Disclaimer: Love 'em, but don't own 'em.

Pairing: 1x2, 3x4
Rating: NC-17
Genre: Alternate reality, angst
Feedback: Yes, please!

Special thanks to: Alex and Cerasi, for friendship and beta support.

Summary: Heero finds that the road to nowhere leads to something special.

Down the Road
Part 1
by Artemis

The road is a ribbon before me. Flat and rolling, endless gray asphalt leading me to the horizon. But the horizon is ever changing, ever moving, never fixed. I can never reach it. I could drive all day, all night, endless hours and never meet that line in the distance. It is an unattainable goal, as unattainable as perfect happiness.

Farms pass by me—rows of crops, corn and soybean, and cattle grazing in fields, idyllic in their near stillness, their slowness to grow and to move. So much unlike the rate I am traveling, fifteen too fast, taking my chances, knowing that small town cops love to catch city boys, driving expensive cars.

Then as if in a strange dream, I come around a bend to see something bright and new. Something so out of place, so unlike the traditions and boundaries of rural life, that I take my foot off the accelerator and slow my pace. It is a testament to creativity, freedom, maybe even to rebellion, and I crane my neck to see all I can of this folk masterpiece. The small barn behind the uninteresting farmhouse is painted—not white to match the house or even red to match a preconceived idea of country barns, but every color found in nature and not. Colors form shapes--sunbursts, figures, circles, lines. It is beautiful and confusing and inspiring all at once.

I pass by slowly, and then continue into town, but the vision is burned in my mind. I cannot stop thinking about how the road no longer seems endless or anonymous and I want to capture this moment. I purchase a disposable camera and head back out on the state road, toward the barn. This time I stop, pulling onto the slanted, gravel shoulder. I am 100 yards from the farmstead. No one is about, so I get out of my car and hear the crunch of gravel beneath me. I snap one, two... four shots and yearn to get closer, but something tells me to stay where I am.

Maybe I am a little intimidated by the raw talent who created this dream. Or maybe it is just that I am very much the stranger here. Either way, I cannot stay, and get back into my car, tossing the camera onto the leather seat beside me and drive off with a billow of dust behind me.

+ + +

"We'd better be getting laid tonight," Duo said, as he accelerated his pick-up truck to pass a large, green John Deere tractor. "I'm not driving all the way to the city just to meet this guy you won't stop talking about."

"Oh, Duo," Quatre sighed. "Trowa's got a date for you. I think it's very nice of him to find one of his friends to go out with us."

"Sure, set me up like some loser. It's a blind date, Q! And you know why people go out on blind dates? Because they're too ugly or psycho to get a date any other way!"

"Trowa assured me that his friend is a nice guy."

"A nice guy?" Duo glared at his friend briefly and then returned his eyes to the road. "It took me twenty minutes to get into these jeans. He damn well better be more than nice!"

Quatre chuckled. "If your jeans are that tight, how will you ever get laid?"

"Believe me, they come off a lot faster than they go on."

+ + +

"They're late." Heero looked at his watch for the fifth time. Even though they had been waiting in the bar of the restaurant for only twenty minutes, it seemed like an hour.

Trowa shook his head. "They've got a long drive."

Trowa took another sip of his beer, and Heero could practically see his friend's stomach doing nervous flip-flops. It had been three weeks since Trowa had met Quatre at that small town music store, but not a day had passed that they had not talked on the phone.

"Why can't you find someone to fuck who lives in the city?"

"I could ask you the same question." Trowa raised an eyebrow, assessing his friend. "How long has it been, Heero? Has your dick fallen off yet from lack of use?"

"Very funny. But tell me what's so great about this country bumpkin you're hoping to score with-- and his friend. What's his name-- Daniel?"

"His name is Duo Maxwell and he's Quatre's best friend."

"Have you ever met this friend?" Worry edged into Heero's normally flat tone.

"No, but Quatre tells me that Duo has a lot of character-- he's a lot of fun."

"Shit. That means he's a dog."

"No, it doesn't," Trowa said, turning to face his friend fully.

"If he's good looking why didn't Quatre say so?"

"I don't know," Trowa shrugged. "But seeing how Quatre is hot, I figured his friend would be, too."

"Nice logic," Heero said with a sneer.

"Oh, and he's got a braid."

Heero's eyes widened. "He's a hippie?"

"Hey, if you don't like him we can call it an early evening."

"I thought Quatre was spending the night with you?"

Trowa blushed lightly. "I'm hoping he'll want to…."

"And I'm supposed to keep his friend occupied while you two are getting better acquainted?"

"I've got a sofa bed that Duo can use. It's not a problem. You don't have to feel obligated in any way."

Heero sighed and looked into his beer. How had he let Trowa talk him into this? He had his pick of eligible guys in the city, he did not need his best friend setting him up on a blind date. But Trowa had not stopped talking about Quatre since they had met weeks ago. It fascinated Heero to see his friend smitten over someone he had not even fucked yet. Well, maybe the son of a bitch would get lucky tonight after all, but it would only make what he had found that much more special.

Maybe that was the guts of it. Heero was curious to meet the pretty blond that Trowa had described in such careful detail. And maybe he hoped, just a little, that Quatre's friend was half as good looking, and maybe... maybe nothing. It was all just stupid crap. Not everyone was meant to find someone. Heero Yuy was a realist. He knew guys either wanted him for a fuck or his money, both if they could get it, but nothing more.

+ + +

"Fuck, we're late," Duo said, as he pulled into the parking lot.

They had spent nearly thirty minutes stuck in traffic on the exit ramp into the city. It was damn frustrating when he had to pee and Quatre kept tapping his foot in nervous anticipation. Since there were no parking spots available on the street they had to opt for a pay lot, which pissed Duo off all the more. City parking was a fucking rip-off.

"Twenty dollars." Duo slammed his door shut. "It's gonna cost me twenty dollars to park here for three hours!"

"If we stay longer the price is pro-rated."

Duo glared at his friend over the open bed of his truck. "This damn well better be worth it."

"You've said that a hundred times already. This is important to me, all right?"

The pleading, aquamarine eyes softened Duo's edge. He definitely was not himself tonight. "Sorry." He came around the back of the truck. "Maybe I'm a little nervous, too."

"You nervous?" Quatre chuckled.

"I don't like the idea of this blind date."

Quatre put his arm around Duo and gave a hard squeeze. "He's got to be good looking, because Tro is gorgeous!"

"Tro? Is that what you're calling him now?"

Quatre blushed. "He's real sweet, Duo. I hope you like him."

Duo looked at his friend, saw the hope in his eyes and melted a little. Quatre was the most kind-hearted person he knew and he always attracted the right kind of people. If he was falling for this Trowa Barton then odds were he was a good man and worthy of Quatre's attention.

If only I was as optimistic about guys as Quatre, Duo thought.

Several minutes later, Duo and Quatre were squeezing their way inside the trendy bar and grill. Dozens of people were jammed in the entryway, waiting for tables. As they came through the crowd, Duo watched Quatre anxiously scan the bar where their dates were to be waiting. He knew the moment his friend spotted them; Quatre's features softened and lightened.

"There he is." Quatre smiled and grabbed Duo by the arm, tugging him along.

They came up to Trowa who slid off the barstool and boldly leaned down to kiss Quatre on the cheek. "You're here," he said, his eyes fast on the blond.

"Sorry we're late. Saturday night traffic is impossible."

"I'm just glad you came all this way."

"Oh, it's nothing---"

Duo cleared his throat and nudged Quatre. "I hate to interrupt you two---"

"Oh, right," Quatre said, smiling. "Duo this is Trowa Barton, and Trowa this is Duo Maxwell."

"You're uh-- much taller than I expected," Duo commented as he looked up at the boy with the long bangs.

"Really?" Trowa's brow scrunched as he held out his hand to shake Duo's. "It's nice to meet you." Then he nodded to his left where another young man was sitting quietly, unnoticed. "This is my friend, Heero Yuy."

Duo and Quatre turned curious eyes on the friend sitting casually next to him. He had been leaning back, concealed by Trowa's height.

"Hi," Duo said, all but gaping now at the very nice surprise. His blind date was gorgeous.

"Nice to meet you," Quatre said.

Heero nodded. "It's good to meet you, too. You're all Trowa talks about."

Quatre blushed as he smiled more brightly. "Is that right?"

"He's exaggerating," Trowa said.

"I don't exaggerate," Heero said flatly.

Trowa threw Heero a warning look and then put his arm around Quatre's shoulder. "Let's check with the hostess to see if our table is ready." They wandered off, leaving Heero and Duo staring at one another.

"I think we'd better get used to being ignored tonight," Duo said, finding it hard to take his eyes off his beautiful date. "You come here often?" God, did that sound like a pick-up line or what?

Heero raised an eyebrow. "First time."

"Me, too. I don't get to the city much anymore. Too busy with work and it's expensive as hell."

"What do you do?"

"I'm a handyman. You name it and I can fix it."

"Fix any woks?"

"One of those Chinese cooking pans? What kind of a problem you having?"

"I'm not."

Duo blinked.

"You said you could fix anything."

"And I can," Duo re-asserted. "So, what do you do for a living?"

"I cook."

"No kidding? Like a short order cook?"

"Something like that."

"I worked as a cook at a diner when I was in high school. That was fun, but damn hot and greasy. And I didn't like wearing a hair net---"

"I think our table's ready," Heero interrupted, nodding toward the hostess podium.

"Oh." Duo looked over his shoulder to see Quatre waving at them. "Good, I'm starving."

They joined their friends and then followed the hostess to their table. Before they sat, Duo grabbed Quatre and yanked him toward the restroom. "We'll be right back," he said, giving their dates a wink, and then whispered into Quatre's ear, "I've got to pee like a race horse."

"Then what do you need me for?"

Duo sighed and rolled his eyes, and Quatre obediently followed him to the men's room. Inside he washed his hands while Duo peed.

"That Heero is one hot dish," Duo said, looking back over his shoulder as he stood at the urinal. "I wouldn't mind fucking him from now 'til Tuesday."

"Duo!" Quatre bent down to look under the stall doors. "You're lucky we're alone. You shouldn't talk that way in public."

"Oh, bite me."

"Not everyone wants to hear about your sex life."

"What sex life?" Duo asked, as he zipped up and came over to the sink to wash. "If I had one I sure as hell wouldn't be here."

"Then you wouldn't have met Heero."

"Yeah, that'd been a bummer. Did you get a look at his eyes? Damn, he's got killer eyes."

"Yes, he's nice looking as promised---"

"Nice looking? Did you meet the same guy I did? He's amazing!"

"Yes, he's nice," Quatre repeated. "But what do you think of Trowa? That's why we're here… for you to meet Tro. Isn't he beautiful?"

"He's definitely... tall."

"Is that all you can say?"

"What do you want me to say? I only just met the guy."

"You must have formed some opinion. You've always got one."

Duo raised an eyebrow. "Somehow I don't think that was a compliment, but okay, he's good looking, clean cut, and it's obvious he only has eyes for you."

Quatre smiled. "Duo, I hope this evening goes well."

"Of course it will! We're out with two gorgeous guys and I think we've all got the same thing in mind." A pink blush appeared on Quatre's cheeks. "Come on. You can't tell me you aren't hoping to get laid tonight?"

"Well, I---"

"Heh. I knew it. After weeks of mooning over this guy it's about time you mooned him for real."

Quatre shook his head and gave a little laugh. "We'd better get back or they'll think we ditched them."

on to part 2

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