disclaimer: About the same as always, I'm out of my head, and know not what I do.

corazon_d_fuego challenged his flist to write 100 word drabbles for the month of february - one a day for a total of 28. i thought, even with my diminished available time and energy, i could still crank out 100 words a day. now, whether they really make sense or not... different story ;)

[ day one ]

a name for all reasons - heero, duo friendshipish, innuendo implied

this idea came while i was on a call this morning with one of our vendors. the vendor was telling about the new method of transmitting files from one site to the other, and it was all i could do to not break out in 12 yr old-type sniggers. i just knew duo was behind the naming of such a method.

The call had barely ended when Heero appeared in his cube, face slightly flushed and fingers pinching pleats in his jeans. "Duo," he started, "I hesitate to ask just where your mind is in naming the new transmission method."

Slipping his headset off, Duo offered a grin. "Would you believe baseball?"

Heero snorted, relaxing a hip against the desktop. "No."

"Gotta admit, it works in all situations."His eyebrows did a little dance.

"Some more than others," Heero said. "They shouldn't let you name the damn things."Still grinning, he shook his head. "Pitcher and catcher...only you, Maxwell. Only you."

[ day two ]

tell by touch - duo, masturbation

dedicated to someone i know who's missing a certain someone else's touch...

The touch is whisper soft, fingers barely ghosting over skin still warm from sleep. Breath catches as the hand nears the navel. Slow release and eyes flutter half open. A single digit caress, the pad skims the puckered circle. With a sigh, knees are drawn up and thighs are spread. Nerves dance in the heat of blood rushing from flushed face to toe-tips. Fingers tangle in hair, tugging gently. His neck arches, his mouth opens - his hand is now on firm and rigid flesh. It has been too long

weeks - months - years

from their time. But. He makes it last, and calls his name as he comes.

[ day three ]

columbian dark - duo, trowa, humor with a twist

The coffee, black with two equals, was a symbol of the tentative truce. A peace offering given after half the floor demanded the cease-fire, having been caught in their little war of sorts. Trowa continued to eye the Styrofoam cup as though he expected it to explode at any moment (though a day or two previous, it just might have). He shifted his stare to his so-called partner without saying a word.

"I swear, Tro, I did nothing to your coffee. Only thing added was the equal - just how you like it." Duo rocked back on his heels before Trowa's desk, smiling his rendition of innocence.

Trowa nodded once and reached out to move the cup closer. With half his attention on Duo, he pried up the lid, and gave it a cautious sniff. His eyes flicked upward. "Columbian Dark?" At Duo's nod and impish grin, Trowa's eyes narrowed. He inhaled the brew, taste buds already giddy in anticipation. His finger dipped into the liquid, and Trowa brought it to his mouth. Just a taste. His eyelids closed and the sigh not long behind. Snapping them open, he gave Duo a sharp nod. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Duo replied, moving away now, heading for his own desk. He sat, listening to the lid click back on the cup, and began his morning routine. A ruler thumped the inside the set of drawers, a quick duck and dodge when opening his laptop and nerves steeled as the computer was booted on. None of the usual tricks and traps had been set. Duo looked across his desk to watch as Trowa brought the cup to his mouth and drink long from it. Trowa's eyes were on his own laptop monitor, reading email or their next assignment or maybe porn in text he'd downloaded the night before.

Duo smiled again, no hint of the innocence he'd displayed before. He watched Trowa take another drink, still not noticing Duo's stare. Their war of pranks would never truly be over - it'd been too much fun for the both of them - kept them on their toes. Besides, Trowa still had to pay for the hair thing. And the running naked through the hall thing.

As Trowa drank again, Duo turned the laugh into a heavy cough, bending down and away, digging through one of his cabinet drawers for some unnecessary file. For, he didn't lie to Trowa. No, he hadn't resorted to that particular sin. He hadn't added anything to the coffee not already said. It was to the lid, specifically to the circumference of the sippy hole.

His face schooled in his "working-neutral" expression, Duo straightened, looked across to Trowa, and waved his notes planner briefly. "Ready for staff?"

Trowa nodded as he stood, picking up his own planner in one hand, and his coffee cup in the other. "Lead the way."

"After you," Duo said, watching Trowa shrug and head for the door. Duo fell in step behind him, grin firmly in place. He couldn't pass up the chance of watching other's reactions at seeing the black ink staining Trowa's lips.

[ day four ]

quote the raven - duo, quatre...here be some angst

"Quatre," the why dying on his lips when his friend turned. Time for action, he thought even as he moved, jumping over the back of the couch, and landing next to Quatre. Duo reached for him, pulling him into an embrace.

The light of the documentary flickering on the vid-screen, lent the room a grainy look; scant hours past midnight, the house was dark, and all slept but them. Duo held his friend fast, running a soothing palm over a flannelled back. Though dry-eyed, Quatre's body shook with tears he couldn't shed, believing still, he didn't deserve to shed.

Boys don't cry was a whisper of a memory, and bullshit was Duo's answer. Quatre's hands clung to the back of his shirt, his breath hot and ragged against his neck. Duo's eyes stung as once again the voices of thousands were heard, as the room lit from the explosion, and silence held for a count of ten.

[ day five ]

a friend in deed - duo, wufei...no warnings

Maxwell!" Wufei shouted, arm flashing out in an abrupt shove away from the wall.

Hopping on one foot for balance, Duo glared at Wufei before biting off a curse. "Now look what you've done! Three hours work, down the drain, asshole."Duo squatted down, gathering the stacks of paper into some semblance of order.

"But..." Wufei snorted softly, gave it up, and lowered himself to the floor to pull the handout material together, collate the stapled reports and colorful brochures. He stood, and added his contribution to the pile already in Duo's arms. "Good luck on with your presentation," he told Duo, his fingers straightening a flipped collar.

"Uh...thanks," Duo mumbled, already hurrying down the hall.

Wufei watched him go, absently brushing at the now dry paint on the edge of his shirtsleeve.

[ day six ]

come monday - duo, zechs (milliardo), with a touch of heero and a taste of treize: a little angst, not much in the way of introspection, a little adult situation, and some language...i think that's about it

His fingers were almost too thick encased in the unit's gloves. In the silence and near black of the cabin, he checked the beacon's signal again. Its light blinked in steady rhythm: three days, seven hours and forty-two minutes.

He queued up the life-support resources, refusing to let the redline levels rile him. Instead, he lowered all the basics again - oxygen percentage, heat, and gravity. He caught the headset as it started to float by and anchored it to the instrument panel. His breath was misting, though he couldn't see it in the dark.

All power and reserves had already been rerouted to the support systems, leaving only enough juice to receive incoming transmissions. Slumping against his harness, he tucked gloved hands up into his armpits, and began reciting the Preventers' Penal Code manual. Sleep wasn't an option - not with the cabin temperature as low as it had dropped.

Somewhere around Title 23, ESUN C § 54b, he heard his voice chuckling softly, chiding him for putting himself in this predicament in the first place. Abruptly, he changed tactics, and recalled in minute detail his first mock battle. Lake Victoria, the summer of 190, and his suit an ancient pre-Leo model.

His battle was nearly finished in all but the kill. A new voice was on the communicator, someone other than the garrison trainer, flooding the cockpit and demanding he stand-down. He almost hadn't; the kill was his though his opponent's suit was prostrate in the field, and malfunctioning. Rumors of the newly commissioned commander, young and strong fresh from battle, had been the one to interfere. It was in the mess that evening that he met Treize for the first time.

Lost in the memory of that summer, he was smiling, closing his eyes. Learning strategic planning and battle tactics from the young commander to escaping on a rare trip up the mountains and spending the day in blessed coolness of the lake's feeding tributaries. Love wasn't on his mind, then, but lust was. Lust on the field, scoring points, and ranking high. Lust and ambition in classes where the heat and the hum of flies dulled wits long before the noon whistle. And lust in the bedroom where he pictured the ginger-haired man, bare-chested, in only boots and uniform pants.

He jerked to awareness; the communication link was beeping. Flipping the receiving switch on, he willed away the erection dreams and memories created.

"...damn, not answering... bastard probably fuckin' died. Keep me waiting, running my ass all over spa-Hey!"

He couldn't stop the grin, suddenly wanting to laugh. "Maxwell," he acknowledged, nodding to the screen. "So good of you to come."

Duo snorted, his mouth screwed sideways for a moment, and his eyes flicked from screen to instrument panel. "Yeah, well nothing was on the vid. All reruns these days." He half disappeared from the screen and a faint tapping could be heard. "You gotta be shitting me." His face was suddenly close to the camera, and Duo peered intently into it. "Were you planning to freeze your ass over there?"

"I wasn't planning on making this little stop." He was smiling slightly, feeling the tension leaving muscles and warmth suffuse limbs.

"Scans are saying you've got three fried boards, all relays are burnt, and what could be a leak in the fuselage." Duo peered into the screen again. "Vapor traces. Nothing much left, so even if we had spares onboard, you'd still need a tow."

"We?" he asked, verifying Duo's quick rundown with his own diagnostics.

"Me and Heero."Duo toggled a switch and suddenly the entire cabin came into view. "Say hi, Heero."

"Hi Heero."The other pilot was standing behind the co-pilot seat, stomping into a boot. He did raise his head, and gave a brief nod and smile.

"Heero's being pissy 'cause I won the toss to couple." The screen narrowed to the pilot view again.


"Hmmm,"Duo murmured eyes down watching something off camera. He craned his head back and said over his shoulder, "I'm set, Heero. Just need you out there to lock it down."

"Ah."Milliardo keyed up the gravity percentage, and released the harness.

"Heero wants to know if you need a suit," Duo was asking the screen.

He looked up and wiggled polymer covered fingers. "It's nearly as old as you are, but it works."

Duo started to laugh, and Heero's face was suddenly glaring into the camera. "I can bring over another suit." Heero was wearing one of the newer, nearly skintight suits, looking more like he was about to scuba-dive than take a spacewalk.

Giving a small shake of his head, Milliardo was already reaching for the helmet he'd set on the co-pilot seat. "I'd rather not waste the time."

Heero nodded once, and disappeared from view. Duo was looking back over his shoulder, lips lifted in a slight smile before he turned, and straightened. "Heero's in airlock now. You ready for the pass?"

He took a moment to scan the cabin, and paused to look at the photo he had tacked down three days, eighteen hours and four minutes ago. His fingers ghosted its surface before he pulled it free and shoved it into the open neck of his suit, echoes of cadets, and their commander fading.

"I'm ready."He faced the camera one more.

Duo was now wearing a headset, his lips pursed, and his head bobbed, at least for a moment. "Heero's nearly to the nose. You should be heading out now. He'll have the tow line at the airlock by the time you cycle out." Duo glanced up, serious and searching.

"Roger that."And he gave a salute, hand to forehead.

"See you in fifteen, man."

But he was already moving, helmet in hand.

[ day seven ]

feet hit the ground - duo, hilde (hints of heero/duo), BL, language

Duo was crouched on the sidewalk, tying his runners when Hilde finally joined him. He glanced up, and gave her one of his I can't believe you're going to wear that in public looks, all but biting his tongue. Having been smacked more than once for commenting about her attire, he had now learned.

"You ready, pokey," she said, stopping at his side and pulling up on one foot from behind, stretching thigh muscles. "I thought you wanted to run this morning."

"I'm always ready."Duo stood, reaching out to tug on a short wisp of hair. "Just waiting on you, Schbeiker."

Hilde rolled her eyes and lowered her foot to the sidewalk. "Is that what Heero tells you?"

"Heero doesn't have to tell me anything," Duo snorted. "He knows."

She was grinning as they started with an easy jog, slow paced, with most of the ball of the foot landing on pavement. It was still early and the morning daylight cycle had just begun. Duo was in a long-sleeved tee and Hilde in one of her 'sports bras'. Spring was just beginning in the mercurial L2 season.

"So what is it that Heero knows and doesn't have to tell?"

Duo flashed her a look before turning away, cheeks reddening. "Nothing, not that it's any of your business."

"Ah, c'mon, you can't tell me you and he aren't doing anything." Hilde was shooting him little looks.

"I just did." And Duo chuckled slightly.

"No way!" She reached out to grab his sleeve, nearly causing him to stumble. "But...you spend the night over at his place all the time."

"To sleep, Hil. Jesus, it's not like rabbits or something."

"No, but you're teenage boys, and they're hornier than rabbits."

"Hey! We're supposed to be running here, not talking about my sex life." He gave Hilde's butt a swat. "Get back into focus, girl."

"Fuck you, Maxwell, I was focused. And if you touch my ass again, I'll kick yours!" She was glaring at him, but her jog steadied.

With a laugh, Duo's hand flashed out again even as he picked up the pace. "You gotta catch me first!" he was shouting over his shoulder, already out of arm's length.

"Asshole," she muttered, speeding up to give chase.

The residential blocks faded into the edge of the business district. Traffic was busy in that pre-rush, early morning way. Crossing Third, Duo pulled off his long-sleeve without slowing, and tied the sleeves about his waist. He could hear Hilde laughing behind him, but saved his breath and patted his right cheek instead.

Approaching the six-block run of shops, trades and restaurants, Duo slowed and let Hilde come even. Most of the stores were still closed, but even a block away, Duo could smell the rich coffee and pastries from the bakery across the street. He gave Hilde a different sort of look; one that reminded her they were supposed to stop in one day when goods were fresh from ovens.

Two blocks later, she nearly left him crossing the street still heading north, when she turned right and crossed against the light. Duo let out a curse, and dashed after her, waving a quick hand at the honk from a passing car.

"What gives?" he said, panting a little now.

She shrugged, her eyebrow flashed upward to match her mouth. "Change of scenery."

He blew air, but kept pace. A pace that nearly faltered two blocks later when he recognized the street. He glared at his running partner, suddenly annoyed with her smugness. But, that didn't stop him from searching for a familiar car the closer they came, even knowing Heero usually parked in his garage.

They passed his apartment building in silence; Duo glanced up once, spotting his living room window. He was smiling as he turned back, even at Hilde's laugh. He was feeling warm from the inside, and his skin began to tingle in that pleasant, excited way. It could have been just the knowing Heero was close and awake, or it could have been the start of a heart attack.

Whatever it was, Duo raised his lips in challenge, and Hilde answered in kind. Their footfalls echoed off the walls they ran between, and laughter wasn't far behind.

[ day eight ]

dimple in her smile - duo, relena, no real warnings, but a bit of language

You know that first taste of morning? The one where you're still mostly asleep but something keeps nagging at you to open your eyes and face the day? Usually it's a noise, the smell of coffee brewing, bacon frying, or the urgent call of nature.

But, not this morning. Oh no. This morning it was her, and she was lying on my bed, staring at me.

"What are you doing here?" I had my blankets clutched up high.

Of course, she only smiled. "Did you know your nose twitches like a bunny?"

"It's your perfume. Makes me itch."

"I'm not wearing any," she said, making my minute by sitting up. Though she was still on my bed.

"Then I must be allergic to you," I said, rubbing my nose for effect. "Do you visit all your guest when they're sleeping?" Pushing on her legs from under the covers wasn't working; she only tucked them under her.

She laughed, and shook her head, the long ponytail of hair snaking out behind her. "Not all of them."Did you know she dimpled when she smiled? "Only the special ones."

Did you know I dimpled when I smiled? I even stopped trying to shove her to the floor and rolled up on my side - blankets still up to my chin, of course. "So, what makes me special?"Early morning flattery will get you everything.

When she started plucking at the comforter, I quit dimpling. "I have a question to ask you." And I'd be damned if she wasn't looking at me from under lashes and hair fringe. Made me wonder what she thought flirting with me would accomplish.

"And that'd be?" I pushed the covers down and reached for her hand. She gave me a little smile, but at least she wasn't pulling threads any more.

"Do you ride?"

If someone up there gave labels to expressions, I'd bet I was wearing the 'what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about?' one.


"Horses. Do you know how to ride horses?" And she was dimpling again.

I rolled on my back and rubbed at my eyes, wondering if I was still asleep and having a weird-assed dream. "The closest I've gotten to a horse is one of those mechanical ones in front of the grocery." Giving up modesty, I sat up and faced her. "Why?"

For a moment, I wasn't sure she heard me. Her eyes had gone wide and her cheeks were a bit pink. Made me almost pull the blankets up again. Almost. Don't get me wrong here. I wasn't naked, for Jesus' sake. I had my boxers on. So, I forced a little cough to get her attention - attention back on the question.

"Oh." She deliberate looked me in the eyes. "I know you're here to visit with Heero, really. And since he's going to be gone all day, I thought I'd show you around the estate."

"And that can only be done by horseback?" Drawing my knees up, I laid my arms over them.

"Not necessarily." Her cheeks pinked again. "But I love to ride and rarely get the chance." She sat forward, and placed a hand on my arm. "Please?"

Now I was the one with pink on my cheeks. "Will you let me get dressed first?"

She was laughing that young girl laugh again, the one that made me want to laugh with her. "Of course," she said, swinging her legs around and sliding off the mattress. She turned back to me and winked. "I'll even let you have breakfast, but only if you hurry." And then she started for the door.

"Why do I get the feeling I'm going to regret this?"

From around the bedroom door, Relena showed me her dimples.

[ day nine ]

all who love are blind - duo, noin, a bit of angst and hints at unreciprocated romantic feelings

On the skirts of the settlement center, Mars Colony I, there is a lounge. It is a smaller place, and much quieter, geared toward the officers and settlement managers. A place where a girl could find a corner table with muted lighting to enjoy a glass of wine or two, and forget for a short while her dreams and wishes.

I was in the lounge that night, taking the occasional sip of wine and generally ignoring the other patrons. After months of turning away invitations of company, and sending back purchased drinks, those who still professed interest did it from afar. I didn't come for the company, and I can pay for my own drinks.

So being pulled up out of my musings was as much of a surprise to me as seeing who had just walked up to the bar. Of all those I'd known over the years, of all the rookies and boys I'd trained and fought with and battled against, he was the last person I had expected to see. I didn't hear him order, but the bartender didn't card him, and I wasn't going to point out the fact he still had at least three years to go before he was legal. Some rules were meant to be bent a little - especially on a place like Mars.

Giving him a minute to settle, I left my table, taking my wine with me. It was a fine Mosel, and deserved my attention as much as he might. He sat hunched over the bar, elbows resting on its edge and both hands wrapped around a brown lager bottle. When I sat, he barely nodded in my direction; I should have known he knew was I there.

"What's a nice guy like you, doing in a place like this?"

His mouth turned up its corners, and I saw him looking at me from under the brim of his cap. "Looking for strange women to hit on me and take me home."

I laughed with him for a moment. "You might try the Wandering Turtle down the way. I hear the women there are really strange."

He was smiling when he turned to face me, leaning with an arm on the bar, bottle still clutched in his hand. "I rode in on an equipment drop," he said. "Leave in two days with a shipment of ore and case samples of produce."

"The Libertarian?" I asked, recalling recent traffic manifests.

"That'd be the one."And he tilted the bottle to his lips.

"I thought you were still on L2, with that gal. What was her name?" My finger stroked the glass stem, and while I could picture the girl - pretty, short, dark hair and incredible blue eyes - I didn't remember her name. Of course, it had been three years and a lot was happening at that time.

"Hilde," he said shortly, and drank from his bottle again. "Nah, missed piloting. 'sides, I was cramping her style or some such like that."

I had the idea of what he wanted and chuckled. "Even though I've had the chance to speak with Wufei, I haven't heard from any of the others. How are they?"

"Q is busy, I run into him every couple of months or so. Got the chance to talk with Trowa a little over a week ago."He flashed me a grin. "He's still with the circus and gave me tickets to the show."

"And Heero?"

He kept it casual, offering a lift of a shoulder, but his beer was already to his lips, and he drank the last of it. Setting the bottle on the bar, he signaled for another.

"Weren't you two..."friends? Lovers? More?

"No."He said it in such a way, and so quickly, I wondered if he'd been asked many times before. Curious.

I sipped from my glass, letting the sudden tension die, and looked him over. He'd taken the cap off, leaving it sit on the bar, and his hair was how I remembered it, thick and long and braided. He appeared taller - at least from a seated position, and his face was thinning some, more angles and planes than cheeks. Though it was hinted at in the past, he was a good-looking boy, and in a couple more years would be one hell of a handsome man.

"What about you?"


He waved a hand in a vague 'out there' gesture. "You and blondie and babies and all that?"

"Oh."I didn't know what to say and rushed my glass to my mouth. The sip a large one, leaving my eyes smarting. I wiped the excess away from my lip with the pad of my thumb. "I'm the commander of the law enforcement and Zechs..." the sigh slipped out. "...he's in the Out Bound, trying to tame the wilderness."

"Oh." It was his turn to realize truths of what might have beens. His freshner arrived, and he twirled it in his hand. "Why do you stay?"

"Why do you stay away?"I countered.

He grinned softly, and raised his beer. "To smoke in your eye."

I clinked the bottom of my glass with his, and sipped. "Such a cynical young man,"I chided.

"There's an age limit for that?" But he was grinning at me, reminding me of those harrowing, adrenaline-filled days.

"Is that why you fly?" My finger caressed the glassware, and I watched the liquid resonate instead of looking at him.

He was back to hunching over the bar again, and his fingernail scrapped at the bottle label. And then he sighed, deep and shuddering. "I just miss it, you know?" He shot me a look, his smile weak and fleeting. "Not the nearly getting killed thing, but..." He let go of the bottle, and ran his hand over his face. "I want us to be a team again. I want to be a part of something more."

I nodded as he lapsed into silence. "Come on," I told him, standing up. "My wine's nearly gone, and my quiet is shattered, so you might as well stay the night with me."

"What?"He stood abruptly, an oddly wild look in his eyes. It was all I could do to resist laughing at him.

"You're not going to find what you're looking for here," I was saying, taking the bottle from his hand and leaving it on the bar. "And neither am I." I jerked my head toward the door. "I've got a couch that I know is more comfortable than most beds, and I'll even make you breakfast in the morning."

"Deal."And he was grinning again.

Waving down the bartender, I told him to add the beers to my tab, brushing aside the protests. "You were looking for some woman to take you home." And I winked. He laughed, and it was genuine.

Walking out of that lounge with the one person I least expected ever to, I felt good for the first time in a long time.

[ day ten ]

defection of the soul - duo, dorothy, hints of BL, very light angst

At the edge of the minglers but still quite central, she stood. Dressed in evening finery with her long hair done up in an artistic, if ironic, ponytail, her gaze never stayed long on any one subject. Like the dozens of parties before this one, there was the usual collection of sophisticated socialites, and blushing debutantes with the occasional dignitary interspersed throughout. And then there were the special guests.

Her glass to her lips, she scanned the room and let the carbonated water bubble on her tongue before swallowing. Wufei was the first she spotted, standing aloof surrounded; her lips curved just watching him. He was her favorite to prod, to stiffen his neck more, and call it a victory when he could only sputter and leave the room.

Quatre was within easy line of sight, his attention focused on some dignitary speaking. One brow lifted, and for a moment, she was torn. Her favorite adversary had gotten off light this evening, barely a scathing word, or two passing between them. His senses must have been on full alert for he was suddenly staring at her. She offered a slight smile and nearly gave him the point by laughing when his eyebrows shot into a downward point. Instead, she inclined her head and turned away. Sparring with Quatre didn't require an audience, though she normally didn't mind one around. But, there was a time and place for that game, and this party was neither.

Through the grand archway, music flowed from the ballroom. Flashes of color, flanked by multitudes of black and white swirled in time and rhythm. Somewhere in the roiling mass of bodies, crinoline, and civil veneer, the master chameleon was leading some young deb in the dance of her life. She thought of making her way there, to observe him in action, but decided to hold her ground. Of the five, he was the one she feared. She lived only by Quatre's word.

She shook with an invisible shiver, turning from one view to another. Her eyes narrowed, even as her mouth twisted. Relena Darlian-Peacecraft. Dressed as more a sophisticate than a deb, with a life-sized accessory dangling from her arm. Her fingernail tapped against crystal; Relena's hero was looking rather uncomfortable, with his tie half-undone and his hair ruffled. He was giving the impression that anywhere would have been preferable than where he was at that moment. And she laughed softly before turning away, attempting to locate the remaining pilot.

But, he wasn't anywhere near where she'd last observed him.

"Looking for someone?" came a whisper behind her. She stiffened for a moment, but relaxed recognizing the voice.

"Hiding from someone?" she countered.

And he chuckled softly, tugged on her hair before stepping up to stand at her side. "Not exactly." He was looking at her glass, only to snort and roll his eyes when he noticed what she drank. "Tonic water to match your disposition?"

She took another sip deliberately, her eyebrow lifted. Lowering her glass, she turned her attention back to the ever flowing crowd. "Yon knight appears in need of rescuing."

He snorted softly. "He's a big boy. If he needs extraction, he'll do it himself." His glass held an amber liquid, malted by the smell. But when he leaned close to inform her that "those VIP types give me the willies,"his breath was lacking the whiskey odor.

With a touch on his arm, she inclined her head to the opened French doors behind them. "Take a walk with me,"she said, setting her glass on an empty surface.

"Why?"But his glass joined hers.

"The gardens are lovely by moonlight." One eyebrow arched.

For a moment, she thought he was going to refuse, but he held out his arm and gestured with his hand. "Allow me," he murmured.

The wide terrace was nearly empty, but she spotted another couple on the far end, more in shadows. Ignoring them, she linked her arm through his, and waved her hand in a delicate arc. "When the first Darlian family settled in Sanc, this estate was in the middle of a forest," she told him, leading him down the terrace steps to the divided paths below.

He made a derisive noise, but said nothing.

"In the European Wars, before the colonies were created, the lands were ravaged and the original house destroyed."Her eyes cut over to watch his expression, and drew his attention to the regiment of rose bushes. "This garden doesn't rival my cousin's, but it is decent enough. Especially in sunlight when the colors can be seen."

"And thorns avoided?" he muttered, eyeing the flora warily.

She smiled, but gave a slight nod. "Stephan Darlian was a strong-willed man, a true leader of men..."

"Sounds like Q."

Her words choked somewhere between a grunt and a laugh. "Yes," she finally managed. "Mister Winner has it in him if he develops it." They shared a smile, and continued down the path. "To begin the healing of his country, he opened his estate, and began planning these gardens." Their path wound its way through a small copse. "He started with plants indigenous to the land, and experimented with hybrids."

Coming out from the darkness of the tree-lined path, the gardens were suddenly opened. No longer the cultivated rows of carefully maintained beds of flowers and prize-winning horticulture, to each side of the path a riot of flowers in various sizes exploded. She stopped, pleased with the result.

"Even chaos has its beauty."

He had released her arm and taken a couple of steps forward. Turning back to her, he was grinning, moonlight glinted off his teeth. "Chaos is my middle name."

She inclined her head and watched as he moved closer to the field's edge. "To create its equal, it starts with a seed and care."

He was bent over, hand cupping a large yellow blossom with a black center. But at her words, he looked up at her sharply. "You are full of advice these days." His voice was light and easy, but his eyes were hard.

"You could care less about the history of Relena's gardens." She held his gaze until he sat back on his heels, and looked away.

"So you're saying if I want it bad enough, all's I've got to do is plant the seed, water it, toss manure at it, and wait a couple hundred years."

"I knew you weren't as dense as you lead some to believe." She gave him a short smile and turned back toward the house. "It is a nice night for a walk, wouldn't you say?"

He was grinning as he stood and came toward her. "I hear the gardens are lovely in the moonlight,"he told her.

And they returned to the party, her arm linked through his.

[ day eleven ]

six foot bunch - duo, une, is singing a warning?

I left the debriefing room in a tired stumble. A quick 'see you tomorrow' to Heero where the hall split, and headed for the elevators. My car was in the garage; Heero always parked in back. Something about one exit and being trapped. Three days, two nights and a dozen hour-long naps spread over the lot. I was fuckin' tired and just wanted to go home.

The elevator doors opened to the sublevel parking, and I grimace. The stale, fume-laden air added to the list on why parking in the surface lot was preferable. It was late, even by my standards. Closer to eleven than ten, and the garage was practically empty. My footsteps echoed off the walls, rebounding like a hard rubber ball in a closet.

Grinning with the resonance, I hefted my pack a little higher on my shoulder, and opened my mouth. "Day~o," I sang, holding the first note and clipping of the second. My own voice called back to me, and I added, "Daaa~ o, daylight come and me wan' go home."I dropped my tone as low as I could go, nearly laughing at the return.

An old song, but the sentiment still held. Stopping in the middle of the garage, I threw my head back. "Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day... day~o."

"Daylight come and me wan' go home."

And I was spinning around, pack landing on concrete, jaw dropping to my chest. "Co-mander?"

"Nice performance." She was smirking. "Tally man came, and it's time for you to go home, now."

"Heading that way, ma'am," I told her, rubbing the back of my neck and trying to not spontaneously combust. Just my luck - I could be alone on a deserted island and still get caught making a fool of myself. Slinging my pack back over my shoulder, I couldn't help but add, "You sing a mighty good calypso, ma'am."

Her steps didn't even falter. "You're not so bad yourself, Maxwell." A half dozen low-heeled steps echoed off the walls before she turned. "Just... don't quit your day job." And she winked.

[ day twelve ]

mister good body - duo/heero, wufei...commercial slogans?

It was only a carton of milk, the usual half-quart size picked up in the cafeteria. But, it was Duo's grinning face after he'd dropped it in front of Heero, and Wufei's scowling, puzzled one that had Heero hesitating to reach for it. Instead, he picked up his sandwich, ignoring the two and their silent tug-o-war.

Duo settled on the seat next to him, and Wufei across - his eyes not leaving that milk carton. A quick glance, and Heero saw that Duo had opted for the chef's special. He thought it was some sort of beef dish, but the gravy was thick and covered everything, hiding what the origin could be. There were potatoes, and a serving of mixed vegetables. A milk carton was suspiciously absent on Duo's tray.

"All's I'm saying is, you just can't take what Dahlman says literally," Duo was saying, waving his fork in the air. " The man thinks he's all that, but he's just a little toad."

Wufei grunted, and Heero noticed his eyes had turned to stare at Duo. "When an agent tells you a 'fact', you don't just automatically assume..."

"I assumed nothing," Duo cut in.

Heero's water bottle was empty and his sandwich nearly gone. He reached for the carton, and opened one end. The milk was still cold, cooling his mouth and coating his tongue with rich flavor. His eyes closed, and he pulled the carton away from his lips to take a breath before drinking again.

It was the sudden stillness that had him pause in the middle of a swallow. His eyes opened and he glanced sideways at Duo first. Duo was watching him, grinning with his head resting on his palm, elbow on the table. Heero lowered the carton to see Wufei watching, something of a morbid fascination in his eyes.

"What?" he asked quietly.

Wufei flushed, and looked away. Duo was still grinning, but his hand reached out to wipe his thumb over the edge of Heero's mouth. Bringing it to his mouth, he sucked on it.

"Drink up, Heero," he said. "Milk does a body good, and you are definitely a milk drinker."

[ day thirteen ]

got your back - duo, trowa, heero...not a single warning

this is sort of a continuation from day 3...at least it's in the same universe.

"Here, let me,"Trowa offered, leaning over Duo's shoulder and adjusting his holster's back strap. "There," he said, snapping the strap against his back.

"Hey!" Duo jerked away, glaring. "Asshole."

Trowa chuckled, and reached for his jacket. "Ready, partner?"

Duo swung his jacket up off his chair, and shoved an arm inside a sleeve. "As I'll ever be." He picked up his notebook and gestured for Trowa to lead the way.

"Am I driving? And can we stop at Brelly's?" Trowa was a step ahead of Duo, looking back over his shoulder, asking questions.

"You and your damned coffee. You need rehab, pal." But he was already looking at his watch. "We have time..."


Duo twisted around and Trowa lifted his head. "Oh hey, Heero!" Duo's mouth melted into an easy grin. "We still on for lunch?"

Heero was frowning, brows drawn low but puzzled. "Duo, why is there..." His face suddenly cleared, and Heero gave a short smile of his own. "I've just found the answer. And yes, lunch - away from the office." He nodded at Trowa sharply. "I'll stop by about eleven-thirty."

"Sure thing, Heero." Duo swung back around, still grinning. "Buddy-boy, I'm in such a good mood, you can drive, and we can stop at Brelly's for your damned coffee."

Slipping into step beside his partner, Trowa gave the slightest smile of his own.

[ day fourteen ]

blink of an eye - pairing: heero/duo - BL, language, old heero and duo, hints of illness and life happenings and of things to come, sadness, sap, old man humor

oh man...this was something i was thinking about writing for 212, but couldn't. so, i wrote it for valentine's day. only...it went sort of a different direction than what i initially started it out to do. it's sappy in spots, and it has some things that might cause a person to become distress if thought about. and yes, this little bit of a story was inspired by five for fighting's 100 years. now go grab a tissue.

With the faintest whisper of non-silence, he was awake and sitting up long before his body remembered it couldn't do that any longer. His senses told him immediately there was no danger present, even as his muscles and nerves told him he was going to regret his reaction.

"Damnit, Yuy!" he yelled, voice gruff and gravelly. "How many times I have to tell you not to do that. You are going to give me a heart attack."

Heero eased himself down on the edge of the mattress, watching Duo struggle with bedcovers and the waist of twisted pajama bottoms. "Do you want breakfast?"

"Breakfast?" Duo asked, letting go of his fight for the moment. "Old man, you did not just wake me up for breakfast." He was staring at Heero, forcing his eyes to open wide and focus.

Nodding slowly, Heero added, "Eggs and toast?"

"Do I have to make 'em?" Duo was looking at him sharply, eyes suddenly narrowing.

"No, I was thinking about making some for myself and thought you would like breakfast, too." Heero blinked, and reached out to tug on the sheet that'd twisted up under Duo's leg.

"Then I'll have eggs," Duo announced, and now that he was able, moved his legs to the bed's edge. "And toast."

"Good." Heero rose, steadied himself before shuffling across the floor.

Duo watched him, wondering why Heero's pants seemed to droop down the rear. "I'll go shower," he said, pushing up from the bed, and walking with an unhurried gait to the bathroom.

If Heero answered, Duo didn't hear him; the bathroom fan kicked on with the light, drowning all other sounds away. He stood before the sink, blinking against the harsh light, wondering for a half second just who was staring back at him. His hand rose to touch his cheek, its skin wrinkled and peppered with age spots. He snorted at himself, and looked away.

"Old man, dreaming of times long buried." He was mumbling as he turned on the knobs and adjusted the water temperature. His shower was quick, his hands moving with long accustom habit; soap to skin, rinse; shampoo to hair, rinse. The braid that had been his signature, was gone and had been for many long years. Rubbing fingers through the thin wisps that remained, he tried to remember when he'd had it cut. But gave it up when other memories tried to crowd the thought; memories he wanted to forget.

His shower done, he dressed slowly, pushing and pulling clothing on, slipping feet into slippers. He was ready, and Heero had breakfast waiting.

Their apartment was small, a basic one-bedroom with a living and dining room combination and a partial partition between the two and the kitchen. Duo could smell the toast first, and then the coffee. His stomach grumbled and he went to his seat at the table. Heero had already poured a cup of coffee for him, dressed it up as he liked it, and Duo snorted softly. Some things never change, he thought, but drank from the cup.

Breakfast was a quiet affair, both men concentrating on the steady process of food to fork to mouth. Duo dipped a corner of his toast into his coffee, softening the crust. He still had his own teeth, but they were few and his gums ached if his food wasn't soft enough. Toast in his mouth, he sucked the liquid, but couldn't help but watch as Heero's teeth bit down on his slice. White, perfect, almost matching the man's natural ones. Duo dipped his toast again.

"Is that girl coming today?"

Duo nearly dropped his fork. "Girl?" He peered up at Heero, who seemed to be more pushing his eggs around on his plate than eating them.

"The one that shows up once a week. Does the laundry and hides my socks."

"Jennifer," Duo supplied. His eggs were nearly gone, now. He wondered if Heero would let him eat his.

"Well?" Heero was staring at him.

"Wha..." and he remembered. "No, she comes tomorrow." The last of his eggs disappeared into his mouth.

"Think she'll wash my blue shirt tomorrow?" Heero was still staring at him.

Frowning, Duo swallowed. "It's laundry day. She should." And then he leaned forward, staring back at Heero. "Why?"

Heero drew back, his expression settled into less of a glare and more of that smug look Duo remembered from their youth. "I have a date," he announced.

His eyebrows raised. "You do?" Heero nodded. "With... who?"

"You." That smug look deepened.

Duo snorted, and reached for his coffee, but hesitated before drinking. "Don't you think you should have asked me first? What if I was busy?"

"It's for Wednesday," Heero announced.

"And you want to wear your blue shirt?" Duo was back to pushing his fork through the crumbling dregs of his eggs.

"It's my nicest one. Thought you'd like me to dress nice." Heero dumped the remains of his eggs on Duo's plate, but kept his toast. Duo went to work on Heero's eggs, without comment. "It's Valentine's Day," he added.

His fork paused and Duo straightened to look at Heero. "We haven't done anything for Valentine's in twenty years or more. Why now?"

It was Heero's turn to snort. "I need a reason to take you out for a date?" Duo shrugged and went back to the eggs and Heero finished his toast. "Shelly said she'd drive us. Even said we could neck in her backseat." Heero leered at Duo.

"Shelly's a pervert and just wants to watch." Duo stood carefully, and stacked his plate on top of Heero's. "Where are we going?" He carried breakfast dishes to the sink and began to rinse and stack into the washer.

"What? When?" Heero jerked up, head turning toward the kitchen to peer at Duo through the partition.

Duo shut off the water and reached for a towel. "Our date."

"Oh." Heero seemed to slump in on himself, his hands rested on his lap. "You think that girl can wash my blue shirt?" he asked again.

"Yes, I'll have Jennifer wash your shirt," Duo said quietly, suddenly at Heero's side. He helped Heero stand, and walked him to his chair in the living room. "You want to watch that program? The one with that cop you like?" He held Heero's arm as Heero lowered himself into his chair.

Waving Duo away, Heero settled back in the chair. "Not right now." His eyes closed, but Duo knew he wasn't sleeping. Heero didn't take naps.

At his own chair now, Duo peered across the room to the table and his cup of coffee. Or what was left of it. With a silent snort, he sat and reached for his glasses and the paper. The morning ticked on; Heero not sleeping in his chair and Duo reading. He lowered his paper to watch Heero, and his expression softened. With a barely murmured, "neck in the back seat," he went back to his paper, but wasn't reading.

He could remember the times from their teens when they'd been passionate lovers. A casual touch or a heated look would ignite and privacy couldn't be found fast enough. Even as their lust settled, moving into their twenties and thirties, sex and coupling were frequent occurrences. It wasn't until the cancer was discovered, the long days of waiting, and the even longer weeks of realization on just what the loss meant, that sex was the occasional event.

"Not your fault," he mumbled, refusing to look in Heero's direction again. Instead, he pushed his glasses off his face, wiping at his suddenly moist eyes. "Damn fool. Would rather give up... you can't..." His lips pressed together, and he sat with the paper rattling from one hand, his glasses tumbled to his lap, wiping his cheeks free of tears as they spilled.

Heero snored and jerked himself upright, and Duo shook the paper straight. Heero looked around in a sudden awareness, only to pick up the remote and click the television on. "Missing my program," he said, turning up the volume.

When his face was clear, Duo folded down the paper, and dropped it to the side of his chair; his glasses were replaced in their case on the side table. "You want some more tea, Heero?" he asked, and was almost surprised his voice was normal, aged with a querulous vibe. Heero's hand waved him away, too intent on catching up with the story of the show.

Duo lifted himself up from the chair, his slippered feet making shuffling steps over the thin napped carpet. Once in the kitchen, he poured himself a glass of orange juice and drank it standing at the sink. It wasn't noon yet, and he was already thinking of lunch and looked at the meal calendar taped to the cabinet door. His lip curled; he hated the way the kitchen cooked fish, and wondered if he could handle a peanut butter and jelly, or if Heero would make him more eggs. Maybe a tin of soup.

Heero's program was in the closing credits and the station announcing the next show when the expected knock came. Duo had started to rise, but Heero beat him to it; Duo chuckled softly. Heero liked Shelly, the girl (though Duo knew she was nearly half his age, and nowhere near a girl any more), who was their 'caretaker'. Their keeper, Duo called her. She made sure they took their medicines, made sure they ate lunch and dinner, and made arrangements for doctors and tests and, apparently, necking sessions in the backseat of her car.

Heero followed Shelly to the kitchen where she dropped of a small bag of groceries, and he helped her put them away. Duo let his head fall back, let his eyelids drift shut and let their voices wash over him. Shelly would keep Heero entertained until the goons came in to deliver lunch trays, until she would ask them both personal questions about health and bodily functions, take their temperatures and blood pressure. When she'd tell Duo to stop putting salt on his food, and tell Heero to eat more.

It was the same routine they went through for fifteen years or more. It was comfortable, and Duo felt safe in it. Heero was safe in it. He was smiling when a gentle hand touched his knee.

"Duo." It was Shelly, kneeling by his chair. "I had the cook make you that pasta dish you like for lunch. Is that alright?"

He could only nod, wondering how she knew. A moment later, he was craning his head around, trying to find Heero. "Interfering old man," he muttered, but he was smiling slightly. The hand squeezed his knee, and he turned back to Shelly.

"How about I take care of business first, that way you can take your nap right after lunch?" She was smiling, and Duo noticed how pretty and straight her teeth were, and he was nodding. "Good," she said, and rose to her feet to pick her bag up from the door where she left it.

"Heero's taking me on a date," he announced, when she returned, and began rolling up his sleeve.

"I know." She was smiling softly, adjusting the cuff. "I think it's very romantic."

The blowing noise Duo made was about as opposite of romantic as it can get. "He just wants the sex." And Shelly laughed, her eyes flashed up from the BP readout. "Where are we going?" he asked, more on the practical.

Shelly mused softly, flipping open Duo's chart and writing a quick figure down. "Some place that has a low-sodium menu." She rolled up the cuff, and slipped off the stethoscope. "You had eggs for breakfast. Did you add any salt?"

"No." Duo was scowling, and turned away. "Heero made 'em, and he knows not to." He pulled his arm from her hand, and jerked the sleeve back into place. "A little salt's not going to kill me. All this fuss will."

"Duo." And she sat back with a sigh. "Okay, fair enough." She closed the chart and stashed it away. "Anything I can get for you before dinner? Everything's all right?"

He was about to ask about Heero, and to see if Shelly would try again to talk Heero into seeing the oncologist. But he closed his mouth and fought against the clench in his gut. The doorbell rang, but Shelly still sat at his feet, watching him. Waiting for him to spill his guts, he knew.

"Door," Heero called from the bedroom, and only then did Shelly look away, glancing first to where Heero's voice came from, and then to the door.

"It's going to work itself out, Duo," she said, squeezing his knees again and rising to her feet. The doorbell rang again, and she was calling out, even as she turned the knob, "Coming! Stop being so impatient." And lunch was delivered.

It wasn't until after lunch, after their 'keeper' had left and Heero was watching his afternoon shows, that Duo allowed himself to think on Shelly's words. Maybe it was time, and maybe Heero wanted to let go. He didn't like it, but they'd spent more time together than most people lived. Watching Heero shake with silent laughter, he could almost see the boy he was. Hair still thick, but silver-white, eyes still piercing blue, though Duo doubted he could still bend steel bars. And he almost smiled. Almost.

"Eight-five," Heero said, turning away from the television and looking at Duo. The question had just formed in his mouth when Heero answered. "Years. Eighty-five years in April." Heero was giving him that smut look again, and then he was frowning. "You shot me."

Duo nearly recoiled, but pushed forward instead. "You're still carrying a grudge? Old fool." Duo settled in to glare back at Heero. "Besides, I broke you out of that damned hospital."

"I married you, didn't I? Why would I want to be with someone I held a grudge against?" Heero turned to face the television again.

"You do some strange things, Yuy," Duo grumbled. "You might enjoy the whole..." And he yawned, suddenly, words cut off short.

"Naptime for you," Heero announced, reaching for the remote and pressing the power button.

"I'm not a baby." But, Duo allowed Heero to help him up and shuttle him off to their room.

"No," Heero said, lowering his voice, softening his tone. "Not a baby." Heero was helping him out of his sweater, making him kick off his slippers. "But you still need a nap."

Lying on his side, letting Heero pull the blanket up to his shoulder, Duo grabbed at Heero's hand before he moved away. "Stay with me, Heero," he asked softly.

"Not sleepy," Heero grumbled, but he was already taking off his sweater, and moving around to his side of the bed.

Behind him, the mattress dipped low, and that familiar presence was at his back, an arm draped over his waist. Duo stared unseeing across their darkened room, memories flashing like snapshots of other places, other times of the two of them spooned up close to one another. He felt his eyes sting but willed the tears away.

"Heero, I-I..." want another hundred years...

Heero's arm tightened around him. "I love you, too, Duo," Heero mumbled into his neck.

Duo's hand climbed up to clasp Heero's and he held it. "Love you," he whispered.

"You think that girl'll wash my shirt? The blue one?"

Without losing a step, Duo squeezed the hand in his. "I'll make sure she does, tomorrow."

"It's Valentine's day on Wednesday, you know." Heero's voice was sounding smug, but sleepy.

"I know."

"I've got a date." And Duo felt dry, paper-thin lips pressing against the back of his neck.

He squeezed the hand again. "You just wanna neck in the back seat."

Heero made an affirmative noise, but it was weak and the arm around Duo relaxed. The gentle breath brushing against his neck was a soothing rhythm, and Duo let himself drift, letting go for the moment.

[ day fifteen ]

benefits of friends - duo, heero, wufei; language...that's about it!

"Well, shit," Wufei half muttered under his breath. "This night couldn't get any-" and he cut the words off before finishing.

A car whizzed by, the wind tugged at his clothes, and he shivered. Mid-February, and the temperatures were hovering at zero, with negative wind chills. His only consolation was that at least it wasn't snowing. On the heels of that thought, he eyed the sky, but seeing stars, and no clouds, he didn't think the forecast would be wrong.

He eased the donut back into its resting spot, and locked the jack down on top. A breakdown at the only spot on this section of the interstate; the section where there were miles between exits. And the morning he left the house in his lighter coat, no gloves or scarf. His mobile was inside on the passenger seat, staying out of harm's way. Wufei waited until another car passed before opening the driver's side door and dropping into the seat. Picking up the cell, he stared at the faceplate, uncertain of whom to call. This would be the policy period he dropped his roadside service.

In the end, he punched a number from memory and fought the welling exasperation. His partner had offered more than once to do more outside the office, offered to include him in on activities enjoyed and friends he had. But, it was a handful of clipped words that Wufei spoke into the phone, letting Heero know his location and his desire for a ride to the nearest exit.

Leaving the car running for heat, Wufei wished - now - that he had packed up earlier and gone home to finish the report. His car held nothing to do or read, and Wufei spent the next twenty minutes with his arms crossed over his chest, glaring at the pavement in front of him.

When the headlights stopped behind his car, Wufei first looked in the rearview, and then turned to verify out the back window. It was a truck - a big one - and not Heero's mid-sized car. Wufei cursed under his breath, opening his door and stepping out. For the third time, he would have to inform whichever Good Samaritan no, he did not need assistance, and that yes, he had called for help.

"Hey man, I hear you've got a little trouble."

Wufei stopped before he'd taken two steps. He knew that voice, though it'd been awhile. "Maxwell? What are you doing here?"

"I was at his place when you called," Heero said, coming around from the passenger side. Heero's body blocked the glare of the headlights as he walked passed, letting Wufei see that yes, it was Duo, and yes, it was a large truck he'd driven.

"I-apologize for interrupting your evening," Wufei began, meeting Heero and Duo at the rear fender of his car.

"Nah, you wasn't interrupting anything but me kicking Heero's ass," Duo was grinning in the darkness, throwing a mocking look in Heero's direction.

Heero snorted and shook his head. "No need to apologize, we were only playing a game."

"So, what's the problem?" Duo leaned back to look the car over from around Heero.

"Flat," Wufei announced in an equally inflated voice. "And the spare is in the same condition." His cheeks colored, but he wasn't worried; it could be attributed to the wind and cold, if seen.

Duo was nodding his head. "They tend to do that in this cold weather." He glanced in Heero's direction before facing Wufei. "How 'bout we load 'er up, take her to the shop and put a new set of shoes on her?"

"What?" Wufei looked to Heero for clarification.

"Duo owns a garage."

Duo wagged his brows when Wufei looked back at him. "Yep." Then he clapped his hands together, the sound sharp and loud even over the traffic noise. "Let's get this show on the road then. Heero, if you wouldn't mind pulling the truck up around front, I'll get the boots ready." He turned towards the truck only to call out over his shoulder, "Get out of the cold, man. Climb in the truck and stay warm."

"I didn't know he..." Wufei's voice trailed off, watching Duo's silhouette move about the side of the truck in the headlights of passing vehicles.

Heero let out an amused snort. "He has for almost five years." His hand pulled on Wufei's sleeve. "Let's get in the truck and let Duo do his job." And he headed for the driver's side. Wufei followed a moment later, shaking his head.

In five minutes, the truck was aligned up to the front of Wufei's car, the front end slipped into the tow sling and secured. Wufei watched out the back window as Duo bent over the last rear tire, locking the boot in place, and securing the locking pin. Heero was out standing by Duo's side, hands in his pockets. The urge to join them washed over Wufei; unable to hear their quiet conversation, but seeing Heero smile when Duo laughed at something he'd said, the want to be a part of what they shared was strong.

Duo straightened, and they both headed around to the driver's side. Heero climbed inside, and scooted over to the middle of the bench seat. "Almost ready," he said, and held his hands out in front of the heater vent.

A high-pitched whine accompanied the low throated revving of the engine, and the back end of the truck shifted the slightest bit. Wufei turned back to watch the nose of his car rise. A metal-sounding clank and clack shook the air, and then Duo was at the door, opening it, and jumping inside.

"Shit, it's cold out there." His cheeks were red, and he rubbed his hands together briskly. "Right then," he said and fished a cell phone from an inside pocket of his coat. "You just want to replace the one tire?" he asked, pressing a dial-memory button and holding the phone to his ear. "Or you want the front set? The thread on the driver's side isn't bad, but the flat needs to be replaced... Hey James, good thing you got stuck with the late shift," Duo laughed into the phone. "Listen, James. I need you to go pull a set of Ryder's, Class eight's."

Glancing across Heero, Duo suddenly asked Wufei, "Unless you want something different? I've the new Strats that carry a ten rating. They'd run you a little more, but will last longer than your car under normal conditions."

"I-" Wufei looked at Heero, who was watching him. "I don't want to cause any trouble-"

"It's no trouble, man. James'll pull the set out of stock, have them ready by the time we get there, and it'll take fifteen minutes. Twenty with an alignment."

Heero's lips seemed to be attached to his eyebrows, for when one brow rose, the mouth did as well. "Or you can just tell him to fix your donut and go home."

Wufei closed his mouth and gave a sharp nod. "Let's put on the new set, then." As Duo relayed size and order into the phone, Wufei added, "With the alignment."

"See you in ten," Duo said, closing the phone. "Buckle up." And he was putting the truck into gear, easing it onto the highway.

"You weren't 'kicking my ass'," Heero said, lap belt clicking into place. Wufei glanced up at him, his own belt locked own, and then at Duo, who was grinning in the dashboard lights.

"It was only a matter of time, man. I had you pegged."

As Heero flushed, elbowing Duo's side and Duo laughed and drove, Wufei thought that maybe he wouldn't wait for Heero to extend an invitation. Maybe he'd offer a little more than partnership at work, including friends.

[ day sixteen ]

wherever thou goes - duo, heero, milliardo; hints of BL

well... it is 2/16. *grin*

Three years on Mars, and his first full day back, his attendance was required at a reception. Milliardo accepted the drink poured for him, water with chunks of ice, and sipped from the glass slowly. He moved away from the refreshment bar, angled at a diagonal to the house, and wandered out into the sunlight.

His eyes began to smart and water. With a polite nod to the matron speaking, he bowed out of the group he'd just joined, and headed for an empty table in the shade. He sat with a gratefulness for things taken for granted, easing the stress to his knees and ankles. Three years in a low-grav environment had lowered his body's tolerance to gravity. A handkerchief was kept handy, with discrete dabs to the corners of his eyes and judicious shuttering of lids, the overwhelming light was managed.

The reception wasn't large by typical political mixed with social standards - less than one hundred, surely. But there were enough that the constant hum and buzz of voices mingling with laughter and the occasional loud shout, Milliardo wasn't sure where to look, in which direction the danger was coming from. He knew there wasn't a danger, not in his sister's garden, not with the security in place.

In his glass, the ice cubes melted, and he focused on the condensation beading and rolling down the sides. His name was called, and he looked up at the question, nodded his assent; his one-time challenger and that man's partner claimed chairs at his table. Milliardo sipped from his glass, watching them settle, exchange words. He had seen them when they arrived together; had shook each hand in the reception line inside; had watched as they wandered around the edges of the various groups; had listened to the exchange of words and laughter with a select few.

"So, how was it?" He was asked, and Milliardo stroked a finger through the condensation gathering on his glass, and watched the companions.

Relena's letters and messages had told him bits and pieces on those lives he'd touched - if only briefly. He knew that Treize's... that the one who defeated Treize was now with the Preventer's organization. That he worked with Lady in creating an out reach program to introduce inter-city youths to culture events they wouldn't have had a chance to know. He knew the Winner boy had charities and foundations of his own, was working tirelessly with his remaining family to expand their business ventures and create jobs and commerce where there had been none before.

His sister wrote of the boy who had taken a name that didn't belong to him to pilot a gundam. A boy who, in hiding, had found a family and a way of life. She had mentioned events attended, and seeing the boy's act, and being thrilled by his skill and daring. Milliardo had to laugh, then. For he had seen the boy's skill and daring - but not on the trappings of a circus, but encased in a near impervious metal, deadly and dangerous.

And then, there were these two.

"Mars is Mars, and useless to attempt explanation unless you've been there," he said, almost gently. "But, the trip back to earth was decent." He smiled with a bare upturn of the lips.

"Yeah, haven't gotten out that far yet," Maxwell was saying while rubbing the back of his head. "I'd like to head that way but..." And he was staring at his companion.

Milliardo turned to Heero as well, and Heero glanced between the two of them. "I'm not stopping you, Duo. If that's what you want to do, then do it."

"But..." Duo had stopped talking instead, and sat back in his seat.

"If you are planning to make the trip," Milliardo interjected, "Take plenty to read, and a friend whose company you enjoy will help the time spent."

Duo snorted, amusement lighting his eyes. "How 'bout if I kidnap the friend?"

"That might make things a little more... interesting." Milliardo was smiling now.

"Try it and I'll show you interesting." Heero was glowering at Duo. "I've no interest in the Mars project."

"Ah, c'mon Heero. You can't say getting the chance to be part of one of the biggest adventures in modern times doesn't appeal to you."

"I've already been part of enough 'big adventures' to last a couple of life times."

"But," Duo sat forward, bringing his chair closer to Heero's. "I went on the dig thing with you when you asked. And climbed that pyramid thing in Mexico, and..."

"Those weren't on the other side of the galaxy," Heero inserted quickly. "And you wanted to go. I didn't kidnap you and drag you along."

"But, I want to see what Mars is like."

Knowing better than to say it aloud, Milliardo hid the laugh wanting to be expressed. Duo was pouting, or at least the next best thing to it. "You could always go on your own." He lifted a shoulder negligently. "A companion makes the trip nicer, but isn't necessary."

Duo blew air in a gust. "Yeah, but Heero would have fun with it, if he just went." Heero snorted lightly and turned to look over the crowd behind them. "You would. You just won't admit it."

"Do you always do things together?" he asked, fairly certain of the answer (and from Relena's hints), but wanting to verify on his own.

"No," Heero said without looking around.

"Yes," Duo told him at the same time.

Heero turned to look at Duo just as Duo was looking at Heero. "We do, mostly," Duo amended. Heero was frowning, and gave a short nod.

"Oh," Milliardo said quietly, drawing both of their attention. "It's like that."

"Like what?" Duo was frowning at him, now. And Heero suddenly found the plate of leftover crumbs of hor' dourves fascinating.

Looking between the two, Milliardo gave his best guileless expression. "That you two are together."

"But we're not... we're friends." Duo was sputtering, almost laughing at such naiveté coming from him. "I've been known to hold his dick once or twice, but together? Nah." He was chuckling softly, turning to Heero, and the amusement died. "Heero?"

"Forgive my assumption, then." Milliardo hid another smile behind his glass.


For his part, Heero had gotten quiet and still, and seemed to be studiously avoiding looking at his friend.

Abruptly, Milliardo stood, breaking the uneasy tension. "I have to confess the heat and light from the sun is...wearing on me." He gave them both a nod, and picked up his glass. "I'll adjourn inside for a few moments, if you'll excuse me."

Without waiting for a response, he turned away from the table and made his way inside the house. Securing a spot by one of the windows overlooking the patio, he watched, mouth curving upward. Heero had stopped analyzing the molecular structure of a canapé, and was instead, in profile to Milliardo's view. Duo was staring at Heero, wide-eyed and mouth visibly parted.

The bomb had been dropped.

Relena's letters and messages had hinted with great amusement and curiosity at just what would happen when one and two were added. Milliardo wondered briefly where his sister had run off to, wondered if he should seek her out, or wait until after this little event played itself out. But, the color on Duo's face was visible from where Milliardo stood, and Heero's hand was gripping Duo's.

And Milliardo knew then, if Duo were to plan a trip to Mars, Heero would be in tow.

[ day seventeen ]

having more than that words - heero/duo, BL, language, AU

as promised (or threatened), this is from the 'when we were growing up' universe.

His fourth period was excruciatingly slow, but then, Government usually was. The last fifteen minutes became free study, and Heero studied the colored pictures in his book. Words were smears printed on pages in the text, all incomprehensible.

"...he was yelling at him!"

"I heard they broke up..."

"No! I thought they were just ...friends."

Heero jerked up, glaring at the girl behind him. She flushed, turned away from his look, and tugged on her friend's arm. Five minutes to the bell, and then, lunch. Heero stared at the clock, will alone making its hands speed. At the first hint of the ring, he was up out of his seat, and halfway to the door, the teacher's reminder of the test the following day.

Two stories below and down the long hall, Heero bypassed his locker. He sped without running through the main commons, avoiding the cafeteria and the courtyard beyond. Not that he thought Duo would be there. But, Heero continued to follow routes not normally taken by his friend.

It was out passed the animal husbandry sheds, near the other side of the track bleachers when Heero slowed. There was a short hill, and a cinderblock wall extended out from the chain link fence caging in the bleachers. Heero lowered himself to the grassy patch, back to the wall and his book bag between his knees. He was staring without blinking, out across the field, to the message/scoreboard, trying to make sense of the past few hours of his life.

The night before, he had joined his friends at Sonic just like many nights before. Duo wasn't there yet, but Heero already knew that Duo would be late - something about finishing a job with Howard before he could be let out of the house. Quatre and Trowa showed up together, and Wufei wandered over to their usual table from where Relena and her friends sat.

Heero waited for Duo before ordering - to share a large fry and try to keep Duo from his slushie. Quatre and Trowa were leaning close together, sharing a new book series from that author Heero could never get into. Wufei sat backwards on the bench seat next to Heero. And though he spoke of the upcoming meet, Heero knew his attention was two tables over and one up. Heero turned slightly, catching Relena watching Wufei. He nodded in her direction and answered Wufei's question about a wrestler on the opposing team.

It was dark before Duo arrived, and Heero heard his voice before he saw him. Heero was suddenly standing, turning to go to his friend, to find out what had kept him. Duo's words passed him by; he was less than ten feet from the boy when he noticed the girl. His steps faltered slightly, but he kept walking.

The girl was holding onto Duo's arm, and she was smiling. Heero was aware of Relena standing, watching him; he was aware that Relena's friends had suddenly stopped talking, and all eyes followed him. The girl giggled at something Duo was saying, and Heero saw that Duo didn't have his skateboard. He nearly stopped and turned around when the girl leaned upward, pulling down on Duo's arm to give his cheek a kiss.

Duo spotted him at that moment, gave him a little wave, and told the girl how he had to go, but he'd see her later. The girl let go of his arm, protesting with a pout. Heero didn't know her, but the instant dislike was strong. And then Duo was standing in front of him, laughing at his funny expression.

It wasn't the first time he'd ever told Duo to shut up. But, adding that he didn't need him, that Duo should just go back to his 'little girlfriend' and leave him the fuck alone, was new. And Duo only stared at him with his mouth opened. He couldn't get out of there fast enough. His runners proved their worth, and even if Duo had had his board, Heero doubted he would have caught him.

His world was suddenly upside-down, and he didn't know why.

They had never fought before. At least, not for anything more than a game or being late. Heero had almost called during the night. The image of that girl's lips touching Duo's cheek would flash, and Heero would ignore the impulse. If Duo wanted to talk, he knew Heero's number.

In the light of day, sitting out on the grounds nearly as far as he could get from any of the academic buildings, Heero wished he had called. For the first time since he was four and had crashed his bike, hitting his head on the sidewalk, he wanted to cry. Only this time, it wasn't his head that bled. And a Scoobie-doo bandaid wasn't going to make it all better.

He needed to see Duo; needed to speak with him. He was on his feet and running, bag swinging up over his shoulder when the bell rang. Still sprinting through the hall, he ignore the shout to slow down, offered an apology to the girl he nearly knocked of her feet even as he ran, and still, the second bell rang before he reached Duo's locker. His ...apology? Confession? Admission? would have to wait. Heero was late to class.

By the time the last bell of the day rang, Heero was uncertain if Duo was being deliberately elusive, or his luck was particularly bad. He knew Duo was at school - he had seen him between first and second period, and Trowa confirmed that Duo was in his sixth period. Heero decided to skip the calling and go directly to Duo's house after practice.

Leaving the locker room and making his way to the gym for practice, words ran in circles in Heero's head. He had no idea what to say, just that he had to say something. 'I'm sorry,' didn't seem to cut it, but... it was better than the silence.

He slowed at the sound of Duo's voice, turning away from his teammates and heading down the hall at a jog. He heard Wufei calling him, heard the coach's whistle, but tuned it out and focused on the figure disappearing around the corner.

"Duo!" he shouted, speeding into a full run. He was skidding around the corner, and nearly slipped down to his knees, coming to a hard stop. Duo was standing in front of him, hands held high to block impact. "Duo," Heero repeated, catching his breath and regaining his balance.

"Yeah..." Duo backed away, and Heero winced. "Where's the fire, man?"

"I...I-" Heero was choking, and he rubbed his palms down the sides of his uniform shorts. Duo's arms crossed, and his eyes narrowed. "I need to talk to you."

"So, talk."

"I'm sorry." And Heero ducked his head, not wanting to see that flat look in Duo's eyes. "I didn't mean..."

"What the hell's with you, Heero?"

Heero looked up, his mouth opened and closed. Up ahead, a small group of boys emerged from one of the side halls carrying instrument cases; the PA system crackled to life, announcing that the early activities bus was going to be delayed. Heero swallowed whatever was trying to make its way out and grabbed Duo's sleeve instead. "Come with me."

Two flights up the main stairwell, Heero didn't let go of Duo's arm until he had pulled Duo into an abandoned classroom. Closing the door behind them, Heero turned to face Duo, reaching for what he wanted to say.

"She kissed you." And it was all Heero could do to keep from smacking a hand over his mouth.

Duo's mouth dropped open and he stared at Heero. A minute or ten might have passed in silence.

"Yeah, she did." Duo's voice was low and his tone hesitant.

"But-" Heero moved closer to Duo, raising his hand and aborting the touch at the last moment. "We're friends, right?" he managed to ask softly.

Duo was nodding slowly, and closed the distance between them. "Friends, yeah... what's going on Heero? You're... you're scaring me here."

"What if-" Heero's jaw worked, no sound came from his mouth. "What if I wanted us to be more?"


"More," Heero repeated, and he was rubbing his palms on his uniform again. He watched Duo, and almost wept with relief when comprehension became clear.

"Oh." And Duo's eyes widened marginally, his fingers flexed at his sides.

"Can I... kiss you?" Heero was whispering; his hand rose again, hesitating to touch.

"Uh..." Duo was blushing and Heero felt his own face heat up. But then, Duo nodded.

Heero leaned forward, his hand found a place to rest on Duo's arm. He couldn't stop watching Duo's face, watching Duo's eyes as he got closer. Suddenly, he could feel air rushing from Duo's mouth against this own, and his lips touched Duo's. Brief and fleeting, and he never closed his eyes.

Drawing away and holding his breath, Heero watched Duo's face. He was surprised his hand remained on Duo's arm, surprised his body was so close to Duo's and surprised when Duo followed him back, and pushed his mouth to Heero's. But this time, it wasn't a slight brush of skin-to-skin. Duo's mouth was on his, moist and moving, and Heero felt his mouth responding.

Duo's hands were at his hips, holding him close or keeping him at a distance, Heero wasn't sure. But he could feel their warmth through his uniform. Their lips separated and crashed together only to part again. And Heero opened his eyes to see Duo watching him, to feel the fluttering smile trying to form on Duo's mouth.

"So, does that mean..." Duo shrugged under Heero's hand. "We're like, together or something?"

"If you want it to be."

"We're not going to be like Wufei and Relena, are we?" Duo was frowning, and he dropped his hands from Heero's sides.

Heero let himself smile, taking a deep breath, and easing it out. He shook his head softly. "I'm not really into holding hands and stuff."

"Then..." Duo had lost the frown, but he was scrunching up his face. "What... how..."

"We do what we always do," Heero answered firmly. "And, if you want, we k-kiss." He ignored the steadily rising heat in his face.

"O-kay," Duo said, and one of his hands found its way back to Heero's hip. "I want to kiss."

His eyes were closing even before his lips met Duo's, and somewhere in there, he made a small whimpering sound. The bell began ringing in the hall, and they both jumped apart. Duo gave a shaky laugh, and Heero touched his tongue to his lips watching him.

"Do you," Heero began, and had to clear his throat. "Do you want to come over tonight? We could play a game or watch a movie or...something." And his gaze dropped to Duo's mouth, whose lips were red and swollen-looking.

"Okay," Duo nearly whispered. He started to frown again, and his hand rose, his fingers plucked at Heero's uniform. "You're skipping practice?"

Heero ducked his head, his smile short. "I really wanted to see you." Duo flattened his hand on Heero's chest, covering the school's emblem. "I should go, I guess." And Heero started to back away.

"Uh, Heero." Duo's voice sounded strangled, and Heero glanced up to see Duo's face red and averted.

"What's wrong?"

"Your uniform," Duo gasped out, still not looking at Heero. "You might want to wait... oh God." Duo turned away, suddenly sitting at a desk and lowering his head.

"Duo?" But in cold-water clarity, he knew what had embarrassed Duo. His own face as red as his spandex uniform, Heero stumbled to a seat of his own, keeping his face studiously turned away from Duo's. "Sorry," he mumbled, trying to think of sobering thoughts.

"S'alright," Duo muttered from between his arms and the desk. "Just, don't do that any more wearing... that."

Heero kept his eyes on the desk's surface, but he couldn't help thinking that he wouldn't be wearing his uniform that night. Maybe, Duo would want to do more 'something' than play games or watch movies. Heero smiled waiting for the four-thirty bell to ring, ready to go change and walk Duo back to his house.

And his world felt right once more, if a bit tilted on its axles.

[ day eighteen ]

binding the seams - duo, heero, mild language, angst

*sigh* this piece was written from inspiration from a picture [ asia ] is currently work on set to duran duran's [ come undone ]

In unconscious effort, Wing Zero touched down on the bay deck and Heero piloted the Gundam to its position. He noted Heavyarms was already locked into place, and through the comscreen, could see Shenlong angling for position. Behind him, he knew Deathscythe and Sandrock followed.

His hand trembled on the controls. Raising it to eye level, he held it flat and willed the shaking to stop. His comm speaker squawked, a demand of status and damage made. From a distance, his voice replied, giving answers to questions he paid no attention to; his hand still shook. In sudden action, he curled his fingers, making a tight fist.

Deep breath in, released slow, and count. He closed his eyes, forced the images from his mind and the sounds from his ears. Long minutes had passed, and the open comm had dropped into silence. The hanger was empty save a small crew working on a reported malfunction to Quatre's suit. Heero keyed the diagnostics check, finished lock-down procedures, and unbuckled his harness.

It didn't surprise him to be suddenly awake after what felt like only an hour of sleep. His heart rate raced, adrenaline streaming through his veins. He knew there had to have been a dream; the lingering taste of a nightmare laced his mouth and clawed at the corners of his mind. But the flesh was gone, and the scent left was weak.

Heero threw back the blankets and rose. Sleep was not easily regained, and spending time chasing after the elusive was too much of a waste. He left the cabin lights off, dressing in the glow of his alarm clock. Back in his flight suit once again, he stomped his feet into his boots, ran fingers through his hair, and left his room without a backwards glance.

Three doors down, he hesitated. It wasn't exactly late, but that last battle had been rough. The other pilots had all left the lounge mostly as a group, heading to each cabin in quiet solidarity. Heero knew Duo had gone into his room, but whether the pilot slept, or had found some other form of entertainment, he didn't know.

There had been other nights of sleeplessness; other nights he'd found Duo's company relaxing. He had even awakened Duo on one of those forays for solace, and Duo hadn't seemed to mind, then. Heero's hand keyed the door scanner, and it slid open.

The light above Duo's bed showed that it was empty, its covers in disarray. Heero almost pictured Duo entering his room less than two hours before, throwing himself on the bed, and staring at the ceiling. As in shared dorm room days, Heero imagined hearing mental gears shift, remembered the arbitrary subjects that would come from him then. It had been distracting, slightly annoying. But somehow, it offered an outlet, a siphon to the images crowding his thoughts and disabling any sense of peace.

Turning from Duo's door, Heero keyed it shut and headed off down the hall. Searching for Duo wasn't so much a goal, but it did give his mind something to worry over, to distract it from what it wouldn't give over. Though the Peacemillion was huge with a thousand places that Duo could possibly be, there were less than ten that Duo would actually visit.

The late hour ruled out the other pilots' quarters. Heero listed what was left, and made a mental map to follow - lounge, canteen, the gundam bay, and the bridge. He saved the bridge for last; the memory of Howard's mild-sounding rebuke for not resting when they could, was still fresh, and he knew Duo had received even more of the man's casual seeming concern later.

Though it was farther away, Heero headed for the bay first. It was common for the five to keep their gundams company. Especially after a fight. And though damage was minimal, with no more than a scoring to paint, the need to check upon a fighting partner was strong. From the catwalk, he watched as a maintenance crew worked on tasks discovered by the diagnostic feeds each gundam provided on lock down.

Deathscythe's hatch was open, but even from across the bay Heero could hear a tech inside calling out for a new harness strap. Duo wasn't here, but Heero hesitated, looking to Wing and wishing the crew was finished. He almost jumped the railing and sent himself speeding through the low-grav to Wing's hatch. But, he turned instead. Wing's company was cold and silent.

The canteen was empty save one, and the man sat hunched over a steaming beverage. Heero didn't pause to ask if Duo had been around, hadn't even entered the room properly. His were the only footfalls, the ship was quiet but for the low hum of motors and hydraulics and power compressors.

His next objective was dark but for the small rectangle from the opened door. Heero almost skipped entering, believing Duo wouldn't be there either. But, along the far wall, a row of large windows sat in thick frames. Stars just beyond the panes appeared reachable, and Heero was walking over the floor despite himself. He was nearly to the first window when he knew he wasn't alone. His steps didn't falter, but his eyes sought out the figure perched in the corner windowsill.

Giving a slight nod in that direction, Heero continued on his path, stopping in front of his window. He raised a hand without touching the glass, looking beyond his reflection. "I wondered where you were," he said, keeping his tone in harmony with the room.

"You were looking for me?"

Heero couldn't see Duo from where he stood; it was too dark, and Duo was sequestered in the window's frame. He glanced down that way regardless. "Yes." And he left it at that. He let his hand come to rest on the edge of window frame, peering out into the darkness. Somewhere, within an hour's flight was the Libre. Its bays filled with mobile dolls, its guns loaded, and its commander a man he thought he had understood, once.

Duo's sigh drew him back, and Heero turned to face the corner window. "Status?" he asked softly.

"Physically - good," Duo snapped back immediately.

But, the timbre was off, and Heero was moving. Close now, he could see Duo sitting with his legs folded up into themselves, his elbows rested on knees with his hands dangling between. Duo hadn't looked up, but sat staring at his hands. Heero's steps slowed, halting at Duo's knee.

"Status?" he asked again, and this time, Duo lifted his head.

"Not..." But he shook his head; a grin hovered on a fluid mouth. "Will be fine." The grin faded, but Duo continued to watch him. "You?"

Heero averted his eyes, looking out beyond the ship again. The breath he drew was deep, and a shudder shook him as he released it. "Adequate," he answered just above a whisper.

"Shit." Duo sat up, shifted around, and offered Heero a seat at his back. "Sit down."

His hand began to tremble, and Heero curled it into a fist, keeping it tight against his side. But, he lowered himself to the wide sill, and swung his legs up, and leaned back to find Duo supporting him. Tension he hadn't been aware of was easing almost immediately, though his hand still shook. His eyes closed and his arms circled his bent legs. He felt Duo breathing through their connection; his own breathing slowed to match.

"A skunk's scent can be smelled for over two miles," Duo announced.

Heero grunted softly, his lids barely lifted. "You know from personal experience?" He felt the headshake before Duo spoke.

"Nah, read it somewhere." Duo shifted, pushing Heero forward slightly before he settled. "Can you imagine getting sprayed? You wouldn't get lost, that's for sure." Duo was chuckling softly.

"There are chemicals to neutralize the stench."

"Yeah, I hear tomato juice works... something about the acid properties that react like a base." Duo fell silent then, and Heero tried to picture bathing in tomato sauce. He'd never seen a skunk in person, had only a vague recollection of what one looked like. Black with white stripes over its head, down its back and tail, he knew. But, didn't know if an average one was the size of a cat or more like a dog.

"It won't come off."

Heero's eyes snapped opened and he twisted himself around, looking over Duo's shoulder. Duo was holding his hands out before him; the thumb of one rubbed against the palm of the other. "The battle was a tough one," he offered. "The second attack was unexpected."

"I've washed them, Heero, and it's still there."

Turning back around, Heero ran a hand over his face. "If you can't handle it, then you need to stay out," he said, his tone wooden to his own ears. Duo jerked at his back, but didn't move.

When Duo spoke again, it was in a whisper. "I... almost lost it today."

His jaw clenched tight, and he stared at the frame wall in front of him. He couldn't have heard what Duo just said. "Civilians, even trained civilians, shouldn't be fighting." And his words were as ice, freezing as they left his mouth.

Duo laughed, then, threads of emotions never expressed woven between the mirth and sarcasm. "Got that rhetoric down pat, donja pal?" Duo was shaking his head again. "Who you trying to convince? Because we've been down this road before, and you know my belief."

"Then why do you see what isn't there?" Heero breathed.

"Because, it has to be there." And all humor was gone from Duo's tone. "If it's not, what will happen when this whole mess is done?"

The tremor from his hand expanded, and Heero bit at his lip to keep it from quivering. "You go home."

"Heero, buddy, there isn't one."

Heero bowed his head again, his hands clasping around his knees. Duo was silent at his back, and Heero felt frozen. "I don't think I'd like to bathe in tomato juice," he mumbled between numb lips. "It would feel, odd."

Duo's back expanded, gently pushing at him, but the breath he released was steady. "At least you wouldn't smell. Gotta think of the good part."

Heero snorted softly. "If soaking in a thick, pulpy mess is the good part..."

And Duo laughed lowly, his body shaking. "I can think of a few things I'd rather soak in, if that's the case."

"Just how would you run into a skunk in the first place?" Heero asked. He opened his eyes, and stared at his hand; the tremor had stopped, and as Duo spun a story in answer, Heero smiled softly in the dark.

[ day nineteen ]

film of tomorrow - heero/duo, BL, fluff

well, i claim this one to be the product of a drain bamaged mind, and a little prodding for angst-free fic (read fluff). also, a request for a small continuation to wherever thou goes.

The man excused himself, but his words were still ringing in my ears. His tall dark shape moved from my peripherals, his boots making a distinct sound on the pavement. I followed them, delaying the inevitable, if only for a moment or two.

"Heero, what's going on?"

Duo's hand landed on top my sleeve; in an instant, I wanted to hold it, wanted to jerk my arm away. Instead, I let out the sigh hiding behind my teeth, and glanced at Duo from the corner of my eyes.

"He's...right," I told him. My face was already heating up, and I cursed suggesting keeping Zechs company to Duo. Turning to face him, I could only speak the truth. "I want us to-to be like that, as Peacecraft insinuated."

I watched as Duo's throat convulsed, and the color climbed up his face. I wanted to smile, I wanted to take his hand, I wanted to take us home and continue this discussed in private. A confession of feelings held in check for years should be with ceremony, some place special and treasured. Or at the very least, the privacy of our living room.

Relena's reception didn't qualify for either.

"Like that?"

His hand was in mine, and I wasn't going to let it - or him - go any time soon. "Like forever," I told him softly. "Lovers, friends, confidants, and even," I shrugged, lips quirking upwards, "enemies of the moment."

Duo's throat bobbed again, and I could see his tongue touch his lips in a quick sweep. "We are friends already," he was saying, his voice so low it was bare sound, and I moved forward. "And confidants." Here he stopped to glare at me. "Unless you're telling someone else about those zombie dreams?"

I was smiling, and shook my head as I answered. "No, there is no one else."

"I gotta admit, there's not another person on earth or in space who does that 'enemy of the moment' for me like you do." Duo's thumb was brushing over my palm, and I suddenly couldn't swallow.

"You push me to perfection." Duo laughed then, with his head back, attracting attention. I held his hand in both of my own, stroking thumbs over skin weathered and beaten from fights, and the sun, and working with moving parts of engines and gundam mechanics. "Do you really want to see Mars bad enough to 'kidnap' me?"

Duo sobered, but was grinning as he brought his other hand up to cover mine. "Heero, it's a two week trip out, two weeks back, and a minimal month stay. That's two months in your inescapable company." His grin softened, but the gleam in his eye promised I hadn't been wrong on where we were; a little more time, or a different setting and my confession might not have been the first.

[ day twenty ]

in all its beauty - heero/duo, implied trowa/quatre/dorothy, hinted sally/wufei :: BL, drinking

The nearly soundproof wall of glass pulsed gently with the bass reverberating from the room below and beyond. The upstairs lounge of the club played music of its own, much quieter in its alternating light pop to mellow ballads. And, just as it was about every four weeks, the large table in the back overlooking the dance scene below was crowded with friends and lovers.

"It's not as though I was planning to jump the guy, 'Fei," Duo was saying, setting fresh bottles in front of Heero and Trowa and a silhouette glass of some fruity slush mix in front of Relena.

Wufei grunted and set his own mug of draft down before pushing the salty-rimmed margarita in Sally's direction. "You might not have acted on it," he said, pulling up his chair and taking a seat. "But I saw that look. You were all but drooling - and you're ...involved!" His hand swept up and flapped in Heero's direction.

Looking up from the laminated menu, Heero glanced from Wufei to Duo. Duo gave him a half shrug, still standing behind Heero's chair with a hand resting on the back. Heero nodded shortly and went back to making his choice of appetizers.

"That doesn't make me dead."

"No, just dishonorable," Wufei rumbled, and sipped at his draft. "It's disrespectful to Heero."

Duo laughed, his hand moved to squeeze Heero's shoulder. "Never gonna happen, Wufei." He turned to Trowa, asking, "Help me out here, Tro. You look too, don't you? And Quatre doesn't mind..."

Waving his hands and laughing, Trowa interrupted. "Don't drag me into your argument, Duo. Anything I'd say would be held against me."

From Trowa's other side, Dorothy dipped a finger into her white wine, and looked at Trowa from under her brows. "What about the things you don't say being held against you?"

Relena laughed and Trowa blushed. Duo was grinning, but stabbed a finger down at the menu Heero still held. "Order the sampler for me," he said, leaning close. "What about you, Heero. You can't tell me you don't look."

All attention seemed to turn in Heero's direction, and Heero closed the menu, eyes flashing from one to the other as he passed the menu along. "Not the same way," he compromised and picked up his beer.

"Hey, sorry I'm late," Quatre called, stopping long enough behind Trowa's chair to drop a kiss on his neck. "Have you ordered for me?" he asked, reaching around and snagging the menu. "I missed lunch." He moved to the other side of Dorothy, his hand trailed over her shoulders and down her arm.

"We haven't seen our server yet," Dorothy murmured, leaning against him briefly when he sat.

"Just who is this Adonis that has you and Wufei ready to settle it in the parking lot?" Sally asked, touching her tongue to the salty rim.

Duo moved closer to the window, jerking his chin toward the circular raised platform. "The dancer in blue."

There was a shift, and even Wufei stood to peer out the window to the dancers below. Sally gave a low whistle, and Quatre's eyes sparked. Dorothy shared a look with Trowa, and Heero took another drink from his bottle.

"Heh, guess I'm not the only pervert at the table." Duo moved to stand beside Heero's chair. "Did you see those abs? Damn!"

Relena lingered, her fingertips touching the glass. "I thought shirts were required," she said, her voice a little breathless.

"It should be illegal." Wufei lifted his mug, frowning into the liquid.

"Admiring the human form is not illegal," Sally said, leaning close enough to brush a kiss to his cheek. "Taking action on just how much you appreciate it can be, though."

"See!" Duo crowed. "Even Sally agrees." He was grinning, his hand on Heero's shoulder.

"She doesn't get as...exuberant as you do." Heero tilted his head to peer up at Duo.

"Oh?" Duo hadn't lost his grin. He leaned closer and whispered near Heero's ear, "And just who is it who gets all hot and bothered whenever a certain show about a couple hunky cons hanging bed sheets in their cell?"

Heero flushed, and he turned back to his beer. "That's different. He is a celebrity and therefore out the realm of obtainability."

Duo barked a laugh, short and sharp. "Like I go around propositioning hot young men..."

"I didn't say that."

"But propositioning hot young men is fun." Dorothy's eyes flashed from speaker to speaker. Quatre touched her wrist, and she spared him a look.

Duo worried the label from his bottle, no longer touching Heero. "If he were obtainable, would you proposition..."

"No." Heero turned his chair where he sat, and tugged on Duo's hand. "There is no one I would proposition, no one I want to proposition, other than you." Smiling, Duo bent to give Heero a kiss.

"That goes ditto for me, babe." He waved his bottle toward the window. "He might have it and knows how to flaunt it, but I like what I got right here,"

Wufei snorted as they kissed again. "You two are making me sick."

"But it's sweet." Relena was smiling, and turned from watching to catch Sally's eye. "Do you think that dancer is available?"

"You won't know until you ask." Sally winked and inclined her head to the window.

"Right." Relena stood, and, biting her lower lip, slipped her blouse off.


It was Dorothy's voice that cut through Duo's laugh, Heero's gasp, and Wufei choking on his beer. Relena blushed, but lifted her chin, even if her hand drifted up to straighten the line of her black lace trimmed camisole.

"You look great," Quatre told her, his voice warm and encouraging.

"Thank you." She smiled softly, her eyes going to the window. "Would someone order the spinach dip and brochette for me?" Lifting her glass, she downed the last of her drink. "Why I try..." Her glance swept the table. "With my luck, he'll be gay or involved!"

Duo leaned over to kiss her cheek, and fingered a lank of hair behind her ear. "Go show 'em what you've got, hot stuff." And Relena headed for the door, leaving Duo her seat.

"Think he's gay?" Sally asked, watching Relena's retreat.

"More than likely he's taken," Quatre answered softly.

"He'd be a fool to ignore her."

Duo glanced sharply at Wufei. "Oh, so it's alright for someone else who's involved to look but not me?"

"Duo!" Heero gave his shoulder a nudge.

"Alright, alright." And Duo grinned at Heero. "What do you say to hanging a sheet of our own when we get home?"

"I do not want to hear this."

"I do," Dorothy drawled, and leaned into Quatre and quirking her lips up at Trowa.

"Then I'm going to go find our server," Wufei said standing and picking up his mug.

"Don't get lost," Sally called out to him. "And try to admire a body or two."

[ day twenty one ]

brand new key - heero/duo, bl, au, mild angst, sappish

this one's for jana - she'd asked for a follow up to [ twice on the pipes ]

Duo stood in the hallway just outside the ward doorway. He glanced around, eyes assessing each person, sliding away from patients lining the walls in wheelchairs or sitting slumped on vinyl-covered chairs. The note crinkled in his hand and he shoved it back into his pants pocket.

It'd been almost a year since he'd seen him last; if not for the short note, it would have been much longer. He ran a hand through his hair, thinking he should have maybe cut it before showing up at this place. But, he'd promised Quatre, and grow it back out, he would.

Another quick glance around the hall, and a deep breath in and out, Duo crossed into the ward, flushing when so many eyes turned his way. Heero would be in the last bed, and not looking his way.

Passing each bed, Duo nodded his head, acknowledging the patients, knowing them without knowing who they were. Brothers they were, if in experience only. A radio played some silly pop tune, and Duo threw it a glance, murmuring, "roller-skates and keys" under his breath. But he was smiling when he reached the foot of Heero's bed.

"Hey," he said softly, waiting for Heero to turn his head, to see him. His heart thumped loudly, and he was sure Heero could hear it. At least the note had warned of Heero's appearance. Duo kept his eyes focused on Heero's face, away from what he knew was missing, and didn't want confirmed. At least, not just yet.

Heero turned his head, and Duo caught his breath. Other than the slight tightening of his lips, Heero didn't acknowledge his presence. "I-I just found out you were..." he gestured to the bed, moving a little closer. "...that you were here."

His lips parted and his throat worked, but instead of the words Duo half expected, Heero shut his eyes, closed his mouth with a snap and turned away to face the wall again.

"Ah, Heero, man." And Duo pressed up to the side of the bed, picking up Heero's hand from where it lay on the blanket. "I wanted to see you, Heero. I wanted to know how you were doing... that you were-were still living."

"I live," Heero said, still facing the wall.

Duo chuckled softly, squeezing the hand in his. "That's good, 'cause Night of the Living Dead was a pretty sick movie."

Heero shifted under his blanket, shot a glance his way, and jerked his hand from Duo. "Why are you here?"

Humor lost, Duo stared at Heero lying in bed. "I thought I said - I wanted to see you."

"Why?" Heero's voice dropped low, his eyes clinging to Duo's face.

Looking back down the ward, Duo turned away, reaching for the privacy curtain. He pulled it over, clinging to the heavy material for a moment before letting go and facing Heero. "The last thing you said to me before I hopped on that copter," Duo told him, moving back to his place by the bed, and reaching for Heero's hand again. "Wasn't it you who told me "you will be the first person I look for when I hit stateside. So don't go disappearing on me."?"

Heero dropped his eyes, but left his hand in Duo's grip. "Your hair," he said, still looking away. "It's getting long."

"Yeah," Duo said softly. His free hand rose, and he fingered the straight shock over Heero's forehead. "You need a cut, too." He let his fingers trace down the side of Heero's face, the pad of his thumb to caress the vivid red line over Heero's cheek. "How-how'd it happen?" he asked, keeping his voice low and settling on the side of the bed.

"A grenade." And Heero let go a heavy rush of air, his hand squeezed Duo's tight. "It was a greenie; tripped a wire and I was too late."

Duo leaned down, giving Heero's cheek a quick brush of his own. "It's going to be okay, Heero. You're alive, and we're together again."

Heero covered his eyes with his free hand, his grip tight in Duo's hand. "He was fucking killed two steps beside me, Duo. How the fuck does that make it okay?"

"You cared, Heero. That's what makes it okay. You cared." And he turned his head, giving Heero a kiss. "And you're here now, however you got here." He kissed him again, below his hand, just above his lips. "And you're out of there, and that's fucking great."

Duo sat up, watching Heero. His hand was nearly numb; Heero's strength still raw and boundless. But, he left his hand where it was, and waited. For an instant, he had been transported back more than a year, knee-deep in the Shit. For an instant, he couldn't remember wanting a drink so badly his hands began to tremble.

"I lost my foot," Heero said, his voice thick, and his hand still covering his eyes.

"But the rest of you is here." Duo glanced down Heero's body, then, seeing evidence of something wrong under the blankets.

"I might not walk properly again."

Duo shrugged. "You'll learn to use crutches or maybe we can get you a peg-leg or something."

Heero's lips quirked upward, and his hand slid from his face. "A peg-leg? Like a pirate?" And he laughed faintly at Duo's nod. His smile faded, and he held Duo's hand in both of his. "You know if we do this, it's going to be rough. People won't understand, and..." Duo's fingers covered his mouth.

"Go to Santa Cruz, you told me. The one place you wanted to live after your Army stint." Duo swallowed and touched the half-healed mark on Heero's face. "I've got a little place, and I'm going to the university there. It's everything you told me it was."

"You're living in Santa Cruz?" Heero asked, pulling Duo's hand away. Duo gave him a nod, and Heero inhaled deeply. His grip eased, and he shifted his gaze to stare at the foot of his bed. "I don't know how long I'll be in here, but..." He flicked his eyes up to meet Duo's and back again. "If you want to come back and visit-"

"I do," Duo cut in immediately. "I'll come down every day if I have to. And I'll be here when you sign the release papers. I'll be here to take you home."

Heero smiled then, small and hesitant. His eyes moved to watch Duo. "Home," he said, testing the word. "I like that."

[ day twenty two ]

preventing the full monty - heero/duo, language, BL, partial nudity, half-assed humor

He noticed the music first - something sultry and low toned. Something distinctive enough, he was raising his head from the book in his lap, and looking around for the source.

"Hey," Duo said, his tone low and husky, and giving the singer a run for sexy baritone.

Heero's eyebrows shot upward, disappearing in his hairline; Duo was leaning against the living room doorframe. His shirt was untucked, unbuttoned, and its cuffs hanging loose over his wrists. The top two buttons on his buttonfly were popped open, red briefs peeking out from the parted denim. He wasn't wearing socks. Or shoes.


"I can't get enough of your love, babe..." and Duo was striding toward him, shoulders swinging in an exaggerated sway, and his pelvis leading.

Heero shut his book and went to set it on the coffee table, watching Duo. The book landed on the carpet with a soft thump; Heero's eyes grew wide. Duo stopped, struck a pose, his hip thrust to the side, and he tossed a look over his shoulder at Heero.

"Oh, there's some things I can't get used to..."

"Duo," Heero began. Duo's shirt slipped off one shoulder, catching in the crook of Duo's arm. Heero choked and schooled his face. "What are you doing?"

"What kind of love is this that you're giving me?" Duo spoke with the song, moving his hips around, and shouldering his shirt off, both sleeves catching by the elbows. Duo's thumbs were hooked into his front pockets, and his feet were doing a little shuffle step, his head bobbed in rhythm.

Heero was holding his breath. Never had this happened, could he have expected, would have ever imagined - and wasn't sure he ever wanted to imagine. In a sudden movement, making Heero want to cry out in a high-pitched yowl, Duo's hand flashed down, grabbing his crotch; his feet rocked up on his toes and he flung his arm upward. For a moment, he held his pose, and then thrust his hips in rapid-fire gyrations.

Falling forward on the couch and hiding his face into a pillow was the better part of valor. One did not laugh at one's lover - at least not to their face - if they expected to get laid again. Heero was peeking over the edge of the couch arm, and bit down on the pillow he was clutching. Duo was shaking his shirt off one hand. It dropped to the floor, half covering his foot, and Duo kicked it away.

"...you're so unreal. Still I keep loving you..."

"Who is that singing?" Heero asked, worth the try of distraction. But Duo's back was to him, and he was doing things with his hands, running them down over his denim-covered ass, while bent over. So, maybe that part wasn't too bad. He had just started smiling, imagining just what his hands could be doing, and Duo's fanny was wagging, his jeans were sliding lower over hips and down to thighs, knees, and ankles.

"If I help you undress, will you stop?" Forget the rules, he was laughing, sitting up now, with the pillow in his lap being squished between his hands.

"Something moves. I scream your name..."

And Heero lost control. He fell on his back, his laughter, rich and strong welled up and out. Even the pillow he pulled over his face didn't stop it from coming. There was a loud, sudden silence, and Heero lifted the corner of his pillow. Duo was crossing the room, on the way back from the stereo, shaking the leg of his jeans from his foot. Though he'd stopped laughing, he was smiling, curled on his side, and watching Duo.

"Bastard," Duo was saying, leaning over the couch with one hand on its back and the other reaching down to unsnag the stubborn denim. "See if I ever get spontaneous and sensual with you again."

"Is that what you call... that?" Heero lowered his pillow.

Duo made a disagreeable noise, and dropped his jeans to the floor. "You're lucky my ego is malleable," Duo murmured, lowering himself on the couch, lying partly on top of Heero. "It merely got a little squished and not stomped on."

Bringing his arms up, Heero circled Duo's neck and pulled him down for a kiss. "More like your ego's so big, it barely made a dent." And he kissed him again; let his hands drift down Duo's back. "You do know those are the briefs with a hole in them, right?" His finger found the hole, accessed it with a touch.

"Hmmm," Duo rumbled, his head tucked into Heero's neck. "And I care why? Not like anyone else is going to see me in these but you." He lifted his head in a sudden, sharp movement. "Unless you plan on laughing at me again."

"Only if you plan on acting out a one-man "full monty" again."

"I'll get back to you on that." But Duo was grinning, and Heero's hands were sliding under elastic, traversing the same path Duo's hands had gone minutes before. Duo dropped his head back to Heero's neck. Between kisses, he murmured the last of the song playing, "Baby, let me take all of my life to find you. But you can believe it's gonna take the rest of my life to keep you."

[ day twenty three ]

egg salad combo - duo, heero, trowa, a little language, bare hints of BL

At his desk, pulling up personal notes for a case he assisted with over a month ago, Trowa glanced at Heero sitting across the desk. After his request, Heero flipped the folder Trowa still had on file, and was leafing through the paper reports, receipts and notes (one even written on a napkin).

"It's taken Meadows this long to expand the investigation?" Trowa asked, printing several documents selected. Behind him, the printer whirled to life, and he took a moment to make sure the paper wasn't going to jam.

"He claims resource constraints and prioritization." Heero barely looked up, fingering the napkin note with the restaurant name printed in the corner. Trowa saw his interest, his lips twitched; Duo's sketch of the main office building at the target location was exactly to scale, even incorporating the water stain.

Trowa collected the sheets as they printed off, collating them, and clipping each set together. "I believe Duo will have his own notes," he offered, setting his small pile in front of Heero's folder. "He should be back in a couple of minutes..." and he let it hang.

This time, Heero did look up. "I'll need his data as well." His finger tapped the diagram. "This is his work?" Though it was more a statement than question.

"Yes," Trowa said, giving a hint of a smile. "He worked recon while I interviewed. We met up at Charlie's after."

Heero nodded, and picked up the next document. "I have some questions for him when he gets back."

"Who gets back? And hey Heero." Duo entered, pulling off his jacket and tossing it on his chair. "We still on for lunch?" He moved across the room to perch on Trowa's desk beside Heero's chair.

"You, and yes," Heero answered, tilting his head up. "I'll need some more detail information from your notes on the Laurel building. Specially, on security and technology labs."

"Sure thing, buddy." Duo reached into the folder and pulled out his napkin note. "Heh. I forgot all about this." He was grinning, holding the paper aloft, and turning to Trowa. "Didn't that place make a great burger?"

"I had the tuna salad, and get your ass off my desk." Trowa poked at Duo with a closed pen. "I don't know where it's been."

"Hey!" Duo hopped to the floor. "More exciting places than yours has."

Trowa snorted, his eyes flicked to Heero and he almost laughed at the frown pointed in Duo's direction. "TMI, Maxwell."

A glare was shot in his direction before Duo turned back to Heero. "So, lunch."

"Relena mentioned a new café off Devon and Sixth," Heero said, flipping through a short stack of photographs. "Said they serve sandwiches that made her think of you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Stacked tall and full of shit," Trowa muttered.

"Up yours." And Duo flipped Trowa off without looking.

Heero shrugged. "I wasn't sure, but I'm sure she meant that you would like what was on the menu." He stopped searching through the folder to look at Duo. "Unless you had some place in mind?"

"Well, you know I'm always up for a good sandwich," Duo said, leaning back on Trowa's desk. "But, I was kind of hoping we could hit Shade's again."

"Okay." Heero nodded. "Shade's is good. We can try Relena's café next week." He turned away, reaching for Trowa's stack of printouts. "If you have any notes on the 'Looking Glass' case, would you send them to me?"

"Just give me a minute or two," Duo said, already moving to his own desk. His jacket, he hung on a hook attached to the wall, and flashed through the opening screens on his computer. "I did a little CAD program and pulled city blueprints for the building, if you want me to shoot it to you electronically. Added footnotes to rooms of interest." Duo's printer began pushing out paper.

"That should work," Heero said, gathering Trowa's notes and piling them into a single stack. "If you don't mind, just bring your notes and the CAD file to my office. We can go over them together before we leave for lunch." Heero was standing, looking in Duo's direction, and holding Trowa's files. Duo nodded, clicking through more documents.

Trowa was frowning slightly, looking between Heero and Duo. He'd heard the rumors, but knew there wasn't more than air to them - at least for now. But, this lunch routine was new, and Duo hadn't said more than a handful of words about it since they'd began the twice-weekly practice.

"Not that there's anything wrong with it," he started, already feeling the color heating his cheeks. "But why are you and Duo 'doing lunch' so often?"

Duo paused in his typing, canting his head to stare at Trowa. Heero shifted where he stood, his shoulder lifted marginally. "It's a chance for us to get together outside work," he said, a faint frown. "We rarely work together, now that you're his partner." Heero's frown deepened. "It gives us a chance to reconnect, to share more than case data, and plan for other things to do outside work." His frown faded, and he gave Trowa a brief smile.

"Oh," Trowa said, his fingers steepled, and he studiously avoided looking at his partner.

"I need to get back, then." Heero was moving toward the door. "Thanks for the notes, Trowa." He halted long enough to remind Duo. "See you in about a half-hour?"

"Sure." Duo nodded, and watched Heero leave.

A full minute passed in silence; Duo stared at the empty doorway and Trowa stared at his desktop. When Duo exhaled, loud enough for Trowa to hear it, he shifted his attention and lifted an eyebrow.

"So, what's the real reason?"

Duo wasn't exactly fidgeting, but he spent several seconds straightening papers and stacking folders. "It's like Heero said... reconnect, and make plans. Nothing wrong with that."

"No." The word hung in the space between them, and Trowa waited.

He flushed, and turned away from Trowa's look. "You two have baseball together, and he has Iaido with Wufei."

Nodding in acknowledgement, Trowa continue to watch. "You play basketball and hold season tickets with adjoining seats to the Sparks - even if they're the worst hockey team in the league."

"Hey!" Duo shot him a sharp glance. "Don't be dissing my boys."

"Boys is an apt term." But Trowa gave a little smile before sobering. "So..."

"Okay, so Heero buys lunch most days," Duo said, grumbling. "But it's still like what he said."

Trowa smiled softly. "That's what I thought." He turned back to his computer, all having been set right in his world.

[ day twenty four ]

worn comfort - heero, duo, AUish, slight language

"Cleanup on aisle five," a voice cut through the piped-in music from the overhead speakers.

Heero rose from his crouch, letting the can he held fall back into its box. Five was one of his to maintain, keep clean and stocked and customers satisfied. Five was condiments, juice, and canned fruit. From the aisle's head, he glanced down to see what kind of mess he'd be tackling, and headed for the back. A dustpan, broom, and mop, plus a caution sign, and five minutes later, the aisle was back on par; Heero was back to stocking red beans, fronting the kidney beans, and making plans to bring out a box of chili beans.

Two hours into his four-hour shift, he was called over to help clear out one of the freezer units. Its compressor had gone out, and he and the girl assigned the freezer section hustled frozen peas and carrots, bags of cauliflower and corn into carts. Ten trips, and loss was minimal; the items saved back into the large walk-in. Heero left the girl set out 'wet floor' signs, and mop up the mess.

His aisles still needed to be stocked, swept, and mopped. Four was nearly done, and the end-caps fronted. Six and seven were stocked, but they needed end-of-shift fronting, and to be swept. Before his diversion, Heero had the chance to finish five. His shift was nearly over, his aisles nearly done for the day, he delayed thoughts of home, of bed, and the moments of peace before his alarm would ring in the morning.

The job wasn't a bad one, not for a second year college student living in the dorms and needing survival money. Four four-hour shifts a week, and an understanding management when he needed to take a few days at finals time. But, it was still a job. One where the public played a large role and the public was his customer. And the customer was always right.

In the six months of working at the store, Heero hadn't had many run-ins with customers. But he had had to walk away, find something to do in the back room, if only to keep from hurting someone. It hadn't happened often, but often enough that Heero knew he never wanted to work in a service providing industry.

There was the time a couple of teenage boys tried to hide items down the front of their pants; one stood lookout while the other shoved a brick of Snicker bars into his jeans. Heero sent another stocker for a manager while he attempted to get the two to confess, only to have the manager apology for Heero's tactics, and let the boys exit the store - after they handed over the candy. That earned Heero a lecture on never accusing anyone of anything, and never holding anyone against their will - no matter what Heero thinks he saw.

Just before winter break, there had been a girl who haunted his aisles, and watched him work. Even now, Heero felt the need to look over his shoulder, to see if she were there. It had been bad enough when she stared, but then she started bringing her friends, and the girls would giggle, whisper, and watch. He wasn't sure what had happened to the girl, but when he returned after break, she was no longer around, and his shift went much faster.

Twenty minutes to go, and the night manager called the stockers together. A child, he explained, had lost a toy in the store about an hour before. The mother had called, explaining how the frayed and worn rabbit was the young girl's best friend, and the girl refused to sleep without it. The manager sent each stocker to look through their aisles carefully, and expand their search throughout the store.

A rabbit, worn or otherwise, Heero knew none were in his aisles. But he looked anyway. He offered to search the impulse buy aisles, and came up empty handed there as well. Ten minutes past his shift, the night manager relieved each stocker of their search, and went to call the mother with the news.

Heero clocked out, his mind already shifting to assignments due. His shrugged into his coat, slid fingers into gloves, and his scarf around his neck, and exited the store. The wind was instant and strong, pushing against him, its cold seeping through the weave of his coat. He shivered slightly, muscles tensed before he forced them to relax. At least it wasn't snowing.

If his dorm mate hadn't had a paper due, he would have gone back inside and called for a ride. But the walk was less than a mile, and Duo was already anxious enough, an interruption wasn't advisable. Heero turned up his collar, and shrugged deeper into his coat. He was half-way across the parking lot when he spotted it. At first, he thought it rubbish, a fast-food bag tossed from a car window. But, it was an odd shape, and as Heero drew closer, he knew what it was.

He picked it up, held it at eye-level, and couldn't help the slight smile. One eye missing, an ear ripped and ragged, and its paisley print worn, dirty and faded, this was a rabbit only a child could love. Heero retraced his steps, and headed for the manager's office. The thing looked worse under florescent lighting. And the manager didn't seem too thrilled to have it lounging on his desk, either. But, that wasn't Heero's problem any longer; he headed for home a second time.

The wind was sharper, more brutal in its force. By the time Heero hit the campus, his feet felt numb, and his cheeks stiff. By the time he entered the dorm, he was shivering, longing for a hot shower and the thick comforter on his bed.

The room was dark when he opened the door, and Heero quickly closed it, shutting out the hallway light. He stood for a moment, adjusting to the dimness, stripping out of his coat, scarf, and gloves. At the end of his bed, he let them drop to the floor in a pile, vowing silently to pick them up in the morning. For only a moment, he debating heading down the hall for a shower, but, he was weary, and the room was warm, and his bed so close. Heero pulled off his sweater, leaving the white tee on, kicked off his shoes and toed off his socks. His jeans followed.

In his boxers and tee, he sat on the side of his mattress, rubbing at his face. He had a paper due in two days; one he had minimal data collected. One of his classes demanded seventy pages read from Monday, and though Heero was nearly finished, he tried to factor a time between waking, classes, and breakfast to fit it in.

"Heero?" Duo was mumbling sleepily from his bed.

"Yeah, I'm here." Heero peered through the dim lighting, barely able to see Duo raising his head.

"You're late," Duo said, shifting in bed, and sitting up. "Everything okay?"

Heero gave a nod, adding a quiet "yes." He sighed, and laid back on his bed, pulling the covers out from underneath him. "It was a long shift."

"Tell me about it," Duo grumbled, lying back himself. "Twelve fucking pages! Who ever heard of it, damn sadistic bastard." His rant punctuated with a yawn.

His eyes were still opened, staring at the ceiling, an arm thrown over his forehead. He listened as Duo shifted about, settling into bed. Down the hall, he heard someone's music flare to life, just a little too loud and quickly died down again. He thought of the mayonnaise jar he had to clean up, and wondered if was a careless hand that dropped it or a slight vibration that shook it from its place on the shelf.

Duo was shifting around in his bed again, but it was in the familiar pattern of Duo on the verge of sleep. Heero rolled on his side to face him, though it was too dark to see more than a lumpy shape. And suddenly, that child's rabbit came to mind. Tattered around the edges, it had been.

Smiling softly in the dark, Heero let his eyes close and forget for the moment what had happened that day, what was supposed to happen the next day, and slept.

[ day twenty five ]

charades of youth - hilde, heero/duo, BL, mild angst, waff

She was trying to decide between the black skirt and the white pants; both looked terrific with her blue shirt. "Hey Duo," she called out.

"Yeah," Duo said, leaning in her doorway in such a sudden way, she nearly jumped.

"Which?" She turned to him, holding both objects up for his perusal. "I can't decide."

He rolled his eyes, but entered her room, looking from one to the other. "What one do you like best?" But his hand reached out; his fingers rubbed the skirt between them.

"Either, both!" She pulled them away from him, holding them out in front of herself, chewing on the inside of her lip. "I wore the skirt a couple weeks ago, but I really like way it fits."

Duo chuckled and plucked its hanger from her hand. "Then skirt it is." He glanced down at it, frowning slightly. "Go put those away and get dressed. Isn't your guy picking you up at seven?"

"I'll be ready, don't you be worrying about me," Hilde said, voice muffled from inside her closet. "Don't you have your own date to be getting ready for?" She peered out the door, a strappy sandal dangling from her hand.

He snorted, but dropped the skirt on her bed. "It's just Heero and I'm going to his place to play a game or two." He swept his hand from shoulder to thigh. "I'm dressed and ready as ever. Heero wouldn't know what to do if I did different."

"Then maybe you should." Hilde was smiling, coming from her closet buttoning her blue blouse. Duo averted his eyes, but any hints of being uncomfortable had long disappeared. "Keep it interesting, keep him stimulated."

Duo laughed, shaking his head. "It doesn't take a new pair of pants to stimulate him." His eyes flicked to Hilde, and he turned away. "Nah, it's all about the comfort. And that leads to some interesting, stimulated times."

"I don't want to know." Hilde waved an arm in his direction, stepping into her skirt and sliding it up over narrow hips. She zipped it closed, and smoothed it down. "Aren't you supposed to be heading out now? I thought you were eating over at Heero's, staying the night there?"

Grunting softly, Duo looked at his watch. "When am I going to meet this Chance guy, anyway?"

"Chaz," Hilde corrected, adjusting the strap on one heel. "And not until I'm sure you're not going to scare him off."

"If I can scare them, then they're not worth you." He closed the distance between them, waited until she straightened.

"It can make a girl awfully lonely trying to find another Heero Yuy." Her lips quirked and her hand yanked on a lank of his hair.

"Heero's good enough for me," Duo told her. "But you?" He shrugged, but was grinning. "Have fun tonight, and call me if you need me for anything." He was leaning forward, brushed lips to her cheek, his hand on her arm.

"Thanks, Duo." She gave him a short smile and touched fingers to his face. "You have the fun I won't be having at Heero's, k?"

"You bet your ass I will," Duo said laughing, with a wave. And he was out of her room, down the hall, and she heard the front door open and close.

She waited five minutes, five minutes to make sure he hadn't forgotten something. Kicking off her heels, she darted down the hall to the front door and peeked outside, verifying Duo's bike wasn't in the driveway. She closed the door and leaned against it, letting out a long breath. Her hands nearly shook turning the lock, her lips a grim line. On her way back to her room, she unbuttoned her blouse and slid it from her shoulders. In her room, she hung her skirt back up, and returned clothing and shoes to her closet.

In less than ten minutes, she was dressed once again in sweat pants, the oversized tee-shirt she knew belonged to Duo, and a pair of thick socks. A quick stop in the restroom, she washed her face clear of make-up, a grimace to her reflection, and she padded down the hall to the kitchen. Dinner was a pieced together meal, bread and cheese, a sliced up apple and a glass of club soda. Settling back on the couch, plate balanced in her hand, her night of movie watching began.

She was laughing minutes later, at the actress bumbling across the screen, acting a part she definitely wasn't. Her plate was set aside, and her legs drawn up to her chest, she still smiled though the picture became blurry. The movie's heroine stumbled into her co-star's arms and a moment was shared - that moment of clarity spoiled in the next second by the man's girlfriend of the day showing her jealous side.

Uttering a mumbled curse, Hilde unfolded her body, picked up her plate and empty glass and went to the kitchen. There was a fresh carton of ice cream in the freezer, chocolate with chips and bits of marshmallows and nuts. She opened it and dipped the spoon inside where she stood by the sink. Thoughts of calories, and just where they'd land were dismissed with promises of extra sit-ups, a lengthy run the next day, and salads for lunch for a week.

The heroine was yelling in the next room, and Hilde moved back to her seat on the couch. She stabbed her spoon into the carton, eyes fixed on the screen. The soon-to-be-lovers were clinging to each other on the edge of a cliff, large caricature birds were swooping down at them. Impossible though it was, Hilde almost wished the birds would knock one or the other off.

She pried up a marshmallow chunk, frowning. It wasn't as though she'd lied to Duo. There had been a Chaz at one time a couple of months ago. But, he'd been like the others, someone looking for excitement of the moment. She held the spoon in her mouth, her frown deepened. There wouldn't be a 'Heero' for her; boys her age were after one thing, and that one thing she wasn't willing to deal out to keep her Saturday nights busy.

The movie ended on a happy note, the heroine and her man bungling their way into the sunset, promises of a lifetime hinted. Hilde ejected the disc and inserted another. While it shifted through its opening credits, she took the partly depleted carton back to the freezer, rinsed her dishes out, stacked them in the washer, and poured another glass of club soda. For a second, she wondered if Duo and Heero were having sex yet, or if they'd already fucked. She was flushing, excited and disgusted at once in herself. But, she slid a hand to touch through her sweats.

"I need to get laid," she muttered, and went back to the couch. She thought about rooting through Duo's box of discs, knowing he had those special ones tucked away. Even if they were homoerotic, they were people touching, and holding, and kissing, and loving one another. But, she pressed down on the 'play' button instead. Pathetic, she thought, pushing thoughts of sex and personal touches away.

Her second movie was just as predictable as the first, but less romance and a lot more angst. Tears stood in her eyes, a pillow clutched between her knees and chest, her chin quivered, and on-screen, a mother shouted in grief at the injustice of losing a child. Her heart was aching, her body shivered in reaction. The front door opened, and voices were heard in hushed, laughing tones. Hilde twisted around, jumping to her feet in horror; Heero stopped just inside the living room, his laughter died and he was pulling Duo's hand out from under his shirt. Duo peered over Heero's arm; his own laughter dwindled away.

"Hilde?" Duo said, bewildered and blinking.

"Uh, hi." Hilde's lips quirked upward, the pillow squeezed tight in her arms.

"I thought you were going to be out..." Duo moved several steps into the room, tossed a glance at Heero, and back to Hilde.

"I'll be in your room," Heero murmured softly, brushing past Duo. He looked at Hilde before disappearing down the hall, giving her a smile and a slight nod.

"Hil?" Duo took a couple of cautious steps forward, his eyes flicked to the movie playing.

She sighed and turned away. "You were supposed to be staying at Heero's tonight." She sat back on the couch, her legs curled up under her; she was still holding the pillow to her chest.

"Yeah," he said softly, coming to perch on the other end of the couch. "One of his neighbors is holding a party, and it's getting pretty loud over there." His eyes left her face, turning to the television. "Where's Chase?"

Hilde sighed again, her hand fumbled for the remote. The screen went blank; she shoved her hair back from her eyes. "Chaz." She bit her lip, shooting Duo a quick look. "There really is a Chaz. I'm not making him up."

He nodded slowly. "Yeah, I believe you. So," His look darted about the room. "Where is he, again?"

"He was history about two months ago," she said.

"But," Duo's brow furrowed. "You've been going out with him for weeks now... Hilde, what's going on?"

"Nothing." She refused to look at him.

"Then why..." And Duo was sliding across the couch, tugging on the pillow and bending over to peer up into her face. "...why didn't you say anything before?"

The tears came, then, unbidden, and unwanted. She wiped at them, glaring at Duo. "Because you've been so happy, you and Heero finally doing more than being friends." She rubbed the heel of her hand over her eyes. "It wasn't the same any more. The guys-" she took a deep breath and eased it out slowly. "The guys are different- they are just looking to get laid or cop a feel on the dance floor."

"I'm sorry."

His voice was so soft and careful; she looked at him then. She gave him a wavering smile. "You don't even know what you're apologizing for." But she leaned forward and circled her arms around his neck. "You've nothing to be sorry for, Duo Maxwell."

"But I am, sorry that is." His arms went around her waist, and he pressed his face to her hair. "I'd do anything for you, Hil. Just tell me what to do, how I can help."

She laughed softly into his shoulder. "This isn't something you can fix or beat on with a hammer." Her embrace tightened, and then she was pushing him away. "It's a waiting game, and trying to not become bitter until the babies grow up and mature."

"Okay." And Hilde knew he was trying to understand.

"It really will be, Duo." She smiled for him, touched fingers to his face, and jerked her chin in the direction of the hallway. "Your boyfriend's waiting."

Duo looked over his shoulder, but turned back to her. "How 'bout... Heero and me join you in watching movies. Or playing a game, like we used to do?"

"Don't you have plans?" Her expression softened, and she pulled back, picked her pillow up, and held it close.

"Nothing that can't be changed." And Duo was smiling, standing up, and holding a hand down to pull her up from the couch. "We haven't had a good game night in months."

She shook her head. "No, we haven't."

But, she allowed Duo to drag her from the couch and push her toward the closet hiding their games. She pulled down a couple of boxes, checked to make sure the pieces were still there, and smiled, hearing Duo explain the change in plans to Heero. His quiet reply was lost to her, but they were both there a moment later. Duo was offering to call out for a pizza, and Heero headed to the kitchen for drinks.

Her lip trembled and her eyes stung in sudden emotion, but she shook it away. Holding the games under one arm, she shut the closet door, and issued a challenge neither male could let go unanswered.

[ day twenty six ]

beyond good and evil - duo, noin/zechs, hints of heero/duo, BL, het, male-pissiness, language, a tad of introspection

Staring at the ceiling instead of sleeping was not the best idea I had. But, after the conversation Miz Noin foisted off on me, it was the only option left. Damn if she didn't hit on points I'd been avoiding like the L2 plague. Talk to him, she said. Find out what he really feels.

Yeah, if it was so easy, what's she doing sleeping, and drinking alone, with her man off in the wilds of Mars?

I mean, it wasn't as though I didn't talk to Heero, or see him when our paths crossed. It was more like, we avoided talking about those kinds of things. I wasn't ready to do what he wanted me to do, and I couldn't ask him to change either. He had a life there. He was doing something he enjoyed, something he was good at doing. And every time we did manage to get together, he was that much more than he was the time before.

So, maybe I stayed away because he was better, better off without me hanging around getting in his way.

It was about there I flipped over on the couch, punched a hollow in the pillow, and forced my eyes closed. It was about then, someone knocked at the door. And I was up off the couch before the echo of it faded. I jerked the door open and was standing face to...well, chest of Zechs Merquise himself.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

My lip was curling already. "Funny, I was going to ask you the same thing." He made as though to push past me, but I held onto the door, blocking his way. "Miz Noin's sleeping. Come back in the morning."

"I don't think so." His hand was on the door, and the push was slight, but challenging. "If Lucrezia wishes me to leave, then I will."

"Then we're at a stalemate, 'cause I'm not going to wake her up for your ass." And I leaned against the door, pushing back as good as I was getting.

"Since when has she required a doorman?" The push was a little stronger from him.

Still grinning, I pushed back. "I heard there was a lot of rubbish on Mars, and offered to help take out the trash." Both his hands were on the door now.

"Curious," Zechs said, his teeth gritted. "I was about to offer her that service as well."

"Too," and I put leg strength with arm strength, "Late." And the door nearly shut, but for the sharp command behind me.


I about fell over with the sudden release of pressure on the door. Zechs stood in the hall outside Noin's quarters, his glare softened and I almost felt bad about keeping him out.

"If you two boys are quite finished." And now she was glaring at the both of us. "Duo, let Zechs come inside," I was about to protest (especially since he started smirking), but she was quick add, "He's not staying long."

So, I backed away, and went back to my 'bed', fussed with the blanket, and deliberately stayed where I could see and hear everything.

"Do you know what time it is?" she demanded, and I was already looking at the clock, ready to pop out an answer. Damn, but she was good.

"I apologize, Lu," Zechs was saying, and if I didn't know better, I'd say he was fidgeting. But Zechs? Not a chance. "The transport landed less than an hour ago."

"And you thought you'd honor me with your presence?" I had to look at the floor, covering that little snigger with a cough.

"I had hoped to spend a little time with you," he was saying, and I glanced up in time to see him looking at me. "Alone." Oh, as if that one would hurt.

"You can't just expect to walk in whenever you want, Zechs. My home is not a hotel, and my bed not yours to share."


I was actually starting to feel sorry for the guy, and made myself scarce. Not that hiding out in the kitchen provided them any privacy, but it's the illusion that counted. Right? I mean, it was only an open counter between the postage stamp kitchen and the closet-sized living room. But, I turned my back to them, and hummed a little tune, watching the way the reflection of the clock light dance on the wall.

When I thought about it, I guess I'd have been rather pissed myself - showing up at Heero's door, only to find a half naked man answering it. Heh, not as though Miz Noin and I were even inclined that way to one another. But still. They might not have more than Heero and I did, but they had something.

Ah hell.

I should give Heero a call when I got onboard. Sometime tomorrow night, before the ship left Mars' communication boosters. Maybe I'd luck out and he'd have the chance to connect when the ship ported. Not that "the talk" would come up, but other things would. Heero and me, well, it was good between us, even without the words. Even with the distant.

It was about then I noticed that it was awfully quiet in the next room. I did one of those looking without looking things, peering into the dark from the corners of my eyes. Not that I could see more than two dark shapes merging into one dark shape. Their voices were very low, less than a whisper. It wasn't the words I heard; it was the nuances.

Maybe Zechs did ...care for Miz Noin more than I thought. She was still too good for him, though. Not that it was up to me. And for whatever God-awful reason, she was kinda stuck on the guy. Maybe it was the way he filled out a pair of uniform pants. Or those long boots he used to wear. I'd think the hair, but he cut most of it off. Whatever it was, she had it bad.

All of that led me to think of Heero. Shit. Was I his Zechs, demanding his time when it was convenient for me? I'd like to think better of myself, but... maybe.

I really needed to talk to Heero. Maybe... maybe agree to make a trip his way after all. Hell, he'd only been asking me to for the past couple of years. A normal person would have given it up, but not Heero.

"You can come out now," Miz Noin said.

She was still at the door, and Zechs was nowhere around. It was too dark to see much but shadow and darker shadow. But, the white of her nightgown was a lighter shade of dark, and I focused on that.

"Hope I didn't spoil plans," I told her, sitting on the couch, watching that lighter shade of dark move. "I could have gone back to the ship."

"Don't be ridiculous, Duo." And she took a seat beside me. "He... doesn't often drop by like that." Oh boy. "Normally he sends me his schedule, and we do-make plans."

"It's none of my business, Miz Noin." I had to stop looking at her, even if I couldn't see her face.

"No, I suppose it's not." She rose to her feet, and moved around me. "I'll let you get back to sleep, then. Good night, Duo."

I waited until she was at her bedroom door before I spoke. "He seems like he cares for you."

She stopped, and I heard her inhale quick-like. "I believe he does."

"Then it doesn't matter about the rest, does it?" My chest was feeling tight all of a sudden. "I mean, if you care of him and he cares for you, the other stuff is just - stuff. Right?"

"Are we talking about you now?" I looked up sharply, and could make out the edge of her face, some small amount of light leaked from her room. "That's what I thought." In the glow, her lips moved upward and she was smiling. "He's a good man, Duo."

"Are we talking about Heero now?"

She gave me a short laugh. "Good night, Duo."

"Good night... Lu." And that hint of light vanished. I lay back down, staring at the ceiling. Morning was going to come far too early, but I had a feeling it'd be okay. And that tomorrow was going to be a pretty good day.

title is from this quote:
What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.

- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 153

[ day twenty seven ]

clothes make the man - duo, quatre, mild language

Quatre emerged from his bedroom, a garment bag in one hand with a small assortment of hangers protruding from the top. "I found these at a shop in Nice," he was saying, already unzipping the bag.

"Uh, really, Quat, you didn't have to do that." Duo scratched an ear, watching Quatre untangle hangers, and clothing. "I've been picking out my own clothes for years now."

"But it's no trouble." Quatre turned a smile in Duo's direction, a pair of slacks in one hand and its hanger in the other. "I enjoyed buying these for you, since I don't get the chance to give you much of anything."

Duo flushed, and went to perch on the edge of the couch next to the shirts Quatre had already unearthed. "Quatre," Duo said, frowning. "You bought these for me?"

"Yes!" Quatre added another shirt to the pile, and sat on the other side of his purchases. "Isn't the material the best you've ever seen or felt?" And Quatre lifted the shirtsleeve to rub its cuff over Duo's cheek.

"Uh, sure." He was pulling way, and taking the shirt from Quatre's hand. "You didn't... mix up my bags with yours, did you?" He looked over the items, poking a finger at them.

"No, I haven't made a mistake." Quatre pulled out a shirt with a pair of khaki tan pants. "I believe you'll look fantastic in this outfit." His eyes drifted from Duo's face to his feet. "Though, we'll have to find you new footwear. Your boots wouldn't be quite the right look."

Sticking a foot straight out, Duo glared at his boot. "What's wrong with 'em?"

"Nothing's wrong with them," Quatre said, waving away Duo's worry. "But for this sort of outfit, I think a shoe more like this," and he held his own foot aloft, "might work the best."

"But..." Duo began to scowl, his eyes darting from shoe to shoe owner and back. "You like wearing those...slippers?"

Quatre smiled again. "They're not slippers, Duo. The shoe was designed for comfort, fit, and quality. I can wear a pair all day, be on my feet most of the time, and not suffer from them being sore." He beamed at his foot before dropping it back to the carpet. "Now, I don't mean for you to change all at once-maybe a modification plan is in order."

"Modification plan?" Duo was still staring at Quatre's loafers.

"If we ease an item or two into your wardrobe every few days, in a couple of weeks, you'll feel like you've never worn anything else."

"Modification-" Duo was looking up at Quatre now, one brow flagged, and lips skewed. "Plan?" Then he was shaking his head, tossing the shirt back onto the pile beside him. "Listen, Quat, I appreciate that you've thought of me, but this... these...uh..."

"At least start with a shirt. There isn't any harm in that, right?" And Quatre rooted though the pile, pulling two likely candidates free.

"Really, buddy, I can't,-I'd rather-" Duo words choked off, his jaws snapped together. "They're pink!"

Quatre glanced at the garments and back to Duo. He blinked; his brows drew a hint downward. "Yes, they are."

"But I don't wear pink." He was scooting back on the couch, coming to a sudden halt at the couch's arm.

"That's the point..." Quatre began, lowering the shirts.

"For me to wear pink?" A vague look of horror crossed Duo's face.

"You wear red, and pink is just its lighter shade." Quatre lifted the shirts again, holding them out in front of his face. "I like the Di'Rigo, she designs with such a flare, but this Lacrouso is just fantastic." He flipped one of the shirts aside to ask, "Maybe you should take both and wear them on different days?"

Duo's mouth opened and closed. He rose to his feet shakily, his hand pushed out before him. "No, Quat. Really. I couldn't wear something like that."

"Don't be ridiculous," Quatre told him, frowning and holding the shirt back up to eye level again. "You'll look fabulous in pink. It'll bring out such color on you." He was standing, holding one hangered shirt out in front of Duo. "In choosing the styles, I took into account how they'll fit over your shoulders, and the cut narrows to show how slender your waist is."

"Quatre," Duo said, closing his eyes and shuddering slightly. "You are seriously creeping me out here."

"You wanted a change - something different, you said." Quatre tossed the lighter shade of pink without a backward glance, and started to slide the other shirt from its hanger. "Let's see how it looks on."

"Uh, no." Duo grabbed Quatre's hand and held it tight. "When I said change, I meant something like a new job, or...or a new apartment, even."

Quatre worked his hand free, and pat Duo's upper chest with it. "Some of the biggest changes begin with the smallest things. Today, a shirt; tomorrow, you're buying a house."

The panicked look began to fade, and Duo was suddenly holding the shirt. It was soft and looked quite stylish. He began to wonder how it would look on him, how it would feel against his skin. A little pink didn't hurt anyone. His eyes focused on Quatre for a moment. Didn't make a man girlish at all. Pink contrasted wildly with black, and wouldn't that be a shock. He began to smile.

"You really believe that? Changing the color of my shirt will-change me? My life?"

"It's a start." And Quatre smiled softly, taking the shirt from Duo's hand, and putting it back on the hanger. "Why don't you take it home, wear it in private, and then when you go out next."

"Heero'd have a piss," Duo said with a wicked grin. "If only to see that..." And he nodded sharply. "Okay, Quat. You win. One shirt today and we'll negotiate the rest tomorrow."

"Good," Quatre said, pulling the garment bag over the shirt and zipping it closed. "I don't think you'll regret this change." He handed the hanger over to Duo. "Call me when you're ready for the others."

"I will." Duo was grinning and heading for the door. "Thanks Quat." And he was gone.

Quatre dropped to the couch, staring at the now closed door. He waited for the count of fifty, watching, and waiting.

"I believe you owe me ten," he announced to the room at large.

"The bet was to get him to wear it..." Trowa said, coming out from Quatre's bedroom.

"Oh he'll wear it." Quatre turned in his seat, watching Trowa cross the room. "Unless you want to bet it double or nothing?"

[ day twenty eight ]

Sepia Tone Memories - heero/duo, sap, hints of angst, POV

just a tiny note: this isn't the story i'd meant to write for today's story, but i ran out of time to write what i had wanted to, so, that one will be worked on and posted one day soon. this is a product of someone's influence *cough*raz*cough*. she's the one who sent me the song (Jack Jackson's Better Together), and talked about how it'd make such a lovely heero/duo fic. so...i blame her. ;)

You once asked me why, and at the time, I had no real answer for you. I only knew that if we were together, we could make it through. We didn't know then of the trials that were set before us, but, does anyone really?

In the beginning, you talked of plans to build a business someday. Something easy, you'd said. And build a business you did. It lasted three years, and though I know you hated to sign over the titles and licenses, I was more relieved than despondent. Upset for you, but so glad to have you back. Your business was killing you, and making us drift ever slowly apart.

Remember our first apartment? More roaches and contact paper in the cupboards than food and dishes. We ate ramen for a week so we could attend that movie opening - stood in line all night, one of us running for food, and the sleeping bag, one of us holding 'our spot' in line while necessities were taken care of. It didn't matter that the movie didn't live up to its hype; I don't think either of us cared so much, since we were together through it all.

There was the time you were in the car wreck. The event nearly took you from my life. But, you survived it, and forgave me when I pushed you too hard. Even if it was for your own good. This morning, I laid in bed watching you sleep, and traced that faint scar. Frankenstein's monster, you'd dubbed yourself. And for a laugh, you'd even super-glued bolts to each side of your neck. I couldn't stop laughing. But, the neighbor's kids weren't frightened of you any more.

I'll never forget the night you took me fishing. My first time, and you never let a chance slide by to tease me about it. Curious how I was the only one who caught a fish, Oh Master of the Fishing Art. The stars were so clear and bright that night. Another layer gone from the ozone, you'd said. I let you ramble for a bit, and hushed you with a kiss. And fishing and stars and even the ozone layer didn't exist any more. Though, the next time I made sure it was your back pressed into rocks and sticks and outdoorsy rubble.

And you were there the day over five hundred of us were sacked - without notice or warning or severance. Bunch of blighters, you called them. Worst than rabbits, jumping at shadows. You were so sure the economy would rebound, and I would find a job again. Six months, you supported me, paid my bills, and kept me from going under. Six months, and I practiced life as 'around the world' on a frayed string. Six month, and I started at the bottom rung once again.

Several times over the years, I had given in to thoughts of leaving, of walking away. They were but moment dreams. Frustrations and peevishness eating at me, making me surly.

As I look at you now, teasing that mangy flea-bitten cat with a toy mouse, I know the answer to your question from so long ago.

Love, it's better together.


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