Disclaimer - The Gundam boys don't belong to me. Miss Paisley and Sharon do. Duh.
Duo looked at the massive building and gaped a bit. It must've been seven stories high. At least. He turned to look at the
impassive Heero, who was walking in front of him, seemingly not noticing that he had stopped. "This is a restaurant?"
Heero turned back to him. "Yes. A real restaurant. Unlike Taco Bell."
"Oh, you're just too funny," he quipped. Reluctantly, he followed him into the 'restaurant'. There was a man standing about
three feet in front of them, and he turned from his partner behind the counter when the door shut behind us.
"Welcome," he said warmly. "Mister Yuy, will you be dining here again tonight?" Duo looked at Heero quizzically, but he ignored
the stare and nodded. "Then go ahead to the elevator, sir," the waiter-guy said, and Heero led Duo to said elevator.
He kept his eyes trained on Heero's back while he pressed the 'up' button and as he waited. Eventually, he knew, Heero'd get
annoyed. Sure enough...
"What?!" he turned on Duo with his infamous glare, which the braided man studiously ignored. "Do you come here often,
"Don't. Call. Me. That," he hissed.
"Whatever you say, Hee-chan."
Duo heard him growl. The elevator door opened, and they stepped inside. When the doors closed behind them, he turned back
to Heero. "So? Do you come here very often?"
Heero shook his head. "No."
Duo blinked for a second, expecting him to expand. Then he mentally smacked himself. Again, who was he with? He'd have to
interrogate the guy to get the shortest of answers. "So... how did the guy remember you? Oh! Wait! I know! It was your charming
personality." He slanted Heero a glance. "Am I right?"
Heero's mouth twitched. "No."
He sighed, exasperated. "Then what?"
"I left them a nice tip."
"Ah," Duo said plainly. "Yup, that'll do it." He stopped talking to Heero long enough to look around the elevator and ended
up staring out the glass wall to the diminishing ground below. "How many stories are we going up?"
"Damn, I'm good," he muttered, and watched an old couple make their way across the parking lot.
He turned to see Heero smirking at him. "I thought the building was seven stories high. What are the other levels used for?"
Heero shrugged. "How should I know?"
Duo imitated his shrug. "I don't know. I guess I'm still used to you being the Perfect Soldier. I mean, with you in the Preventers,
my mind just keeps seeing you as a soldier."
Heero remained silent.
"Heero?" Duo thought the only reason Heero turned his gaze on him was that funny choking noise that came out of his mouth
despite efforts. Duo refused to give him the time to ask why and how it had slipped out. He didn't give him time to say anything.
"That... in the hospital, when I said that... thing... when I brushed you off. I'm really sorry about that."
Heero's face showed pure, genuine surprise, and something oddly warm settled in those cobalt orbs. Duo could swear that his
body just melted into some puddle. A small smile settled on Heero's face, and as the elevator door opened, he was washed in
a golden light from the lights in the lobby. "It's... okay, Duo."
Hope spread through Duo like mercury, setting his body on fire. "Heero..."
Someone coughed, and they both turned as if the sound had been gunfire. Duo's face flamed at the sight of a woman in a waitress'
uniform trying to get them off the elevator. Heero just smiled at her, and her face immediately lit up. "Mister Yuy, it's
wonderful to see you again. How are you?"
"Well," he said, and grabbed Duo's good arm. Heero literally dragged him out into the lobby, and the woman smiled at Duo.
He blushed harder.
"I know the lobby is large, but don't let that intimidate you."
Duo looked at her in shock. She must have known what had been going on in that elevator. Then again, what had been
going on in that elevator? Were Heero and him just talking, or were they getting ready to... to...
"Duo!" Duo sighted Heero a few yards ahead of him and rushed to catch up. "Duo, what were you thinking about?"
He shook his head. There was no way he was going to tell Heero that he was imagining the man's lips roving over his own. "Nothing."
"Now you're the one clamming up," Heero told him, and he realized that he was right.
"Oh, pardon my Heero," he said, and surprised a laugh out of Heero. He basked in the sound. In the knowledge that he had made
the infamous Heero Yuy laugh. "You have a nice laugh," he said, and bit his lip to shut himself up. He peeked up through his
bangs to see if Heero'd heard.
"You're the third person to say that," he said musingly. "I guess I should let myself out a bit more..." Something haunted
came into his eyes. His despair brought Duo's own sadness crashing onto him. There was no way he was letting Heero be sad.
"The... third?" he parroted dumbly as they were seated, hoping that would bring some sort of change in Heero's attitude. "Are...
the other two alive?" He mentally slapped himself. What a wonderful way to get Heero's mind off of bad thoughts.
Heero shot Duo a look, though not the look. "Yes, Duo," he answered, and his voice said that he was indulging a five-year-old.
"Who were they? Are they," Duo corrected myself. "Who are they?"
"Quatre and Relena," Heero told him, and her name sort of killed Duo's already weakened good mood.
"Relena, huh?" he said, pretending indifference. "Speaking of which, are you two an item yet? Did I miss the wedding?"
Heero looked at him with what seemed to be horror. "W-Wedding?" He shook his head. "No, Duo," he said, and his voice was light
and teasing. "You haven't missed the wedding yet. But tell me, what would you bring to our wedding?"
A gun with extra clips, to make sure she's dead when you finally decide to kill her, Duo thought, but didn't quite
think that answer would go over well. "Gee, I dunno, Heero. Maybe a sticky note reminding you to put the seat down," he joked.
Heero groaned. "You haven't forgotten about that yet?"
Duo laughed. "Nope, and I won't. The great Heero Yuy, the best soldier in the entire solar system, the most respected man
in the Preventers agency – or else, should be – was never taught to put the toilet seat down."
Another cough sounded, and they both jumped. The waitress was back, and she was looking at Heero with a pitying expression
on her face. Duo watched in no small fascination as Heero's skin went crimson. "Same as last time," he muttered, almost too
softly to hear.
Duo turned to her and winked. "I'll take the chicken and broccoli alfredo," he told her with an innocent smile. "Please,"
She nodded. "Two chicken and broccoli alfredos, coming up."
"Two?" Duo parroted and twisted around to face Heero as the waitress left. "You like it, too? I didn't think anyone else had
even heard of it before. It's a really old recipe."
Heero smiled. "They specialize with old recipes here. That's why I like this place." He cocked his head. "How do you know
about that stuff? You don't seem the type."
"It was the first real food I ate," Duo explained. "Professor G introduced me to it."
"'First real food'?" he echoed, and seemed to be waiting for a clarification.
He shrugged. "Growing up a street rat, you don't have many gourmet meals. Then, at Father Maxwell's, we didn't exactly have
bushels of money, you know?"
"Oh, please! I knew you never listened to what I said back during the war! I must've told you like a billion times." Duo lifted
an eyebrow in mock severity. "That's not becoming for a Preventer."
Oh, gods. Not again.
The waitress - Duo quickly scanned her name tag and found her name to be Sharon – surprised him by bringing drinks.
Duo smiled and took a sip, surprised again to find that it was Mountain Dew. She left and he swung his head to Heero. "I don't
remember ordering this."
"You didn't," Heero told him, and he sat there, baffled. He watched Heero drink his mineral water. "I ordered it for you."
How did Heero know what he liked to drink? And just when in the hell had he ordered it? "Thanks." Duo took another sip, trying
to figure the Perfect Soldier out. "Hey, Heero?"
"Did you know that there's a 'Return' button on that elevator?"
Heero gave him a strange look. "A what?"
"A 'Return' button," he repeated. "I wonder what it's used for? I've never seen one before."
Heero shook his head. "You always did have a lot of curiosity. And you always forget what happened to that cat."
Duo made a face. "Yeah, but that was a cat. I happen to be human."
Heero continued to stare at him until their salads came. There was a special sauce on them already, which explained the lack
of questioning on our choice of dressing. He immediately dug in, all too aware of Heero's intense gaze.
Heero silently got into his meal, and the only sounds were the other people talking and the scraping of the fork on the plate.
Okay, the fork was Duo's. He was purposely trying to be irritating.
"Duo..." The warning came in a low voice, but was very clear. Duo had noticed that people were starting to stare, and Heero
never liked that.
"So... what were we talking about?" Duo asked, and he hoped that Brain Boy could get the hint.
Heero sighed. "Okay, okay, I get it. Just stop the noise."
He stopped instantly.
He sighed again. "We were vainly trying to find something to talk about."
"Vainly?" he prompted.
"A wonderful conversation, Hee-chan," he noted.
"Don't call me that."
"What? Oh, Hee-chan?"
Heero growled. "Duo, omae o..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know." Duo grinned impishly and finished off his salad, looking to the kitchen and urging the woman to come
quicker. This was a bit difficult. It was always difficult to get Heero involved in any conversation other than a mission.
"We were talking about my life as a street rat, weren't we?" Duo prodded, and Heero's eyes sharpened.
"I thought you didn't want to talk about that."
"Why not? I'm not embarrassed. I was a damn good street rat."
Heero shook his head. "I don't understand you."
"Oh, good. I don't want to bore anybody."
Heero opened his mouth to say something, but a beeping noise interrupted him. He looked down and grimaced. "Excuse me, Duo,"
he said, and stood. Duo watched him get up and leave with a sense of impending doom. He couldn't explain it, but he knew something
was wrong. He could feel it, inside him.
Not two minutes later, Heero was walking back to their table at a record clip. "Duo, something's come up," he was informed.
"I need to go."
Duo caught on instantaneously. It was his mission. Miss Paisley. "Understood," he said. "I'll come with you."
Heero looked at Duo's left arm and shook his head. "No. I can't put you in that position. You're a civilian now, Duo. You
aren't a Preventer."
"I don't care. I want to help."
"You'd be of no help to me whatsoever injured," he snapped, and spun around to leave.
"Heero, dammit, I -"
"No!" he barked, and people turned to stare. "No," he repeated, more gently this time. "Please, stay here. Enjoy your meal."
Stunned, he could do no more than stare after Heero as he left. He turned back to the table, feeling incredibly foolish. They
had been having a civil conversation. He'd even been having fun. And then Heero was called away. Just like that, everything
changed. He looked at Sharon, who was coming up to the table. "Where's Mister Yuy?" she asked, and Duo suddenly felt sick.
He noticed two twenty dollar bills on the table and fought back his nausea. Heero was on the battlefield. Sure, he'd been
on the battlefield before. Thousands of times.
And he'd felt this way during every single one of those missions.
Duo stood and gave Sharon a sympathetic smile. "I'm sorry," he said, "but could you just... I dunno. I've got to go." He looked
at the food in her hand and felt ill for letting it go to waste. He just wasn't hungry anymore. "Could you put that someplace
that it can be saved in, and take it to a shelter, please? I don't want to waste it. Here." He handed her one of his own twenties.
"For the trouble."
"Both you and Mister Yuy are the same," she said with a smile. "You're both very kind."
Something inside Duo churned.
"Thank you," he breathed, and left. He took the elevator down without thinking about the 'Return' button. Heero's car was
gone, which was to be expected. He numbly walked a few blocks to the bus stop and sat on the bench. Thankfully, he was the
only one waiting there. The sign said that the next pick-up was in twenty minutes. During those twenty minutes, he dozed.
Or zoned out. Or something. The honk of a horn woke him with a start.
"Duo!" The call was Quatre's, and Duo saw him waving to him in a car. Trowa sat at the wheel. "Heero called us. We've been
looking for you."
"Heero called you?" It made sense. Heero never left anything up to chance. He'd make sure Duo got back to his apartment safe.
"Aren't you busy?"
"No, we're okay, Duo," Trowa told him, and he got up and hopped into the car. "We were actually taking a day off from all
the office detail."
"We?" Duo asked, buckling his seat belt. Quatre, ever cautious, waited until he heard the click before letting Trowa get them
on the road. "You, too?"
Duo could've sworn Trowa blushed. "I pitch in a bit," he admitted.
"That's hardly fair," Quatre said. "You do a lot more work than anyone else. And you aren't paid. I should see about that."
"It's no big deal," Trowa murmured, and Duo witnessed his scarlet face darken still.
Duo laughed. "C'mon, Trowa, helping someone out isn't a bad thing!" He waggled his eyebrows. "Especially if it gives you a
good excuse to hang around them."
Trowa's face seemed to have caught fire.
"Duo!" Quatre admonished, but he laughed. "Oh, Trowa," he said on a helpless laugh, "it seems the jig is up." He turned to
Duo. "Have you told anyone?"
"Quatre," Duo pointed out, "it's only been about an hour since that fiasco at my apartment."
He nodded. "Please don't say anything," he begged, and Duo shrugged.
"Hey, it's none of my business."
"Duo," Trowa threatened, and he put up his hands.
"I won't tell anyone." He leaned back in his seat. "Then again, if our friends don't agree, then... are they really our friends?"
Trowa glanced into the rearview mirror as Quatre twisted his body to stare at him in shock.
Duo grinned his impish grin and closed his eyes.
Silence reigned for a good many minutes before... "Thanks, Duo."
He opened one eye and smiled warmly at Trowa. "Hey, no problem, Tro."
He walked into his house and listened to Quatre and Trowa drive away. He studied the light switch beside him as if it would
have a post-it saying if it worked yet or not. He decided to leave it and walked into his kitchen. He pulled back a chair
and sat at the table, resigning himself to a long wait. He stared at the phone and ordered it to ring and tell him that the
package was secured and the party is unharmed. Or something to that effect. He only hoped the damned thing worked. He flicked
the kitchen light and was momentarily blinded. Satisfied, he flicked it back off.
Better to think of the conversation that they'd been sharing than of what could be happening to Heero. Better to think of
Heero's beautiful laugh than to imagine him going up in flames, or being torn apart by machine gun fire. Don't imagine him
screaming in agony as he -
No. Best not to think about that.
"What am I going to do with you, Heero?" Duo's head fell in-between his knees. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore the
tight grip of fear that squeezed his heart. "Heero ..."
It was dark out. A beetle scuttled by his feet. He looked up and saw bumblebees buzzing above his head. He turned, trying
to find someone. Someone to explain where he was. There was no one.
A sense of panic gripped him, and he turned again. Nothing. Nothing but the bees above and the beetle staring at him below.
Something permeated in the air and he coughed. His eyes stung; his throat burned. Tear gas!
The beetle looked up at him, and from nowhere - not from him, not from the bees, just from nowhere - a teardrop fell and landed
on the beetle.
"Ugh," Duo groaned and opened his gritty eyes. He stared at the phone, and his mind muted the incessant noise. What had that
dream been about? It was perhaps the stupidest thing his mind had made up, and that said a helluva lot.
He heard his answering machine pick up the call. "This is not an answering machine," he heard his voice say, "this is a thought-recording
device. Please think about your name, number, and reason for calling, and I'll think about returning your call. Thank you."
There was a tired chuckle on the other end of the line. "Hey, Duo."
Duo snatched up the phone, out of his daze in an instant after hearing that voice. "Heero?!"
"Yes, it's me. I was calling to let you know that the package is se-"
"That's nice," he spoke, cutting Heero off. "Are you okay?"
He heard Heero laugh, and his heart did a somersault, which didn't help his nauseous stomach. "Yes, Wufei and I are fine.
I like your answering machine, too."
He grinned. "Cool, isn't it?" He tried to regulate his breathing. He's okay. Of course he's okay. You baka.
"Yeah. Duo, did you eat your meal?"
"Huh?" He tried to catch up. "Oh. No; I didn't really have an appetite." He shrugged nonchalantly. "Heero, I'm a rat. A night
on salad is actually really nice."
"You're not a rat."
He said it immediately, as if instantly protesting, without a thought to it. "Sure I am," Duo laughed. "I just don't have
that disgusting tail."
"Duo..." There was anguish in his voice, Duo could swear it. It was strange, but it made him smile. It was nice to dream these
things, at least. Dream of the things that Heero's changes might mean.
"Heero, it's okay. It doesn't get me down."
"You shouldn't talk about yourself like that. You helped to save the whole Earth Sphere."
"I helped you learn how to bail someone out of a mess. That's about it."
Duo smiled sweetly. Believe it or not, you can actually hear facial expressions through a phone. "Yes?"
"You helped, Duo. More than you know. You did slow Oz, Romefeller, whatever... you slowed them down. And... you helped me."
Duo's smile turned a bit more genuine. "Oh? And how was that, Hee-chan?"
"DON'T CALL... WHATever." Heero hefted a huge sigh. "You helped me, Duo. That's all I'm going to say."
"What a surprise," Duo remarked, and deigned to roll his eyes. Such a stunning conversationalist. "So are you going to be
Duo paused, taking that into consideration. "Understood."
Heero seemed to smile. "Thank you, Duo. I'll see you soon."
Heero hung up, and Duo grinned. "You'll see me sooner than you think, Hee-chan." He went to his bedroom to get ready for another
of those damned suicide adventures Heero seemed so fond of.
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