There is a time in every person’s life when they realize just how stupid they really are, and how lucky. For Trowa Barton, today was that day.

“Happy Birthday, Heero!” Quatre shouted loudly as a very surprised Japanese pilot walked into the kitchen.

Heero’s eyes shot open wide and he immediately reached into his jacket for the gun that was no longer there, a reflex from the war. And then, a second later, he was attacked by his overly enthusiastic lover, his arms pinned to his sides, and those memories melted away.

The other pilots laughed at Heero’s reaction and Quatre held him tight.

“Are you surprised Heero?” he whispered into the other boy’s ear.

“Hai.” Heero admitted, hugging him back and allowing Quatre to kiss him quickly before releasing him.

Quatre regarded the other three figures in the room and moved to light the candles, “Everyone was supposed yell when you came in but --”

“But we were all too afraid you might actually have that gun you went for!” Duo joked walking to where Heero stood and giving him a friendly hug. “Happy birthday, man.”

The party began happily. Quatre passed out cake and ice cream, of which Duo was the only one to have seconds, and Heero opened his gifts.

Trowa watched the festivities from where he stood in the doorway of the hall, smiling from time to time. He watched Heero and Quatre together. He saw the way the blond doted upon his lover, and how Heero showed his affection in more subtle ways. Quatre would cut him a piece of cake and pour him a drink, delivering it with a kiss. Heero would put his hand on Quatre’s back or smooth his hair, and every once in a while, whisper a thanks that no one could hear but everyone saw.

Trowa sighed. He was happy for Heero, it was himself he felt bad for.

He and Heero had been lovers for a short time during the war. But even with all the pain they shared, it hadn’t taken long for them to realize the act was one of comfort and not love. They were so alike, and so different. They fit together perfectly in all the wrong places. Still, even as they ended their affair, the friendship did not sour, and after the war he and Heero became great friends.

He knew enough about Heero to see things in the young man that the others missed, his reasons for being cold in some situations and gently understanding in others. He knew all too well why Heero was attracted to Quatre, though the boy seemed his antithesis.

“It was the war,” Heero had once told him, “it affects us all differently, but it does affect all of us. I see that in Quatre, the same pain I have. Only it doesn’t hold him back. He moves forward . . . and . . . I want to go with him.”

He understood these things even more because it was much the same for him. He moved his gaze away from the happy couple and set his sights on the oblivious object of his affections.

Duo sat on the opposite end of the table from Heero and Quatre, sipping a soda and occasionally talking to Wufei. His braid was swung over the front of his shoulder and he fondled the end as he spoke. His face was bright and animated, his eyes alight with his laughter, especially when Heero opened his gift, a bright red, barely there, piece of woman’s lingerie. He said it was actually for Quatre, who had almost turned as red as the article in question.

They all laughed at the boy’s embarrassment, even Heero. But Trowa didn’t miss Heero’s hand moving to take Quatre’s, giving it a light squeeze. He looked at Duo again.

He had told Heero about his feelings for Duo, and Heero had tried to encourage him.

“I can’t,” Trowa had said, “we barely know each other. Besides I think he and Wufei may be getting serious.”

Heero laughed a little. “He and Wufei? Trowa, Wufei’s been seeing Sally since the war, hadn’t you noticed?”

“I thought they were working late,” Trowa was surprised. “You mean all those nights they were . . .”

Heero smirked, “That’s a damned lot of overtime.”

Both boys laughed, comfortable in each others presence, but Trowa soon turned serious again, watching the ground.

“I just--I couldn’t tell him.”

He couldn’t remember when he began to have feelings for the boy. A year had passed since the war’s end and somewhere in that time he had noticed certain things. One was that when Duo was around he grew even quieter than usual, probably out of nervousness. Another, was that Duo never annoyed him. When the other pilots would get irritated with the boisterous American, he would sit near Trowa and go off about whatever he wanted, and Trowa would listen. The fact that he was there, and near, and giving any attention to Trowa at all was enough to cancel any annoying traits.

The last thing he noticed he had only discovered in the past few months. It was the thing that had slapped Trowa across the face and told him to wake up and smell the gundanium.

He had been half asleep one night, another nightmare invading his slumber, and he began to let his mind wander. He searched for a more peaceful thought, a happier one, but since he had so few of his own he began to make them up. He started with the simple things, sheep in meadows, swimming in the ocean, some of his better moments with Heero. And then, as casual as a mockingbird, Duo flew into his fantasies.

He thought of Duo during the war, that maniac scream and wild gaze. He thought of Duo at home, easy going and with an even easier smile. And then he thought of Duo in his bed. It shocked him at first, but he went with it and soon found the imagined presence comforting.

Duo was behind him, one arm draped over Trowa’s side, his front side meeting every curve of Trowa’s backside. And then he was whispering, touching, kissing. Trowa was in heaven. He had masturbated that night, something he did very little, and slept soundly afterward. And that was what Trowa had realized: he wanted Duo. He wanted him badly.

He looked at Duo again. I can save the whole world, but I can’t have one beautiful boy.

Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Heero as he opened Quatre’s gift. The wrapping on the small box was a delicate shade of mint green and Heero opened it gently, careful not to mar the ribbon.

“Heero,” Quatre complained sweetly, “just open it. It won’t break.”

He did as he was told and pulled from within a silver chain adorned with a small silver heart.

Heero was quiet.

“It’s mine,” Quatre said softly as he took the necklace from Heero, the others were too far to hear the whispered words as Quatre continued.

“It’s my heart,” he put it around Heero’s neck, “and I want you to have it.” He tucked the end into Heero’s collar and pressed it to his chest with his hand, “It hangs low so that you can put it next to yours.” Quatre was practically in Heero’s lap now, pressing his forehead against Heero’s.

Trowa turned his gaze away, feeling a little like a peeping Tom, and looked at the other end of the table. Wufei had obviously felt the same because he had already made three oregami swans out of the ‘Happy Birthday’ napkins. And Duo . . . well Duo . . . was staring at him.

Once Trowa realized he was being watched, he felt even more uncomfortable. He averted his gaze to the floor, the chair, the birthday cake, and then he looked at Duo again. The violet stare was still there, still uncomfortable. He had to leave.

Heero kissed the silken pink lips he loved so much, feeling guilty for the spectacle they were making but loving the feel of having the love of his life pressed against his chest. It was the perfect gift.

“I’m getting some air.”

He heard Trowa mumble and then heard the kitchen door shut. As much as he hated to, he turned his head to see if Trowa had actually left. He had.

“Damn.” He whispered, and Quatre backed off, still close enough to whisper but far enough to be somewhat innocent.

“I should probably check on him,” Heero said turning back to his lover.

“I didn’t mean to make everyone uncomfortable,” Quatre said, eyeing Wufei’s three swans and the elephant he was currently constructing.

“I don’t think that’s it. He’s got a lot on his mind. I’ll just--” Heero stopped, noticing something he hadn’t before.

“Where’s Duo?”

“I don’t know he was just here,” Quatre said. His words were followed by the sound of a closing door.

Trowa walked out of the house and into the cool night air. No, in fact, the air was cold. It bit at his arms and an icy breeze blew through his hair. He should have brought a jacket.

No, he thought, his disappointment at himself more chilly than the air, I should have told Duo that I’m in love with him while I had the chance.

He stopped at the edge of the lake, watching the water ripple in the strong breeze, the movement disturbing the reflections from the houselights. Why couldn’t he just say it?

He heard the door to the kitchen open and then close behind him. He expected as much. He felt bad for dragging Heero away from his party. But he needed someone to talk to. Heero would understand.

Soft footsteps approached him and stopped a few feet behind. Their bearer was silent.

That’s the way it usually worked. One would stay quiet while the other unloaded his burden. This was how they felt truly comfortable sharing their private thoughts. Being silent was the only way they communicated.

Trowa did not look back as he began.

“I heard what Quatre said to you and . . . I’m very happy . . . for you,” his words were slow and weighty. He sighed heavily.

“But I can’t say I’m not jealous. Not of you . . . or him, but of what you have. I wish I had the nerve to tell him, to--” he stumbled over the word, “--kiss him. Maybe he would understand.” He paused. “But there are so many things in the way, Heero. So many problems I need to work through first. I’d only smother him,” he looked at the ground at his feet, “and I couldn’t bear that.”

The figure behind him made a small sound.

“I know what you’re going to say,” Trowa began again, “you’ll say that you have issues too and that Quatre can bear yours because he understands them. And I’ll say ‘I know,’ and then you’ll tell me to tell him and I’ll say ‘Dammit Heero, it’s not that easy. I’m not as brave as you, not as strong. I could never tell Duo I love him.” He laughed a little, several sparkling tears pouring over his cheeks as he turned to face Heero, “I love h--.”

He stopped. It was not Heero.

Trowa stared at the sight before him.

Duo stood in an over-sized coat, his braid tucked into its warmth, his cheeks flushed from the cold and his eyes wide and wet.

Trowa couldn’t breathe. He watched Duo for a moment more and his head began to spin. He felt lost and out of control. He tried to speak.

“I -- I didn’t--,” he stammered at the beautiful boy in front of him. Duo was crying. Why was Duo crying?

Trowa looked at the ground, his voice a whisper, “I didn’t know --.”

This was not how it was supposed to happen. This was wrong.

And then he was off. He turned away from Duo and headed toward the trees beside the lake. He didn't know where he was going just that it was away. His feet slipped in the grass and he stumbled, catching himself with his hands and was up again. He had to get away.

“Trowa!” Duo shouted. “Trowa wait!” It sounded like he was running too now, and so Trowa sped his legs along.

He ran into the woods at a dangerous speed, the branches slapping at his cold arms. He didn’t care. It would be more painful to face Duo.

“Trowa! Stop dammit!” Duo called from behind, his voice shaking with his run, “Trowa, I ca-unhhhh---” Duo speech was cut suddenly short and then Trowa heard a thud and a crackle of branches.

He stopped abruptly. Had Duo fallen? Was he hurt? He couldn’t leave him like that. For all the confusion and embarrassment he felt he could never live with himself for hurting Duo. Fuck his embarrassment.

“Duo,” he breathed before running back to the fallen man.

He found Duo in a small thicket, sitting in a puddle of muddy water, small briar scratches on his face.

Trowa helped him up, first pulling him out of the puddle and then offering support until he was steady on his feet. And then, without warning, Duo lashed out, pushing Trowa away from him and Trowa fell backward onto his backside.

“You Prick!” Duo yelled, jumping a little as if he was about to throw a tantrum. “You made me chase you!”

Trowa was speechless. He sat watching the boy’s anger.

“And now my face is scratched and my ASS is wet!”

“I--” Trowa stammered again, “I thought you were Heero . . .”

Duo stood still for a moment, his anger apparent though his tears shone in the moonlight, “And I thought you hated me.”

Trowa flinched, “Wha--?”

It took Duo two long strides to reach where Trowa sat, and he dropped onto his knees. Taking Trowa’s shirt into his hands he pulled the other boy to him. Duo pressed his lips hard against Trowa’s, the force painful to the delicate flesh. He moved his mouth over the other boy’s, tugging on his bottom lip, licking at the corners, requesting entrance.

Trowa was lost in sensation at first, immobile from the shock of what was happening. And then, at Duo’s insistence, he opened his mouth. Duo’s tongue found his quickly and he reveled in the feel of that most precious contact. Duo was warm against him and inside him. He put his arms around the the other boy, pulling them even closer.

The kiss lasted for a few moments more, and then Duo pulled away, his face teary and crumpled, a child’s expression. “I thought you hated me Trowa.”

Trowa was breathless, “Why . . .

“Why?” Duo asked incredulous. “You never talk to me! It’s like I’m not there. And whenever I talk to you, you just space out! Do you know what it’s like to think that the person you love hates your guts?”

“You . . . you love me?”

His anger faded suddenly. His voice was sad. “Why couldn’t you tell me Trowa? All this time. How long has it been? Nevermind,” he shook his head, “I don’t want to know. I’m sure it was too long. Too many nights I could have held you, too many nightmares you could have chased away . . .”

Trowa stared at the boy he held, “You love me?”

“Yes, baka!” Duo exclaimed, shaking Trowa’s shoulders. “And you? Do you have something to say?”

Trowa looked into Duo’s dark expectant eyes. This was how it was supposed to be. This was right.

“I love you.” It was barely a whisper but it felt so good. “I love you, Duo.” He said it louder, and Duo pulled him close again.

“I love you,” he said against cherry lips.

“I love you,” he whispered into soft curls of hair.

“I love you.”
“Heero!” Quatre shrieked, “If you’re not going to look for them than I--”

“We’re back!” Duo shouted as he pulled Trowa back into the kitchen by the hand.

Quatre, Heero and Wufei looked up as they entered.

“Duo!” Quatre exclaimed as he saw the boy’s disheveled state, and then stared at one of the scratches on his cheek, “what happened out there?”

“Oh, uhh . . .” he squeezed Trowa’s hand, “I ran into a tree when I went out to find Trowa. You know Quat, you should really think about putting in more outside lights.”

“No,” Trowa said, and everyone looked at him, even Duo, surprise evident on their faces, “that’s not what happened at all.”

“Well,” Heero smirked, taking in their joined hands, “what did happen?”

Trowa stepped in front of Duo, leveling his gaze with the surprised and endless violet pools, and leaned in close to whisper.

“The best thing in my entire life.”