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Duo's shuttle was nearing the Earthside spaceport. He really didn't want to be back on Earth. After Heero disappeared, Duo couldn't stand to be near any of the other pilots. He was on a shuttle back to L2 as soon as he could pack. One look in the mirror that morning served to remind him of Heero's rejection. The swelling wasn't all that bad, but he tried to hide it nevertheless. Quatre seemed distracted anyway that morning, and Trowa was nowhere to be seen; but to tell the truth Duo hardly noticed. Duo still couldn't believe he had kissed Heero and professed his love that night. What a jerk I was, Duo thought to himself. This trip was serving to stir up all those memories again. Then I went back to L2 to be an even bigger jerk and ruin yet another friendship.
(flashback)Duo waited in line to exit the shuttle. He didn't have any luggage to collect. He tried to travel light. He went through to the arrival lounge, steeling himself.
It was just too easy, going back to L2. He slid back into the salvage business like an old glove. It was so easy to just push all those memories to the back of his mind and lose himself in routine. And Hilde.
Hilde was waiting for him. She would do anything for him, Duo knew that. In contrast to Heero, who was never anything but callous to him. How could he have ever imagined that Heero could love him back? So he let Hilde take care of him. It was weak, he knew it. But it felt nice, to have someone care more about what he wanted, what he thought, than anything else. He knew it was wrong to use her this way. But he couldn't help himself. He kept hoping he would just fall in love with her, and forget Heero. He tried, he really did. He took Hilde everywhere, and tried to treat her the way he wished Heero would have treated him. They worked together day in and out, and went out together. Hilde seemed to be very happy, and so was Duo, for a time. But with increased closeness inevitably came increased intimacy. First it was a kiss on the cheek. Then a hug. Finally, Duo started picking up on the hints Hilde kept dropping. She wanted more out of the relationship, and Duo knew what that was. He just didn't know if he could give her what she wanted. It had been almost six months since he had returned to L2. Duo doubted he could make up any more excuses why he couldn't sleep with Hilde. Other than the fact that he was in love with another man, he thought to himself wryly.
Duo had tried. Though Hilde deserved better than him, no doubt. Then came the night Hilde invited him over to her place, and cooked them a wonderful meal. There were flowers and candles, and Duo didn't need a psychic to tell him that Hilde wanted tonight to be The Night.
Hilde asked him to sit on the couch with her after dinner, and she poured them both another glass of wine. Duo had had several already, trying to relax, and steel himself for the inevitable.
Hilde snuggled up close beside him, then looked up into Duo's violet eyes. She began, "Duo, I've had a great time these last few months. I really like spending time with you."
Duo managed a smile. "I've had a great time too, Hilde."
Hilde snuggled closer, snaking an arm around Duo's waist. "I knew you'd come back to me. And you've been so patient."
"Patient?" Duo sounded confused.
"Yes, patient. But you don't have to be any longer. I love you, Duo, and I'm ready," Hilde said breathlessly.
"Ready?" The implications of what Hilde was saying had finally sunk in. She thought he had been waiting for her. And she loved him!
Thoughts raced through Duo's mind. He didn't want to hurt Hilde. But he wasn't sure he could go through with this. He knew it was unfair of him, to lead her on like this. But Duo had really hoped that the thing with Heero had been an aberration, that he was really straight, or at least bisexual. However, the thought of kissing Hilde was making the pit of his stomach go cold.
Taking Duo's reticence as shyness, Hilde said, "It's ok, Duo, you don't have to say anything. Just stay here with me tonight." With that, she stretched herself up and firmly pressed her lips to Duo's.
Duo's eyes flew open in shock. Hilde was kissing him! His mind refused to process this information. He wanted to push her away, but he couldn't move. Her lips against his felt nothing like Heero's. In fact, his stomach was threatening to rebel soon. Duo realized he was running out of breath, and finally managed to break the kiss. He gasped for air, and tried to calm the wave of nausea that was currently threatening to return the dinner he had just eaten. Dimly, he could make out Hilde's concerned face frowning at him.
"Are you ok, Duo?" she asked worriedly.
"Uh, no, I think I'm gonna be sick!" Duo cried, and ran like hell for the bathroom. After he had emptied the contents of his stomach and calmed his breathing, he knew he had to go out and face Hilde. What could he say? Sorry, but your kiss made me throw up? Duo didn't want to hurt his friend, but this night had convinced him more than ever that he was not heterosexual. As if the hair and the obsession with a certain Perfect Soldier wouldn't give someone a clue, he mused to himself. He sighed and made his way shakily back into the living room.
Hilde was sitting on the couch, looking sad and concerned at the same time. Duo sat next to her, but not as closely as before. He cleared his throat.
"I..." he began, then stopped. Hilde looked at him miserably.
"It wasn't my cooking, was it?" Regardless of the words, it wasn't a question.
Duo looked down unhappily. He hated to disappoint people, especially his friends. But this just wasn't meant to be. He never lied.
"I'm sorry, Hilde," Duo tried. "I didn't mean to upset you."
"Did I push you? If you're not ready... oh god, I shouldn't have said I love you," Hilde started to ramble.
Duo stopped her. "Hilde," he said as gently as possible. "It's not anything you did. I'm flattered you feel that way about me, I really am. I love you too, but as a friend. I... I'm..." Duo struggled to say out loud what he had never really even admitted to himself, in so many words.
"It's ok, Duo, I understand," said Hilde sadly, understanding what Duo couldn't say. "In a way I'm glad it's not another girl."
Duo blushed. "I'm so sorry, Hilde, I wasn't even sure until now. I thought I could, I mean, with you... I'm sorry if I led you on," Duo finished lamely, aware of how ridiculous it sounded.
"You didn't," Hilde answered. "I led myself on, I'm afraid. I've loved you since I first saw you, but I knew deep down it wouldn't happen. Then when you came back to L2, I fooled myself into thinking... I don't know what I was thinking, but I just like being with you. But you can't change who you are."
"God knows I've tried," Duo agreed.
"Please don't," Hilde said sincerely. "I hope we can still be friends."
But it was never the same again. Duo wasn't sure if it was his attitude or Hilde's, but something was never the same.
He didn't know who would be meeting him. Then he caught sight of a familiar blond head and pasted his trademark smile on his face. Truthfully, he was happy to see Quatre, but the rest of the reunion was making him nervous.
"Duo!" cried a delighted voice. Quatre hurried over, followed by the silently looming Rashid.
Duo felt himself hugged tightly. He hugged back, glad he saw only Quatre.
"Duo, you look great!" Quatre enthused.
"Thanks," Duo said. "So do you." And in truth, Quatre did. He had grown a bit, but so had Duo, so they were still about the same height. Duo had never seen Quatre wear jeans before, but they were of course impeccably tailored and looked great on him.
Duo was wearing black of course. Black jeans, black tshirt and boots. He had his hair in a loose ponytail rather than a braid, and his hair brushed the back of his thighs. Quatre thought he didn't look any older, but sadder somehow.
They walked together through the terminal toward a huge limo. "So, Quatre, where's Trowa? Do you two still see each other?" Duo immediately knew he'd said the wrong thing. Quatre looked down at the ground.
"I haven't seen him since that last party," Quatre stammered. "He sent notice he was going to be here for the reunion, though."
Duo stared at Quatre. He considered and discarded several questions, then settled for changing the subject. "Great ride you got here, Quatre," he enthused as he got in the limo.
They rode in silence until Duo couldn't stand it any more. "Has anyone else arrived yet?"
Quatre smiled, "You're the first to arrive. Are you asking about someone in particular?" Duo and Quatre had confided in each other long ago about their feelings for Heero and Trowa.
Duo ducked his head in embarrassment. "Am I that transparent?"
Quatre smiled, feeling some of the ice between them melt. "No, no more than I am," he replied.
"I'm sorry about not keeping in touch with you," Duo began, guiltily. "I just... couldn't be around any reminders of... what could have been."
"I know what you mean," Quatre answered quietly. "I don't know what happened between you and Heero. But it wasn't my choice that I haven't seen Trowa. It was his."
Duo said, "I always thought you two would end up together. Maybe it's not too late?"
Quatre shook his head. "I tried to talk to him, to reach out to him. But he wouldn't return my calls. It's all my fault!" Quatre began to sniffle.
"Quatre! It couldn't be your fault! How in the world could you do something so terrible as to make Trowa not want to be around you? It was obvious he cared about you, even though he wouldn't say it," Duo said.
"I shouldn't have pushed him," Quatre said mysteriously.
Duo frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I guess I'd better tell you what happened that night of the party," Quatre began.
Continued in part 3