It was one of those nights… the ones where Heero had gone to bed without a shirt on and the blanket had slipped down his chest as he slept and Duo couldn’t stop staring. The only light in the room came from the half-open door that let in just a little through the glass at the end of the hall, but Duo had better night vision as a doll than he’d had as a human (whether because dolls typically had better night vision than humans, or because he’d spent enough time inside toy chests and closets to develop the skill, he didn’t know). Colors were different and shapes were softened a bit, but he could make out enough details to keep him riveted.

He was wondering about attraction, and how it worked when you happened to be a doll.

As a human, he’d been involved exclusively with women. He’d come to the realization that he liked men only after a number of years missing Trowa, and it had been even longer before he’d ever looked at any other man with interest or attraction. By then he’d already left even his remembered physical sensations behind… so what had that attraction been based on? What had led him to look at any given man and think, He’s hot! (or possibly, depending on the decade, What a sheik!)?

It wasn’t a translation of what he’d found attractive in women, since the criteria were totally different. It couldn’t have been a positive physical response, since he didn’t feel those. And it couldn’t have been based on a deeper interest of some kind, because he’d never been interested-interested in any of those guys. So it really must have been entirely visual: purely superficial aesthetic appeal. He remembered again what Trowa had said to him that black day so long ago, about being petty and fake, and he wondered, as he not infrequently did even after all these years, how true it was.

But whatever Duo might be, his attraction to Heero was different; he was absolutely certain of that. Heero was gorgeous, of course, but Duo honestly didn’t know how much of that was face and figure and how much was the fact that Duo knew him and loved his personality every bit as much as his looks. He would have found Heero handsome even if Heero hadn’t been. Hell, maybe he wasn’t, to the rest of the world, and Duo just couldn’t tell.

He couldn’t even remember what he’d thought of the way Heero looked when they’d first met; perhaps he’d found him attractive, but he hadn’t given it much consideration one way or another. But since that time, his appreciation for Heero’s physique had grown hand-in-hand with his appreciation for everything else about Heero, and the two were now inseparable.

Yes, there was definitely more to this than just the visual. Because Heero still — indeed, increasingly — made Duo yearn to touch him, despite how futile it would be to do so at this point. He just wanted to be closer to him, wanted to be with him in a more definitive sense. The way Heero was lying there right now, for instance — on his back, but twisted a little in this direction, one arm up beneath his pillow — seemed designed for Duo to curl up right against him with his head on Heero’s collarbone and his hand on Heero’s chest, feeling Heero’s warmth and hearing his breath close by.

He wondered what Heero smelled like.

He wondered if he could make any of this happen… if Heero would be any more interested in him once he was human…

He sighed faintly, and his gaze strayed for a moment from his quiet companion in the bed. As it fell on his own bed — his lovely new long, narrow bed with the rose-pattern blanket currently tucked around his legs — he grinned. He was still excessively glad of this; he’d become an expert, in the spirit of taking what he could get, at finding pleasure in even the least significant things. Doll furniture, while it might not really do anything for him, could definitely make him happy if he allowed it to.

This particular happiness he attributed to Heero, even though it had been Quatre and Trowa that had actually brought him the bed. Duo was almost certain they’d made some kind of date out of that, which was weird but pleased him greatly. Still, for some reason, when he looked at the little Duo-sized pillows with their excessive lace and the pink headboard, it was Heero’s kindness and forbearance that came immediately to mind.

At that moment, as Duo sat reflecting, his eye was caught by movement to his right. He looked over and down in time to see a number of hairy legs appear around the alarm clock, followed by more legs, a bunch of creepy eyes, central parts whose names Duo didn’t know, and yet more legs. The spider’s abrupt advent so close by startled a cry out of him, and, quiet though he was — and three in the morning though it was — Heero immediately awoke.

“Whasful?” he asked as he sat halfway up.

“Sorry,” Duo said. “I didn’t mean to yell.”

More coherently this time, Heero asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Just a spider.”

Heero sat up completely now, and pulled his blanket aside. “Where?”

“Riiiiiight here, like, two inches away from me.” Duo gestured to the creature, which had gone motionless in that freaky way spiders did, as if they were pondering their next victim.

Heero stood and peered through the shadows down at the nightstand. He didn’t seem able to see the spider until it moved, which it did when he picked Duo up, but then he deftly scooped it into his other hand and turned toward the door.

“Oh, my god,” Duo shuddered, “you are holding it in your bare hand.”

“If I looked for something else to put in it, it’d get away,” Heero replied, yawning. He shuffled to the balcony door, which he had to open with the hand that held Duo to avoid crushing the spider, and then stepped outside. He let the spider go onto the railing, and Duo watched from his safe distance as, after a moment of further cogitation, it ran off the hand and away.

Then he made another shuddering noise and laughed sheepishly. “Now I feel like a little kid.”

Heero chuckled, then yawned again as he turned to go back inside. “So Duo’s afraid of spiders, is he?”

“You would be too if they were as big as your face!”

“Good point.”

“Once one was on me,” Duo recalled, knowing it sounded more childish than ever but unable to restrain himself. “It was super gross. There’s one really good thing about not being able to feel anything: you can’t get that skin-crawling feeling like there’s a million spiders on you after you’ve dealt with one.”

Once more Heero laughed as he set Duo down on the little bed and tucked him in again.

“Sorry I woke you up,” Duo added, watching Heero get back into his own bed and arrange the blanket as he lay down.

“Don’t worry about it.” Heero sounded sleepy, amused, and not even the tiniest bit annoyed. Then he turned onto his side and went still.

As before, Duo stared at him contemplatively in the dark, conscious now of what seemed to be the emotional equivalent of burning heat — an aching combination of fondness and pleasure and longing so intense it felt almost physical. He wasn’t entirely sure what it was about the inconsequential events that had just taken place, which Heero might not even remember in the morning, but he was more than a little moved by the fact that Heero was willing to get up in the middle of the night for something so stupid and didn’t even seem inclined to grumble about it.

This was going to drive Duo crazy more surely than any six months spent on a Goodwill shelf. It was clear that his feelings for Heero were stronger than he’d realized, or perhaps had simply become so lately. Heero was so kind to him, so wonderful… yet there were still moments when Duo received a very definite impression that Heero just didn’t see him in that light. And that uncertainty was the worst. If he could only know for sure, one way or another, he would know how to govern his own thoughts — whether to start trying to get over this, or to look forward to pleasures ahead.

Unfortunately, the chances that Heero regarded him solely as a friend still seemed too high for Duo to say anything. He would not bring that kind of awkwardness into an arrangement that was already trying for Heero. Once he was human again and able to stop inconveniencing Heero on a daily basis, things would be different. Then, if the answer did turn out to be, “I’m sorry, Duo, I’m not interested,” as Duo feared, at least he would be free to walk away and not occasion a week full of unhappy, uncomfortable silences.

Because just a little over a week was all they had left, right? Duo could wait that long, right? This aphysical tightness in the empty region where his heart would have been if he’d had one wouldn’t kill him before then, right?

He sighed. He should probably wait a little longer than that, even. It was entirely possible that Heero just couldn’t muster any particular interest in a doll, however amusing and charismatic. A sad reason, perhaps, but Duo wouldn’t really be able to blame him. And if that was the case, declaring his own interest the very moment he was human again seemed jumping the gun a trifle. Give Heero time to get to know him as a human, and maybe…

God, this was all too frustrating, and he didn’t want to think about it any more. If he could just get through nine more days without these kinds of thoughts… If only he could sleep

Of course, was his subsequent, bittersweet reflection, if he could sleep, he would probably just dream about Heero anyway, and only end up making things worse.

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