Gun In Your Pocket
"To a month of not drinking!" Duo raised his mug of soda and waited for Hilde and me to match him, clinking our harmless brews together.
They'd planned this for a while, I was sure of that. Hilde had stocked up more than the usual reserves of soft drinks for the weekend, and Duo had bought two new holotapes the day before, suggesting we watch them tonight. There was no shortage of snacks either.
I can't sufficiently express my relief they skipped a cake.
The company was nice, though. I'd rather not have had this tiny party in the first place, but given the circumstances... It was nice to know I'd lasted a month - not that I hadn't had my close calls. As Hilde went to get herself a refill, I muttered something before taking a swig of my beverage.
I had hoped he'd ask. I tried to limit myself to a smile, rather than smirk outright. "Can't we drink to one month of living together instead?"
It was tough not to laugh as Duo caught some of his drink in his windpipe, coughing to get it out. I had to give him credit for not spilling anything. His frown didn't suppress my grin. A glance over at the far counter ensured me I wasn't alone in finding this amusing.
Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Duo sighed. "I wish you'd stop doing that - saying things like that, I mean."
I shrugged. "It's the truth, isn't it? Besides, you like me teasing you."
"I do not," he growled. "And before you say it - I don't love you either."
It hurt, but I tried not to show it, keeping a mellow smile as I tilted my head. I knew better than that. Somehow, I had to make him know better than that. "That's a cruel thing to say, Duo..."
Snort. "That's the truth, too."
There was no hiding the fluster in his voice. "Of course it is! Why would I be saying something like that if it weren't true?!"
"Denial?" I cautiously offered, taking another swig. Not getting an answer, I pushed on. "Perhaps fear that if you gave in to me even a little, it'd all be over? That if we... kissed or something, you'd magically turn into my love slave?"
Duo pinched the bridge of his nose, probably warding off a headache. "Now, look-"
Our fight wasn't spiteful - if it could even be called a fight. It wasn't the first time I sparred with him like this. Despite what his words said, the fact he kept answering my teases, taunts and suggestions encouraged me. I swore to myself that one day, I'd get another answer out of him than the ones he served me almost on reflex.
I briefly wondered what kissing him would be like - a lips on lips kiss, not a peck on the cheek. I didn't exactly have a great deal of experience in that department. Somehow, I didn't think he had either. We'd both learned to distrust people from the moment we met them, and not give up that cautiousness until their true intentions had shown.
We hadn't trust each other when we'd met, either. It had taken months of minute approaches for us to form anything close to a friendship - but we'd gotten there. If I hadn't been a guy, perhaps we'd have gotten further faster.
Or perhaps if Duo wasn't so damn stubborn, so damn afraid to admit-
An arm heavy around my shoulder, glass mug in the corner of my right eye, Hilde's cheery mug in the corner of the left. Duo's face a lot closer right ahead - idly, I calculated a step forward and a quick tilt of my head would be all that was needed.
But I didn't want to steal what I ought to be given.
"Make love, not war, boys," she told us with a grin, before letting us go again.
Duo glared at her, at me, back at her as he rubbed the back of his neck.
"I say we listen to the woman," I told him, smirking.
All his scorn was redirected at me again. My surface mirth was obviously getting to him. It was a small victory, but always bitter. He sighed. "You just won't give up, will you?"
I shook my head. "Not until you give in."
Snort, gulp of soda. "I think I'll break down long before that."
I nodded, trying to sound serious. "Then... I'll do my best to mend you."
Duo rolled his eyes. "God, can you get any more corny than that?"
Soft chuckle. "Is that a dare?"
Duo didn't answer me, just stared at me for a moment, then went off for a refill.
"I would only be repaying my debts, though."
He spun on his heel, face caught between a frown and bafflement. "What, have I ever gone after you with a vengeance, or something?"
Grin. "I think I would have remembered if you had - and I'd never have let you go."
He sighed again, rubbed the top of his nose and started walking towards the counter again.
"What I meant by repaying... You've put me back together again, Duo." Quick glance to our spectator. "You and Hilde. I'm grateful for that - for you taking me in temporarily."
By his sagging shoulders, I could see those words had taken the fight out of him - at least for now.
Hilde came over, touched my arm. "You're welcome, Heero. We've always got room for a friend." Grin. "And it's not like you haven't worked for the privilege of staying here."
Duo turned around slowly, leaned up against the counter. "She's right - you've done a good job here, Heero. Thanks." He grinned as well. "Even if you weren't able to fix the dishwasher."
I frowned. "I'm not done with it yet. I'll make it work, just give me some time."
It was good to hear him laugh. "Yeah, that's what I used to say. Glad the job's all yours now."
Hilde groaned, her grip on my arm tightening just a bit. "Well, if I had anything negative to say about you staying here, that would be it. Because of you being just as stubborn and convinced of your inborn male engineering gifts as braidyboy over there, we still haven't got a working dishwasher."
Snort. "You will have. Some new spare parts and a day's work, that's all I'd need."
Their light snickers almost gave me the impression they didn't believe me. I smirked.
The holotapes were pretty good. The first one was, according to the cover, a remake of a remake of a remake of a pre-colony situational comedy - in short, a classic. I wished we'd had the original for comparison. Despite being in two-dimensional tones of grey rather than three-dimensional color, it had to be better than this. The second was a suspense thriller, just as forgettable.
It didn't matter. Both movies left ample room for us to make fun of them - and I wondered if that was what Duo had in mind when he got them. It was turning into a good evening.
Which was probably why I thought the quick exchange of looks Hilde and Duo suddenly shared to be ominous, indeed. Up until then, I'd enjoyed sitting between them, Hilde beside me on the couch, Duo in the chair at my left.
"Should I go get them?" she asked Duo. I glanced from her to Duo, caught him grinning. Not too long ago, I only associated that with the danger of an impending practical joke.
I hadn't found all that many other things for it to herald.
She got up, walked hurriedly towards her room. Confused, I turned to Duo just as he hunched forward, sighing, face growing serious. "Heero - now, please don't get mad. Hilde and I got a gift for you."
For a moment, I feared it was a cake. Reason told me Hilde wouldn't have hid something like that in her room, though.
"See... Back when I picked you up..."
I tried not to tense up, nor mull over the words. He had picked me up, in one sense - if not two. He'd fetched me from my cozy little hellhole, and he'd pulled me up from my personal abyss in the process. I was still waiting for him to pick me up in a third way, though.
He started over. "Well... I never meant to snoop in your business, okay? It's just... I found some pawn slips on your table."
A chill down my spine - not so much for having completely forgotten those artifacts as for the fact he knew what I'd done. How desperate I'd been for money.
I'd pawned them rather than sold them, hoping I'd be able to buy them back later. It wasn't as if they were overly dear to me, but they were still mementos. I should have at least remembered them - but then Duo had come along - invited me along - and nothing else seemed to matter after that.
Hilde was coming back, carrying a black bag. She smiled at my baffled expression, handed me the bag. "We thought you shouldn't let go of these just yet, that's all."
Tentatively, I nodded, opened the bag and reached inside.
Cold metal at my fingertips. I froze for a moment, suddenly reminded of the gun in the Leo cockpit. At least this one wasn't loaded - not with bullets.
Not that memories couldn't be just as dangerous.
I hooked my forefinger around the trigger, felt the rest of the digits follow suit on instinct, taking a firm hold of the grip. Familiar, yet alien. It was a time I'd put behind me. My promise to Relena was still valid - and I wasn't particularly worried about breaking it. The one I'd made to Duo, and by association to Hilde, was another matter.
What they didn't know, wouldn't hurt them.
I put the gun aside, went for the other object I knew was stowed away in the bag. My old laptop. Old laptop. Duo used to call it a museum artifact. He was right - it certainly looked like something out of a pre-colony exhibit, but that was only on the surface. The interior was entirely custom. Had he never noticed I didn't own an extension cord?
I wasn't even aware I'd put the tin can in my lap, smoothing my palm across the surface - not until Duo tapped the corner of it, shaking me out of my reverie.
"Bit risky, don't you think? You never let me as much as touch it way back when. What makes you think nobody's fired it up and found all your secrets?"
I smirked, huffed. "I'll agree pawning it was dumb - but I wasn't. The drive is twice encrypted, the memory cache overwrites itself all the time, and if you boot it up, you'll have to provide three separate passwords." I met his eyes. "I didn't turn it on at the pawnshop - I don't know if he tried to afterward."
Duo chuckled. "Given how glad he was to get his money back, with some interest, I'd say he gave it a go. He didn't say anything, though."
I shrugged. "Figures." I reached for the gun again, put it atop the computer. My past, that's what it was. Killing, thieving, coldly observing and dealing out judgement. Never again. It was good to have reminders of that.
The lump forming in my throat was uncomfortable to say the least. I was grateful to have the gun and laptop back, but not because they carried more than symbolic meaning to me now. What mattered was that Duo had gone through the trouble of bringing them back to me.
I don't cry often - but I came fairly close then.
Pre-empting the tears, I put the objects aside, stood up and hugged Hilde, courtesy of being closest. Muttering her a thanks, I went for Duo next, grateful he did the graceful thing and hugged me back. I lingered, even after he patted my back a second time.
There were many things I'd have wanted him to whisper in my ear. "Don't push it, okay?" wasn't exactly among them. Feeling impish, I grazed my lips to his cheek during my retreat, arched my pelvis forward as I stepped back.
The expression on his face made it all the more worth it. I didn't miss the faint blush he tried to hide by turning around, either.
It was working.
At least, I hoped so.
I glanced down at the couch again, another old memory surfacing. I smiled. "...perhaps I did leave something precious behind on it, after all."
"Oh?" he asked, halfway across his shoulder, going for another gulp of soda.
"Do you remember the micro-camera J sent us?"
He looked up in a far corner, thinking it over. He snapped his fingers as he turned around again, face as calm as ever. "You mean the one we used to take snapshots of OZ' weapon schematics? In that raid just before New Edwards? Yeah, I remember."
I nodded. "Remember how I tested it out first?"
Recollection brought a weak frown to his face. "Yeah, I remember..." he grumbled.
Smirk. "Well, I saved some of those pictures."
It looked like that was just what he feared I'd say. "I thought you said you deleted all of those."
Nod. "From the camera, yes. I stored a few on the laptop."
His jaw worked air. "You didn't... save that picture... did you?"
I mocked a zipper across my lips, just as Hilde came down on my shoulders, hugging me from behind. "What picture?"
From the corner of my eye, I glanced at her, looked back at Duo. "I'll let Duo tell you."
He was already frowning. "I don't believe- You mean you kept that?!"
"What picture, Duo?"
The way his face puckered up, stifling an outcry, didn't make it seem likely he'd tell her. I don't really see why it was such a big deal to him, anyway. It wasn't as if it was as compromising as another picture I'd taken while experimenting with the stealth possibilities of the tiny device. He knew about both.
Perhaps it was because he looked damn sexy in the second, but messily cute in the first - at least in my eyes.
Not many of us like to know what we look like when asleep. We think we're all calm and collected, but that's usually far from the truth. Sheets get tangled even during sleep, after all.
Hilde still clinging to me, I picked up the laptop, handed it to Duo. "Tell you what, if you want to know for sure, why don't you have a look?"
With disbelief he glanced at the computer, then at me. "I thought you said you put-"
"The passwords, Duo. They all give prompts. Keywords. They're meant to make no sense to anyone but me - and perhaps those who know me well." I nodded to him. "Like you."
For a moment, I felt a chill going through the dead silent room.
I started pulling the laptop back. "Or do you want me to make posters?"
Grumbling, he snatched the device out of my hands, and stomped off to his own room. "I'll get it right back to you," he growled, laptop upturned in one hand.
It was a lot lighter than it seemed - I'd made sure of that, too.
"What picture...?" Hilde whispered in my ear.
"Unless you can convince Duo to share, that'll be between me and him, Hilde."
Snort. "Spoilsport." She let go, started clearing away the empty bowls and bottles.
I offered to help, but she waved me away. It wasn't much to clean up, anyway. I picked up my gun, went back to my room and sat down on the bed. The gun felt heavy in my hand. I smoothed my fingers across the barrel, tried to remember how many times I'd fired this weapon, tried to forget the faces of those I'd aimed at.
I never did formally apologize for that - not back then.
Then again, he shot me first. And second, for that matter. At least I never actually pulled the trigger on him. The Buster Rifle doesn't count - and I wasn't really aiming for him then.
I don't know how long I sat like that. I didn't even notice when Hilde came into the room, only flinched as she touched my shoulder.
"You okay, Heero?"
Tentatively, I nodded. "Yeah... Just... remembered things, that's all."
She sat down next to me, put an arm around my shoulder, leaned in against me, watched the gun I was fondling in my lap. Her closeness unnerved me - not so much because I disapproved, but more because I wanted her to be someone else. I never voiced that, though.
She chuckled softly.
Hilde pointed at the disorganized pile of clothes strewn across a chair at the other side of the room. "That. You guys are so alike, you know that?" After a quick tightening of her half-hug, she let go of me and got to her feet, brushing across the back of my head as she did so.
I soothed my ruffled hair back into place. "What do you mean?"
"This," she said, demonstratively holding up one of yesterday's socks with the tips of her thumb and forefinger. "Laundry should go in the hamper right away so it'll get washed. It shouldn't stick around to flavor the air."
"Sorry..." I all but whispered, embarrassed.
Grin, quick roll of socks and unmentionables into an almost clean, but somewhat odorous T-shirt. "And to think I figured you for more of a neat-freak than Duo..." Wink. "Or is it just that you're rubbing off on each other?"
I felt my face warm, looked away, disgruntled.
"Want me to put this in the hamper for you?"
Nod. "That'd be great - thanks, Hilde."
From the corner of my eye, I caught her tilting her head at me. "No problem, Heero."
I went back to my gun, my contemplations. My fingertips caressed the barrel once more before I found it all oddly perverse. Hurriedly, I put the gun aside, noticed Hilde turn the pockets of a wrinkled pair of jeans inside out - and I suddenly remembered. I got to my feet, got as far as shouting "Don't-"
And it was too late. I could tell from her face that she'd found it. She rummaged about in the pocket, fished out the tiny glass bottle, cork still tightly sealed, the meager, dark content sloshing softly.
Clenching my teeth, I met her shocked expression, and her wide questioning eyes, just as her face shifted into a frown.
This was going to be one of those long nights.