Disclaimer: The boys belong to Bandai/Sotsu/Sunrise, honest.

Notes: Detailed notes are provided with the Prologue to this fic.

"Daydreams...like books in the shelf of my mind"
--Lolah Burford, 'Edward, Edward'

Chapter Fourteen
by D.C. Logan

His office was a disaster, not to mention the state of the rest of his apartment. In true Heero fashion, he'd structured all of his information and sorted it according to use and purpose. The dining room had been set aside for review and careful appraisal of every idea that he'd written and then reserved for use in his books. The living room was set up with stacks of all of everything he'd published, as Duo had confessed to reading all of them, including a few early volumes long out of print. There were ideas to be mined from them, but more importantly, he didn't want to duplicate anything that Duo had already seen him do once in a book.

He'd made his office his base of operations. A three-hour talk with Wufei had served to clarify his goals and align his priorities in the right order. It was time to convince Duo that a relationship with him would be not only a good idea, but absolutely necessary to achieve balance, harmony, and happiness in his life.

Heero kicked back in his chair and pushed the end of a pencil against his upper lip, thinking. A cargo net maybe, hmmm? Hadn't Duo mentioned trying to find one? He smirked, jotted the thought on a pad of yellow legal paper and moved on to another pile of suggestions. He looked carefully across the stack of reference material he kept close at hand while writing the romantic stuff in his books, and got an idea. A good one, that grew in possibility the longer he thought on it. Yes. This just might work as long as he could get Duo to play along with it. He opened up a new Word file, typed "Duo Hunting, Stage One" at the top of it, and rambled through idea after idea on down the page, one thought chasing the other as he delved deeper into his brain to formulate a plan of action.

He finished typing up his notes while gnawing on the ends of home-delivered pizza, reducing them to narrow rinds. 'Pizza bones,' Trowa had called them, and he thought briefly about getting a dog he could feed them to or of saving them for Sand, but decided against it. They were probably bad for her anyway. He pitched the ends into the box and closed it so he could concentrate on the project at hand once more. Food-sated and brain refreshed with a quick walk around his apartment, he looked over his plan once more, checking for loopholes and faults.

Reading it over made him laugh, a good omen he thought. There was more than a little of Duo's sense of mischievous adventure in this plot, and he hoped his victim would appreciate it. Heero was betting the rest of his life on the outcome. If this worked out the way he planned, he'd lead Duo down a path he'd never stray from and catch him at the end. Or get caught himself, which was the idea in the first place. Now it was time to spin his plan into action.

Okay, so where the hell had Heero disappeared to? Duo had been on his own for a few days now and Heero hadn't called or stopped by the shop once in all that time. The lights had been on in his apartment windows when Duo arrived in the morning, so he knew he was still alive and okay. There'd also been a wave from the office window yesterday when he'd walked across the street to pick up lunch, but dammit, he missed having the man around. This was highly unusual behavior for a man who kept to regular habits and close schedules. He should have been sitting in his chair at Daydreams fifteen minutes ago and flipping through the Times on the way to the crossword. Unless he'd decided that the regular routine was wearing thin, that Duo wasn't interested in having him around, and he'd used his recovery from the accident as a way to change his patterns.

Duo hadn't asked Trowa if he'd seen him either, though he liked to think that Heero was looking for him in the store and not just to hang out with people he considered casual friends. Damn, it would have been so much easier for him to cope with all this if he hadn't been stupid and gone and fallen for the guy. Now if he decided not to come back around, well, he'd get over it... someday... years from now... maybe.

Seeking distraction, he moved from behind the counter and over to the juvie ghetto to reshelve the shipment of children's books he'd left on the display rack the day before. It was a shame the way books were marketed these days, he thought, some really decent reads never moved beyond the 14-16 shelf. The task did little to distract him from his obsession with Heero though, just what _was_ he up to?

He stood from his work and surveyed the shelf with a careful eye. Yeah, it looked better. And then he looked up and over the top of the display, and found Heero standing on the other side of the shelf and leaning over to see what he was up to. Duo had come up face to face with him, mere inches away. It took tremendous strength of will not to kiss the man then and there, but that would no doubt have erased all the effort Duo had invested into him so far. He really had to work harder at separating his real life from his fantasy role playing. Duo held his breath and stepped awkwardly backward.

Heero, emboldened by Duo's clumsiness and awkward manner, felt his confidence seep back into his skin. He could do this. If getting within a few inches of him could do that to Duo, he had just as intense an attraction--or he was allergic to his shampoo. Right.

"Dorothy said you were an apple and cinnamon pastry this morning." Duo looked confused until Heero lifted a white bag within view. In his other hand he was carrying a cardboard holder with two cups of something from across the street as well. The label was distinctive.

"What's, um, the occasion?" asked Duo.

"It's Tuesday."

"And this is an adequate reason to celebrate?"

Heero tilted his head to the side in uncanny mimicry of Trowa reaching for an elusive memory. "Yes," he said, "It is."

"Well, who am I to go against your reasoning as long as it involves apple pastry and..."

"Coffee for you. Chai for me."

Heero handed the correct cup over to Duo, who, instead of moving behind the service counter, walked over to the two overstuffed chairs nearby. He cleared a space for not one, but both hot drinks, and sat down; obviously expecting Heero to do the same.

'That predictable am I?' thought Heero briefly. In this case though, Duo was correct. There was no place he'd rather be at the moment than sitting and sharing a light breakfast with Duo. No matter where he happened to be at the time. There were far worse things than being thought of as predictable.

By the time Trowa walked into the store that afternoon, Duo looked slightly rattled, Heero was relaxed and pleased, and Trowa felt a tiny smile crawl onto his face. It looked like Heero had started to put his plan into effect today, and more importantly, it seemed to be working so far. Duo looked distinctly out of sorts and confused--not a state of mind that Trowa had had the privilege to see him in all that often. If Duo hadn't been so smitten (he grinned at the word he'd assigned to Duo's state of mind, but it was the only one that fit), he wouldn't have encouraged Heero. But the two of them obviously needed a hand in the process to get them moving towards each other, and if admitting to Heero that Duo thought him smashingly marvelous was what it took, well, he'd admit to doing that. Even if Duo insisted on hitting him later for interfering. Somehow though, he didn't think it would ever come to that. He and Heero were good for and to each other, and it was a relief to see Duo opening up that part of himself again.

The next morning was a near repeat of the previous insofar as that coffee and sweet arrived via Heero's hands at around eleven while Duo was busy at the counter. This time Heero merely sat down and arranged the food and drinks to his liking and waited for Duo to join him. He'd brought hazelnut coffee and a slice of homemade banana nut bread.

Duo thought it wonderful. "I could get used to this..." Duo closed his eyes in pleasure and Heero drank in the sight.

"Used to which? Coffee, breakfast, or the company?" asked Heero.

"Hmmm, I'll have to go with all three in this combination." Duo's eyes were still closed in rapt appreciation of the coffee. Heero chuckled and the eyes snapped open. "Thanks."

"No problem, you're worth it." Heero nearly grinned at Duo's mildly shocked and considering look, but pretended to ignore it at he stood and collected his empty cup and used papers. "See you tomorrow then." It was a statement of fact, not a question.

"You're taking off now?" Duo glanced in surprise at the clock behind the countertop. Heero was leaving much earlier than he usually did.

"I have to get some research done for the novel I'm working on. It's running late and I've been having some problems writing parts of it." He paused, artfully, considering. Waiting for Duo to nibble at the bait he was dangling. Here fishie fishie fishie...

"Anything you could use a hand with?"

Heero manfully stifled a euphoric response and returned a meek-toned, "Actually, yes, that would be very helpful.. if you have some free time that is..." Heero didn't see any sense in beating Duo over the head with it.

"Sure," Duo couldn't hide his enthusiasm. "Just say the word, okay?"

"Which story was this all for?" Duo asked. He picked his way carefully across the tile and out of the kitchen behind Heero, casting a wary eye back over the chaos. Heero's kitchen, a pristine white decorator's dream mere hours ago--sterile enough to use as an operating theatre, now resembled the aftermath of a junior-high home economics class. With orangutans. Heero had spread out some newspaper on the counters to take the brunt of the damage but had underestimated the extent of destruction by a factor of at least five hundred percent.

As Duo understood the project. The idea was to find out how many different but edible foodstuffs they could make from a box of standard military rations. The results had been more artistic than edible. Even the addition of some staple household supplies added in a vain attempt to render at least one palatable item were for naught.

It had started as a good theory though. Heero had walked into the bookstore later than usual that afternoon with a preoccupied look on his face and pad and pen in hand. It hadn't taken much for Duo to follow him back upstairs to his apartment at the end of his shift and become an active participant in the ensuing mayhem. That's what friends were for, wasn't it? It quickly became obvious that neither of them had any real cooking experience, and that chances of them surviving even a day on the rations Heero was using in his book were slim to none.

Heero took pity on Duo once it became evident that nothing edible would be forthcoming.

"I promised you food; and this in no way resembles food."

Duo had looked cautiously around at the spattered fragments. Who knew that blenders required some sort of lid? Apparently the force of gravity was insufficient to keep the food below the rim; he'd found that one out the hard way. Heero had been decorated with pureed whatever as well. "Yeah, you've got a point there."

"Thai okay with you?"

So dinner had been at Siam Garden; broiled swordfish steak with a mango salsa and a surprisingly appropriate California wine that Duo had insisted on. They'd worn their puree-speckled shirts and poked fun at each other's misadventures with the kitchen equipment and ingredients. Heero insisted on paying since he'd dragged Duo into the mess in the first place, and Duo graciously accepted, laughing over the afternoon they'd had together. It was the best meal he could remember, more so for the company and the spontaneity of it all than for the actual quality of the food--though it was very good.

Heero had given Duo a day of rest to recover from (and hopefully forget some of what happened during the kitchen adventures). It also gave the cleaning crew ample time to scrape the remnants of the failed meal from the ceiling. Now, however, he was testing yet another theory. Duo was assisting him, and had been surprisingly willing for a second round of 'novel adventures' as he was beginning to think of them. "Um, Heero?" Duo sounded doubtful and mildly uncomfortable.

Duo shifted on the chair, his mind was getting numb and his dick was getting hard. Neither was an appropriate reaction to his present situation.

Heero gave a quick glance over at Duo and then dove back into the computer file he was racing through. He hit three savage returns on his keyboard and spun his chair to look at Duo.

"Any luck?"

"No." He gave yet another futile tug on the ropes. "How long has it been anyway?"

"About ten minutes. You're sure that you can't get loose at all?"

There was the sound of some shifting and the creak of the chair, but that subsided and Duo responded with a tired and slightly stressed, "No such luck. You've had practice doing this?"

"Nope, this is the first time I've ever tried it." Heero looked back at the reference book he'd borrowed from the library before turning back to his computer. He tossed another question over his shoulder at Duo, "How does it feel?"

"Interesting. You should give it a try." He shifted again and grimaced. "I know, how about _you_ do this and _I'll_ write for a while hmmm?"

"Just give me a few more minutes if you can hold out that long, I'm nearly finished with this section."

Okay, so tying Duo up had been one of his fantasies--he looked supremely edible roped to the chair like that. It kept him in one place as well, and at Heero's mercy. It should also allow him an opportunity to watch Heero at his work while fighting the distraction of his own body. Duo always ran off before any tension could build between them. Yes, Heero thought, it might be manipulative on his part, but he'd make it up to him tomorrow. Besides, the cooking lesson had gone _very_ well, so this just balanced the scales somewhat.

He finished his chapter, saved the file, and walked over to where Duo was fixed, slightly hunched over himself in a vain attempt to conceal a growing erection. So... Heero wasn't alone in finding the manufactured situation a turn on. He politely ignored Duo's state, and leaned over him to fiddle with the ropes at the back of the chair. An amateur knot-tier, he had been truly interested in which knots would hold versus slide. He pretended more interest in the knots than he felt at the moment and leaned closer into Duo. God he smelled wonderful. Shame his ethics wouldn't allow him to do anything other than touch Duo's skin in passing over the knots. In a startlingly short period of time, the ropes lay slack across the carpet, and Duo was free.

"Hey man, gotta use your bathroom, be right back." There was a rush, and he was gone. He didn't return for a long series of minutes. When he did, he was slightly flushed, but looked more relaxed than he had when he'd left. Heero had a wistful thought that his security system stretched to a camera in the guest bath. Then he banished the thought as unworthy of him--though he would have liked to have watched. Or had tape running.

"You get what you needed out of that?" Duo sounded somewhat resigned to this new hobby of assisting Heero. Good.

"Yes! Couldn't have done it without you. I needed to know if that series of knots would hold under tension like that. You're an excellent test subject."

"Anytime you need me, just call then..."

Heero allowed himself a small private smile, he'd be sure to do just that. Very sure.

on to chapter fifteen

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