I paused for a moment as I stepped through the intimidating gate of black twisted iron, wondering what I was getting into - but with present company, I'd go through hell itself if I had to.
Which was pretty much what the walk up the path felt like.
Duo made it as far as half a knock at the door before it opened. Hilde's face lit up upon seeing him. She hugged him fiercely.
That stung a little.
It hurt less when she stepped back and gave him a solid smack on the cheek - the open palm sort. Duo took a step back too, rubbing the impact site. "Ow! That hurt, damn it!"
She folded her arms and snorted. "You earned it."
Duo objected. "What the heck did I do?"
Hilde dug into her pocket, fished out what looked like a curled-up piece of paper and threw it at him, aiming for the point just between his eyes. Duo snatched the thing up just before it hit, defending with his palm. He inspected it, and casually tossed it at me. It was a note in Duo's handwriting wrapped around a banana refrigerator magnet, stating 'gone, back soon'.
I bit down the urge to smirk - it didn't look like I had too much to worry about in terms of active competition - unless they were so close this was merely a small spat; a mock duel of words for fun, and-
At that point in my brooding heading towards depression, Hilde turned her sights on me. I figured it out too late, and was soon trapped in a bear hug, my arms included. "Hi, Heero - it's been too long."
I struggled to put up a polite smile. "Uh - hi, Hilde."
"You're saying that upset you?" Duo halfway shouted back. "I leave notes like this all the time!"
She sighed theatrically and tightened the grip around my waist just a little. "See what I have to put up with, Heero?" She rested her cheek against my shoulder. "Maybe I shacked up with the wrong pilot..."
I was already pretty uncomfortable, and I was equally sure my ears were acting as signal flares. I finally caught on to how she was delighting in my embarrassment. Mine and Duo's.
"Okay, that's enough, Hilde. Let him go."
She grinned at him. "Oh...? Jealous? Think I'd go for the better man?"
I imagined I saw his cheeks starting to flush.
"What do you say, Heero? You're free, aren't you?"
I tore my eyes away from scrutinizing Duo's cheeks for a moment, cleared my throat. "Uh, Hilde, I'm sorry - but I'm gay."
Well, at least it got rid of her grin, replaced by surprise. She even relaxed her embrace a little. "Oh..." Or so I thought. She smirked again. "Aren't you ever the enigma, Heero... gay, huh?" She stretched just enough to place a peck of a kiss on my cheek. "We'll see about that..."
In for a penny, I thought, deciding to just drop the rest of my payload after that bombshell. At least it would spare Duo the awkwardness of telling her later. "I'm also in love with your housemate."
Her jaw fell momentarily - but then she broke out in a leer - which she immediately targeted on Duo.
"Unrequited," Duo snapped. "I'm straight."
She snorted, amused. "Oh, I don't know about that... You've resisted my womanly charms for so long, I'd say-"
Frown. "Just because I'm straight doesn't mean I automatically fall in love with every woman in sight - much less someone who acts like she's my bratty little sister!"
She snickered. "Well, you certainly flirt vigorously enough..."
In his grumpiness, Duo was almost pouting. For a moment, I felt at ease - perhaps that was how they both experienced their relationship - siblings. Then again, they could simply be so relaxed with each other that-
I mentally shook my head. I didn't want to think about those options too much.
Duo growled. "Hilde, give me my pal back..."
"Oh...? Jealous?" she repeated. "Think I'm going to steal your boyfriend?"
I wasn't imagining it. Duo's cheeks went ablaze, and he looked away. As Hilde finally let go, instead grabbing my hand and dragging me inside the house, I dared a smirk. Perhaps I should allow myself a little hope. At least Hilde didn't seem hostile.
The best way to attack an enemy is by complete surprise.