It was going to be a while, Duo thought, before he was really accustomed to his own humanity again. As Quatre had pointed out earlier this week, he’d been a doll a lot longer than he’d been a human, and probably had become more accustomed to not being able to feel or smell or taste than he’d ever been to the ability. And the more he considered the matter, the more he thought that with this contrast in mind was the best way to live.

Everyone else he saw — when he was wandering around aimlessly while Heero was at work, or when he went shopping with Heero and made sure anyone that saw them knew they were a couple — they didn’t appreciate things the way he did. They didn’t recognize how marvelous it was just to be able to breathe, to walk, to eat, to have a choice about where they went or what they did, to have physical sensations and awareness and needs.

Admittedly it was a little bizarre to be so pleased when he had to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. Other people didn’t need to be as happy about such a circumstance as Duo was, and, really, Duo didn’t need to be as happy about such a circumstance as Duo was. But he still thought he was lucky, thought he saw life in a better light than anyone that had never been a doll. Though he couldn’t exactly pity them for never having been dolls, he did pity them for not being as happy as he was; the whole entire world could never be as wonderful to them as it was to him, and that was a little sad.

Of course, they didn’t have Heero either, and that — for them — was sadder than anything. But, once again, Duo thought as he crawled back into bed next to his sleeping boyfriend, he wouldn’t wish it otherwise.

He had already spent quite a lot of time — more than two hundred fifty hours, he estimated — watching Heero sleep, but like this it was so different as to seem a completely new and separate experience. Now he could reach over and run his hand through Heero’s hair, push it out of his face if it was being particularly unruly; bend and kiss him if he wished, even press himself fully against him if he was feeling cold or lonely. All this, and also it made a difference knowing that he too could fall asleep at any time, that he would wake up at Heero’s side if not actually in his arms.

Now he touched Heero’s beautiful face softly with his fingertips, and Heero unconsciously responded by wrinkling his nose as if to dislodge a crawling itch. Duo laughed silently, and draped his arm across Heero’s chest. Heero made a faint noise, raised a hand to clasp at the arm, and then settled into stillness again.

Overwhelmed suddenly with burning happiness that made him want to shout out loud, Duo instead pressed his lips to Heero’s cheek and then forced himself to stop moving. He still almost couldn’t believe that things had turned out like this, that he’d found someone like Heero. He was sure there were other people in the world that would have been willing to go through a month of inconvenience with him, but of those, how many was he likely to have fallen in love with? Heero was one in a million; if Duo hadn’t ended up in the gutter outside his office at just the right time, he would not be breathing right now.

He wondered suddenly how things would have gone — for all of them — if the curse had never happened. If he had never met that woman — what had her name been? — or if he and Trowa hadn’t argued, or if Trowa had never gotten hold of that artifact, where would they all be now? Well, now he and Trowa would be dead, of course. But how would their lives have gone? They probably would have been lovers eventually, and perhaps it would have lasted. They would have lived out their days in relative contentment, not knowing what they were missing.

And here in the future, would Heero have stayed lonely? Would he ever have found someone that could get past his walls and make him laugh? Or would he eventually just have hooked up with his best friend, the supportive person he’d once kissed because they ‘might as well try it?’ Duo thought Heero and Quatre could have been happy together too, for all the control issues, not knowing that a greater happiness would have found them if things had happened differently ninety years before.

It was funny how almost a century of suffering could lead to the best possible solution in the end… because Duo couldn’t imagine being happier than he was now. And now that all was said and done, he couldn’t really regret the curse, either. If he had to do it over again, knowing that Heero was at the end of it… well, he would certainly complain about being a doll, but he wouldn’t hesitate.

Falling asleep was marvelous. So far there were no signs of the insomnia that had plagued him in earlier life — but, then, there had been very few nights since the breaking of the curse when he hadn’t been rather worn out by the time he was attempting to sleep; Heero had a lot more energy than Duo had expected, and Duo was not complaining. He loved to sink into fluffy unawareness with his arms around Heero, loved that Heero’s face was routinely the last thing he saw before drifting off.

Of course, waking up was nice these days too. Even if it was at some ungodly hour he would never before deliberately have endured (as a human), it was a reminder both that he was capable of sleep and that Heero was beside him and had been all night. There was very little, in fact, from which Duo could not derive pleasure these days. And that today was Sunday and they were not required to wake to an alarm, that Heero didn’t have work, could only make a good situation better.

Heero, however, seemed to feel things less than perfect, for he made an unhappy noise when Duo’s luxurious stretching woke him up, and buried his face in the pillow.

Duo kissed the back of his neck and said, “What’s wrong?”

“We’re having dinner with my parents tonight, remember?”

Now that he mentioned it, Duo did remember. He might have been dreading it, if not for the fact that being human enough to meet his boyfriend’s parents made him so damn happy. Heero was dreading it, though, Duo knew. He ran his hands through the messy dark hair and kissed him again. “That’s, like…” He glanced at the clock. “Seven hours from now. Why are you thinking about it now?”

“I can’t help it if you’re not distracting me,” Heero muttered.

“Oh! That sounds like a challenge!” Duo scrambled off the bed. As he was already naked, he couldn’t engage in any sort of striptease to capture his reluctant lover’s attention, so, as soon as he knew Heero had turned his eyes out of the pillow and was looking in this direction, he seized the first object to hand off the dresser. It turned out to be a tie that Heero hadn’t bothered to put away on Friday after work — somewhat boring green and gold stripes — and Duo ran it through his hands with a pensive little smile. “You have no idea what I’m about to do in the shower,” he murmured, and headed for the bathroom.

Sounds of bedding being hastily thrown aside came from behind him, along with Heero’s protest, “That’s dry-clean only!”

“Is that really all you can say?” Duo laughed, and turned the hot water on.

They didn’t see anything of Trowa and Quatre that day, and Duo, thinking back to the last time Heero had accepted his parents’ dinner invitation, wondered idly whether they might not be in Paris again. Therefore, since he and Heero had gotten the apartment cleaned up yesterday — an activity that, like most of his new life, Duo enjoyed a good deal more than he might have expected — there was nothing to amuse themselves with but sex and Oz and random conversation. The first was scattered throughout the day; the second, Duo greatly enjoyed because he finally got a turn to read and the opportunity to do voices; the third was as good as always, despite Heero’s apprehension for this evening.

When the latter did eventually come, for all Heero seemed to want to delay it, Duo took him by the hand and said very seriously, “Hey. You only have to do this once, and then it’ll be over.”

Heero just sighed.

Duo kissed his cheek. “They have to come around eventually, and it’ll probably be tonight, since I’m pretty sure nobody in the world could hold out against the power of our love.”

Still Heero looked grim.

“Plus they’re smart people,” Duo tried. “I mean, they’re your parents.” When this contrived compliment also failed to win him a positive reaction, he added, “And I’m sure they really do want you to be happy. You are happy, aren’t you?”

Finally Heero smiled; it looked a little forced, but the fact that he was forcing it for Duo’s sake meant something anyway. “Yes,” he said. “You’re right. I wish it were as simple as you make it sound, but you’re still right.” And he returned the cheek-kiss. Then, with another sigh that was more the release of a deep, determined breath, he added, “Let’s get ready to go.”

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