I couldn't believe him.
I could believe him all too well.
To say breakfast was a tense affair is an understatement. I can't remember anymore if I ate anything. I do recall none of us said a word. Only around lunch did we start talking - small apologies, for the most part. Who went first doesn't matter now.
I hadn't been too happy when I first realized what the bottle was. Angry and more than a little disappointed, I said a lot of things I regretted even before the dawn lights of the colony went on.
A few hours at the yard after breakfast, taking my frustration out on scrap, helped considerably. The short exchange over lunch helped more.
I started to understand just what the bottle represented, rather than what it was. It was an obstacle, one Heero had deliberately set in front of him so that he could overcome it. I suppose I should have expected something like this to happen - Heero has always had a knack for facing challenges head-on rather than skimp around them. He's never fond of me comparing him to Wufei in that regard.
Still, I wasn't thrilled about it being in the house.
I'm ashamed to admit it, but I didn't trust Heero to be strong enough. It wasn't the first time - but I'd never really worried about his mental toughness. We've bumped our stubborn heads together more than once, disagreeing on everything from take-out to life and death mission tactics - and we're good at carrying grudges.
Yeah, I'm still sore about that fist to my stomach - among other things.
He's still sore about me shooting him - and it's such a tiny scar now.
It was just dumb being angry about it, anyway. Heero had found his way to battle his affliction, all I could do was worry - and seen as an isolated incident, him downing that bottle wouldn't be a problem. There was no way he'd get drunk of such a small amount - but the symbolic effect of it...
I knew he would beat himself up over emptying it way more than I ever could.
Dinner turned out to be a civil affair. As long as the bottle was there, things wouldn't be quite the same as before - but at least I could learn to tolerate its significance - how important the manifest reminder was to Heero. Hilde didn't say much - none of us did, really - but I'm pretty sure she felt the same way. This was Heero's call to make, and all we could do was support his decision.
Heero ran out just before dinner. At first, I thought he was just skimping kitchen detail - then I'd remembered it was his turn to do the dishes. I briefly wondered if he was planning on getting some spare parts in a last ditch attempt at getting the dishwasher operational in time.
The food was already on the table when he got back. There was a clatter as he passed the kitchen nook and rushed to get seated. "Sorry I'm late."
I grinned. "That's okay, it's just Hilde's meatloaf anyway - not like you'd have missed anything."
A snort, a soft slap to the back of my head. I snickered.
She knew I was only kidding. Her meatloaf is actually pretty good - sure beats my attempt at lasagna, a fact she's quick to remind me about whenever I comment on her cooking. I think I can still sense the aftertaste.
At least boiling potatoes is within my culinary abilities. Even the gravy was my doing - mixing powder, milk and boiling water, I can do that too.
We'd just finished - or thought we'd just finished - when Heero told us to wait. He dashed back to the kitchen and brought back a small package wrapped in tin foil, putting it on the table before returning for plates. "Careful, it's hot."
It was. I suppose he put it atop the stove earlier to keep it that way. Carefully, I unwrapped it, smelling the contents before seeing it.
Warm apple pie.
I must have been staring with my mouth open, judging from Heero's grin as he handed me a plate and fork.
I knew it was store-bought, but that didn't matter. I knew the bakery; they make damn good apple pie - and almost right out of the oven like that is the best.
Heero had apparently found an alternate way to my heart - namely, through my stomach.
Damn the bastard, I thought with a grin - and dug in.
Pie forgives all.