Trial and Error + Chapter 14Heero walked along the path of the rose garden, distractedly wondering where Relena was finding the white roses he occasionally saw her toying with. The palace garden only had pink and yellow roses. Maybe this was a mystery that the great Heero Yuy could actually solve since it involved horticulture instead of human emotions.
He had not found out where Wufei and Relena and the others had gone, and he didn't feel like wandering around in the palace. He might meet Duo. He might meet Daniels. Right now he didn't know which one he'd rather avoid the most.
Duo...He couldn't avoid his best friend for ever. He just wanted to give himself a bit more time to get used to the idea of being in love with him, and decide how best to hide it until...well...At least until Duo had forgotten Daniels. This was where the soldier's mask would come in handy. He was so good at hiding his feelings and now that he was trying to salvage the most important friendship in his life, he'd graft Gundanium to his face rather than let anything slip. Still, he instinctively pushed the moment of their meeting as far away as possible.
Were all his plans from this moment onwards going to systematically blow up in his face?! Oh this was just great. He wanted to hide his feelings, and now Duo had discovered him moping around a rose garden. He was starting to feel like the stupid Innocent Young Heroine himself.
"Duo?" He tried to look cold and impassive. Then he focused on Duo and almost lost it.
His best friend was pale except for two bright spots on his cheeks, burning like warning lights. His eyes were fever bright and filled with pain. His generous mouth was turned inward, he was biting his lip. Even his nose didn't seem as perky as usual. Heero wondered if someone would do him the immense favor of dragging pilot 01 out of Relena's garden and shooting him before this could get any worse.
"Hey Heero!" It was a parody of Duo's cheerful tones and he must have realized it because the next words were subdued. "Can we talk?"
"Sure." Heero turned and walked slowly down the rose alley towards the arbor. Duo followed.
"Heero...I...don't know how...can you promise not to shoot me until I'm quite finished?"
"What?" Heero spun and stared. Duo's eyes were fixed on the paving stones of the arbor as if they held the wisdom of the ages.
"You can always shoot me later. Hell you'll be doing me a favor. But just please hear me out first, okay? I didn't mean it, you have to believe that. If you don't believe anything else I tell you, I hope you know I never, ever wanted to hurt you."
"Hurt me?" Heero wondered when he'd fallen into a parallel dimension. Surely this conversation was exactly the wrong way around?
"Yeah...I know that...I...oh shit, there's no easy way of doing this. Heero, that-...that guy Daniels made a pass at me."
Heero had started at the name Daniels. The rest just floored him.
"What?" He croaked.
Duo was still staring at the stones beneath his boots. "I didn't encourage him, god knows what he was thinking...he said he'd heard I had a thing for him...maybe he's nuts...but I didn't encourage him, I would never do that..."
Oh god. Heero's soldier reflexes kept him standing but that was about all. Echoes rang through his mind like a hollow, well-beaten bell. His own voice: 'But Duo likes you!'...Daniels: 'Maxwell's cute...he'd be a bit of fun...'...and the ugly look Daniels had given him when Heero had put him down before leaving. Had Daniels decided to go for a safer bet? A bit of fun? Or was he simply trying to get back at Heero? It really didn't matter because in any case it was just one more way Heero had unintentionally hurt Duo again...Duo, who was still staring at the paving beneath his feet as if he were inviting them to rip themselves out and stone him. That knocked the necessary words from Heero's throat.
"I know, Duo." His voice sounded strange, dull. "It's not your fault."
Duo looked up and his eyes were bright with pain. "I'm glad you see that. I...I'm...sorry..."
"Sorry?" Heero's head felt like it might explode. Daniels had made a pass at Duo. What had the idiot been thinking! Daniels had told Duo he wanted to date Heero, and then he made a pass at -?
Heero understood love about as much as an amoeba understood metaphysics but he knew friendship and he knew Duo. Whatever his friend's feelings for Daniels, that move was bound to unleash the full wrath of Shinigami. In the row that had invariably followed, what had Daniels told Duo? Heero had been hoping nothing he'd do would compromise his friendship with Duo and it looked like it had already happened. Duo would be furious when he realized that this whole mess and his heartbreak was Heero's fault.
"What did he say..." He croaked.
"Nothing." Duo said, his mouth twisting. "Nothing but crap. Nothing you need to know. That...bastard...." Duo's voice was soft, and getting seriously ominous. "That...creep. I did my best not to listen, or I'd have done more than clock him one."
Oh great, Duo had hit Daniels. Though he felt no friendliness towards the fool, Daniels was only partly to blame.
"It wasn't his fault either." Heero whispered, mortified, guilty, but knowing that whatever the cost he had to set the record straight. "It's mine, Duo, I-"
"NO!" Heero gasped at the shout and the two hands that grabbed his shoulders to shake him. "Never - ever - say that again, Heero! Goddamn it this is not your fault! You are the victim here! You didn't do anything wrong - " Heero flinched " - he's the one who took what you had to offer him and threw it away! You finally did it, you finally let someone in and he- Goddamnit I wish Trowa had let me kill the bastard! Although Q was right, that would have been the easy way out! But if you ever, I mean ever say this is your fault, Heero, I swear, I'll kick the living daylights out of the rat! Although now I'm standing at the back of the queue. But that's okay! When the others have finished with him I'll give his bruises bruises!"
"What...?" Heero tried to understand the conversation but it kept heading off in unexpected directions.
"Just-...please Heero. Don't leave us."
The voice was an open wound. Heero stared in horror at eyes bright with pain.
"I know it hurts. I know it's not fair. I wish-...but please don't let this hurt you, Heero. Please? Don't shut us out. Don't shut me out. Don't go back into your shell. We'll help you through this, we'll be here as long as you need us. You'll find someone else one day. Okay? Someone a lot better than that - that....urg. Someone who will be worth it. Okay?"
Heero felt as if he'd been hurled through time, back to last night. He heard Daniels' voice saying: 'Even your friends think it's a done deal.' Among all the other revelations he'd not paid it any attention. But why? Duo had been rebuffed by Daniels in favor of Heero, but surely there was no reason for Duo - or any of the others - to believe that Heero returned that affection. Right...?
...with the effect of a bucket of liquid nitrogen running down his spine he suddenly realized how - quite accidentally - his behavior in the past two weeks might have led itself to a few, well, unfortunate...misunderstandings...oh-...his questions...the mall...coffee...dinner...oh shit...
"As for that...that slug! When he made a pass at me, and he said, he said those...nuts, I tell you-" Heero's attention focused back on Duo in alarm. "Anyway, I knocked him to the floor and tied him to the radiator."
"Radiator?" Heero asked weakly, his mind still spinning as the world and his view of the past few weeks flipped around him like his stabilizers had been shot.
"We'd gone to one of the conference rooms. I wanted to threaten- I mean, talk to him one last time, make sure he was going to treat my buddy right." Duo snorted, a raw sound. "Oh boy, did he ever reassure me on that point! I barely had time to open my mouth he tried to put his tongue in it. Nice little argument followed and he said-...he's really insane I think. I'm talking clinically here. They should check their recruits better in Preventers." Heero felt a prickle walk up his spine. Right now Duo was incensed but what had Daniels told him? And what would Duo make of it later when he had cooled down?
"What did he say, Duo?"
"Never mind, it was just...you're not an Ice Prince! You're a warm, loving human being and he's an idiot who wouldn't know a good thing if it shot him with both barrels! Anyway, I tied him up but before I could do much more, Quatre showed up out of nowhere. He must have felt something had happened and looked for me."
Yes, it must have felt like a volcano going off in close proximity to the empath. Well that was a relief. Heero had been alarmed when Duo mentioned hurting Daniels. The wrath of Shinigami was legendary. But what had Daniels said to Quatre when he showed up?
"Trowa was with him, and he tried to stop me from doing anything I might regret - his words not mine! Then I told them what Daniels had tried to do, what he'd said. And Trowa let go of me - I was mad but I actually wouldn't do more than cripple the bugger, so Trowa went and held on to Quatre instead. Q was smiling, you know? That weird little smile, and the way his eyes went all flat...scared even me. That bastard Daniels started to get really nervous at that point. Q can be really creepy when he wants to be, you know? And when he heard what Daniels had - Trowa was having a hard time keeping both me and Q away from Daniels, who was pissing himself by now and trying to yell something-"
Heero groaned and wished life were still simple and wired with a self-destruct button like it had been during the war.
"- so Trowa called Wufei to come help. Don't get me wrong, Tro just wanted to stop me and Quatre going to jail for first degree. He wants to beat Daniels to within an inch of his life too. No doubt about that! I could see the way Tro looked at him. Tro goes all funny when you attack his family...Anyway, Wufei and Relena showed up-"
Heero had been wondering if this had ended in mayhem. He knew what Quatre could be like when provoked. But if the serious, hard-headed Wufei showed up, and the pacifist Relena...that must have calmed things down.
"Of course, Wufei was right there alongside Trowa. Said we should just kick the dog out of the palace, preferably in his underwear, maybe cane him raw first, but he wasn't worth going to jail. I guess he didn't want a fellow Preventer dismembered on his watch. The thing is, if Trowa wanted Wuffer's help to restrain me, then he'd miscalculated. Wufei was too busy talking Relena down."
"Relena?" Heero croaked.
"Yeah, that girl has been hanging around us too much. Or else she'd been reading something other than romance novels when we weren't looking. Of course she pointed out quite calmly that none of us could afford to go to jail now, the peace still needed us and so did you, so she insisted we couldn't pulp the rat. But man, she had some interesting suggestions instead. She said- well let's just say she had an idea about what to do with duct tape that made even Quatre and me wince. I don't know where she learned all this stuff but she can be downright vicious when she's provoked." Duo sounded quite admiring.
Heero shuddered. "Duo-"
"Of course at that point, Trowa decided to take a time out. He kicked me out of the room, and dragged Quatre away to the bathroom to splash him with cold water or something, and left Wufei to glare at Daniels and stop Relena from doing more than scaring the living daylights out of him, and they asked me to come talk to you and are you alright?" Duo ended up miserably, his anger guttering like a candle.
"Duo...what did Daniels say?"
Duo ducked his head. He mumbled something at his boots. Heero heard the words 'come-on', 'signals', 'Ice Prince', and a few unflattering speculations as to Daniels' parentage.
"Yes but after that. When you tied him up, what did he say?" Surely with all those extremely dangerous people trying to decide how to deal with him, Daniels must have attempted to shift the blame on to Heero, who had instigated the whole mess.
Duo blinked at him. "Donno."
"You don't know?!"
Duo shrugged carelessly. "Oh he was trying to say plenty, and he looked pretty sorry for himself. But when I punched him, I broke his jaw, so no-one could make any sense out of what he was saying."
Heero sagged in relief. It would all come out later but hopefully by then he'd have the opportunity of trying to explain himself to his friends - for more than just the Daniels mess - and beg their forgiveness.
He felt Duo squeezing his arms. His friend looked like he'd taken a mortal blow and was waiting for death as a relief.
"I'm so sorry, Heero...so sorry..."
"Don't be." Heero said, straightening up and sighing. At least on one point he could put Duo's mind at ease. "It's embarrassing, that I didn't see what that idiot was trying to pull, but that's about as far as I am affected. I'm sorry he made a pass at you, though, that was inexcus-"
"Whoa." Duo's fingers had clenched on his arms. "What do you mean, not affected. You...you love this bastard. Right?"
"Certainly not." Heero said crisply and managed not to add that he was rather glad Duo had broken the larvae's jaw. He knew he should follow his feelings but he didn't want to encourage Duo in that kind of behavior either. They were supposed to advocate Total Pacifism and that meant no broken jaws. And no duct tape either, however applied, Heero added mentally, promising himself a little talk with Relena very soon.
Duo's mouth worked in silence for a few seconds. His eyes were wide and staring. "...you're just saying that to make me feel better...?"
"No Duo. The whole thing...I'm the one who should be apologizing, to you and to the others. Daniels did try to, er, make a pass at me, and I'm afraid I'm rather naive, I didn't realize-"
"You're not in love with him?" Duo's voice was a high-pitched quiver of tension.
"I'm sorry for the confusion. I'll explain all this to you and the others when everyone's calmed down, but don't worry on that account. Daniels may have annoyed and insulted us both, but he never hurt me."
Duo made a strangled sound in his throat and swayed against Heero's arm.
Then, in a strange, quiet little voice, he said: "I thought I'd lost you."
"Don't be stupid, Duo." Heero said briskly, trying to hide his own feelings. "I should hope, whatever happens, we'll always be best friends. Right?" Okay, maybe a little bit of a plea had crept into that last word.
He felt his heart plummet to his feet - however unlikely that was anatomically - as he watched Duo's expression slowly change. The stunned look became focused, a dangerous half-smile danced on the corner of Duo's lips, his eyes held that dangerous devil-may-care gleam that had heralded a lot of very noisy explosions in the past.
"You just hold on to that thought-" Shinigami whispered, and pounced.
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