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fic - gang aft agley - part 2 [novella] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - gang aft agley - part 2 [novella]
Title:  Gang Aft Agley
Part:  2

Gang Aft Agley
sequel to The Best Laid Plans
Part 2

The idea that Heero would ever spend his Fridays doing something special was laughable to him, so it worked out rather well that he spent his Fridays the same way he spent a good many other days: with Duo.

Some of those days after class were spent in the flat above Howard's, but some were passed in Heero's apartment, and that was where they were now.  Duo spent enough time over there that the particulars of the furnishings had faded into the background, which explained how the new grumpy item managed to escape his notice for some unknown period of time.  It was a large button proclaiming, 'I'll try being a little nicer if you try being a little smarter.'

Duo picked it up, studied it, and searched his memory for any recollection of the item.  Finding none, he concluded it was relatively new, and turned to question Heero on its presence.  "Hey, where did you get this from?"

From his seat on the floor leaning against the sofa, Heero looked up from organizing some of his paperwork.  "Hm?  Oh, Quatre gave it to me for my birthday.  I had it stowed away somewhere, so I took out.  Thought maybe I'd pin it to my backpack."

Duo's left eyelid twitched dangerously.  "I'm sorry, when was your birthday?"

"Can you shower me after the fact?"

"I can shower you for whatever spurious reason I want to, like not telling me when your birthday is!"

"Oh, that's great incentive."

"Come on.  You can really only shower people in the dorm bathrooms anyway, and how often are you in the dorms?  I can't believe you didn't tell me.  I would have gotten you something."

"And how often are -you- in the dorms?"

"Huh?"  How had this conversation turned to him?

Heero took the opportunity to avoid his birthday and ran with it.  It may have been nice if Duo had gotten him something, but he really didn't have to.  None of his other friends did, only Quatre.  They weren't really the gift-giving types.  "I heard Alex complaining the other day that you don't hang out with them in their suite as much this year."

"Uh, yeah, so?" Duo asked cautiously, putting the button down and moving over to sit on the sofa, leaving Heero by his feet.  "I mean, this is junior year, after all.  It's usually the busiest year."

Heero stayed on the floor, but set his papers aside and turned partially to face his friend, resting an elbow on top of the futon cushion.  "From what I understand, you usually go over there to do homework first, hang out later, so I don't really see it cutting into your time."

"Well, yeah, that's the plan, but trust me, it's easy to get distracted in the middle of work when there's so much potential play floating around the room."

That excuse wasn't going to fly very well.  "You don't seem to have that problem when you come over here and do your work."

"...What's this about, Heero?"  Answering a question with a question could be a convenient evasion at times.

It seemed as if Heero were taking a moment to choose his words carefully.  "I just... don't want to be the reason why you're not hanging out with your other friends as much as you used to."

As Duo thought that through, a large chunk of his processing power was devoted to pointing out smugly that this was one more example of how Heero hit unprecedented levels of goodness.  He was used to boyfriends trying to monopolize his time, not fearing that very same thing.  "Heero.  Yes, I guess the reason I'm not hanging out with them as much is because I'm hanging out more with you.  But that's a choice I make because I prefer to hang out with you more than I want to hang out with them."

He held up a hand to forestall Heero's argument.  "You're not the reason why, not really.  Not the way you think.  It's not like you've made me forget all about them.  Sorry, but you're not *that* great."  He grinned wryly, using that time to think through his next few sentences.  "I see them all the time in class, and at lunch, but maybe not in their rooms is all.  I mean, it's true, it's easier to get distracted there, which is funny, I know, seeing as how there's such nice things to be distracted by here."  He paused for another smile.  "But... I dunno.  They're my friends and all, but... I guess it would probably be pretty uppity of me to say that I maybe find them a little immature sometimes?  They're great people, good friends, fun to kick back with sometimes... but I've never really... 'connected' with them very much, you know?  If I wanted to hang out with someone, I'd hang out with them, but, well, now I've got you, I guess.  I can fit well enough into their world, but... I like this one better."  He shrugged helplessly and tried to explain further since Heero was still blinking expectantly at him.  "Distraction here is... momentary, I guess.  It's just, hey, you know what's funny?  Blah, blah, and then it's over, and it's back to work.  Distraction there is usually because they're -- we're -- trying to avoid work altogether."

"That's an impossible task," Heero finally said.

He rolled his eyes.  Only for people as responsible as Heero.  "Maybe.  But it's all too easy to say, 'Oh, we've still got time, we'll get to it later.'"

"You'll run out of time eventually, and then you'll have to scramble to finish things, on time or not, and I don't know why you'd want that extra stress in your life."  It was just so much more reasonable that way.

"You're not much of a procrastinator, are you?"  But he already knew the answer to that question.

"The way I see it, either way, it'll take me x hours to finish my work, and I'll have whatever minus x hours to goof off with, so why don't I finish my work first?  That way I'll have less stress for the x hours, especially if x turns out to be bigger than I thought, and I'll be better able to enjoy the rest of my hours in good conscience, knowing I earned it and that I don't have to worry about what I haven't finished yet."

Duo smiled again.  "That's very conscientious of you.  See, I like your philosophy better, so I should stay here, right?  It's like, if I finish up my work neatly and efficiently, then the rest of the time I get to spend with you is like a reward for all my hard work."  Of course, there was also the question of how he could spend a lot of his time working in relative peace and silence with Heero and still feel more -with- him than he felt when interacting with his other buddies, but he didn't feel up to examining that too closely.

Heero sighed dramatically.  "I don't know if I like being a good influence on someone.  It's so... goody-two-shoes.  But you know, if you ever want to do something with them..."

"You mean, like if I had to choose or something?  That's kinda demented."

"Well, that's the point.  You don't have to choose.  You... could always invite me along or something."  It was like a shy offer and an admonition all at once.

"...I didn't think you liked them enough to hang out with them," Duo answered.  In truth, he'd dragged Heero into their little group at lunch time, but other than that, he didn't really consider Heero to be in the same class as the rest of them.  Some partition existed in his mind that kept Heero separate, so the idea of mixing the two of them outside of the proscribed lunches hadn't quite occurred to him.  There had been a couple of on-campus talks and an academic mixer that they'd all attended, but those weren't really social activities, so they didn't count.

Heero shrugged.  "I won't lie and say they're my kind of people, but they don't actually bother me or anything."

It was probably telling that Duo felt no offense at such a comment, nor did he have any impulsive need to defend them.  He would stop short of saying he actually agreed with the sentiment, though.  "Well, that's nice to hear, but I think what they usually do as hanging out would bother you.  It may involve alcohol, frisbees, and toilet humor.  Not necessarily all at once.  Oh, and one notable experience involving a unicycle and some water balloons."

He got a skeptical look at that.  "And that's all you guys do together?"  He was trying to be obliging and encouraging here, but Duo wasn't giving him much to work with.

"Other than the typical homework stuff?  Yeah, pretty much.  They can have a, ahem, unsophisticated sense of humor at times.  Well, I guess there's some video games, but they don't have anything interesting right now.  All the interesting games in the suite disappeared when Jason graduated, since they were his games.  Hmm, the occasional party, too, I guess.  I think there's one coming up in a few weeks.  It's about that time."

"Were you planning on going?"

"Well, no, not really, but I suppose, if you wanted to... Wait, you don't actually want to go to a party, do you?"

Why, yes, the idea did sound rather odd, but what the heck.  "It's not like some wild frat party or anything, right?  I figure I should probably at least look at a party some time while I'm in college.  Round out my experience, if nothing else.  Who knows?  I might actually like it."  His dry tone made it rather clear he didn't think that was likely, but he was willing to be open-minded.

"You actually want..."  Duo shook his head and shrugged.  "Okay.  Whatever.  We don't have to stay long if you don't want to.  I can't really see you enjoying it.  It's just lots of loud music and drunken people and dancing -- do you dance?"

Heero looked at him like the answer should have been obvious, but he answered mildly.  "No.  Are you going to make me?"

The look he received in response to that carried a hint of miffed.  "Do you want to dance?"


"Then why do you think I'd make you?  Although I might have to do a little obligatory dancing, if you don't mind.  Probably not a lot, though.  I'm not particularly fond of the atmosphere at these things, either.  Loud, drunken, elbows, you know.  So like I said, maybe not too long.  You're right, you should go to at least one party at some point.  But then we can ditch and maybe come back and have a little party of our own, eh?"

Duo grinned before leaning down to kiss Heero.  The angle was a little awkward, but adequate.  He let it linger for a while, shifting from one kiss to the next in an effort to find a better position until he realized that perhaps it wasn't the angle that was really the problem.  Withdrawing, he studied Heero for a few long moments.

"What?" Heero asked, trying not to squirm uncomfortably.

He shook his head, started to say something, then changed his mind.  "Get up here," he said instead, tugging on Heero's shirt until the young man seated on the floor finally conceded and moved to sit next to him on the sofa.  He looked searchingly at Heero again, then tried another kiss or three and confirmed his conclusions.  "You're..."

"What?" Heero repeated, this time with an edge that may have been timid on anyone else.  On Heero, it came out a little irritated.

"You're still... getting comfortable with this, aren't you?"  It was written all over his body language.  His shoulders were set, his face somewhat downcast, his lips willing but not quite responsive, his hands fidgeting to find somewhere neutral to rest, and Duo slapped himself for not thinking much of it sooner.

Avoiding direct eye contact, Heero considered the question as if there were a right and a wrong answer, then attempted to shrug nonchalantly.  "I guess."

"I mean, you're... better."  Which wasn't really saying a lot, considering how much not-better he'd been, but most of the betterness showed up in his acceptance of Duo's touches and occasional light snuggling.  It was odd that in the realm of kisses, their first one had probably been the best.  "You've gotten over that whole, um, pulling away thing.  But now that just means you stay still and... well, it's like you're not really participating here, and now that I think of it, that's not cool.  It's like I'm just stealing kisses or something.  So, I mean, is... is this not okay?  Because if it's not, you know..."

He trailed off as Heero made some sounds, aborted words that conveyed a general confusion and hesitance before they resolved themselves into sentences.  "No, it's-- I mean, yes, it's... whatever.  It's fine."

"Fine?"  Duo raised an inquisitive eyebrow.  He thought things had to be a little better than merely 'fine' for him to feel less like he was taking advantage of someone.  Trying to remember, he came to the conclusion that, though Heero didn't pull away from their contact, he didn't initiate it, either.

Heero fixed his gaze on the blue bear sitting across the room.  "It's better than fine.  It's... I don't know."

"...Do you know if you want this or not?"

"I do," he protested immediately, but that was all he said as silence fell and both of them took the time to absorb the statement.  "I just..."

"Then kiss me, Heero."  The soft request startled Heero into looking at him again.  Duo just leaned against the back of the sofa and kept his stance open in invitation.

Unease danced across Heero's expression, but he steeled himself with an almost visible effort and tried.  He leaned forward a little, pulled back uncertainly, shifted in his seat under the guise of looking for a better approach, and tried again, succeeding only in gaining a handful of inches.

Duo sighed quietly.  "You look like you think you'll mess it up or something."  He'd said it lightly, spurred by the guess that Heero was thinking way too hard about it, but by the return of Heero's evasive look, he supposed he'd hit the matter on the mark.

He sighed again and reached out gently to gather Heero to his side, noticing again that Heero handled that pretty well.  He wasn't really cuddling back, but at least he was relaxed.  "Let me tell you a little story, Heero.  It probably sounds like I've had tons of boyfriends and been around the block a few times.  I haven't, really.  Maybe just enough to have gotten a good sampling of all the bad things, all the things I didn't want.  Anyway, don't think I'm oh so experienced and worldly about these things.  I mean, yeah, I know more than you do, but truthfully, I wasn't with anybody in high school.  Weren't any other gay guys there that I knew of.  So my first experience was me getting swooped when I was a frosh."

"Swooped?"  Heero demonstrated an interest in his tale, which Duo interpreted as a positive sign.

"Yeah, it's a term for when an upperclassman goes after a freshman.  You know, like a hawk diving on a dove or something?"

"That happens enough that there's a term for it?"

He shrugged.  "I guess.  So anyway... yeah, I got swooped.  Several times, actually.  And I never really got to learn anything for myself, you know?  I was just kinda showed, -this- is the way it is.  I got taught the way everyone else liked doing things, but... I don't care what everyone else liked.  I want to toss all that... that 'experience' out the window.  I think... this is like learning all over again.  It's like the greatest thing, finally getting to find out what works for me.  What works for us.  And knowing... that what works for us... is just what works for us.  I mean, for us and no one else."

"You mean it's ours?" Heero restated plainly.

"Yeah, you could put it that way," he mumbled in response, knowing full well how sappy that sounded.  He'd been trying to word his way around that.

"Does kinda sound like the greatest thing," Heero muttered just as incoherently.

He smiled despite himself.  "So you're learning.  Big deal.  So am I.  But there is no absolute right and wrong, only what's right and wrong for us, and we can't figure that out unless we go exploring.  And it figures that we start exploring from the basics and work our way up.  So come on.  Whaddya say we learn?"  An unspoken 'together' hovered in the air after that question.

Heero got a contemplative look on his face before he pulled away from Duo's side.  He turned in his seat to face Duo, and with just as much concentration as the first time, but considerably less second-guessing, he deliberately laid a hand upon Duo's shoulder and studied it for a little while as if gauging its placement.  Satisfied that it would give him the support he needed, he pushed himself forward as smoothly as he did the first time he'd done this, and just as happened the first time, he slid to a halt just short of Duo's lips.  His shoulders had just fallen, his expression transformed into one of chagrin, when Duo again closed the gap for him.

So Heero still had a problem initiating things.  No big deal.  One thing at a time.  Duo pressed their mouths together, one hand coming up to hold onto the arm attached to the hand on his shoulder, and he paid careful attention to trying to coax Heero's lips to action until he succeeded in promising measure.

Heero came away sporting a faintly surprised, vaguely embarrassed, and somewhat amused, yet somehow happy look.  He decided to try to distract himself from dwelling too much on the mixture of emotions.  If he diverted his attention elsewhere, then he could just feel the emotions without his head getting in the way.  "So, how did you manage to get swooped several times?"

Duo allowed the digression.  Progress had been made, after all.  "What can I say?" he shrugged, letting one hand drop from Heero's arm, only to move the other to Heero's leg.  "I was just the new hottie on campus.  Word got around, I guess."  He paused, realizing how loose that made him sound.  "Of course, that didn't mean I actually had to agree to go out with them.  But, well, in the beginning, I was pretty willing to go along with things, maybe not enthusiastically, but for learning what it was all about, at least.  Like I said, it was really the first time I'd had the chance.  But I stopped things when they got to a certain point.  I wasn't stupid enough to give it all up for a learning experience with some guy that thought I was flavor of the month.  It kinda makes me admire you."


"Well... you know.  At first?  You were, I dunno, brave enough or whatever to stop things the moment things got uncomfortable for you.  I... usually had to get pushed a little further before I managed to get the guts to stop things.  The things we're willing to suffer for our education, right?" he chuckled weakly, trying to make light of things before he rushed on.  "Anyway, so I was a little more adventurous, maybe, but no less ignorant than you in the beginning."

Heero was not one to be distracted from an important fact unless he wanted to be distracted, and in this case, he did not.  Unfortunately for Duo, the fact important to Heero was not the original topic of their discussion, but the fact the dissembling young man was trying to talk past.  "I didn't stop things, Duo," he responded quietly.  Admitting weakness came no more easily to him than it did to Duo, but he could do it when necessary.  "You stopped things.  I mean, I didn't really push you away or anything.  I got uncomfortable, it showed, you noticed, and you stopped.  I'm sure I didn't do anything more than you did with your boyfriends, only... my boyfriend," he used the term shyly, "was attentive enough to notice and care, and yours weren't."

A smile started to bloom on Duo's lips, but it wilted soon enough.

"What?" Heero asked cautiously, worried he'd said something wrong.

Duo blinked the expression off his face.  "Nothing."  Heero's answering frown made him reconsider his response.  "Well-- I mean, it's something, but not a big important something, so sort of nothing...?"  Uh-huh, if he was going to fudge with the truth, shouldn't he be doing it with some degree of confidence if he wanted to succeed?  He sighed.  "I mean... are we?"

"Are we what?"

"You know.  Boyfriends?"

A wrinkle appeared in Heero's brow.  "Well, aren't we... hmm.  But we... huh."

"See what I mean?"

"Well, not exactly."

Darn, and Duo had felt so close to feeling vindicated.  "I mean, it's not like we're dating, right?"

"But you could date someone and never consider that person your boyfriend or girlfriend.  I don't consider Relena to have been a girlfriend."

"Who?"  What the hell?

"Oh, the girl Quatre introduced me to in high school."

"Oh yeah."  Phew.  He'd forgotten about her.

"And we're, well, trying anyway, to make out on my couch.  I think that would count for something somewhere."  Heero wasn't quite certain what he was hoping it counted for, though.  The terminology involved in their relationship had never much bothered him.  He had, in fact, been deliberately ignoring conventional terminology, mostly dealing with the fact that he was probably now being technically classified as gay, a state he did not particularly identify with at all.

"Yeah, but I could make out with a lot of people on your couch... well, okay, not literally--"

"I certainly hope not."

"-- and it doesn't have to count for anything."

"Fine."  Heero waded through all the nonsensical little terms for relationships he'd come across, trying to formulate some answer for Duo since it seemed to be important to him.  It reminded him oddly of the time he'd done a similar thing for Trowa when they had been trying to categorize his relationship with Quatre.  "We're friends, right?"

"Well, yeah, but--"

"And we're boys, right?"

Duo shot him an exasperated look.  Why was it Heero was so cool and confident when it came to things like this, and so completely not when it came to the simple things like kissing?  "That doesn't mean--"

"Just getting the basics down," Heero cut him off calmly.  "Are you just messing with me?"

"What?  Of course not--"

"Do you have someone else you currently consider your boyfriend, or are you currently seeking one?"


"Are you just here because you have nothing or no one better to do?"


"Are you on the rebound?"


"Are you trying to make someone else jealous?"

"Of course not!"

"Do you like me?"


"Are you planning on ending this any time soon?"


Duo waited tensely for the next ridiculous question, but it seemed Heero was done with them.  "So it seems we're both here simply because we want to be with each other, without any apparent ulterior motives.  We're not seeing other people, and in fact have no desire to see other people.  We plan on continuing this relationship with no pre-fabricated excuse for termination.  We are friends, with both emotional and physical involvement, and we are both boys.  It would seem to me that, regardless of how we spend our time, the term 'boyfriend' probably applies."  When all he got was something resembling a scowl, he asked one last question.  "What do you have against the term?"

"Nothing," Duo immediately rebutted, stopping just short of a snap.  He didn't like being overwhelmed by logic.  It left very little recourse for denial.  "It's not like I haven't used the term before."  But then he paused thoughtfully.  "...Or maybe that's it.  I've had boyfriends before.  And you... are not one of them.  I mean, you're totally different from the rest of them -- in a good way.  You know, which is good, since I've never really liked any of my other boyfriends very much."  He felt really lame saying that, but it was the sad truth.  "But... you see, I like you, so... you can't be one of them."  See, he could be just as logical when he had to be.

This whole relationship was definitely doing new and interesting things to Heero.  It was only after he'd accepted Duo's advances that he started feeling these strange, heartwarming twinges that made him want to blush and smile and gods, just be *close* to Duo all at once.  He settled for just the smile, and even then it came out kind of smothered and lopsided.  "Well.  Why don't I lay claim to the term, and then all the rest of them could be the pretend-boyfriends.  Unless you'd prefer it the other way--"

"No."  A tenuous grin settled on Duo's face as well.  "No, that's fine.  That's... really... really fine."

Heero had taken care of the smile, but something still wanted out, and damned if he was going to blush, so he took what was left and got close, leaning in until he was just short of his target, and then finally managing to make contact on his own.  Granted, he still waited patiently for Duo to take over, but at least he had succeeded in getting his lips to Duo's for once.

Duo started strongly, but soon slowed down and made sure Heero wasn't just being taken along for the ride.  It was strange, but the more he tried this sedate, attentive kiss, so different from what he was used to, the more he liked it.

It ended with a contented sigh, and again, Heero broke into the following calm to distract himself from the fact that he was hovering close over Duo, and that Duo's arm had found its way around his waist.  "Duo Maxwell, are you swooping me?"

Duo's throaty chuckle was felt more than heard.  "You're no frosh."

"I thought I was your frosh."

"...Oh yeah."

"That's kind of tacky, don't you think?" he continued to muse, pausing very briefly to let a tingle run down his spine as Duo's lips ghosted idly down the line of his jaw.  His head tilted automatically to allow better access.  "Swooping your own frosh.  You should swoop someone else's frosh."

"Yeah, well, I always was a rebel.  Besides, you may be my frosh, but I'm not really your upperclassman.  So there."

"So, if you're the same year I am, does that make you a frosh, too?"

Duo lifted his head again so he could look Heero straight in the eye.  "Didn't I just say we were both frosh when it comes to this?"

"Works for me," Heero shrugged before managing to get his lips to Duo's under his own power for the second time that night.

"Well, what do you think so far?" Duo asked loudly.

"What?" Heero asked more loudly, trying to read Duo's lips.  He couldn't hear much over the thumping of the music.  It made him somewhat edgy, knowing that something important could happen, and he might never even know it.

Duo took him by the arm and pulled him close enough to speak directly into his ear.  "I said, what do you think so far?"

It actually wasn't quite how he'd pictured it.  Yes, the loud music was there, and all the people, with maybe half of them bouncing around to the rhythm and the other half holding their big red party cups, but there was just something about it that seemed off.  Maybe he'd been expecting the typical club scene one might catch on TV, and here was a bunch of people that just looked like college students at a party.  He recognized too many of them from campus.  "It's loud," he ended up shouting at Duo.  "And stuffy."

Duo took a hold of his sleeve and tugged him towards one of the side doors.  When they were finally out of the target area of the speakers, things quieted down a little and Heero felt like he could finally breathe again.  Part of the problem had been music that seemed to sweep the air away with it, and the other part was that it was indeed stuffy.  And hot.  And unpleasantly humid.  But it was better the closer they got to the door.

Duo grinned at him.  "Told ya you wouldn't like it."

He shrugged.  "I never disagreed.  I just thought I should check it out anyway."

"Hey, Duo!"  They both turned to see Hilde approaching them with a cheerful wave.  "Oh, and Heero, too?  I didn't expect to see you here."

"Yeah, well, Heero wanted to come," Duo said, knowing full well what kind of response that answer would draw.

As expected, Hilde snorted.  "Yeah, right, Heero wanted to come."

"No, really.  Isn't that right, Heero?"

Heero shrugged again.  "Sort of."

"Hey, don't you 'sort of' me."  He poked Heero's side.  "He just thought he'd check it out.  And I get to be his tour guide through this mess.  Kinda like, what was it, Virgil guiding Dante?"

"Yeah?" Hilde answered, still somewhat skeptical.  "And what do you think of it, Heero?"

It seemed to him that Hilde was enjoying herself, so he tried to find something that wouldn't offend her.  "I don't think I'll need to check it out a second time."

Duo laughed.  "Yeah, this really isn't his scene.  He only lasted a few minutes inside."

"I'm not fond of crowds," he retorted mildly in his defense.  Of course, he wasn't fond of people in general, so perhaps it wasn't surprising.  "Especially when they're all crammed inside a confined space."

"Eh, you get used to it," Hilde tossed off.  "You get into the groove and you don't even notice how stuffy it is in there anymore."

"Stuffy," he repeated, letting his slightly flat tone convey his agreement.  It didn't help that it smelled like people inside, and like cheap beer outside.  "It gave me a headache."

"And after just a few minutes?  Wow, this really isn't your scene.  Well, come on, then.  The guys are over in one of the lounges taking a break."

They followed where she led.  "Hey, I don't suppose it's the one with the pool table?" Duo asked.

"Nah, they locked that thing away.  They just got it re-felted at the beginning of the year.  Wouldn't want it wasted with some careless guy and his drink.  And there are a lot of careless guys with drinks around here."  She opened a door and entered.  "Hey, guys, look who I found!"

They were greeted with party-induced enthusiasm.  Heero just seated himself and tried to stay out of the way as Duo got dragged into goofing off a bit with his buddies, while trying to look like he wasn't trying to stay out of the way.  He didn't notice it when Hilde slipped back outside again, only to return a few minutes later with some drinks in hand.  She handed one of three cups to Heero.  He took it with a raised eyebrow.

"You said it was hot and stuffy, so I got you a drink while I was out there."  Then she turned towards the others and called out, "Hey, Duo, I got you something to drink!"  Duo responded with a wave to indicate he'd be there in a moment.

Heero took a cautious sniff of his drink.  "There's alcohol in this."  Although he may have been confusing that with the general smell of alcohol lingering in the air.

"Oh, I'm sorry, do you not drink?"

He blinked thoughtfully, then shrugged.  "Not really."

"Well, alcohol's great for headaches, so drink up."

Didn't alcohol cause headaches?  Well, perhaps not until the morning after.  He carefully sipped at his drink and suppressed a wince at the taste.  It tasted as good as the air smelled.

Duo came up then, smothering a laugh at Heero's expression, but he accepted his drink with only thanks to Hilde and took a swallow without a problem.  Heero met his eye, reading the amusement there, and deliberately took another drink from his cup, once again not quite hiding his distaste.

His companion chuckled, watching as Hilde drifted away from them to dance with Alex to the music heard through the walls of the dorm.  "You don't have to drink that, you know."

The liquid swishing around in his cup seemed relatively harmless, and he refused to be cowed by it.  "Well, it's only one cup.  And I was kind of thirsty."

"Yeah, but you can go get something else to drink if you want."

He shook his head.  "Then I'd have to go back outside, and wade through all of that to find the bar.  Then I'd have to try and find something non-alcoholic."

"Just pretend you're a frosh.  They know they're not supposed to be serving alcohol to the frosh, or whoever's underage.  Of course, that doesn't mean that they don't."

It hadn't occurred to him that he was underage, and probably the rest of them were, too.  That wasn't really what he'd consider a reason he'd use for not drinking, though.  There was too much implication that he might want to drink if he were over twenty-one, and he didn't foresee that happening.  "No, thanks.  I think I'd rather hide in here where it's safe."

Duo cast a slightly worried look at him.  "You know, we can just take off if you don't want to be here.  There's no point in staying."

"No," Heero declined.  "We just got here.  We can stay for a while longer.  It's just hanging out, and it's just a drink.  I'll live."  He took another sip from his cup to prove his point, and managed to suppress the sour expression this time.  One drink probably wasn't enough to do anything more than make him a little flushed.  And if he really couldn't hold his liquor, well, he supposed now would be as good a time as any to find out.

He received a dubious look, but otherwise his offer was accepted.  "Okay, well, let me know, though."

One nod, some chatting, and a few "thank god I'm not as wasted as them"s later, and Heero was relaxedly ensconced on the arm of a chair, watching life swirl around him.  The others had managed to inveigle him into a few things, but they otherwise left him alone, Duo not withstanding.  Heero got to watch him goof around and found the sight oddly satisfying, and Duo always came back to him under the guise of drinking out of the cup Heero was watching for him.  And when that cup was empty, well, he came back anyway.

"You're all red-like, ya know."

"I know," Heero answered placidly.  Since alcohol only made a person feel warmer, it really was rather illogical to drink when one was already rather warm.  "I can feel it, thank you."

"One cup, eh?"  He put the back of his hand to his cheek.  "I'm not feeling it at all."

"You probably have robust barbarians as ancestors.  Besides, I think it was a little more than one cup."

"Oh?"  Duo tilted his head curiously.  "So you got used to the taste, then?  But I didn't see you get another.  Did Hilde actually get you one?"

"No."  She had threatened to, though.  She'd tried to convince him to dance with her once or twice, but Heero had refused, joking that he'd need more than just one cup of beer for that to happen.  She'd suggested he dance with Duo as well, but that was fended off with the same response.  "But I think our cups got mixed up at some point because somewhere along the way, you finished off your drink with a single gulp when I know you had more left than that, and I realized that I had more left than I thought I had."

"And you kept drinking anyway?"

Heero shrugged.  One cup, more or less, what did it matter?  He tried to estimate how long he thought the flush would last.  He'd never drank before, didn't weigh very much, and had dinner a few hours ago.  It seemed the odds were against him.

"Well, the guys are going to head back out again, so I guess, you wanna hang out here some more or what?"

"Hm, some air would be nice."

They left with the others and eventually managed to slip away when the rest of them dispersed into the crowd.  Duo steered them away from the party and out into the blessedly cool night air.  "So, now you've gone to a party, had some beer, seen someone throw up in the bushes... think your college experience is complete now?"

"Makes me glad I don't live on campus.  Or in that dorm, rather.  I'd hate to be there tomorrow."

"Yeah, they probably have a clean-up crew if they've done their organizing right, but they'll only take care of the cups and moving the furniture back into place.  Doesn't do anything for the vomit in the bushes and the beer on the floor."

"And that godsawful stench, I imagine.  How late will the party go to?"

"Hm, oh, usually around one.  I think that's the official end time the school lists.  But I remember at least one party where they stopped everything at one o'clock for, like, five minutes, and then started back up again since it was technically the next day."

"So you'd go to these parties, hang out with your friends, dance a little, drink a little... it looked like you were enjoying yourself."  If there was any hint of accusation at all in that statement, it was because Duo had said that he didn't enjoy it more than because he had enjoyed it.

"Well, yeah," Duo admitted, remembering what conversation had led them to coming to the party in the first place.  "But in a pure mindless escapism sort of way.  That's good every once in a while, but that doesn't mean that I'm interested in doing that all of the time.  That just becomes debauchery."  They bumped shoulders, and he had a hard time trying to figure out if it had been a tiny sign of affection or a tipsy weave.

"Once in a while, then."

"Why are you so set on trying to get me to hang out with them?"

"That was part of the original agreement, wasn't it?  You asked if I would take you away from your friends, and I said no, I wouldn't."

"No," Duo corrected.  "You said, no, unless they were a bad influence on me."

Heero paused, his power of recollection slightly sluggish.  "Oh, yes.  In any case, they don't seem to be a very bad influence on you, maybe just a little, so I'm not going to take you away from your friends."

"Tonight worked out well enough, so maybe I'll just drag you along with me, then.  That way we'll both be satisfied."

"Thank you," he said magnanimously, the final sound transforming itself into a small yawn.

"You tired?"

"Hm.  I shouldn't be."  It really wasn't that late, and he hadn't done anything more strenuous than plant himself in the corner of a room and watch everyone else do things that would probably tire them out.

"Ah," Duo said knowingly.  "I think it's important to know what kind of drunk you are, even if you never plan on being drunk."

"I am not drunk."  Of course, Duo hadn't actually said that he was, so maybe he'd just fallen into a trap of self-incrimination.  Darn.

"And apparently, you are a sleepy drunk."

"I am not drunk," he emphasized again.  It somehow seemed important that they get that straight.  Perhaps it was some testosterone-inspired thing.  "And I am not sleepy."

They bumped shoulders again, and this time, Duo was fairly certain that this was not a moment that called for affection.  He smiled and turned them in the direction of home.  "Come on.  We'll walk it off."

They arrived at Howard's without incident, although Duo took advantage of the occasion to slip an arm around Heero's waist in 'support' of his companion.  Howard eyed them curiously after they'd gotten themselves upstairs.  "Is he drunk?"

"I am not drunk."  Heero's tone made it sound like he had repeated that several times already.

"Nope," Duo agreed.  "Just sleepy."

"And I am not sleepy."

"Yeah, then why are you leaning on me like that, huh?"

"Because it's nice?" Heero retorted flatly.

"Oh."  He turned and grinned at Howard.  "Okay, he's not sleepy.  He just likes leaning on me."

Howard snorted.  "He must be drunk."

He ignored them as Duo settled Heero in a seat at the kitchen table and got him a glass of water first, then rummaged around looking for something snack-like, ending up with only an apple as something he thought it likely Heero would eat.  None of it really served to clear up the pleasant mellowness residing in Heero's head, although whether it was really alcohol-induced or not was open to discussion.  Either way, Duo decided he'd take Heero home and informed Howard of that while Heero was in the bathroom.

"Can I take the car, Howie?"  Since they rarely had to be in two entirely different places at once, other than school and work, their household owned only one aging car, but Duo was fond of it as an old, only somewhat faithful, friend.  He wasn't very fond of walking the streets by himself after midnight, though.

"Come here."

Duo went to stand obediently in front of his uncle and waited to be declared sober and fit to drive before he was allowed to fetch the keys.  "I might stay a while and tuck him in."

"Ah, I'll see you tomorrow, then?"

He glared at the older man.  "I said I was going to tuck him in."

Howard blinked innocently at him.  "Oh, you mean that isn't some sort of code for you sleeping with him or something?"

He made an exasperated sound.  "Even if I were going to, do you think I'd tell you?"

"Nah, I'd probably be able to tell by the honkin' huge grin on your face the next morning.  Either way, I won't be worried if you don't come home tonight."  His uncle winked with some exaggeration.  "I mean, he is conveniently drunk and all."

"I am not drunk," Heero enunciated clearly, just exiting the bathroom and causing Duo to wonder just how much of that he'd heard.

"But you are sleepy," Duo reminded him.

"I am not--"

"So let's get you home, okay?"  Fortunately, Heero was pliable, if nothing else, and Duo was able to get him down the stairs and out the door.  Other than the small amount of patience required while Heero fumbled with his keys, it was a peaceful journey to his apartment.

Once safely inside, Heero sat down on his bed and forcibly clamped down on a minor yawn.

"See, you are sleepy."  Duo's words were more affectionate than smug.  "But I'm not so sure it has everything to do with the alcohol anymore.  What time did you get to sleep last night?"

It took a little effort to recall, and he couldn't come up with an exact time.  "Umm, I was up doing a lot of reading for that paper I have due on Monday since I knew I'd be busy tonight."

Personally, Duo would have just waited for the weekend instead of being all responsible about it, but then again, now Heero didn't have to try and cram it all in the next day, so his way was probably better.  That didn't mean Duo couldn't attack his logic, though.  "You stayed up late last night knowing that you'd be up late tonight?  And weren't you working late the night before, too?"

Heero shrugged, and swayed a little at the end, just enough to be noticeable.  "Losing a little sleep never bothered me.  I really don't know why it's hitting me all of a sudden."

"Well, I guess that's where the alcohol comes in, then.  Come on."  Duo knelt by his feet and peeled off his socks.

"Alcohol is a depressant, you know," he nodded sagely, uncharacteristically allowing Duo to do as he pleased.  "Which doesn't really explain why some people get so, uh, you know, drunk-like.  Loud and, um, annoying and stuff."

Duo smiled and helped him out of his jacket.  "Well, there is that whole lowering of inhibitions thing, too, you know."

"So that means most people are naturally loud and annoying on the inside, and drinking just helps it get out?  No wonder I don't like most people."

"And I guess you're just a sleepyhead on the inside, then?"  Duo pinched his cheek lightly before guiding his legs onto the bed.  He moved a hand to Heero's shoulder to push him to lie down, but things got a little complicated when Heero wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him down as well.  "Um, Heero?"

"Hm?"  Heero shifted a little farther onto the bed and tugged Duo along with him.

Duo tried not to get comfortable as he wondered how Heero had somehow maneuvered them into this position.  His legs were still safely hanging over the side of the bed, but somehow Heero had managed to twist him onto his back, with Duo's head on the pillow next to his own.  "Erm, is this a part of that whole lowering of inhibitions thing?"

"I'm not drunk," came the tired protest.

"Well, I didn't say you were, but, uh, you know, we don't want you doing anything you'll regret in the morning..."  Not that they were doing anything particularly startling, given the state of their relationship, but still, this wasn't just snuggling for a while, this was sleeping the whole night through and waking up the next morning next to someone.  On a twin-sized bed, no less.  This was something else entirely, something revolutionary, and even a little scary.

"You know what I decided tonight?  You're kinda like beer."

"...You don't like the taste of beer."  Was this a complete non-sequitur or what?  It wasn't like Heero to be so random.

"At first.  But like you said, you can get used to the taste.  And then maybe after a while, it'll fry enough of your brain cells that you actually start liking the taste."

"Gee, thanks.  And can I make you puke, too?" he asked, thinking perhaps that if he kept the conversation going, and hopefully kept Heero awake, he might be able to wriggle himself free without too much trouble.  First, however, he had to convince himself to try and get free.

"Hm.  Well, maybe if I were a girl, and you got me pregnant."

"...Yippee.  I don't think I like this comparison."

"No, wait, it gets better."  The hand on Duo's chest gestured half-heartedly as he made his point, thumping and patting the skin over Duo's heart.  "See, I figured out that the beer tastes a lot worse when you just sip at it.  It's better if you just take a real swallow and get it over with all at once, see?  So maybe," he paused for a sleepy yawn.  "Maybe I should stop trying to sip at you, because that only gives me all this opportunity to think about all the negative things and just makes it harder for me to get buzzed."

"...I see."  Well, he didn't really, but whatever.  If Heero was able to be so articulate, didn't that mean he should be in full control of his faculties?  "So... is this you trying to get buzzed?"

"No," Heero murmured quite reasonably.  "This is me trying to go to sleep.  Now shush up and be a good pillow."  He scootched a little closer and adjusted his body to Duo's contours.  Just like Grumpy.  Well, the proportions were a little different, but the principle was the same, though this was much, much better than Grumpy.  He let everything shut down and just pretended he was hanging onto a great, big Duo-plushie.  A great, big... warm... interactive... not-quite-soft... not-quite-fuzzy... Duo-plushie....  Something seemed not-quite-right about that thought... but he'd figure it out in the morning.

Despite himself, Duo couldn't bring himself to leave as he watched Heero drop off into sleep.  Finally, he succumbed to the inevitable and swung his legs onto the bed as well, trying to get comfortable without shifting too much, although he was pretty sure that, at this point, he wouldn't be waking his companion up.  He sighed and reached up to switch off the lamp on the bedside table, a little unhappy that Howard was going to be smirking for all he was worth when he got home the next day, but that was it.  He could blame it all on Heero.

He looked down at the head resting on his shoulder.  "You are too cute for your own good," he whispered, pressing his lips to Heero's soft locks.  The action was completely natural, but he was a little startled to realize that he didn't think he'd ever done that to anyone before.

He did it once more for good measure before settling down to sleep himself.

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