by girl starfish
Although nothing would have pleased me more than to listen to Duo's breathing and feel the steady rise and fall of his chest, I finally decided to file the sensation away in my memory and drop into low power mode. It was important for me to conserve my energy after all--who knew when the next time I'd be able to recharge myself would be?
I must have lain in hibernation for hours as Duo slept. His pattern of breathing continued regularly with no interruption--
Until a sudden bell shattered the silence.
It rang, sounding close by. It seemed to be attached to a wall unit, some sort of speaker system. I sat up carefully, casting an anxious look at Duo. He was beginning to stir--should I silence the bell before it woke him? It might be important--perhaps I should leave it for him to deal with? After all, I had no idea whether he would interpret my action as invading his privacy--
Duo solved the problem for me by growling a couple of unfamiliar words into the blankets and thumping the wall near his head, on what I saw was a touch sensitive pad.
"What?" he demanded.
A familiar voice answered coolly. "Howard informed me of your return. I was surprised you hadn't reported in."
Wufei. I listened as Duo pulled himself out of the blankets to reply grumpily.
"You're not my keeper! What is it 'let's treat Duo like a little kid day'? Honestly, can't a guy make his own decisions?"
"Howard was worried. He had Sweepers out looking for you."
"He does that anyway. Talk about paranoid. After all, I've only fallen off a building once."
"Uh-huh. At least you could have called me. I need to know how your missions go. If you don't come back, I assume something's gone wrong."
"Aw, so you do care," Duo yawned. "What's the matter, didn't you get your merchandise?"
"It arrived safely, Duo. It was you I was worried about."
"How sweet. Now go away."
"Not until you tell me where you were and what happened."
Duo pouted. "If you really loved me, you'd let me go back to sleep."
I was alarmed. Was Duo talking about love with Wufei--did that mean Duo was already with Wufei? "What do you mean--if he loved you?"
"What? Oh, Heero, I don't mean it like that. I mean I kind of do, but not the way you think. It's just a joke between us, because we're friends, okay?"
I wasn't sure, but I nodded. After all, I could ask Duo about it later.
"Duo?" Wufei said carefully, sounding as though he was afraid of the answer. "Did you just say Heero? As in Heero Yuy?"
"Ah, possibly," Duo said. "I didn't catch his last name--"
"You," Wufei said, in the same thin, polite voice, "have with you the Heero Yuy that has the entire downside in an uproar and a good part of the upside too? The Heero Yuy that is worth millions, the Heero Yuy that embodies the scientific future?"
Duo winked at me. "I don't know about that," he said. "But if you mean the Heero Yuy thatís currently looking extremely good half naked in my bed, then yes, I do."
I couldn't contain my pleasure. I smiled. Duo thought I looked good.
"You like me?" I asked, but Duo was busy thumping the wall.
"Hello, Wufei? Fei-kun? Did I give you a heart attack? Don't die on me Fei-kun!" He swore, pressing the touch pad again, and keying in a code onto the number pad next to it. The bell sound returned only sounding further away. A few seconds later, someone answered.
"Trowa? That you? Stupid question, only one person answers the phone with a monosyllable. Go next door right away, okay? I think I might have killed Fei-kun."
There was a beep then a dull ringing tone. Duo laughed as he used the touch pad again to end the connection.
"Trowa. Doesn't say a lot but he gets the job done."
He groaned, flopping back onto the pillows. "Stupid, Fei, waking me up! Now, it's going to take ages to go back to sleep--"
"I thought you'd killed him," I said.
"Hee-chan, you take me too literally," Duo complained. He yawned, groaned and then sat up. "What time is it?"
"Wufei better be dead. Otherwise, I'm really going to kill him."
I decided not to ask.
"You think I look good," I stated.
"Huh? Oh yeah, you're great eye-candy Heero." Duo smiled at me again, making my heart leap. "I like," he said, running his nose down my neck, "you a lot." Then he kissed my neck.
I lay back on the bed sighing happily, as Duo brought my upper chest and neck to life with his kisses. I was too taken by the sensations to even think of filing them away--
And Duo had said there was more.
"D-Duo?" I panted. "Last night . . . what you said . . . can I grope you?"
Duo chuckled, and his warm breath tickled my shoulder. "Grope away, sugar."
"How? Didn't J teach you anything? No, I didn't just say that--ugh, talk about unwelcome mental images. Ew!"
I discovered Duo sometimes needed to be guided back on topic. "How does one grope?"
Duo smiled at me. "I love you, you know that?" Then before I could reply continued, "It's just feeling someone up, basically."
"And I do that how?"
"Uh . . . well, you know feeling someone up--touching them--maybe a practical demonstration is called for. See if I were feeling you up I would put my hands down here and touch your butt like this . . ." I blushed as Duo's hands brushed over the curve of my rear. "Mmm, nice Heero. Do you work out?"
"My body's mechanism is based more on electrical energy than organic food sources," I explained. "Consequently I have little in the way of body fat."
"Oh. Right. Well, all the better for me then--"
I yelped as Duo's fingers again worked the slightly sensitized padding of my butt--this time without the interruption of cloth. "Duo!"
"How does that feel?"
I took a moment to run a quick diagnostics scan. "Good. I like it--the readings given by the pressure points underneath my imitation skin are not unpleasant."
"Good," Duo breathed, hugging me tightly. "Now, Heero, if you were feeling really adventurous, you might decide to do this--" He slipped a hand down the front of my trousers.
"Is something wrong?" I asked.
"Uh, Heero? You seem to be missing something . . . kind of important."
I stared at him in puzzlement. My internal scan that I had performed upon regaining consciousness had not produced any abnormalities--"My scan did not show any errors."
"Trust me, you're missing a fairly vital part." Duo sounded upset.
I lifted up the blankets to closer examine the area in question. It looked normal. "J said I had all parts necessary to function adequately in society."
"I'm beginning to hate J," Duo growled. "Heero, what about . . . you know, reproduction?"
"I lost that ability in the accident," I said, wondering what he'd brought this up for.
"But the act of reproduction itself, you know, sex. Didn't J consider that important enough?"
"Why are we talking about reproduction?" I asked. "I thought all of that was done with genetics and test tubes."
"In the upside maybe," Duo said. "Down here things are still done the old fashioned way. So you're saying you can't have sex? Not at all?"
"J never mentioned it in my training," I said. "Other than being a weakness and a distraction. Is it important?"
Duo struggled to reply. "No," he said finally. "Not at all. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go--" he waved a hand vaguely. "Freshen up."
I felt extremely uneasy as Duo left. Despite what he told me, I had a feeling that he was not happy and that things weren't okay . . .
My suspicion was borne out when half an hour passed and he didn't return.
I climbed out of Duo's room cautiously, not sure if this was allowed or not. My life-systems scan produced a reading around the corridor so I followed it to find a cluster of men leaning against the wall in discussion. They stopped as I approached.
"Duo's AI," one of the men explained to the others.
"AI?" Another of them whistled. "How did the kid pull that?"
"I'm dysfunctional," I explained. "If you don't mind, I am currently seeking Duo. Where might I find him?"
"I saw him heading into workroom 7 not so long ago," the man pointed the path out to me. "Just follow the signs."
Workroom 7 was as crowded as Duo's bedroom. In the middle it had a set of vices for holding really big bits of machinery, currently some sort of motor. I spotted Duo's plait beside the motor. "Duo?"
"Hey." He did not sound particularly happy. In fact he sounded quite the opposite. Concerned I walked around the motor until I was facing him, curled up in a little ball by the machinery. He had blotchy cheeks and sore looking eyes. I grew alarmed.
"Duo? What happened? Stay there, I will fetch a doctor." I hurried towards the door.
Duo stopped me. "What's up, Heero? I don't need a doctor."
I turned back to him, kneeling beside him and gently cupping his face in my human hand. "But . . . you're leaking fluid."
"This?" Duo tried to wipe his eyes. I stopped him, using the material of my shirt to dab gently at them instead. "It's normal. It's what happens when people cry."
"You've never seen someone cry?" Duo stared at me. I shook my head.
"What is it?"
"Well usually people cry when they're uh," Duo hesitated. "Upset I guess."
"And you're upset. Did I do this?"
"I'm fine Heero and it's not your fault. It's just . . . I guess I'm disappointed. That's all."
In the half hour that Duo had been absent I'd put a good deal of thought into remembering my lessons of reproduction. There had been only one explanation that I had come up with. "Did you want to have a child?"
Duo blinked at me. "What?"
"That's the purpose of reproduction, isn't it?" I asked.
"I guess, but the act of reproduction is important for other reasons. See couples when they're together often have sex to experience this closeness with their partner . . ." Duo sighed wistfully.
"It is a good thing?" I asked.
"Yeah. Very good."
"J did not consider it important that I had relationships," I said. "He said emotional attachments were a liability and that I was better off without them. I thought he was right. And then I met you."
"You really do know how to say the sweetest things," Duo said, patting my cheek. I remained frowning.
"Are you going to send me back? Because I don't have the necessary parts?"
Duo hesitated. Finally, he looked at me and said, "I guess that's up to you. What do you want?"
"Do you want me to go?" I asked.
"I--no, no I don't," Duo said. "This shouldn't change anything I guess. After all, I was saying last night most couples wait before having sex and who knows, by the time we're ready for that, if we are, you might have the parts you need. And, yeah I guess it was a bit of a shock, I am a normal, healthy, hormonal teenager after all, but I'll live and we can work this out and in the meantime we can still cuddle and stuff and--"
I decided he was babbling again and kissed him to bring him back on topic. "What do we do now?" I asked.
"Go back to bed," Duo said firmly. "I still have a lot of sleep to catch up on."
I woke slowly to one of the most pleasant sensations of my life. Just a feeling of security, of warmth . . . I opened my eyes to look directly into Heero's, his dark blue eyes softening as he smiled at me. "You were watching me?"
He nodded. "Your hair came out of your braid when you were sleeping," he told me. "And some of it fell across your face. When it drifted over your nose you wrinkled your face up like this." He demonstrated.
I frowned. I'd been aware of something tickling my nose but hadn't paid it that much attention. "You should have woke me up rather than watched me making a fool out of myself."
Heero looked puzzled. "But I thought you looked beautiful."
I stared at him. "Really?"
"Was that the wrong thing to say?"
"Hell no. Did you mean it? You think I am beautiful?"
Heero smiled shyly and nodded.
"I don't think I've ever been called that before," I said. "Cute, yes, hot, yes, sexy, once or twice, but beautiful--you really think that?"
"I do," Heero said earnestly touching my hair gently as though he might break it.
I smiled at him. I had this warm feeling within me, albeit tinged with sadness at the knowledge of what could not be. "Thank-you, Heero. That means a lot." I put my arms around him and we lay together in a loose hug, Heero absently petting my hair. It made me feel like a kitten, but I didn't tell him that.
Instead I let him. Could I be happy like this? If this was--the closest we got?
Okay, so I'll admit sex isn't the be-all and end all of existence, and I was a little bit surprised when Heero wanted us to 'sleep' together last night. But kind of excited too . . . I mean, without wanting to sound like a teenage girl overdosed on sugar and romantic daydreams, Heero is hot and I wouldn't mind getting cosy with him. Or I would . . . if I could. Which is where we have the problem.
Can I do this? I like Heero, he obviously likes me, a lot.
I don't know . . . is it right for me to make Heero stay if it turns out I can't? Should I have said he could stay?
The 8 o'clock klaxon sounds. I groan, and throw my pillow at it.
"I don't wanna get up!"
Yelling at the klaxon is as effective as it always is. With a sigh, I fall out of bed and stumble to my clothes.
"Stupid Howard. Couldn't be nice to a guy who's had to skip a whole twelve hours of sleep. Couldn't like let him sleep in for once in his entire life. No, that can't be done. Geez--" I pull on my working singlet and trousers. "Let's see, goggles, goggles, where did I put them? Why can I never find my goggles when--oh, there they are!"
"Duo?" Heero asked hesitantly. "What are you doing?"
"Getting ready," I said, pulling my goggles over my head. "Breakfast's served at eight fifteen and Howard doesn't keep any for latecomers--"
"What should I do?"
"I'll take you to supplies later, and get you some rags. You can't wear what you're wearing. Too good. But if we don't get there soon all the good tickets will be gone--"
"Jobs. You don't want to get stuck with maintenance. Especially not cleaning the showers. You will not believe what grows down there. I saw this rat once and I swear it was big enough to take down a fair sized dog--"
"Duo?" Heero said. "Has anyone ever told you that you talk a lot?"
"You think?" I said, hurriedly unpulling my hair. "Ya want to be an absolute gem? Comb this mess out for me."
Heero took my hair without protest. "Hold still," he said. "I don't want to hurt you."
"No time," I said. "You seen my other boot?"
"By the bed," Heero said. "Now stay still."
I pulled on both boots and tied them without even concentrating on them. After a sharp tug to get me to stay more or less still, Heero had brushed out my hair. And he'd done it with such care--by the time he'd finished I was practically purring.
"You have nice hair," Heero said, finally, handing me the brush. "Would you like me to braid it for you?"
The breakfast klaxon sounded then. "No time!" I yelped, grabbing Heero and a hair band and running for the door. I could braid my hair myself as I ran. Just one of the many talents of Duo Maxwell.
We got to breakfast about middle of the queue. I smirked. There should still be some good tickets left. Howard was standing next to Hilde who was serving. I pasted my most winning smileô across my face as I approached. "Good morning, Howard, how's it going? Hey Hilde, nice to see ya. I'll have a big helping of the porridge, thanks."
Howard raised his sunglasses. "Half helpings for Duo, Hilde. He's grounded."
"And you can wait behind after breakfast for your ticket. I've got something special for you."
"You're no fair!" I complained. "And aren't you at least going to feed Heero?"
"Your robot can eat?" Howard looked at Heero with suspicion, Hilde with interest.
"I can extract liquid energy from food sources," Heero explained, standing closer to me.
"That'd be pretty handy. See if you can copy the technique he uses to do that to adapt it to the scooters. Anything that could reduce our energy use is a bonus."
"What's the fuss? We can just siphon what want out of the upside without anyone being the wiser--"
"We do that, we might get caught. I don't like it Duo--security upstairs getting pretty tight."
"Jake got caught for illegally using the power source," Hilde told me, eyes wide.
"What--Ugly Jake?" I started. "When did this happen?"
"We found out just after you left on that job of Wufei's."
There was a shout from down the line. "What's the hold-up?"
"Follow me, Heero," I said, leading him to a table. I sat down thinking hard. If Ugly Jake could get caught--and he was pretty damn near an expert--no wonder Howard was worried.
"What's the matter?" Heero asked.
"Bad news," I answered. "Hey, I wonder what ticket Howard's got for us? I don't think it'll be cooking . . . not after what happened the last time I cooked."
He ate slowly. "What is this?"
"You've never had porridge? Lucky you," I laughed. "In a week you are going to hate it. Meal. water, salt, milk if we can get it. On special occasions we might get porridge with fruit in it."
"What do you mean, if we can get it?"
"Milk isn't exactly a common commodity this side of the glass terrace, Hee-chan. Sally does her best to get us a good mix of protein and that, but itís not easy. Ya eat what ya get and you like it."
"I wasn't complaining." Heero picked up his spoon again.
I'd already finished mine. I sighed, shooting wistful stares at the plates around me. I was always hungry downside.
The last men collected their food and tickets and sat down.
"What happens now?" Heero asked, noticing some of the men, having finished their meal, starting to head out.
"We go to work. We either repair the units we already have or we go out to look for old parts or wrecked machines we can scavenge. Or we repair other people's machines for food and that, or we build our own stuff. We're working on a new generator at the moment, as a back up for the one that's powering us now. Howard writes them all out on paper and puts them out and they're tickets."
I flipped the end of my braid nervously as Howard approached. I really hoped he wouldn't give us the showers. I hate those rats . . . ugh, just the thought of their furry little bodies makes me shudder. I winced at the thought of a rat gnawing at my braid. Okay so I asked Sally and she said that Nick's wrong about them eating hair but still--
"Your ticket." Howard held out the slip of paper.
I took it. My mouth dropped open.
"You're kidding. You're letting me work on Sylvia?"
Howard shrugged. "You'll do a good job, kid."
"Yeah, but aren't you trying to punish me?" I was interrupted mid-protest as Howard hugged me roughly.
"You came back safely, Duo. How can I punish you for that?"
"Aw geez--don't get mushy on me!" I blinked rapidly, hoping I was not going to cry. A hand rested on my shoulder and a piece of material was thrust into my hand. I looked at it.
"What is this?"
"I thought you might need it. In case you start to leak fluid."
I stared at Heero then grinned, patting his cheek. "You are too darn sweet, you know that?"
"Ahem." Howard grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away. "For a robot, you treat him pretty much like a human."
"Ah . . . yeah." How to get out of this? I could just see the one year grounding in Howard's expression. "He's kind of designed to act humanly."
"Is that so?" Howard poked Heero's chest. "Just exactly what kind of robot are you?"
"A new prototype," Heero said. "I am the first of my kind."
"And what kind is that?" Howard turned to me. "Service, recreation, what?"
"Kind of an experiment in both I guess," I hedged.
"Should I be separating you two? Mack said he found the two of you in bed together when he stopped by to check on you--"
"There's no room in my room!" I said. "You've seen it-itís little more than a cupboard."
"There is no reason to be concerned," Heero informed Howard. "I lack the necessary components for sex."
Howard blinked. "Uh--"
"Geez Heero," I muttered. "Embarrass me, why don't you."
"What's the matter?" Heero asked. "Wasn't that what Howard meant?"
"Yeah but--let's get out of here. Later Howie!"
I grabbed Heero and ran to Supplies. "We have to get you outfitted and get to Workroom 11 before he changes his mind," I said. "Yo! Pete!" I banged on the door. "We need some coveralls, if you got them."
Tall Pete found the right size for Heero and while he put them on, I chatted to Tall Pete. "Howard's letting me work on Sylvia."
Tall Pete whistled. "How'd you land that, kid?"
"I'm not entirely sure. But he wants me to do a systems scan and then any work I see fit."
"Sweet. Ya really lucked out this time."
"You're telling me." I gloated.
"What is Sylvia?" Heero asked.
"Howard's baby," I explained. "Wait till you see her. She's the hottest metal in this district and everyone knows it. She can do double the speed of most racers and her handling--perfect." I sighed. "She's the sexiest vehicle I've ever seen."
Heero looked dubious. "Sexiest?"
"The kid's got a very warped libido." Tall Pete said. "Comes of being raised by mechanics. No mother figure. So instead--" He shrugged, tapping his head in a meaningful way.
Heero looked puzzled. "Are you suggesting that Duo is dysfunctional?"
"Oi! I'm not staying here so the two of you can malign my sanity! C'mon Heero," I pulled him after me. "Wait till you see Sylvia. Then you'll see what I mean."