by Mai Sieu Phong
“Home sweet home, eh?” Duo cheered as they entered their apartment. He’d made a stop to the pet store and came home with a large plastic bag of nifty things for his new cat. The kitten had been surprisingly nasty to the salesclerk. Hee-Kitty had nearly bitten off the poor woman’s finger when she’d tried to tickle his tummy.
Throwing his thick jacket to the corner of the living room and toeing off his shoes, Duo dug into his bag and pulled out a small book. “Cat’s Delight: Everything you need to know about your cat.” The first chapter the American thumbed through was “Discipline”. He didn’t want his cat his cat to bite and attack every stranger they met.
The mentioned cat had wandered off into the house and Duo allowed him to do so as long as the door to Heero’s room was closed off; everything else was free game.
15 minutes later, Duo nodded and closed the book. “First thing I have to do is potty train you. Hee-Kitty!” He called. He wanted to show the cat his new litter box.
“Where are you?” He searched for the cat and was surprised to find it in the bathroom. The small cat glared at its master heatedly before hopping off the toilet seat in a huff. Duo came over with an impressed look. “Well, I guess I can cross that off the list.” He flushed the toilet for his extraordinary cat and made a note to go and return the litter box to the pet shop.
Heero sulked in a corner of the room. He’d gone to use the bathroom and it had been quite a balancing act to pull off. To his horror, his small form had nearly fallen into the toilet when he tried to reach for the flushing handle! He didn’t like being so small.
The ex-deathscythe pilot came back into the living room and found his cat sitting there, waiting for him in the living room.
“Come here, Hee-Kitty.” He motioned with a finger. The cat gazed at him coolly for a moment before looking away, content to ignore its master. “Come here.” Duo urged again. “Don’t you want to know what kind of present I’ve bought for you?” The question perked Heero’s interest. He had never gotten a random present before. He rarely received any gift when he had been young. Quietly, he stalked over slowly and sat a foot away, peering at Duo inquisitively
The American was surprised by his cat’s intellectual capacity. Did it really understand what he was saying? Duo could have sworn his cat was a stray and untrained. He grinned at his smart feline and pulled out a thin, black collar, dangling it in front of the cat. Hee-Kitty eyed the collar with loathing and made a move to run away, but Duo grabbed him, plopped the mass of fur onto his lap, and fastened the collar onto the struggling, small kitten.
Heero was flabbergasted when Duo finally let go. A tinkling sound rang every time he made a move and Heero realized that the baka had attached a tag to the collar! He rolled around on the ground, trying to paw the strap off, but the collar was too secure. He couldn’t even pull it over his head! Heero scowled at his partner’s amused expression.
The braided man scooped him up and nuzzled his downy fur again. Fingering the metal piece, he informed the cat, “This tag says you live here and you belong to me.” Quickly, he pecked kiss on its wet black nose. Hee-Kitty drew back quickly, irritably twitching his nose in the cutest manner and made Duo smile even greater.
Heero considered clawing the man for forcing him to go through this kind of humiliation. It would have been an unsurprising reaction from the Wing pilot, but in the end, Heero decided not to. He just didn’t feel justified to mar that happy face. To tell the truth, Heero had to admit that there were very few times that he’d ever made Duo look this overjoyed. He felt a pang of guilt as he looked at Duo’s smiling face.
How could he claim to be Duo’s best friend when he never did anything nice or kind to be worthy of being called a friend? It was a wonder why the American even wanted to be around him.
“How ya feeling?” Duo asked his cat. “A little hungry?” The cat looked at him, moving its ears until they faced Duo. “I bought you some really good stuff to eat. It’s a whole lot better than the stuff you’ll find on the streets.”
Heero felt a sense of dread as Duo cuddled him to his chest and carried him to the kitchen.
“Looks good, doesn’t it?”
Heero wrinkled his nose at the processed food. There were chunks of so-called meat covered in some sort of unnamable slime. The scent was rather sour and it made his stomach roll just looking at it.
“This stuff is expensive.” Duo claimed. “A buck a can. It’s good stuff. You’ll like it, Hee-Kitty.”
Heero snorted in disbelief. //If you think it’s that good, you can have it, baka. Give me some real food!//
Duo frowned as the cat nudged the bowl away from itself, looked up at him with big azure eyes, and mewled softly. His kitten didn’t seem to like the canned product very much. Duo sighed and tried to urge his cat to eat. The poor thing hadn’t had anything but a bowl of milk since last night. He didn’t want his kitty to starve to death.
“Come on. The clerk said this is cat preferred stuff. Give it a try.”
“Meow.” //No way.//
The cat looked away from the food in a dismissing manner. In the book, it had warned Duo that some pets would do this. They were still nervous in the new house and might not feel like eating.
“If you don’t eat,” he warned his stubborn cat, “I’m going to take the food away and you won’t get anything until morning.” The book had instructed him to do so; to give his pet scheduled feeding hours. If it did not eat now, perhaps it would be hungry enough in the morning to eat just anything he placed out.
The cat flattened its ears against its head and hissed at Duo.
//There is not way you’re going to make me eat that garbage.// Heero didn’t take kindly to threats. Glaring at the food, he gave a loud yowl. Hee-Kitty pounced onto the food, slamming his paw into the mush and the contents in the bowl spattered everywhere in the kitchen.
Duo stared at it in shock. He blinked once looking at the mess before glaring back at his cat. “That was bad.” He admonished. “Very bad!”
Heero sniffed haughtily and walked away from the kitchen with his tail high and proud, leaving the braided man to clean up the mess.
What a fussy cat! Duo growled as he finally wiped the last dirty spot in the kitchen. Hee-Kitty had seemed undignified when it forced to eat the cat food. Oh well, maybe it preferred dry foods. He finally put the cleaning rag away and went to find his mischievous kitten.
The cat had made its way back into the bathroom again. It had jumped high enough to catch a towel with its claw and drag it down to the ground. When Duo found it in the bathroom again, the kitten was busy trying to wipe the slime off its paws.
Duo shook his head in puzzlement. Where had the kitten been trained so well?
Heero poked his fuzzy head into the kitchen again when he heard sizzling sounds and smelled the saucy scents that wafted from that area. Duo was busy cooking his own dinner.
“Finally hungry, are you?” Duo asked when he noticed the grey head peeking from the corner. “Too bad. You had your chance. Now you have to wait until morning to get your meal.”
Heero frowned. He couldn’t be serious! How could Duo force him to eat that revolting trash when he was making a perfectly fine dinner for himself?
Duo ignored the cat following at his heels as he carried a dish full of steaming food to the dining table. It was a rather bland meal of rice and stir fry chicken and vegetables but the smells were wonderful and teasing the poor cat to no end.
At the empty table, Duo took his usual seat and promptly ate while the kitten sat by his chair, staring up and waiting.
Heero was hungry, damn it! That lousy bowl of milk no longer satisfied him and he was so hungry he felt as though his stomach was sucking itself inside out. He waited for his partner to notice him and share that delicious meal.
In the house, Duo was usually the cook and Heero did the cleaning. It suited each other perfectly and Heero never had the chance until now, to miss what a wonderful cook Duo was. He was an artist with the knife and cooked everything with natural instincts that would have made him a popular chef if he wanted to be.
Duo was doing a fair job of ignoring him and Heero humphed. Creeping closer to the man, Hee-Kitty nudged a long leg with his head. Duo looked down when he felt the contact and smiled apologetically at his cat.
“Sorry, but you can’t have this.” The cute, grey kitten continued to look up at him eagerly, but Duo still didn’t give him a single bite.
“Meow.” The cat demanded and the braided man shook his head.
“Sorry, Hee-Kitty. This is human food.” The kitten gave a soft whine as it looked at Duo with a sad expression. Slowly, it pawed at his leg, begging for him to share his wealthy meal.
Not wanting his new pet to starve anyway, Duo caved in. Grabbing his cat, he placed it onto the table so that it sat beside his plate. The cat opened its mouth obediently when he fed it a piece of chicken and it looked quite pleased with the food. Duo smiled as he fed the kitten another piece. Hee-Kitty had a content expression as he chewed on the tasty bits of food.
It usually felt very lonely when Heero was gone and he had to eat alone, but this feline friend kept him company so that most of his loneliness was at bay. Looking into the cat’s stormy, blue eyes, Duo did not feel alone. No, it was almost as if Heero were sitting right there with him.
When dinner was over, Heero sat by Duo’s feet waiting patiently for him to finish cleaning the dishes. With nothing better to do, Heero looked up, taking his time to observe his best friend.
Duo had a nice healthy glow about him. His skin was a nice peachy tone, very pleasing to the eye. He’d heard Duo hum and sing while doing his chores before, but his sensitive ears pointed toward the man now as he finally noticed what a soft tenor Duo’s voice had developed into.
During the war, Duo’s voice had always been loud and energetic. It was still boisterous, but with an undertone that made Heero feel comforted and warmed over. It was probably why Heero initially agreed to live with Duo. He felt most calm and reassured around the man.
Wiping his hands on a clean towel, Duo looked down, pleased to see that his cat had been waiting for his attention.
“How’s my lil Hee-Kitty?” He asked, picking up the grey fluff-ball. He made his way to the couch and cuddled his kitten as he turned on the television set. There was nothing on now but comedy shows at the moment.
Nestled in Duo’s arms, Heero recalled how Duo enjoyed watching these shows. While he usually kept himself occupied with work in his own room, he remembered hearing Duo’s laughter many evenings. He gave a thoughtful sigh. It was sad and depressing to know that a show could make Duo laugh more that he could.
With no where else to go and nothing else to do at the moment, Heero nested himself into the crook of Duo’s arm. He could have gone and found a secluded corner to rest in, but Heero felt like being selfish suddenly. He liked the way it felt when Duo chuckled. It rumbled down his chest and against the kitten’s body. It was also very warm.
Duo’s gaze softened as his cat gave a quiet yawn before snuggling up against him.
Soon after the comedy, a news show came on with the latest reports. Looks like there was going to be a lot of snow again this week.
“On our top of the list headline, Vice Minister Darlian has taken a hiatus on her tour to the west in order to return home where our great war hero, Heero Yuy, has been hospitalized in an accident. She has constantly been by his side.” The two news anchors continue, spouting ass-kissing lines about how kind she was, how tender, and loving their politician was.
Hearing the reporter, Duo scowled and reached for the remote controller. Hee-Kitty propped a blue eye open to see what all the commotion was about. He caught a glimpse of a picture with Relena and himself in the hospital before Duo flicked the TV off. The man seemed upset over the report for some reason but Heero could not tell why. He looked at his partner curiously when Duo had gently dumped him off his lap and made his way moodily to the bathroom.
“Your bed’s in the kitchen. I set up a pillow and everything already.” Duo informed his cat when he found it waiting outside the bathroom for him.
Heero frowned as he found the said pile of pillows. While he wasn’t one to whine about objectionable living standards, he did not like his new bed. Sure, he’d been use to sleeping on hard wood floors and even dirty, stinking, hiding holes during the war, but it was not fair to have to sleep on the floor in his own home!
Duo nodded satisfactorily when the cat lay down carefully on the large fluffy pillow. The poor kitten seemed like he was about to object at first, but with its tail hanging down dejectedly, he crept to his designated bed.
The small kitten remained awake when Duo shut off the lights and headed toward his own room. With his cat senses, Heero was able to see much more clearly in the dark, but that did nothing to assuage his apprehensive feeling. His tail moved back and forth uneasily and his whiskers ticked as he turned to look at every little noise he heard. Everything was so big and Heero felt very unsafe. It was his apartment, but he did not feel secure. If an intruder came, he would not be able to do anything except hiss and try to claw the person.
Swallowing his pride, Heero jumped off his pillow and padded toward Duo’s room. Luckily, the American kept his door open just a crack but it was enough for Heero to move using his body weight.
Duo was sitting in bed browsing through the cat manual again when Hee-Kitty crept in.
“Hey.” He greeted. “What are you doing here?”
“Meow.” The kitten looked around his room.
“Whattsamatter? Don’t like your new bed?” The cat couldn’t reply, only look up at him. “Come on, you have to go to sleep.” He grabbed hold of the intruding cat and carried the light kitten back into the kitchen.
From his place on the cushions, Heero glared at Duo’s retreating figure. Waiting a moment, he climbed off his bed again and made his way to Duo’s room.
“Hee-Kitty. Go to bed.” Duo ordered when his pet entered his room once again. Ignoring Duo’s command, Heero plopped himself down on the matted ground. “Oh no you don’t.” Heero huffed in annoyance when he was easily lifted again and carried back to his pillow. “This is your bed. Now, you stay here.” Duo shook a finger at the kitten for emphasis. Hee-Kitty glared back.
Heero frowned when he reached Duo’s door again. The braided man had closed it this time, trapping him outside. Heero lifted his paws and scratched at the door. He didn’t want to be outside! The scratching sound was faint so Heero added a long, piteous mewl. He heard Duo’s footsteps, stomping over before the door finally opened.
“Okay already.” Duo resigned. “Stop making claw marks on my door.” Heero skipped into the room satisfactorily and waited for Duo to return with his pillow. “You can sleep here next to me.” Duo gave permission, placing the pillow down beside his bed. He watched as his cuddly kitten got daintily on its cushion. He stepped a few times on the pillow before finally settling down.
The cat curled into a tight ball and was began to close its eyes. Duo wondered if the cat, enfolded tightly in itself, was feeling cold. It was almost winter after all and the weather had definitely gotten a little chilly. Grabbing a used shirt off the floor, he placed it over his pet like a blanket and he smiled when the cat gave a sigh, burrowing itself under the material.
Truthfully, Heero didn’t really need the blanket. His fur and body fat was sufficient enough to insulate, but he didn’t mind Duo’s shirt. Heero took a sniff and his keen senses were able to pick Duo’s scent off the shirt. It smelt of laundry detergent, a bit of cologne, a bit of deodorant, but his sensitive nose could pick out Duo’s unique, husky scent. It smelt of warmth, contentment, and safety. Heero didn’t mind the shirt at all.
Hee-kitty peeked a Prussian eye open when Duo slammed off the alarm clock. The man mumbled something under his breath and laid there for a while under his covers. Giving a heavy sigh, Duo finally hefted himself out of bed and walked groggily to the bathroom five minutes later.
Heero laid on his cozy pillow as he heard Duo brush his teeth, turn on the showers, thump the shampoo bottles on the basin, and even the rustle his clothes as he dressed. Jumping off the bed quickly, Heero followed after his friend quickly into the kitchen.
Duo brewed a cup of coffee and pulled out a bowl of cereal for himself. Hee-Kitty sat beside him, lapping his own bowl of milk.
“Daddy’s gotta go to work today.” Duo told his kitten. “I’ll be home soon, but you be a good lil kitty, okay?” The cat licked the droplets of milk from its lip before mewing back responsively, making Duo smile. “Good boy. Say goodbye to daddy!” Duo leaned in to brush his check against the kitten’s soft, furry head.
Heero found himself responding to Duo’s affections, lifting his own head to rub his forehead against Duo. It was probably one of the most intimate things he’d ever done before. Heero rarely gave out hugs and he had never been interested in kisses. But, he couldn’t resist Duo though. That man’s fondness was infectious.
Duo waved goodbye to his small kitten and left for work.
Heero sat there for a few minutes deciding what to do. Going through Duo’s room, he leapt onto his partner’s metal desk and was able to scrounge up a sheet of paper and a pencil. He planned on writing a message to Duo since he had lost his ability to speak. He was going to tell Duo to help him get his body back… somehow.
It was tricky getting the pencil to stay between his small paws and even more difficult to move it around the paper. The thick pencil was hard to direct in his clumsy hands and it fell out of his grasp every other second. Heero hissed and scowled at his scribbles. They were so unintelligible. They didn’t even look like letters…. Though… his G sort of looked like Elvis, but that was beside the point.
Heero looked around for another way to communicate and spotted his partner’s laptop on the side of the desk. Turning the thing on was just an easy push of the button. He glared at the message box that appeared on the screen, asking for a password. He didn’t know what Duo’s password was. The poor kitten didn’t even have access to his hacking programs to get in. Pressing cancel still did not give him access. Frustrated, Hee-Kitty gave into a hissy fit and pounded on the stupid keyboard mercilessly. The computer beeped at the abuse and Heero gave one last bang before turning it off in a huff.
He was helpless now. All he could do was lounge around and wait until his soul decided to go back into his former body.
Duo came home a few hours later than usual and found his kitten sitting behind the door, waiting for him.
“Hee-Kitty! Did you wait here all day?” The overjoyed pilot threw down his bags and squatted down beside the kitten. “Aw… you’re so sweet!” Heero grimaced as Duo carried him up and smooched him multiple times on the head.
Hee-Kitty followed Duo to his room and jumped onto the desk making sure he had the man’s attention. He pawed the laptop slightly and meowed. //Log on for me.// Heero demanded.
“Stop. No.” Duo came over and gently pushed the kitten off the desk. “Bad kitty. Don’t ever touch that. That’s daddy’s stuff. You’re going to break it.” The cat rolled his eyes in exasperation. If anything, he knew how to use a computer even better than Duo.
Heero pouted on the ground, trying to think of a way to get the man to let him on the computer. Duo was humming as he loosened the tie to his uniform. Heero blinked in uncertainty as the American pulled off his collared shirt, revealing a slim build and smooth plains of light skin. He’d seen his partner year ago in high school locker rooms. Duo’s form had been wiry and gangly. He’d grown a lot since then and had filled out nicely. There was meat and muscles on his bones that hinted of firmness and health.
As soon as Duo reached for his belt buckle, Heero shook his head to clear his mind, realizing that his friend was undressing and he had been blatantly staring. Moving quickly, Heero left the room to give him privacy and waited for his partner to come out dressed in sweats and a t-shirt.
It had been curiously late when Duo had come home, so he quickly made his dinner and remembered to cook an extra portion for his spoiled kitten. Once again he allowed the tiny cat to sleep in his room. When Duo left for work, Heero lounged about the house.
He’d played around with the TV but there was nothing on but soap operas during the day. He lay lax on the couch as he periodically changed the channel hoping to find something worth watching.
Heero yawned and stretched after an hour of lounging on the couch. There’d been no luck with the TV. He should have left to go do something useful, but his head was feeling slightly heavy. His body was too comfortable and protested any movement. He had never felt the urge to be lazy before. In his human form, he was always active, bustling about with many things to do. In his cat form, even if there were millions of things to do on his list, he felt perfectly content to lie on the cushy couch and take a nap.
He took a deep meditative-like breath and let his body relax and sink onto the fluffy cushion.
In a week, the two developed a routine. Duo came home late every day which left very little time to do anything but eat and sleep. Heero had to remain home while his partner went to work.
A few weeks later, Duo had come home announcing to his kitty with joy that the doctors had finally taken Heero’s casts and bandages off and had moved his partner to a less restricted area.
That weekend, Heero learned why Duo came home late every day. Every evening after work, Duo had dropped by to check on his fallen comrade. Heero was very impressed and flattered by the American’s attention. He frowned but relented when Duo stuffed him into his backpack, taking him to visit the body.
Heero felt as though he didn’t deserve this kindness and devotion. He liked being Duo’s confidant and even felt very proud when Duo introduced him as his best friend, but his past few revelations lately had informed him that he didn’t deserve any of it. What had he ever done to earn Duo’s trust and friendship? He never made the man happy. He never made Duo laugh or feel loved like he had in this kitten form.
Honestly, every evening that Duo had come home with a great smile and a kiss for his kitten, made Heero feel overcome with guilt.
Hee-Kitty popped out of the backpack as Duo entered Heero’s hospital room.
“Looks like he’s just sleeping, huh?” Duo asked his cat who had been staring at the prone body eerily. The tubes and multiple machines had been removed and all that was left was a simple drip and a heart monitor.
Heero’s body was tucked cozily under the layer of blankets. With his cerulean eyes closed and breathing soft but constant, his body really did seem as though he were just slumbering.
Duo stepped forward, closer to the bed and smiled. He’d demanded (fought tooth and nail) to get a separate room for Heero. The man enjoyed his privacy and would probably not have liked rooming with a stranger.
A nurse came in with a pitcher and basin, smiling cheerily. “Afternoon, Duo. How’ve you been?”
“Could be better.” He replied simply. Reaching into his backpack, he pulled out the grey kitten and held it out for the nurse to see. “You think I can bring my cat for visits now? He’s clean. I just gave him a bath and all.”
Heero glowered when the American reminded him of that horrible ordeal. The kitten had a fear of bathing. Well… not a fear per say, but a really big “dislike” for bathing. The wetness felt horrible running through his thick mane, causing them to stick into clumps. He had felt like he’d been thrown into a vat of glue. Everything had felt so sluggish, sticky, and difficult to move.
The sound of rushing water was very threatening. He had an unreasonable fear of the liquid rushing into his ears and struggled. Heero had given quite a fight, yowling and trying to squirm away. Ultimately though, Duo easily overpowered his tiny form and continued to scrub the shampoo deep into his fur.
The nurse eyed the cat suspiciously, raising one eyebrow and then the other before assenting. “Heero doesn’t have any cuts or injuries in risk of infection. The cat can stay in this room but don’t let it wander outside into the hall.”
“Of course.” Duo smiled cheekily at his cat. The nurse left soon after and he let his cat wander around the room in exploration as he poured the pitcher of water into a waiting basin.
Finally, in a leap of grace, Hee-Kitty jumped onto the bed, looking at his sleeping human form before turning toward Duo. The braided man had soaked a face towel and had begun washing the body, wiping the face gently. Hee-Kitty watched with a tilt of its head as Duo washed the neck, chest, arms and legs.
There was a gentle patience Heero rarely saw in his partner. Usually, he was practically bouncing off the walls. Now, he was attentive to his task, slowly cleaning the still body. Duo didn’t like restraining himself most of the time. “It isn’t a way for me to live”, Duo had told him once when he’d told the baka to calm down.
“Ne, guess what Heero?” Hee-kitty blinked and looked at Duo oddly as he spoke to the sleeping man. “The doctor said it might help stimulate your mind if you had someone to talk to… or listen to.”
Duo carried the basin and towel and emptied the water into the sink in the bathroom attached to the room. He came out fumbling in his backpack before pulling out a book.
“I brought ‘Ender’s Game’. Good book. It’s Sci-Fi. You’ll like it. The kid kind of reminds me of you too.” Duo pulled an armed chair closer to the bed and settled into a comfortable position.
By whim, Hee-kitty leapt off the bed and onto Duo’s inviting lap. He didn’t know why, but he craved touch. Duo’s to be more exact. The space on the man’s lap was open and perfect for him. The kitten nearly purred when Duo stroked his back a few times before opening the book and beginning to read. He rested his head on Duo’s hip, closed his eyes, and listened to Duo’s voice, intense and sonorous. How could something so simple as lounging and listening to a friend speak be so comforting?
He’d listened to Duo speak before of course. Duo had many things to say, but Heero had never really taken his time out to just enjoy the sound and deeper meaning of Duo’s words. It seemed as though the man could make an innuendo or subtle meaning out of everything.
It was too soon when Duo finally closed the paperback after the third chapter and called it a day. When the American opened his backpack wide, Heero took his cue and climbed in. Before he left, Duo made a few finishing touches, making sure to wrap the blanket securely around the unconscious body. He moved his hand quickly to brush a few wispy bangs away from Heero’s stoic face.
If it weren’t for his keen eyes, Hee-Kitty would have almost missed the slick move Duo tried to pull off. The braided man brought his hand down from the dark, chocolate tresses and brushed his knuckle across a pale cheekbone quickly. It had been a quick movement, skin barely grazing against one another. Duo had tried to make it seem innocent but the kitten thought otherwise. His eyes narrowed in suspicion. What was that gesture supposed to mean?
“Wake-up soon, man.” Duo begged quietly. “It’s hard talking to myself all the time… even if you don’t really talk that much. At least… I knew you were listening then.” His voice went lower, to a whisper. “Are you listening now?”
Duo leaned down, braid falling over his shoulder to hit the clean, pristine bed sheets. He bent over Heero’s form until there was less than a foot of space between the two faces.
Heero didn’t know why, but his heart began to race as he watched the scene over Duo’s shoulder. What was Duo doing? He wasn’t going to…. Was he?
Duo didn’t. Instead, he gave a heavy sigh and stood back up, leaving the room quietly.
Heero wiggled back into the large backpack contemplatively. There was an unreasonable feeling of sadness and disappointment. Heero felt as thought the reason should have been obvious, but he just couldn’t figure out why he was feeling that way.
Duo was a very close friend of his and that was all. Heero hadn’t really considered much of the man was until recently. Had he really hoped that Duo would have… kissed him? Was that why his tiny heart had pounded wildly when he saw the slightest affectionate gesture?