October AC 202
It started, in all honesty, as an exercise in frivolity. Heero didn't have any desire to move house, especially move transcontinental from Europe to North America. He wanted to "see the neighbourhood" that Duo was moving to, uprooting his wife and their daughter at the behest of his in-laws who wanted to see their granddaughter more often than once a year.
Most of the houses, Heero found, weren't all that great to look at. At best, they were a little rundown, but at worst they were gut jobs and money pits that were a giant money sink to turn into something not a money pit. Heero was handy, and could learn to do pretty much anything if he had the mindset, but he wasn't going to redo an entire house just so it didn't look like ass.
The problem with looking at houses, even for fun, was that it exposed the flaws of his current living situation to him. Things he hadn't ever noticed before suddenly jumped out at him, and he found that the 2000 square foot accommodations he called "home" with Relena, Millie, and Rori were just a little too cramped, destined to become even smaller since he and Relena planned on expanding their family. It didn't help that work wasn't going as smoothly now that Duo was no longer on his team.
Duo was his right hand man, the one he went to for everything and anything and knew that it would be done. Duo always came in clutch when needed it most. Now all Heero had for a partner was Zechs, and Zechs just didn't fit Heero's admittedly very high and nearly impossible list of expectations. He never had this problem with Duo.
What was Heero without his right hand? He still had his left, but that wasn't good enough for him, despite being ambidextrous, because one didn't realise how well the two hands worked together until one was out of action.
A few weeks after Heero had started house hunting "for funsies", Duo had to leave for New York, and Heero naturally was his ride to the shuttleport. They shook hands and Duo had pulled him in for a hug that was just a little too tight, and Heero had found himself not wanting to let go, resolving to hold on for "just a little longer". Duo kissed him and Heero kissed back with a sense of both hunger and desperation before they parted, Duo with a smile on his face, Heero with nothing but uncertainty on his.
"I'll welcome you back with open arms if this doesn't work out," Heero said, secretly hoping that this didn't, and that Duo and Thalia changed their mind, told her parents to fuck themselves, and came back to Brussels, back to his side.
"I know," Duo said, his voice soft. "I'll figure this out, make sure this works for all of us. Vidchatting when possible, texting when that ain't..."
"It's not the same." It came out as a whisper as Heero fought for control of his composure. "It's...not the same. You're leaving me, and there's nothing that I can do about it."
"You could come with me," Duo said. "Bring Relena and the kids, of course. All of us are a team, you and me and Relena."
Heero shook his head. "I can't. I have obligations here."
Duo kissed him again before smoothing Heero's naturally unruly hair.
"Don't miss me too much, okay? I love you, 'Ro. I'm tearin' my heart in two, okay?" Duo pressed his hand to Heero's chest, right over his beating heart. "And I'm giving a half to you. Don't lose it, I won't forgive you if you do." He looked up as the intercom announced the shuttle that was now boarding. "That's my flight." He kissed Heero again before letting him go. Heero watched Duo leave through the boarding gate that would take him to a shuttle to a country they'd only been to maybe three times in their lives to get his new life in order. He hated to admit it, but it was like watching a piece of himself leave, and though he frowned at describing Duo in that way, he couldn't help it--they were a package deal. Where Heero went, Duo wasn't far behind, and vice versa.
Relena spoke up from a few paces away. "What are you going to do now?"
Heero shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and turned on his heel. "I don't know."
I have to let him go. But he didn't want to when he could still taste Duo on his mouth and smell him in his lungs.
6 November AC 202
"What are you doing, Heero?"
Heero didn't look up from his tablet as Relena sat on the couch next to him.
"For fun again?" She placed a mug down on the coffee table for him before taking a sip from her own. "You've been doing that a lot lately."
"Not for fun this time," Heero answered, as he scrolled through Zillow's listings.
"What do you mean?"
Heero tapped on a listing. "I've been reassigned at Preventers, so we have to move." He didn't elaborate.
"To New York."
Relena's mug clattered a little on the glass top of the coffee table as she set it down.
"We decided on the suburbs for a reason," she began. "You hate the city, why would you want us to move to--"
"Not New York City," Heero corrected. "New York, as in the state itself."
Relena stared at him in shock for a moment before her face eased into a more relaxed, understanding look.
"New York, where Duo and Thalia just happen to live."
"Just so happens, yeah." He tapped a few more houses. "I've already spoken to a realtor...or five. Turns out not all of them are willing to sell houses to someone in another country, they want a proxy or something, but I found two who are willing to telecom."
"What? I thought you'd be happy to be closer to Thalia, you two are best friends."
Relena took the tablet from him. "Heero, we need to talk about this."
He reached for it. "What do you mean--"
She held it away from him. "You miss him, don't you."
"This has nothing to do with Duo, this is for work--"
"It's not for work." Her voice was firm. She wasn't scolding him, he knew that, but he inwardly winced anyway. "You're on Preventers payroll, but it lists you as inactive."
His brow furrowed. "How do you know that?"
"Zechs told me you were leaving to 'move on to the next phase of life'."
Fuck you, Merquise, that was supposed to be between Une and I, you Gottverdammt eavesdropper. Heero sighed.
"Heero." She rested a hand on his knee and squeezed. "I miss him too. I know his absence has affected you greatly--"
"I'm fine," Heero insisted, even though internally he agreed with her. "I just want a change in scenery, that's all. A place where our kids can experience a dash of city life mixed with views of the countryside. They can go apple picking. Climb trees. Be far, far away from the most politically charged place in ESUN." He sucked in a breath, held it for a moment or two before exhaling.
"And that's probably true," Relena said. "But first and foremost, there's another reason for you."
There is, but I can't be selfish.
"You can tell me what's on your mind," she said, her voice soft. "'Let there be no secrets between us', wasn't that what you promised in your vows?"
"It's not a secret," he insisted. "I know you know. I know it's obvious. But I can't just run off on a whim anymore. I'm an adult who is a husband and father, my choices affect people other than myself."
"So then I was right," she said. "Preventers is the excuse, so you don't come off as being 'selfish'?"
The words came tumbling out of his mouth before he could stop them. "You don't fight a war and an uprising with someone and then pretend that everything is fine when they leave you. I nearly lost life and limb on field missions with him for two years, shared a desk and an office with him for another two years, and replace him with someone else. I can't work with someone else."
"I thought you and Milliardo were working fine together?"
Heero shook his head. "He doesn't get me like Duo did. I didn't have to ask for much, he knew what I expected. Zechs has to be directed. It interrupts my work flow. I can't just tell him to do this report, or get this done, I have to tell him what reports and what things when he should know by now."
She leaned against him. "The difference between my brother and Duo is that Duo is your boyfriend and my brother is not."
"He's not my boyfriend," Heero said, his voice firm. "Duo is so much more than that. I call him my 'partner in all things' for a reason."
"After the war he's always been at your side," Relena continued. "He's the most in tune with you out of all of us. Frankly I'd be worried if you felt absolutely nothing after."
Heero squeezed the hand that was resting on his knee. "I can't just move my wife and our two kids halfway across the world to chase after a guy, Relena."
"That 'guy' is someone you've known for seven years. And Duo would do the same for you, wife or not, and you know it."
Heero leaned back against the cushions of the couch, trying to phase through them without success.
"Someone once told me that the only way to live a good life is to live through your emotions," Relena continued.
"Whoever told you that gives bad advice," Heero retorted, his arms crossed now.
"What does your heart tell you to do, Heero?" She held out the tablet for him to take, giving him a choice. Her eyes held a question and a challenge all at once in them: Are you going to go after him, or are you going to remain in denial about it?
Heero side eyed the tablet. Go after him, Heero.
"If I lived through my emotions and listened to my heart all the time, I'd be a mess, even more than I already am."
"People are messy," Relena said. "Duo and I love you and your mess."
Heero sighed and ran a hand through his hair as he rested his head against the back of the couch. His heart and his mind were in a huge conflict and Heero wasn't sure he knew how to resolve it, or if it even could be resolved.
"What are you going to do?"
Was he really going to uproot his life and that of his family's for Duo Maxwell? For the man who hadn't left his mind since the day he left Brussels? For the man whose voice and touch he constantly craved? His fingers sought out Relena's as he laced them together, his hand on top of hers, her warmth radiating through his palm.
"What would you like me to do?" he asked, his gaze firmly fixed on the ceiling.
"Follow your emotions." She kissed his shoulder through the fabric of his shirt.
"But what about you and our girls?"
He felt her smile against his arm.
"Millie and Rori will follow their daddy to Antarctica and back. Your wife would gladly do the same."
"You already have."
She laughed before pressing the tablet into his hands. "Lead me on this new path in our future, Heero."
10 November AC 202
Port Jervis, New York, United States
Duo grumbled as he looked around for his "God feckin' screwdriver" when he heard what sounded like a truck exhaust backfire with some yelling, hooting, and hollering mixed in. He rolled his eyes--he couldn't wait for the people at 15 Land's End Drive to leave and never come back, in their sad and almost worthlessly rusted pickup truck that had been parked in front of the house for about five hours now. The For Sale sign was practically taunting him whenever he looked out the living room window. Thalia smiled sympathetically at her husband as she sipped tea from the window box seat directly across from the kitchen.
"You see anyone go look today?" Duo asked, before he went back to trying to fix the squeaky hinge on the kitchen cabinet door that was driving him nuts.
"Not really," she answered, as she toyed with a curl, ignoring the hiss and cursing that followed the screwdriver bit slipping from the screw and biting into the wood instead. "I did hear from Relena. She wanted me to check the place out."
"Oh? Did you tell her what a monstrosity the place is? Or how the now-previous owners decided to paint the place bright fucking yellow at 3AM on a school night?" The door was now off the cabinet, and on Duo's lap. "Son of a bitch put this hinge on upside down, no wonder it didn't open right."
"I didn't, no, but I'm sure the pictures will convey the colour just fine." She leaned against the window frame. "She also told me something interesting about Heero."
"Oh yeah? What's that asshole doing these days?
"He's gone from Preventers."
That caught Duo's attention. He looked up from the janked up cabinet door.
"Gone? Whaddya mean 'gone'? Une sacked 'im? The fuck's goin' on over there in Brussels--"
She shook her head. "Heero left. He told Une that he was 'retiring' and moving out of Belgium."
Duo carefully loosened the screw on the upside down hinge as he mulled all of this over. Preventers was Heero's life--what was he doing retiring at the age of 22 anyway? Then again, 'Ro did say he wanted to do the stay at home parent thing...
"Where're they moving to? I know Heero was talking about Germany a while ago, or maybe somewhere in England."
"New York." Thalia moved the curtain aside just enough so she could see out. "Did you know there is a gigantic penis spray painted on the side of their truck?"
"Does it say in all caps 'Praise Be Jesus in His Name Amen'? Because if so, yeah, I did." He moved a stray lock of hair behind his ear. Thalia set her teacup down on the saucer.
"New York, huh... There's a Preventers station like a half hour away," Duo said. "He could've gotten a transfer. He can still go back. It ain't like Heero'll know what the fuck to do with himself without some kind of mission or assignment or some shit..."
Thalia laughed. "You're assuming that they're coming here."
"'Lia, honestly, why the fuck would he leave a job that pays nearly six figures and move away just seemingly on some whim? Why would Relena want you to take pictures of a house that just so happens to be for sale next door?" He examined the hinge. "This thing's fucking bent too--the hell'd they do to this poor door?"
"It's just your wishful thinking."
Duo tossed the hinge over his shoulder and took the new, not bent, right side up hinge out of the package.
"Damn skippy it is. My partner's back in goddamn Belgium, where they don't even have any Belgium Waffles, and I'm here because I had to do something right as your husband, at least in your parents' eyes, and you do want them to see Hel more often and possibly help babysit once in a while, even though I have to endure all sorts of derogatory comments from them."
"But they do have Belgian waffles--" She paused. "Derogatory comments?"
"I have never in the entirety of my time in Brussels ever seen 'em." Duo didn't answer her question. "Maybe next time we go back, I'll have to find out if they're just a myth or not."
Thalia pushed away from the window frame and stood up. "I'm gonna take pictures of the house for Relena." She headed for the front door. "Don't cause too much trouble while I'm gone."
"I'll only cause the usual amount," Duo called after her, before hearing the front door click shut. He sat there on the kitchen floor with the cabinet door on his lap, shaking his head and chuckling.
"Heero ain't the type to chase after someone. He ain't comin' after me."
11 November AC 202
Heero stifled a yawn as he sifted through pictures from various houses, some worse than others. One house was outfitted with rose-gold everything, another had a basement that looked like it had been set ablaze shortly before being put on the market. For what the houses offered, the asking prices were outrageous--almost 300,000 dollars for a house that was a so-called "investment property". Houses asking for 35,000 that were floorless, ceilingless gut jobs that at least had room for potential.
Heero had put in two offers on two different houses three days ago, and of those two, Heero had only heard back about one. The email, which was written in bold face for no apparent reason, explained to him that his offer on 3 Grand Street was rejected, due to being submitted "after the offer deadline", which his realtor commented, "There wasn't even a deadline offered." Afraid that the same fate would befall 16 Glass Street, Heero decided he should keep looking, and pondered branching out to other areas of New York when a rather colourful house popped up in his search.
15 Land's End Drive. Heero moved the tablet away from his face, his eyes narrowed, immediately suspicious. The timing was a little too coincidental for his tastes, because what were the odds of the house next door to 13 Land's End Drive going up for sale? Surely this was some kind of mistake, or joke, or maybe sleep deprivation playing tricks on him (though, Heero pondered, that would be odd, since his insomniac tendencies didn't usually cause him to hallucinate). Thumbing over to the world clock on his time app, it was only a little after 21:00 in New York, so it wouldn't be an awkward time to send Duo a text, right?
(Unless Duo was doing things Heero would rather not know about, where texting would present some marital problems as a result.)
Heero: The house next to you, it's for sale?
Duo: which house? houses on either side of me n behind me r 4 sale, hell ½ the fuckin blocks 4 sale, tho thats tech a diff st but that only matters if u get pedantic on me n its 2 early 4 u 2 b like that 😂😂😂
Heero rolled his eyes.
Heero: Whichever one is the yellow house. 15?
Duo: u mean big bird house??? ur interesting in THAT????
Heero: Well I'm not interested in the purple monstrosity that's on the other side of you.
Duo: thank fuck 4 that, purple aint ur colour, babe
Duo: but in all srsness ye 15 lands end dr is up 4 grabs
Duo: u interested in being neighbours??? 🙃
Heero switched back to the Zillow app and looked at the specs. There were few pictures, most of them being the exterior of the house, and the huge yard. No one lived behind him, there was a park or something instead. And he wouldn't have to worry about a rowdy neighbour since it would be Duo... But Heero couldn't buy a house without seeing it first.
Heero: Have you seen the inside?
Duo: i been in the entrance once or twice when ive had to like fuckin tell them to stfu
Duo: house is actually p nice??? these ppl are for the birds but like their inside is 👌
Duo: but u'll def want 2 paint the outside that shit is 💩
Duo: but if u need a hand i gots u n if u need 2 hands i gots u n ur back
Heero: I'm holding you to that.
Duo: stop txting n start throwing $$$ at that house asshole
Heero took a deep breath before opening up his email. To his realtor, he sent an email detailing how he would like to put in a full price offer for the house on 15 Land's End Drive, and rescind all his other offers. That he was aware it was "sight unseen", but that he had a "really good instinctive feeling" about it, and that he knew someone in the area who vouched for the wonders of the house. He leaned back in his computer chair and watched the loading icon spin as his email whisked itself off in a bunch of ones and zeroes to its intended recipient.
I hope I'm not making a mistake.
Heero's phone buzzed against his desk and he gawked at it, fingers hovering over his laptop keyboard. HODGES, JACK came up on the screen, and Heero answered the phone with a somewhat shaky, "Hello?"
"Am I speaking to a Heero Yuy?" Heero had to pull the phone away from his ear a little bit, the voice was so loud, and he looked at it with a cocked eyebrow as the rather masculine sounding voice butchered his name in ways Heero never thought possible.
"It's Jack Hodges, your realtor! I just wanted to let you know I got your email." Heero had heard New York accents on television and various Youtube videos, but none of them could have prepared him for whatever this was. "I called the sellers and told them about your offer, and they accepted immediately."
Heero blinked. "We got the house?"
There was a clatter from elsewhere in the house shortly after he said that.
"Yeah!" Jack sounded much more excited than Heero did. "I was surprised too, to be honest. They just want the house out of their hands, and you're the only offer on it." He paused for a moment. "Are you sure you want to put an offer in on something you haven't seen in person? We can schedule a showing and--"
"I trust my source's intel, Mr Hodges, so I don't feel that will be necessary." Duo wouldn't steer him wrong, towards an ugly house, or one that had a lot of issues. Duo knew better. "Email me the paperwork or...I do have a fax if that's easier, but it's a bit antiquated." Like phone calls, Heero added.
"I can represent you with the lawyer," Jack continued, "so that's not a problem. But who gets the keys? Do you want me to set up a lockbox and give you the code to it? Or is there someone I can leave them with?"
Heero set the phone on speaker and placed it on his desk before he went back to typing up his college transfer application.
"I can give you contact information on where you can drop them off, no problem."
As the realtor went on and on about how everything was going to proceed from there, a message popped up from Facebook, indicating he had a message from none other than Duo.
Duo: I'm coming to Brussels for a bit in like a week or so.
Heero's fingers practically flew over the keyboard.
Heero: For how long?
He drummed his fingers as he watched the three dots that indicated Duo was typing out a response. His realtor didn't notice.
Duo: Just long enough to grab last minute shit, turn in keys, that sort of thing. Plus I...
Duo: I wanna see you and Lena and the kids. It's been like a month but I miss you guys like crazy... I know there's always vidchat and everything but it ain't the same
"So we should be able to close...probably after the new year. How does that sound?"
"That sounds fine," Heero said. He hadn't heard a word of what Jack said. "Geef het me alsjeblieft schriftelijk--"
Heero blinked. "What are you confused about?"
"I don't sprechen sie Deutsch, my dude."
Heero wasn't aware he had even spoken in German, or any other language for that matter, but he was tired and terribly distracted.
"Sorry. Give me all of that in writing, please, and email it to me."
"Sure. I'll keep you updated in case any developments happen, or delays... There tend to be delays more often than not in this business."
Heero was finally free from his phone call.
Heero: Don't go too far for too long. I need you in New York after the New Year.
Duo: I won't be far, I'll be right by you :)
Heero: Being right by me in Brussels would be a problem if I need you in New York.
Heero: I got the house.
Duo: Oh fuck really???? Congrats, babe! Where in NY?
Heero: We're gonna be neighbours again.
Duo: ...you bought the Big Bird House.
Heero: I did. It was a bargain and I trust your judgment, so you better not have led me astray.
Duo: When have I ever led you astray?
Heero went to type a response, but Duo was quick to answer himself.
Duo: you know what don't answer that
Duo: I don't think the char limit can handle it
Duo: But I always have your best intentions at heart!!! Just remember that.
There was a knock on the door jamb to Heero's office. He turned in his chair and saw Relena standing there.
"Our offer was accepted on the house, now I just have all of the legalities out of the way. I'll have Duo pick up the keys for us, and then... We start the moving process."
Relena sighed. "It's going to be busy the next few months, isn't it?"
"I've always wanted to go to New York. The state, I mean. I went to the City with Father a few times for diplomatic missions, but I wouldn't mind seeing the more...relaxed side."
"The trees and the orchards and mountains, you mean?"
Relena sat on his lap and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
"Yes," she said. "I'm excited to see where this new journey in life leads us."
Heero preferred to be cautiously optimistic. He wrapped his arms around her slender waist and she took that moment to shift so she straddled him.
"I hope I'm not dragging you down into some kind of hell."
She kissed him. "I'll go with you every step of the way, no matter where life takes us, hell or otherwise."
"Even if that place is next door to Duo?"
Relena smiled. "Especially if it takes you next to Duo."
Heero chuckled, drawing her even closer so their bodies were pressed together. She smelled of hibiscus and jasmine, the scent of her newest body wash. Her hands moved to his shoulders before slowly making their way into the base of his scalp.
"You're too good to me. I don't deserve it."
She pressed a kiss to his forehead. "If being with Duo and I makes you happy, and having us together in one place again makes you even happier, then I want to do everything in my power to do that."
"Where's Millie and Rori?"
"Sleeping," she whispered.
"I think a celebration is in order," Heero said, rolling the chair over to the door so he could shut and lock it. "A private party, just the two of us."
Relena giggled. "I like the sound of that. Good work, Agent Yuy."
"Why thank you, Vice Foreign Minister," he said, before claiming her mouth.