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fic - x'mas AC198 part 17 [haven] - the turnip patch
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turnippatch
turnippatch
fic - x'mas AC198 part 17 [haven]
Title:  X'mas AC198
Series:  Moments of Haven
Part:  17



X'mas AC198 Part XVII
A Moment of Haven


A strange sound had drawn them to that corner of the yard, whereupon they were greeted by a strange sight.  "Duo...," Heero sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.  Beside him, Wufei decided to lift only an eyebrow and retreat into the background.

"Yup?"  Duo answered calmly, but Relena started guiltily at the sound of his voice.  She looked quickly for a means of escape, but failing that, she smiled brightly and put on her best innocent look.

Heero wasn't paying any attention to her.  Not directly, anyway.  "Why are you teaching Relena how to swing an axe?"

Duo echoed her bright smile and innocent look.  If he'd been the one holding the axe, he'd have been certain to do so casually, unlike Relena, who seemed to think she could hide it behind her.  "Well, come on, every girl needs a way to vent, right?"

"...And how often do you think she'll have an axe around to vent with?"

"Well, that'll depend where she keeps it after she buys one."

"Duo..."

It was kind of amusing when Heero half-growled his name like that.  But in the interest of getting Heero to growl his name in other ways, preferably ways that would make his loins tingle in an unseemly manner, he relented.  "Okay, fine.  I'm practicing my teaching skills.  You don't want me to embarrass myself, right?"

"I think you'd be embarrassed if your class found out you were teaching a girl how to swing an axe."

"Whoa, hey, that's a little out of line, don't you think?"  He wagged a finger scoldingly at Heero, then turned to the offended party.  "You just going to take that from him, Lena?"  Following that, he turned to Wufei.  "And you.  You just going to stand there while he gets all uncouth on a lady?"

"I was insulting the quality of your class, actually," Heero cut in smoothly, before Relena's brow could unfurrow and she could speak in reprimand.  If it would not have undermined the strength of his argument, Heero might have tossed an apologetic shrug in her direction.

"You don't even know who's in my class," Duo retorted, almost but not quite sticking his tongue out.

"You'll be there, for sure."

His expression turned to incredulity mixed with affront.  "Ouch.  You're just going out full tilt today, aren't you?  What did I do to deserve this?"

"You were teaching Relena how to swing an axe."

"Well, come on, a girl's gotta know how to protect herself, right?"  Surely that sort of argument could appeal to Heero, right?

"I think our conversation has just come back around full circle."  The likelihood of Relena ever wielding an axe in her own defense was fairly non-existent, he thought.

Duo's fist went to his hip as he took an aggressive stance.  "You're always so concerned about her, maybe she should be taking your class, then.  Bet you could teach her a few things."

Heero's eyes flicked to Relena and back again.  "I don't think that would help very much."

"Hey!" Relena finally protested.  It was one thing to know that Heero wanted to protect her.  Another thing entirely to hear that Heero didn't think she was capable of protecting herself.

"I meant, it's an advanced class," he explained kindly.

"That's not much better."

"If I were to recommend ways for you to protect yourself, I would recommend a taser, perhaps.  Certainly not hand-to-hand close quarter combat."

Duo took the opportunity to seize control of the conversation again, and continue their on-going debate.  "See what I mean?  My class would be so much better.  It's a little more free-form, a little more flexible.  It's all about doing what you gotta do, that's within your power to do."  The comparison between the two seminars was a bit like apples to oranges, dooming them to never reaching a satisfactory conclusion, fortunately for them.

"Your class will probably involve explosives."

"And hey, if she's ever in a situation where a little creative explosiving will save her, she'll be set!"

Heero's expression darkened, seeming to convey that heads would roll if she was ever in such a situation.

Duo read the message just fine.  "And they think I'm the one with issues.  You've got issues, man."

"Explosives, Duo."  Tasers were acceptable, but he had to draw the line somewhere.  It was entirely unsafe to be toting explosive materials around in one's purse.  If Relena was going to defend herself, she needed something small, light, and fast.  Preferably something she could travel with easily, without tripping off any detectors at the Senate doors.

"Oh, come on," Duo sneered teasingly.  "Like you're not the pyro."

"You're the one setting the fires," Heero answered calmly, recognizing yet another of their endless debates.  "I just enjoy them."

"Then you're lazy."  Not that he could complain much.  The privilege of setting the fires was valued, and enjoying Heero enjoying the fire ranked even farther up the scale.

Heero shrugged, conjuring a haughty air.  "Why should I do the work when someone else is willing to do it for me?  That's inefficient."

"And you're full of excuses!"  He tried to keep up the charade of being annoyed, but he was having to try too hard to not laugh.  He gave up and let it out, a hard, helpless chuckle that had him slapping a hand against Heero's chest.  As his laughter faded, his hand lingered a little, fingering the material of Heero's jacket.  "What were we talking about again?"

"His over-the-top protective streak?" Relena said quite clearly into the break.

Before Heero could produce a proper response, Duo slapped his chest again.  "You know what we need?  I can't believe we've been here so long and we haven't done it yet.  I mean, we've got all this wood, right?  How come we haven't set anything on fire yet?  I don't mean like the fireplace, but like a campfire!  We should totally do an outdoor fire tonight."

Heero leveled an arch look at him while Wufei consoled Relena in the aftermath of being completely ignored.  "You still think I'm the pyro?"

"Come on, who doesn't love a good bonfire?  We could roast some hot dogs or something."

"S'mores?" Relena asked hopefully, willing to forgive Heero's overprotective streak at least momentarily if she got some s'mores out of the deal.  There were sure to be many other opportunities for her to bring the matter up again.  Heero was quite generous with the opportunities.

"S'mores?" Duo repeated, a bit doubtfully.  "Whazzat?"

She blinked at him.  "S'mores.  Graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows?"

"S'mores, huh?"  He contemplated the recipe gravely.  "That like some kind of classy thing?"

"Um, no."  She shook herself out of her shock, and commanded herself to sound neither sympathetic nor condescending when answering.  It'd been a long time since she had last been reminded of how non-standard their upbringings were.  "They're a traditional campfire treat."

"Oh.  Hm.  Graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows, eh?"  After another few seconds of deep thought, Duo nodded approvingly.  "Sounds like I've been missing out.  You wouldn't want me to miss out, would you?"

Heero regarded the almost coquettish expression that was turned on him warily.  He hadn't missed Duo's escalation from mere campfire to full-scale bonfire.  "Why are you looking at me like that?"

Duo grinned.  "'Cuz I want to set something on fire tonight, and this will just have to do.  Now you're not going to be your gloomy, naysaying self, are you?"

"As if I could stop you."  As if he could say no when Duo got that spark in his eye.  It would have been nice to get a little fire going back at home, when it was just the two of them.

The same thought was clearly reflected in Duo's quick wink.  They'd left off at a very interesting place.  "Yay!  Hey, so if we're going to be burning up the wood tonight, guess we should chop some more.  Whaddya say, Lena?"

"No," Heero answered quite firmly.



"Fire time!"

Heero started to get up automatically, but after a moment of thought, he reconsidered and settled back into his seat, letting Duo dash through the main lounge and out the front door on his own.

"Not going to keep an eye on him?" Trowa remarked in his usual dry manner.

"If I'm not there, I can't take responsibility for whatever it is he burns."

"Doesn't inaction generate as much responsibility?"

"Not if he takes responsibility for it first," he answered slyly.  "He takes pride in his work.  I'm sure he will."

Trowa glanced out the window, gauging the light.  The sun set early after the winter solstice.  Dinner was safely tucked away in their tummies.  It was a fine time for dessert.  "You have a fireplace in your house?"

"Yes."  And a mantle and a hearth and some nice pillows and a lovely color on the walls.  "A peculiarity of many Earth houses, no matter the climate.  We just fired it up for the first time in a long time a few weeks ago.  It's... it was a little strange at first.  But now, I suppose we've just gotten used to living planetside."

"Good or bad?"

Hmm.  The early months of the war had given them plenty of time to get used to the gravity.  They'd seen a wild range in weather as they'd traveled the globe for their missions.  It was the oddities of daily life that had taken longer to get used to.  When they'd been prepped, they'd been warned about the gravity and the environment.  No one had reminded them how free the Earth-born were with their resources.  Fire wasn't that common in the colonies.  It was difficult enough maintaining the filters and greenery just to produce a decent air supply, without thoughtlessly burning wood.  He remembered the last time they'd been up to the colonies, when they'd gone on tour with Relena just about a year ago.  It had been easy to fall back into the habits of colony life, and just as easy to shift their mindsets when they returned to Earth.  "Good," he decided.  "It means we're adaptable."

Trowa nodded.  Adaptability was important.

Relena walked through the room and exited out the front door, joining the fire-making party.  "Uh-oh," Heero murmured.

"Not going out there to keep an eye on them?"

"I think I want to stay far away from this, actually."  Duo would just play with him, anyway, tempting him to do things he didn't want to do with company standing around.  "Who went out there first?"

"Quatre."

"Now I really want to stay out of it.  Quatre..."  He shook his head.  "I'm a little concerned about him."

"Oh?"

"One drunken binge couldn't have cured him."  Quatre had done a lot of talking, but none of the underlying problems had been addressed.  "I hope he doesn't think a few more might do the trick."

"You think he's the type?"

"I think he needs to vent more often."  He made a note to himself to give Quatre a few extra calls this year.  "He didn't do anything too embarrassing that night, did he?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Trowa answered with a completely straight expression.

Of course.  Trowa was a good confidant.  "I'd hoped he did something that might serve as a deterrent to future forays into the liquor cabinet."

"Nothing embarrassing by my standards," he clarified.

"Ah."  Trowa's standards were out of the ordinary.  In this regard, they were perhaps even more out of the ordinary than Heero's were.  Anything could have happened that night.

"Did you do anything embarrassing?"

"Besides getting drunk, you mean?" Heero answered wryly.  At least they hadn't been in public.

"Duo didn't seem to approve."

He nodded amiably.  "I don't think it'll be happening again any time soon."

"Quatre called you 'whipped'."

"There are worse things to be."  Far worse things to be than to submit to the wishes of a person that loved you.

"Did you find it the same liberating experience that Quatre did?" Trowa asked, the slightest hint of curiosity staining his voice.

"No, not really."  He remembered the first buzz, how things had felt warm and fuzzy.  It hadn't been unlike snuggling with Duo in front of the fire.  Maybe, if the opportunity presented itself, he might be interested in exploring lesser stages of inebriation.  Or maybe just more snuggling with Duo in front of the fire.  "I had less liberating to do, perhaps."

Trowa regarded him with a tilted head.  "You've already been liberated."

"Hm?"  He thought about it, about what he'd just thought, and smiled inwardly.  "I suppose."

"You've always set a good example."

He caught himself before gracing Trowa with a sharp look, softening it out until it looked merely perceptive.  "I enjoy my freedom.  But I'm sure we all need to find our own ideas of freedom."

Trowa hummed neutrally before falling silent.

They heard soft shouts from outside, just volume since the words were indistinguishable.  "Oh my," Heero murmured, reconsidering his decision to stay inside until things were safe again.  Perhaps the shouts should have confirmed his decision, instead.

"In Duo's defense," Trowa mentioned.  "I was watching them.  He didn't really have Relena swinging at anything."

"I figured as much.  Still doesn't mean I can let him get away with it, though," he added with a slight angle to his lips.

"Not so whipped, then."

"No, I suppose not."

"You are quite protective."

"I..."  He trailed off, trying to fit the feeling to words, then shook his head and gave up.  "Yes, I am."

"What does Duo think about that?"

Heero opened his mouth to answer, thinking that the answer was obvious, only to find that it wasn't.  "You know... it's never come up.  Not directly.  I don't know what he thinks about that."

"Hm."





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