The Little Things Arc
Part Five: Dropping In
by D.C. Logan
I didn't really want to intrude—but the report that Quatre brought back made me curious. So, under the pretense of dropping off paperwork, I decided to make a visit to the small apartment they were reportedly sharing in the L2 cluster.
Duo answered my knock bare-chested, with a raised eyebrow and a towel wrapped around his head. "I didn't know you were on colony Trowa. C'mon in." He held the door wide, closed it after I'd entered, and led me into the main living space while absently rubbing the towel over his head.
In typical Duo fashion, his personality had expanded to fit the space, and orderly stacks of clutter abounded. And damn, I couldn't believe he still had that old heap of a sofa. Heero's presence was in the room as well—in the austere desk by the only window, and in the stark modern print on the wall—but his possessions took up considerably less volume.
Duo was waiting patiently for me to finish my look around. "It's good to see you—were you, uh, looking for Heero?"
"If he's here, yes."
"Mmmm," he looked puzzled, but accepting. "He's in the kitchen. Go right in, I'll be back in a sec." Duo pointed to an opening on the opposite wall and wandered off down the short hall, still toweling his hair.
Heero was sitting at the table, tinkering with a small engine component. He looked up as if he knew I was expected and motioned for me to take a seat with the tool in his hand. The table was round and covered with old newsprint and the remaining portions of the engine. Heero's hands, despite the work, were spotless.
We made eye contact and held it. It was a tense moment, and I had a sudden sense that I'd invaded his space, his privacy, and his new life; and he wanted to know why. At least I think that's what he meant, it's so difficult to tell sometimes with Heero.
Duo wandered back into the kitchen a few moments later, the towel draped over his shoulders and his hair hanging in damp strings down past his waist. A narrow path of water droplets on the floors marked his trail from bathroom to kitchen. Heero caught my glance at the floor and threw me an unexpected conspirational grin. And I had to smile. He'd come a long way from the pilot I'd known during the war. There was a time when he would have followed two feet behind Duo, wiping away every drop—and berating his partner for causing the extra work all the while. Finally getting together with Duo had done wonders for that obsessive-compulsive trend of his.
Duo's glance skipped between the two of us, "What gives?"
On second inspection, Duo looked younger than I remembered him, which is saying something. But his eyes look old. Heero has done the reverse. His face looked about the same, but his eyes were happier, and crinkled at the corners now. There was something different about him, and it took me long moments of careful study to come to the conclusion that nothing had been added—but the buzz of tension that always hummed around him had diminished. It was one of the things that I envied in him—without really knowing why. He seemed better off without it though... And didn't appear to miss it in the least.
Duo was as tactile as usual. And as usual, that didn't extend to me. But he unconsciously sought out opportunities to reaffirm his connection to Heero. And Heero no longer twitched from time to time as Duo found excuses to touch him. He was comfortable in his own skin at last, and at ease in his relationship. It was good to see him this way.
I handed Heero my paper excuse, and he lifted an eyebrow. "You could have just mailed this, the personal service wasn't necessary."
"I know, but that wouldn't have given me an excuse to visit, right?"
"Coffee Trowa?" Duo was standing at the sink, his hair dripping in a random puddle. Heero was looking at the droplets raining around Duo's bare feet. I had to smile again at the thought of what it was costing Heero to remain in his chair. "I'll make it instead of Heero, so you'll probably survive the experience." He waved the carafe encouragingly.
I make the best coffee. Even Duo admits that, but his had its merits—it was freshly ground, with cinnamon bark and cloves. He'd been watching the interaction between the two of us, studying my reaction to see if I'd noticed the changes he'd wrought in his partner. I nodded back and his eyes widened—surprised that I'd caught his subtle sideline glances.
Duo dropped three mugs on the table and shifted one with a blue fish towards Heero; it was up to me to select next. I looked to Heero for clues. Was this a test? He grinned and shrugged, and suddenly the last bit of remaining tension in the room was broken. I felt suddenly like no time had passed and we were all fellow pilots and combat brothers again.
Duo tied his damp hair into a looped knot and shrugged into a shirt before snagging the gurgling coffeepot and dropping into his place at the table. We were loose and relaxed and smiling again. I hadn't realized how much I missed their company until that moment, and I felt a pang of regret at the number of months lost. Not many, true—but when you're fortunate enough to have friends that understand you well enough to read the nuances of your life—any time is too long.