Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
It was early on a Saturday morning when they debarked in San Francisco. They had over twelve hours layover before they boarded a plane for Hawaii. The flight actually took them to LA, where they switched planes and then into Honolulu. Duo had told Heero that there was a place they could stay. Even if they wanted to see some sights, they needed a place to leave their luggage. They had ended up with new clothing and souvenirs, particularly on excursions into Skagway and Juneau.
They had so-called Gold Rush Saloons there, tourist traps that were supposed to replicate the environment of the 1800's when Alaska had been populated by trappers, miners and pioneers. Heero doubted their authenticity; they were much too clean. He still was leaving the boat with souvenir mugs and artificial fur hats and things Duo had discovered in thrift or vintage shops in Juneau.
Heero now had two more pair of boots he would rarely have cause to wear. He had wanted the brown cowboy boots. He had not yet discovered what was so amusing about oxblood riding boots, but Duo had found them in Heero's size and paid for them with casino winnings.
Many of their acquisitions had been paid for with casino winnings.
They could have gotten a hotel room in San Francisco, but Duo said that Quatre had already promised they could use his corporate apartment. It was actually a row house in the Castro converted into several suites, of which the topmost was presently unused.
Apparently, Winner did a lot of their tech recruiting and negotiations in this part of the Earth. Heero was aware that the area had long been host to many computer related companies. He knew the general history of Silicon Valley.
Duo was complaining they did not have time to stay longer and go clubbing. He wanted to go shopping for clothes, again. He had an appointment later.
Heero was curious about what manner of appointment Duo could have made in this area, but Duo's choice of words communicated that Duo did not want Heero to ask. Heero trusted that if he needed to know, Duo would tell him.
"While I'm out, maybe you could go take care of your hair."
Heero frowned. This topic had been brought up the day before, when the ship was cruising the pacific on its way to San Francisco. Duo was not certain the temporary black dye would come out because Heero had disregarded the instructions in applying it over previously dyed hair. It certainly did not seem to be fading at all.
"Listen, go online for the local directories and look for hair salons. The little barbershops won't know how to deal with it. I'll help you pick one. They'll figure out something."
"It will grow out."
"Yeah, and everyone will take notice that Heero Yuy dyed his hair black. Why don't you just go back to brown?"
"I liked the green."
"The green was very attractive," Duo said in such a reasonable tone that Heero thought he might almost be lying. "But you looked... smoldering with dark brown hair."
"If the dark color was so good, I should keep it black."
"It makes you look pale," Duo said quickly. Duo did not want to say that, but he believed it.
"Maybe they could make it green again."
"Maybe. You can make it green if you want. It is your hair, so you should be allowed to decide. I was just making a suggestion."
Heero sighed. "You will help me choose where to go? And tell me what to say there?"
Duo nodded emphatically. "Mm."
They went to the house Quatre had given Duo the entry access code to and took their luggage up the stairs to their suite. This floor had no kitchen, only a casual meeting room with adjacent bedroom, bathroom and a small office.
Duo said he needed to use the bathroom so Heero explored the apartment on his own. It seemed very secure. The building and suites all had electronic locks on the doors. The exterior was well-maintained and approaches were not blocked by landscaping. The windows all had simple blinds of sheers that obscured views of the interior while allowing easy access to the windows from within.
The décor was pretty nice as well. Heero was not sure he cared for the combination of green and pink, but the rooms did appear professional and elegant.
The office had fairly new A/V and communications gear. It was networked to the monitor in the meeting room for making presentations there. Signs on the desk warned users not to leave personal files and information within the system's storage media.
Some people probably had left data, but they would all be Winner employees and theoretically on the same side. Heero did not try to check up on them.
He did find that they had a city guide prepared for visitors with links to facilities that business people might need in the area. Heero found recommended salons among office supply warehouses and laundry services.
They even had recommendations for where to find souvenirs for family and friends categorized by age and residence. The list said that a Colonial male of Heero's age might appreciate local sport team merchandise or independent print magazines. He might.
Duo came into the room. He stood behind the desk chair and put his hands on Heero's shoulders. "Can't keep you away from a computer, can I?"
"Who are you kidding?" Heero asked flatly. He left computers to pay attention to Duo quite often. "Quatre's people recommend these salons."
"Go here," Duo said, pointing out the link.
Heero activated the 'net link. A warning flashed that they were accessing information outside the local network and then the Salon's information loaded.
"Yeah, this looks good. There ya go, you can even make your appointment online."
"You find it so amusing that I avoid speaking to real humans."
Duo did not laugh. "You are making progress. I thought I could tease you into proving how social you can be, but I'm proud of you anyway."
Heero still made the appointment online. In the time slot, which Duo suggested, they had two stylists available for hair color processes. Duo suggested making the appointment with the more senior of the two.
Heero received confirmation of the appointment and then shut the connection to the external site. He lifted Duo's right hand from his shoulder then kissed his fingers. "Did you see the bed?"
"I walked through the bedroom. Why? Do you think mostly women work for Winner?"
Heero laughed as he stood, still holding Duo's hand in his. "I think Quatre stays here himself." He led Duo from the office into the small hallway.
"Because he has been known to wear pink?"
"Because there is a hot water urn and a tin of Darjeeling on the buffet," Heero said, gesturing to the low table against the far wall as they came into the meeting room.
"You asked me if I has seen the bed, didn't you?" Duo asked, clearly surprised he had not understood the hint before.
Heero smiled. His hint had been somewhat misleading, but Duo was taking the bait all the same. "Yes. Specifically, the headboard."
Duo looked through the pair of doors into the bedroom. "One of those flea market chic numbers, looks like wrought iron."
"It does look quite sturdy," Heero said. He bent to their luggage and retrieved a few items from one of his bags. He had Duo's blue wrist cuffs, a length of chain, a small padlock with key and two new red velvet wrist cuffs.
"You bought those? I was joking... you didn't have to."
"It occurred to me that they might serve a purpose after all."
"If you want to learn what I have planned you will just trust me and go lie on the bed."
"Duo Maxwell does not lie." He laughed and went into the bedroom. "Do I need to remove clothes for this plan?" he called.
"No. It is not necessary at this point." Heero carried the things into the bedroom and found Duo stretched out with his arms folded behind his head. Heero easily hopped up to the bed and straddled Duo. He pinned Duo's legs by hooking his feet over them and then put the cuffs on Duo's wrists.
Duo did not bother to resist. He had no reason to. Heero left some slack on the end of the chain then threaded it threw the rings on each of Duo's cuffs once then back through the first ring, over, and between the wrists to make it more difficult for Duo to put distance between his wrists. Heero slipped from Duo to sit at his side then pulled the longer end of the chain around a thick part of the headboard's scrollwork and then hung the lock through links in both ends while he put the red cuffs on to his own wrists.
Duo was starting to look suspicious, but by then Heero had the ends of the chain in his hands and gave Duo no slack. He threaded the longer end threw the headboard again and then threw both of his own cuffs, doubled back and, finally, gathered as much slack as he could before hanging the lock through links at both ends and in the center of the chain. Heero clicked the lock into place with the keys on a ring still in his hand.
Heero glanced at Duo, passed the keys to his mouth, then threw them across the room with a toss of his head.
"You fucking bastard!" Duo shouted. "You evil fucking bastard!" He struggled, testing the bonds for weakness. "You better tell me those were not the only keys to the lock! You better fucking be joking!"
"You can release us, Duo. I am not afraid. I know you can do it."
"Teme," Duo growled at him. He tried to get his fingers to the buckles, but there was not enough slack on the chain and the cuffs were secure. He twisted his body and then kicked Heero's leg with his right heel.
That hurt. Heero took the pain then pushed himself up onto his knees and straddled Duo quickly. "Do not kick me!"
"Get off now!"
"I was not planning on touching you, but now I have to defend myself, as you are being uncooperative."
Duo squirmed and managed to put a knee to Heero's back, but he did not have leverage enough to put much force behind the movement. "Uncooperative! Fuck you! Do you understand how fucked up non-consentual bondage is?"
"I have been placed in restraints before, if you remember. In a lab, 'spread-eagled' as they say. In magnetically locked cuffs as well. You remember that? You think I would do that to you or myself without a means of escape? I am telling you: you can release us both!"
Duo screwed his eyes shut and turned his head. "I was a prisoner more times than you," he whispered. "I would expected shit like this from Trowa sooner than you. I trusted you."
"Well, Trowa took me prisoner once too. You know he's... not all right. Still, you don't have to act like this is the same. I am not going to beat you or rape you or experiment on you."
Duo opened his eyes and glared at Heero. "Who said rape? I never said that! I never told you 'raped'."
"You did not say that it did not happen, either. Sometimes people do that to prisoners."
"I wouldn't say 'people'," Duo cackled, "Oh, there was close calls, but anyone who tried that shit with me is dead! They're dead. Get off me!"
"I told you I am defending myself."
Duo sucked in a breath, screwed up his face and grit his teeth then spoke in a cold slow voice, "I give you my word that I will not hurt you unless it's self defense. Now, get off of me."
Heero scooted off, to the other side of the double sized bed. His mobility was quite restricted simply by having his wrists pinned together at the headboard.
Duo's hands were on the lock. He could reach it, but without a key or pick he could not open it. Heero saw Duo lean his head toward his hands. His fingers felt the earrings he wore. Duo's frustrated expression said none of those would help him pick this sort of lock. Heero had already considered that.
"You can do it just by thinking," Heero said.
"Shut up! I'm still mad at you!"
"Anger will not help you."
"Don't fuckin' Master Yoda me, Heero!"
"Oh, you do remember my name. It is good not to be 'teme,' Duo."
Duo glared, but said nothing.
Heero sat with his left arm leaning against the headboard and watched Duo.
Duo tried to reach Heero's cuffs with his hands, but he could not. He tried pulling against the headboard, but it did not give any more than the chain or cuffs. "I can't believe you are still this screwed in the head," Duo grumbled, "You need professional help if you think this is OK."
"I did not take advantage of you, Duo. I did it to us both equally."
Duo bowed his head and breathed shallow, as if trying to diffuse his anger, but when he spoke, he still sounded very angry. "You completely don't understand! This is worse! I trusted you to put me in bondage, didn't I? Huh? I trusted you to not die or be captured yourself. I trusted you to be there when I needed to be released. I fucking trusted you to know when I did need to be released."
"Yes," Heero admitted.
"You screwed that up, Heero! Now I can't protect you any more than you can protect me..." Duo paused then started laughing. "I don't believe I fell for it." He looked at Heero seriously. "You can just break free."
"No. I do not have enough slack."
"Don't lie," Duo said coldly. "You trained in simulated high gravity. You're freakishly strong. You don't need slack. You can fucking bend steel. You could snap any part of these restraints."
Heero shook his head.
"You can free us and you are not doing it. You are endangering my life. I will hurt you if you do not break us free!"
"Maybe I can, but so can you. Duo, you can do this. You are not even trying. Just do it. Just will it to happen."
"I know why you are doing this, but that does not make it right. The end does not justify these means."
"It doesn't hurt."
"It's a fucking violation of trust."
"Duo, just release us. You let me put you in the cuffs. You saw the chain and second set of cuffs."
"You said nothing about chaining us both to the bed!" Duo shouted.
Heero sighed. "Duo, be calm and concentrate. If the buckle is too complex, then try the lock. You can do this. You have been so close the times we practiced together. Last night you actually had a buckle loose before you gave up. You could have escaped if you just believed you could. You were already doing it."
"Stop," Duo whispered. "God, just let me out."
"Duo, you are safe here. You are safe with me. You do not have to resist this. Just relax and focus on your task. Release us."
Pointless to use Yodaisms, but they seemed so appropriate. "You can. I believe in you. Duo, if something really bad happened, if there were an earthquake, you would do it subconsciously. You have done it before. I've seen you control it, when you really needed it. You can do it now."
"I don't have control."
"Duo. There is nothing to fear. Let go of your anger for me. You know I would not endanger our lives. You always have had the ability to escape."
Duo's face contorted with pain and his voice broke as he replied, "Then why couldn't I escape the other times?" His face relaxed for a moment and then he just looked sad. "If I always had the power, why couldn't I escape all those other times when I really wanted to? Why couldn't I do it those times I was without a lock pick and taking a beating, huh? Why would God give me power I can't even feel or control?"
"I do not know about God, Duo."
Duo laughed sadly. "S'pose if you'd seen The Wizard of Oz you'd be quoting Glenda about now."
Duo shifted his weight awkwardly until he was sitting up as straight as he could. He closed his eyes and slowed his breath. "There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home." His shoulders slumped. "Heero, I can't."
"Do not give up. You will do it. You will. Just do it."
"You know Threepio is kinda like the Tinman. Chewie was kinda like the lion, but he didn't doubt his courage. I think Han was maybe like the scarecrow."
"Wizard of Oz, right?"
Duo sighed. "Yeah. I'll make you watch it one day."
"Oh, then you'll still be talking to me?"
"I'll chain you up in front of the monitor while I go out to a bar and flirt with older men." He opened one eye to see if Heero looked upset.
Heero kept his expression neutral. "You have Gundanium chains?"
"No, but I know a supplier and machinists, so don't tempt me."
"The chair would break."
"Who said I'd put you in a chair? I could have you suspended in midair and wrapped in chain. And in case you are wondering how I'd subdue you in the first place, I do have access to tranqs and a gun."
"And you think I need professional help?"
"You pull shit like this and you're going to see my dark side, Yuy."
"You would really flirt with older men?"
"Sure, if you pissed me off. I said I didn't want to 'be' with anyone else, but I never said I wouldn't flirt. Find men or women of the right age and they'll buy you drinks just to get to look at ya."
"You really want some desperate lecher plying you with drinks while I am chained and forced to watch a queer old fantasy movie?" Heero asked seriously.
Duo laughed. "No." He let out a deep breath. "I am still not happy about this. I officially disapprove, but I am glad you did think it would be better if we were chained together. I mean, it's wrong, and it's more frightening, but then I have someone to talk to and that calms me down." He opened both eyes and looked at Heero. "But it is still wrong."
"Yes. I have offended you. I am heartily sorry."
"Don't," Duo said, but his lips curled and he almost smiled before he stopped himself.
"If you release us, I will have sex with you."
"What makes you think I would want to after this?"
"We are unfortunately that sick."
"Man, I can't even tell if that was supposed to be a joke," Duo warbled. He closed his eyes again and appeared in concentration. "Maybe if you promised to wear a dress I would be motivated."
"And that would be less a violation of trust than this?"
Duo raised a brow without opening his eyes. He was silent for a long time. He had done this when they had practiced before. Heero did not look into his mind. He had done that on their past sessions and could guess what Duo was feeling and thinking. He seemed to have no concept of how the ability worked. He wanted to understand how it worked and what he had to do to control it.
Heero's experience said that one had to have faith in this. He had been able to give himself a framework of control, but he had advanced more quickly when assuming that the results would happen as he willed. Heero had explained this to Duo, but Duo needed to believe it for himself.
Last night he had been very close. Buckles were complex and Duo had managed to nearly free the strap from the pin. He had given up there, tired and frustrated.
He had the ability. He could bend steel as easily as Heero, or more easily. It hurt Heero's hands when he had to do that.
Duo opened his eyes and glared at the chain. Heero could feel his anger without trying. It faded. Heero noted the time. This was usually the point at which Duo gave up. He scrambled onto his knees and then moved as far toward Heero as he could.
Heero watched quietly, but Duo did not seem interested in him. He was looking at the floor beside the bed. The key. Duo was looking for the key.
Duo sat back on his heels, eyes closed again. A minute passed and then Heero saw it. The key moved up from the floor, through the air and into Duo's right hand. Duo opened the lock. He freed only one end of the chain before closing the lock again.
Heero could not say it was unexpected. Duo had freed himself while keeping Heero chained to the bed.
Duo put the keys down on the bed then leaned in close to Heero, close enough to share breath. "Read my mind now... Heero."
Heero did it. He knew. Duo would free him, but until he did, Heero was not to escape or to say anything except 'no.' One chance to say the word and that was all he got. All he got until Duo decided he trusted him again.
Duo lifted his left hand and grabbed Heero's ear. He tilted his head, leaned and kissed Heero forcefully. He did not hurt Heero, but he was not gentle either. He kissed Heero until he forgot that he could breath through his nose. He sucked at his neck. He nipped at his earlobe.
Duo whispered at Heero's left ear, his fingers still clutching the right. "You thought you would do it to us both equally? Thought you'd buy yourself bondage gear? Chain yourself up, just like that? Fine. See if you like me when you push me to switch."
Heero said nothing. It was in his power to say no. Or it was in his power to be quiet. The only other option was disobeying. If he disobeyed, Duo would be angrier and take longer to forgive him. If he said no, then Duo would not touch him at all. Heero did not especially like to see Duo being mean and competitive. That was the behavior they had worked to move past... but... he just did not feel strong enough to tell Duo he would rather not be touched at all.
The truth was, he wanted the dangerous thrill back. If Duo had pulled a knife, he would not have stopped him.
Duo would not stop himself. He was angry and wanted Heero to know what it meant to be in this role. There was no absolute loss of control. There would have been a sort of freedom in that. This was a limitation of options. Do things according to the mission parameters or refuse orders. This was a role Heero was dangerously comfortable with. He had lived this role for years.
Duo knew he had lived this role. Duo knew that when Heero tried only to please him he was still stuck in this role. The only way out was to refuse all orders and follow his heart. There was proper balance when he did that.
Heero felt off balance. The chains were no obstacles. Duo's parameters kept him in bondage. He was seducing Heero. He was doing everything that Heero would have asked for, while he kept him in bondage. It messed with Heero's logic. Where was the motivation to refuse and conduct his own actions when Duo was already giving Heero everything he might have decided to ask for?
He gave Heero alternating deep and light kisses. His nose rubbed against Heero's nose. He stroked Heero's ears with fingers and tongue. He combed fingers through his hair.
Heero liked all those things. He felt obsolete. When roles were reversed, Duo did not so much conduct his own actions as he danced perfectly to the tune Heero gave him. Heero did things that pleased Duo, and he arranged for Duo to do things that pleased him.
Duo was doing the things that pleased Heero, but he was not allowing Heero the opportunity to please him. When Heero tried to move his tongue outside his own mouth, Duo bit. Duo denied Heero's lips his throat. He put his chest nowhere near Heero's mouth.
Can I say no? Heero wondered. If he did, Duo would stay away until the time he chose. If Heero said no, he still could not please Duo.
Was it OK to give in to allowing Duo to do this? It felt so good. Would it not please Duo if he gave in? Or did Duo want him to say no?
If he gave in, he was weak-minded.
But, it was right when Duo gave in.
Because Heero was better in command. Heero gave Duo opportunity to act. He restrained Duo most when he was demonstrating negative behavior.
Chaining them both to the bed might have been negative behavior. Maybe this should be considered fair punishment. Then, maybe not being touched at all would be more fair punishment.
Duo put his hands to Heero's hips and pulled him toward the foot of the bed. Heero's head hit the headboard and then he slid onto his back. There was only a moment before Duo was on top of him. His hands slipped beneath the t-shirt Heero was wearing. Duo's hands felt warm on Heero's stomach.
Heero did not really want to tell Duo to stop.
Heero had not been able to see Duo's face before, because he had been so close, but now he saw. Duo was not doing this because he loved Heero. He could have done this with anyone. This was what Duo would be like with just anyone.
"No!" Heero said. "No, Duo!"
Duo lifted his hands and then calmly lifted the key and released the padlock. He climbed off Heero and the bed. Heero unwound the chain from the headboard and cuffs.
Duo was standing at the bathroom door. The door was closed and Duo was not opening it; he only stood there with his back to Heero. "Break the chain."
He turned. "I want you to show me. I want to see you break it. Now."
Heero removed the red cuffs and then lifted the chain. He wrapped chain twice through each hand, leaving only several links between. He held his hands in line with the lower part of his chest and then pulled on the chain with slow even pressure.
First, the chain dug into his fingers, then the force was distributed without breaking skin and the chain that began to give, not his flesh. Pulling on a chain in effort to break it was more difficult than bending upright bars. The grip was different and he was pulling against his own resistance, rather than putting force only into a single bar with each hand. As well, these links seemed pretty solid, though the metal was not very thick in any one place.
Finally, the link near Heero's right hand snapped. Heero dropped his hands and the two lengths of chain fell from his reddened fingers.
"You really can still do it."
"Listen carefully," Duo said seriously. Heero looked up to him as he stood near the bed. "I am strong too. Every time I surrendered to you in any way, it was by choice. You do not have the power to make me do anything by force. You only hurt me today because you broke trust."
"I did not hurt you any more than I hurt myself."
"And I told you: that is worse than just hurting me. It's not better!"
"I mean it. Hurting yourself is not OK. Why would you think that I would feel better if you were also hurt or trapped or being manipulated? Don't you ever try to manipulate me like that again! You really think the means and the sacrifice is worth seeing me move the key?"
"I expected you would release the lock, actually."
Duo shook his head. "It's my ability to control, Heero. It is not your responsibility to make me learn. I helped you because you asked. I let you help me before. If I had needed more help, I would have asked for it!"
"I just wanted to help you."
"Fuck, Heero. I'm a big boy, ya know? I counted on you to support me, to back me up, but not to fight my fights for me. This isn't like you going to school for me. I was mad about that at first, but I saw how I really had been too stunned to defend myself. But this... you made me defend myself against you."
"You always were a match for me."
"Are you even sorry? Tell me you know it was wrong! Something!"
"I thought that if I proved that you could control it... I thought you would be happy. I knew it was deceitful, but I did not realize you would be so angry that I was chained with you. I thought you might forgive me. I love you, Duo. I wouldn't hurt you... on purpose."
"I do still love you, Heero. I know you didn't set out to hurt me. You meant to trick me, but not seriously hurt me. I probably do forgive you, but..."
"I do not get to have you until you decide you can trust me to do it."
Duo nodded. He shifted his weight and folded his arms across his chest. "I really don't want to fight with you. I think I need you right now. Of course, that's why it hurts..." He shook his head. "Anyway, that's right. We'll still have this vacation together, we can hold hands or kiss or hold each other I guess, stuff that is comforting, but we can't have sex."
"As you wish."
"It's not exactly 'as I wish!'" Duo said loudly, waving his arms for emphasis. "It's not like I want to give up sex at all. It's just... you really messed with my head. I wish you hadn't!"
"You messed with mine."
"Yeah. I was angry. I guess I'm glad you stopped me. I didn't really want to do it. I just wanted to get back at you. Still, am I supposed to be this guy that just forgets that you fucked with me? Am I supposed to just be like 'Oh, you manipulated me into a breakthrough, please fuck my ass to prove your mastery once again!'"
Heero winced at the voice Duo was doing. It was not his own voice. And the words bothered him too. "I never believed it was 'mastery.'"
"Yeah, but that's what it'd be like if I let you just do anything to me. I mean, shit, didn't we do enough kinky intimate shit together and share enough feelings and secrets? Why'd you have to take away my right to consent?"
That was wrong. It was very wrong when Duo put it that way, but he had not really meant it to be so when he planned everything. Heero slipped from the bed and ran around it. When he came to Duo he knelt quickly and then bowed until his head touched the floor. "Gomen nasai. I regret my means. I regret hurting you. I have failed you as a friend, a lover and a teacher. I am sorry, Duo. I have behaved dishonorably. I accept your punishment"
"You are serious," Duo whispered. "You're not fucking mocking me? You realize you have the manners of a warlord with most people, Yuy? You glare as if you'll decapitate them if they aren't saying please, thank you and sorry to you."
Heero said nothing.
"Whoa, you really are serious. Can't blame me for wondering. You can be rather imperious. How many people rate even a 'domo' or a 'gomen' from you?"
"Duo. Duo, I knew what I was doing. When I was honest with myself, I knew, and I decided to push you. I am sorry. I did not really want to take away your trust and consent. I do not want to be one of those people. I feel so bad. I do not know what I was thinking. When you trusted me... I was happy. I failed again, Duo. I wanted to do something good, but I only caused pain. I ruined my own happiness, and yours."
"For Christ's sake! Get up! It's no good if you're as melodramatic as I am. Man. What's the world coming to? Pretty soon you'll have me feeling sorry for you, and that's not really fair. I'm supposed to be the injured party. It's not my fault you screwed up."
Heero stood up slowly. "I failed."
Duo put his hands to Heero's shoulders and gave him a shove. "Don't go all Shell Shock on me, Heero! It's not an excuse. Fucked up stuff happened to me too, and I'm not using that to make you feel bad about yourself right now."
Heero winced and said nothing.
"Fuck. Look, why don't you just go take a bath. OK? Apology accepted. Punishment starts now. We aren't having sex. But we need to stay civil with each other. I mean, you do want the term of your punishment to end fairly soon?"
Heero nodded. He almost smiled, but forced his face straight.
"Get a bath. I'll go watch TV. We'll both chill."
"Be cool of temperament."
"Yeah, that's what I said." Duo rolled his eyes.
Heero collected some fresh clothing and toiletries and then went to get his bath. He had already showered that day, but he and Duo both knew that baths relaxed Heero. He thought that he missed Koi. The canine was comforting and he guarded Heero while he bathed.
The hot water did make Heero feel better. He was still regretful, but he was no longer overly emotional. He felt more balanced.
Later there was a knock at the door. Heero told Duo to come in. "I thought I would make us some tea. I need water."
"That's a good idea," Heero said.
Duo gave a nod then went to the sink to fill the urn.
"What are you watching?"
Duo looked toward Heero and smiled as he ran the water. "Toons. The summer series just started last week, I think. The new Batman show is on next."
Heero finished with his bath and then went to join Duo in the meeting room. He was sitting on the small sofa, or loveseat perhaps. There was a low table between it and the monitor on which Duo had placed two English style teacups.
Heero sat down at Duo's left side. He put his spoon into the tea to view the color. It seemed dark enough, so he dunked the bag once more and removed it.
"They just showed the scenes from previous shows. I'm sure the show is meant to be a spin-off of the present Batgirl series. They haven't had a Batman since Terry. They were making TV and series with him up until the war. The comics and manga mostly were following the various Nightwings, Robins, Catwomen, Huntresses and Batgirls more than Batman."
"I've seen this Batgirl. She is not a sidekick, correct? She is considered the 'Batman' of her time, but is female."
"Right. They introduced her during the war in both manga and TV series. She's actually a descendant of the original Robin. She's a Grayson, and she lives in the original Wayne Manor with the Batcave and all."
"Lena?" Heero asked. The male character had just said that name to the woman in bandages.
"Yeah, I think it's more a derivative of Selena than a sign of our times. This guy is supposed to become Batman, but I don't think he is Batman yet. He previously met Lena Grayson and Batgirl separately and then later Batwing was nearly destroyed and sent flying into their colony by the villain's new beam weapon, so this guy used his salvage mobile suit to knock the batwing into a safer trajectory then towed it into this hangar."
The man was explaining that he had to remove her mask because it was obvious there was blood coming from beneath it.
"I predict now that she stubbornly and nobly tries to go off on her own to fight her enemy and he ends up souping up Batwing and putting on a Bat costume to pilot it just in time to rescue her."
"I think he looks Japanese."
"It's hard to tell sometimes when they are animated, but I think you are right."
They were both right. The episode progressed much as Duo had predicted and Batman was an apparently Japanese Colonial war orphan. By the end of the show Duo was laughing and sprawled such that he was all over Heero.
"What would you rather do? Visit a Star Wars museum or hang out in Chinatown?" Duo asked.
Heero would rather look at Star Wars memorabilia, but it might not be very exciting for Duo. "Let's go to Chinatown," Heero said.
Duo smiled. "Sure that's what you want to do? You could make another suggestion."
Heero shook his head. "I would like to go to Chinatown with you."
They went to San Francisco's Chinatown together and stayed through a late breakfast and a late lunch. Duo seemed to have fun and he found many things he wanted to buy. Duo had not visited China and he seemed to be delighted to meet so many ethnically Chinese people in one place, who were not Colonial, but who were American, like him.
Generally, people were pleased to meet Duo, whether they realized he was a war hero or mobile suit designer or not. Heero thought that if Duo was stereotypically American that he matched only the positive stereotypes. He was a very entertaining person.
Heero thought that people in Chinatown sounded very Californian. Perhaps some kept traditions and culture alive only to attract tourists, but not all. Heero thought it demonstrated a healthy amount of pride that there were those that could be very modern and American and also continue the culture of their ancestors.
The colony Heero lived in was like that. People in the capitol all considered themselves Colonials, but they lived in neighborhoods nearest to those most like them in background. There were no clashes between populations of the various quarters. They were able to retain the good things their ancestors had taught them while belonging to a larger culture at the same time.
Heero wished that Duo was able to stay there. Heero believed that his Colony was one of the nicest to live in.
Earth was also nice. Heero could live on Earth. He did not think that there was a city on Earth that he would feel as comfortable in as the Colonial Capitol, but he could imagine living happily outside a city.
The sky seemed to be endless here.
"If you keep gawking at the clouds, I'll try to sell you some rocks," Duo said.
Heero lowered his eyes and smiled at Duo. "I was just thinking how things are beautiful here."
Duo smiled back. "Good thing you didn't let it all get blown away."
"What...?" Then Heero remembered that day. New Edwards. The missiles at the base. The shuttle he should not have destroyed. He shook his head.
"I know," Duo said calmly, "But I know you've probably run the numbers. One shuttle full of people versus the millions living in the kilometers inside of maximum safe distance from those missiles. I think you made the best you could out of a really bad day."
Heero shook his head. "Une." He supposed he could understand how Relena could not want to see her after those memories had resurfaced so clearly, but then, he had also been a person who was responsible for deaths, so he could understand Une doing her best to prove she was worthy of a second chance. Heero focused on Duo again. "You did help that day."
"Right. I frustrated Trowa and sat on my ass marveling that I'd learned your name."
Heero laughed. "But Trowa and Quatre arrived after we did."
"So, Wing did not attack the base alone."
"Wing handled other bases alone."
"That day was different. There were plenty of mobile suits left for Quatre and Trowa."
"Guess I helped you stay alive long enough to make the best out of a bad day."
"Next time it comes up, do not say that you did nothing that day. I appreciate all the times you showed up to keep me alive, even if you cackled and mocked me as you did it."
Duo laughed silently, shaking more than he made any noise. He seemed to blush, that or the sun was too strong for his pale skin.
"I do appreciate it, because... look, it's a beautiful day. Maybe I can make the best of a bad day again."
"I hope," Duo said. He smiled. It was more beautiful then the sky. "Hey, I'm sorry about what I said, I mean, that I said you used your trauma like an excuse. You were not being manipulative then, you really were very emotional. It bothered me, but..."
"If I hurt you, I only hurt myself."
Duo nodded. "Yeah. I did not like feeling doubly hurt."
Heero agreed with a nod.
"I really need to get ready for my appointment. What do you want to do now?"
Heero calculated the time. "I have time to go back to the house and check a map."
"OK. I'll go back with you, I want to get changed." There did not seem to be anything wrong about Duo's black jeans and tee beneath a red denim jacket, but Heero did not know what sort of appointment Duo had.
When they got to the apartment Duo changed clothing while Heero downloaded a city map to his pad. He added an old picture of himself from an archive and another picture of himself from their collected tourist photos. This way Heero had visual aides depicting his former hair colors.
"Wish me luck," Duo said. He was wearing a button-down shirt and a blazer over the jeans now and he held his old school computer against his chest.
"Good luck," Heero said. He wondered whether Duo had a job interview. That would change things. Might explain his recent preoccupation with where Heero was going to live.
"Take your phone with you. You have my numbers?"
"I assume I will not find you at your apartment or the garage today."
"Real funny. I gotta go. If you get done before hearing from me, call. I'll call you when I'm done, if I don't hear from you. We can meet up and get to the airport."
"I will have my phone," Heero assured him. "I am sure you will do well with whatever you are going to do."
"Thanks, Heero!" Duo said. He flashed a smile then bounced from the room.
Heero repacked his bags so they would be ready when he returned, collected the few things he needed and then left the apartment. He had not made an effort to see the code Duo used and so he would have to contact Duo to retrieve his luggage. It was a good thing Duo was on such friendly terms with him. It really could have been worse.
Sometimes Heero forgot, because Duo was generally nice to him, that he really had quite a temper.
Heero arrived at the salon. He had never been to any sort of barber or salon in his life. Letting strangers approach his face and throat with sharp implements had seemed a ridiculous risk. This interior seemed to be set up like many service establishments were. There was a clear reception area and someone there had a computer terminal before them.
"I have an appointment here... approximately five minutes from now."
"Your name is...?"
"The reservation was made under Maxwell, but my name is Heero." Heero was still traveling under his alias as he had not brought his legitimate ID on the cruise. He had planned to pay with cash cards, so he had not worried about what account he would draw from. Now he realized that the people here would likely learn that he was Heero Yuy and if he used the name Maxwell Croft here they would tell others that they knew his alias.
"Who did you make the appointment with?"
"I believe the stylist's name is Jose."
"Yes, I have that information here. Please have a seat, Jose will be with you soon."
Heero saw the chairs nearby and went to sit down. He kept aware of his surroundings and noticed the receptionist wave a hand in his direction while she looked toward a doorway beside her. A tall man with long blonde hair and wearing a cowboy hat came through the doorway and looked at Heero. He strode across the reception area quickly and offered Heero his hand.
Heero looked up from the hand to the man's face then bowed slightly. The man, Jose, smiled widely as he withdrew his hand. He gave his name and then shifted his weight backward and seemed to be studying Heero. Maybe he was trying to decide what look Heero should have.
Heero was not sure he wanted this man to decide his look. Heero could only guess at Jose's particular ethnic background, but he would guess he was some parts both Asian and Latino. The long, straight straw blonde hair seemed false. The slim black clothing, bulky jewelry and worn brown hat marked him as eccentric.
"Sort of a 'Heero Yuy' look going on there. You want to do something with that hair? Maybe warm it up a bit? Get it out of your eyes? We can take care of those brows, no problem."
Heero almost laughed, but he kept his face blank. "A moment." Heero pulled the photos of himself up on his pad and then offered the pad to Jose. "The brown is natural, the green goes over well in the Colonies. I had my hair dyed black to play a part, shall we say? The dye was supposed to be temporary but it is not fading. Can you make my hair one of these previous colors?"
"Heero Yuy," he whispered.
Jose straightened and looked even taller. "Heero! It is good to meet you. Please, come with me. I will take care of this color situation, no problem. You will leave here looking as gorgeous as ever."
Heero said nothing, just eyed Jose suspiciously as he practically skipped through the door near the desk. As they passed various styling stations it was obvious Jose was pointing out Heero to the others. They looked up from beautifying hands, feet, faces or hair and then their customers looked.
Great. This was a mistake. Well, Heero's assignment was complete. He would be in Hawaii before his hair troubles were broadcast as news.
Jose sat Heero in a chair and ran a comb threw his hair, examining it. "You sure you do not want me to refine your eyebrows?"
"There is nothing wrong with my eyebrows. They make my eyes more dramatic."
Jose walked around the chair and scried into Heero's face. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Finally, he shrugged. "It is a look. I think we will try a concentrated shampoo first. If the dye seems to stay, we can strip it chemically."
"Is that dangerous?"
"No. It is a very common process. It will leave the hair somewhat dull and dry, so I would suggest matching your natural color with a conditioning dye process to bring it back up to full color and shine. I could give you some nice highlights too."
"No highlights. Brown is fine... like I had before. I can deal with that."
Several hours passed and Heero was only just having dye rinsed from his hair. He felt his phone ringing and pulled it from his pocket. He glanced at the numbers, only to confirm that it was Duo. Heero passed the phone to Jose overhead. "It's my partner. Give him a progress report."
Jose quickly snapped the headset open and traded it for his hat. He continued to rinse Heero's hair with warm water and hold the hat at his side as he answered the phone. "Heero is not available. We are just finishing with a color process."
Heero pulled the hat from Jose's hand and lifting his left leg, set the hat atop his knee.
"We are going for a soft brown tone. We think it will complement his eyes and complexion very much." Jose shut off the water and made some rapid hand gestures. An assistant wrapped Heero's hair in a towel then escorted him back to the styling chair, which was before a large mirror. Jose shooed the assistant away as she was patting his hair dry.
Heero saw Jose hang the towel on a bar and then lift his comb. He whispered into the phone, as if Heero would not hear. "He says he does not want me to touch his brows." There was a pause as Duo responded. "No, I did not touch them. They are bushy and forked." There was only a slight pause. "Yes, this is what he tells me. Yes, that gray-blue color. Yes, yes. I am sure he is. I will."
Jose removed the phone and handed it to Heero. "Your 'partner,' he says to tell you he will be here soon."
Heero glared as he put his phone back in his pocket. He did not know what was wrong with that word that Jose would say it so. He was picking up what Heero believed to be a hair drier. "What are you going to do with that?"
"You can not just comb your hair and walk out the door. We must dry it." At that Jose swiveled Heero's chair so that he could not see himself in the mirror.
Some minutes later Duo came into the room. He approached Heero's chair with an amused look. Heero growled and rolled his eyes. He was sure Jose was doing ridiculous things to his hair.
Duo bowed to Heero's level and grinned. "You are such a bish! I love the color. It looks just like it used to, I swear!"
"It looks good," Duo told Jose, "let him see."
Jose aimed a can of something at Heero's head and sprayed. The mist got into his mouth and tasted terrible. Heero was making a disgusted face when the chair finally turned toward the mirror.
Behind his back Jose was mouthing the words, "It is like working with a child!"
Duo laughed, looking at Heero from the mirror. "Heero's never had anyone cut his hair before in his life. He does it himself."
"You did that yourself? It is not bad for an amateur."
Heero touched the hair that swept over his forehead. "It is all... wispy. I look like some anime character."
Duo did his nervous laugh. "He didn't exactly save the world by standing in his room with the blow drier. He's all about functionality and efficiency."
Jose waved a shopping bag across Heero's field of vision. "I will give you a proper styling brush and a blow drier." He straightened and addressed Duo. "I used this spray-gel designed for smooth, straight styles." He dropped that in the bag as well.
Heero put the cowboy hat onto his head and then stood in front of the mirror. He tossed the plastic poncho to the chair and then adjusted the tilt of the hat.
"I think Heero wants the hat," Duo said.
"It is my gift to you," Jose said.
"Just tell me what I owe ya for all of this," Duo said to Jose.
"I threw in these things for free. It will just be the standard price for wash, stripping, single color and dry. You can pay at the desk."
"Can I give you this?"
"Thank You. Please take my card."
"Thank you. He looks such a hotie! I know he's pleased with the color. It looks just like it used to... I haven't seen him with the brown, in person, for over a year."