by Mai Sieu Phong
“Ne, Heero. Time to sign-off, man.” Duo leaned over his partner’s shoulder, causing his long braid to fall and bump against Heero’s shoulder. “Ready to go home yet?”
The stoic Preventer, not even bothering to spare him a glance, batted away the menacing braid and continued to type. “Duo, I have to finish this report by tomorrow morning before Lady Une comes barging in asking for it.”
“Yea, but it’s 7 already. You can finish that in the morning, can’t you?” The braided man protested. He looked at Heero uncomfortably for a moment before deciding to remind him, “We were supposed to grab some dinner and catch the new movie, remember?”
They’d become good friends after the war and joined Preventers around the same time. They’d even become roommates much to everyone’s surprise. Heero raised an eyebrow and finally looked at his friend. “You’d forget your duties and obligations to watch Halloween part 26?”
At the question, Duo drooped his head exasperatingly. It wasn’t about a movie! Heero just never seemed to get it. It was supposed to be about two best friends hanging out and having fun; Doing things friends were supposed to do. It had taken all of Duo’s persuasive power to convince the ex-Wing pilot to agree to the idea… And now, Heero was blowing it off.
“Yea, ok.” Duo eventually relented, straightening up and giving a casual shrug. “I’ll just give the tickets to Quatre and Trowa then. We’ll catch a flick another time then, ok?”
“Aa.” Glancing down at an open manila folder, Heero missed the disappointed expression on Duo’s face as he waved goodbye and left the office.
Although they were roommates, their personalities sometimes clashed like “The Odd Couple”. Duo insisted on living the “wild side” and traveled on a shiny, silver and black motorcycle while Heero went with a decent, functioning imported car. Duo made the messes while Heero cleaned them up. Duo always decided to oversleep while Heero insisted on arriving promptly and even early everyday. People always wondered why they hung out together. They wondered how one could even stand to be in the same house with the other. But for some reason, it worked out. It worked out very well and even Heero had to admit: There was no one else he would have preferred to spend his time with.
But there were just things that had to put before others. Right now, he had to complete this report. Work now, play later. Duo would have to understand.
Heero hadn’t even realized how late it was until the main door opened and the night janitor entered and began to vacuum the area. Frowning, he looked down at his taskbar to check the time. 12:30 already? The report had taken longer than expected. He had noticed a few missing papers and had to go around the office, searching for the information. That had been a big waste of time. Someone should have kept the files orderly in the first place.
Saving the file, Heero shut down his computer, grabbed his jacket and keys and headed home. He only had a bit left. It could be finished if he got to the office early tomorrow morning.
The road was empty and bare that late at night and Heero sped home, pondering about the missing files. He’d have to tell everyone to be more organized from now on. Missing files were inexcusable. Chances were: it was probably Duo’s fault. As good as he was on the field, the braided man hated office work. He’d always try to hurry through them as quickly as possible to get it over with. When he got home, he’d have to scold his partner.
With the streets empty of cars, the Preventer agent felt safe to go a bit over the speed limit. He’d survived the war and piloted gundams. A little speeding would hurt. Heero was still mulling over his report when a flash of grey appeared in front of him. Two wide eyes reflected his headlights brightly while it stared in stunned shocked.
Slamming on the brakes, Heero swerved the car to avoid the lost kitten and his tires unexpectedly over a patch of broken beer bottles. The ragged shards of glass tore into the rubber of his tires and there was a muffled exploding sound before the car slid uncontrollably in a direction before flying directly into the trunk of a tree.
The front of his car was totaled, right down the middle. Metal and plastic trapped the Japanese man and he could not escape. Heero couldn’t even try. Mangled in the ruins, his head rest, bleeding against the steering wheel.
He remained still, unconscious.
At first, all he could see was black, and then Heero blinked again and his vision cleared enough for him to see a car wreck. The weak metal was wrapped around the tree trunk. That car was familiar. The license plate was familiar. It was his car! When had he gotten out of it?
Approaching the car, he was surprised at how big everything had gotten. He was so low on the ground that the car looked humongous from that height. His movements were quick and stealthy, sleek and efficient, much more than he ever had been as he passed over to his car. Then, Heero saw something that shocked him to the core. There was someone still inside the car. He could see a crumpled form in the driver’s seat. Was this an out of body experience?
Heero looked around to see what was happening and frowned when he saw a tail behind him. He looked at his hands and realized why he was so low on the ground. His hands had become grey, furry paws. His hind legs were furry as well. All around him, grey, striped fur and even whiskers at the end of his nose!
He’d turn into a cat! Not just any cat! But he’d somehow taken over the body of the kitten he’d nearly run over. He opened his mouth to shout in horror, but the noise that came out was a mangled mewl.
A CAT! He’d turned into a cat! He stared in shock between his broken body and his now furry form trying to comprehend how this had happened. He wanted back into his normal body. Back!
After a minute or two, hoping that this was all a nightmare, Heero was still trapped within the cat’s body. He looked around and recognized the street he was on. It was only a few blocks away from his and Duo’s apartment. Duo could help him. He had to get Duo. Dashing off, he sprinted quickly to their home.
The run had felt invigorating. The speed and agility in the feline’s body surprised Heero. Climbing up the steps, the kitten was breathing heavily, but pleased and satisfied, like athletes after a nice workout.
Their door was so tall! Heero could look up and up and fall backwards before he could see the top. He couldn’t even reach the doorbell! Using his front legs, Heero pawed at the door, scratching the wood trying to call out for Duo but the noises were too soft to hear.
Running toward the other side of the wall, Heero charged himself and slammed his body against the door, causing a loud knocking sound. He saw stars for a minute but shook his furry head and did it again until he heard footsteps from within.
“Forget your keys, Heero?” Duo opened the door and didn’t see anyone there. “Hello?” He stuck his head out and looked both ways of the hall to see who’d been knocking on his door.
“Meow.” Oh! He started and looked down too see an adorable grey and black stripped kitten by his feet.
“Hey there lil fella.”
“Where’d you come from?” He reached down to pet the cute cat.
//Duo! It’s me!//
“Did someone lock you outside?”
//It’s me! HEERO!//
Duo picked the kitten up and smiled as he felt the furry mass. “You’re so cute!” It was a bit chubby and its fur was soft and fine. Its startling, deep-blue eyes were staring at him as if he were the cat’s only hope.
“Meow.” Heero wanted to scream in frustration but he didn’t have the vocal chords for it. Everything that came out of his lips was a feline meowing. There was no way he could ask for help.
“Eh, you better get home before your master gets mad.” The American dropped the kitten down gently. The cat turned back and stared at him. “Go on now. Shoo!” He moved his foot to block the kitten’s way when it tried to get past him and into the apartment. “Go back where you came from.”
Duo bent down and gave the cat a soft pat on its chubby rump to push it away. Heero hissed in indignation. How dare he!?
“Meow!” The cat wanted to come in and Duo sighed.
“Wish you could, but Heero hates animals. He’d kill me if he saw me with you.”
Heero snorted at the irony and tried to get into the apartment again.
“No, bad kitty.” He picked the cat up by the scruff of its neck and dropped him back outside. “You have to go now. Go! Shoo! Scat!” Duo stomped his foot to frighten the grey feline but it didn’t even give a start.
//You’ve got to be kidding me// Heero snickered. A loud-mouthed, baka, threatening with a large foot stamping, could never scare him. He gave a protesting whine when Duo shut the door, locking him out. Stupid baka!
Heero rammed into the door again a few times, his head aching by the time Duo opened the door again. He was a blur of grey as he used his new cat reflexes to dart in between the lanky American’s legs and into the house, bounding for his own room.
“Shit! No!” The cat had run into Heero’s room! His partner was gonna KILL him! Duo chased after the cat and found him on the desk beside his friend’s black laptop.
“Bad kitty!” He scolded, shaking a finger at the kitten.
“Meow.” The cat was giving him one of the most pitiful looks as if begging him not to let him go. Duo gave a resigning sigh and scooped the cat up.
“Ok. You’re just too cute for your own good.” Heero tried to shake off Duo’s hand as the braided man patted his head. “You can stay for now. We’ll see what Heero says when he gets back.”
“Meow.” Duo smiled and scratched the cat behind its ears and Heero gave an involuntary purr at the tingling sensation.
“You really are cute.” He held the cat in both hands and looked at its furred face. The cat peered curiously back at him with similar eyes he’d seen before. “You don’t even have a collar. You’re a stray? Awww… poor kitty.” Duo cooed.
Heero rolled his eyes.
“What should I call you then?” Duo cocked his braided head to the side and considered his options as he looked at his new pet. “I think I’ll call you…. ‘Hee-Kitty’.”
“Meow!?” Duo gave a deep laugh. He could have sworn the cat had sputtered in offense.
“Yea, you’ve got blue eyes just like Heero!” It was Heero’s turn to peer at his partner curiously, wondering when Duo had ever gotten a chance to notice the color of his eyes. The ex-gundam pilot stared back at him with a twinkling smile and Heero had the opportunity to observe how vibrant a color his own partner’s eyes were. They weren’t just blue as it said on his records. They were dashed with streaks of purple hues that sparkled against the light. It was a mesmerizing and unique color, but he’d never taken the time to observe his partner all too much.
Duo chuckled slightly and rubbed the kitten. “I like you. I hope Heero lets me keep you.” Heero’s eyes widened as Duo brought him up and kissed his soft, furry head. The stoic pilot had never been subjugated to these kinds of physical affections before and it left him astounded. “Let’s get you something to eat, ne? How about some milk?”
Heero stared at the bowl of milk Duo had set up and then he stared back at Duo.
//You don’t expect me to drink this do you?!//
“What’s wrong, Hee-kitty? Don’t you like milk?” Heero drank milk of course. Usually in the morning, not a random times like this. He continued to stare at Duo with an annoyed look.
“Come on now, don’t be a sour puss.” Duo knelt beside the kitten and dipped his finger into the white drink and putting it in front of Heero’s face. “Taste it. It’s safe.”
Heero gave a sigh and relented, knowing that Duo wouldn’t give up until he did as was told. Giving a tiny lick, Heero wrinkled his nose as he was “forced” to lick white liquid off Duo. The milk was cool on his rough textured tongue and it was actually quite pleasant to the taste. While it had tasted bitter in his human form, the milk seemed a tad sweeter and thicker now.
Duo smiled, charmed as the endearing kitten began to lap his milk from the bowl. Looking at the clock above the refrigerator, he worried. It was almost 1 in the morning now. Where was Heero? He should have been home by now or he usually called if he was going to pull an all-nighter. The phone rang and he started when the shrill ringing cut into the quiet place.
Heero perked his ears as Duo answered the phone.
“Heero? That you?... oh… Yes, this is he... …A car accident?... Oh my god!”
The hospital had just called to inform Duo that his partner and roommate had just gotten into a car accident. Heero looked at the clock. About damn time!
“I’ll be there right away!” He hung up the phone and ran to grab his shoes and coat. “You stay here, Hee-kitty.” Duo looked at his cat quickly. “I’ll be right back. I have to go to the hospital to see how my pal’s doin, ok?”
Heero frowned. He wasn’t going to stay here. Absolutely not. He had to get back into his body after all!
The cat crept quickly into Duo’s room and leapt into the man’s knapsack while the man was still fumbling around with his shoelaces. His motorcycle obviously had no trunk, so Duo had to carry everything in a knapsack which he took along everywhere.
Predictably, the braided man grabbed his backpack and rushed out the door.
“What do you mean he’s in a coma?!” Duo exclaimed, running a hand through his bangs in a tired gesture. He’d arrived at the hospital and waited hours during surgery for the doctor to come out and inform him of his partner’s condition. The doctor had listed a number of injuries, mostly broken, fractured bones, and a major blow to the head.
“He only has a concussion and nothing else seems to be wrong with his brain, but he doesn’t respond to any stimulus. His breathing rate is normal and safe, as are his brainwave patterns, but he refuses to wake up. I don’t know how else to explain this. The symptoms are very strange and I have never heard of anything like this before.” The doctor checked the papers on his clipboard to make sure.
In Duo’s backpack, Heero was listening to the whole conversation with a frown. What was wrong with his body? He sat in the dark pondering what could have been wrong. Was his body not waking up because no soul was there to control it? Heero’s soul had gone into a cat, leaving his original body empty.
“Can I see him at least?” Duo asked for permission to go into Heero’s room.
“I’m afraid not. Heero just came out of the operating room and was placed in the ICU. Unless you are an immediate family member or spouse, I’m afraid I can’t allow you to go in.” The doctor replied apologetically.
Heero’s ears flattened irritably wondering who would be able to come in if not Duo. The American was closest to family he’d ever get. He had no real family and he certainly didn’t have a wife. These rules should be changed. He had to get back to his body!
“No, it’s ok.” Duo excused. “I understand.” Rules were rules.
He walked to Heero’s floor and stood outside the glass window, peering into his partner’s dim lit room. Machines were surrounding the still body, a large, white, wrap around Heero’s head, tubes and lines were stuck into him and he lay completely still, his breaths were so shallow they couldn’t even be seen under the layers of blankets.
Duo placed a hand gently against the cold pane and looked mournfully as the broken site before him.
“Get well soon, man.” He spoke softly even though he knew his friend could not hear him. “You’ve survived a helluva lot more.” Heero had endured falling from a dangerous height, and even self destruction. “You better get through this.”
Hee-Kitty poked his head out of the backpack, wondering what shape his real form was in.
“Jesus!” Duo cried in a start. A furred head had popped out of his bag and over his shoulder. “How the hell did you get in here?!” He hissed to the cat. The kitten only looked at him innocently and then back at Heero’s still form gravely. “That’s Heero.” He spoke to the cat. His tone had gone surprisingly soft as he spoke of his partner. Heero tilted his head, finding that curious. “I named you after him. I don’t think he’ll like your name, but that’s ok. If I beg long enough he’ll probably let me keep you and the name.”
The kitty nodded. That was true. Heero could never really fight against Duo’s puppy-dog-eyed expression. Now that Duo had mentioned it, Heero wondered why it never failed to work. He could never find immunity against it.
The ex-Deathcythe pilot stayed there the rest of the night, sitting outside the door, sleeping in an uncomfortable plastic chair, in case his partner decided to wake up.
The double doors to hall opened at seven in the morning and there were a lot of loud voices echoing in the hallway. Relena had arrived in the morning and had come to the hospital as soon as she received news of Heero’s condition. Along with her though, was an entourage of reporters.
“Relena, what would you say is your relationship with Heero Yuy?” “Relena-Sama! What is your view on the government’s hospital insurance policies?” “Vice Minister, do you think that this car accidents shows that new laws should be formed to prevent such things from happening?” The barrages of questions kept coming as she advanced towards Heero’s room.
Duo stood before them with an angry frown.
“Do you guys realize that you’re in a hospital?” He demanded, glaring at the group of people. Relena seemed surprised to see him there. “There are people here who need peace and quiet to rest. If you can’t keep your damn mouths shut, then get the hell out of here.”
He was infuriated with their manners. Heero was in there with coma and these people were just barging in causing a racket just because the damn vice minister came. He gritted his teeth as the woman approached him with a slight smile.
“Duo Maxwell, was it?” She recalled meeting him years ago when they had been in the war. Heero had gone undercover in a school with this man but Relena had never really spoken to him, much less get to know him.
“Yea, nice to see you again, Ojo-sama.” She smiled pleasantly at the nickname and turned to Heero’s room.
“Vice Minister!” The doctor ran up to the two of them as soon as he heard of her arrival. “I didn’t know you were coming!” He shook her hand and seems flustered and shy to be with someone so popular.
“I came as soon as I heard the news on TV.” She informed. There was sweetness in her voice that Duo never could like. It was a personal reason, but still. “How is Heero?”
Hee-kitty took the opportunity to stick his head out of the backpack again and peek around.
What was that woman doing here? Wasn’t she supposed to be in another country promoting peace? He turned to look at the braided man and saw him glowering quietly between the doctor and the politician.
Duo tilted his head to look at the inquisitive blue eyes of his kitten before smiling, nuzzling its cheek, and pushing it back into his bag lest someone find him with an animal in the hospital.
“May I please see Heero?” Relena asked the doctor, charming him with her million dollar smile. She clasped her hands in front of her and smiled sweetly. Predictably, the doctor could not refuse such an innocent act, he especially could not refuse the vice minister.
“Of course, but please make it short. The patient still needs to heal himself.”
“What?!” Duo cut in. “You said only family could go in there!” The last time he checked, that woman had no relation to Heero. The young girl looked at the doctor and the mad had the decency to duck his head.
“This is the Vice Minister, Relena Darlian!” He tried to point out.
“So? I’m Duo-fucking-Maxwell.” He was enraged at the unfairness of it all. So what if that girl had money and political power? It didn’t give her any rights to bend rules around and excuse herself from it.
Heero had hissed inside Duo’s backpack, angered by the doctor’s double standards. While he had protected Relena with his life in the war, Duo was also a friend. He didn’t like people treating his friends this way. He could feel his claws stick out in reaction to his annoyance.
The doctor seemed caught between a rock and a hard place as he shifted his weight, holding the clipboard as if it could shield him from the angry, braided man. “Uh,” He coughed to clear his throat. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for the patient to receive a few guests.” He relented.
Duo gave a sigh of relief and straightened his crumpled shirt and hair as he followed the Vice Minister into Heero’s room.
“Oh! Oh Heero!” Immediately, Relena turned on the dramatics, rushing over to Heero’s bedside. “Please be all right! I need you to be strong! Please wake up.” Her light blue eyes were already tearing up and the cat rolled its eyes at the display. It wasn’t that Relena was a horrible person. She just seemed to exaggerate everything so much.
The room was blinking from the flashbulbs and both Duo and his cat turned to glare that the photographers standing outside Heero’s room. They were busy capturing the image of a fallen Heero and a loving Relena by his side.
Giving a huff, Duo stomped over toward the crowd. “Heero wants his privacy.” He declared, shooing everyone out with threats. Hee-kitty nodded satisfactorily.
What Heero hated most was being caught in the public eye. He hated being the center of attention and was glad Duo knew that fact. His partner had kicked all the people out so they could not take advantage of his unguarded state. He would have to remember to thank Duo later. The last thing he wanted to see, when he finally woke up from the coma, was tabloids spreading rumors of a love affair with Relena.
Duo and Relena were only allowed into the room for a mere five minutes before the nurse came to kick them out.
Relena looked at Duo’s disheveled state with interest and cocked her head.
“There is a coffee shop down the street.” She pointed out, speaking to the Preventer officer. “My flight doesn’t leave for another two hours. Would you like to share a cup of coffee with me?”
Duo rubbed his weary face before nodding. “Sure. Coffee sounds great.”
“You stayed in the hospital all night?” She inquired as the two sat in the small booth of the coffee shop.
Heero popped out of the bag finally and stretched his cramped joints, shaking to instinctively fluff his fur again.
“Oh!” Relena gave a surprised gasp. “I didn’t know you had a cat.”
“I found him last night… or technically he found me.” Duo corrected, smiling down at the grey kitten as the waitress came with their orders.
On his hind feet, Heero leaned against the table top to peer over it. Relena was pouring an obscene about of cream and sugar into her café latte. His tail swished lightly and his rough tongue darted out to lick his lips as he watched her pour the cream. He could use another bowl of milk or cream about now.
“How have you been, Duo?” The Vice Minister inquired. It had been a long time since she spoke to the Deathscythe pilot.
“Up until now, pretty good. Now I’m just worried sick over Heero.” Puzzled, Heero looked up at Duo as the man blew over the surface of his drink before taking a careful sip. The baka truly seemed concerned about him, even sleeping in the hospital to look over his body. It was a dedication Heero had not expected, but was pleased to know what a good friend Duo was.
“I heard you were Heero’s roommate.” She brought up. Relena took a sip of her own coffee and winkled her nose before reaching fore more packets of sugar.
Duo gave a short laugh. “I am. We decided it would be more efficient to share a bill.” Housing was insanely expensive these days, especially in the crowded urban area. “How did you know?” Duo asked, looking at Relena curiously. “Are you still stalking Heero?” He laughed against when she blushed furiously.
“I wasn’t stalking him during the war.” She protested. “I was just… relaying messages he could not receive!”
Duo snickered behind his mug. “Sure, if you say so.” He teased in a disbelieving tone. “You’re still pining after him, aren’t you?” The young woman hesitated a moment before nodding shyly. “Why don’t you just tell him?” Duo suggested. “You’ve been crushing after him for three years now. Just tell him and get it over with.”
“I couldn’t!” She cried, mortified by the idea. “What if-- What if he doesn’t feel the same?”
Hee-kitty cocked his ears in curiosity, looking from one person to another as they spoke about him as he if he weren’t even there. It was actually very amusing.
“If he doesn’t feel the same way then at least you’ll know the truth and get over it sooner.” Duo reasoned. “Then you can go and find someone else.”
Relena gave a sad laugh. “You make it sound so easy, Duo. But it’s not. It would hurt. Haven’t you ever been in love? You would know what it feels like!”
The braided man tensed. “I have.” Duo confessed seriously. His cat perked up and looked at him with keen interest. When had Duo been in love? The man had never spoken about it with Heero when he usually spoke about anything and everything.
“I’ve been in love for a long time, but I’ve accepted it as a love that just wasn’t meant to be.” He spoke softly, averting his blue-violet eyes from the vice minister.
Was it Hilde? She’d been one of Duo’s close female friends. Heero sat there pondering potential candidates. Who had Duo been overly affectionate to? He tried to recall the number of people Duo had been very close with. Come to think of it, Heero had never seen him go out on dates. His partner rarely ever spoke about liking anyone. His cat’s tail had begun beating back and forth irritably. Heero didn’t like being uninformed and this was driving him crazy.