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fic - x'mas AC198 part 4 [haven] - the turnip patch
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fic - x'mas AC198 part 4 [haven]
Title:  X'mas AC198
Series:  Moments of Haven
Part:  4



X'mas AC198 Part IV
A Moment of Haven


"...I'm telling ya, first lesson?  The wires are never color-coded.  Start there, and there'll be... What the heck are they watching?"  Zeroing in on the sound coming from the television in the other room, Duo led the way through the door and blinked at the screen.  "Reality TV?  That stuff will rot your brains, guys."

"We're not watching it," Heero refuted calmly, though he certainly changed the channel promptly.

"Yeah, you were."  Followed by Quatre and Wufei, he fully entered the room and moved next to the sofa.

Heero tossed the remote control to Trowa in order to focus his attention on their visitors.  "We were flipping past it when the sad spectacle of utter humiliation captured our attention."

"Yeah, so you were watching it."

For just a brief second.  Or three.  "We're looking for this other show they said was going to be on.  We're just not familiar with the channels around here...."  His eyes flickered over to the monitor and he nodded in satisfaction.  "See, there it is."

Duo waited out the opening ditty to get to the program's title.  "Ooh, penguins.  A Love Story.  Move over."  He swung himself over the arm of the sofa and squeezed himself in between the side and Heero.  Trowa slid over to the other end to accommodate him, but when Heero started to move towards the center, Duo stopped him from straying too far by innocently draping one arm over the back of the sofa, putting his hand quite coincidentally near Heero's far shoulder.  It left him a little in Heero's lap, but hey, he was just being nice in not making Heero sit on the border between two cushions.  Never mind that there were enough cushions for each of them.

Sensing that their previous discussion had come to an end, Quatre took up occupancy on the wide chaise on the other side of the sectional.  "You want to watch a show on penguins?"

Though Duo hadn't been the first to express that desire, he answered the question.  "Eh, heh, yeah, we are kind of pathetic, aren't we?"  He looked toward Trowa for a response to being included, but then remembered his particular affinity for animals and decided there would be no agreement there.  Instead he turned toward Wufei, who had selected yet another chair in the room.  "Heero and me, we're kind of hooked on these nature channel things."

"There are worse things to be hooked on," Trowa observed mildly.

"Earth hosts such diversity, too," Heero chimed in, not a bit defensive.  "You don't have to worry about running out of programs to watch."

It was a practical approach to the matter, one that Duo did not particularly endorse himself.  "Ooh, you know what I really like are the underwater ones.  All those sea creatures?  It's kind of creepy, actually, that there's so much stuff out there lurking beneath the surface.  And it's all so cool looking, too."

"It's not really so surprising that early man came up with so many stories about sea monsters."

Again, a logical statement where no logic was needed.  "Giant squid!  I wonder if those things really exist."

"You're fond of those squid, aren't you."  The matter of cephalopods had come up before, if Heero recalled correctly.

"I'm still waiting for them to catch a vampire squid."  He gestured expansively with his free hand while penguins glided on their bellies down slides of ice.  "Then my life will be complete."

The sentiment drew Quatre's attention away from the screen.  "Vampire squid?"

Duo nodded enthusiastically.  "Yeah, we learned about them at this aquarium where we went.  They've got, like, spikes and glowy things and stuff, but they've never held one in captivity."

Heero nudged him with an elbow.  "I thought you would have supported their freedom."

"Well, yeah, maybe..."  His expression fell for a moment before he worked it out.  "But they don't have to hold the squid for long.  Just long enough for me to see it.  Then they can let it go again."

"What is it about squid that you like so much?" Quatre asked.  They weren't exactly cute and fluffy, nor sleek and deadly.

Fortunately for the squid, Duo didn't hold that against them.  "What's there not to like?  They're like heads, and tentacles, and that's it.  Ooooh."  He wiggled his fingers around in simulation, right next to Heero's face.

Heero batted the fingers again.  "You don't even like calamari, Duo."

"Eww, I didn't say anything about swallowing the tentacles.  That's just icky."  Though come to think of it, he didn't think he'd ever seen Heero eating calamari, either.  "But they're really smart, you know?  Squid can find their way around pretty well, or maybe that was octopussies.  Pi?  Octopi.  And they can use their suckers to pry shells apart and everything."  His versatile hand morphed into the facsimile of a sucker, and it latched onto Heero's shoulder with a bright sound effect.  "Fwshoomp~!"

"Stop that."  The command was unamused, though tolerant.

The sucker became a ring of fingers that moved up to the angle of Heero's neck, and Duo put his lips to that ring and inhaled loudly with his mouth.  He paused for a second before applying suction again, and then with a huff tried a third time.  "You know, I think it works better when squid do it."

"Yeah, I'll bet."

Duo winked sidelong at him, perhaps promising him some suction some other time, this time without the immediary of his makeshift straw.



They settled down for a while, watching the progress of the penguins as they crossed the icy landscape on the way to their mating grounds.  They spoke quietly to each other of normal things teenaged boys would talk of to each other, of nature and its many wonders, of instincts and herd mentalities, of journeys, and how much it would hurt to slide along an ice floe on one's belly.

And when the penguins arrived at their breeding grounds, that large expanse of pristinely white and smooth land, Heero had to go and muse on deeper matters.  "I always felt bad."

Duo, naturally being the one most responsive to Heero, questioned first.  "Hm?"  More space had been cleared on the sofa with Trowa sliding over some more, but Duo was still squished comfortably close by Heero's side.

"When Zechs and I were fighting down there.  It looked like that at first."  He pointed his chin in the television's direction.  "And then... it didn't."

"There wasn't, like, a flock of penguins that you guys were stepping all over or something, was there?"  Duo's voice conveyed some sense of horror as he drew away slightly.

"Of course not!"

Trowa's shoulders shook in amusement as Heero responded to the allegations, and they kept shaking while the others stared at him and he finally spoke.  "I'm thinking of how the Federation could have used footage of a penguin massacre to feed their propaganda machine."

Duo cracked up loudly.  "God, that would be terrible!  We'd be even worse than evil murdering terrorists!  Worse than baby killers!"

"We'd be penguin killers!" Quatre crowed, laughing himself.

Wufei observed the others with a slightly lifted brow, but Heero stared at the television with a faintly haunted expression.  "What if that was their breeding ground?" he said softly to himself.  "What if they made that long trip all the way out there, just to find that some giant robots had come along and stomped it all to pieces?"

"That'd be a surreal life!" Duo chortled, but he blinked it away into incredulity when he looked over and saw Heero's wide eyes.  "Oh, come on, Heero.  You think it's just penguins?  You going to start feeling bad for the ants and stuff, too?  Fingers coming out of nowhere to squish 'em dead?"

"How would you like it if you were just minding your own business, living your life, and suddenly giant metal gods descend from the heavens to wreak havoc on your life and home?"

"Well, I think I'd jump into my giant metal god and blow the shit out out of *their* homes!"  Goddammit, did he just prove Heero's point?  "Fuck.  Come on, baby, don't be like that.  As long as there weren't any penguins there at the time, maybe... I dunno, maybe it'd be like an avalanche just happened or the ice shifted and cracked it all up or something.  Maybe this kind of thing happens in real life anyway, and you were just one more thing that happened!  Sheesh, talk about overthinking."

Heero watched fixedly as the oblivious penguins on the screen preened and pranced and courted each other.  "What if they were watching!?" he hissed with quiet horror.  "They could have been looking over some ridge or something, watching!"

"Shit, Heero, what, you think they lie on their bellies with binoculars and do recon or something?  What the hell would they be doing watching you over some ridge?"

Trowa nudged Heero in the side and provided the practical reassurance that Duo could not.  "We were too far from the ocean at that time of year for it to have been the same place."

"Besides," Duo groused, "It's just ice.  Give it a week or so, and it'd probably fix itself right up, good as new."

Heero made some sound of discontent, but said nothing further, and eventually his passion simmered down to a crease on his forehead and something that could be labeled as a pout, if one were liberal with one's labels.  It was probably more of a frown, though.

Wufei watched the discussion with an internal shake of his head.  Clearly Yuy's association with Maxwell had caused the man to lose a few marbles.



The ending credits began to roll, along with the only cuts that could be considered outtakes in a documentary.  "Okay, I think penguins rank pretty high now, right up there next to squid."

They were sleek, and the little ones were cute and fluffy, thought Quatre.  "But no tentacles.  Or suckers."

"Well, yeah, but..."  Duo struggled to find something awesome about the mighty emperor penguin that wouldn't make him sound like a little girl.  Something that would hopefully make the others forget about the way he had found himself almost cuddling with Heero when the screen had showed two penguins bonding gently with each other, rubbing their heads together.  Something that would hopefully make the others forget about the way he had almost whimpered in sympathy when that one penguin egg did not survive its brief contact with the frozen earth.  "Hell, could you go four months without eating?  And fight your way back over a hundred klicks just to get back to the water?  I didn't think so."

"The little ones are cute and fluffy, too."  When Duo looked like he was going to mock him, Quatre threw him a challenging glare, just daring Duo to try and deny their cute fluffiness.

Duo backed down.

"They're certainly patient creatures," Wufei opined.

"Yeah, I know," Duo answered, jumping on the digression.  "When they're all just standing there balancing an egg on their feet, what do you think they do for fun?"

"You'd make a terrible father."

"Hey!"

Heero patted Duo's thigh to soothe the outrage.  "Penguin father.  A terrible penguin father."

That did little to calm his ruffled feathers.  Heero was supposed to support his causes.  What else was this love thing good for?  "What are you trying to say?"

"If you were balancing an egg on your feet, what would you do for fun?"

"Same thing all the penguins do!"

"And what's that?"

"I don't know.  The penguins won't tell me.  It's like this super secret penguin guy thing that they don't tell outsiders.  Duh.  If they do tell you and you're not one of them yet, that means they're about to kill you.  Do you want me dead, Heero?  Is that what you're saying?"

Heero chose the most prudent course and said nothing.

"Must be an interesting party," Trowa spoke suddenly.  "Once all the women are away."

Duo paused in his poking of his finger against Heero's shoulder.  "We're so lucky none of us have girlfriends.  They'd probably make us bring them up here to meet everyone or something, and then we'd be screwed."

"Maybe so long as there was more than one," Quatre suggested.  He had a lot more experience with large flocks of females.  "Maybe they'd spend all of their time together and leave us to our own devices."

"Yeah, right," Duo snorted.  "Girls don't do that."

"And what would you know about girls?" Quatre shot back pointedly.

He glanced somewhat guiltily at Heero, then shrugged.  Perhaps Quatre had a point there, but he still needed to defend his honor.  "Enough to get me a boyfriend."  He stuck his tongue out triumphantly in Quatre's direction.

"How did you two guys get together, anyway?"  Quatre was sure it was something that had been burning on all of their minds, so he took the opportunity to ask.

Duo glanced left, then right, before feinting.  "Hey, it was in the news or something, wasn't it?  That there seem to be a lot of gay penguins around?"

Trowa nodded, responding to the literal question, but Wufei puzzled over the metaphorical meaning instead.  "You decided to emulate the sexual behavior of gay penguins?"

That could have been answered with another raspberry, but Duo chose the more mature route instead.  "Once a year?  Are you freakin' kidding me?"

Heero hid a smile next to Duo's skin as he whispered into his ear.  "Penguins are monogamous."

Duo elbowed him lightly in the gut.  "Yeah, once a year."  Once a season.  Whatever.  Long enough for them to bring an egg, and then a hatchling into the world, and maybe standing there, nurturing that precious, fragile thing they had created together against all the trials and tribulations the world had to throw at them, maybe that was like a short eternity all its own.  "'Course, how often would you really want to whip it out in that kind of weather?  Talk about a case of blue balls."

"There's a reason they have no external genitalia," Trowa said dryly.

Being the strategist that he was, Quatre knew a fake when he saw one.  "So, how did you guys get together, anyway?"

Sensing that there would be no more distractions allowed, Duo stalled instead.  "Um, er... heh.  Well.  Interesting story behind that."

"Not really," Heero inserted.

"Well, yeah, not really, I guess.  I mean, if you think you guys were surprised, hell, think about it from our end."

Quatre laughed, thinking about it from his own end.  "That must have been fun."

"Heh."  The guy had no idea.  "So you see, we've got this neighbor, and she sort of adopted us as her pet cause or something.  In the beginning, she was trying to hook us up with chicks around the neighborhood, you know, just trying to be helpful or something.  We managed to put a stop to that eventually.  But I guess she was just storing it all up for later or something, 'cuz next thing you know, she's busting out this theory that me and Heero should be together."

"More or less," Heero muttered.

Duo knocked their knees together and continued weaving his tale, only there really wasn't much more to it.  "So, you know, we talked about her crazy theory for a little while... and that was that."

"What was that?" Quatre probed.

"That."  He shrugged nonchalantly.  "Heero and me.  We just figured maybe we'd give it a go.  But not because she thought it was a good idea.  Let me make that clear."

"Very important," Heero murmured for everybody's edification.

Hmpf, a relationship couldn't last for eight months on five sentences.  Quatre didn't have much time in his own life for relationships, but he was pretty sure about that much.  "That's it?"

Duo nodded.  "That's it."

"Liar."

"What?  The story was so short, how could I have possibly stuck a lie in there?"

"It was so short!"  That was the point.

"Aw, come on, you think this was some sort of long-winded, angsty, epic, life-altering scouring of our souls?  No.  We just thought we'd do it."

Quatre turned to who seemed like the more reasonable of the pair.  "Heero."

Content to stay out of this discussion, Heero had hoped no one would notice his half of the story.  "Um.  Yeah, what he said."

He received a glare for his troubles.  "Well, you're no help."

"Not much more of the story to tell."  Not much more he wanted to tell, anyway.

Duo got back into the game.  "What do you think we are, Q, penguins?  Trekking across a hundred klicks of frozen wasteland to croon love songs at each other?  Hell no.  Heero's got a terrible singing voice."

"I can dance."

Perhaps he didn't really hear that, Duo thought, but judging by everyone else's looks, he probably did.  He turned to give Heero a steady stare.  "Uh, yeah."  Favoring Heero's knee with a patronizing pat, he returned his attention to the others.  "Lucky for him, he's got other things going for him."

Quatre pounced on the opening.  "Like...?"

"Things."

"And you think those things are irrelevant to this story?"

"Completely.  You asked 'how', not 'why'."

"Alright, then.  Why?"

Duo smirked.  It edged cautiously toward a leer, but his lips weren't yet accustomed to pulling one out on demand.  "I don't think I'm at liberty to tell you 'why'."

He didn't think he knew the answer to that question, anyway.



-------
march of the penguins is an awesome movie.  go watch it.





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