought with a grimace, I was stuck in a goddamn wheelchair.

<*>

(1) (http://www.angelfire.com/gundam/pilots_sex/) for all you interested people out there. (I count maybe one or two people that could potentially give a damn...)

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Every story unless otherwise claimed is Kayura's, and is copyrighted 2006 under her name.