The Little Things Arc
Part Eleven: Mr. Fix-It
by D.C. Logan
Was that a knock? Heero shuffled over to the door, held his breath, and listened carefully for another sound. After a few moments, he thought he heard an indistinct mumbling in a higher range than he was accustomed to. It sounded like the visitor was slowly working up the courage to knock again. He took a careful glance through the spyhole in the door - but saw nothing. Still curious, he cautiously opened the door and peered into the hallway.
There was an alarmed squeak, and a boy of about six years scuttled from where he had been waiting, sitting in a compact heap against the wall. He looked at Heero with something very like alarm in his bright eyes - which Heero didn't appreciate at all. Kids usually weren't afraid of him until they'd known him for a while; his immediate reaction made little sense. And this child was carrying something in his hand, but Heero couldn't make out what it was.
"Uh, sir?" The boy continued to back away while talking in a low mumble. He slanted a cautious look up at Heero from beneath the heavy fringe of his hair, "Um, is Mr. Duo home?"
Heero opened the door wider behind him and crouched down to reduce his height. Children reacted better to strangers if they met them at their eye level - he remembered that from somewhere.
"No," he said in an intentionally soft voice (he was getting better at those). "He's away at the moment. Is there something I can help you with?"
"Um," the child stared at his feet and shuffled them. Clearly fighting with his need for help and the distrust of a stranger found in an unexpected place. Heero waited him out without making a sound, letting him get a good look at him - sometimes that helped. The boy's eyes slipped between him and the wall, and then he shifted his glance a half meter over and saw Heero's slippers. And a shy smile twisted the corner of his lips at the sight of an adult wearing footwear intended for a much younger person. This man _obviously_ knew Mr. Duo. He chanced a look at Heero's face - then spoke to the floor again.
"Um, Mr. Duo visits my school on some days to talk with the older kids. He said he'd fix this." The boy held up a much abused and battered music reader that was at least a decade old. He looked hopefully back up at Heero.
Heero paused, taken aback, Duo? His Duo? He paused to think. Yes, that was something Duo would offer to do. He sighed softly with the realization that he'd have to handle the situation on his own until Duo returned - which would be soon, hopefully.
"Duo should be back in a little while, would you like to wait for him?" What was he doing? This was his afternoon off; he was going to catch up on surveillance reports for the Verina conference. Well, he looked at the young boy with resignation, apparently not any longer. He sighed with the realization that his plans had just changed. "My name is Heero, and yours is?" he added in an encouraging tone.
The child seemed much happier now that Heero had shared his name. "Mr. Duo fixes stuff for my friends. And I know *all* about you." he responded with a bright smile, and then added conspirationally, "Mr. Duo likes you a *lot*." The last word was stated with considerable emphasis.
Well... that was certainly good to hear. Heero smiled quietly to himself, pushed the door wide, and stood back as Koti pattered rapidly down the hall to the kitchen - apparently he'd visited Duo before. By the time Heero had secured the door and made his way to the kitchen, his young guest had seated himself at the table, in Heero's chair, and was energetically swinging his legs back and forth - thumping the heels of his shoes against the rungs of the chair. He looked completely at ease in his surroundings and was inspecting the bowl of oranges on the table, overtly interested, but with enough manners to not ask.
Koti didn't bother to answer, but quickly reached out for a large piece of fruit on the opposite side of the bowl, displacing several others in his insistence on that particular one. He inspected it carefully and held it out to Heero who stared at it blankly. "Um, can you peel it for me? Mr. Duo usually does, but you said he's not here."
Well, that certainly explained Duo's sheepish look when Heero had remarked on how quickly the oranges had been disappearing. Heero accepted the proffered fruit and walked over to the sink to select a knife. The rhythmless drumming of shoes against chair resumed in earnest, and then stopped. He looked down and to his right; Koti was watching him peel and section the fruit with rapt interest. "Mr. Duo doesn't do it that way," he offered by way of explanation when Heero continued to stare at him.
He didn't volunteer exactly "how" Duo prepared his fruit, but accepted the small bowl containing the divided orange with a great deal of eagerness. Then ran the few feet to climb back into Heero's chair to devour it. The child apparently had two operating speeds and two only: run and full stop.
Heero sighed and sat down in Duo's usual chair before picking up and carefully examining the dented and sadly abused player. He turned it over in his hands while putting together a mental checklist of the tools he'd need. He stood, noting the empty dish in front of his guest, and watched as Koti scrambled off his chair to face him. When he moved to get his tools, the child followed him without making a noise, and upon his return to the kitchen, again took his place at the table to watch Heero's every move as he laid out his implements.
It was annoying, Heero thought, to have his every move scrutinized like this. Koti moved his head from side to side and knelt on the seat of the chair to get a better look at the inside of his machine - which needed a new spring and three small adjustments before it started functioning again. His young eyes tracked from Heero's hands, to the tool he selected next, to the player, back to the tool as it was set down. Koti seemed to be memorizing the entire process for later replay. And, Heero noted with growing interest, he didn't appear to miss much. He seemed to be a pretty bright kid for his years. Then again, the same could have been said about Heero at that age. That made him curious about what else the boy had observed while spending time with Duo...
Duo's key spun smoothly against the lock without resistance. The front door hadn't been double locked, which set his internal alarms jangling - Heero was rarely that careless. He eased around the doorframe and sidled down the hall towards the voices emitting from the kitchen; one was Heero, the other? Was that Koti? And he relaxed and gave a brief mental laugh at the situation. Heero didn't associate with children much; he never seemed to know how to act around them or relate to them. But if Koti had stopped by right after his classes... Well, then by Duo's estimate, Heero had been entertaining his young guest for at least an hour. He wondered briefly how he'd managed on his own.
He leaned back against the wall outside the kitchen and listened for a moment; and then peered through the doorway to watch the two heads bent over a piece of small machinery. Heero was moving pieces and explaining what each one was called and what function it served, and Koti mimicked every word down to the slightest nuance in inflection. Duo watched his partner with approval; Heero had come a long way over the past months, whether he realized it or not. He had a natural talent for explaining the complex piece of machinery in a manner simple enough for Koti to understand. And Koti forgot nothing, so it was likely that he'd be fixing his own equipment soon enough. Although Duo bet that he'd still stop by for his favorite treat.
As if on cue, Koti's stomach rumbled, and Heero automatically reached for an orange out of the diminishing number in the bowl. Duo recognized the automatic reaction - but it startled him to see it in someone other than himself. It was odd and somewhat comforting, that they were adapting and adopting mannerisms and movements from each other. The thought of what the two of them would be like many years from now made him chuckle - and Koti swiveled at the sound. Cover blown, Duo stepped into his full line of sight and Koti squealed with glee and scrambled off his chair. He dashed across the room and rocked Duo back with his initial impact before enthusiastically embracing his legs. Heero looked surprised to see Duo there, unannounced. And he grinned back in understanding over the head of the excited boy.
Duo pointed at the orange in Heero's hand. "While you're peeling that, I'll have one too..."
He wasn't positive, but he was pretty sure he saw Heero smile as he moved to the sink with an additional orange in hand.