Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Heero had said goodbye to Relena and wished her a happy birthday again. Midii had assured Heero should would get home safely. He had only been concerned because it was her second day in the Colonies; he knew she could take care of herself otherwise. Adin had promised to see her home; he lived in the neighborhood. After all their good-byes Heero followed Duo from Relena's house. Hilde came with them, immediately after Heero.
Duo said it was good Relena had decided not to make it a dinner party, this way they had all been able to meet and have fun but have plenty of time to go to late-shift jobs or get shopping done or have time to travel to other colonies before it was very late.
On the street they saw Wufei and Sally walking toward a small pick-up. Duo waved. "Oi, Sally, can we get a ride if you are headed home?"
"Do you think Heero would mind sitting in the back in that nice outfit of his?" Sally asked.
Duo looked at Heero.
They climbed into the bed of the truck. Heero had hitched rides in much more dangerous and dirty ways. The back of this truck wasn't even dirty.
Sally drove. Duo and Wufei chatted with each other through a window in the back of the cab. Hilde studied something on a digital pad. Heero watched scenery.
Sally took them into the neighborhood within the Japanese Quarter called Little Xian. Wufei asked if they would like to stop in at his apartment. Duo answered for them, saying he just wanted to pick up some things from Tang's and get home. Heero took his leave of Sally and Wufei with a polite bow and then let Duo drag him away. They walked a couple blocks through the neighborhood that in architecture and signage had an obvious Chinese influence. Tang's was an apothecary of sorts.
Heero entered the store after Duo and Hilde. There was a boy behind a register, about seven or eight years old, Heero guessed. He recognized Duo immediately and called to him. "Hey, Nicky," Duo said as he picked up a basket.
"Is he with you?" Nicky asked. He was clearly standing on a stool or shelf behind the counter, only his legs were hidden from view. Heero decided the boy did look Chinese, at least party. Likely one parent was Caucasian; he didn't look like Sally. With Sally you had to really know what to look for to guess she had a Chinese grandfather.
"Yeah, this is Heero. He used to pilot a Gundam like Wufei and me."
Heero thought the word should be 'I,' but it was Duo's first language.
"You let me check you out. I'll give you a discount," the boy told Heero. "Don't let my mom do it."
Hilde whispered to Heero from behind, "If either of his parents know you are a friend of Sally they will give you the discount prices. Nicky just likes to work the register."
"Yeah, you can look around, Heero," Duo said, "I just need to pick up stuff to take home."
Heero approached the counter. He could see that this shop advertised a licensed herbalist and practitioner of traditional medicine on staff as well as other services, including acupuncture, massage, astrological consultations and Wicca classes and meetings. They sold many different loose herbs, potted plants, pre-prepared dietary supplements, a selection of snack foods, how-too books, candles, altars and accessories, incense and a line of bath and beauty products. Heero knew the brand, well he knew Tang's soaps. They worked really well in washing blood from skin. Heero had found their products in other stores in the quarter, at higher prices.
"What do you do if someone tries to steal from your store or take your money?" Heero asked the boy.
"Unless you try to steal from me, you will not find out," the boy said haughtily.
"I don't want to steal from you. I was just curious why a little boy was left to watch the shop."
"What makes you think I am alone?"
"So, your parent's watch the cameras from the back rooms?"
A woman came from the back. She had white-blonde hair and wore loose long dark clothing and a pentacle on a leather cord about her neck. "May I help you?" she asked, smiling tightly.
Nicky spoke to her in Chinese. Heero understood most of it. He was telling his mother that Duo's friend Heero asked too many questions about their security.
"However he treats us will come back upon him. Offer him a discount." With that she glided away into the back again.
"You want to buy anything?" Nicky asked.
Heero collected several bars of orange spice soap and placed them near the register. "What else is good?"
"Everything we have is excellent."
"I am certain it is. I don't believe in a god or goddess or enlightenment or have ancestor spirits so what would you recommend unrelated to that?"
"Everyone has ancestor spirits, they do not all honor them," the boy said firmly.
Heero glared, a little.
"You could buy some herbal candy sticks. My Dad saves the lollies for patients." This display was also near the counter. Heero collected an assortment without checking the flavors and put these on the counter. Duo came to the counter then with a basket full of goods.
"You want me to get that, Heero?"
"I can pay for it."
"Nicky, just add this all together, and can you see if your father is here. I need my prescription."
Heero decided that they had audio monitored in the back rooms. A young Chinese man came to the counter and greeted Duo and Hilde. He unlocked a cabinet in the wall and brought out a plastic bag with a pill bottle inside it. Nicky continued scanning the items and typing at keys. The man, Nicky's father, looked at Heero. "Rachael said you looked like a hit man. I told her that she can not assume than anyone she thinks looks Japanese or Russian is in an underground organization, and even if they were, that doesn't mean they are involved in anything illegal. We do live in the Quarter and most people are the same, they just want to live and be happy. We don't carry grudges against anyone."
Heero looked at Nicky. "I haven't been an assassin since I was about his age," he said seriously.
Duo laughed loudly. "Rachael, you confusing the hair dye for aura or something? Trust me, he's cool, just weirdly socialized."
The woman appeared in the doorway and made a deep bow toward Heero, then left again.
"She is weirdly socialized," her husband said, "she knows this."
Duo sighed. "We better go. See ya, Lu!"
"Take care," Lu said.
"Come back again when you want to buy more stuff!" Nicky called as they were leaving.
They walked to the nearest exit to the tubes and took a train to the port. Duo checked in with a shipping company first, being registered as an approved freelance pilot for contract. There were just a few crates that they needed transported to his home colony. Duo swiped his ID to sign in and accept the crates. Robots loaded the large shipping crates onto Duo's shuttle where it was parked in a bay hangar of the commercial section of the port.
Heero spotted The Zero across the hangar.
Duo's shuttle was red except for where it had the black heat-distributing tile that kept temperatures down during re-entry. It was an older model as well, with more fins than it required to maneuver in space or within an atmosphere. Hilde told Heero that Duo had restored the shuttle himself. Its name was Azrael's Tear. Heero wasn't very familiar with angel names, but he thought he had heard this one before described as the Angel of Death.
Inside the shuttle was heavily customized. The cargo bay had a usual set up, but the passenger cabin had seat upholstered in a satin finish synthetic, which was black, and enclosed private bunks and antique video games had been installed. Heero said he would like to sit in the cockpit on the ride over when Duo offered it.
Duo took the pilot's seat of course and Heero sat next to him. Duo really was an exceptional pilot. Heero didn't recall ever seeing him drive, but he would trust him to fly anything. Heero pretended to take a nap on the flight over, he had seen the moon enough, so the view outside didn't interest him. He had looked at Duo for a while, he really seemed dressed in someone else's clothes in that school uniform. Duo just kept on talking. He had started out asking Heero if he would rather go out or just hang out and gotten off on a tangent about what people who had no ancestry in the States believed American food to be and whether American style food in other regions was fake the way Chinese food in America wasn't the same as Chinese food in China.
Heero thought that there was a small percentage of restaurants in every region that made authentic foreign foods, but that since local palettes differed the foreign cuisines were usually altered somewhat to make the food taste good to locals, while retaining the basic style of the original. Heero didn't say this. He just listened to Duo talk.
When they got to the port in Gotham Duo delivered the crates and received his payment. He said they could walk to their flat from here, it wasn't that far. Duo had a few pieces of luggage, but Heero only had his satchel and Hilde a purse.
This colony was different, from the one Heero lived in, in many ways, but what was most noticeable now was the architecture. They didn't just build functional boxes to live in, they took care to make the buildings look like buildings in cities on Earth. In some ways, being in S3 was like being in a big amusement park on Earth in which all the buildings along streets were just facades with plain boxes behind where the tourists didn't pass by. There was no real brick or stone and not that much glass used to construct the buildings, yet they looked like brownstones or had simulated gaps and mortar between faux stone or they might have 'stone' gargoyles and moldings crowning the facades.
Duo hadn't lied, it did seem like being in New York City or London except without a sky. It was dim here. Now evening the shutters were closed over the skyglasses and there was neon flashing and glowing. The colony was old, 111 years old this year and had recently been restored and reinforced and repaired so that it would continue to function.
Duo's building was one of those that appeared brick. The stoop appeared stone and a small gang of teenagers were sitting around it. They were mostly brown-skinned, a range of colors from coffee to chocolate to honey, but now, among Americans people as light as Duo were a minority. They all considered themselves American, ethnically and culturally now, though there was the large range from dark to light. They had other traits in common because they had for enough generations married other Americans until the differences between them became smaller and they had grown up on the same fortified processed foods hormone laced meats and additives in the drinking water.
In the future there might not be Americans. There might not be Nihonjin. There might not be Colonials. They would just have 'people from the Earth Sphere.'
Hilde unlocked the locks on the door and waved Heero in before her. As soon as the door opened Heero heard a barking and then he saw the dog as it jumped up on its hind legs and pawed at his velvet jeans. "Get down, ya devil spawn," Duo said with obvious annoyance.
Hilde gently pushed the small dog with her foot so that it did not escape the apartment.
"I didn't know you had a dog," Heero said.
"That thing shit on the floor again. I can smell it." Duo stalked off in search of the animal's droppings. "He's not my dog," Duo called, "He's like a roommate that doesn't pay rent."
Heero bent down and scratched the dog's head. He didn't know this breed but it did not seem like a mutt. It had very dark brown fur, short and sleek. It had a long snout and tall ears and an elegant shape. It observed Heero with sharp dark eyes and sniffed at his hands.
"Quatre left him with us," Hilde explained. "He moved his entire household to Earth a few months back and he said that someone's dog had puppies and that they didn't want to take them on the shuttle flight while very young and they couldn't find homes for them all. Wufei took one. I feel kind of bad. We didn't think we would have such a hard time with him when we agreed to take him. He's a Pharaoh Hound, so he's going to be a good sized animal when grown." Hilde gestured about what size. "I don't think we're really supposed to have him in this colony. Only miniature breeds."
"Does he have a name?"
"Koi. Quatre and Relena chose it. Duo doesn't like it. You've heard his names for the thing."
"His name is Satan," Duo called.
Heero shook his head. "He could be Koi because he is strong and dark. Or, maybe it is short for Koinu." Heero smiled. He smoothed Koi's fur under his hand. "Dogs need to go out, Duo, can't you take him with you places?"
"Right!" Duo came from a narrow hall and went into the kitchen, which was visible through a doorway and a window within a wall. "Like I'll get anything done with the devil running all around."
Heero lifted the puppy in his arms as he stood and scratched its head. "You took him. I know you did it for Quatre, but you did it. You're responsible. Just train him. I've seen people walk dogs in many places. They can be well-behaved if you take care of them."
"I shudder to imagine Duo with kids," Hilde said.
"Ah! No comment!" Duo said. "I don't know how to train a dog."
"Start with reward and punishment," Heero suggested, "That's how you train people." He walked into the living room. The flat was not dirty but it seemed cluttered and chaotic and like the rooms were not arranged as they should be. It seemed logical that the room at the end of the hall near the bathroom be the bedroom, but it housed the dog and some computers and storage crates. The living room seemed where a dining room ought to be placed. Instead of any table it had an old couch with a red velvet slip cover. Well, it wasn't really a slip cover. It was a large amount of crushed red velvet thrown over the couch with many deep folds and wrinkles. The room that ought to have been a front parlor had a bed in it.
"Yeah, yeah," Duo said as he noticed Heero peering around the flat, "not all feng shuied."
Heero's apartment probably didn't follow proper alignments. Heero didn't see how any Colonial house could, except where the very rich lived in colonies with imported dirt and sod and trees where they had manufactured streams and ponds. In any case, this was just chaotic, he could deal with that.
Heero took off his jacket and his shoes then sat down on the couch with his mobile. He quickly made a 'net connection and did a search on training pet dogs. A number of hits came up. Heero scanned the list for signs of something authoritative and professional. He tried a site.
Duo sighed, maybe a bit melodramatically.
"Is he paper trained?" Heero asked.
"No," Hilde sighed.
They could start with that.
"Pizza?" Hilde asked.
"Yeah, sure," Duo sighed.
"I'll call. Heero...?"
"About how much pizza would you eat?"
He pondered. He could not say. It had been a long time since he had any pizza. "How much does Duo eat?"
"Better order two," Duo said.
Heero went back to reading about dog training. He made a note to look up Pharaoh Hound next.
"Hey, Heero... you want to come get changed?"
"Well, you want to just wear your nice clothes all night and to sleep in?"
"These jeans are really quite comfortable, but if you would loan me any kind of t-shirt or tank I would appreciate it."
"OK, I'll just go get changed then," Duo said. He went into his bedroom. Well, it was Hilde's bedroom too and there seemed to be only the one bed. But, Heero thought Duo had said there was a spare bed.
After a little while Hilde came from the hall and her phone call and she went into the bedroom. Heero could hear her and Duo whispering. Duo knew how low to speak if he did not want Heero to hear. They both seemed to have extraordinary senses.
Duo came from the bedroom, a blur of black in the corner of Heero's eye. Heero blinked then shifted his gaze to track Duo. He flopped to the couch Heero was sitting on, head propped on the arm, his bare feet toward Heero. He was wearing a long skirt, but this one had no knots and pockets, only many narrow pleats, and it seemed about ankle-length. Besides the skirt Duo wore a crushed velvet shirt, which seemed to be intended as sleepwear. It had buttons, but Duo hadn't buttoned them. After about a minute of staring at the powered down television Duo glanced to Heero. He reached beneath him and pulled out a blue bit of fabric.
Heero caught the shirt, which it was, as Duo lobbed it to him. Heero balanced his computer in his lap and removed the dress shirt he was wearing. He folded his shirt neatly when he had removed it then set it aside with his jacket. Heero pulled the tee over his head. It fit him snugly. The words 'Flying Monks' were on the front.
"So, looking at 'net porn again?" Duo asked. That was a trick question. That he asked it told Heero that Duo felt bored and wanted attention. Heero was only looking up dog training, but he supposed he should play along by lying. He had no experience, but in his reading he had picked up a few terms. Heero thought for a moment.
"I was just reading about the proper way to handle pets."
"Yes. In particular, how to properly discipline them when they have been naughty."
Duo snickered. "What do you do to your pet when they are naughty?"
Heero really had been reading about disciplining dogs. He looked at the screen. "Spanking can be effective if you catch them in the act."
"Which act is that?" Duo laughed.
"Whichever act their master forbids," Heero answered naturally.
Duo laughed and grinned. "What are you really doing?" he asked.
Heero turned the computer to the side so that Duo could see the screen with text and pictures of dogs and humans. "Reading about training pets."
"You could have my pet. You'd be a better master then I would. Really, you know me. I'd rather handle things myself than take order from someone I didn't trust completely or ask anyone to trust me to keep them safe."
Heero considered this. It did seem an accurate description of Duo's approach. "Why do you think I would be different?" He asked.
"You are different," Duo said, folding his arms behind his head. "You even have command experience. They made you Captain and I'm a Lieutenant. You don't take the responsibility any more lightly than I do. In fact, I think if you know you have men following you, you consider their safety more important than your own possibly. You know some could get hurt, but you do everything to give orders that minimize loss. I'd crack. I can take care of myself, barely, but I just can't imagine how to manage others."
"I have been in command before," Heero agreed. He thought about the various times and situations that he had commanded others. "I was only doing my part as best as I was able. I accept my place and I fulfill that role to the best of my ability. You say 'command' as if I had a lot of power with the responsibility. I see it as being alike to serving. If you lead well, you consider the abilities of all those that follow you and you do your best to give orders that use those abilities most wisely and frugally. You use everyone fairly. You do everything to see that your men come out of it safely as possible and satisfied with the result. If you don't please those that follow you, they will not continue to take orders. You serve others if you take a position of command."
"Well, maybe you do. Not everyone would. Maybe because you see that it is a role someone must do and you do not wish to do it except that you know your attention to detail and understanding makes you well-suited to the task... well, that makes you someone who could earn respect and make people follow you. Some people would view their men as expendable tools."
"They are. I am as well. That does not mean one should waste any resource, including manpower. Tools do more work if you take care of them."
Duo stared for a moment, the lighting and reflection from the couch making his eyes seem violet. "So, you want the dog?"
"It's not really a matter of wanting..." Heero sighed slightly. The dog was sniffing at the computer and pawing Heero's knees. It was a dog. It was one thing to advise Duo on how to care for it; another thing to care for the dog himself. Why should he be trusted with the life of the animal?
"I'm not trying to push you, but, I'm hopeless with the thing and you could control it, I'm sure."
Heero shook his head. The dog was scrambling up onto the couch. "It isn't a matter of control exactly. It's like I explained with commanding people. You have to deserve and earn the trust. You can't control an animal forcibly. Well, you could try for a while but later they would turn on you. Rather, you must learn to work with the animal's instincts and nature. You guide them into acceptable behavior and punish them consistently for very bad behavior. You encourage them to work with you."
"Mmmn, well, let me understand and encourage you. Consider the animal my anniversary present to you in exchange for the kimono. It is a purebred Pharaoh Hound with a pedigree, it would likely cost more than a Utsugi Ai kimono, if one was to purchase the dog. So, consider him my gift. I'm sure you will now politely accept and be honored I chose to trust you with keeping the dog."
"And you thought you had no leadership skills," Heero joked, in monotone. Truthfully, it was almost evil how Duo had openly manipulated him, yet, Duo did know Heero. He felt honored that Duo should really believe he could care for the dog. Heero scooped the small dog onto his lap. It put its paws on his chest.
He had a live warm body that trusted him not to hurt it or let it die. That felt good. "Spasíba. Domo Arigato. Thanks forgiving Koi to me, Duo."
"Do itashimashite," Duo said quickly. "What is that, Russian? How do you tell someone they are welcome in Russian?"
"Well, if you said 'spasíba,' to me, then I would answer as if I were saying 'please' in English, as if I were telling you 'please, think nothing of it,' or 'please, keep it,' but I would just say, 'pazhálusta.' Or I might say something like, 'vy óchin dabrí.' That is roughly equivalent of, 'You are too kind.'"
"Paz halusta, v'ochin dabree."
Heero smiled. "Pazhálusta, vy óchin dabrí," he said slowly.
Duo tried again. It sounded almost like Russian that time.
"Khoroshó." Heero thought positive feedback would work best. Besides, he shouldn't criticize Duo's accent very much, because sometimes his Russian had a bit of a Japanese accent and his Japanese a bit of Russian in it.
Koi licked at Heero's face. He laughed.
"I like the rat much better when he's with you," Duo said. "Look how cute you are!" He continued in complete baby talk, "Aaaw, wook at Heewo wit his widdle doggy!"
"When did Koi eat last?"
"Dunno, we just left a big bowl of food for him."
Heero tsked and pointed out the computer, which was still connected to the site on dog training. "Dogs are not like cats. You must give them a measured amount of food at specific times of day. They won't ever be trained to only need walks at regular times if you let them eat all day. They'll get fat besides."
"Uh, right, and there I was trying to feed the devil fiber pills and laxatives," Duo warbled. That was the sound of Duo joking that Heero couldn't quite imitate.
"Does he have a harness or leash?" Heero said, trying not to laugh at Duo's last joke.
"In the back room. A collar and a leash."
"That will do for now." Heero carried the young dog down the hall into the room with the computers and dog things. They had a small space travel carrier for Koi and some toys. There was a huge amount of food in one bowl and water in another. Heero found the red mesh collar and chain leash.
Heero didn't care for the red, but he could buy Koi new things as he grew. Right now Koi had to learn to stay close, if he was going to be the kind of pet that traveled with Heero. Heero would just forge Helper Animal papers if anyone protested the canine's presence. Otherwise, it would be cruel to expect a dog to live in the amount of space that Heero forced himself to live in. Heero got to leave his house as he liked.
Heero poured most of the food back into the bag.
He fastened Koi's collar and attached the leash. He put the loop at the end of the leash around his left wrist then walked back to the living room. He heard a recorded sound bite of music play, loudly. Hilde called from the bedroom, "Duo, can you get that, I'm on the phone!"
"We're coming!" Duo shouted loudly toward the door. He rolled from the couch quickly then scrambled to a table where he rummaged through a box, counting cash as he found it.
Heero opened the front door. Koi growled. Heero smiled, a little. A girl was offering pizza boxes and cans of soda. Heero quickly pulled a card from a pocket at the back of his pants and made the exchange. The girl swiped the card on the reader at her belt. Her eyes questioned. "Twenty... percent," Heero said.
She typed and then the card was returned.
"Thank you," Heero said.
"You're welcome. Thank you for your patronage," the girl recited then hurried to the stairs.
"Man, I thought the Japanese had manners!" Duo called, angrily. It was the money.
"Gomen," Heero said, not very politely in tone, then bowed. He brought the pizza and soda into the flat, kicked the door closed, then pulled Koi into the kitchen. Heero growled to himself. "You can pay me back, Duo! Food Delivery is very deadline oriented work. It's just polite to collect your money before you expect them to show up."
Hilde walked into the kitchen after Heero. She opened a cabinet and retrieved some plastic cups and plates. "Lord and Lady! Can't you two ever just kiss and make up?" she asked. She was annoyed. She put the plates and cups on the island beside the pizza boxes. Hilde then put some paper currency on the top of the pizza box. "I am paying you back. I had money ready. I was just on the phone."
Heero took the American Dollars and shoved them in a front pocket. He looked up. Duo was standing in the doorway looking upset. They weren't supposed to be fighting any more. "So..." Heero started as he separated the cans of soda, "What was that Hilde said you should do? 'Kiss and wear make-up?'"
Duo shook his head and laughed, "Sounds like something I would do, but I thought she said, 'Kiss and make out.'"
"You could do that too," Heero said.
"Yeah, I could. I have many skills."
"I count on it," Heero said.
Duo grinned. He slunk to the island and opened the pizza box. The long, dark, pleated skirt made him look like a Sith Lord. "Let's just say it was low blood sugar," Duo suggested, "I am hungry."
"I don't think I have eaten at all today," Heero said. That wasn't very like him. He usually took care to maintain his health.
"Are you serious?" Duo asked, "Here, this pizza is all yours."
Heero smiled. "I don't think I could eat that much. My stomach isn't that big."
Duo laughed. "I probably have terrible eating habits. If I see a whole lot of food is there, I'll just eat 'til I feel stuffed."
"Maybe someone should measure out your food several times a day."
Heero laughed, "I know carbonated beverages aren't that good for you, but I still really like Coke." He tapped the can of Coca-Cola and then popped the top and drank.
"So..." Duo asked, "Do you want to watch a movie?"
Heero licked his lips. "OK." He put two slices of pizza on a plate.
"I don't know if you would like the movies that I have," Duo said, toying with his braid as he spoke.
"We can find out," Heero suggested.
They went back to the living room with their dinner. Hilde operated their entertainment system. Duo chose their movie, he said it was his current favorite movie of all time, but admitted that this changed from day to day. Heero sat down on the floor, or rather on a bit of red velvet that had pooled on the floor before the couch. Duo sat on the couch behind him, sometimes touching Heero's shoulder or side with his leg, sometimes touching Heero's opposite shoulder with a hand.
Duo was apparently practiced at eating while slouched on soft furniture and holding a plate in one hand, level with his chest. Heero knew how to fold a slice and eat it of course, he had picked this up in New York, but he honestly did not understand eating entire meals while sprawled. Eating pocky in bed was just different.
This movie, which Duo liked so much, was titled Velvet Goldmine. Heero was not sure if the British or the Americans or both had made it. It was set within some time period and subculture that required that the characters be flamboyantly dressed, use illicit substances, listen to 'Glam Rock' and have orgies. As well, in the setting of the movie, it seemed it was supposed to be very shocking that anyone was homosexual and more shocking that anyone was bisexual.
It was not entirely realistic. Heero thought it might even be surreal. For example, aliens had left a baby wearing a green broach on a doorstep somewhere in the British Isles and that child had grown to be infamous and queer. It seemed whoever next owned the green broach was destined to be infamous and queer as well, and throughout the movie this broach passed from character to character.
There seemed to be some relation between glam and something like punk and bands made up of androgynous boys in black and music that became poplar several decades later. Duo laughed at a lot of things in the movie that Heero didn't understand.
Another surreal thing was that in one seen a character had hearts in his eyes. It was completely live action with filmed actors and no obvious CG, but they had animated hearts in his eyes when the British rock star character looked at the American rock star character.
There was a plot. It actually was a rather interesting mystery, but from Duo and Hilde's comments it seemed they enjoyed the costumes and sex scenes more. There were quite a few sex scenes, most young men wearing makeup with other young men wearing makeup. Duo made wordless sounds that expressed his awe and approval. Hilde would just outright say things like, "Oh, they look so hot together!"
Heero recognized the actor that played the American Musician. The name of the character was Kurt Wild, but in a several Star Wars movies the same actor had played Obi Won Kenobi.
Heero was quite familiar with Star Wars. He thought everyone was. Suddenly he wondered to himself: what if I was like Obi Won and Duo was a Sith Lord and we had to fight? Then Heero thought: What if I was a Jedi and he was my Padawan? A series of very unofficial images ran through his mind.
"Oh," Heero said aloud. He slumped somewhat and in doing so put more weight into Duo's leg where he arm had been draped over it.
Heero had just had a sex fantasy about his best friend.
How significant was this? Did it mean Heero really wanted to have sex with Duo or was it 'only a fantasy'? Heero tried to think it out logically, while willing away the images of Duo with that slender braid falling over his shoulder and the brown robes that fell open just so... Heero shook his head to clear it. He knew that he did want Duo to be his friend. That was certain. He knew that he had a sort of hang up regarding sex and that if he were to have a partner he would need to find someone that he really wanted to please and then make his best effort to please them. Given his particular history and personality Heero didn't think he could be casual about sex. That was fine for some people; he just didn't think that was for him.
Could Duo be someone that he wanted to please? Yes. If, hypothetically, he wished to form a more-serious-than-casual sexual relationship with Duo, did Duo seem to be the type that would be casual or not and would Heero be willing to share Duo?
This really was complicated.
Heero put aside the debates on whether Duo could be shared or serious and started again on another path of logic. Was he absolutely attracted to Duo enough to want to share sex acts with him, or had it just been a fantasy created by his subconscious of the type Heero would never willingly act out?
Heero thought about it. Until a few minutes ago Heero had not actually fantasized anything so concrete. He was somewhere within the range of the human norm. He did think about sex. A lot some days. He just hadn't thought of it in concrete or practical terms. He hadn't believed that he would soon have a chance with anyone.
Heero turned his head, to look at Duo. He tried to be casual about it. This was difficult, since they were supposed to be watching a movie and Heero had to look away from the screen completely to see Duo. He took Duo in with a glance. Yes. Yes, now he thought about it, he was attracted to Duo.
He had known he wanted to be friends. He had even known he wanted to have more physical contact with him. Heero just had not fully realized he wished the contact to go so far.
Now Heero had another worry. Many times in his reading and research he had come across cases in which people who were friends and then became lovers at some point lost their friendship. Of course, he had also been aware of other cases in which a couple continued to be good friends and lovers for a very long time. Heero thought he would like that. How could he get that?
Heero thought that the general advice was that couples must be good friends first and communicate well and then become lovers at a natural pace.
What did that mean? Natural pace?
Just thinking about all this was making Heero feel desperate. He needed more data. He needed to know for sure how Duo felt. If it turned out that Duo wasn't that attracted to him, or only wanted to be casual or there was a danger their friendship would be ruined then Heero would have to make himself give up any form of pursuit.
What should he do?
Heero supposed he should find out how Duo felt about these things. He wondered if he should just bring it up. Somehow, that didn't seem like 'natural pace' but like 'forcing an issue.' Of course, conversation wasn't forcing literally, but a friend might feel some obligation to try while they were uncertain and have regrets later.
Heero didn't even know how to have sex. Well, he knew... he just was not so well informed about the small details. He understood how the bodies fit together, in various positions, but he didn't have a clue about how one person invited the other to do a particular act. Heero supposed mutual desire was a big part of it.
Heero got up off the floor and then sat again, on the couch this time, beside Duo. Koi's leash was still on his wrist, but the dog remained curled on the floor. The movie was ending. Heero wanted to say something. He wasn't sure what he should say. "Aa... that actor played Obi Won didn't he?"
Duo sighed deeply, "Ewan played a lot of characters." Duo liked him. He had a sort of idol worship of that centuries past actor. "Oh!"
Heero shook his head. "What is it?"
"Heero, can you stay here until tomorrow night?"
"No, I mean, you haven't even got a chance to settle in, but I just had this idea! Have you been to the Movie-shows?"
"I've been to movies."
"Movie-shows," Hilde said helpfully as she removed a disc from the player, "If you were on Earth for very long you might have seen them, but I think we do have the only ones in the Colonies."
"You have to go!" Duo said excitedly, "There do have some events during the week, but you really need to go to the Saturday night shows. They are the best. I've been in some of them."
"I don't know what you are talking about."
"They're..." Duo stopped and grinned. "Just promise you'll stay around until then. It can be a surprise. It's really cool, I swear. You promise? Pazhálusta!"
Duo looked so happy and excited. Heero did not want to disappoint him. He smiled. "All right. I will stay to see these movie-shows, but I have to be sure I get that business done tomorrow as well."
Duo moved his fingers over his chest, crossing his heart. "Don't you worry about that. We'll go to the garage tomorrow and show you everything. I'm sure you can find something that will suit your employers." Duo laughed at his own pun. "I kept thinking we still had to follow Relena's rules. We can talk about anything, huh?"
"Anything," Heero agreed.
Hilde got up from the floor, where she had also been sitting. She stood before the couch, acknowledged Heero's presence with a glance then looked at Duo. "I want to go to bed," she told him.
"Where will you sleep?"
"Oh, right," Duo laughed, reaching behind his head to lift his braid. "Just go ahead and sleep in our bed, Hilde. Heero and me can figure out where we'll sleep later."
Heero was certain in that case it should have been 'I.'
Hilde was leaning toward the couch. Duo craned his neck and they kissed. Heero was looking right at them. He hadn't even tried to look. It bothered him, a little. He didn't think it was full jealousy. Part of him understood that he had no claim on Duo and that he and Hilde were within their own home. It had been a lover's kiss, Heero thought, not deep and sloppy but not light and friendly either.
Hilde made a 'Mmmn' sound when Duo kissed her. When they parted Heero stared at Duo's mouth and wondered what kissing felt like. He hadn't even kissed someone before.
After a while Heero realized that Duo was staring back at him and Hilde was gone. He tried to think of something to say. In his mind he knew he was attracted to Duo, but he still was learning to be social. Heero didn't even know Duo that well, rather, he only knew things about Duo that he had learned in the context of considering him an ally.
Heero wanted to find out many other things, but what came out of his mouth was, "Is she your lover?" Heero counted, almost ten seconds had gone by. Duo seemed to be ignoring the question. "That was a very personal question."
Duo laughed softly, "You didn't have a problem asking me about Relena before."
No. Heero hadn't had a problem with the asking of this either.
"If you tell me you really want to know I'll tell you about it. I could probably say yes or no and still tell the truth. It depends how you define 'lover.'"
Perhaps Duo meant that he either loved her or had sex with her and not both. "I am curious about you, Duo," Heero said simply.
"Sure you want to know about all this?" Duo asked, "You won't tell others?"
"It can be secret. You won't tell anyone what I ask you... or tell you?"
Duo shook his head. "Not stuff that matters. I know how it is. I mean, I do not bother other people with my problems. I take care of myself, but sometimes, I do wish I had even one person I could really trust to listen when I was worried by something I couldn't figure out on my own. I still don't believe I told you everything I did today. You must have been right, Heero. I must have been desperate to tell someone and so I totally unloaded on you."
"I did not mind."
Duo shrugged. "There is that 'boys don't cry' thing. Normally I wouldn't. Yeah, I wear skirts and seem to have this makeup fetish..."
Fetish. There was an alternate meaning but Heero thought Duo was saying the wearing of cosmetics in some way helped him to be sexually aroused. That was... a useful bit of knowledge.
Duo continued, "... and am into guys, but that doesn't mean I want to sit around sipping flavored coffee talking about my feelings!" Duo gestured with his hands to emphasis his words. "Except, I think I'd go mad if there was no one I could talk to."
"Beer would be different," Heero said in complete monotone
Duo thought about this for three seconds. He laughed. "That's how you know if a guy is a real friend, huh? You get drunk and do embarrassing shit and spill your guts and he doesn't say a word about it to anyone!"
"Yes, but a very good friend would not let you get quite that drunk and would still let you spill your guts and not say a word."
"Yeah, that'd be a really good friend," Duo agreed. He toyed with his braid in both his hands. "I lost it when I was pretty young." He meant, he had ceased being a virgin, Heero was certain. "It wasn't like traumatic or anything like that. It just sort of happened. I just felt really lonely and thought it was what I wanted. I'd go back and change it if I could, but I'm not all torn up about it either."
"I'm not stupid. I'm sure it would really interest some psychologists to analyze me." Duo did a funny German-like accent, "The subject in question, he has a very Dark Past." Duo wiggled his fingers in the air to show how spooky his Dark Past was. He laughed then, falling forward first and then falling into an even more sprawled and slouched position on the velvet-covered couch.
Heero did not comment. Duo still hadn't said whether he and Hilde were lovers. Duo sighed, giggled to himself then breathed another sigh. He looked impossibly cute. There was a small fluttering pain in Heero's chest.
"I told you how it is," Duo said in a very cold flat voice that shocked Heero. It sounded like a dead voice. "If I really love people, they die. Please, do not tell me again how I should hope or that it is not my fault." Duo shook his head. "But I get lonely, so I figure it's OK if I have sex with them. I won't end up killing them that way. I did survive in a plague colony; I know how to be safe. Not that I would be a risk. I was never a carrier," Duo said adamantly. "It's just good manners if you're going to be with more than one partner."
More than just Hilde, Heero supposed.
"Hilde is one. I said I would tell you the truth, there are others. I'd rather not tell you their names. I'm only telling you about Hilde because you asked... and it seems fair. We do live together and I can see how it would be easy to get the wrong impression." Duo frowned. "Usually it's entirely casual. I worry about Hilde sometimes, because I do like her. But, the thing about Hilde is that she's always been prepared to die. I guess that makes me feel a little better about it."
"So..." Heero knew what he wanted to ask but he did not know how to word it. "How does it work inside your head? Can you have sex with someone that is a really good friend and only with them, or does that make you start to worry about death? Do you worry that friends will die, even if you don't have sex with them? Do you worry that sex partners could die even when you don't like them very much?"
"I realize it all sounds retarded to you," Duo groaned. "I was just trying to be honest. There's not a rule exactly, I just know if someone feels too close and then I try not to be that close with them. I can't tell you the parameters! I just feel it."
He was never going to offer. Even if Duo happened to feel about Heero the way Heero felt about him, he would not offer himself. He might even try to make Heero go away just for being too good a friend. Even if they never had sex, Duo might try to take the friendship away.
Heero didn't want that. He would feel lost again if Duo did that.
There was nothing he could say. Duo was beyond logic.
Heero slipped the leash off his wrist and repositioned himself on the couch so that he faced Duo. Heero started toward him. Duo gazed at him calmly. Heero moved slowly, touching the palm of one hand to Duo's hipbone and then on the other side doing the same. He slipped his arms about Duo that way and brought his hands up against Duo's bare back, beneath his shirt.
For a moment it was horrible and terrifying. Duo rather suddenly felt tense and resistant. He put his hands to Heero's chest, only to push him away.
"Let me," Heero commanded in the most authoritative voice he could muster.
Duo made one more sound of protest and then relaxed. As he relaxed he moved his hands over the borrowed shirt Heero wore and then his arms draped over Heero's shoulders. They didn't speak, not for a long time. Duo was completely yielding. He made a few small groans and whimpers as he talked to himself wordlessly, but then he gave that up too.
Heero thought this felt very good. He tried his very best not to make it sexy. He was sure... he felt it... that if he tried that now Duo would escape again and he would run. Duo might even hide. There was no rubbing or friction or grinding motions to speak of. Heero moved his hands from one place to another but it was slow and only within the space of Duo's upper back. Their bodies moved together when they moved from sitting to reclining, but it was not frenzied or passionate.
Heero needed the contact too, besides the friendship and sex. He did not feel at all selfish, while he was allowed to hold Duo. He sensed that Duo also needed it. Somehow, when they were close, Heero really did sense how Duo felt. He was helping Duo. He could not heal Duo overnight, but he was sure that some fraction of pain left Duo. Heero felt useful then, like he was not putting effort into something purely to please himself. This was very satisfying to Heero.
He thought, that he would always be satisfied if he could please Duo.
When they had been laying together for a while it happened that they both looked into each other's eyes. Heero felt something, not from Duo but within himself, he could only call it pleasure-pain. He wanted to kiss Duo. He wanted to know just how that felt and what it tasted like. Heero thought he wanted to know what Duo tasted like. He almost did it. He licked his lips then pressed forward. He stopped, still looking into Duo's eyes. Duo would be confused and afraid if Heero kissed him now.
This was so complicated. Duo was more experienced with sex, but he was clearly afraid to do it with Heero, because he did care for him. Heero had his hang ups and Duo had his. It would take significant effort to ever make Duo a lover. It was satisfying in a way that Duo did care for him. Heero was fairly sure now that Duo did care for him. He wasn't sure if Duo found him highly attractive, but Heero suspected that Duo had at least considered having sex with him. Other people indicated that Heero was attractive, he should be able to draw Duo's attention eventually.
"You," Duo said.
"I'm tired. I can give you a bed. I can sleep with Hilde."
Heero made himself say the words, "I want you to sleep with me, Duo."
"OK. It's just sleeping. I can sleep anywhere." Duo laughed softly. "Just not anytime, like you."
Heero smiled. He held Duo even more tightly for a moment and then he released him and backed off the couch. Duo sat up, stretched his arms overhead, yawned, and then stood up.
Duo tipped his head toward the open doors to the bedroom, "Through here."
Heero collected his clothes then followed. The bed Hilde lay on seemed to be a futon on a convertible frame. She was asleep so far as Heero could tell. The room was dark, except for the city light that came through the wide window on one wall. Duo pointed out one of then arrow doors in another wall. Heero went through first.
The small chamber made him question his earlier evaluation of the floor plan. This room was used, it seemed as a large closet or a tiny dressing room. If the bedroom had been designed as a parlor Heero was not sure what this room would be. Unless it had once been a large utility closet or very tiny den. There was a bed in here, taking up most of the space, lacking proper headboard or foot. It was just a box and mattress on a metal frame. Otherwise there were crates of clothes and in one area hanging clothes. There was a mirror on one wall and a shelf attached to the wall beneath it was littered with small makeup containers and hair accessories.
Duo closed the door almost all the way, then reached outside to flip the light switch in the bedroom. Nothing more was noticeable with the overhead light on, it was just brighter.
Duo whispered as he kicked one crate in particular. "These are the clothes I told you about. If you wake at some ungodly hour, you can take or borrow any of these, I think they will fit. You can just go ahead and get a shower or raid the fridge if you wake first. OK? Just make yourself at home."
Heero gave a nod. If he really made himself at home Duo would wake and find the furniture rearranged and the clutter organized. In any case, Heero could manage washing and dressing without assistance.
Duo turned down the covers on the bed and looked beneath the pillows. There had been something there, but Heero didn't see what exactly; Duo pocketed it before he got a good look. Duo had thieves' hands. Duo pulled his various necklaces over his head and braid and hung them on a nail over the bed. Duo let his shirt fall from his arms then. Heero had never seen Duo this lacking in clothing. Correction, Heero had not seen Duo this lacking in clothing since he had grown.
He was broad-shouldered and well-toned and quite pale. Duo's skin was snowy and moon-pale and remarkably free of scars. Heero found Duo's coloring very appealing, though he had never been conscious of any preference when looking at others. Duo turned to put his shirt atop a crate and Heero was able to see his chest then. He did have both his nipples pierced. As well he had a bit of hair, mostly along his breastbone and scattered across his pecs. Heero had not realized he would be remotely interested as to whether anyone had body hair or not, but he thought he was finding it attractive on Duo. The line of hair that grew below his navel and continued below the waistband of his skirt seemed particularly interesting.
Heero swallowed saliva that had collected in his mouth and felt warm and acknowledged that his heart rate seemed elevated. Clearly this was just the beginning of the bio-chemical state of arousal. Heero felt so frustrated that he could not control his own body. He hated that desire did not follow logic. He wanted to fade out of sight and out of this room and not have to deal with potential rejection or embarrassment of any kind.
He wanted to tug at Duo's skirt and see it fall past his thighs.
The waistband of Duo's skirt then slipped down over his thighs. For a split-second Heero looked on long, sleek, pale thighs and Duo's bikini style undergarment, then he quickly turned his back and thought about writing code as he slowly made an inventory of his jeans pockets and lay out the items he found atop a crate, with his clothing.
"Do you mind if I take the wall?" Duo asked. Heero only glanced at him for a moment before looking away. He was practically naked and kneeling on the foot of the bed. His braid covered more of his body than his underwear did.
The wall, Heero reminded himself. Duo was thinking like a soldier, or maybe a small child. The wall was the more secure location. In theory, if the bed, which had one side against a wall, was shared and anyone did attempt to sneak in an attack them then the body furthest from the wall would be reached first and thus harmed first. "You can have the wall," Heero said.
"OK. If you don't need it anymore, I can turn out the light. I usually leave the door open a little if I sleep in here." Duo's voice showed stress. Heero was trained to listen for it. It was not much, enough to suggest that Duo would not feel entirely comfortable closed in this small room. If they had been enemies Heero could have used that information against him.
"You can turn it off," Heero said, something didn't seem right. "Duo, isn't 'out' what you do to non-electric lamps? You put out the light? You turn off an electric light."
Duo snorted a laugh. The lights went out. "There's no turning involved either, it's a two-position switch. Don't mind me. My education was sporadic."
Heero removed his pants then folded them blindly.
"Ya know, I think I must have half had Shakespeare in mind... I think it was Shakespeare."
"Put out the light, and then put out the light."
Heero turned to the bed. There was only about a half meter between the bed and the row of storage containers. He could just make out the light and dark shades and shapes. Duo was lying in the bed, near the wall. "Why put it out again?" Heero asked.
"One of the lights was a life. I'm not sure I'm remembering it correctly. I think it was a scene about murdering someone."
"And people say my speeches are scary."
Duo laughed as Heero was carefully placing his body to not be too close to Duo and at the same time to not roll off the side of the mattress. Heero supposed that since he had realized and admitted his attraction to Duo he ought to feel privileged and happy to be allowed to share his bed, even under these circumstances. It was a hollow sort of victory. He wanted to know that Duo felt privileged and happy when he was around.
This was just annoying, realizing that he'd finally gotten so far as being attracted to a real live person and understanding that that person wasn't going to act on his own attraction, even if he felt it.
Normally when one went to sleep their respiration and heart rate would slow. Heero's were sped. Under other circumstances Heero could have controlled his body. He could have feigned coma or sleep. He'd learned to do that. He could have counted backward in Japanese and been asleep very quickly. His mind was panicked. Heero was sure his entire body was chemically off-balance.
This was so fast. He'd come home and that first night Duo had flustered him. He should have known then. A day later Duo had sent him into emotional outbursts. Tonight he was struggling with an urge to turn around and find out what Duo tasted like. Even as he thought that, images from his dreams came back to him, his pretty, anonymous Eurasian bathing servant was replaced with Duo and Heero said to him, "Now I am going to show you how good I can make you feel."
Focus, Heero told himself.
He was not accustomed to this. Heero couldn't very well decide, would it be wrong to try to kiss him now? Would it be understandable? Would he take Duo if it meant sharing him?
He was practically shivering. Duo sounded asleep, but that didn't mean he was. Heero stared at the wall as he concentrated on slowing his breaths. Eventually, the years of control and training won out, at least for the night. Heero fell asleep.
When he slept he dreamt. When he woke, aware that it was yet early, very early local time, but Heero tended to track on Greenwich Mean as did the S4 Colonies. Heero knew that he had just been having an intensely erotic dream. He knew in the second that he woke that in the dream Duo had been entirely in his control and that they had been engaged in anal sex and when Duo was penetrated he absolutely was pleasured. Knowing he had found a partner he could please had felt unbelievably good... and then something had disturbed his sleep.
He was tired, he was aroused, he was angry at being woken. Heero heard the sound. It was a sound he had heard in his dream. He lifted himself from the bed very slowly and looked toward Duo. Duo moaned softly again. He seemed to be asleep and dreaming. His eyes rolled beneath the lids. Duo's body arched up off the bed.
He was gorgeous! His arms were raised over his head, knuckles grazing the wall. His lips were parted. His braid lay snaked over his torso. He had an erection; Heero could see it peeking from the top of Duo's small black undergarment.
"Heero... nnnn... Hee..."
Heero froze still. Duo was dreaming about him! He couldn't stand it. Heero slipped from the bed as slowly as his racing mind could force himself and then he picked up the crate of hand-me-down clothes with his own garments on top and he left the tiny bedroom.