Quirks of Friendship
The trip to L2 seemed to last forever. After that first meal, we went back to the droll pastime conversations, partly reminiscing, partly catching up. I chose to omit quite a few things - I was certain he did the same. What was said, I trusted, though.
After we finally docked and returned the keys for the rented shuttle, we grabbed what little we had of luggage and started walking back to Duo's salvage yard. Cabs and buses are scarce on L2, so we made due without. Besides, it wasn't all that long a walk - that's what Duo claimed, at least, walking a little ahead of me - not his choice, but mine. I don't think he noticed how I stole glances in the vicinity of the wagging tail of his braid. My attention was more on that than on what he was saying.
"You know, Hilde isn't nearly as bad as she sounds. Like a lapdog - lots of yapping, weak bite. At least most of the time. When she's in a bad mood, run and hide." He turned to flash a grin at me. Fortunately, my eyes were on his neck at the time. "Periods count as really bad mood. I'll give you some pointers on when and where to hide."
I grunted at that, and resumed my survey of his ass as his eyes returned to front.
"So, you'd better say something nice to her, soon as you see her."
"Why?" I asked in all honesty.
He turned to grin at me again, and I snapped my eyes up. I think I managed it in time. "Well, it would be nice if at least one of us remain at her good graces at all times."
"You two don't get along?"
Duo shrugged. "Well enough, I suppose. Like I said back at your place - we get on each other's nerves sometimes. Shacking up together does that, you know." He chuckled. "The two of us will probably hate each other's guts before long, too. I'm sure we have enough bad habits to annoy each other with."
I wasn't sure if he was joking or not - or rather, I feared he wasn't. "We got along during the war..." I mumbled.
Duo stopped walking, pausing to think. I was greatly relieved when he turned to smile at me. "We did, didn't we? Even despite how you stole parts from Deathscythe, and sucker-punched me in the gut, and-"
"Despite how you shot me on first sight - twice, even," I cut in, "and how you all but criticized me for saving your butt many times over, and-"
He was grinning from ear to ear by then. "Hey, now who was it that I sprung from that Alliance hospital way back when, huh?"
"You put me there!" I protested.
Duo laughed out loud.
I couldn't help but smile a little, and mumbled out "Idiot..."
"Right back at ya, pal. Yeah, we were destined to be friends, I think."
I snorted, but didn't comment further.
We started walking again, down the shabby backstreets of L2. We stayed out of the darker parts, much to my relief. I did not want to think too much of my old neighborhood - I hoped never to go back there. We didn't speak, but Duo slowed down a little, walking beside me now, not in front. I wondered if he'd seen me gawk - but I didn't think so.
We were getting close. I noticed his hands were growing restless, as if he was nervous. "Now, remember - give her a compliment - a good one. You do know how to do that, don't you?"
I threw him a lopsided smirk, thought it over, cleared my throat. "You're as beautiful now as the first time I saw you."
"Yeah, that'll-" Duo paused, almost glaring at me. "Hey, wait a minute - wasn't the first time you saw Hilde when she was brought aboard Peacemillion, injured and comatose?"
I nodded. "Yes - but I wasn't talking about her."
"Oh..." Bothered, Duo scratched an itch at the back of his neck, and struggled to keep a fairly straight smile in place.
My smirk remained firm. I liked having him a little off balance like this. If I told him often enough, maybe... Change rarely happens fast. It comes as a series of tiny nudges, until you finally wake up and sense you new reality. I planned on giving him many soft pokes like that - hoping it had an effect other than irritation.
"Uhm, we'd better hurry up. Hilde has just about as much patience as me - little to none."
I grunted, amused. "Fine. I'll make sure I stay on her good side."
Duo nodded, flashed me a grin and hurried down along the alley. "You'd better. She owns half the house, you know."
He didn't look back, and for that I was glad. That way, he didn't notice how I momentarily froze in place, taking in the implications of that statement, before snapping out of it and laying in a pursuit.
Oh, I was most definitely going to stay on Hilde's good side - risking my chance with Duo was not an option.
I prayed Duo hadn't misjudged her feelings for him. I needed an ally, not a rival.