Disclaimer: This is fanfiction based on the characters and universe of Gundam Wing.

Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Chapter 106

Heero looked through Shizen's notebook next. This was for display only and showed pencil and ink work on actual paper, often with handwritten notes in kana and kanji reminding Shizen how the sketch related to her other projects. The last page in the notebook was a work in pencil and marker depicting Sashimi and her subordinate Roe. Heero vaguely knew of Roe. She was a minor Gonin Team character who was employed as Sashimi's spy and assassin, like a ninja, and once disguised herself as human and infiltrated Space Station Amarillis, where she was possibly a love interest of Verdan's, until Koi had found her out. Or, that was what Heero had gleaned from reading a few fanfics.

Shizen's early work had involved a manga about a gay detective, and then separately a manga about a gay sushi chef. Then she had found work as a character designer for Daiban and contributed to several anime and games, including Gonin Team and Blood Wing projects. After she had quit, she had concentrated on showing her original art and published several art books, including the pillow book Heero owned. In the last year, she had started a new manga called Rangers, which had only recently been produced as an anime series.

Either Rangers was popular, or Shizen was really pushing the Rangers merchandise in order to increase her income and the series' popularity, because she had a large number of each volume in stock.

Heero realized he did recognize the characters from Shizen's previous manga, because the characters had made their way into her paintings and pillow book. He was completely unfamiliar with Rangers.

Heero was thinking he would try reading the manga to pass time, when some girls came to the table.

"Is this your work?" they asked.

"No. Shizen is attending the Maudlin Manic concert downstairs. I am just a muse," Heero said in his best warmly flirtatious sales associate voice.

"Oh!" the girls giggled. "Like Tsuki!"


Giggling. "He looks like you, too!"

"Do you already have some of these Rangers manga?" Heero asked in his sales voice. "It is Shizen's most recent project."

"We are fans already. Is volume 9 out yet?"

"Right here," Heero said, still trying to sound intriguingly inviting.

"Oh! Yes, I will buy that!" One said, "I have only read up to chapter 32."

Heero input the sale and told the girl the book was 15 Esdee. She handed Heero a cashcard; he processed it and then returned the card.

"I can't wait for the anime to get to further episodes," another said, "they only just introduced Fei!"

"They mention Duma is supposed to have blue skin; I wonder how he is going to look for the anime," said a third girl.

"He's such a clone of Channa."

"Have either of you heard who is going to do the voice for Beryl?"

"Such a Beruma shipper!" her friend accused.

"All the Elves have English or French accents, if you notice, except for Dale."

"I was so hoping that Blaec's old voiceactor would play Dale, but now I'm glad he didn't, Dale's actor sounds so perfectly emo and mad."

"I think he's actually a boy, male anyway…hasn't he got to be legal?"

"Can I buy this print of Channa?" One of the girls asked.

"Letter size or small poster?" Heero asked.

"Can I see the larger one?"

Heero gave a nod and retrieved the print from the stock beneath the table. "He's very popular. You see? This one is already signed by Shizen."

"It's gorgeous blown up! How much is the larger size?"

Heero pointed out the small sign. "Small poster size is 30 Esdees."

"I am going to have to visit the ATM again!" The girl grimaced and then handed Heero a Ten Esdee bill and a Twenty.

Heero rolled the small poster depicting Channa slouching on a throne, handed it to the girl, then put the sale into the computer. There was no change necessary, so he just held onto the money, then opened the cashbox to add the 30 Sphere Dollars, when the girls had moved on.

Heero started reading Rangers, starting from volume 1. It was a fantasy of sword and sorcery sort involving various Men, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Wizards who were members of a sort of post-wartime defense force. Tsuki did look very much like him, only his hairstyle was different. Dale looked a lot like Duo. In fact, Heero remembered Duo once wearing a shirt with a patch that said Dale. Heero also recognized a lot of the other characters as being inspired by real people her knew.

He actually did like the story, mostly for the humor. There was a lot of wordplay and he felt amused and proud when he recognized the jokes. Some of the jokes seemed to require knowledge of two or more languages, including Elven, to be funny, but much of the Elven was explained within context.

It seemed Shizen had a co-writer, but it was not anyone Heero knew, or rather was not a name he recognized.

Some boys came to the table, apparently just to comment on how 'gay' everything was. Heero glared and they went away.

Later, the girls who had bought merchandise before returned, now with some other girls with them. One of the new girls stood and stared at Heero without speaking.

"Hello, Shizen is out at the Maudlin Manic Concert, but may I help you with anything?"

"Are you a friend of the artist? I mean, some of the characters look like you."

"That's because I am a muse," Heero said sweetly.

"But, um, are you actually…sorry, you look familiar. Are you actually Heero? I mean Captain Yuy, Sir?"

Usually they did not even know he was a Captain.

"I am. Not to be confused with Heero Yuy who was the assassinated Colonial Leader, as he is dead of course. I am only in Reserves for Preventers, so you can just call me Heero."

"We know about the other Heero Yuy, of course."

"When the ESUN was formed all the schools, well, everywhere, had assemblies about it to explain what had happened," another girl said.

"And the year after that, when there was an attempted coup, as soon as we returned from break we had an assembly and counseling about it."

"Even if your parents kept you away from the big screens during the conflict, you probably saw those retrospectives they have on television at the end of every year. That actually makes it easier to understand. There was a lot of switching allegiances to keep track of, and before OZ was accepted in the Colonies, the Alliance had mainly shut down communication between the Colonies and Earth, so most people really did not know what was happening."

They all agreed they had seen them.



"Would it be OK if we took your photo?"

"I do not mind."

One of the girls lifted her camera and captured a snapshot.

"Do you get mad if people ask you about the war?" a girl asked.

"Depends what the question is."

"Well, you know we were in Junior High when the actual war was happening, and we didn't really understand about the Colonies and what was happening there. Adults around us just talked about there being revolutionaries and rebels that were doing bad things or trying to take over the Colonies and the Alliance would deal with them, but then there was communications opened again and a lot of live broadcasts during the war, and we all know that you were the one who piloted that mobile suit that blasted that block of the fortress that was falling on Earth, I mean basically you saved everyone…"

"But my Dad says that there are things we can't understand and it isn't right to really think of you as a hero."

"But you seem so nice! Aren't adults like that mistaken?"

"I am sorry, I cannot really say those people are entirely mistaken. I chose my path as a soldier to fight, to prevent another type of combat that would have probably resulted in massive civilian deaths, and I do not regret that path or choice, but at the same time, I know there are specific things I did that were just horrible, at least three in particular I can think of, and as result of my actions some good people, even civilians, died. I feel remorse about those things, but they happened because I put myself in the place of being a soldier and accepting missions and because I acted without certain information or let myself be controlled, so I am still responsible for doing those things. If someone, like a parent, knows this, then maybe they have a right to tell you that I am not any sort of suitable role model. It's important to act on your feelings, I think, but if you have parents, or other adults to guide you and feel concern for you, that is a good thing, so I do not think you should be hurtful to them."


"Listen to your Dad, or to your teachers, and then, if you really feel differently, tell them you think you are old enough now to hear the details and choose for yourself, because they have been there for you, so you could grow up and learn. Hear them out, and if you still feel differently, then you can let them know. That kind of advice, I think it can apply to a lot of things, whether it is politics or who you want to date. Your elders do deserve a certain amount of respect for getting you this far."

"You are so smart."

"I think you must be right!"

Heero smiled a little. "I never know what question someone will ask when they recognize it is me. Sometimes they just want to know if I really know Quatre." The girls giggled. "I am always afraid they are going to ask if I know I killed someone in their family. I really am afraid of that."

They were silent for a while. And then one of the girls said, "But that has to be normal. People just know, from history, from all the past wars, that soldiers have feelings like that. Even if you choose to fight for some reason, it isn't because you just feel like killing!"

Heero laughed a little, mostly out of relief. "No. Given that up! Really do not enjoy the memories."

A number of other people came by to talk or buy things, and in between Heero read manga. It was shortly before 9pm when Shizen returned. She seemed rushed. "Heero," she said, "How was everything, "If you help me put things away quickly, we can go watch the GT live action screening."

"Koi really needs to eat and go out. I really cannot go to the screening now."

"Really? I am so sorry. I was gone longer than I thought."

Heero shook his head, and then started putting things away into the trunk below the table. "It was no problem. I had a few interesting conversations. Maybe I can still get there to see some of the episodes."

"Heero. You can go now. I can't make you wait. I can clean up here."

"All right. I have to find Duo; he has the dogfood." Heero was about to dial, when he saw Duo walking along the aisle with Nu. He produced a baggie of food from their pack.

Heero called to Koi and turned the large baggie inside out to expose the dry food, so Koi could eat. He gave Koi a pat and then stood. Duo was stooped giving Nu his own bag of food.

"How'd it go?" Duo asked.

"OK. Got recognized a few times. Janice was here."

"Le Lapin?" Duo mouthed silently and mimed rabbit ears over his head.

"Aa. They did not prove who exactly killed Romeo, but the information he discovered and the cartel were exposed, and it was released that he hacked a certain Info Securities company, and of course they are denying all knowledge, so attacking Janice now will not gain them anything."

"Yeah, but if I was her, I'd still be wary."

"I think she is, but she said she really wanted to come here."

"There wasn't much business for Sake. I think mostly her customers were at the concert. I did have someone think that I was cosplaying Duo Maxwell, so that was funny."

"Did you tell them it was really you?"

"Hell no. I just said Sake had made the costume and didn't it look just the same as the one in the magazine."

"I somehow ended up having a discussion about monogamy versus polyamory in Russian."

"Not asking me to bring Trowa home from work?"

Heero laughed. "No." He saw Shizen was still putting away merchandise. "Can I take some of these to read?" Heero asked.

"You can have one of each on indefinite loan."

"Then I would have to carry them around the rest of the night. I will just take one or two and then help you clean up tonight and get the rest from you then."

"Thank you!"

Heero took two of the Rangers manga he had not read yet and handed them to Duo, to put in the pack.

"Reading this now?"

"I like it. It's funny."

"Yeah. H.S. Willcox is a pseudonym for a group of writers, some of whom I was still living with when they started the project, so I know a bit about it. Muse duties, I guess." Duo started coughing.

"OK?" Heero asked.

"Yeah," Duo said, voice a bit gravelly. "I'm sure I'm not sick, it's just I've been coughing ever since Ursula worked on my back. Probably need to go to a sauna or drink a lot of water or something."

"We can get a bottle of water in the food court."

Duo nodded and seemed to be swallowing.

When the dogs had finished eating their food, they went outside for a walk. It was afternoon on the west side of Manhattan and a cool autumn day, but not so cold Heero was uncomfortable in only a shirt and sweater. He could have tolerated freezing temperatures in little clothing with concentration, but the situation did not call for anything so extreme. It was a nice day.

"It's getting cold," Duo complained.

Heero smiled, mostly to himself, because Duo just reacted to temperatures differently than he did. The dogs did not seem bothered. "We are close to the water," Heero said.

When the dogs had finished with their walk, Heero and Duo took them back to the Javits Center. They showed their badges at the door to gain reentry. Duo said the screening was in D09 on the second floor, which was the level they had entered from the street.

They made their way to the video room and found the doors closed and several staffers standing outside arguing with each other about who was to stay to watch the door.

"Can the room be full?" Duo asked.

"I want to find out for certain," Heero said. This would mean asking the staffers. Maybe he had been too paranoid to let a repairman come look at his dishwasher, but he had survived many workmen renovating his house recently and these staffers seemed negligible risks. Heero could make demands on them, no problem. "Excuse me," Heero said directly. The group ignored him. "Excuse me, it may seem from your point of view that whatever information I am about to ask for must be obvious, but you did not just arrive."

"The room is full," one of the staffers said sharply.

"Sorry. There is not even standing room," another said, attempting polite tone.

"Thank you for the information." Heero turned and walked away from the door. Duo came to his side.

"They must be stressed with having to deal with the lines and crowds."

"They should meditate, or get a snack," Heero said bitterly.

"I've already seen some episodes and we'll be able to see them all eventually. Let's go find something else to do."

"I think I could use a snack."

"Sure. Want to go to the coffee place there?"

It was close, located near the stairs that led from the area outside the screening rooms to the third floor food court. Heero agreed with a nod and they walked the dogs over to the coffee stand. "Actually," Heero said, "Would you mind ordering for me? I was just going to the restroom there."

"No prob. Want me to take Koi?"

Heero passed the leash over to Duo. "Whatever is the house coffee today. The medium size."

"Not exactly blending."

"That's my order," Heero said firmly. He left to use the bathroom.

When Heero returned a little later, he could see Duo was only just ordering. The girl at the register gave him one paper cup in a cardboard holder, scanned his card, then returned it. Heero met Duo near the end of the counter where people were waiting for the barista to serve their drinks. "Scones OK?" Duo asked, rather juggling the two leashes, paper bag and cup of coffee.

"I eat scones." Heero took his coffee and Koi's leash. He sniffed at the vapor that came from the drinking slot in the cup's lid. "Smells good. What was it today?"

"Hawaiian something."

Heero took his cup to the nearby bar and grabbed some sugar packets. He pried the lid from his drink, opened several packets at once, and dumped the sugar into the cup. He tossed the packets and picked up a stirrer, deciding he was just going to have to trust that it had not already been handle, coughed on or sneezed on by too many people.

The barista was setting a series of drinks on the top of the counter and calling them out. Cappuccinos, frappuccinos, americanos. "grande soy vanilla chai latte!"

"Thanks!" Duo called and picked up his drink.

Heero just glared.


Heero did not say a thing. Duo had been the one to first mention the flavored coffee.

"Fuck you," Duo said. It was his 'completely do not mean that' tone.

Heero smiled, picked up his coffee and a few disposable napkins and went after Duo. There were only a few tables in the area. The area was designed for optimal pedestrian traffic flow, and not for resting, but there were people sitting on the stairs or near the stairwells, or just on the floor blocking traffic, resting.

There was one recently vacated table, and Duo quickly claimed it from its departing diners. Heero stepped around the sleeping boy wearing a costume wolf tail to reach the table. He swept crumbs from the tabletop with a napkin and then sat.

"Hey, it's Janice," Duo whispered.

Heero looked casually about and saw a table nearby had twice the usual number of chairs and there a group of women were showing each other their vendor room purchases. One of them had red hair, and it was Janice. Heero just nodded. He took the top off his coffee so it would cool faster.

"Does it kind seem things are winding down for the day already?" Duo asked as he served out the scones; he put Heero's atop his pile of napkins.

Things did seem slower than before. Earlier today, this same corridor had been so crowded people touched when walking. "Different feel," Heero said. The scone had blueberries in it.

Duo took a sip and then placed his cup to the table to take the guide from his pack.

"There is a Star Wars Movie Show at 10:30," Heero said.

"Yeah, I see that. We can go if you want. It's in the live theater, so there's less danger it will fill up."

Heero drank some coffee. It was still hot, but not such that it would burn his mouth. "I would like to go," he said then.

Duo gave a nod. "That runs for a couple hours. There's some videos showing after that, but panels and workshops shut down for the night."

"Any good videos?"

"Mostly hentai or really gory horror type stuff."

"I have not really seen many horror movies," Heero admitted.

"I have. Quatre likes them. Did you know?"

"I did not think it was 'slasher' movies?"

"Depends. He likes vampire movies, and he also likes thrillers and suspenseful horror, but I think he also is entertained by gory movies if they are the typical teenager get massacred type."

"More suspense than blood…unless it involves teenagers dying?"

"Something like that." Duo laughed.

"And what about you?"

"Oh, I can watch movies with every kind of gore and depravity. The 'based on true events' type especially. Doesn't bother me when it's in movies! But, that's not the only type of thing I like to watch."

"Is it escapism a little?"

"For most people, I think, but some have more to escape from. I mean, maybe it doesn't seem a good idea to run and hide from things all of the time, but now and then it's needed. You can go back and face things later. You have to. But, a temporary retreat can be wise."

"It might seem dishonorable in certain circumstances, but I think a temporary retreat is usually a welcome thing!" Heero laughed slightly.

"Fall back, regroup, look at things from another point of view." Duo nodded. "You want to just head back to the hotel after the movie show?"

"I promised Shizen I would give her some help."

"Sure, but after that."

"Of course." Heero smiled.

"I think the chicks are checking you out," Duo said, grinning.

Heero did not turn to look. "Maybe Janice is telling them how socially awkward I am."

"Yeah, right! They are probably waiting to see I'll wipe blueberry off your face and then lick it from my finger."

"Do I really have blueberry on my face?"

"None at all," Duo said sadly.

"Hn. They could be talking about the Happily-Ever-After Het Romance panel they attended and how they hate when people slash their favorite television characters together, as if they have no suitable female counterparts."

"I don't think so. You didn't see what they were doing with the dolls!"

Heero could imagine.

They talked a little more, about the Con, but mostly they finished their drinks and people watched. A few times, Heero was tempted to go chase someone down and ask permission for their photo, but he resisted. He would not have thought it, but now he was here, he felt he enjoyed the inherent silliness and social nature of the convention.

Where else did complete strangers have such license to take each other's photos or give each other massages?

Sometimes crowds did bother Heero. Most of that was result of years of fearing discovery and need for anonymity. Maybe, he thought, a little part of the discomfort had always been related to the sensing of things. A crowd of people, with all those separate minds, was so chaotic, and maybe he'd always been aware of the minds, without realizing it.

It was really not bad here. There were a lot of people, but many had similar thoughts, opinions and interest, even when they were debating their pop culture interests, and they were generally excited and pleased to be here.

Maybe some of them were getting tired, but they were leaving for the day, to homes or hotels or restaurants outside the Center for late dinner. The ones who were still here seemed eager and excited to stay. Maybe for the dance music or the horror and porn, but Heero had no problem with people being excited by those things.

"I wonder if they will show any of Cary's other work," Heero said aloud.

"I didn't notice. I mean, I don't really have his credits memorized."

"I have seen five things he was in as Atashi," Heero said, "I do not need to see any now, I was only wondering. It looked like some of those types of works were included. 'Pop Culture' can be a lot of things."

"Yeah it can." Duo coughed a little again. "You want to walk around a bit, or take the dogs out again, or go get in line for the movie show?"

"The theater is downstairs."

They disposed of the trash and then went to the nearest staircase and descended into the lobby below.

"I feel underdressed," Heero whispered. It seemed the entire lower floor was in preparation to shoot the next Star Wars movie. Heero had seen shades of this at the Gotham Movie Show Theater, but this was near as many people gathered for just one Movie Show.

"You know costumes are not required."

"You are not one to talk, dressed like a Sith Lord. I look like a virgin."

"I'll testify on your behalf."

Heero shook his head. Sometimes, Duo was too smug about it.

"Do you want to go find seats? Or get some photos?" Duo was carrying the pack at the moment and offered it by turning his shoulder toward Heero.

"Check on the seating situation, and then maybe get some photos."

"Good plan." Duo shifted his shoulder to secure the pack, gave a glance to Heero and then started for the doors to the theater. It was about 10:20pm and the martial arts exhibition that had taken place between concert and movie show had recently ended, leaving a mix of departing martial arts enthusiasts and incoming space opera fans in the theater.

Some staffers and costumed people were on the stage, moving some props and set pieces, and giving direction to each other. Judging from the costumes, Heero guessed they were actually the actors for tonight's movie show. It sounded like someone called to Duo.

The Han Solo was walking toward them. "Duo!" He waved his arm wildly to draw attention.

"John!" Duo called. He made for the stage.

Heero recognized the young man as well. He had met John briefly at a club on Luna. Otherwise Heero knew that he was the first cousin of Janice, by merit of John's mother marrying an Alliance Officer who was transferred to the Colonies, that Janice had asked John to offer her flat in Paris to Duo, and that Duo and John both acted in movie shows, sometimes in the same role in different performances, and sometimes opposite each other. Though Duo and he had not spoken of it specifically, Heero was fairly certain John was one of Duo's friends, meaning they had some shared interests, sometimes flirted, possibly messed around at parties, but had never 'had sex' such as Duo would define it. Probably, they had not had sex just as Heero would define it either. It was probably a relationship similar to that of Duo and Adin, without the schoolmate aspects.

He was cute, though. As one who was able to admit attraction to Duo and his quirky aesthetic, Heero felt he was a qualified Judge. The hair was shorter and darker and John somehow seemed more European that American, but the build and style was quite similar.

"You remember Heero?" Duo asked as Heero joined them.

John slipped from the stage and walked forward to offer a hand. Heero decided to go with the flow and gave John's hand a brief, firm shake. He could see from the corners of his eyes that Duo was smiling at that. "John. We met briefly at Eleventh Hour. We just saw Janice upstairs. She did not mention, earlier, you would be here."

"I'm just a body to share in the hotel room."

Heero could not think what to say immediately; something about's John's phrasing made him question if he had heard what he thought he heard. Duo's nearby laughter said John had intentionally phrased things so.

"Han Solo, huh? So, how are things here? Some kind of all star cast?"

"The NYU club proposed the idea to the Bad Apple planners and when the show was approved, they posted through the Bad Apple site for applications to join the cast. You had to be already registered for the Con and have Movie Show experience, in this movie was preferred."

"Congratulations on being accepted, then!"

Heero supposed Han Solo was a desirable role. The only movie shows in the Colonies must have a decent reputation among movie showers. If John had experience with the character, it probably meant that John and Duo had stage kissed in the past. Heero laughed to himself. He rather thought of Duo as a scoundrel. 'I like nice men,' Leia would say.

"I'm nice," John said.

Heero had a strange, hot feeling. "Did I just say that aloud?" he whispered.

"You did!" Duo said emphatically, and then put his arms around Heero. "Stop flirting with my boyfriend, you scruffy-looking nerfherder!"

"Incest is best," John laughed.

Heero did not know if they had decided he was Luke suddenly, or if it was random quoting.

John was stopped and rumpling the fur about Nu's neck. "So, where do you want to sit?"

"Right behind the virgins!"

"Of course you do."

"They're just so tight!" Duo said, as if excited, and with strange inflection on 'tight'. Heero did not think he was actually very excited. He still had an arm draped across Heero's shoulders.

Heero's phone chirped. He flipped the screen to look. It was text only. "It's Claudia," he announced, "I will tell her where we are." Heero took the pad from the back of his pants. He liked his phone, but sometimes he considered getting a new device. His particular phone was lightweight and handsfree and excellent for making and receiving video phone calls while on the go, but to do something other than that often required attaching an input device. Sometimes, when he saw people he associated with playing video games or listening to music on the device that made phone calls, emailed, navigated and received remarkably clear television signals he felt his phone was as obsolete as the thing Duo carried that had no video. But then again, his phone was highly efficient as a video phone and he did not really need to do all those other things every day while on the go.

Heero made a note to study Duo's watch more closely; he had been beginning to suspect it was more than a watch. He suspected a satellite linking navigation system.

Heero read Claudia's reply. "Some of the girls went back to their tables, but the rest are coming here to find us," Heero reported.

By the time the players were on stage introducing the movie show that was about to start, Claudia and Johnny had joined them. Ursula and Midii arrived with Cary, Midori, and Ryuhou. The two pop-stars had donned brown hooded robes to avoid recognition.

Heero thought it was the most fun he had ever had in a public group activity. He did not even mind that everyone in the theater was making fun of Star Wars! It was just awesome how they blew up the Death Star. When the movie and show were ended, Heero threw himself at Duo. He laughed out of surprise, but Heero held onto him. Heero wanted to go right to the hotel room and... well, he was not sure what exactly, but it definitely started with getting Duo out of his clothes and continued with Heero's mouth and hands roaming Duo's skin.

"Mmmn, what's that for? Maybe I should watch Star Wars with you more often." They had, in fact, never done that together.

"I just want you right now."

"We're gonna have to go to movie shows more often!"

Heero wondered if he appeared as hotly flushed with lust and embarrassment as he felt. It had been a movie show that first time. Rather, the movie show had been a large part of inspiring Heero to act on his attraction; there had been significant factors earlier that day and the night before and the revelation that Duo had once played Leia had actually been the deciding factor. Maybe Star Wars just turned him on for some reason. Heero was sure there were much more strange and disturbing turn-ons to be had.

"But you did promise Shizen to help her out."

He had. Heero slipped down from Duo and stood before him, head bowed slightly, eyes looking up. Duo was annoyingly tall in those shoes. They needed to come off soon.

Heero and Duo said goodnight to their friends, promising to see them tomorrow. Ursula and Midii were both to go help Sake with her things, so Heero and Duo went up to exhibition hall 3E, where Shizen's table was. Duo's particular sticker on his badge was really only supposed to allow him into 3B, but the staff member watching the door only glanced to see a sticker was present. Heero heard Duo's laugh quietly at that.

Duo made a face, disapproval maybe, when Heero made it clear Shizen was giving him copies of her Rangers manga and that he really was going to read them, but he said nothing. Heero still stuffed the manga into their pack.

They met Sake, Ursula and Midii outside and walked to the Chandler together. It was overcast, and as Heero had noted in other cities on Earth, the cloud cover had the effect of reflecting the surface illumination back down onto the city. Even in the middle of the night the sky had some brightness. It was almost like being inside a Colony.

Once in the hotel, they separated to their rooms. Midii and Ursula in the same hall and the other girls upstairs. Heero saw to the dogs first, making sure they had water and their favorite toys and bedding. He gave his attention to Duo then. The morning's activities had been a nice surprise, but this was the first night of their vacation in New York.

When he turned, Duo was not at his sexiest. He began a coughing fit and struggled to take and open a bottle of water from Heero's luggage one-handed, while also covering his mouth.

"Do you think you are actually sick?" Heero asked quietly. He walked over to Duo and rubbed his back. Duo did not answer. The coughing stopped for the moment, but his eyes were watery and he appeared to have pain swallowing. "Crowded public places are likely places to spread disease." It would be a short incubation period, if Duo had actually caught something at the Con. "Students sick at school?"

Duo shook his head. "I think it really is just from Ursula rubbing my back so hard."

Heero wondered if it might really be true there was this ‘metabolic waste' that was released into the body during massage. It could as well be psychosomatic or irritation from poor air quality within the city. It was not LA in summer, but New York did have its own damp flavor of grime and pollution.

"If you get out of your clothes now," Heero said, "I promise not to ask you to be too athletic."

"You don't like the clothes?"

"Very Dark Lord of the Sith."

"Your apprentice, My Master."

Heero saw: it was Star Wars, role play and Duo imagining he was with an older man. "I might actually be older than you," Heero said calmly. "We do not know. With the records being forged or lost, I might even have been born in the 70s."

Duo's phone rang. Duo grimaced. His eyes looked at Heero apologetically as he lifted the phone to his ear. "Sake," Duo said. He leaned forward and put his lips to Heero's left earlobe, even as he was listening to Sake. "I suppose that I can. Do you think it will take very long?"

Heero turned away and moved toward the bed. He felt Duo try to grab at the waist of his pants to keep him from going, but slipped away. Heero opened the pack and unloaded the contents onto the bed.

Duo was saying something about needing just a few minutes. He came to Heero's side as Heero was stacking his manga. "Sake needs to consult with me about costumes tomorrow."

"What costumes?"

"Uh... Sake made us costumes to wear tomorrow. You might like them. And... ."

"I know. I am sure they will be fine. I was instructed to act surprised for you."

"Bastard. You want to come with?"

"No. You go, if they really need you. I am certain there will be muse duties enough in the morning."

"If you wait up, I'll be sure to play with you when I get back."

Heero just gave a nod. He heard the door open and close. The lock clicked automatically. He turned quickly and saw Duo was in fact gone.

Heero got undressed and ready for bed. Duo was still out, so he got in bed. After a few minutes, Heero began reading his Rangers manga, starting again with volume one. He had read this volume already, but missed a few details for being distracted by visitors to Shizen's table. Chapter four ended with the Elf Dale rejecting the Wizard-educated Man Tsuki, after their first kiss, and Tsuki confiding the matter to his friend and superior. The volume ended with notes from the author and artist, a preview of a scene from the next volume showing horses and riders silhouetted at the gate of the fort, and a funny omake about Tsuki working as a feared corporate sys admin in modern times.

Duo was not back.

It seemed a long time to just be consulting about costumes. Heero debated with himself whether he should just call Duo. He decided against it. Instead, Heero put down his book, knocked out the erection that had annoyingly presented itself at the mere thought of what he would have done had Duo returned, cleaned up with a bit of tissue, and lay down to sleep.

Heero was fully asleep by the time Duo returned. He did not even wake at the sound of the door unlocking, but came to half consciousness, was comforted by Duo whispering something and fell back asleep.

A few minutes passed before Heero was again aware of anything. "You are so going to get it for that," Duo threatened at a whisper. The teeth on Heero's ear, however, did not seem to imply threat.

"Shto sluchílas'?"

"Speaking Russian, again."

"Get it for what? What's wrong?"

"You called me ‘Dale'," Duo said calmly. "Were you asleep?"

Heero ignored the question. "You could be Dale."

"You gonna recite a Hee-ku?"

"Set contains: leaves, moon, wood, wand, light, fay, fire, pit, rise, seek, quest and ring."

to be continued

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