The Little Things Arc
Part Twelve: Feeding Fish
by D.C. Logan
Quatre shut and carefully latched the door behind him and moved deeper into Duo and Heero's apartment. The room was unusually quiet, like a dressed stage waiting for its actors, yet even without any sound, and without its people, the room retained the personalities of its tenants.
It was so different from that time soon after the war, when he'd visited each of the pilots in turn. Duo had just started his business and the apartment celebrated his joy in having a place he could finally call his own without threat of being displaced. Quatre had found Heero only after careful networking with the Preventers, and had knocked on the doors of both of his apartments within a month of each other. The efficiency in the L1 cluster was a tiny gray cell that was absolutely spare in its accouterments: one small room with a single bed, a closet, a table and two chairs, a minuscule kitchen and a bath. His computer had been centered on the table, the bed was neatly made, and nothing in the room told him anything about the personality of the individual renting it. Curious, he'd tracked down the second room on L2, and was pained to find it nearly identical in both appointments and decor.
Highly skilled and directionless, Heero had fallen back on the rules of efficiency and self-reliance that had allowed him to survive during the war. It had taken a lengthy reintroduction to Duo (and a great deal of effort on both their parts) to break down Heero's idea of what surviving meant and turn his life into one that thrived instead of merely existed. Humor now lived a subtle life behind Heero's eyes, Duo smiled broader and more often, and they seemed confident in each other and comfortable with the arrangement between them.
Quatre stood in the middle of the space and spun about slowly, balancing what he knew of the personalities of each of his friends against the contents of the room. The apartment looked well lived in and felt like the start of a home... the blending of their lives was moving along well.
Duo's aged and venerable sofa sagged against one wall. A carryover from the last apartment the pilots had shared, he'd developed a liking for the lumpy gray monstrosity and refused to part with it. By Quatre's reckoning, he'd moved it no less than four times since the end of the war. He didn't know what Duo's attachment to it was, but it had to be something important to him since it was uncomfortable to sit on and a steel-plated bitch to move. Heero's desk took up space in front of the room's only window. It was neat and orderly, and locked, he noted with a grin. Apparently Heero's trust only extended so far.
The small apartment wore Duo and Heero's occupancy with grace. The merging and blending of his friends' lives was most evident in the wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Duo's zest for exploration revealed itself in a selection that skimmed the surface of more musicians and authors than Quatre could count. Duo favored the written word and sampled liberally from publishing services. His shelves held not more than two books from any one author, and subjects ranging from biographies of early space explorers (the ones who survived anyway) to modern thermology production on the new colonies. The condition of the books didn't seem to matter to Duo, some of the bindings were worn and frayed, a few well-read favorites were held together with bonding strips where damaged. Quatre ran his finger over Heero's books--they were in perfect condition, and appeared hardly read at all; he pulled one from the shelf, curious. All were first editions, every printed volume covering the complete works of more than two dozen authors. He recognized some past gifts in the assortment--and felt brief pleasure that they'd been retained and enjoyed.
Quatre compared the shelves to each other--discovering a few duplicates as well, signs of a relationship too new to trust the giving up of all personal possessions. So they hadn't yet merged their collections from 'his' and 'his' to 'ours'; that would come in time--and perhaps take longer than usual because of the lives Duo and Heero had led prior to this, but there was plenty of trust there to carry them through the transition. He felt a bit of envy for the lives they had ahead of them--accountable to no one but themselves.
The two of them were on Earth this week. Heero had spent the past months working as a security consultant, and they'd taken the opportunity to turn a business meeting into a well-deserved vacation. Even though they'd made acquaintances in their neighborhood, none were trusted enough to be granted free access to the private and personal space they had made for each other. To the best of his knowledge, he was the only one they permitted to do so. But someone had to feed Duo's fish and water Heero's tree while they were gone. They'd relied on technology alone to care for them in the past, and when it failed, swore never to do so again.
The two angelfish and the fig tree had been housewarming gifts--Duo and Heero were both far too practical to purchase anything that required care in their absence. But as they'd grown accustomed to and then slowly dependent on each other, other living things had become a part of their lives as well. And when, after the first accident, the tree had been replaced, they had asked Quatre if he'd mind... and he didn't. They asked for so little from him, and he knew a little about what it had taken them to ask, so there was no way he'd let them down. Besides, he'd been curious....
He roamed though the rest of the apartment, noting the additions they'd made since his last visit three months ago. The angelfish were still in the bedroom, and he spared a brief thought for all that they must have been witness to over the past few months. Quatre still couldn't distinguish Wing from Zero, but they both looked healthy and eagerly followed the path of his finger as he traced it across the glass before rising to eat the food he dribbled across the surface of their water.
They'd been a gift for Duo, who'd been flattered by the thought but hadn't a clue how to care for them. So Heero had taken on the task of setting up a suitable living space for the two fish, and they were now thriving in the elaborate home he'd created for them. Any lingering doubts Quatre had harbored about the relationship between his two friends dissipated after that. That Heero had taken the effort to support Duo in such a small way had been very telling--whether he realized it or not.
And so far his faith in the two of them had been justified. Despite a staggered and random start after the war, the relationship between Duo and Heero was stable and growing--the warm and supportive environment they'd created for their life together was ample proof of that. They made each other angry and sad too. If they hadn't, he wouldn't have been convinced that their relationship went as deep as love. Trowa had been reluctant to lend his approval until a few months ago, but something--and he hadn't said what exactly--had convinced him during his last visit to Heero. He hadn't raised a question or an eyebrow over their decision to move in with each other since.
Quatre wandered back through the still rooms to sit on Duo's sofa and enjoy the warm solid quiet of the place. He looked around again, resting his eyes on the collection of possessions in the room, glad for his friends' good fortune and pleased at what had come to pass between them. Yes, there was a sense of stability and balance here, and if it was a reflection of the partnership they shared between them, he had no more worries about Duo and Heero's growing relationship.
Their possessions looked at home and content, nestled together on the shelves, comfortable in each other's company--accepting their differences and celebrating their similarities. Duo and Heero fit well together--body, mind, and soul. The space they had created between them, the shelter they housed their love in, the place they lived their lives, it proved that. Trowa was right, and now Quatre owed him yet another favor...