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fic - out of the box [dorm] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - out of the box [dorm]
Title:  Out of the Box
Series:  Moments in a Dorm Room
Summary:  They're suddenly back at school again.  Why do I feel like I intended to have something between this chapter and the last?

~ Out of the Box ~
A Moment in a Dorm Room

Heero eyed his room with a certain distaste.  On the one hand, he was much happier being out of the infirmary and back in a space with which he was familiar.  There was a lock on the door, and the only person he had to worry about barging in unannounced was his roommate.  On the other hand, he'd had his fill.  He wasn't particularly pleased with the idea of being cooped up in a small space again.  He had finally won his freedom from the Preventers doctors and their scans, tests, and theories.  Did he really want to spend it in another room, with books, laptop, and just a bit more unfinished homework to keep him company?

That, and Duo.  He was also a constant similarity between the two rooms.  Well, let him be a similarity among three places, then.  "Duo."

"Hm?"  The boy in question raised his eyes in surprise from the article he'd been reading on his laptop.  Heero didn't often address him out of the blue, and since his return, Duo had been acting on the considerate side, keeping to himself and generally leaving his roommate a quiet, peaceful atmosphere.

As kind as that was, it was not entirely the correct decision.  Heero hungered for stimulation.  Duo knew about that sort of thing, didn't he?  "If a person were going to get out of his room and go somewhere, preferably somewhere not too crowded or busy, but still somewhere with something to do... where would he go?"

Duo's first thought was, 'what an odd hypothetical question.'  Good sense kicked in after a second or two and informed him quite pointedly that it had probably not been hypothetical at all.  Though still thrown by the idea that Heero Yuy might want to go out and do something, the rest of him was figuring out just how restless Heero might have been.  He certainly knew how restless he would have been in a similar situation.

Even without the doctor's orders, Duo knew he wouldn't be selecting any of the hotter spots.  Yes, they were lively, but no matter how restless Heero was, Duo rather doubted he'd be interested in loud music and noisy teenagers.  "Umm, the Hub?  It's probably pretty quiet on a Tuesday night.  You ever been there?"

Did recon count?  He'd checked out a lot of places when they'd first arrived at the school, both on campus and in the area, but no social scene in any particular depth.  "Not really."

"They've got some stuff.  TV in the corner.  Some sofas.  A couple of arcade games.  Food...."  He hesitated before continuing, wondering if it was his place to fuss.  Then he decided it wasn't fussing, just making a suggestion.  "You didn't eat much at dinner.  You could probably grab a little bit of something there, if you wanted."

Heero hummed contemplatively.  While the idea of 'hanging out' somewhere was novel and strange, he did have an equally novel and strange hankering to do so.  He also liked the idea of heading out with the purpose of getting something to eat.  It gave him a reason to be there, since it was unlikely he would be there to watch TV or sit on the sofa or play arcade games.  He did wonder as to what sort of food they served there, but decided it didn't much matter.  While he wasn't particularly hungry, he did know that he ought to fill his stomach with something.  It was only his appetite that had been lacking recently, not his reason.

"So..." Duo ventured.  "Did you want to go?"

One more moment of thought was devoted to the matter before Heero nodded once and turned to get a jacket.  Duo had just started to mirror the action when he had a doubt.  What if Heero didn't want company?  He hadn't actually invited his roommate to go with him, after all, and Duo hadn't said anything that would necessarily pertain to them going out together.  The hesitation passed quickly, however.  Just what was Heero going to do all by himself in a public, social place?  Besides, as uncomfortable as Heero may have found the scene, he would likely feel even more uncomfortable and out of place if he were there by himself.  His conclusion was proven correct when Heero waited by the door for him to pull his boots on.

On a Friday or Saturday night, the Hub found itself a relatively popular place among the students.  It was a small, on-campus hangout not too far from the dorms, and it accepted credit on the school's boarding plan.  On a Tuesday night, however, not enough of the student body could be labeled as bored enough to find it necessary to partake of its attractions.  There were only eight other people to share the space with them, in little pockets around the room, minding their own business.

Heero's eyes scanned the area critically before judging it fit for his presence.  He had already picked out a few of the more defensible spots to claim as their own before he headed over to study the menu above the counter.  Duo sidled up to his side and reviewed the options as well, trying to figure out what Heero might be willing to eat.  "Umm... the chili cheese fries are good."  Considering the rest of the menu consisted of smoothies, brownies, deep fried cheese sticks, and hot dogs, it wasn't as bad of a suggestion as it sounded.  "We could split it, if you want."

Heero made a brief sound of acknowledgment, instead letting the fact that he ordered one serving of chili cheese fries indicate his agreement.  The pair continued to survey the room while they waited for their food.  Duo spent the time in comfortable, though wary, silence.  Having discarded most of his need to make noise between the two of them, he was still a little uneasy with being at the Hub with Heero.  What were they going to do there?  Just eat their fries and leave?  Hey, let's pretend we're just two normal guys, even though one of us was having seizures just a week or two ago.  They could talk, surely, but again, what about?  Duo had learnt new things about Heero over the last couple of weeks that he was still trying to process.  He wasn't as certain about his roommate as he had been.

"Pinball," Heero said suddenly.

"Erm?"  Duo followed his line of sight to the pinball machine.  Two youths were currently engaged in a game over the flashing, dinging device.

"There's a pinball machine."

He bit back on the retort that would have been his automatic response in another situation.  "Uh, yeah."

Their order was called up, and Heero turned around to retrieve it, then made a beeline towards the table in the corner he had selected.  Since neither of them wanted to sit with his back towards the open room, they ended up sitting next to each other.

Heero was scooting his chair closer to the table when he finally got around to finishing his thought.  "We used to have a pinball machine.  On base."

Preventers' base?  No, Duo thought, handing Heero a fork.  The base he'd been trained at, then?  "Huh.  That's no fair.  We didn't have one."

Heero shrugged, taking his fork and poking half-heartedly at the fries.  It wasn't that he wasn't willing to eat it.  He was just in a somewhat pointless, poking mood, feeling too unfocused to simply dig in.  "I think it used to be the quintessential geek game or something.  Some of the engineers on base used to play a lot."

"Did you play?"  Unlike his counterpart, Duo went ahead and speared a fry, perhaps trying to demonstrate that they were safe to eat.  He made a note to himself not to consume more than half the fries unless Heero had eaten his fill.  Although chili cheese fries weren't among the most nutrient-rich foods out there, Heero was under orders to eat, and Duo had no intentions of thwarting that.

After witnessing Duo take a bite, Heero followed suit, starting first with a fry without many of its accoutrements attached.  It was tasty still.  "A little.  Trajectories and reflexes and learning to cope with lots of flashing lights, you know.  But not much.  There were other things to do."

"Ah, now that's more what I expected to hear."


"Other things to do," Duo answered, meticulously gathering up chili and cheese and arranging it artfully on his fries to maximize the possibility of getting it all to his mouth without it making a mess.  Normally he might not bother, but he felt obliged to with Heero sitting next to him.  "Otherwise I might have to be weirded out by you just having fun."

"Fun.  I'm not unfamiliar with the concept, you know."

Duo paused in the making of his creation, wondering if the dry tone was simply a dry tone, or if he'd hit some sort of nerve.  "Not saying you were.  Just saying."  What was he saying again?  He scrambled to find a point.  "You aren't the type."

"To just have fun?"  Heero popped a fry and munched on it contemplatively.  "I suppose not.  My priorities have always lain elsewhere."

More unexpected confuzzlements Duo wasn't certain he was ready to hear.  Was Heero implying that, free from his priorities, he would actually seek out fun, whatever he considered that to be?  "You should play, after those guys are done."


"Bet you were good at it.  Trajectories and reflexes and all, you know."

Heero pushed at the fries again, thinking back to days past.  "For a while, I was a little too short to get the best viewing angle.  And I wasn't very fond of nudging the machine to direct the ball.  It always seemed a little bit like cheating to me."

"You do what you have to to win."  Survival of the fittest.

"Not at a game."

How noble of him.  "Nah, you'd probably play so perfectly you'd never even have to tilt the machine."

Heero snorted softly.  "I'm far from perfect, Duo."  He stabbed a little harder at the fries, then stopped himself from doing it again by taking another bite.

Duo may have noticed, or it may have just been his imagination.  "I'm surprised the perfectionist in you would have such an easy time admitting that."

"Being a perfectionist means that one strives towards perfection, not that one has achieved it.  I have many flaws, Duo, but foolish pride is not one of them."

"Foolish pride can get you killed," Duo intoned sagely.

"And I have no intention of getting killed."

"Hn, that so?  Certainly didn't seem that way last year."  Not that any of them really demonstrated a powerful sense of self-preservation, otherwise none of them would have been out there to begin with.

"I managed to slip through death's fingers many times last year.  You think that, all of a sudden, I'm just going to give in and let him win?"  Besides, last year was last year.  This was now.  Things were different now.  Contrary to appearances, his brushes with death had been calculated affairs, chances taken for a reason.  Hopefully, there wouldn't be any more of those reasons coming up any time soon.

"Heh, foolish pride, maybe not," Duo chuckled.  "But I think I detect a bit of a competitive streak in you."

He grunted thoughtfully, taking a moment to pick out another fry.  "How can we measure our progress if we have nothing to measure ourselves against?"

"Shit, you've got a reason for everything, don't you?" Duo drawled with some amusement.  "Reason you don't have fun, reason you play pinball, even a reason to be competitive."

Heero blinked in surprise.  "...Sorry," he apologized pointlessly.  "It... was a game we used to play."

"You even have a reason for your reasons," Duo murmured, chuckling again.  "Sorry.  But what do you mean, game?  I mean, if that was your form of entertainment, damn, you must have had one boring childhood.  Even I had better games than that."

Nostalgia had never had a particularly strong hold on him, or at least, Heero hadn't thought so, but now the 'good old days' were creeping up on him tonight.  "I was allowed to do pretty much whatever I wanted, so long as I could give a good reason for it.  It had to have some worth to my overall education or training."

"That sounds restrictive, not entertaining."

"It became an exercise in creativity.  Like I was allowed to play pinball because of the trajectories and reflexes.  After a while, it became something of a game to see what I could get away with."

"You get away with much?" Duo asked curiously.

"Some.  More than I might have thought.  I got to study a lot of myths and legends because you would not believe how many mad scientists out there like naming their top secret projects after things of old.  It helps to be able to recognize the names."

Duo choked down a laugh.  "Yeah.  I think I've run into a few of those.  And they think they're being all clever and mysterious, too.  I mean, come on.  How can anything named after Gehenna be sweet and innocent?  Although sometimes it works the other way around.  I knew this Sweeper that named his captain's chair on his bridge something completely incomprehensible.  Sounded scary and ominous, but it was something like... oh, what was it?  He named it after the throne of some Norse god.  Liked to say he could see everything from that chair.  It was kind of funny watching people hear its name the first time.  Sounded kinda like some evil, tentacly monster whose name you were never to speak."


Duo stared at him.  "You know, that might just have been it.  Unless you just made that up.  I wouldn't be able to tell.  That's... really weird that you know that."

Heero shrugged.  "It was Odin's throne, in his hall in Asgard."  The vanishing fries were on the receiving end of a rather deep look for a moment.  "...I knew a man named Odin once."

"Another one of the project techs?"

"No.  I think one of the most interesting things I ever got away with was the reading of a romance novel."

The surprise induced by such a statement was enough to distract Duo from the fact that the subject had just been changed quite thoroughly.  "What?  How the hell did you pull that one off?  And maybe more importantly, why the hell would you want to?"

As usual, Heero dropped another one of his modest shrugs into the conversation.  "It was a game.  One of the techs was reading a romance novel in the mess hall, one day.  She got hassled about it a bit, but I admired the way she didn't let that bother her.  I got pulled into the conversation somehow when she started listing the book's numerous qualities."

"And you used those qualities to get permission to read the book?  Whatever for?"

"It amused me at the time.  I argued something about the romantic ideal, and how there were people in the world who actually thought that sort of thing happened in real life, and seeing an example of how these people thought would help me deal with them."  He laughed quietly in recollection.  "I think J let me win that one.  Anything I won permission for, I had to see through to the end."

Duo laughed more loudly than he.  G probably would have done the same, and cackled madly the whole time, too.  "Devious bastard, wasn't he?  So, did you learn anything?"

"I learnt things.  Nothing I would ever want to apply to real life, of course.  But... I think I did get to see how the other half lives."

"Have you run into any swooning damsels lately?"

"I don't mean that other half.  I mean... the less logical sector of the population.  The people that could write and read and believe in such things.  They were like... oceans, you know?  I knew they existed, but until I came to Earth and saw one with my own eyes..."

Duo knew what he meant.  He still looked at oceans and marveled.  Although many of the colony-born did, for some reason, he hadn't expected Heero to be one of them.  "Nah.  If they were like oceans, they'd be special and pretty."

"Those people are special and pretty, too."

Duo raised an eyebrow at him.

"Well, they are," he said defensively.  "Maybe not in a way that I'd really want to talk to one all the time... but they have a certain charm and innocence.  I wouldn't want the world to be full of jaded realists."

He had a certain charm and innocence as well, if he could think that and make it sound believable.  From anyone else's lips, perhaps it would have sounded false.  From him... a person might accept it as truth.  "To peace, then," Duo said, raising his fork in a toast.  "And the romance readers and writers of the world."

Heero solemnly clicked their plastic forks together.

They stayed.  They chatted.  They ate fries.  When the food was finished, they decided to return to their room.  Before they got up, however, Duo blinked and apologized.  "Hey, you didn't get a chance to play any pinball.  Still interested?"

Heero glanced at the machine, now unoccupied.  "No, not really.  Besides, there will be plenty of other opportunities, won't there?"

This pleased Duo.  "Yeah.  There will be, won't there?"  He reached over to center their forks on the little cardboard tray, then got up.

Heero followed suit.  He rose to his feet, and promptly put a hand on the edge of the table as the blood rush hit.  Duo reached out in an automatic reaction to steady him, but managed to abort the action before it became intrusive.  Though swaying, Heero noted the gesture, and once the world became steady again, he acknowledged it with a simple nod.

The table was released, and they continued along their merry way.

no, seriously.  odin's throne was named hlidskjalf.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
hostilecrayon From: hostilecrayon Date: April 21st, 2010 11:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
OMG. Pronouncing that is impossible. It looks like a mashing of keys. XD

Real live opening up dialogue! You do so much with so little, showing all of these sides of Heero with just a few sentences. I think Heero's reason for his reasons is just too brilliantly perfect. The comfort level shared here is almost a visible shift. I can easily see this as being a natural progression because that's how it feels. There's the pondering and awkwardness right along with the bits of easy conversation. It all melds together to make for a very realistic picture.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: April 22nd, 2010 04:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Hlidskjalf reminds me of that Icelandic volcano that's stirring things up right now -- Eyjafjallajokull.  But everyone refers to it as the Icelandic volcano, for obvious reasons. =D

Yeah, it's amazing how much more they can say to each other when Duo's not snarking irritably every other line. =p The reason I'm sort of dialogue-centric is I think we express so much in what we choose to say, or not say, what words we use, how we say it, which words we emphasize, how quickly or slowly we say things, what we're looking at or what we're fidgeting with when we say them...
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