Second Chances

Author: Sharon
Pairing: none really, but 1x2 and 6x9 implied and UST between Heero and Zechs
Rating: PG13 (implied sexual relationships, drinking, UST)
Warnings: thoughts about sex, but nothing actually happens.
Disclaimer: The guys belong to Bandai/Sotsu/Sunrise.
Notes: This was my attempt at writing a pairing I dislike. I ended up doing was proving to myself that I couldn't see them together under any circumstances.

Second Chances

It was fitting that I'd entered the sleazy little bar at the end of the road that night. I'd already come to a dead end in all of the most important aspects of my life. I'd ruined my career, destroyed my good name and finally driven away the one person who'd always had faith in me. As I entered the dive and made my way towards the bar, intending to drink enough to forget my own name, I told myself I'd finally hit rock bottom. Nothing could be worse than this. As usual, I'd underestimated the universe's penchant for the ironic.

I never expected to see a familiar face in that disreputable establishment -- notorious for being frequented by people looking to pick up cheap and easy company of either sex. From the provocative way he was dressed, tight pants that looked almost painted on and a button-down shirt opened way too far to be decent, I guessed that even I, a one-time officer of OZ and his sworn enemy, could have had him that night. It was obvious as soon as I saw him, laughing loudly and having trouble maintaining his balance, that he wasn't in control of himself. He probably would have gone home with almost anyone. No, not anyone -- any man. If the rumors I'd heard when I'd joined Preventers were true, Heero Yuy was homosexual.

He was also obviously way beyond his tolerance for alcohol. How long he'd been at the bar, I had no idea. Judging by the way he was falling off his barstool, and the difficulty he was having picking up his drink without spilling it, way too long. I doubted he'd seen me enter, and I didn't think it was my place to try to talk him into going home. Our history with each other hadn't been very amiable up to this point. I still believed he hadn't killed me when he'd had the chance because of his devotion to Relena, not out of any sense of duty or a soldier's honor towards his fallen enemy.

Hoping to avoid a potentially unpleasant confrontation, I'd turned and was about to leave when I heard his slurred and unsteady voice call out my name, as if I were a long-lost friend he'd suddenly found. I stopped dead in my tracks and took a deep breath, turned back and walked over to where he was trying to stand. I nodded my head in acknowledgment and said hello as quietly as I could to keep from attracting any further attention. My expression must have been one of shock when he placed his arm around my shoulders, greeted me warmly, and asked me what was new in my life.

As I looked straight into blue eyes gone slightly glassy, I realized that I wanted to tell him what was new. I wanted to confess to someone that I'd been given a second chance at a relationship I'd always known I should have valued more than I had, and I'd ruined it. Again. As I've done so often in my life, I'd set out to do what I'd thought was best and only ended up making everyone miserable. How I wanted to tell that to Heero, a man I admired for his cool head and objectivity, a man I suspected wouldn't judge me for what had happened in the past. After all, he'd had his share of mistakes as well.

However, this wasn't the time or place for discussing my problems. Judging by the state he was in, Heero had worse problems of his own. I couldn't imagine the intense young man I'd fought against during the Eve War sitting there under any normal circumstances, dulling his senses with cheap whiskey in that dingy little bar just a few short blocks from Preventers Headquarters. I pushed my own problems aside as I lied to him. I told him that nothing was new with me. I'd just finished an assignment and felt like celebrating. The arm around my shoulders tightened as he leaned in closely, telling me with a voice made husky from too much drinking in a smoke-filled room that he was celebrating too.

During the next few minutes, Heero Yuy, my one-time adversary, became my closest friend. Or rather, he attempted to make me his. Alcohol in moderate doses has been known to loosen some very tight tongues. Taken in the quantities Heero had apparently consumed, it had turned the once reserved Gundam pilot into a very talkative and overly friendly young man. As he called the bartender by name to order us both a round of drinks, I suspected that this was hardly the first time Heero had visited this place. Maybe it was because I felt I owed him something, for not killing me when he had the chance, or for looking after Relena all the times I couldn't. Maybe I didn't want to see him throw his life away as I felt I'd done with mine. For whatever reason, I decided at that very moment to do whatever I could to make this his last visit.

With one hand placed firmly on his shoulder, I managed to get him to sit relatively still while we waited for our drinks -- vodka for him and a white wine for me. I'm used to stronger alcohol, but I was determined to keep all my wits about me for his sake. I was no longer there to drown my own sorrows. I was there to learn about Heero's. Seeing him drunk was enough of a disturbing sight to make me want to ensure that it wouldn't ever happen again, at least not under unpleasant circumstances. When the bartender returned with our drinks, I pulled him aside and quietly asked him how often Heero frequented this place. I tried to hide my disgust at his answer. It seemed that Heero had become a regular customer over the last couple of months, stopping in at least three nights a week.

What could have turned Heero Yuy into an alcoholic? He'd said nothing up to this point to give me any indication of the cause of his problems. He was friendly enough, asking about Relena and the state of affairs in Sanc, but he still had enough self-control left not to tell me directly what I wanted to know. Everything he revealed about himself I could have readily found out through reading Preventers status reports. The more he avoided discussing himself, the more I became determined to know. Why Heero? What could make you want to destroy yourself this way? What could be so bad that you'd need to drink to excess in order to escape?

Realizing that he wasn't going to reveal his secrets to me that easily, I decided that the best thing to do would be to see him safely back home and away from this place. Perhaps the cool night air and a fresh pot of black coffee back at his apartment would sober him up enough that I could win his trust and convince him to confide in me. It's not all that unusual for people to tell things to relative strangers that they wouldn't confess to their dearest friends, and Heero and I were far from being close.

It wasn't as difficult as I'd expected to get him to agree to leave. I think deep down inside he knew as well as I where his dependence on alcohol was leading him. For the first time in our acquaintance, he gave into me without a fight, telling me the address to his apartment which, fortunately for us both, wasn't too far from our present location. As I steadied him with my left arm around the middle of his chest, half holding him and half dragging him, we made the short walk to his home. I didn't care to imagine how many times he'd made that trip alone.

I managed to get Heero to his third floor apartment, using all my strength to practically carry him up the stairs. Placing him gingerly against the wall next to his door, I asked him for his keys. He opened his eyes and grinned at me, saying that they were in his pants pocket, but made no move to retrieve them. As I reached for his pocket myself, he grabbed my hand and tried to force it to his crotch. I laughed at his apparent joke and pulled my hand back, telling him that his keys surely weren't there. He looked at me then, a sad look, one of intense longing. At that moment, I got the distinct impression that if I showed any signs of being willing, he would ask me to stay the night with him. To have sex with him. Instead, he laughed too as he reached into his own pocket and produced the keys. It was then that I saw something that I'd never expected to see on Heero Yuy's face -- a look of total and utter defeat.

Without saying a single word, Heero leaned back up against the wall outside of his apartment. I was too unnerved myself to say anything, so instead I just opened the door, unsure of what I might find. I turned on the lights expecting to find his place in a shambles, but I was once again surprised by Heero Yuy. All of the living areas I could see were neatly kept with everything in place. He'd either hired someone to take care of his apartment, or he'd sublimated his unhappy feelings by becoming obsessively neat. I strongly suspected the latter, having been guilty of it myself during my military days. Heero pushed past me as he stepped inside the apartment, inviting me to make myself comfortable while he plopped down bonelessly on the sofa.

I removed my coat and placed it over the back of one of the chairs in his living room. Looking around more closely, I noticed that all wasn't quite as normal as it had at first seemed. There were several small pictures in a group on his wall that were turned backward. As I walked up to one to put it right, he startled me by shouting out for me to leave it alone. His plea was too late. I'd already seen the picture. It was a photograph of Heero taken shortly after the Eve War. It had captured a moment of true happiness between two friends. Standing there, arm-in-arm, smiling for all the world to see, were Heero Yuy and his former Preventers partner, Duo Maxwell, a man I'd never actually met but knew by reputation.

Judging by the vehemence of his tone, and by the fact that he'd managed to get halfway off the sofa before falling back down, it had to be either the war or Maxwell that Heero was so despondent over. Knowing from reports that Maxwell had recently resigned from Preventers for undisclosed reasons, I guessed that he was at the root of Heero's problems. I decided to test my theory by mentioning Maxwell's name, in the hope that I could provoke a reaction that would start the conversation I knew Heero desperately needed to have. I half expected him to get angry, but instead all Heero wanted to do was drop the subject, immediately.

I took a long, hard look at him then. He looked tired and worn out, as if he'd faced the most difficult thing in his life and had lost badly. I began to feel something -- perhaps pity, perhaps empathy for the young man in front of me. I know what it's like to fail in personal relationships, having made more than my fair share of mistakes. It pained me to see someone in such anguish, especially when I considered that, if circumstances had been different, I could have called him friend. Whatever it was I was feeling, I knew I couldn't stand to see him in such pain.

Deciding that it might be best for him to sleep off the alcohol he'd consumed and talk about things in the morning, I started walking towards him. It was then that I began to feel something different, something that took me completely by surprise. Without any conscious thought, my body took notice of the way Heero was slumped back against the couch, his arms open and his legs spread wide. I felt my heart beat faster, and I was suddenly warm all over. I stopped for a moment and considered how vulnerable and inviting he looked, so much like someone else who was dear to me, and an involuntary swell of desire rushed through me.

I'd been about to suggest that he take a shower before going to bed, but the mental image of holding a naked and needy Heero Yuy excited me more than I cared to admit. Instead, I stood in front of where he was sprawled on the sofa and told Heero that bed was the best place for him to be. Given his current state, I didn't expect him to be in control enough to grab me firmly by my arms and start pulling me towards him, saying in a slurred voice that he was just thinking the exact same thing. I was barely able to catch my balance as I started to fall into his lap, intending instead to help him to his feet for the short walk to his bedroom. I tried to loosen his grasp, but his arms still held on to me tightly as he kept trying to pull me closer towards him, his eyes closed, his voice calling out a name as though it were a prayer. A name that wasn't mine. He thought -- or wished -- that I was Duo Maxwell.

I pulled back immediately before I was beyond the point where I could still stop myself. It was obvious to me now what had happened. Duo Maxwell was much more than just a partner to Heero Yuy. He was the man's lover, now likely ex-lover. That explained the picture turned back to the wall. I suspected that if I looked I'd find that Maxwell was the subject in all of the other pictures as well. Heero must not have been able to remove them completely, yet they caused him enough anxiety that he couldn't stand to look at them day-in and day-out. He'd turned them to face the wall rather than admit the relationship was completely and irrevocably over. He still had the desire -- if not the hope -- that he and Maxwell would somehow resolve their differences.

It took everything I had -- every last ounce of self-control and courage -- to pull away from him. I won't lie, not even to myself. I was tempted to be with him anyway. Heero needed desperately to feel wanted, and I needed to feel that I could please someone, even if it was just in bed. I could have made his body feel good for a night, but I knew in the morning we both would have regretted it. I'm not casual when it comes to sex. As a man who once valued his personal honor above all else, I'd learned to place more importance on the depth of my feelings than the pleasures of my body. And I won't take advantage of anyone. Heero might have been willing, but deep down I knew he wouldn't have consented to this without the influence of the alcohol.

I reached back down and helped Heero get up from the sofa. I walked him into his bedroom, holding him as dispassionately as I could, and sat him down on his bed. After helping him with his shoes and buttons, I turned my back while he removed his clothing and got into bed. I could tell he wouldn't be awake for very much longer. His eyes were already closing as I turned out the light. Before I walked out of his bedroom for the first and last time, I bent down and placed a gentle, chaste kiss on his forehead. Quietly, I promised him that everything would be alright. I didn't know how to deal with my own problems, but I had a pretty good idea how to begin solving his.

I found his computer in the spare bedroom that he'd turned into an office. It was powered down, but to my relief it wasn't password protected. I guessed that he hadn't seen any need to make his computer more secure since no one other than himself likely used it. I managed to access my own personal computer at Preventers with little effort. Calling in a few old favors and promising several new ones, I managed to track down the elusive, mysterious Mr. Maxwell within an hour. It seemed that he'd gone back to L2 following whatever breakup had happened between himself and Heero, and had gone into business with one of his friends.

Locating him was easy enough. Getting him to talk to me openly about his former lover wasn't going to be. Though Duo Maxwell and I had never met during the war or in the period of relative peace following the Dekim Barton incident, he knew well enough about my battles with Heero. He'd had no reason to trust me where his ex-partner was concerned. I'd changed a great deal since my days as both Zechs Merquise and Milliardo Peacecraft. I had to convince him somehow that the man trying to reunite him with his former lover was honest and sincere about wanting to help. I suspected I would have to tell him my own problems to make him see how important second chances really could be.

Fortune was smiling on me from the start when my call was answered by one of Maxwell's co-workers. I didn't expect Maxwell would have stayed online long enough to hear me out if he'd taken the call directly. He may not have ever met me in battle, but he certainly knew what I looked like back then, and that part of me hadn't changed much since the wars. I didn't doubt he would know who I was. I identified myself as a Preventers agent and asked to speak with Mr. Maxwell about "something important he'd left behind on Earth" when he'd resigned from Preventers. The woman I spoke to patched me through without asking for any further information.

I had to speak quickly when Maxwell finally appeared on screen. Although it was early in the day on L2, he looked very annoyed at being bothered, perhaps because he'd severed ties with Preventers and didn't want to be contacted by them, or more likely because he had no wish to speak to me of all people. I wasted no time in telling him that I'd called about an urgent matter involving Heero. The false bravado he'd adopted immediately melted away. Whatever had happened between them, it wasn't enough to make Maxwell give up on Heero completely. I watched the look in his hard blue eyes soften at the mention of Heero's name, and his expression turned suddenly wistful. I knew without a doubt that Duo Maxwell still loved Heero Yuy very much. Maybe as much as Heero loved him back.

Empowered by that knowledge, I told him of the disturbing state I'd found Heero in at the bar, leaving out no details. The complete look of shock and disbelief that took over his face reassured me that he'd had no idea how badly Heero was coping. He quietly mentioned that none of their mutual friends had seen the changes in Heero's behavior either. It seemed that he'd spent his drunken binges in the company of strangers hoping, no doubt, that his former lover would never find out.

I kept Maxwell online until he'd heard all he needed to know about what was happening with Heero. I'd already told him about Heero's late night visits to the bar, and how he'd been living one life during the day and a completely different one at night. I told him how I'd found Heero and managed to get him back to his apartment unharmed. Perhaps I shouldn't have, but I told him about the photographs as well. I think he needed some concrete evidence that Heero really did still love him, and that I wasn't interfering in something I knew nothing about. I didn't tell him that Heero had propositioned me while he was drunk. What would have been the point? I knew it was never me that he'd wanted. I only hope for Heero's sake that he'd never made the same offer to anyone else. Heero Yuy is next to impossible to resist.

I didn't ask what had caused their breakup. It wasn't really that important for me to know. Instead I looked Maxwell straight in the eye and told him that what mattered most was that they both still loved each other very much. There was yet a chance that they could salvage what they had -- repair the damage and make their relationship even stronger. But it would take a lot of work. They both needed to be open and honest with each other, communicate with each other, and learn to consider each other's interests equal to their own. I knew exactly how hard that was going to be. That was the same lesson I needed to learn. How simple it all is when you're helping someone else with their problems. If only I could do the same for myself.

He lowered his head then, as if he were ashamed or perhaps too embarrassed to meet my gaze. When he finally looked at me again, I could tell that his eyes were glistening. His pride kept him from crying, but not from thanking me for all that I'd done to help. I had intervened more for Heero's sake, hoping that it would erase some of the debt I'd felt I owed him, but I'll never forget the look of gratitude on Duo Maxwell's face. I told him he could repay me by getting on the next available shuttle to Earth. Then I wished him good luck, and meant every word of it.

Having secured Duo's solemn promise that he'd be on a flight as soon as possible, I closed down the connection to L2 and allowed myself to relax. As I closed my eyes and leaned back in my chair, I took a deep breath and considered the circumstances that had nearly led me into Heero Yuy's unwitting arms. I had lectured Duo on the importance of communicating with one's partner, but here I was as guilty of not doing so as he and Heero were. For a few minutes I just stared at the communication line I'd opened, considering all the options available to me. The hour was quite late and I knew that the one person I needed most to speak with wouldn't be awake. For a moment I hesitated, thinking it would be better to call again in the morning when we could speak face-to-face, but I realized I wouldn't be content until I made a move in the right direction. I placed the call and left a message to be delivered first thing in the morning.

I gathered my coat from the chair where it lay and prepared to leave the apartment. Halfway to the door, I turned back and went to take one last look at Heero. I opened his bedroom door as quietly as I could, afraid of waking him, but I could tell that he was sleeping soundly. His breathing seemed regular except for a few small snores here and there, and I could see that he'd curled up around the extra pillow on the bed. The fact that he didn't seem to be tossing or turning made me think that he would be able to get a good night's rest. He was going to need it. If my hunches were correct, Heero was going to have one hell of a headache in the morning, not to mention an emotional reunion with one very anxious and concerned lover.

I gently closed the door to Heero's bedroom and made my way out of his apartment, locking the door firmly behind me. As I walk back out onto the street, I think about this evening and how it has given me the resolve to fix my own complicated relationship. I think about what could have happened, how two lives could have been changed -- probably for the worse -- and I'm grateful that I made the choices that I did rather than give in to a moment of weakness. I think about Heero and Duo, and the long, hard road they have ahead of them. Just as I have, they've been given a second chance at happiness, a chance to make right the wrongs they've both suffered. Hopefully, it's not too late -- for them, and for myself. For us.

Lucrezia, I'm coming home. We need to talk.

The End

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