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fic - the best laid plans - part 4 [novella] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
turnippatch
turnippatch
fic - the best laid plans - part 4 [novella]
Title:  The Best Laid Plans
Part:  4



The Best Laid Plans
Part 4


With a phone to his own ear, Quatre held another cordless phone out to his boyfriend and imperiously gestured that he take it.  Trowa sighed dramatically, accepted it, and switched it on to listen in on the impending conversation.  Two more rings sounded before Quatre frowned.  "Maybe he's not home?  It never takes him this long to answer the--"

"Hello?"  The voice sounded like its owner had hurried to catch the phone before the machine did.  It was a bright, baritone sort of sound, and completely not what Quatre had been expecting to hear.

"Uh, Heero?  I'm sorry, do I--"

"--have the wrong number?" the stranger's voice finished cheerily.  "Nope, this is the Yuy residence.  Duo speaking.  How can I help you?"

Ah.  Curious.  He cast Trowa a significant look.  In the background, they could hear a third party speak.  "Duo, give me the phone."  Now there was a familiar sound.

"Hey, Duo.  It's Quatre and Trowa."

"Go away," Duo muttered distantly to Heero before talking to them again.  "Hey, Quatre!  Trowa there, too?  Long time no see.  How's it goin'?"

"We're doing just fine, Duo.  And you?"

"Not bad, Q, not bad.  Hey, I gotta tell ya, I hear you're responsible for a good bit of Heero's decor here?  Loving it."

"Thank you.  Heero's easy to shop for, if you know what to look for."

"I'll keep that in mind."

Quatre gave Trowa another look, communicating silently his wonder at the implication that Duo might be friendly enough to be buying Heero presents.  Trowa looked right back at him, managing to convey his belief that Quatre was reading too much into that one innocuous statement.  Quatre stuck his tongue out at him and continued.  "So what are you two doing over there?"

"Hm?  Oh, I'm going to force feed him some of my famous lasagna.  I haven't had the opportunity to make it lately.  Me and my uncle kinda get sick of it after a while, since I make a whole panful -- kinda not worth it to make just a little, you know -- so it's kinda nice having someone to foist off a bit of it on.  Heh, I don't even have to cook the whole thing all by myself, this time."

"You're cooking it over at his place?"

"Yup.  He was draining noodles, so he couldn't come to the phone."

"Well, I'm done now," Heero's voice sounded.  "Give me the phone."

As the two bickered over the phone, one teasing and one, well, teasing but in a serious, 'I might kill you if you don't cooperate with me' sort of way, Quatre threw his boyfriend another arch look and whispered to him, softly so the others wouldn't hear.  "They're rather chummy, don't you think?  And you said I was meddling."

"You -were- meddling," Trowa answered calmly.

"Well, you said it like it was a bad thing.  I mean, come on!  They're cooking for each other.  Ordering pizza's one thing, but--"

"Hello."

"Oh, hey Heero.  I'm sorry, is this not a good time?"

"It's fine.  Duo's just going to finish his lasagna."

"Yeah, thanks for the help, buddy!" Duo called loudly.  "See if I give you any, then."

"Wasn't the whole point of this little exercise to give some to me?" Heero asked dryly.  The others missed Duo's reaction.  "So, calling to check up on me again?"

"We tried calling yesterday afternoon, but you weren't in."

"Yesterday?  I was probably still at Duo's then."

Oho, wasn't that a fine thing to hear?  Quatre smiled.  "Well, we have to make sure you're still alive out there, but it seems that now you've got someone else to take care of that...?"

Heero snorted, both at the insinuation, and at his friend's fishing for details.  "He tends to do or decide things involving me whether or not he actually gets a response from me, so I don't know how good he is for that."

The blonde beamed again.  It sounded like there was a promising pattern of behavior here.  "So how long has this been going on?"

"What's 'this'?"

"Hey, Heero, open this for me."  Duo was presumably handing him a jar or bottle or something for their dinner.

"You sell it, you open it," Heero responded away from the phone's receiver.

"You bought it, you open it."

"I didn't buy it."

"Well, you brought it home."

"Technically, you brought it here."

"Oooh!"

Quatre smirked some more at Trowa.  'Very chummy,' he mouthed loudly.  Trowa just rolled his eyes.  When it finally sounded like he had Heero's attention again, he answered the question.  "-That- would be a good example of 'this'."

"Hn.  He just sort of followed me home one day."

"Puppy love!" he whispered sotto voce.  Trowa poked him.  "Well, I'm glad to see you're making friends, Heero."

"Trowa, are you there?"

"Hm."

"Hit him for me."

"Hey!"

"I'm not in kindergarten, Quatre.  I've complied with your demands.  Doesn't that mean you can stop pestering me now?"

"Demands?  You're not doing this for me, are you, Heero?"  He didn't think Heero would go so far just to satisfy his friends, but he couldn't quite be sure.  Sometimes there was a downside to having friends that were faithful and reliable.

"...No.  I suppose not."

Quatre pumped his fist in triumph.  Trowa pushed it back down again.  "Do you guys go out and do things together?"

"...'Out'?  You mean, like, out?  Out there?"

"...That had better be a joke, Yuy."  Trowa snickered.  "But in case it isn't, yes, I mean out there.  Geez.  Since my next natural inclination would be to say, you really need to get out more, I'm going to go ahead and assume that that means no, you don't go out and do things."

"Alright."

"...You're infuriating, you know that?"  Trowa patted his arm in consolation.

"So I've been told."  To the side, he directed Duo to where the pan was.

Quatre sighed and just accepted it.  "Well, to each his own.  I guess the most important thing is that you're enjoying yourself.  Are you having fun, Heero?"

Duo's voice rang out in a muffled curse.  "'Fun' is a subjective term," Heero answered blandly.  He asked if his visitor needed any help.  Since he didn't seem to be occupied with something, Quatre could only assume Duo had refused.

"Alright."  He was catching onto things now.  "If you won't give me any good subjective answers, I'll just have to pester you for objective answers.  So how many hours have you spent with him in the last week?"

A pause as Heero added up the hours in his head.  At least he was willing to do that much.  "Nine?  Or thereabouts."

The blonde bounced a bit in his place.  That was a very impressive number, considering they claimed to have never gone out anywhere, and that Heero had class and Duo worked for his uncle.  "So what do you guys do?  Just... hang out?  Cook?"

"Fix.  Sample.  Shelve.  Move.  Talk."

"Hopefully with something a little more impressive than one word sentences, Heero," he chided, although the shrug he was sure Heero was engaged in was almost tangible across the line.  "Now, just unbend enough to satisfy my curiosity just a little bit more, and I'll let you get back to your guest.  You think you'll keep this up?"

"Inertia is a powerful force, if nothing else."  That was typical Heero, once again shying away from admitting any signs of affection.  Quatre would take that as the 'yes' it was.

"Well, keep on inerting, then.  Heck, build up a little momentum, even.  I mean it, okay?  So tell Duo we said good-bye.  I hope we can all get together sometime.  We'll have to drag Wufei along, too, when he's back in town."

"I will.  Good-bye, Quatre.  You, too, Trowa."

"Bye~!" Duo's voice carried across the apartment and over the line, making Quatre smile.

After they hung up, Quatre sniffled.  "Aw, our little Heero's all grown up now, Trowa."  Trowa pulled him into a hug and gave him a few pats on the back.  "I think Duo will be very good for him."



"Hey, done already?  Maybe we should get your boytoy to help out more often, then."

Duo gave his uncle a vicious glare before setting the last flattened box aside.  "Howie..."  It sounded something like a warning growl.

"Oh, sorry," Howard said completely non-contritely.  "Your not-boyfriend, then."

"You're making me cross."

"Well, if you'd just be a normal person, you wouldn't be cross."

"And since when have you ever encouraged me to be normal?"  He picked up the stack of cardboard and started carrying it to the back of the store.

Howard followed.  "Since you started... this!  We agreed that you like him, right?"

"Yeah, so?"

"Just making sure I still have all my facts straight.  'Cuz I'm still not getting this whole 'you're not gonna do anything about that' thing."

Duo heaved a sigh that was a prayer for patience.  "That's it right there.  I'm not gonna do anything about it.  Can't get more simple than that, right?"

"So you've determined that he's straight and you can't convert him?"

He snickered.  "'Convert'?  Geez.  No, that's not it.  He'd be open to it."  He declined to continue until Howard reached forth and tugged on his braid, although Howard would have claimed that, rather than a demand, it had been a signal to stop so he could kindly open the back door for his wonderful nephew, which he did.  "You never encouraged me to be normal, but you did encourage me to make my decisions and stick with them, and that's what I'm doing."

"But why did you make your decision in the first place?"  The force of Howard's gaze was not particularly diluted by the protective barrier of his sunglasses, but Duo had long since become immune to them anyway.

"'Cuz I don't wanna get involved with someone right now."  It seemed he had said this before.  He just thought it was self-explanatory.  Forget the boyfriends, forget the romance, forget the disappointment, forget the letdowns, and just concentrate on what was important right now.  He didn't want to deal with people that didn't live up to their hype anymore.  He was tired of people looking to him to show them a good time.  And he was getting upset with people that kept questioning his priorities.

"But you like him."  More than he had ever liked anybody, according to his confession.  He freely admitted that he'd never been very interested in any of the other guys he'd dated.  Howard could understand if that scared the kid off a bit, but that should have just been hesitation, not iron-clad decisiveness, unless that was what had inspired this misguided insanity in the first place.

"I made a decision," Duo repeated sternly.  "I'm gonna stick with it.  I'm not gonna just drop it for the first pretty face that happens to come my way."

"If he was just a pretty face, I wouldn't even be discussing this with you."

If only Howard would disapprove, he'd have a much easier time of this.  He would have thought that, of all people, Howard would have understood.  Howard was pretty high up there on his list of priorities.  "So I like him.  Big deal."

Howard lowered his shades just so he could stare at his nephew over their rims.  "Big deal?  Big deal?!"

Duo shrugged and left the backroom.  "Just because I don't want to ask him out, doesn't mean I can't hang out with him or anything.  I mean, he's right there, and blissfully oblivious.  And really, what are the chances that he'll ever find someone that I'll be jealous of?  I mean, no offense to him and all, but geez.  He's about as approachable as a porcupine."

"You got through to him.  Maybe someone else will be able to.  Don't take him for granted, kiddo.  You shouldn't do that in general, and if you've only had him around for a little less than a summer, you really shouldn't do that."

He ruthlessly crushed the seedling of worry that tried to poke its head through the fertile soil of his mind.  All the more reason not to get involved, if he wasn't going to be around reliably.  He recalled Quatre saying something about Heero's reliability, but he swept that under the rug, too.  This wasn't a part of the plan, so it had no place here.  "Look, I don't need him to like me back or anything.  Things are fine the way they are."  Really.  Yup, really.  Not part of the plan.  Not gonna do it.  Maybe if he said it enough times, he'd start believing it with every last fiber of his being.  Maybe.  "It's like seeing something in a window that you really want, but there's no room in your budget for it.  It'd be pretty stupid to go ahead and buy it anyway, don't you think?"

The electronic door chime sounded and two sets of eyes automatically zoomed in on the mirrors to inspect their guest.  Duo moved off to intercept with his customer's grin back on his face, effectively ending their conversation.  "Hey there, Mr. Mueller.  How are you doing today?"

Howard shook his head.  "You're budgeting too tight, kid."



It came to Heero out of the blue that he hadn't felt that niggling vein of discontent in his life for quite some time now.  Well, this was different.  He had become quite accustomed to his pleasant state of ennui.  It was almost unnerving to find that he'd fallen out of it somewhere along the way.

His schoolwork was done, his dinner consumed, his kitchen cleaned, so he laid down on his bed with Grumpy Bear to reflect on his life and try to pinpoint the transition.  It probably wouldn't make a difference, but he liked knowing these things.

He reviewed the regular events of his day to see if he couldn't find something that might account for this unusual turn of events.  He got up in the morning with the same amount of sleep that he normally got.  His sleep was as restful as it ever was.  His morning routine had remained undisturbed for years.  He left for class the same time he had at the beginning of the summer, and got to class at the same time as well.  He was used to having either no thoughts at all or deep and morose thoughts during his trips to and from campus, but he really couldn't recall any morose thoughts he'd had in recent days.  Well, that was a symptom, not a cause, so no help to be found in the first hour of his day.

He went to his classes.  Still found them about as uninteresting as ever.  They were, after all, classes he'd had to take to satisfy his requirements and 'catch up' to where a third year student ought to be.  Some of the material overlapped things he'd already learnt.  Could he be relieved now that an end was in sight?  No, the whole miserable cycle would probably begin again, come fall semester.  It wasn't until he got to the upper division classes that he would have room to enjoy himself.  His level of interaction with his fellow students had remained constant.  He hadn't become attached to any of them, really, although most of them didn't seem too bad a bunch to be acquainted with.

Class was let out on time, as usual, and then he walked back to his apartment.  Sometimes along the way he'd stop by the market as he had since the first day and pick up some groceries.  Duo would be inanely cheerful at him--

No, wait, that wasn't quite right anymore, now was it?  No, somehow, some time, he'd managed to fall into a pit of friendship with the lively store clerk, and a quick review of the rest of his day showed nothing significant enough to undermine the working theory that Duo was somehow responsible for this change in his mood.

Hmmm, Duo.  Now there was an interesting character.  He wasn't the kind of friend that Heero was accustomed to.  While it was possible that Howard was simply slipping something mind-altering into his produce, Heero went ahead and discarded that notion as unnecessarily complicated.  No, there was just something very... 'Duo' about Duo.  He'd managed to inveigle Heero into doing all sorts of things he never thought he'd be doing, like... like... wow, was he actually dropping by the store to chat with Duo about nothing relevant at all?  Did he actually feel that Howard's had become something of a home away from home?

Well, this was unprecedented.  The situation reminded him faintly of Trowa's, when he first met Quatre.  They had all been surprised when the two of them had become a cohesive unit.  Quatre was so very different from Trowa, and from Heero and Wufei as well.  Who knew that they would be so complementary?  Yes, in that way, Heero found himself in a set of circumstances quite like Trowa and Quatre's....

Trowa and Quatre...

He blinked several times at the ceiling, cogitated, then turned his head to look Grumpy in the eye.  "What do you think?"

'I think you should call Trowa.'

"You're right."  He stood up to do just that, not quite sure what was more disturbing: that he was talking to a Care Bear, or that the Care Bear was talking back.  Well, that was an issue for another day.  One thing at a time.

"Hello?"

"Trowa?"

"Heero."

"Busy?"

"No."

"Good."  Pleasantries quickly disposed of, Heero got to the point.  "I've come to a horrible realization tonight, Trowa."

"Oh?"

"We're terribly alike, aren't we?"

"I'm sorry to hear that."

He smiled briefly.  "I was curious to find out just how alike we are."

"I'm listening."

He sat back down on his bed with Grumpy.  Maybe if he couldn't figure out how to explain himself, Grumpy might prompt him.  "I've met this person that's very unlike me, and yet I've somehow managed to bond with him."

"Ah."  That was less of an acknowledgment sound and more of a 'I've completely grasped the situation as you have relayed it' sound.  "Duo."

"Aa."  That was an affirmative.  "I thought perhaps you might be able to assist me in this matter."

"Did you think there was a checklist?"

"I suppose that's too much to ask?"

"I didn't get one," he pointed out without rancor.  "Why should you?"

"But I helped you."

"That you did."  Yes, Trowa had also been blindsided by a bouncy ball of energy, and Heero had had the pleasure of helping him figure out just what hit him.  It was time to return the favor.  "So... Have you given this much thought yet?"

"Some.  I thought I'd better get some outside input before I overanalyzed it to death."

"Ah.  Do you want it to be one or the other?"

"Either is fine."  They were both about the same, in his mind.  Either way, Duo had already filled the empty niche in his life that had been waiting patiently for so long.  The only reason a romantic relationship might disturb him was that he, Heero Yuy, would be the one engaged in it.  The fact that he was even contemplating the possibility of it was already out of character for him.  Of course, the mere friendship itself was somewhat jarring as well.

"Is he... special?  Different from the rest of us?"

Special... Well, he was certainly different, and not simply in temperament.  That much was obvious.  Just look at what sort of behavior he had managed to wring out of Heero, and without even trying, no less.  In the end, he would have to say, Duo was different in not displeasing ways, so that probably fit the definition of 'special'.  "Yes."

"Hm.  Can you tell me why?  Or perhaps 'how' would be easier."

Indeed.  Easier, but not easy.  "I don't know if it's just that his nature is simply different from yours.  But if I can overcome all of those surface differences that would normally turn me away, and still enjoy his company as much as I would yours, that seems rather special, don't you think?"

"'As much as'.  But in the same way?"

"No.  We're... we're quiet.  Calm.  He's... lively.  If what we have is... a steady, reliable thing, he's more... refreshing.  Uplifting.  Both good, but differently."  It was hard trying to explain these things, wasn't it?  Hopefully he wouldn't have to do it too often.  And it wasn't quite embarrassing to be discussing his relationship with Trowa to Trowa himself, but it did seem somewhat awkward.  They weren't people that really discussed such things, nor thought such things important, but now it was necessary.  His relationship with Duo was too difficult to explain or think about on its own; it helped to do so by comparison, especially in trying to determine how Duo differed from his other relationships.

"Hm, that increases the possibility of, but does not confirm.  How often do you think about him?"  Some of these questions were sounding familiar, but if he had asked them the first time, and Trowa found them to be relevant now, then they had probably been good questions.

"Often?  That's difficult to quantify... but I think... more than I would expect.  I think I think about him sometimes for no good reason at all."  For a person that had reasons for almost everything, this was special indeed.

"Promising.  I suppose the obvious question I forgot to ask would be whether or not you lust after his body."

"Really, Trowa.  Can you imagine me lusting after anything?"

"Well, he'd have to be pretty darn special for that, I'll give you that much.  But if things were that simple, you probably wouldn't be calling.  Have you thought about that, though?  The physical side of things?"

"I don't have much to think about, being that I'm pretty unfamiliar with the details of what that might involve.  But... I don't think it would be unpleasant.  He has good hygiene, and appears to be in good health.  That's about all I can say."  He thought about that one time Duo had been rubbing lotion into the skin of the back of his hand.  That had been sort of distracting, though not in a bad or uncomfortable way.  But if it had been someone else, he thought it would probably have been distracting in a bad or uncomfortable way.

"Hm, definite pluses.  There aren't any silly extenuating circumstances that I should know about, are there?  Like, him being straight?"

"Nope."

"Doesn't already have a boyfriend?"

"Nope."

"Your family has no blood feud with his?"

"Not that I know of."

"He snore?"

"No clue."

"Criminal record that might cause him to flee the country?"

"Not that I know of.  ...You know, I found out he goes to LIT, too.  He's an engineering major."

"And he's intelligent, too.  So he'll be around, and you'll probably see each other.  Might even have classes with him."

Heero used to have a problem with him being something other than just 'the guy at the market'.  Luckily, he'd gotten over that, or them being classmates might just pose a problem for him.  "When he told me... I think I was glad to hear it."

"Huh."  That one sound managed to communicate in a concise little package the degree to which Trowa was impressed.  Even Heero was rather impressed.  "Well, if you're this open to a different sort of relationship with him, which, to my knowledge, has never happened before, I'd probably have to say that, if you chose to pursue it, it'd probably work out well.  But I also think you'll be fine if you don't choose to walk that path.  In the end, it's up to you."

"No suggestions?"  It said something that Heero was asking.

"It's up to you," Trowa repeated.  "But if I had to suggest something, I'd say, take your time, try and see what he thinks.  No point in worrying about it if he's not even interested.  Of course, if you wanted to convince him that he was interested then, well, that's a whole other story."

Heero ran a hand tiredly through his hair.  "Quatre will be ecstatic, won't he?"

"Forget about Quatre.  I'll keep him off your back, if it comes to that.  You're the one that's going to have to live with your decisions.  Choose wisely.  But as dire as that sounds, Heero, remember: whatever you choose, it's not going to kill you."

"And what doesn't kill me makes me stronger?"  He let out a dry chuckle, then a sigh.  "Thanks, Trowa.  I mean that."

"If you need anything else..."

"Now that you mention it, can you do me one more favor?"

"Don't worry.  I won't tell him."

"Thanks."

After they said their good-byes, Heero put the phone down, laid back, and stared at Grumpy, who chose to sit complacently on Heero's tummy.  Eventually Heero rolled over on his side with Grumpy in his arms and, after a few moments of careful consideration, decided that it was rather comfy.  Then he tried to imagine that the bear was another human being, or more specifically, that the bear was Duo.  To his surprise, he could.  And it was still rather comfy.

"What do you think, Grumpy?"

He fancied he heard the response, 'Get the hell offa me, Yuy.'  Smiling to himself, he released the poor, set-upon bear and rose to take a shower.



Summer was winding down.  The idea didn't particularly excite either of them, though that was not to say that they were displeased by time's inexorable march forward.  Nevertheless, as students, their years started at the end of summer, and ended with its beginning.  Summer itself was a hazy, indeterminate time that was pegged as neither one year nor another, but a special time all its own.  Its end brought with it the inevitable look back over the summer months, the contemplation of how they had spent those months, and the preparation for the coming months.

And so it was that they were in Heero's apartment one seasonably warm night, stewing over those three questions: where have you been, where are you now, and where are you going?  The issues simmered in their minds, contributing to the lazy, introspective mood, but were not vocalized.  They were not feeling so profound as all that.

"So an atheist and a Muslim were taking skydiving lessons..."

"I think I've heard that one."

"Oh."  Duo frowned.  "I think I've run out, then."

"It's about time."  Lying on the floor, Heero shut his eyes against the rotating blades of the ceiling fan and the gentle currents it was kicking up.  He didn't normally like having his eyes closed in company.  It made him feel vulnerable, but he wasn't thinking about that just now.

"You?"  As Heero hmmed in thought, Duo turned his head from where he lay beside Heero and found himself with an opportunity to take advantage of his companion's inattention.

"I probably only know the popular ones," Heero said eventually, unmindful of the eyes that soaked in the sight of his profile.  "You know the one about the two groups of students and the train ride?"

"And the conductor and the ticket and the bathroom trick?  Yeah, Prof. Harris likes to tell that one with his alma mater and their rival as the two schools for the students."

"Hm.  My prof liked telling it with CS majors and engineers."

"Hey.  I certainly hope the engineers came out on top."  It seemed simply unfair to Duo that Heero had to look so cute when he was relaxed.  With his head against the floor, gravity pulled the hair away from his face, leaving a clear view of features often hidden behind bangs that shielded him from the rest of the world.

"Hn.  He was a CS prof."

"Damn."

"Mathematician and the poet?"

"Maybe.  There's probably more than one of them out there."

"Train ride.  They get bored, have a riddle contest."

"Oh.  Yeah.  I've heard that one, too.  Poet won, right?"  For whatever reason, Heero wrinkled his nose just then, for an imaginary itch or something, and Duo thought that, too, was unfair.  He wanted to close his eyes and block out the view, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.

"Mm-hmm.  Well, there's one my multi-v prof made up on the spot when he was trying to explain why anyone would want to use a surface integral to calculate the mass of something."

"Do tell."

"Basically, mathematicians are just funny that way."

"Tell me you've just cut out most of the joke, because by itself, the punchline just isn't that funny."

"Engineers would just weigh the damn thing.  Go fig."

Duo chuckled lightly.  "Duh.  What would a CS person do?"

"Have someone else weigh it."

"Lazy people."  He prodded Heero's arm with his elbow, and had to pull his reluctant appendage away from the contact with an effort and a half-hearted reprimand.  "You'd probably have an engineer do it."

"Chemists would probably grind it up and dissolve it into a solution or something, maybe burn it, then analyze the components."

"Mmmm, I think I wanna be a chemist."

"You would."  Did Heero let that smile curve up his lips because he thought Duo wasn't watching?  But Heero opened his eyes and turned his head just then, catching him at it.

Neither of them could find it in himself to do much more than blink at the other.  It was a surprisingly comfortable silence that fell upon them, until Heero spoke, and the question he uttered entered the silence so smoothly it barely caused a ripple.  "Why do you look at me like that sometimes?"

If Duo hadn't been feeling so complacent at the time, he would have known better than to ask.  "Like what?"

"Like... you're happy and sad, all at the same time."

His breath caught in a near choke, but he transformed it into a long, steadying breath instead, and exhaled just as carefully.  It was also unfair that Heero could read him like that, and that he cared enough to ask.  This whole thing was unfair.  "Dammit, Heero," he cursed softly.  "Why do you have to be so... so right?"

Confusion was expressed in the twitch of an eyebrow.

He had doomed himself from the start.  Words and emotions too long denied outlet refused to stay obedient now that the subject had been broached.  "You're... God, you're sweet and cute and smart and funny... I liked it better when you were just eyecandy.  Why can't you just be another one of the losers?"

Uncertainty showed in the shift of a head.  "...Do you want me to be?"

"No," he breathed.  "God, no.  But I feel like you're just too good to be true, Heero.  I've been waiting all this time for the bubble to pop, but it hasn't.  I told myself I didn't want to get involved with anyone right now, that it'd be a mistake, but you're making it awful hard to hold to that.  Honestly, you're sort of making all my reasons and arguments fly out the window."

"Sorry."  A soft, heartfelt apology with an even softer question mark at the end.

"You're no loser.  You're not trying to get me to center my life around yours.  You're not trying to get into my pants.  You're not just coming by when you want something from me.  You're not forgetting everything I say, the moment I say it.  You're not mistaking the act for the customers for the real thing.  You're not putting any demands on my time -- I'm just handing it to you on a silver platter.  And you don't grab for it, you just accept it.  And you give me your time, and you even help out at the store, just because you're there and you feel like it, and God, you've never once even questioned why I spend so much time helping Howie out..."

"But... that's because I understand."  He was like that with Odin.  He made it a point to go home and reconnect with his stepdad, not out of obligation, but just out of love and respect.  People sometimes asked why it was that he was taking care of his father, and not the other way around, and Heero had no answer for them.  That was simply the way things were.  They took care of each other.

Duo smiled helplessly.  "Well, you see, that's what I mean."  He rolled onto his side to face him, and the move put him just that much closer to Heero.  Heero watched him do it, and didn't feel the urge to pull back.  "You're not messing anything up.  How can you be a mistake if you're not messing anything up?"

Heero didn't know what to say, so he said nothing.  And if what he thought was coming was coming, he would let it come.

"And if you're not a mistake..."  His hand lifted of its own accord to brush aside some hair that had fallen across Heero's eyes, and when that was done, it lingered, sweeping softly across a cheekbone and downwards with the back of his hand until his leading knuckle caught lightly in the corner of Heero's mouth.  "...Do you want this as much as I do?"

"I don't know."  Duo's hand was warm against his skin, an unfamiliar sensation, yes, but one that was not bothering him in the slightest.  His lips caressed the knuckle at the corner of his mouth as he spoke, and that did not bother him either.  "I'm not even sure I know what 'this' is.  I've never done 'this' before."  He sighed, and the air across the back of Duo's hand made it tremble, and it withdrew to a safe distance to rest in the space between them.  "What have you done to me, Duo?"

"Me?"  Wide eyes blinked innocently at him.

"This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen to me.  You're not a part of my plan, either."

"...Wasn't I just saying that this whole thing was your fault?"

"Did you hear me agreeing?"

It started as a snicker, and then a laugh, and then Duo found himself trying to rein in the faint hysterical edge to it.  He got it under control with a shudder, and when he was ready to meet clear blue eyes again, he could only release a sigh.  "Are you going to try and distract me from my schoolwork, Heero?"

"School is important," Heero answered quite seriously.  He, too, had rolled over on his side while Duo had been distracted, and the air between them grew heated from the proximity.

"And are you going to try and stop me from working at Howard's?"

"Family is important, too."

"Are you going to try and get me to ditch my other friends just to be with you?"

"I don't know.  I've never met them.  Are they bad influences on you?"

Duo chuckled again, and this time, it was a terribly contented sound.  "Honesty's important, too.  Sweet Jesus, Heero.  What are we doing?"  He wasn't completely new to 'this', but he'd never felt this way, never fallen this far, before.  He'd never been so taken in by anyone.  It was entirely different, nervewracking, and breathtaking.

"I was hoping you would know."

Another sweet, soft laugh fell from his lips.  "Oh boy.  It'll be the blind leading the blind, then.  Hope we don't trip and fall over anything."

"Maybe..."  Heero's gaze fell to his hand, which crept forward tentatively until it met Duo's on the carpet.  After it had done nothing more courageous than resting on top of its companion, he raised his eyes to meet Duo's once more.  "...We can hold hands?  That way we'll fall together."

"Heh, I should have known better.  I thought maybe you'd say something more like, we can help each other out with keeping our balance and staying upright or something.  You know.  Something more glass-half-full."

"That, too."

It was a night for sighs, and this moment was no exception.  "Maybe... we can just not move for a while?"  His hand shifted around until their palms met and fingers could embrace.

"Yeah."  Heero smiled.  "We could do that."



"Hello?"

"Trowa?"

"Heero."

"I went for it."

"Oh.  And?"

"Thanks."

"No problem."







incidentally, i don't know if you can run a market with only two people.  *shrug*  oh well.  this fic was inspired by the guy at the whole foods market.  no vegetables were harmed in the making of this fic.





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