I knocked on Hilde's bedroom door and waited for permission. Upon receiving it, I entered.
"How's Heero?" she asked, running a brush through her hair.
"Asleep," I tersely answered, looking around. "Where did you hide them?"
She indicated the middle closet with her brush, shifted one leg off the bed.
As I walked over there, I reasoned her unasked question. "I thought I'd check the gun for bullets," I said. It hadn't contained any the last time I saw it - but that was a long time ago, and it didn't mean Heero couldn't have gotten himself a new set. If we were to give him his gun back, it was better to be safe than sorry, in case Heero got stupid ideas.
I found the right box and opened it, heard the bed sag as she got to her feet. "You look a bit miffed, Duo - is something wrong?"
I gave her a glance, touched the cold metal. "I don't think he's quite out of the woods yet. Might be getting worse."
"You mean Heero?" She put the brush on her nightstand, walked over as I fingered the release for the magazine. So far, so good. "His fever was going down the last time I checked up on him. Why do you think he's getting worse?"
For a moment, I hesitated. Finally, I let it go, sighing in relief as the magazine showed up empty. "He wanted a goodnight hug."
I didn't even have to look to know she was smiling. Damn her for thinking it cute. "Did you give him one?"
My face warmed up. I slammed the empty magazine back in. Good thing it was empty; heat can ignite bullets. "That's none of your business!"
Hilde merely chuckled at my flustering. "Oh, come on - it's not like it cost you anything. You like the guy, don't you?"
I put the gun back in the box, closed the lid. "Of course I like him - he's my best friend."
I flashed her a grin. "Present company excluded, of course."
She gave a satisfied smile, but soon set it aside. I think I knew what she'd ask before she actually tried. "Then why won't you-"
"Because I don't love him, damn it!" I slammed my palm against the cabinet door. "Not like he apparently does me, anyway." I turned to face Hilde again. "Look, I don't want to pretend I do, just to make him feel better, okay?"
She thought it over, revised her attack. "...so, you like him so much you can't lie to him anymore?"
I knew from her tone of voice that it was spoken in jest, but that didn't help my feeling of resignation. "Would you give me a break already? It's bad enough that Heero's on me every chance he gets. With you too, it's just too damn much..."
She fell silent for a bit, but I knew she wasn't going to accept that. "You're saying it's okay for him to tease you, but not me?"
I pinched the bridge of my nose. Whoever said being behind enemy lines was the worst possible experience in war never took a stroll in the wasteland between enemy lines. There, the relentless potshots from either side never seem to end. "I gave him a promise."
She smirked in triumph as I shuffled towards the door, suspecting another onslaught. "I think you actually like all the attention he's giving you."
That gave me pause. I was used to being teased - after living with Hilde for so long, that has become a natural tolerance. Still, why had I gotten fed up with her soft prods, but not Heero's?
I must have stood still for longer than I thought. She hugged me from behind, her arms around my waist, her head against my shoulder. "Give it some thought, okay? You owe Heero at least that much..." She paused. "You owe yourself that much."
I began to move, and Hilde let go without a struggle. Not looking back, I gave her a muttered goodnight and headed back to my own room.
Perhaps I was wrong.
Perhaps it wasn't Heero's not-so-subtle advances I should look out for.