GHOST OF CHRISTMAS YET TO COME
by fancyfigures
1x2, Duo POV, angst, lemon, romance.
"Time is a great healer - but so is devotion."


It’s all because of the time of year, isn’t it?

I’m not talking about the weather, because to be honest, I like the fresh, sharp cleanliness of the cold. I like the way the wind snaps around my heels, buffeting my coat. I like the way the moisture in the air freezes swiftly into icy beads on my skin and clothing. It all keeps me awake without the aid of caffeine, and it reminds me there’s a world out there that's neither cosy nor completely under anyone’s control.

So it must be because of the season. Christmas is arriving, accompanied by social hysteria and overindulgence, like two hyperactive cousins on a seasonal visit. That must be the reason that I’m withdrawing again; that the outside world seems particularly challenging. My mind is full of thoughts that depress me - sadness; frustration; the futility of struggling through this Christmas cracker joke called life – while everyone else is grinning and hugging.

Shit, Christmas is looming like…well, the exact words fail me.

Quatre says that Christmas is a time of magic and goodwill. Wufei rolls his eyes and says that he doesn’t understand why goodwill should be restricted to a couple of months in the year. Trowa smiles at them both – particularly Quatre – and says that Christmas is what we make of it.

Trite, but true, I guess.

And Heero? Well, of course his opinion is the most important to me for several reasons: mainly because he’s my best friend; he’s wise in a reluctant, unpretentious way; he takes shit from no-one.

Oh – and, also, he wants to be my lover.


*

It was last Christmas when we first got together, though the memories aren’t totally comfortable. It had been a bad year for me, right? After the war… after being discharged from active duty. Seemed to me that everyone managed civilian life a hell of a sight better than I did. I don’t want to go into it again now, but the guys stood by me through it all, even when I was too far gone in my own self-pity and loss of perspective to notice them.

Back then, I had some dreams, and they made me re-think my life. They brought me out of my apartment and back into real life, and incidentally into Heero’s, too. I’ve got a job now, albeit a rather quiet, unassuming one with a fairly modest salary and an even more modest expectation of me. But it’s good, and I treasure it.

Heero persuaded me to move from that sad old apartment of mine when one came up for rent in his own block. Now we’re only a floor away from each other, though we spend a lot of our free time together in one or the other’s place.

That’s good, too, and something to be treasured even more.

Yeah, I’m a changed man now, or so Quatre often says. He calls me up and invites me and Heero around all the time. He and Trowa have been sharing an apartment since last Christmas. They’re sickeningly cute together but it’s genuinely been fun to join them rather than hiding away.

Wufei agrees I look better, too, but there’s a shadow in his expression when he says it. Sometimes I’ve caught him talking to Heero in a low tone, in a place and at a time when he knows I’m unlikely to be around. When I reappear, Wufei greets me cheerfully enough, but he doesn’t stay much longer.

Heero is particularly attentive to me for some time after.

Yeah, it’s starting again. That thing where they look at me out of the corners of their eyes; where they’re reluctant to leave me alone for any length of time.

I ignore it because I don’t really know what else to do. You see, there are still times I want to slip back into my apartment, bolt the door behind me, and huddle down into the farthermost corner. I see myself curled into the smallest shape that I can, arms hugged around me to keep anything from falling out, wishing for the sights and sounds from outside to be silenced for good, like heavy snow falling on top of my footprints, covering them until they’re too deep to remember.

It’s only the thought – and the feel – of Heero that keeps me out of that corner and shivering in the real world.


*


“I think…” I turn slowly around in the log cabin’s bedroom, my case wide open on the bed and a pile of underwear in my hand. “I think this may be a bad idea after all.”

Heero stands in the doorway, looking at me. He’s been unpacking the supplies in the kitchen, though that's rather a grand word for the tiny cooker and a wooden counter set up in the far corner of the lounge-come-living area. He's probably wondering how he’s going to create those great meals of his with just one pan and the minimum of condiments. It’s not like this place is anything more than basic.

“Do you need more space? I didn’t bring much, so you can have the extra drawers in the dresser.”

“Not the storage issues, Heero,” I mutter. “That’s not what I’m worried about.”

I hear him take a slow breath. “Duo. I thought we talked it through when Quatre suggested this trip. You were happy to come up here again. There are no crowds out here by the lake, and there's no obligation to join in any of the celebrations at the clubhouse. It’s up to us what we do for the holiday –“

“That’s it,” I interrupt. I don’t want to look at his face because I know only too well how his confusion looks. “It’s the us thing, Heero. The two of us here. The double room thing.” Now I know the confusion is going to look hurt, too, but it’s not like I can help myself. Well, maybe I can, but maybe I don’t want to.

Now I’m riddled with the confusion thing, too.

He walks towards me but stops a couple of feet away. That’s something he’s learned over time – that there’s an exclusion zone around me. Although we've been close over the last year, I've always been very possessive of my own apartment - my own space. Heero understands that; the fact that sometimes I panic when he comes near – but then sometimes I smile, and draw him in.

There’s been plenty of the drawing in, of course, and it’s been so good – so very, very good. He touches me in a way that’s both careful and hungry. Sometimes when he’s nowhere around and I close my eyes, I can still feel the strength of his arms under my fingertips; still taste his smile on my lips. I never thought I’d feel that way about someone – nor that they’d want me as much in return.

But I've never stayed over at his place, nor invited him overnight to mine. Sometimes the feeling I have for him just doesn't seem to be enough.

He coughs. Makes it sound like he's just clearing his throat. “We've taken it all very slow, Duo, and that's been fine. Finding out about each other; enjoying each other’s company. And we had a good time here last year, didn’t we?” I know he’s frowning. “Tell me if it wasn’t good for you, Duo, because I –“

“Yes.” I speak quickly, still not facing him. His voice is soft but I can hear an edge to it. “It was very good. Honestly, Heero, it was. It’s all been good. I just feel… I just can’t… it’s…”

“It’s too soon for you,” he says, breaking into my pathetic rambling.

I shrug. That’s even more pathetic, really. After all, I’ve known him for years. I’ve loved him from about forty seconds after I met him, though it took me a while to realise it. And we’ve been kissing and fooling around since last Christmas.

Just - nothing more.

There’s a silence for a while between us. I can’t say it’s awkward because there are often silences like this in our life together, and we’re used to them. Heero is the perfect man to offer that to me – a time to be quiet; to think; to mourn whatever it is I mourn. He gives me space and enough respect that I don’t beat myself up about it.

It’s just not so good when the silence is of my prompting.

“Shall I get another cabin?” He speaks finally. Gently. “Would that be easier for you? There are some singles still available out by the nursery slopes.”

I turn then, to look at him. He makes his offer sound perfectly reasonable, but I know it’s not. “No. Please.” I don’t know what I’m asking for. I can’t seem to move from my position, but he makes no move towards me either. “Give me a little time to unpack, OK? I’ll be fine in a while. It’s good. Honestly.”

He makes some excuse about going to see how Quatre and Trowa are settling in. He’ll check out the timetable for ski-ing tomorrow. He’ll find more hot chocolate supplies. Oh, I don’t know - maybe I made up some of those excuses myself.

He shuts the door of the cabin behind him very quietly.


*


The party is fun - well, it has been so far. And it's not really a party, when there's only about a dozen guests. Quatre booked this place a little earlier than before, so there's a week or so before the main bulk of winter holidaymakers arrive, and so the welcome celebrations in the clubhouse are fairly restrained.

Well, Quatre isn't. He's been here several times before and he knows the staff - he also knows the barman, the chambermaids, the restaurant manager, and he's had the full guided tour of the kitchens. He's everyone's friend and they look after him well with champagne and attention. I watch him laughing, flushed with drink, Trowa's arm around his shoulders. Their devotion is very relaxed, very uninhibited. Wufei comes over to chat to them, probably about the next day's ski-ing activities - he's in heaven here, being such a fan of winter sports. He's talking about coming as an instructor next year.

It's good to see them all together - my friends.

Something hurts inside but it's all mine, nothing to do with them.

Heero comes up behind me and slides his arm around my waist. I tense, then I relax, letting the shiver run its course through me. "OK?" he asks, murmuring into my ear. "We can go back soon. It's been an hour, I know."

"I'm good," I reassure him. An hour is usually my limit at social events, but this has been fine. He turns me around slowly and I can see from his own flushed face that he's enjoying himself. His mouth is softened by a smile; his eyes are warm and needy. When he kisses me, it's slow and light: I can smell the cinnamon from dessert on his breath and the tang of pine needles in his hair. He fell plenty of times today, once quite heavily - his skiing isn't as good as Wufei's yet, nor Quatre's. I watched him tumble in the snow, goggles slipping off his nose, sticks twisted around his ankles, and I found myself standing up from my seat in the cafe, ready to go to him. But he stood up and brushed himself off, and I could see he was laughing.

Before he set off back down the slope, he turned to the cafe window and waved to me. He did that many times during the day, though I doubt he could see me from that distance.

"You taste good," he sighs now. "Do you want another drink?"

The music in the room is just a little too loud but it's not aggressive, like in a club. The lights are low but with no flickering neon effects. Things feel good here. "No," I murmur back. "I think you taste good, too. I'd prefer some more of that instead."

He chuckles softly, and tugs me in closer. Kissing Heero is like thawing out after a long freeze: I feel the reaction starting in my toes and creeping through my body until even my nerve endings are tingling. I slide back with him into the shadow of the giant Christmas tree, our bodies hugging the wall in a way that illicit lovers might behave, our mouths locked, tongues thrusting, chests heaving.

He breaks away from me for a moment to gasp, "Let's go. Now. Yes?"

"Yes," I sigh back. We kiss again and laugh and his warmth envelops me like a blanket. We're laughing all the way back to our cabin, the air tangling its cold fingers into our hair and our breath puffing out in front of us, and all the time Heero holds me, touches me, caresses me. The snow is falling almost too softly to notice, until the flakes settle on my nose and Heero licks them off. By the time we fall through the door and lock the winter wonderland outside, we're warm from desire and excitement and hardly care about the cold.

The mattress creaks a protest as we fall on it together, but we ignore the noise; we laugh at it. We burrow under the quilt, keeping warm while we peel off our clothes. Neither of us turns on the light, because I like being in the semi-darkness, watching Heero's eyes glow like fireflies and the shadow of his hands stroke my body. That's what I've always told him.

My kisses are deep, greedy ones and he gives himself up to them, alternately laughing and gasping, letting me run my mouth down his throat, along his belly, wriggling my body down under the covers until the only thing his hand can reach is my hair, and then I slide my mouth over his cock and he cries out with pleasure.

I love the taste of him - I love to look up at his face, his calm confidence shaken so deliciously, as he arches under me and screws up his eyes. I love to press my hands on his flesh, feeling the goose bumps spring up, holding down his hips as he shudders and thrusts shallowly into my mouth.

His climax is swift tonight, his reward for the hot, hungry kisses back at the party. He growls in his throat as he comes, half-laughing, half-sobbing. He whispers my name again and again, though there's no-one to overhear us.

I lie between his legs for a moment, swallowing softly. Yeah... he tastes very good. His cock slides from my mouth with a soft, sucking noise, and I clamber back up the mattress to lie beside him, sleepy and distracted now. I'm unprepared when he grunts, a sound full of delight and mischief, and he rolls me over so that I'm on my back, legs outstretched. He twists his own body so that his head is above my groin, his breath on my balls. "Duo..." he hisses, eagerly. "Let me. I want you so badly." His mouth is wet on me, his tongue licking along my own half-erect cock, his lips sucking gently but greedily at the tip. One of his arms is across my belly, like it’s holding me down, and his breath is speeding up with excitement. His other hand reaches down below my balls to caress me, his fingers stroking the skin between them and my buttocks, and brushing over my asshole.

I pull away from him, suddenly. My legs kick out to free myself, to wrench myself out from underneath him.

His cry is smothered, but it's a cry of protest, nonetheless. For a second his hand still reaches for me, grasping my arm, gripping almost painfully into my flesh. "Duo, no, please don't -"

"No," I say. I'm startled by the anguish in his tone, but I don't blame him for it. He releases me abruptly and I roll away, hovering on the edge of the bed. I'm shaking and my heart is still hammering away in my chest.

He falls back on his own side, and the mattress creaks again. This time it's not amusing: it's like an accusation. I can feel his body shaking, too; there are soft groans coming from him that I've never heard before.

For a moment, I feel true fear. Those dreams I had last year? It's like they're returning. My stomach aches with it: the good feelings from tonight leech out of me on a sea of bile.

"Duo." Heero's voice is strangled, like he's trying to control the emotion escaping into his words. "This is too much."

I know it is, I think. I can't reply; I can't speak to him without increasing my self-loathing tenfold.

"Why?" he whispers. but I don't think he's expecting a reply. He sits up, his hand rummaging at the foot of the bed in the darkness, presumably looking for his clothes. He pulls his shirt back on over his head and tugs up his pants. Then he pauses, his back turned to me, his head very still and straight, a statue in the darkness. But whatever it is he's waiting for, it doesn't arrive, because then he gets up and leaves the bedroom.

By the time I fall asleep, tired out from wallowing in my misery and fright, he still hasn't returned.


*


The next day greets me bitterly, all cold and white - or that's how it looks from the window of the bedroom. I realise I've slept in much too late - a casualty of my troubled night. When I stumble out into the lounge in tee shirt and sweats, I'm surprised to see Heero still here, working at the breakfast bar.

"Didn't you have a ski session this morning?" My tone is too blunt, but he ignores it. He's cooking eggs for lunch - my favourite - and he makes sure they're back on the heat before he looks back up at me.

Those brilliant blue eyes are as clear as if nothing ever happened last night. I don't know how he does that, but he always does. "Quatre called us early this morning on the site radio. There was another heavy snow fall overnight and all activities have been cancelled. Looks like we'll be snowed in for a while, too, until they clear the paths back down to the clubhouse."

I stare at him, not really taking it in. I realise then that the usual outdoor sounds are muted, and I never heard any staff passing the cabin this morning with messages or fresh supplies. "What about the other guys?"

He shrugs and turns to serve up the eggs. "They're fine. Trowa and Quatre stayed at the clubhouse last night so they'll be looked after down there. Wufei managed to leave his cabin before the worst of it, and he's working with the staff to help clear the snow and keep the site facilities running."

He gestures at the stool and I sit down, though I'm still bemused. "But for how long? I mean, before we can get out of here?"

Heero puts lunch down in front of me, and the plate rattles against the counter. His hand is shaking slightly. He turns away, busying himself at the sink. "You're keen to get away?"

I frown. "No. That's not what I mean." The eggs taste really good: he's always been a good cook. I finish them quickly, surprised at how hungry I am. "But it's a pity if you miss your skiing. And it's not much fun being trapped in a little cabin like this without decent supplies, and no entertainment save the local radio and a pack of cards -"

The sudden crack from the sink startles me, and I jump off my seat. "Heero? Are you OK?"

"Yes." He still has his back to me and he's collecting up the pieces of a broken plate from the floor. "Just a silly accident."

He straightens up, but he doesn't turn around and I stare at his back for a while. Things don't feel right between us any more. But then, I'm the last person to know what right really is.

"I'm sorry, Heero." My voice is very clear in the quiet room. "I guess this is because of last night. I know it's my fault."

He turns around at last and instead of the anger I thought I'd see in his eyes there's only sympathy. Not pity - Heero doesn't do pity. He's never made me feel either humiliated or belittled.

I've done all that on my own.

"I hardly think you're to blame for the weather, Duo," he says. Perhaps it's meant to be a joke, but neither of us smiles. "You're too quick to take it all on yourself."

"Nothing goes right," I say, abruptly. The words seem disembodied, but I can't stay quiet. "Nothing seems to get get better. And I'm just dragging you down along with me."

"You must have patience," he says. "You forget the improvements you've made, just because of one night's misunderstanding -"

"Shit, Heero!" I don't want to shout, but I do. My voice crackles in the strange silence that pervades the cabin. The air is static inside - a blanket that smothers the sounds of life; a chill brought on by the thick bed of snow outside. "Doesn't it piss you off? Don't I piss you off? You're stuck here with someone who can't get his shit together, who hangs around the edges of life without ever getting properly involved. Someone who leads you on and then pushes you away, for God's sake -"

"Duo." He steps out from behind the counter, moving towards me. I'm standing, staring at him, hands clenched. If he touches me, I don't know what I'll do. I want to get out of the room, out of the cabin, but there's the sudden realisation that I can't - that I'm physically trapped here. My body starts shaking.

"Duo, don't do it," he says, urgently. "Don't run."

"Where the fuck am I going to go?" I can feel my breath hammering at my ribcage again. What the hell does he mean? "You're the one who should get the hell out. You're the one wasting your life, waiting around for fuck knows what -"

He steps forward then and takes my arm. It seems casual enough, but I can feel the grip in his fingers. He's a strong guy. "Don't tell me what to do. Do you hear me? I will wait for you for ever, Duo. That's never been in question." He looks sort of fierce - I can't remember seeing him like that before. "But I realise now that I don't have to do that in person."

"What?" I'm confused. "What do you mean?"

He takes a slow breath, the way he does when he's thinking about how to say something. He does that with everyone, not just me. "I'm here for you, for ever. But I'll move out of the cabin as soon as the snow clears. In fact, I'll move out of your life completely as soon as we get home, if that's what it takes. I think I made a grave mistake, bullying you into coming here again. It's an unfamiliar setting - it's putting unfair pressure on you." His eyes are bright with moisture. "It's putting you in a compromising situation sexually, too, which I can't bear. I will not inflict myself on you when it disturbs you, hurts you like this -"

He breaks off suddenly, his hand lifting from my arm. He takes a couple of steps back and runs his hand through his hair. It's a strangely nervous gesture that is uncharacteristic of him. "I'm proud of you, Duo, of all you've done, of all you've achieved. I want to share that with you - but it'll be on your terms." He's nodding his head, as if he's already discussed this with himself - decided those terms. "It's been good, being with you, seeing you come back to life. You must keep it up. I... that's what I want, most of all." He pauses, a little breathless, and his gaze drops to the floor. His words dry up.

Maybe he, also, is realising there's nowhere to run.

There's silence for a moment. I take a deep breath. I’m amazed that the words come out of me quite calmly, quite clearly. "I'm going to lie down again for a while," I say. "I want to think about things."

Heero nods. As I leave the room, he doesn't meet my eyes.


*


At first, I just sit on the bed and listen. Heero moves around the cabin, and it sounds like he’s clearing up the kitchen though I never saw any mess except for the plate. I never hear his voice; he never comes into the room after me. After a while, everything goes quiet except for some muted music that’s probably his portable CD player. I can’t make out the artist but it’s something melancholy – or maybe that’s my hearing.

I don’t seem to have the energy to move. I feel as though the life has been sucked out of me and I’m a shell. It’s a different feeling from my depression – from my familiar desire to withdraw from life. This is a case of Heero offering to withdraw from me. My whole body is tense with shock.

I’ll move out of your life completely.

Of course, he could do that. Easily.

He’s been a part of my life for so long now that I’d never imagined he wouldn’t be. He’s my friend; he takes me out and about; we do the shopping; we cook and clean; we watch games on TV; we listen to music; we meet up with the other guys. We do the ‘couple’ thing – we kiss and caress, though probably not enough. I pretend that it’s because I want to be private – but, of course, he knows that I’m just too fucking scared to commit completely.

But it’s always ‘we’. I’ve never wanted anything different.

And then there are the other things we share – my moods; my rants; my tedious, tortuous appointments with various health professionals. My irrational, erratic fears. Tears that I never show anyone else; my unfocussed anger that he takes the inevitable brunt of.

Why the hell should he put up with that indefinitely?

I stand up from the bed – then I sit down again. I feel a deep, cold numbness that has nothing to do with the snowdrifts outside.

Heero thinks he’s adding to my confusion and distress. Thinks he’s part of the problem, when he’s the only solution. The only one I want – the only one I trust.

The only one I love.

He wants to leave me. And here am I, letting it happen.


*


I must have dropped off to sleep after all. I can lose track of time so easily. I can’t hear any noise from Heero or outside the cabin. I’m not entirely sure I’m even in the cabin any more, but of course, that’s ridiculous.

It’s a strange feeling – I’m standing outside myself, glaring. I know I’m glaring, because it makes me blush. I make myself blush. Right.

What? I’m challenging myself. What’s your problem?

I don’t answer myself, but invite myself to look around. I can see shapes forming, mistily, slowly. It’s like watching a movie come into focus. A series of moving pictures – vignettes. I can recognise people in them.

The guys are featured, but I'm surprised that they look several years older. Trowa and Quatre are there, in a cabin like ours. Trowa’s got spectacles perched on the end of his nose and Quatre’s snapping at him – something about Trowa complaining he can’t find them, when they're there on his damned nose all the time. Trowa turns to snap back at Quatre. It’s a typical friends-thing, like the banter that always goes on between us all.

Then suddenly they both stop and laugh. The laughs sound as young as ever, and there's something underlying the amusement that's even warmer. Quatre puts out his hand and Trowa takes it. Nothing else happens, but somehow I know it doesn’t need to. The look in Trowa’s eye – the rueful smile on Quatre’s face - is enough for me to know what they share.

Wufei appears in his own scene. It’s set here at the cabin site again because there’s snow everywhere. He’s returning from ski-ing, in boots and ski suit with his skis over his shoulder, a group of students laughing around him, red-faced and skin shining with the bright sun and the cold. There are a couple of other instructors about and one comes over when he waves. I can’t see his face, he still has his goggles on and he’s kind of blurred. They chat for a few minutes; laugh. Wufei looks at his watch and shakes his head – he can’t make whatever plans they had for the evening, I can tell. But it’s not a problem, because Wufei’s smiling. Must be a date for him. I can't remember ever seeing him so animated - so relaxed.

The other instructor waves him off and sets off for the ski lift. Spending his leisure time in a sport he enjoys, but a lone figure, nonetheless, now that his friends are happily paired off elsewhere. His time at the end of the day is for him alone, whether he likes it or not.

He doesn’t speak, but I'm suddenly very sure that he doesn’t like it. I know him, even without seeing his face clearly.

Don’t turn around, I think, panicking. I don’t want to see!

It’s like those dreams I had, a year ago. There had been the same disorientation then; the same disembodiment. I’d seen my life as it had been when I was a child; and how it was at the present time, lonely and sad. And then I’d seen how my life would be, if I didn’t do something to pull myself out of my misery. I’d have lost it all.

The instructor turns around and I know those blue eyes so well – the careful smile; the serious frown. He’s older, like the others, but Heero is the same to me as ever. And on his own.

The pictures are fading. My other self is shaking its head gently. Its eyes turn to look at me, and they're tearful with disappointment. I'm the one responsible, I'm telling myself. I'm the one needs to wake up in more ways than one. I'm the one with so few chances that I can't afford to neglect - and lose - them.

Friendship is very precious, and I have that. But love is beyond price – and that’s what Heero’s waiting for, from me. Not just the knowledge that I love him, but the expression of it – the praise of it – the declaration and delight of it. When I had my dreams, Heero had been there to help me, and he’s been here ever since.

He says he’ll wait for me for ever.

But why the hell should he have to?

I’ll move out of your life completely.

No, I think, firmly.

That's not going to happen.


*


When I emerge from the bedroom I’m surprised to find it’s already early evening. Heero’s been snoozing on the couch and reading a book, though the bookmark doesn’t look much further on from the place he last left it. He smiles at me warmly enough, though I instinctively know it’s one of those smiles that says ‘I don’t want to talk any more about it’. He lets me make him pancakes for supper - oddly shaped and rather too thick, but he eats them enthusiastically enough. There's been some activity with the snow ploughs outside, but work has stopped for the day and we're still restricted to the cabin. I don't make any comments about it, though. We play some card games and he whupps me every time, then he goes ahead of me to bed. He looks damned tired.

I can’t completely shake off the weird feelings from my ‘dream’. All evening, I'd wanted to tell Heero about it, but I couldn’t find the words to start. Two hours later, I'm still huddled on the couch. I haven't drawn the blinds shut yet, but the view from the windows is black from the night sky, and the air is shrouded in silence. If I concentrate carefully, I can hear Heero's breathing from the bedroom. It doesn't sound deep enough for him to be fully asleep.

My feet have gone cold. I get up, stretch myself, then walk over to the door of the bedroom.

Our bedroom.

"Heero? You awake?" Stupid of me, I think, to call out like that. If he wasn't awake, he is now.

He stirs in the bed and sits up, rubbing a hand over his face. His tee shirt is all crumpled and hitched up under one armpit. The bedside lamp has been left on and it ekes out a pale, timid light over his side of the room. I guess he's blinking, accustoming his sight to the shadows over by the door, where I'm standing.

"Duo?" His voice sounds shaky. Maybe he'd been asleep, after all. "Turn on the main light, will you?"

"No. I want to talk to you," I say. The words feel sticky in my mouth, but I persevere. "It's easier... like this."

He frowns: I can see him better than he can see me at the moment. "You don't need to hide in the dark. To run away from life. I hoped that you trusted me."

"Oh, but I do," I say, quite sharply. "Though I don't think I've made it clear enough. I've not made much clear at all, really. There are times, Heero, when the only thing that I trust is you, and the way I feel about you. And how you feel about me. It's the only thing that's felt real to me." The only thing that's kept me from huddling in that furthermost corner...

He makes a gasping noise, like a sigh. I ignore it - that's the only way I'm going to be able to continue.

"But other times, I can see the rest of my life, and really it's not all that bad, I have great friends and there are new things happening, things that I enjoy and things I'm pleased with. Things that I should treasure." I take a quick breath, trying to slow down. "I know that I have to work on that - concentrate on that, not the black moods." Not the fear.

"You already do..." he whispers, encouragingly.

I nod. "Yeah, I already do. Sometimes, at least. Got to stop beating myself up, right?" I smile, and when he smiles back I realise that he can see me by now. I take a couple of steps into the room. "But all the time, it's just been about me, hasn't it? All people talk about is how I am - whether I'm better or worse. OK, so maybe they don't say it to my face, but I know that's what they're doing. But whatever the reason, no-one has much time for you, for how you are - what you want. I'm sorry about that - I really am."

He pulls at his shirt, straightening it out. He's avoiding my eyes. He's frowning again.

"What is it that you want, Heero?" I say, very softly. I step right up to the bed, looking down at him. "What are my selfishly black moods keeping you from?"

He looks up at me, those clear blue eyes glinting in the half light. "Nothing." He shrugs, gently, and the sheets rustle around his legs. "I just want to be with you: however you are, however you behave. I don't think in terms of you getting better, or being normal again. You're Duo - you always have been - and that's who I want."

I just stare at him for a moment. Guess I'm seeing one of those things I should treasure. As if I didn't already know.


*


When Heero pats the space on the bed beside him, I sit down. He smiles again, and I'm warm all over. Always have been, when I'm with him.

“God knows, I don’t want you to move out of my life,” I say. I can’t find words strong enough to communicate just how much.

He sighs; runs his hand through his tousled hair. “Shit, I’m sorry, I didn't mean -”

"But I'm afraid I've been using you as some kind of... security blanket,” I break in. I might be blushing - it sounds pretty childish. "I don't want to do that. You deserve a hell of a lot more."

He raises his eyebrows. His smile is wry. "I know what I deserve, Duo. I deserve you, and I'm damned grateful that's what I've got."

"Yeah," I grumble. "You have half a lover, that's all. You get the half that makes the misshaped pancakes, not the half that sleeps with you. Not the half that'd ask you to hold him and kiss him until his toes curl -"

Heero leans over towards me, slips a hand around the back of my neck, and pulls me into him for a kiss that does just that.

I'm very flushed when we finally part. "OK, so you made your point. But that's not enough."

"For me?"

I shake my head, slowly. "Maybe. But not for me, either."

His eyes widen, briefly. "You want more?" He sounds wary.

I look at the man who's sharing a cabin and a bed with me: a good-looking man, confident and really smart. A strong body - an even stronger will. And he's kind, with it. I know his hands can both excite and calm me. I know his dry wit makes me laugh when I want to rail at life. I know that when something good happens, he's the one I turn to, to tell. When it's something bad, he's the one I don't have to tell, because he'll already have guessed.

I know that when he's not there, I spend the time expecting him - and wanting him.

I don’t want him to be alone.

"Yeah," I say. "I do want more. Shift over on that mattress." When he moves over, startled, I climb into bed with him. For a moment we stare at each other, half grinning, half embarrassed in some idiotic way. Then I press up against him and start kissing: kissing his mouth, his ear, his throat. I know he loves that.

"Duo..."

I hush him, kissing him some more, sliding a hand up under his creased shirt to stroke his skin. He sucks in a breath.

"It's... always good. Whatever we do. You know that?"

I smile, rather more enthusiastically now. "I know that. It's going to be better, too, I promise you."

He tenses up under my touch. "No, I don't want promises. Don't give them - don't put yourself under that pressure. Just be here, as you are now - that's all."

I slip down the bed, dragging the sheets away from his body as I go. I press my mouth to his torso, making kissing shapes against the line of his ribs, licking the sleepy sweat from his skin. "Before you give me any more of that kindly, tolerant stuff," I mutter, my words muffled against his belly, "I'll tell you that I want to do this. Very much."

"Am I stopping you?" he replies. His voice is husky: it sounds like he wants to laugh. "You know how I feel. What I want. But you need to be ready..."

I grumble again. "You make me sound like one of the pancakes." I slide my finger inside the waistband of his boxers and tug it gently away from his hip. "You're the one who looks ready to me."

He shivers and he laughs aloud. "OK, then, so go ahead and joke about it."

I pause. "That's what I do, isn't it?"

I can feel him tense up. "Yes. Sometimes. But it's better than your distress." When I don't answer, he reaches a hand to me in the semi dark. "Duo? Don't go silent on me. It's just that I don't want this if it's all about me, and just me. You were the one who expressed it so well... it doesn't feel right, being the only one taking."

I lie there, my lips on his body, his boxers half way down one leg and my palm enjoying the warmth of his cock. "Even if I want to give?" I whisper.

"Yes." His whole body is still, like he's holding his breath. "Because I want to give, too. And believe me, I'm not talking about that kindly and tolerant stuff."


*


His left hand is on my head, mussing with a loose lock of my hair. He's lying on his side, spooned up against my back, and his right hand is slowly stroking my bare hip. So I got naked. So did Heero. It seemed the right thing to do, us being in bed together. And at this moment, that stroking is the most soothing and delicious thing in this cabin, maybe the whole world.

"I know that Christmas time is bad for you," he murmurs. "I see that, even better than you do, I think. Each year I've know you it's seemed worse - and last year you were the lowest I'd ever seen.”

I can’t reply because I don’t have the words. Hell, I don’t even have the reasons. I nudge back against him, knowing he’ll understand. His skin is warm and sweaty against mine, and his breathing is as soft as his words. His cock twitches now and then, pressed up against my ass. I don’t mind at all. In fact, I’d say it was damned stimulating.

“If you can see through this Christmas, it’ll be a milestone for you, I’m sure.” He trails his fingers along my hip bone, then up to my waist. “We need to make new memories, Duo. That’s partly why I thought this trip would be a good idea for you. For us.”

I sigh, but far from unhappily. “You said that to me then, as well.” And he did. He thawed me out – took my arm and led me out of my own personal black hole, and all without judgement. “A year ago. You said we’d make new memories.”

He laughs softly and his breath is damp on the side of my neck. My cock does some twitching of its own. “Glad I'm consistent, then,” he murmurs. I feel his hesitation, and then his mouth nuzzles my ear. “But then I’ve got plenty memories already.” His hand strokes back down to my ass, cupping my buttock. A fingertip traces the cleft, up and down, but never pressing in further.

My back arches gently. “Yes…” I whisper. I’m not sure if he hears me, because he doesn’t change his caress.

“I didn’t know we’d be snowed in,” he sighs. “I’m sorry if you feel trapped.”

“Now who’s blaming himself for the weather?” I laugh and his body jerks behind me, like I startled him. “Maybe I need to be trapped. I need to stop running away – stop seeing life as something to struggle through, and enjoy some more of it. Make sure that you enjoy some more, too.”

Heero speaks very slowly. “That’s not always easy…”

“No. But it’ll be worthwhile, right?”

I stay spooned against him but I twist my head back to see him, making it obvious I want some more of the kissing. His lips are a little hesitant, but his hand tightens on my hip. His dick is thick and hot against my ass and his legs are tensing up, trying to keep an inch of distance between our bodies. I guess he’s doing that for my sake, only. I wriggle up to him even closer, my head still twisted back against his, letting my tongue slide around his mouth, tasting him, enjoying him. “Hold me, Heero,” I hiss. “Do it. I want you.” When he frowns, I blush again, and hope he can’t see it in the dim light. “I want whatever you want to give me. Unless you’ve changed your mind - don’t want to inflict yourself on me any more.”

He’s staring at me. “Is this another joke?”

I don’t answer with words. The night is getting too dark and too deep to need them, I reckon. Instead, I reluctantly abandon the kissing and I roll forwards, presenting my back to him and my ass a little higher, nudging it against his groin. Then I lift my upper leg and bend it forward over my body, on to the mattress. I guess you could say I’m in a recovery position. Rather apt, I think. His hand slides down from my hip to between my thighs. His breath is shallower than before. I can feel his fingers brushing against my balls and the warm stickiness of his pre-cum at the base of my spine.

“Lube,” I murmur. “It’s been a while.”

He rummages in the drawer of the bedside cupboard where he unloaded our stuff when we arrived. I can hear him uncapping the bottle; the quiet pop of a stray bubble at the nozzle. Then his cool, lubricated finger presses gently into the crease of my buttocks. I chuckle.

“Duo?” He sounds cautious.

“Tickles,” I say. “Go on.” When his finger eases into me I concentrate on that feeling, and nothing more. I know it’s Heero’s touch: I know that touch will never deliberately hurt me. I let my body relax and my nerves absorb the movement inside me. He stretches me gently, almost reverently, and occasionally he brushes against that spot inside me that’s known very little action for many months. It sends shivers down my spine and sets up a deep, anticipatory ache inside my groin. I slide my hand along my swelling cock, marvelling at its sensitivity: marvelling at Heero’s effect on me.

“Duo?” I’m glad that he checks with me all the time, but now his chest is pressing against my back and we’re both panting, and I can feel the head of his cock nudging around my entrance. I want it to happen – I'm gasping - I just can’t find the words to tell him to –

- go ahead, but he does anyway. The man is very confident; very assertive, in all the right ways. He pushes into me inch by tortuous inch, and it’s painful in some ways, but just astonishing in others. I lean further forward, resting my head on the pillow and stretching my legs wider to make it easier for him. He rests against me when he’s fully lodged inside, his head nuzzling at my neck and his arms enfolding me. His chest is heaving and the soft, gasping sounds that come from him are both fascinating and thrilling.

“Oh God,” he whispers. His cock swells inside me and makes like it wants to move. I’m keen on that, too. The room is half dark and half lit with excitement and tension that’s almost tangible. The sheet is crumpled up under my body and I’m trapped within his grasp.

I realise how happy I am.

“Is it OK?” he whispers. “Is it good?”

I smile to myself and wriggle my hips. “Damned good,” I hiss back. “Move.” He starts to rock against me, sliding in and out a little way. It's a slow, soothing rhythm, at the same time sending waves of sensation rippling through me. My skin feels goosebumps on its goosebumps; Heero's skin slides against mine, mingling our smells and our touch. He slips a hand around to press on my belly, holding me close to him. My dick is aching with its own need, hot and full and bobbing out from my groin. I tighten my hand around it - I don’t think it’ll be long before I come. Suddenly I’m swamped with the pleasure of knowing that I haven’t forgotten how.

I wriggle again and Hero starts to thrust in earnest. I can only just hear his moaning over the sound of my own. His fingers grip me too tightly and I can feel a gentle cramp in my lower thigh, but none of that matters. The tension unfurls itself from my groin and races towards ecstasy: my back straightens and my neck arches back against him. He's whispering in my ear but I can't decipher the words. They sound urgent, but strangely comforting.

In the end, we both come very quickly, and very hard. It leaves us sweating and gasping, and a pretty sticky mess on the sheets.

After a moment’s silence and a chance to get our breath back, I shift slowly on the bed. He lifts his hand abruptly, and pulls back from me, our flesh coming apart with a sucking sound. Perhaps he’s worried about me again.

I twist around quickly and grab at his arm, holding him back to me. I’m a bit fierce myself, maybe, but that’s no bad thing. It’s good to look at him, face to flushed face. He looks perturbed, but that doesn’t hide the delight and satisfaction in his eyes. They’re very bright: I can see myself reflected in them.

“Thank you,” I say. For all that you give me. He flushes, and I hope he understands what I mean, because I’m still struggling with clear speech, and anyway, I’m not so keen on chat in the aftermath of heart-racing sex.

“Shit, Duo, you don’t have to tha-” he begins, but I put a hand to his mouth, stopping him.

“You told me something else last year,” I murmur. He frowns at me, but when I grin, his smile starts to return.

“I did?”

“You know you did,” I scold. If I could see out of the window I know I’d see a white landscape, cold and silent, the sky a thick grey and the wind blowing up occasional gusts of snow into the shape of ghostly figures, tossed briefly into the air then thrown back down. “You told me to lose the ghosts.”

I can see that landscape view very clearly in my mind. Doesn’t mean I’m always going to let it linger.

“Anyway, I will,” I smile. I kiss him again. He kisses back, pretty eagerly. “I have. And in return I’ve found you.”


*


When they knock on the door early in the morning, to let us know most of the snow's been cleared, neither of us stirs to answer. I can hear the guys trudging away to the next cabin to deliver their – supposedly – good news.

Heero yawns. His breath tickles the hairs between my legs, which is where he ended up falling asleep. “Duo?”

“Uh-huh?” I stretch a little, but my legs feel stiff from too much activity: and all night long.

“Who’s doing breakfast?”

I grunt. “Who cares?”

He grins – I can feel his mouth moving on the skin of my hip. “Did you ever remember that joke that was haunting you last Christmas?”

Haunting. That’s a pretty good word for it. “No. But we found it funny beyond words.” I can see him laughing, head back, in the days before I made him cautious; made him concerned. “Hey, weren’t you going to remind me of it?”

His tongue licks away a stray trail of cum on my belly. I shudder, and so does my early morning erection. “Can’t remember it myself.”

I sigh and roll over on to my front. I like the way he licks, and I want to try it again in other places.

“No problem. We’re making new amusements.” I chuckle, softly. Can’t believe how relaxed I feel, but it’s damned good and I’m going to hang on to that thought as much as I can. “Christmas is a special time, right?”

Heero’s laugh tickles the hairs all along my ass cheeks, and down between. It’s much lighter than his laughs have been of late. “It is for me, Duo. Thank you for that.”

I rest my head on the pillow and let his tongue start to excite me again. I wonder how much I’d have to pay the snow plough guys to heave the snow back up against our door and keep the outside world at bay for a while longer.

It doesn’t matter where I am, though, does it? So long as I’m not huddled in that metaphorical corner, on my own.

So long as I’m with him.



End