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

Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Chapter 64

Heero pretended to be asleep on the plane. Duo seemed to be babbling about everyone playing roles of some sort, just because Heero had happened to wear his vintage jeans, cowboy hat and boots. Quatre was saying he was more like one who owned a contracting company that a construction worker and Wufei seemed to ignore Duo's comments about how good he looked in uniform. Why Duo was trying to convince Trowa to wear leather when they were in the tropics, Heero did not understand.

Though the others did not seem interested in Duo's suggestions, Quatre and Trowa did seem amused by Duo's decision to wear his turquoise and silver jewelry and clip feathers in his hair.

Duo stopped talking quite as loudly and seemed to discuss young men's clubs in New York City or something of the sort, with Trowa.

"Quatre, Heero and I got you a present!" Duo said. Heero could hear Duo take something from the bag at his feet.

"Thanks, Duo!" Quatre said.

"We got it in San Francisco while we were sightseeing. Thanks for the house."

"It is no problem," Quatre said.

"Nice hat," Trowa said.

"Heero didn't think it looked good on me, but I thought Quatre would like it."

"I do," Quatre assured him. "Duo, did you... Is Heero really asleep?"

"He's probably just pretending," Duo said, "He's not really being anti-social, he just likes to conserve energy while he can. It's painfully logical I know, but it's one of those things you have to accept about Heero if you are going to spend time with him. I'm pretty good at keeping up his end of the conversation as well as mine."

Heero smiled. Sometimes Duo added a few invisible people just for the Hell of it.

"So..." Quatre started.

"Oooh," Duo said, catching onto something. "Yeah, you can talk about it. I told Heero when we were back at our room."

"Told him what?" Trowa asked softly.

"I'm going to Stanford," Duo said brightly. "Quatre and Wufei knew because I'd been talking to them back when I first applied. I wasn't really serious about it back then, I just filled out forms because that's what everyone at school was supposed to do."

"Did you figure out where you would live, Duo?"

"Aah, not entirely. Probably not going to do the normal dorm or typical off-campus housing either. I still have to work out my class schedule, but I think I'll only need to be at school part of the week. I'm going to need to keep working."

"How are you going to work that out, Duo?" Quatre asked, "Are you going to quit Preventers? If you transfer to a section on Earth, you may be working with some rookies, or those ex-military types with attitude. Flynn was decent I heard, he was running things here whenever Une was in the Colonies, but he left for Mars."

"Yeah, they need good people on Mars," Duo said. "I'm waiting to hear from Une. The way it was before the Defense Squadron reported to the Director but there's no guarantee things will be the same when they get the recent issues worked out. I know we have a section that has offices in San Francisco and operates at New Edwards now. It's mainly light aerospace stuff. Naval is mainly here actually, in Hawaii, or over in Asia."

"You have experience with light aerospace," Trowa observed.

"Yeah, and I hear it's a good section to get assigned to, because a large part of the base is unused and they rent it out to movie companies and the like, so you get to meet actors and stuff."

"You want to live in San Francisco, Duo?" Quatre asked. "I like it a lot."

"Well, I suppose I'll be going to school and possibly working in the area, but I've also talked to Howard about working with Sweepers here and he said he actually knows some people in architectural salvage that could use some help."

"What is architectural salvage?" Quatre asked.

"It's just like when a colony gets totaled and a crew goes in to salvage the reusable parts to build other colonies," Duo said, "Except it's with old buildings on Earth. They're just old, or they've been burned or destroyed by an earthquake or whatever, and you go in and rip out things of value. Could be steel I-beams or marble fireplace surrounds or some carved wooden panels. Earth stuff."

"That sounds interesting," Quatre said, "Earth has so many old buildings. They have buildings standing that are a thousand years old!"

"Yeah, if you count old pyramids and stuff, several thousand," Duo said. "Anyway, if I get into that work, I think I'll travel to job sites over a larger area. I think I want a house somewhere, even if I don't get to sleep there every night. It doesn't have to be really close to school or job sites, so long as I have access to an airfield."

"I don't know if people on Earth fly around as much as they do in the Colonies," Trowa said. "Mostly they live in one city and work there."

"Mostly," Duo agreed, "But who wants to be like most people. I got it almost worked out. I'm researching what kinds of housing are available and the services in each area, ya know, so I can decide where to live."

"You have never had your own house before, Duo," Quatre said softly.

"Well, home is where your heart is," Duo said quietly, "It doesn't have to be building of any kind, but either way, I've lost a number of homes." Then, suddenly, as if he realized he was not keeping up his happy vacationer façade Duo cackled a laugh. "Where'd that come from?" he asked loudly. He laughed. "It'll be kewl to have a house though, especially on Earth. I really do love the Colonies, but it'll be great to have a real place to go back to, to keep familiar things, or remember the stars from..." He laughed again, but not so loudly. "And throw parties! Of course, I'm going to throw parties. You'll both be invited of course, and Wufei too."

"And Heero," Trowa said.

"Uh, yeah, and Heero," Duo said nervously.

Quatre made a small cough, as if to suggest that Trowa should realize that Duo was planning to have Heero live in the same house and throw the party with him.

Heero had understood that. He lifted his right arm as if stretching after a nap and touched the small of Duo's back with his knuckles. Duo had turned and knelt on his seat so that he could see Quatre behind him. Having found his back, Heero put force behind his knuckles.

Duo made a happy sound at the massage and sank back into his seat. He was virtually climbing into Heero's lap by the time Heero opened his eyes. "Knew you were pretending," Duo whispered.

Talking about it would ruin things. Sometimes they talked too much. Yes, the communication was important to Heero, because he knew the pain that failure to communicate caused, but he suspected there were things that could be safely put off until the future.

Heero had no intentions of defining their relationship or bringing up the subject of living together or even planning their next vacation until this vacation had ended. The next few days would just be happy and peaceful.

He told Duo this by kissing him. That Duo let himself be kissed and kissed Heero in return said that he understood.

When the plane was landed, Howard came from the pilot's seat and opened the hatch. The boys all gathered their luggage and followed Howard out onto the small airstrip. Duo and Quatre remained within the small aircraft a few minutes before joining the others. When Quatre hopped to the ground, his sunglasses were still in his hair and Heero noticed his bruised eye appeared normal again; Duo must have given him some concealer to keep others at Howard's house from asking about the injury.

Howard had another old military transport here and Heero was sure this one was a Humvee. Heero urged Koi into the vehicle first and then he and the others climbed into the desert-camo-painted vehicle for the short ride from the local airstrip to Howard's home.

Heero first saw Howard's house as the Humvee navigated a steep hill to the beach and he noticed rectangular shapes and photovoltaic roofing tiles. As they parked along a short side of the house, where the main entrance seemed to be placed, Heero saw that the house was quite old. It seemed to date from a time when prefabricated steel and glass parts, which had continued to be popular in industrial and commercial design, had been used in residential construction. The materials and the rectangular form made the house Modern as opposed to Traditional, though this residence was likely several hundred years old and may have predated later non-Traditional styles that predated what had become known as Colonial, such as Green. The house had roofing that collected solar energy but it was not otherwise apparent that the design of the house was inherently environmental friendly or used a majority of recycled materials, as Green housing would have.

From the side entry, Heero could see the longer side of the house faced the beach and living space was built out from the house proper with wooden decking and stone-paved terraces. The furnishings and the people outside showed that Howard likely did a lot of living in the outdoor space. Even so, he led them through the house.

It was all very open floor plan, with steel beams and columns placed to support the floor above. Nearly the entire side of the house that faced the beach was glass, creating the illusion of being outside. There were also two skylights cut through the floor above to let in sunlight. Even with the glass and metal, the interior was not hot; air-conditioning kept the interior cool and dry. Heero wondered if the stained concrete flooring was warm or cool to the touch.

Howard pointed out a large cluttered kitchen, with large and small appliances collected from many eras. There was an office also, with which he suggested they should not interest themselves. Apart from a bathroom, the first floor was taken up by a greatroom containing an eclectic mix of furnishings.

"Let me show you upstairs," Howard said. He led them to a staircase and into a second story hall broken up by railings that allowed light from above to filter downstairs. A number of doors in the hall indicated that this floor of the house had more private areas. A bathroom was marked with a stolen or salvaged unisex restroom sign.

Howard opened one of the other doors. There was a bedroom within containing two single beds and a few other pieces of unmatched furniture. "You boys can all keep your stuff in here. Usually if guests want to sleep they sack out where they happen to be, and if they want a moment of privacy they just claim the closest room, but I thought some of you might be guarded about your belongings, so you can take this room and lock it. All of you should know how to get around a simple lock like this."

"The question is whether your friends also know," Duo told Howard.

"I told them all I would give you boys a room. I don't think they would try to mess with your room when they came to the locked door."

Heero would not have assumed they would need to lock a door within Howard's house, but now that he had mentioned this, Heero did not trust anyone. "I have one remote camera with me," he said as he surveyed the small bedroom.

"I have a bell and cord," Wufei said, "But it only gives warning if we are inside the room."

"I'll booby trap the room with a tear gas canister if you want," Trowa said.

"You travel with a teargas canister?" Duo asked.

"I used to keep a grenade," Trowa admitted.

"I only have my knife," Heero whispered.

"You gave up your gun, Heero?" Quatre asked.

"I still have a few, but I do not need one on me all the time."

"Sometimes, he doesn't even need the knife," Duo said.

Heero smiled, remembering the time they had not needed the knife.

"Come downstairs when you are ready," Howard said, "Make yourselves at home. Introduce yourselves to my other guests if you like. Maybe you can tell me who they all are later."

Duo laughed. Heero found the casual atmosphere strange. He could not even imagine having people he barely knew roaming his house or being so laid back about it.

When Howard had left them, Heero removed his boots and socks. He opened a drawer at the bottom of a dresser and neatly unpacked his things into it. He stuck his remote camera to a wall and then set up his mobile to record when the camera detected motion. He put the mobile into another drawer of the dresser. When Heero had put all of his things away, he turned and looked to the others. Duo, Quatre and Wufei were changing into beach clothes.

Trowa was laying on one of the beds. He was wearing the clothes he had on the plane, but they seemed appropriate to a casual beach party: an old, torn concert tee, a pair of cut-off OD fatigue pants, and a pair of combat boots that looks like Trowa had taken a survival knife to them to make sandals. Not as stylish and elegant as some of Trowa's outfits, but Heero understood that Trowa felt comfortable in pieces of uniform or fatigues. He looked good, in a way that might be considered Punk.

"Trowa, I need two small pieces of duct tape," Heero said.

Trowa rolled neatly to the floor and fished his duffel from beneath the bed. He ripped two pieces of tape from a roll and then handed them to Heero without question or complaint.

"Duo, give me a hair, a long one."

"Man, you're paranoid!" Duo complained, but he pulled a hair from his head and gave it to Heero.

Heero used the tape and hair to booby trap the dresser drawers. If anyone opened them, Heero would find the hair broken or out of place.

"Is everyone ready to go down?" Quatre asked. He was wearing some kind of fitted, translucent, midnight blue, long-sleeved, ankle-length pullover. It was slit alongside either leg and embroidered with paisleys the same color as the shirt and the swim shorts beneath.

"That is an interesting garment," Heero observed.

"Oh? Do you like it? It is absolutely not a traditional anything, but I like it. Though... it does show a lot of leg. Do you think I should wear pants?"

It showed more than legs, as the fabric was more or less see-through, Heero thought, but he said nothing.

"Doesn't need pants," Duo said quickly. His shirt looked not entirely unlike Quatre's and did seem the sort of thing that would be imported from India. It was of course black, only fell to his hips, and the embroidery resembled circular fractal patterns rather than paisley. "Where'd you get it?"

"Some boutique in Baghdad... or maybe in Riyadh? I do not remember, Duo; all the upscale club wear boutiques have had this same sort of clothing recently. Actually, they are favoring calf-length this season."

Duo took Quatre's arm and led him from the room, telling him that Heero and he had discussed visiting somewhere in the general area of the Middle East and that Quatre must tell him all the best shops to go to and give him travel tips.

There were several levels of wooden deck off the back of the house, if it could be properly referred to as the rear side. Howard's guests ranged in age and everything else. Heero supposed loud and eccentric did not only describe Howard's taste when it came to clothing. A gray-haired woman was playing acoustic guitar. A shirtless young man with facial piercings was behind the bamboo bar mixing cocktails in a vintage electric blender. Two middles aged men and an adolescent girl were toasting things over a fire pit built into the terrace just off the lowest deck.

Just past the terrace, a pair of tall old palms stood together and beyond that was beach.

Some more of Howard's houseguests were playing volleyball, a handful were gathered around a second fire pit dug into the sand, where they were roasting an animal on a spit. Heero had heard of this done, and he had even had barbeque, but he had never seen an entire carcass roasted, much less one of this size.

"I'm eating meat today, just so ya know," Duo said as he leaned on Heero's shoulder.

"I never told you to stop," Heero said softly, but Duo was gone again, bounding toward the fire.

"Fire," Wufei said and followed. Heero lifted a hand to his mouth as he saw Wufei was wearing a Hawaiian style shirt.

Heero walked onto the beach, there was daylight still and the sand was warm. "Hey, you need any help cooking?" Trowa was asking.

"You know anything about luaus, Trowa?" Howard queried.

"I know how to grill and cook over fire."

Howard nodded seriously, or it seemed serious. "Well, we've got some other kinds of meat in the kitchen that I was thinking of cookin' up for the party." Howard then pointed out some barbeque grills, the location of the bar, the tables they might serve from, the fire pits and the back door to the kitchen. "I could always use volunteers, if you're serious," Howard finished.

"Sure thing. Wufei? Would you like to help?"

Wufei replied to Trowa only with a nod and they walked together to the kitchen via the steps from terrace to kitchen door.

"Wufei is actually a very good cook," Quatre told Heero. He fixed us dinner at Headquarters. You just have to be careful not to ask him if his recipes are Chinese food." Quatre then seemed to be imitating Wufei's tone, "It is not 'Chinese food'," he said, making quote fingers...

"It's just food made by someone who happens to be Chinese," Duo finished. Evidently, Wufei had also made him dinner at least once.

"What kind of food was it?" Heero asked.

"It was Chinese food," Duo said casually, "Wufei just doesn't like people to think he's going to whip up their favorite take-out menu item."

"Well, I actually can make sushi, but there are plenty of Japanese dishes I might have trouble preparing," Heero said thoughtfully. "Do you cook?" Heero asked Quatre.

"I can prepare meals. That is not always the same thing as cooking. I am best with dessert and breakfast."

"Hey, that's all a guy needs, right?" Duo said, in joking tone, "You can skip lunch and take them out to dinner. If your dessert's good enough to convince them to stay for breakfast... and well, you've got breakfast in bed covered... they're pretty much yours."

To Heero this seemed to be a very strange thing for Duo to say in front of his intended. He looked at Duo in a way that surely communicated his thoughts, but Duo was looking toward Quatre. Heero shook his head. "But Duo cannot cook," he said.

Quatre looked at Duo slyly. "I thought you did not lie."

"It's not a lie, it's matter of opinion. I can't cook really."

"Yes, but you can manage the basics. You are just too lazy to bother."

"I have only witnessed him preparing burgers and salad." Heero paused only for a split-second. He did not want Duo to feel bad. "But Duo is always so busy with work or school that it is understandable he does not have the energy to make dinner."

"He made me this really good spaghetti once. Not at all what you would find in an Italian restaurant but enjoyable as such. And we had burgers I remember. Cheeseburgers!"

"No bacon, though."

Quatre made a small sound and looked toward the spit. It was a pig they were cooking.

"Trowa'll prob'ly come up with some weird Tex-Mex thing for ya," Duo said quickly then laughed. "Quatre is fascinated by American food. French Fries with ketchup, right, Kat?"

"Mmmm. And pizza. New York style. Chicago and California pizzas are interesting, but it is just amazing how people eat the big greasy slices without getting messy."

"You sort of fold," Heero said.

Quatre nodded agreement.

"Well, don't know about you two, but I'm going to get a drink!" Duo announced. "You want anything?" he asked, perhaps in afterthought.

"Maybe I will have a soda later," Quatre said.

Duo smiled and shook his head.

"I will let you know if I need anything, Duo-chan," Heero said. He saw Duo look up, slack-jawed and realized that Quatre had heard that.

Duo's mouth instantly shifted from shock to glee and he grinned. "As you wish, Master!" He then turned, braid swinging and left, talking to himself about being surprised he was not upset.

Heero was embarrassed. He tried to laugh it off, but he thought he might just sound cold to Quatre.

"It's all right, Heero," Quatre whispered, "Trowa has actually detailed my attributes for you."

"Attri-?" Heero started, then he remembered. "Aa, a couple times," he admitted. "He really..." Heero made a small cough and covered his mouth. "Never mind."

Quatre smiled and laughed. "It could be worse. It is good to know the person you desire finds you appealing."

"Yes," Heero agreed.

"I think I will go mingle. You? Interested in speaking with people you do not yet know?"

Heero scanned the people in Howard's yard. The number had increased and some of the tables on the upper section of decking had food laid out on them. He shook his head.

"Well, don't just sit in a corner, OK, Heero?"

"I am not that bad," Heero declared to Koi when Quatre had gone. He decided to try Volleyball. Maybe if he just asked the others would let him join. He had learned the rules in a gym class at least once. There had been so many schools.

Heero walked across the sand to the net and stood near the stakes that fixed the guy lines in the sand near one pole. "May I join you?" Heero asked as the players were rotating position.

Several looked at each other and then one answered for the group. "Sure, you can join that side.

Heero gave a nod and moved around the net to the other side. "You might loose your hat," a boy told him. Heero removed his hat and placing it on the sidelines commanded Koi to stay and guard his hat. With a second thought, Heero decided to remove his shirt. It was hot and he would only get it more sweaty and dirty if he wore it while playing. He put the tee inside his hat.

"Do you know how to play?" a girl asked.

"I am familiar with the rules."

She smiled.

"You take this position here," she said gesturing to the middle of their side of the court. "If the ball comes to you and you aren't sure you can get it over the net, just volley it hard enough to pass it to me or Cheryl there. We'll get it over or set it for Danny to spike." She pointed out the other players.

Heero nodded silently. She was thinking that he did not look very tall, Heero could tell that without any special ability. Most people did not expect him to be good at basketball.

They began the game again. Heero did not think any of the players were professional, but some were good enough that they must play often. Some seemed drunk or less familiar with the game such that several players carried each team, while they were all playing for the fun of it.

Heero thought his team was going to win. They had one boy they called Digger that would dive to volley the ball to his teammates before it could hit the sand. Two girls were adept at setting the ball with controlled launches from their fingers. The young man named Danny could spike the ball to the sand on the other side of the net from just behind the net. Heero had a powerful serve and he could spike a ball from mid court, even on sand.

He saw that Duo came and watched the game, for a while, before he left to do something else.

Heero's team won and the group decided to quit playing, at least for a while, as more food was out now and they were hungry.

Heero picked up his hat and with Koi at his heel walked back to the terrace. He found Trowa there, at one of the outdoor type grills. He was dancing to whatever music was playing nearby and cooking kebobs over fairly high flames. "Lamb?" Heero asked.

Trowa looked up for an instant and then nodded.

"They look good. May I have one?"

"Sure. Quatre already ran off with his." Trowa looked toward the deck, apparently for Quatre. "Duo and Wufei might be in the kitchen right now. They are waiting on the pig they said. Well, they have been drinking, they just have not sat down to eat."

Heero took one of the lamb kebobs from the plate. He bit off a bit of the meat just to have a taste. "It's good."

"Thanks. I think plates and napkins and stuff are up there."

Heero gave a nod and walked around the deck to the kitchen door. Koi came from sniffing at flowers to the door as Heero opened it. He found Wufei and Duo alone in the kitchen. Wufei was attending a wok on the stove and Duo was sitting on the kitchen island. They were both drinking creamy white drinks; Heero thought it looked almost obscene. Wufei looked silly, wearing that bright shirt and having a tiny umbrella and a straw in his glass. Duo's drink looked much less like a tropical cocktail and Heero supposed there was no coconut in his drink.

"Hey, Baby!" Duo said, laughing.

"I was not gone that long."

Duo winked. He was not as drunk as he had sounded. "I was just happy to see you! I've had only Wufei for company."

"I do not want to hear about happy," Wufei said and put his hand over the wok. It seemed full of oil.

"Have a few more cocktails and you'll even be happy to see me!" Duo chirped.

Heero smiled at that. "He can't have had that many if you are letting him play with hot oil."

"We're attempting tempura," Duo announced happily.

Heero moved toward the counter the range was built into and saw the bowl of batter and the sliced vegetables laid on towels the other side of Wufei. "Attempting? Have you made it before?"

"I have deep fried foods before, I just have not used this particular batter," Wufei said. "I think the oil is hot enough."

"We found a recipe," Duo said as he hopped down from the island. He stalked up to Heero and bit his neck. Heero shrugged him off gently. "You like tempura, Heero?"

"Yes. I have had it. I do not have as much experience with frying foods as other methods of cooking."

"I do not believe this is difficult," Wufei said. He set down his drink. "We followed the directions. Howard did not have all the most traditional or freshest ingredients but he did have sesame oil and rice flour. We are improvising the rest with whatever looks freshest." Wufei put a thermometer into the oil.

"I made the dipping sauce!" Duo said. "Howard did have all the ingredients for that. Seems to dig on Japanese food."

"We did not invent tempura, we only perfected it. It is Portuguese."

"You must be really Japanese then, the way you have to perfect everything," Duo teased.

Heero frowned. "I have heard that it is easy to make mistakes."

"I used very cold water and I mixed the batter only recently," Wufei assured him. He lifted a large slice of what looked a type of root in a pair of metal chopsticks. He dipped the sliced vegetable in the batter and then let it drip for a moment before sliding it into the wok. It sizzled slightly and floated on the oil. Wufei then put a few more pieces of vegetable into the oil.

When the batter coating the vegetables began to turn brown, Wufei fished them out and put them on some paper to dry.

"You can try the first one, Heero," Duo offered.

Heero lifted the fried slice of vegetable and bit into it. It was hot and it tasted unfamiliar. He sucked in air in attempt to cool his mouth and then swallowed. "What is that? It tastes like... licorice."

"It is fennel. The root of a fennel plant. Howard did not have lotus. Is it bad?"

Heero took another small bite. He fanned his mouth. "It is good, I just not expect this taste," he said when he had swallowed again.

Wufei picked up the piece of broccoli and Duo lifted some carrot. "Oh, this is so good!" Duo moaned.

"You really are a good cook," Heero said. "We should have tried the sauce."

Duo brought the bowl of dipping sauce from the counter as Wufei was putting more vegetables and some shrimp into the oil. "Wufei does the cooking because he wants to keep his woman in the bedroom where she really belongs!"

Wufei laughed. "My woman has access to all the rooms of our apartment, but it is true I cook for her. She is very good with laundry, she vacuums, and she can fix things when the are broken." He smiled as he checked the wok.

"That's some tough competition," Duo said, "I can do laundry and fix things for sure, but I really hate vacuuming and scrubbing and dusting, ya know?"

"I should hire a maid to do my laundry and just keep you in the bedroom," Heero laughed.

"Man, my boyfriend is such a pig," Duo said with mock seriousness.

"I would let you out to go to school and work and visit friends of course."

"Oh, that's OK then," Duo said.

Heero laughed.

"You want to know everything that happens in our bedroom, don't you, Wufei?"

"Unfortunately, I can imagine it very well. I do understand how it works with men."

Duo grinned. "You want to try it, don't you?" Duo asked him. His fingers tickled Wufei's neck.

Wufei spun around and yelled at Duo. "Maxwell! Do not mess with me when I am working with hot oil! Do not mess with me!"

Heero shook his head. "Just leave off him, Duo," he said calmly. "What are you drinking anyway?"

"Milk and vodka. I had it at Korova once, but Howard had this weird milk."

"It was lactose reduced. It is real cow's milk, only processed to make it more digestible by humans," Wufei explained, calm again.

"Cow," Heero said.

"A lot of milk does come from cows," Duo said.

"No. I mean, I understand, but 'korova' means cow."

Duo laughed. "Oh. That kinda makes sense then! It's a milk bar, you see. It's up at C11020."

That designation sounded familiar. It was a colony within the S4 cluster, where Heero lived. He did not often go there, except...

"But that's where..."

"Yeah." Where Duo had been a prisoner during the war.

Wufei sighed. "It is best eaten hot."

Duo shook himself and then put a smile on his face. "I want to try the fennel!" he said. He shrugged at he ate it. "Some people from school lived there. They invited me."

The kitchen door opened and Quatre came in carrying a plate of food. He turned quickly, almost tripped, and looked at the door as if he had never seen a door spring closed behind him.

He then went back to eating with his fingers from his plate as he moved into the kitchen.

Heero saw Duo looking at Quatre rather intently and wondered what Duo saw.

"Kat, are you high? I thought Allah forbid pork."

"Maaa?" Quatre whined.

Duo took the plate from Quatre. "Sometimes you are just clueless."

Quatre turned and looked toward the stove. He moved between Wufei and Heero, making it difficult for Wufei to work and preventing Duo from reaching the food. "Ana ga'aan," he said, "Maa ism haaza... Tempura? Oreed tempura."

"Why's he speaking Arabic?" Duo whispered.

"I think he is saying he is hungry. There are many dialects I do not understand," Heero said.

"Clearly he is hungry!" Wufei said. Quatre was eating everything they had left on the paper.

"Innaho kwayyis!"

"Duo," Wufei hissed. "I think he really is. High."

"No fucking way!" Duo exclaimed. "Kat! Oi, Raberba! Look at me."

Quatre turned. "Duo," he giggled. "Duo."

Duo stooped slightly and peered at Quatre closely. "Man, you been puffing at strange hookahs or something?"

"Duo, I do not smoke," Quatre said innocently.

"You forget to keep an eye on your drink?"

Quatre thought about this for a while. He shook his head, laughing. "I did not have anything to drink."

"What'd you eat then?"

Quatre seemed to think about this. "I ate a lot..." He trailed off. "Duo, I do feel strange. Like good and bad at the same time?" He looked around, as if afraid they were not alone, or perhaps they were in danger. "You think I've been drugged?" he whispered.

Duo raised one brow and took Quatre by his arms. "Maybe you drugged yourself, Quatre. Did you? You aren't the type to try it without knowing, I mean, on purpose, but maybe you ate something...? Something homemade."

"Brownies?" Quatre whispered.

"I wouldn't be surprised," Duo told him casually, "You have any idea how many you ate?"

Quatre giggled. "They were really good."

Duo nodded. "Well, all we can do is work with it. Counteracting with stimulants would only make you feel messed up. You just better avoid having drug tests this month. It'll show up in your hair as well, ya know?"

Quatre lifted his hands to his head. "My hair?"

"Definitely paranoid and giddy," Heero observed.

"Increased appetite. Likely a cannabis product. Hash maybe."

"They could have used the leaves or seeds," Duo said, straightening and looking at Quatre from a slight distance.

Quatre laughed. "Hashish?" he giggled. "hashish... kef?"

Duo rolled his eyes. "Seriously, Kat, it's not that funny."

"But we grow hashish on my farm!"

"You have a hash farm?" Wufei asked.

Quatre nodded emphatically. "It is a variety with negligible THC content grown for oils, fiber and seed," he said as if by rote. "I really should have known better. I am quite knowledgeable about this plant!"

"A little lacking in street smarts, though," Duo said. "Should have thought you'd know better, all those parties and clubs you go to."

Quatre sighed, and then giggled again.

"We should probably let Trowa know," Wufei suggested.

"I will go," Heero offered. "I will be right back."

Duo nodded but kept his eyes on Quatre.

Trowa was at the bar when Heero reached the deck. He was drinking something with lemon in it. "I have to tell you something." Heero said.

Trowa gave a nod and walked toward the house with Heero.

"Quatre apparently ate some hash brownies. Quite a few it would seem."

"Shit. He doesn't even drink. Is he OK?"

"Sí, sí. He is all right, just very giddy... and a little paranoid now and then. Duo is watching him."

"They still in the kitchen?"


"A través de la casa," Trowa said pointing to the nearby glass doors. Heero followed into the greatroom and then into the kitchen. Quatre seemed so confused that Heero had not brought Trowa through the door he had left by.

"This batch is still hot if you want some," Duo called to Heero.

Heero moved to Duo's side and reached for some of the broccoli. It really was good.

"How are you?" Trowa asked Quatre.

Quatre smiled. "I am OK."

"He forgets to speak English sometimes," Duo said helpfully.

Trowa acknowledged Duo with a slight nod while keeping his eyes on Quatre. "Just enjoy it while it lasts, but be more careful in the future. I just want to know that you know what you are doing. You could have taken worse things by accident. In fact, there's a kid out there with a liter of acid and a dropper in his bag."

This amused Quatre at the moment.

"A liter?" Wufei asked.

"It's a soda bottle. But you don't drop soda beneath the tongue," Trowa said levelly."

"I should arrest his ass. A liter implies dealing."

"Calm down, Wufei. Narcotics work is not in our mandate, unless local authority calls us in to deal with inter-district trafficking or organized distribution rings," Duo said soothingly.

"A liter," Wufei muttered.

Duo shoved a piece of fried fennel into Wufei's mouth.

Wufei mumbled something angrily.

"Just drop it for now. We need happier subject matter," Duo instructed.

Quatre had moved to Wufei's other side and was staring at the battered shrimp as they sizzled in the oil. He looked more entranced than just hungry. "Maybe Howard has some movies we could watch," Heero suggested.

"A movie would be good," Trowa said.

"Ana ga'aan," Quatre said.

"Is he saying he is hungry?" Trowa asked.

"You want some tempura, Trowa?" Duo asked. "Heero says it's actually Portuguese."

"Oh, don't get me started on 'history is like an endless waltz.'"

Wufei was amused by this and laughed as he put more of the shrimp in flour and then batter.

"Oh, like periods of colonization over the seas followed by rebellion and periods of colonization into space followed by rebellion?" Duo asked.

"Yeah," Trowa sighed. "I spent an afternoon with Mariemaia before coming here. I do not know how you can take her, Wufei."

"We have an understanding is all. She is very intelligent."

Trowa shrugged. "I'll try some tempura though."

"Quatre, I think there's some pocky and chips and stuff in that cabinet," Duo called over Wufei.

"Potato chips?"

"Uh huh."

"What kind of pocky?" Heero asked.

Duo grinned at him. "Chocolate and strawberry. Howard's got all kind of munchies."

"I'll bet," Trowa said as he ate some of the fried pepper.

Heero moved to the cabinet where Quatre was and stood on his toes to better see over Quatre's shoulder. "What goes with chips?" Quatre asked.

Salt and vinegar Heero thought, or maybe a sour cream based dip. He then spotted an amusing alternative. "Look, Quatre, cheese in a can. Would you like to try that on your chips? It sounds very American to me."

Quatre lifted the can and regarded it reverently.

"Heero, don't mess with him," Trowa warned in a friendly tone.

"He was between Heero and the pocky," Duo laughed. "Which will it be, chocolate or strawberry?"

Heero let Quatre move past and then looked into the tall cabinet. He supposed this was like the pantry; there were so many packaged foods here. Heero saw some boxes of pocky. Much of it was made in Japan, though some was made and packaged in California. "He even has chocolate dipped in vanilla fudge."

"I thought fudge was chocolate," Trowa said.

"Fudge refers to the type of confection, not the flavoring," Heero said. "Howard has chocolate and strawberry too. Coconut. He has coconut pocky."

"Confection," Duo mused, "I like that word. I know what my favorite confection is."

"Yeah, and it's Heero flavored," Trowa said.

"Stop!" Wufei told them, "I do not want to hear."

"Man, get your minds out of the gutter. I wasn't even talking about that." Duo sighed. "I was just thinking of some kisses."

"I guess those would be nice."

"Fuck you!"

"I didn't say I knew! It'd be insulting if I said that sounded horrible, wouldn't it?"

"You could have said you'd rather try kissing Quatre."

"I've kissed Heero," Quatre announced.

Heero took the chocolate and the strawberry pocky from the cabinet and turned to look at Quatre. He was still chewing chips and had more in his hand. "You did?"

"Didn't I?"

"On the face. Only on the face I think. Trowa's done that."

"Oh. I must have just thought about doing it on your mouth enough to think I had." Quatre giggled.

"Fuck! I know Heero is dead sexy and all, but just back off!"

"You're half serious about inviting them to our room all the time," Heero told Duo.

"Yeah... well... I kissed Quatre, but it was a long time ago. I can't imagine they weren't kissing you recently, like since you've been with me. That's different. And I was never really serious about the threesome thing."

"I was," Quatre said casually.

Duo cackled a laugh. "Oh, Trowa, you better do right by Quatre! I can't believe this one managed to save himself just for you!"

Trowa smiled. "Well, if Heero is claiming you now, I better work harder on converting Wufei to make Quatre happy."

"Well, I do like blondes," Wufei said, almost smugly.

Trowa smacked the back of Wufei's head, gently. "Don't mess with the stoned child, Chang."

Wufei took the last vegetables from the wok and then turned off the heat to the range. He winked at Heero as he turned to speak to Trowa. "It is OK. Quatre knows Duo is the one I really want."

Duo jumped and then went into a silly dance. "I won! I won!" he cheered.

Heero picked up the last of the shrimp and dipped it in sauce. "Can I help you clean up?" he asked Wufei.

"There are just the bowls. The oil needs to cool before we can move it and we cleaned up the other tools already." Wufei looked around the kitchen. "How do you suppose Howard disposes of used cooking oil?"

Heero also looked around the kitchen. "I am not sure, but that sink has a disposal, so we can wash the bowls there. I will do it."

Wufei collected the bowls used for flour and batter. "Duo, why don't you and Trowa take Quatre to check out the video situation?"

Duo kept grinning as he saluted agreement.

Trowa took the last pepper before he led Quatre from the room.

"Go with Duo," Heero told Koi. The canine got up from the floor and stalked after Duo.

"He seems very well trained," Wufei said. "Sally is watching Mei-long. I hope she is all right."

Heero smiled as he applied liquid soap to a sponge. "She can take care of herself."

"She can get very irritable if I am not around to play with her or bring her toys."

Heero froze still for a moment, hot water running over his fingers as he rinsed dishes, and then he realized Wufei had been speaking of his dog all along. "Sally is highly competent. She will take care of her," he said.

"I do not often have to leave them alone together," Wufei said quietly.

It was just a few days until they would all have to be in the Colonies again. Heero said nothing and washed the bowls. Soon the vacation would be over and there would be so many things to do. It was unfortunate that Quatre was not entirely lucid. Heero had hoped to ask him some questions. He hoped that they would get a chance to speak before going home. It was not something that Heero could discuss over unsecured lines.

When Wufei declared the kitchen roughly as clean as he had found it they washed their hands, Heero grabbed the boxes of pocky, and then went to join the others. They were in the greatroom, having claimed an old Neoclassical sofa before a large television. It probably was Neoclassical, Heero thought; one could learn a lot watching educational daytime television in hotel rooms. The frame was wood and had scrolled arms and a more traditional shape than modern, but the upholstery was olive denim and the cushions were overstuffed. There was a very modern deep purple chaise with steel legs close the sofa and two other houseguests were sitting on it.

Heero sat down between Duo and Koi, near the middle of the sofa. Wufei sat at Duo's other side as Trowa informed them that they had not started the movie yet.

"What are we watching?" Wufei asked.

"Wizard of Oz," Duo said happily.

"The Wizard of Oz," Quatre said right after Duo. He was sitting at the end of the couch opposite Wufei.

"Trowa, start the movie!" Duo told him.

Trowa pressed the buttons on the remote and the overhead lights dimmed as the video began to play. The sun had set and the torches and lamps outside were as dim as the lighting in the house making the glass semi transparent.

Koi settled his head and forepaws onto Heero's legs. On Heero's other side Duo insinuated his hand into Heero's loose fist. "Quatre's never seen this either," Duo whispered.

"How old is this movie?" Heero asked. "It is not even a clean black and white picture."

"It's called sepia tone. They did it on purpose. Just watch," Trowa said. "I expect musical fantasy might be difficult for you to get into, but it's good."

"Musical fantasy?" Heero asked skeptically. Duo had not mentioned that before, though Heero had known there was at least one song in it.

"Western musical fantasy," Wufei said, "No dragons, wire stunts or eyebrows and everyone likely has two arms."

"Eyebrows?" Heero asked.

Duo was laughing.

"Have you seen very old Chinese or Indian movies?" Wufei asked, as if this explained everything.

"Maybe just samurai and giant monsters?" Trowa laughed softly.


"I was not even trying to joke," Trowa said. "Sometimes when you are in an area particularly depressed by war all you can receive is Godzilla dubbed en Español."

"I would have to be stoned to watch Godzilla dubbed in Spanish," Duo laughed. "Don't worry, Heero, you're Russian too, so you should be able to deal with flying houses."

"What do flying houses have to do with anything?"

"Man! You are so culturally deprived! Even I know who Baba Yaga is."

"I know who Baba Yaga is. It had a big chicken leg: her house," Trowa said. Heero was imagining fried chicken fast food restaurants. "You often see her mentioned on all the big pagan 'net sites. Something about the crone. What was that girl's name anyway? Vasalisa?"

"Something like that," Duo said. "I think I might have read about her on one of those sites, or it was about mythology."

"Can we just watch the movie?" Wufei whispered loudly.

"I want to watch Dracula," Quatre said.

Duo started singing. Then, Trowa joined in.

on to chapter 65

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