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fic - gang aft agley - part 4 [novella] - the turnip patch
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turnippatch
turnippatch
fic - gang aft agley - part 4 [novella]
Title:  Gang Aft Agley
Part:  4



Gang Aft Agley
sequel to The Best Laid Plans
Part 4


"Aw, man, I totally just bombed statmech!"

From where he was draped over an armchair reviewing a report one last time before he turned it in, Duo looked up at Mueller's loud entrance into the suite.  "Okay, that one's not my fault.  You told me you didn't need any help studying.  Which means you thought you had it nailed, which means you probably didn't do as badly as you thought you did."

Mueller plopped himself down on the sofa.  "Not needing help studying doesn't mean I had it nailed!  Crap, I think I'm going to try and drink myself into oblivion tonight.  I heard Rob didn't do so well on Fourier.  Think he'd be willing to share his stash with me?"

"I think he's done with finals and he's taking off tomorrow.  He might not want to be hungover for that.  Speaking of which, don't you still have your lab to write up?"

"Man, you've been all responsible this semester.  How boring."

"You were just thinking about drinking yourself into oblivion because of one class.  Why would you want to do it for two?"

"One, two, what's the difference?" Mueller bemoaned.  "Either way, I'll be oblivious.  Or hey, maybe I could just do it twice!"

"Would that be before or after your lab partner killed you?"

"Man, Pete's probably as bummed as I am right now.  We're probably screwed on that lab report anyway."

"Rosenbaum will have your asses if you turn in an obviously half-assed report," Hilde said, drawn out of her room by all the noise.  "You have him again next semester, remember?"

He groaned.  "Don't remind me.  I have a whole month before I have to start worrying about next semester.  Blah!  I think I need to shower someone."  He eyed Hilde speculatively.

She held her ground and threw him a threatening look.  "Hell, no.  I know where you sleep at night, remember?"

"Yeah, so?  Who on this campus doesn't?"

On campus, indeed.  Duo grinned.  "Hey, Heero's going to come by and pick me up in a little bit."

There soon bloomed an answering grin on Mueller's face as well.  "How long is a little bit?"

Duo looked at his watch.  "I think his test just ended, unless he finished early, which, knowing Heero, he probably did."

"You know, I got a look at his schedule for next semester.  He's taking Quantum.  For fun."

"He wouldn't tell me when his birthday was," Duo added solemnly to the list of transgressions.

Mueller grinned even wider.  "Hey, Perry!" he shouted towards the door of the freshman's room.  "You busy?"

The door opened.  "Nothing I wouldn't like to get out of.  Why?"

"I heard from Pete you were pretty good at showering their frosh, Whatshisface.  Wanna have one last go before you take off for the semester?"

"Sure."  He rubbed his hands together in overzealous anticipation.  "Who's the target?"

"Heero."

Perry's eyes widened as he retreated a cautious step or two.  "Are you kidding me?  That guy could probably kick our asses!"

Duo smirked.  They only saw Heero occasionally at lunch time or in the suite, and he never said very much to anyone other than Duo, let alone the frosh, and yet he still came across as intimidating.  What was it about the guy?  Maybe Duo just didn't see it anymore now that he'd pierced the surface of Heero's personality.  "Nah, he wouldn't, not for a little fun.  Promise.  Whaddya say, Hil?  You in?"

There may have been a little reluctance at first, but she assented in the end.  "Well, you guys get to take care of the heavy lifting, okay?  I get the feeling he's going to be a fighter."

"Perfect," Mueller answered.  "It's no fun when they don't put up a fight."  The door to their suite opened, and one unsuspecting mostly Japanese young man walked in.  "Perfect," he repeated, putting on one last smug look before casting a significant glance at Duo.

Duo knew what was expected of him.  "Hey, Heero, sit a while, bitch with us."  He patted the armrest of his chair.

"What are we bitching about?" Heero asked, setting his bag down and perching obediently on the side of the chair.

"It's finals week and he doesn't know what he's bitching about."  Duo rolled his eyes dramatically.  Then he grabbed Heero's wrist and made a show of looking at the watch there while toeing off his own shoes and socks.  "Hey, what time is it?  Didn't your test, like, just end?"

"I finished early."

"He finished early," Duo repeated for the group, his fingers deftly undoing the clasp on Heero's watch while the others nodded sagely.

The loss of his watch did not escape Heero's notice.  "What--?  Duo?"

Duo took off his own watch and leaned forward to set them on the low table in the middle of all the seating, then knelt by Heero's feet, lifted one and slipped off the shoe, then the sock.  "You know, this is almost too easy."

Heero looked at him funny, then looked at the others for help.  All he received were grins in return.  "Uh, Duo, what are you doing?"

Duo had turned his attention to Heero's other foot.  "Trust me, this is for your own good.  See, next time, you'll be able to recognize the signs, so you'll be better prepared.  Most people would have figured it out by now, but then again, most people probably have more experience with this kind of thing, so with most people, we'd have to be more subtle about it.  Well, no," he paused, cocking his head to one side in thought.  "With most people, we'd probably just do it in transit, wouldn't we, guys?"  He got three big nods in response as he sat back in his armchair.

It didn't take a genius to realize that something was up.  Heero got up from his seat.  "Transit to where?"

Duo let the suspense build for one tense second, then grabbed Heero around his chest from behind, and Heero had not even the time to get out a "What the--?" before the whole room surged into action.

"Get his feet!"

"I'm trying!"

"Oof, you're heavier than you look, Heero!"

"Put me down!  What the--?"

"I got the water!"

"Oh shit."

"Someone pry his hand off the sofa!"

"D'oh, lost his foot!  Ow, got it again!"

"What did I do to get showered?!"

"Oh, nothing.  We were just in the mood."

"What kind of reason is that?!"

"Ooh, door frame!"

"Got it!"

"Wait, turn!"

"Hil, get his hand, would you?  At least one of them.  He keeps grabbing things."

"He's good for a first timer."

"Hey, watch it!  I'm a lady, you know."

"Careful... careful... clear!"

"You taking the fall, Duo?"

"Guess so."

And then his legs were released and Duo was backing them into the spray.  Using him as a shield against the water, Duo held him there long enough to make sure he got good and wet before releasing him and dancing away to safety by the bathroom door with a merry laugh, a little damp, but certainly better off than their victim.  The others had re-convened in the main suite to recount their adventure.

Heero took a step out from under the spray and glared accusingly at Duo.

"You wouldn't tell me your birthday, Heero," he intoned seriously, humor dancing across his expression.

Heero blinked at him and wiped away the water that was dribbling into his eye.

"Aw, come on.  Don't be like that.  It wasn't that bad, was it?  Heero?"

Out in the suite, Alex had returned, and was groaning about how he'd missed out on all the fun.  The logical conclusion from that, of course, was that they ought to go shower someone else.  "I think Rob needs cheering up," Mueller declared.  "Let's go.  Duo, you in?"

Duo turned to answer him.  "Nah, I'm good, thanks.  Have fun!"  He watched them parade rowdily out the door for their next victim, but before he could get back to coaxing Heero into not hating him, arms wrapped around him from behind in a sweet, very wet hug.

"It wasn't that bad," Heero murmured into his ear.  "In fact, I think I'll do it again."  He tightened his arms and leaned back, hefting Duo's feet off the ground.

It dawned on Duo that the water was still running.  "Aw, shit.  Come on, Heero, this isn't fair!"

"Payback's always fair."

Duo tried to reach out and snag the bathroom's door frame, but Heero had gotten him around the arms and he didn't have the reach or the leverage he needed.  He'd known that Heero had a nice, firm body underneath his clothes, but he hadn't imagined such strength.  He stuck out his feet in a valiant attempt to stall things, and it worked for a while before Heero maneuvered them in and out at just the right angles to deny him any further purchase.  "Hilde~!"

The female engineer stood calmly in the frame of her own door, a towel in hand.  She'd been about to volunteer it for Heero's use, but changing circumstances caused her to simply shake her head and go back into her room to look for a second towel.

"Traitor~!" he shouted after her, sensing his imminent defeat.  It wasn't quite clear to whom he was referring.  He managed to tangle the two of them up in the shower curtain for a little while, putting off the soaking for as long as he was able to manage before Heero got them twisted out of it and under the spray.

"Maybe I'm starting to see the appeal of this," Heero said, placidly holding him captive under the water.  They were both getting thoroughly soaked, but at least they weren't alone.

"Great," Duo groused good-naturedly, trying to blink water out of his eyes.  At least his braid was protected between the two of them, even if it had inhibited his movement earlier.  "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing."

Heero's grip loosened, but he lowered his head to nibble lightly on Duo's neck, prompting the engineering student to stay right where he was.  There was something delicious about kissing in the shower, or perhaps it was more like rain since they were fully clothed.  "August," he murmured against Duo's skin.

"Hm?"  It was difficult to hear him over the sound of the shower.

"August twenty-third.  My birthday."

"Oh, now he says so.  Well, now I know when not to-- Hey, that was before school even started."

"And?" Heero prodded expectantly, smiling softly into Duo's shoulder.

"And why the hell did you have a button from Quatre on your table in October?"

Heero smirked unseen.  "It took Quatre a while to find me something, and it took me a while to add it to my decor."

"Asshole," Duo muttered affectionately.  "You could have just said so.  We don't shower summer babies.  Not for their birthdays, anyway."

"Can you please not make out in the shower?" Hilde asked loudly from the door of the bathroom.  The shower curtain had been partially drawn over the stall's entrance in their struggle, but she could still see them standing together.  "Some of us have to use that shower, you know."

Heero immediately jerked back at the sound of her voice, and Duo leapt from his grasp, pushed the curtain aside, and escaped, with Heero following close on his heels, a minor scowl on his face for having been caught during a private moment.  He hid it by turning around to shut off the water.

Duo just avoided the topic altogether.  She still didn't know exactly where their relationship stood, after all, and he had no intention of telling her.  Sometimes, he didn't even know himself.  "Hey, Hil, can we borrow those towels now?"  His front was soaked, but his back was only damp from where Heero had pressed up against him.  There were two showers in the suite bathroom, back to back and separated by curtains from an additional changing/drying area in the middle, which in turn had another curtain blocking it off from the rest of the bathroom, and they stayed standing in the middle area now to avoid getting the rest of the bathroom floor all wet.  There was a short ledge there to keep the water in, and it sloped slightly to allow the excess to run into the shower drains.

She shook her head at him again with a smug expression on her face, but she threw the towels at him anyway before going back to her room.

He handed a towel to Heero and wiped off his face with a cheerful grin.  There was always something basic and exhilarating about a successful showering, or rather, stalking, chasing, and catching of prey.  "So really.  Wasn't so bad, was it?"

Heero was leaned over trying to squeeze the water out of his hair.  "Considering the water was not freezing, and you removed my watch, shoes, and socks first, it was a rather surprisingly civilized sport."

"Yup, down to a science, it is.  Showering's supposed to be fun, after all.  School rules state we're not allowed to shower or otherwise prank anyone that's truly unwilling."  He draped his towel over the rod the shower curtain ran along and took a hold of the hem of his shirt.  After a moment's consideration, he pulled shut the front curtain of the changing area.  After a second moment's consideration, he blushed lightly, squeezed his way past Heero, and pushed him towards the dry shower stall.  "Um, I'm gonna try and wring my clothes out.  You can try over there and, umm, well, you know."  He backed into the stall they'd just occupied and tugged the curtain shut before pulling his shirt off and twisting it up, trying to ignore the sounds of Heero doing the same only a few feet away.

"Do this often?" Heero asked curiously.

What, strip to his skivvies in the shower with a really hot guy standing so very close by?  No.  But he didn't think that was what Heero was referring to.  "Um, well, not that often, and when we do, we don't usually stay under the water for more than a few seconds.  Ahem, Heero," he said pointedly.  Not that he hadn't enjoyed it.

Heero's shrug went unnoticed as he hung his shirt on the shower spigot, having decided his shirt was probably as dry as it was going to get for the moment.  It was a sunny day out, so hopefully he'd dry on his way home.  "If you can shower me simply because you felt like it, I don't see why I can't shower you because you showered me."

"And a solo showering, too."  He clamped down on his imagination when he heard the zipper of Heero's pants going down, and wasn't aided in his cause as he tried to wring his own pants out, too.  They were going to be two very wrumpled individuals when they got out.  "Not everyone can pull off a solo showering.  You're a natural, Heero."

"It's just a matter of leverage.  Aren't engineers supposed to know about these things?"

"Yes, but you're a CS major."  His statement was punctuated by the sound of water dribbling to the floor.  "You're not supposed to know anything about how the real world works."

"You must be confusing me for a physics major.  Engineers don't have a monopoly on common sense, after all."  Not that the most prominent engineer of his acquaintance displayed common sense all the time, either.

"You know, I always wanted an infinite sheet of charge.  Think you can find me one for Christmas?  Hmm, or maybe that'd take too much room to store.  I'd settle for a frictionless pulley."

"Hn.  If you want something for Christmas, you'll have to let me know.  Otherwise, like I've said before, I'm not much into gift giving, and neither are my friends."

"Except for Quatre, right?"  It was easier to shimmy back into his pants than it had been to get them off, but it still wasn't easy, nor pleasant.  "But then, don't the holidays just suck for you guys?  I mean, what are they for, if not for getting loot?"

"If we happen to run across something we think would be perfect, sure, but otherwise, we aren't ones to waste our time finding something meaningless and frivolous.  Then it's just... loot."

"Ugh, don't tell me it's the thought that counts.  And here I thought everyone had been brainwashed into the mindless commercialism of the holidays.  Well, okay, if you're just going to get me a gift certificate or something, never mind."

"Fine.  I'll keep an eye out for a frictionless pulley, but no promises."

Having gotten back into his still damp, but considerably less sodden, clothes, Duo drew his curtain back.  "Thank you."

Heero pulled his curtain back as well, then settled back against the wall as he rolled the second cuff of his pants up.  It would prevent the bottom of his pants from drying for a while, but on the plus side, it would keep his pants from sticking to his legs so much.

It didn't bother him that his shirt was still hanging on the showerhead, and truth be told, it didn't really bother Duo, either, though it did do something to him.  He bit the inside of his lip and listened to the voices in his head as they argued amongst themselves.  One camp was shouting, "It's not nice to stare," and other was insisting, "He's *my* boyfriend, dammit, I'll drool if I want to."  The result was a sort of stalemate that left him enjoying the view, but only out of the corner of his eye.

When Heero straightened and went to grab his shirt, Duo let out a low whistle.  "Ooh, that's a nice set of abs.  I thought you were a CS major.  Don't you spend a majority of your day sitting flat on your ass?"

"Yes.  Which is why I need to work out to counteract that."

"Ah.  You know, I wouldn't mind a good work out, once in a while."  He leered, but Heero didn't see it while he was pulling his shirt over his head.

"It really doesn't take much time to stay in shape.  I have a tendency to do sit-ups or something when I'm trying to figure a program out."

"Ah.  Well, I suppose that works, too."  Good ol' Heero.  Painfully naïve sometimes.  So much for innuendo.  "Then how did you get so cut, handsome?  You're not that bad at programming."

"I took up kenpo in middle school.  That's how I met Wufei, actually."

"Really?  Hell, that means you really could have kicked our asses."  He ignored Heero's inquisitive look and moved on.  "You know, I'm dying to meet this Wufei of yours.  He sounds... well, kinda like you.  Only I'm sure you're cuter."

They finally left the bathroom and endured a few friendly jibes from Hilde as they returned the towels to her with thanks.  Gathering up their stuff, they left, and Duo pulled them towards the academic side of campus so he could turn in his lab write-up.

"Wufei's got a girlfriend," Heero mentioned as they walked, taking their time to get the full benefit of the sun's rays.  Apparently people got showered often enough that they didn't rate a second glance.  Well, perhaps a third glance.  "Meiran, I think her name is.  They met this summer during his internship in DC, and it turns out that all this time, they went to the same school.  He said she'd bring her out sometime during the break.  She actually doesn't come from too far from here, either."

"Ah, so one of you turned out straight, eh?"  Duo chuckled.  "You haven't told him yet, have you?"

"Nope."

"Think he'll be surprised?"

"Startled, maybe, since it's unexpected, but I don't think surprised, really.  It's not like I've gone through a platoon of girlfriends or anything."

"Well, this'll be fun."  Truthfully, if he hadn't already met Heero's other two friends, he'd be a lot more nervous about meeting Wufei, not to mention Heero's dad.  He tried to think of it as simply fair.  For the last semester, Heero had been subjected to Duo's world; now it was Duo's turn to take the plunge into Heero's.  But then why did the whole idea still make him feel like his heart was ready to jump into his throat at a moment's notice?

"As much fun as it would be to surprise Wufei on the spot, I think I owe him at least some warning.  It'll be surprise enough, anyway.  And I'll need some time to fend Quatre off, too.  He'll be a little miffed I didn't let on any sooner."

"What about Trowa?"

"Oh, Trowa knows.  He's known since the beginning."

"Oh?"  He waved to someone he knew, easily answering to the observations that he'd suffered a showering.

Heero waited for the moment to pass.  "Yeah, I talked to him.  He needed to return a favor."

"Er, I see."

"But Quatre doesn't know he knows, or rather, we won't tell Quatre he knew, so don't tell, okay?"

"Oookay.  Whatever.  They're your friends, babe."

"Far be it from me to indulge in sentimentality, but... I hope they'll be your friends, too."

Duo laughed.  "You are such a Care Bear, babe.  First trying to get me to like my friends more, and now trying to convince me to like your friends.  You're like my own personal Grumpy Bear, yes you are."



Trowa's house had always been a good meeting place for the four of them.  When he and Heero had been friends way back in elementary school, Heero often played at his house, and when Wufei, and then Quatre joined them, the tradition simply continued.  That, and Mrs. Barton liked baking things, and who better, or easier, to feed than four growing boys?

Winter break had just started, and as soon as they had all flocked back to their respective nests and settled in, they flocked together to catch up and discuss the upcoming holidays.

"So when are you going to introduce us to Meiran?" Trowa asked Wufei.

As everyone could have anticipated, Quatre chimed in immediately.  "Oh, soon, I hope.  We've heard so much about her.  It's time we found out if she lives up to the hype."

"If I were you," Wufei retorted, "I'd be more worried about what I've told her about all of you."

"Whatever it was, it couldn't possibly be worse than the truth," Trowa drawled.

"True."

"How about, oh, next Monday?"  Quatre knew that, if he could wheedle a definite date out of him, Wufei would be bound to it.  The political science student never failed to carry through on an engagement.

Wufei snorted, merely for the fun of it.  He had every intention of bringing Meiran by some time during the break, and in fact, they had already discussed it, but that didn't mean he would just give in.  "Yuy, isn't it your job to bear the brunt of his nagging?"

"Hey, he nagged me all summer.  It's your turn, now."  Despite all their moans and complaints about it, they all knew Quatre's nagging was just for fun, too.  It gave them something to do, like a game of conversational hot potato.

"I'll tell you what," Wufei proposed, thinking he'd found a way to transfer Quatre's attention to someone else.  "I'll bring a date next time if Heero brings a date."

"Aw, that's no fair," Quatre whined playfully.  "What are the chances I can get that to happen?  I already tried setting him up once."

"Fine," Heero agreed with a deceptively even tone, tucking his amused smile far, far away from everyone's sight.

"And we all saw-- what?"

"I said, 'fine.'  I'll bring a date.  If Wufei brings one, of course."  Two sets of eyes blinked at him, and Trowa figured he'd better join in before someone noticed he was the odd man out, so soon there were three.  Trowa would have been a little happier if Heero had given him the time to put some money down on the possibility first, though.

Quatre broke out his inevitable sunny smile.  "Have you finally met someone, Heero?"  He grabbed Trowa's arm and shook it back in forth in excitement.

"A date?" Wufei reiterated, trying to get his facts straight.  He had been nearly convinced of his friend's asexuality.  "As in, a real date?  Not just some random person?  Someone you actually have an interest in?"

It was so much more fun to play with them than to provide straight answers.  "How would you define 'interest'?"

"Classmate?" Trowa interjected.  Might as well move things along while he maintained his cover.

Heero cast him an amused look, but answered.  "Yes."

"So who made the first move?" Quatre had to ask, finding it necessary to confirm that hell had not quite frozen over just yet.

"If it was me, then the world must have fallen off its axis while no one was looking."  Of course, technically, though Duo had first proposed the change in their relationship, Heero had been the one to initiate the physical side of things, but only after Duo had been working his mind tricks on him, so it could still be reasonably said that Duo made the first move.

"Are you going to tell us the rest, or are you just waiting for us to beat the details out of you?"  It had never been conclusively established who was the better fighter, but Wufei took it more seriously, and that was gauge enough for him.  Friendly competition was a cornerstone of their relationship.

Heero turned to him.  "Well, you remember when Trowa met Quatre?"

"Of course."

"Well... I 'met' Duo."

One black eyebrow rose in comprehension and curiosity.  "...Ah.  You, too?"

"So it seems."

"Hn."  And thus was the extent of Wufei's reaction.  With Heero's simple three-word explanation, he had really managed to convey a good deal of nuance about his relationship with this Duo character.  He wouldn't have phrased it like that if there hadn't been a number of striking similarities.

It took a little longer for Quatre's shock to wear off, and then he finally reacted.  "Duo?  Duo-from-this-summer Duo?"

"It's not a very common name, Quatre."

"That Duo?  Since when?"

"Oh... it's hard to say," he answered vaguely.  Their relationship had progressed gradually enough that they seemed to have simply slipped from one state to the next.  If he had to choose something, he'd probably just go with something indefinite like 'around when school started', but he didn't have to choose anything right now.  "There was something brewing between us for a while."

"But, like, not when we met him, right?"

"No.  After that."

"Phew.  Still.  Why didn't you say anything?"

"I'm saying something now."

Trowa put a comforting hand on Quatre's shoulder.  "Now, Quatre.  You know if you keep on going like this, Heero's only going to infuriate you.  Just let it go."

"But--"

"Let it go."

"So I assume they've already met him?" Wufei asked at this point.

Heero nodded.  "When they visited this summer, he was there."

"Hmm, yes.  If it's Duo-from-this-summer, I think they may have mentioned him."  He took a brief moment to consider whether or not he was bothered by being the only straight one in the bunch.  He decided he wasn't.  The two of them may have managed to end up with boyfriends, but they were hardly gay.  They were just Heero and Trowa, who had attitudes that generally transcended inconsequential things like gender, prevalent morality, or societal norms.  If they'd found their complements in women, they probably would have been straight like he was.  "You know, I think I was more surprised by Trowa.  You never did seem to get along with the ladies very well."

"...I don't know whether to be amused or offended."

"He never got along with anyone very well," Trowa pointed out dryly.

"Hn.  Amused.  Definitely amused."



Heero blinked as Duo brushed by him to greet Quatre and meet the others for the first time.  He didn't quite know what he'd expected, but for having not seen each other for a week, he'd expected a little more than a casual, 'hey, what's up?'

"Something wrong?"  Trowa's soft voice interrupted his reverie.

"Hm."  He looked contemplatively at the others as they chatted.  "Maybe."

"Do you need some time?"

After a moment's delay, he shook his head.  "No, it's probably just nerves or something.  I'll corner him later."  Further observation and gathering of evidence would be necessary before he could come to any definite conclusions.

They went over to join the others in the living room.  Meiran and Wufei had taken the loveseat, and Quatre the three-seater couch, while Duo had selected the armchair.  Trowa sat next to his boyfriend, and after very little deliberation, Heero was left to perch himself on the armrest of Duo's chair.  As they went over some basic background information, Heero stayed mostly silent and simply listened and studied the shifting group dynamic.

Meiran seemed to have a quick wit and sharp intelligence, just what he might have expected from anyone Wufei chose.  She was lively and animated, and unsurprisingly appeared to be getting along with Duo and Quatre just fine.  Of course, those two never had a problem getting along with anyone.

Duo was answering most of the questions involving their relationship.  Heero was a little gratified to hear him keeping most of his answers vague or general, ambiguous and even slightly misleading at times.  If his friends really wanted to know the details, he'd fill them in later in a more cozy discussion, not this open forum dedicated to the mere laying of foundation.

But there was an odd tone to Duo's demeanour, both familiar and not, and it took Heero a little while to place it.  It had been a while since he'd last been subjected to it, but eventually he recognized it as the ready smile and easy-going evasions that Duo used when dealing with the market's customers.  Perhaps it was as he thought, and Duo was simply nervous about being with all of Heero's friends, causing him to revert to the affected personality.  Thinking to maybe put him more at ease, Heero laid a hand upon his shoulder, fingers stretching forth to brush lightly along the back of his neck.  The touch was accepted for about half a minute before Duo leaned forward to make a point of some sort, and his hand was left behind.  Heero's frown manifested itself only as a mere tightening of his brows, but he dismissed it as coincidence.

And later, when they were gathered around the TV watching a movie, and Heero leaned his arm against Duo's, and Duo got up to refresh the popcorn bowl, that was coincidence, too.

And when everyone was getting ready to leave, except Heero since it was his house and Duo since he was staying for dinner, and they were all standing around near the front door finishing up their conversations, and Meiran left something in the living room but Duo volunteered to go back to get it, and he came back and handed it to her and stayed standing by her side instead of going back to Heero's side... was that coincidence, too?

After everyone was gone, Heero invited Duo up to his room.  It could have been his imagination, but he thought it looked like Duo glanced around the foyer they were standing in trying to come up with a reason to refuse.  Heero didn't wait for it.  He just started up the stairs, and Duo had to follow.

When they got up to his room, Heero let Duo precede him and watched critically as Duo took it all in.  He hadn't had much time earlier to observe Heero's decor.  Much of Heero's grumpy paraphernalia had been transplanted to his apartment, but not all of it.  Duo wandered over to the bookshelf and studied the titles.  It was an interesting mix of classics, science fiction, fantasy, and academic texts, and he made the appropriate comments regarding Heero's reading preferences.

Heero sat down on the edge of his bed by his pillows and waited, listening to Duo make his observations and his jokes.  It all sounded very natural, and he supposed he would think nothing of it, if only they weren't in the relationship they were in, and the day hadn't passed the way it had.  Eventually, Duo ran out of things he could say about the books without sounding like he was babbling, so he turned around and leaned on the edge of the bookshelf.

"Have a seat," Heero invited, not indicating a seating surface, but quite conscious of all the extra space available on his bed.  Duo sat down in the chair at his desk, swivelling it around so he could straddle it backwards, and Heero sighed.  He was not looking forward to this, but enough was enough.  As much as he despised these 'we have to talk' situations, there were times it was a necessary evil.  He decided against dancing around the topic since Duo could undoubtably dance circles around him given the opportunity, so he just went ahead and said it.

"You know, I thought at first that maybe you were just nervous about hanging out with everyone.  And that would explain why you had that whole customer thing going all afternoon, but it wouldn't explain the rest.  It doesn't explain why you pulled away from me or brushed me off at least half a dozen times today."

"What are you talking about?" Duo asked with a quizzical look and a short laughing sound.

His manner was so easy-going, as it had been all day, and it would have been so simple to get taken in by it.  He knew better.  "I think you hit it off with everyone today, not that there was any doubt.  You were perfectly friendly to everyone."

Duo cocked his head to one side.  "Well, uh, great.  You've got good friends, Heero."

"Including me."

"Huh?"

"You were perfectly friendly, even to me.  And I mean 'friendly' in a 'just friends' kind of way.  In a 'rejected all signs of intimacy' kind of way."

"Oh."  Duo laughed.  "Well, I didn't want to embarrass you in front of your friends or anything.  I wasn't sure what you wanted to show them, so I figured better safe than sorry, right?  I didn't mean anything by it."

"Well, that's very considerate of you, but if I initiated the actions, don't you think I'd be comfortable with them?"

"You weren't comfortable the first time you kissed me, but you did it anyway."

"I was comfortable enough to be ready for it."

"What are you trying to say here, Heero?"  A puzzled expression adorned his face.

Or perhaps the best defense was a good offense.  Heero couldn't be certain if he was simply denying things, or if he was actually in full denial.  "Why are you sitting all the way over there?"

Duo blinked down at his seat, as if realizing just where he was for the first time.  "Well, I guess it was just the closest seat to where I was."

Since he made no effort to get up and correct the situation, Heero invited him to do so.  "It's not like you have to cross an obstacle course to get over here."

He shrugged.  "Fine.  Whatever."  He stood, pushed the chair back, and sauntered over to seat himself at the foot of the bed.

"Duo..."

"What?"  He said it like he was tolerating it with good humor, not like he was expecting anything to actually be wrong.

"I've only been gone a week."

"And?"

"And... what happened during that week?"

"Oh."  There was an unspoken 'is that all?' tacked onto the end of that simple word.  "Well, you know, nothing much.  Finally catching up on some sleep now that finals are over.  Of course, with Howie getting up in the morning to open the store anyway, I can't sleep in all that much, but--"

"Duo."

"Hm?"

He had to be playing dumb.  There was no way that absolutely nothing was wrong with this situation.  "...What the hell is going on here?"  He pushed forward before Duo could dissemble again with some more meaninglessness.  "It's just us, now.  No more using my friends as an excuse.  First, you come in here and don't sit down like you're not planning on staying, then you sit down about as far away from me as you can, and then I get you to sit on the bed and you're still sitting about as far away from me as you can."

"I said--"

"And during the movie?  I guess you had to sit next to me then or else it would have looked rather suspicious, but every time I tried to touch you somehow, you'd move away.  Get some more popcorn, go to the bathroom, just plain fidgeting, whatever."

"Sounds like coincid--"

"And before the movie?  When we were all sitting in the living room getting to know each other, and you just happened to choose the only single-seater in the entire room?"

"Someone's feeling a little sensitive today."  Now the defensive edge was definitely present in his tone, but Heero was beyond caring now.

"And before that, when you first got here, and you practically just brushed me off without even, I don't know, a hello kiss or something?"

"Aw, is that what this is all about?"  Oh yeah, the mocking tone meant he was irritated beyond doubt now.  "An itty bitty kiss?  Fine."  He crawled over the intervening space between the two of them to rectify the situation, pinned Heero against his pillows, and kissed him roughly.

It was not the sort of kiss Heero would have wanted to respond to.  It was harsh and invasive and not at all what they were used to.  He got his hands on Duo's shoulders and pushed him back.  Duo yielded easily, as if he hadn't wanted to be there in the first place.

"Excuse me," Heero said flatly, rolling out from under his boyfriend and leaving the room for a minute.  When he came back, his expression was neutral as he shut the door securely behind him and stood in front of it.  "You know," he started conversationally.  "I thought for sure that one of the benefits of having a boyfriend was not having to put up with all the goddamn moodiness."

Duo's eyes narrowed immediately, not particularly liking the implications of that statement.

"Look, if I did something, or something happened, just tell me.  You know I'm too inept to figure it out on my own.  Don't just sit there playing games with me."

"Inept?" Duo scoffed, leaning back casually against the pillows near which he had stayed.  "You are many things, Heero, but inept is not one of them."

There was a pause in their exchange and it soon became clear that Duo felt the ball was back in Heero's court, but as evasions went, it wasn't very good, and Heero pointed it out.  "You're playing games with me."

"Get over yourself, Heero.  What, did you think that after a week, I'd be suffering from withdrawal or something?  That I'd leap into your arms and not let you go for the rest of the day?"

"Of course not.  I expected something a little more similar to what's been going on for the last few months, though.  Is that so unreasonable?"

Something dark flittered across Duo's face in the subsequent silence, and the evasions and denials stopped as if a switch had been flipped.  "You ever think this was all a mistake?"

"No."  It was aggressive in its simplicity.  He carefully did not ask what Duo thought, though it may have been obvious.  He did not want to hear the answer.

Their staring match continued as they continued their terse exchange.  "I changed my mind."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"  Duo obviously hadn't changed his mind about his confrontational stance.

"This isn't turning out how I thought it would."

"Oh?  And just how did you think it would turn out?"

"Not like this."

There was something ominously significant about the unhelpful way Duo was answering his questions, but Heero just couldn't figure out what.  "What did you want instead?"

"Something else.  This isn't where I want to be in life right now."

"So things aren't going the way you expected, so you think you can just... 'change your mind'?"  Duo shouldn't have phrased it like a fit of whimsy.  Heero could get peeved by whimsy.

"Why not?" Duo shrugged glibly.  "You make a mistake, you try to unmake it."

"No, you try to fix it.  There's a difference."

"Then consider this me trying to fix it."

"And just what is it you think needs fixing?"  He had a feeling this situation was getting out of control, but there was no stopping it.  The mistake that was this conversation could not be undone.

Duo said nothing aloud, but his stony silence spoke for him.

"What are we talking about, Duo?  Our relationship?  What is it you want to fix--"  No, that wasn't what Duo had said, not at first.  He didn't come into this planning to 'fix' their relationship.  Heero's eyes widened in terrible realization, pushing himself away from the door to stand abruptly upright.  "You want to unmake it.  You just want to... to end this?  That's it?  No explanations, no reasons, nothing.  Just an end?"

Again, his silence was affirmation enough.

A daze threatened to overwhelm Heero's mind, but then it froze and shattered.  "No," he breathed, just to see if he could.  When he was sure of it, he took a step forward and said it again more loudly.  "No, I won't let you."

Duo stared at him as if he was out of his mind.  "You won't let me?  Who the hell do you think you are, Yuy?  You don't have a choice in the matter."

"I think I do," he retorted immediately, without really figuring out what recourse was left to him.  "I don't know what you think you're doing, but you don't--"

"Fine," Duo cut him off sharply.  "You believe whatever you want to believe, Heero, but I don't want to do this any more.  The end.  Now, if you'll excuse me."  He rose gracefully to his feet and stalked towards the door, shoulder almost bumping into Heero's as he reached behind him for the doorknob.

Before he could open the door widely enough for him to pass, Heero's hand rose and prevented it from opening any further.  "This is not over.  Not to me, it's not."

Duo stiffened, but didn't look at him.  "I'll show myself out, thank you."  He jerked the door open, and in the slack the action gained him, slipped out through the crack.  The door swung shut behind him.

Once he was out of sight, Heero shut his eyes and took a deep breath, his head spinning in its effort to figure this out.  What the hell had just happened?  He stood in blank shock until he heard the sound of Duo's car door shutting with a frighteningly solid thud that made Heero flinch.

They did not just break up.  That was impossible.  Break ups were preceded by signs, indicators, growing distances, thrown objects, extrarelational affairs... not a quiet week of winter vacation.  He reached towards the door before remembering he had heard Duo drive away.  Just to make sure, he walked quickly over to his window and confirmed that the old car was no longer parked by the curb in front of his house.

Crap.  Should he follow?  No, Duo's lead was too small.  If he noticed Heero following, he could do something rash to try and get away.  He didn't like feeling trapped.  No, wait, Duo didn't know what his car looked like, so conceivably, Heero could tail him all the way back to the market without getting caught.

Argh, why was he even thinking like this?  It was starting to sound like some stupid game of cops and robbers.  Maybe Heero would just call him when he got home.  Of course, then it would be too easy for Duo to either not answer, or brush him off.  Maybe Heero could hope Howard would pick up the phone?  Duo wouldn't be able to brush him off if Howard was standing next to him.  Unless Howard was in on this.  But even then, the older man was much more likely to be rational enough to give Heero the answers he wanted, only Heero wanted the answers from Duo.  This was not going to be settled through a third party.

As he ran through the scenarios in his head, one thing became clear: Duo would not be receptive to anything he said until some time had passed.  Emotions were running too high on both sides of the fence to expect anything productive to come from further discussion of the matter now.  That was easily inferred from the way their recent conversation had gotten absolutely nowhere.  Though he wished this situation had never come to pass, Heero found himself shamefully glad that Duo had walked out the door.  It granted him a desperately needed temporary reprieve for him to get his head back on straight before they talked again.  His brain was demanding time for an objective analysis.  Had they kept on going, Heero had the unpleasant feeling that the only paths left to them would be bad and worse.  Hopefully, Duo would be a little more cooperative by then as well.

He threw himself down on his bed and stared at his ceiling.  Dammit, Yuy, think!  What just happened, and what am I going to do about it?




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