Home For Christmas
"Fuck, it's hot."
Quatre looked up to watch Duo lower himself to the ground beside him. He didn't say anything, but then he didn't have to; sweat dotted his brow and ran in dirty streaks down his neck. Canting his head to the side, he brushed it over his sleeve, and turned back to the letter he'd begun. Words for home were being difficult when he wanted to be nowhere else.
"I thought you were going to hang out near HQ until the chopper came in." He switched his pencil from one hand to the other and rubbed his fingers on his fatigues.
Duo snorted. "Those down home boys started caroling, and a warm beer isn't worth that."
Adding another line to his letter, Quatre nodded. There might have been a cease-fire, but they were still in the bush. Camp was at least tolerable, with a shower and kitchen facilities. Duo shifted around next to him. Quatre's eyes flicked upward; Duo was taking off his shirt. He turned back to his letter and hunched farther into his shirt. Sweat trickled under his collar and ran down his back, adding more to the stain on his shirt.
"December isn't supposed to be this hot!"
"It is this far south of the equator," Quatre replied, his pencil moving slowly over paper.
"Well, it doesn't feel like Christmas."
Quatre avoided looking at Duo, but he smiled for the petulant tone. At home, there would be snow - there usually was - and a tall tree in the front window, full of lights and tinsel. It was the smells he was missing, treats from the kitchen, wood smoke on crisp, frosty air, and pine from the tree. It was doing things he didn't want to, he missed; Iria dragging him out to shop, visiting with cousins who never cared for him and who only made nice to keep in his father's good graces.
"Here," Duo said quietly, thrusting out a can and breaking into his musings. "Merry Christmas, Quatre."
He took the can and turned it over in his hands. "Fruit cocktail?" But, he smiled and set the letter aside. "Where did you get this, Duo?" He was digging into a leg pocket for his church key.
"A trade with the cook at base." Duo was grinning, looking pleased.
Hands paused and Quatre shot Duo a look. "You carried this around for a week?"
Duo was nodding. "Yeah, humped it up here. For you." He looked away, wiping sweat from his forehead and added, "For Christmas."
"I...I didn't get you anything."
"You can make it up to me later." Duo was looking at him again. He gestured to the can slowly being opened. "And share a bite or two of that."
Quatre nodded and grinned, going back to work on the lid. "I could always share the next batch of cookies Iria sends..."
"No! You want to kill me?" At Quatre's laugh, Duo jostled his shoulder. "Seriously, the government should have her make a ton of those rocks, and the Air Force drop ‘em all over the jungle. VC won't know what hit ‘em."
"I'll be sure to tell Iria that."
"Hey!" Duo shouted with a laugh, but he shoved a hand against Quatre's shoulder and settled back. "So, what would you be doing if you were home?"
The opener slipped off the can, and Quatre jerked his finger up to his mouth. He sucked on the small cut, more to avoid answering than stop blood. The year before, he'd come home a failure, barely passing classes and on academic suspension. He was supposed to have returned to college the following fall.
Quatre picked up the church key and shrugged. "Happy to be there, I guess." When there was only a small strip of metal holding the lid to the can, Quatre twisted the jagged metal back, exposing cut up fruit in syrup. He dug out his spoon and dipped it inside, pushing the liquid away in his hunt for peach chunks.
"Yeah, that's cool." Duo shifted his position, digging his own spoon out. "Howard'd have that funky nog shit he always makes. The guys from the shop would come over."
"Here," Quatre said passing Duo the can. "I remember Howard's eggnog!" He smiled thinking of how good it tasted, the thick grog masking the whiskey, and how terrible he'd felt the following morning.
"Can I have it?" Duo asked, and Quatre frowned over at him. Duo shoved his spoon closer, showing him bits of fruit swimming in the syrup. "Your cherry?"
"Duo!" But Quatre laughed anyway, even as he flushed and couldn't quite look at Duo. He wiped his sleeve over his forehead again, and reached for the can. From the other side of the camp, the singing grew louder. His eyes met Duo's and his laughter was seconds behind.
He took another scoop of fruit, crunching down on a pear piece. And for a moment, the heat faded, the constant sense of something missing was gone. He sat frozen for seconds only, but Duo was watching him.
"Thanks, Duo," he said simply, and offered the can of fruit. "Merry Christmas."