Disclaimer: The boys belong to Bandai/Sotsu/Sunrise, honest.
Warnings: This is a complete, total, and unabashedly 1+2 AU piece that's limited to fairly light shonen ai. There's also a couple of nice 3x4 mentions in here and a dog for good luck. Please be aware that I couldn't resist threading a little angst through this, but it all works out in the end.
Feedback: All sorts are welcome. This is my first try at an AU piece (I don't think 'Lights and Sirens' really counts), and the longest thing I've finished to date.
Dedication: This one is for Tyr.
Notes: If my memories of Cambridge, MA are a little fuzzy, it's because it's been more than fourteen years since I lived there. The city has a wonderful dynamic feel to it, and the highest bookstore-to-person ratio on the planet.
Most of the bookstores are open very late and nearly all of them have comfortable chairs for sitting and pondering purchases. All errors in this are mine and mine alone.
Summary: Heero is a reclusive author, Duo runs the bookstore on the ground floor of his apartment building, and they take their own sweet time getting together. This is essentially a hurt/comfort type of get-together fic, so if that weirds you out, don't feel that you need to read this one okay? FYI: There will also be a prequel to this story titled "Sunlight" which explains how Trowa and Quatre managed to get together.
"Daydreams...like books in the shelf of my mind"
--Lolah Burford, 'Edward, Edward'
by D.C. Logan
Duo preferred escalators to stairs.
He enjoyed the slight vibration under his boots and found something hypnotic about the steps descending into lines of steel beneath his feet just before they dropped out of sight under the toothed grid. He usually used the main exit to the street with its bank of escalators because of this, but he'd had a late night and caffeine was calling his name. He yawned into his cupped hand absently as he walked through the turnstiles, yeah, the need was really screaming.
The subway was crowded and he'd forgone his usual reading of the overhead advertising panels in favor of people watching. While his fellow passengers swayed and lurched to the rhythm of the tracks, one young girl stood in the center of the compartment. She looked about five years old and stood soundly on study 'these will be good for school' shoes. Her mother reached down to take her hand or to steady her by her shoulders, but the girl brushed her mother's hand away and stomped, insisting on fielding the sway of the subway on her own. Duo grinned, watching. He saw kids like that in his shop every now and then: bright, inquisitive, bold. The older children had most of the adventure burned out of their skin by the time they were old enough to have responsibility leveled on them. The parents were invariably worse than the children. He expected that he saw the best of the lot wandering through the stacks in his store though. In his experience, people interested in reading were usually people interested in life, if not in the workings of the world around them, then in escaping from it into a more interesting place.
Duo liked meeting and helping people explore all the possibilities; it was important.
The subway car came around the deep bend just below the river and the rails screamed. The regular crowd braced themselves against the lean of the car and behaved much like the cattle they mimicked. The girl toppled, spinning her arms in an attempt to right herself.
Duo reached out and gently steadied her while leaning down to offer some confidential advice: "Try bending your knees a little to keep your balance."
She looked at him, at first hesitant, then with a widening smile at recognizing a fellow child who happened to be an adult. He let her go and moved back against the row of seats, but she followed him, looking up in curiosity at the man who had been watching with approval instead of resentment. She bent her knees and watched her shoes, moving again with the sway of the car, closer in sync this time. She giggled to herself, pleased and looked back up at Duo, curious.
"How did you know?"
"Years of practice."
That was the end of the meeting of minds though, as the girl's irate mother, frantically scanning the compartment for her errant child, spotted her, stormed over, and reached out and grabbed at her shoulder, wrenching her abruptly away from Duo.
"Pervert!" she seethed, hauling her child off to the back of the car, as far from Duo as she could manage. A few people looked up at the insult, and then to Duo for confirmation or denial. He shrugged, and turned into the window, checking his reflection. Nope, still the same face he'd put on that morning. Hadn't slipped at all.
A quiet face stared back with a little mirth still lurking in the back of the eyes and clinging to the corners of his mouth. He was shorter than most of the people on the train, thinly lean in clean black jeans, a black t-shirt advertising the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, a lightweight black cotton duster that he wore open (the buttons had lost themselves some years past) that reached below his knees, and a black baseball cap perched on top. He looked down, yup, black leather boots as well. No wonder the moms of the world thought he was stalking their kids. Truth was that most of the kids knew better, since they had better instincts than their urban instinct-blunted elders.
He hoped that the girl would remember the helpful stranger she'd encountered this morning. With any luck, she'd keep that attitude of hers well into her teens, and drive her mother insane.
His Harvard Square stop was next, and he collected himself for the rush out of the compartment, resenting all of the pushing and shoving that often took place when the station was this busy. He exited with the rest of the mass and walked past his elevators, listening to the rush of people jingling their pockets for change or tokens, pausing to watch the girl and her mother. The youngster was trying to time her step onto the escalator with the moving platform. It took her four tries before her mother lost patience and lifted and placed her on the step. The woman looked harried, and Duo invented a long list of reasons and excuses for her state as he walked past to the stair exit east of the escalators.
The young girl and her mother were not his problem this morning. Finding caffeine and getting his shop open for business, preferably in that order, were. He mounted the steps and climbed into daylight.
It was most definitely a Tuesday.