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This takes place between the end of Bittersweet and the epilogue. And is sappy and romance novely... *hides*

Bittersweet Sidefic

It was raining when we landed. Why a colony opts to have rain during the day, I have no idea, but Duo says they do it for a sense of seasons.

I think the seasonal controls were broken, because the rain was not a light shower, but a heavy downpour. I managed to grab a taxi right outside the shuttle port, but the dash from terminal to cab and gotten me more than a bit damp.

I checked my watch. My shuttle had come in late. I had told Duo not to meet me, since I had thought I'd make it to his apartment before he got off work.

It was now way after the end of his shift and I wondered idly if he'd called the shuttle port to check on my flight.

I put my forehead against the cool glass of the window and sighed. We were making progress... slowly. Duo was still... mistrustful of me, not that I could blame him... and I still found it difficult to talk to him. I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing at times... I knew it frustrated Duo...

I wondered if we were going to make it.

We had ended up shouting at each other before I left last time. We had made it up over a phone call, but it wasn't the same. Every time I made the trip up here I wondered if it would be for the last time. If this would be the time Duo lost his patience once and for all...

So far we had always made up. It was difficult though... we were still dancing around each other, still unsure, still worried about being hurt.

Not that we didn't have good times. We did- and they outweighed the bad. Days that we spent biking or going to weird cafes or helping Nell in the bakery. Nights where we sat up and talked for hours, or watched movies on his sofa, or went walking around the 'old town' section...

I needed to focus on the positive.

The cab was moving slowly through the streets. I wanted him to hurry, but the traffic was heavy, the rain making it difficult for drivers. I should've brought my cell phone- I had forgotten it at home... I had been in such a rush to get out the door.

I looked over at the car next to us, another cab with the two passengers in the backseat kissing passionately.

I looked away. Duo and I had kissed... but not more than that. Kisses, hugs, nights curled up on the couch watching a movie together. No more than that. I slept on his couch when I stayed there. I didn't blame him for not wanting to rush back into that part of our relationship... though to me it had always been the easiest way for us to communicate... but maybe even there I hadn't ever expressed the right things...

The cab stopped dead with a lurch, the engine grinding to a stop. The cabbie cursed.

"Damn!" He tried to restart the engine, but it only made a grinding noise. "Sorry fella!" He switched the meter off. "Let me just call a towing service and then I'll call for a cab for you, okay?"

I looked out the window. We were in the older section of downtown- a few blocks from Duo's apartment. I didn't want to wait.

"I can walk from here," I told him, digging out my wallet.

"Are you nuts? It's pouring out there!"

"It's just water." I handed him my fare, plus a tip. "Thanks." I grabbed my bag off the seat beside me and ducked out of the cab.

Traffic was stalled, so it was easy getting to the sidewalk. The cabbie was right though- I was drenched before I even made it half a block. I should've brought an umbrella- my light jacket had not kept the rain out, and I was pretty sure my bag was soaked through as well. Good thing I hadn't brought anything electrical with me.

By the time I reached Duo's apartment my hair was plastered flat to my head and my tennis shoes were making sloshing noises. I was shivering from the cold and hoping that Duo had the heat turned on.

His lights were on, so I knocked instead of using my key.

Duo flung open the door. "Heero! There you are!" He blinked at me. "Why are you so wet?"

"The cab broke down," I explained as he reached out to draw me inside. I resisted for a moment. "You might want to get a towel first. I don't want to drip all over your floor..."

Duo huffed and dragged me inside. "You're shivering. Don't be stupid." I tried not to drip as he pushed me towards the bathroom. "Get out of those clothes- put them in the sink." He ordered as he opened my bag. "Damn, everything in here is soaked! How long did you walk? I'll get you some dry clothes..."

He vanished with my bag before I could answer. I pulled off my jacket and put it into the sink. My shoes and socks followed. The vinyl floor was cold under my feet and I had to clench my teeth to keep from shivering. I was unbuttoning my shirt with shaking hands when Duo returned, a pile of clothes in his hands.

Shaking his head, he put them on the counter, then brushed my clumsy fingers out of the way and started undoing my buttons himself.

"Thanks," I told him and he smiled faintly. He finished undoing the buttons and reached for a towel as I shrugged out of my shirt.

I dropped the shirt into the sink and paused, sure that Duo would want to leave before I pulled off my jeans.

He was standing still, staring at me, his eyes wide and dark. "Duo?" I questioned. Had I done something wrong already?

"Those... are new." He reached out a hand and touched the scars on my left side, and then the one on my upper chest.

Of course, I hadn't been undressed around him since before he left. He hadn't seen them...

I shivered, but not from the cold. He bit his lip and visibly shook himself, stepping forward with the towel and reaching up to dry my hair.

"Finish," he prompted me as he started toweling my head briskly.

I undid my belt, unzipped my jeans and pulled them off as quickly as I could, glad that the chilliness of the jeans had stopped my usual reaction to Duo's touch.

Duo stopped drying my hair. I heard him take a deep breath and then the towel was shoved into my hands. "Let me put those in the dryer," he said and grabbed my wet clothes out of the sink before he vanished again.

I heard the dryer start up as I dried myself off and pulled on the sweat pants. My hair was still damp, so I used the towel to try and squeeze more water out of it. I had my back to the door, so I missed Duo's reentrance.

A light brush of fingertips across my back, tracing the scar that ran from my shoulder to my waist told me that he was there. "That's new too."

I nodded. "Knife fight."

"And someone got close enough to do that to you?"

"There were four of them, I was distracted." I put the towel down and met Duo's eyes in the mirror. "I thought that one was down."

"Where was your partner?"

I snorted. "He was gone."

Duo's eyes narrowed. "Gone where?"

"They showed up to stop us and I told him to run."

"He didn't stay to watch your back?"

"He had the data we needed for the mission."

Duo stepped closer to me, his hands reaching out to touch the marks on my side and chest again. "And these? Where was your partner when you got these?"

"Didn't have one on those missions."

Duo's arms slid around my waist, pulling me back against his chest. He rested his chin on my shoulder. "I'm sorry I wasn't there."

"It was my fault that you weren't."

He sighed and reached out to pick the sweatshirt up off the counter. "C'mon. I made coffee for you."

I pulled the sweatshirt on and followed him out of the bathroom. "Sofa," he said as he headed towards the kitchen. "I left the blanket out there for you."

I didn't argue. The blanket was thick and with it wrapped around me I finally began to feel warm again.

Duo joined me a few minutes later, and I took the cup of coffee he offered me gratefully. He curled up beside me on the couch, putting his legs over my lap and sharing his body heat.

"Thank you." I told him as I sipped at the hot coffee, letting my fingers steep in the heat that radiated off the sides of the mug.

He moved a little closer to me. "Least I can do after you soaked yourself getting here. I knew your shuttle was going to be late- I should've gone to meet you." He smiled at me. "I forgot to tell you last time we talked- Nell's husband is in town this weekend too- so the shop is closed."

"I'll bet she was excited- it's been a while hasn't it?"

He nodded. "Yep- she baked herself out yesterday she was so excited. We had tarts piling up everywhere!" He laughed. "I was glad one of the business clients came in and needed a lot of food- otherwise we would've been eating pastry all weekend."

"One of the ones that Quatre pointed your way?"

"Nope- another one. I guess word is getting around." He rolled his eyes. "Sometimes they ask for the most bizarre stuff too. Nell says she might have to hire on another assistant at this rate. I had a lot of overtime this week!"

I reached out to put my cup on the coffee table so that I could cuddle closer to Duo without worrying about spilling. I was warm again- it was a nice feeling. The sleeve of my borrowed sweatshirt pulled up a little as I placed the cup on the table.

Duo reached out to capture my wrist as I leaned back against the sofa, his fingers tracing the scar that had just been revealed.

He already knew how I had gotten that one.

I didn't say anything, just watched his fingers travel the length of the scar, over and over again. I didn't know what to say.

"How many others?" He asked.

"What?"

"How many other scars did you get after...?" He stopped and bowed his head, hiding his eyes.

I had to think about it. The knife marks on my back and wrist. The machinery ones on my side. Gunshot in chest. Crowbar on thigh. The burnmarks on my calf.

"Two others."

Duo made a faint noise. He reached under the blanket and tugged at the hem of the sweatshirt. "Show me."

I took off the sweatshirt obediently. "They aren't up here..." I started to explain. His fingers touched the gunshot scar.

"Bullet?" He questioned.

"Yes."

"What happened?"

"Got in the way of two rival gangs on L2. Had to pull a civilian out."

"These?" He touched my side.

"Fell against some machinery in a factory- I was trying to hide from their security."

I couldn't read the expression on his face. "Show me the others."

I freed my left leg from the blanket and pulled the sweats up so he could see the burn marks. He bent down and touched them gently.

"This?"

"Too close to an explosion."

"Where?"

"Same place as these." I touched the marks on my side.

"The last one?"

How was I going to show him that one? It was way up on the back of my leg...

"Heero." He was scowling.

"It's high up on my leg," I hastily explained. "I... uh..."

He shook his head and pushed me down onto the sofa face first, tugging at the sweat pants. "Show me," he growled.

I did as he asked, depositing the sweatpants on the floor beside the sofa, lying flat so he could see the mark.

"Crowbar," he said, his fingers tracing the mark.

"Yes." They had been aiming for my knee.

A different kind of touch moved over the mark, softer, gentler... Duo's lips. They traced the scar on my back carefully. They moved down to my calf, kissed the burn marks there, and then his hands were encouraging me to roll over.

He leaned over me, his lips ghosting over my side, lingering on the mark on my chest before moving down to my wrist.

"I'm sorry," he murmured against my skin. "I'm sorry I wasn't there..."

"Duo-" I caught him and brought him down onto my chest. "It was my fault... I drove you away..."

"Not on purpose." He shook his head.

I let my fingers caress his chin, tilted his head up so that I could see his eyes. "But I did. You aren't responsible for these marks. I am."

He smiled faintly. "We're never going to agree on this one, are we?" Before I could answer, he kissed me, opening my lips with his, exploring my mouth. I let him do what he wanted, trying to ignore the fact that my clothes were on the floor, and only a corner of the blanket preserved my modesty.

He broke away first, breathing deeply, the look on his face one that I remembered very well... and one I had hoped to see again.

His knee slid between mine, the blanket was pulled out of the way... "Please?" He asked, his hand moving downwards, making me gasp.

"Yes..." was all I got out before he bent down to my mouth again.

I half-expected it to be awkward. It had been a long time after all.

But it wasn't.

Duo's hands caressed my scars, opened me up, held me in place, spoke to me of his pain of our separation, his happiness that we were reunited.

I tried to show him that I had missed him, wanted him, needed his touch... needed this proof that he had forgiven me.

When we finished we curled up under the blanket on the sofa, Duo resting on top of me, half-asleep, keeping me warm.

"Maybe you need to take Quatre up on his offer," he said in a soft voice. "Work here in his tech department, move in with me."

"Are you ready for that?" I asked carefully, my heart speeding up a little.

He nodded, his fingers tracing over my chest. "I want you where I can keep an eye on you."

"Ditto." I kissed his forehead. "I'll call Quatre in the morning."

For the first time, I knew for sure we were going to make it...

TBC...

 

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