Part II: Little Boy Blue
Discarding the pretense of reading the paper, Duo gave in to his thoughts on Heero. He delved deeper than the aggravation and resentment that had built over the past couple of years, and tried to disassociate himself from who the man was. Tried to see him as that woman had seen him - not as his lover, his husband, the secondary father to his child, not even as his best friend.
He was genius, his idea holding more merit than many combined. Relatively inexpensive, and mostly unobtrusive, Heero's data collector could do what several human agencies could not. But that wasn't who Heero was. When they'd first met, he was the boy with a mission, the boy with a purpose. Now he was the man with a mission and purpose. The same drive and determination to see it through to the end fueled his waking hours. Even stealing those hours from what should have been his sleeping ones.
Duo frowned in irritation. He glanced automatically towards the arcade and felt a moment of panic when Jimmy wasn't in sight. An older boy moved and Duo could see his son bent over tying a shoelace. The relief was strong, nearly overwhelming, and he almost laughed at himself. It'd been over a year since he'd last felt that choking panic and he hoped he'd never have to live through it again. Though he'd only gone missing for a couple of hours, it seemed as though two lifetimes had passed before Jimmy had been found at the park, nearly ten blocks from the house.
Watching the boy straighten and shake the hair out of his eyes, Duo was reminded of Jimmy's other father. Heero's hair, Duo's eyes. Heero's mouth, Duo's nose. The rest had been left to the DNA strands as they would connect. Both of their genes flowed in the boy, a miracle of science. Playing God with life, his mind whispered. He shook his head and looked around quickly. No one had seen his internal struggle.
In the early days of their relationship, having a family had been the furthest thought from his mind. At the time, Duo could hardly believe they'd actually gotten together. It'd only been after he'd proposed, after they'd married, that he felt something missing, felt the need for more. When Hilde had given birth to her little girl, Duo identified what it'd been.
It'd taken Heero to convince him to follow through with it. Heero, who never wanted a child. Heero, who never wanted to be a father. Heero, who loved him enough to share in his idea, and change his thoughts on what he wanted.
Heero read the brochure aloud for a third time. Duo squirmed in his chair at the table. He knew these sorts of things happened. Quatre and Trowa had three already, and neither of them had to become pregnant to have them. He eyed the sterile plastic cups still enveloped in their cellophane wrappers and turned a dubious look to his husband.
"Both of us, huh? In these?" He flicked a cup with the tip of a finger. Heero nodded, his cheeks slightly reddened. "I guess that leaves one question then." He picked up the instruction paper, pretending to read the next steps without continuing his comment.
"What's that?" Heero finally asked.
"Can I watch?" Duo grinned.
Heero snorted and started to laugh. Duo wasn't surprised to be pulled from his chair and into a hug in the next moment. He'd known the man long enough to know emotional decisions were more than difficult for him. It'd taken him years of friendship, and steady encouragement to get Heero to agree they were dating and, a least five to marry him. What had come as a surprise was Heero's agreement to at least look into having a family.
"You sure you're okay with this? It isn't too late, you know," Duo offered again, his hands tracing soothing patterns over Heero's back.
The nod against his shoulder was reassuring. Not once had Heero hesitated after his initial balk. "Yes, I'm okay with this, so you can stop asking now." Heero's breath warm on Duo's neck. "If I didn't want this, I wouldn't have agreed. Trust me."
Pulling back from his embrace, Duo looked steadily into his eyes. "But you've always said you didn't have time for children, didn't want one around." Heero nodded slowly.
"When I was younger, I thought I'd never want to bring a child into the life I'd been born into... the one you'd lived. It wouldn't be fair to the child." He smiled gently, his knuckles stroked Duo's cheek. "And when we got together, I thought it an impossibility. So I put it from my mind, to not think of again." He drew a breath and said with a rush, "We have much offer, to give. I believe we have more than enough to share with another."
Duo choked out, "Let's go become parents, then."
They'd known only the barest facts of the egg donor, and didn't want to know more. Though eternally grateful for her gift, Duo did not want to share their son with anyone else.
When Jimmy turned and caught his look, the boy grinned a lopsided smile; Duo heart clenched. Heero's face looked at him with his own expression. He gave Jimmy a little wave, and the boy went back to the game, digging coins out of his pocket. We must have done something right. The kid's the best you can ask for. He smiled softly thinking of how their son had surpassed all expectations on his equivalency exams. How he'd done well at T-ball and soccer.
It'd been hard, at first, adjusting to having a baby, fitting one into their already busy lives. Duo still ran the salvage yard with Hilde, and it'd turned into one of the most productive scrap and metalworks shop in the L2 colonies. Businesses off L1, and as far away as L5, contracted their salvagers. Most days, Duo would bring Jimmy along with him to work, and as the baby got older and required more attention, Duo had hired a sitter to watch after him. A small office in the back had been converted into a makeshift bedroom. When the baby would sleep, Hilde or one of the receptionists trained the girl in various jobs to pass the time. She was now their bookkeeper and general office manager. She still took care of Jimmy after school, though, and considered that her primary job.
When he first moved to the colony, Heero had started off working in the salvage yard, but was soon dissatisfied. The physical labor he enjoyed. The lack of a mental challenge, he missed. It'd been with mild relief to both Hilde and Duo when Heero finally found a position working for a communications firm installing and repairing relay satellites.
"Hey Pop," Jimmy's voice intruded upon his thoughts. The first grader stood at his knee and grabbed a hand. He moved the paper aside to sit on Duo's lap, climbing up on one leg. "I ran out of creds." His fingers found a button on his father's jacket, and he spun the metallic disk on its post.
His arm half circling the child, Duo asked distractedly, "Did you get the boss first?" His attention had been caught by a man walking in a semi-shuffle towards the food court across from the lounge.
"Nah," Jimmy supplied, working on two buttons trying to make each move in the opposite direction at the same time. "I need help. It don't want ta' work right." The boy frowned.
The man Duo watched stopped in line at a food counter. Duo looked down at his son. "What are you doing?"
"Can't get 'em to go good," came the reply. The buttons were given another spin. "This one moves slow."
Putting his hand over the child's, Duo stopped his play. "You're going to make them fall off if you don't stop."
"Can I have a pop, Pop?" He grinned. Distracted slightly, Duo merely nodded, glancing first to the display monitor to make sure they had enough time. Jimmy's brows drew downward slightly. He picked up a hand and tried to close it. "You're not playing."
Duo caught what his son was doing and bit back a sigh. "You know, that's getting old, pal." Even as he allowed Jimmy to fist his hand and smack himself with it.
The boy grinned again, normalcy restored. "But you like it."
"Hop up and let's go get your coke." He ruffled the boy's hair.
Jimmy jumped to his feet and sped off through the waiting room lounge, his father in pursuit. Catching up to him at the queue, Duo grabbed his hand. "You need to wait for me. I don't care if it's only two feet away!"
"Ah, Pop. I'm not a baby," the six-year old complained, tugging to free his hand.
"No, but you're mine." Duo smiled at the overdressed man in front of them who turned to watch. The man sniffed in disdain before facing forward.
His son pulled on his hand. "Can I have a donut, too? I didn't get a snack."
Looking at his watch, Duo shook his head. "No can do, buddy. It's too close to dinnertime. Once dad's flight lands, we'll grab something to eat on the way home."
The boy's eyes lit up. "Can we go to Burger World?"
The attempt to hide the smile failed. "You know dad doesn't like that place. But, if he isn't worn out, how 'bout we stop for pizza instead?"
Only slightly disappointed, Jimmy answered, "Okay. I don't want no vegables."
Duo nodded, replying seriously, "You got it. No vegables."
They moved up slowly in line. Duo's attention shifted once more to the man he'd seen earlier. He hadn't caught what the man had ordered, but as he walked away, shoulders bowed with some unknown weight, Duo could see only a small styrofoam cup filled with a steaming liquid. His eyes tracked the man making his way to the tables in that shuffling step.
When it was their turn to order, Duo relented somewhat and added an apple to the two sodas. "Make it one small, one medium. No caffeine. No sugar." He turned from the counter and instructed, "Find us a table, Jimbo, but no running." Again, he called the last to a retreating back. Duo closed his eyes and shook his head for a half second before moving forward to follow his son's lead.
"Lead ankle weights," he muttered, taking a seat and brushing at the crumbs still littering the table. Jimmy had already slipped out of his windbreaker, and picked up the apple. Noticing the boy on his knees, leaning over the table, Duo commanded, "Hey, sit right before you fall down."
Jimmy sat back, taking his cup and apple with him. He took a bite from the apple, humming a wordless tune in his throat.
"Leroy, you know Boyd's going to get mad if he sees you here."
It was the tone more than the words that caused Duo to look around. A man in a port security uniform had stopped at the table of the one who'd caught Duo's attention before. Leroy looked up from his task. "I'm a customer this time."
The guard snorted softly. "A cup of water?" Duo saw the man flush. "Leroy, you really should go to the shelter, man. They can help you find some work. At least you'd get a decent meal."
Leroy shook his head. "Not going there again, Artie."
"How'd it go at Unity? Did you get it?" The guard pulled up a chair and sat down.
Another shake of the head. "They couldn't use me." The man added another catsup packet to the steaming cup. "Said they contracted with the Handlers and without a license..."
The other man touched his shoulder. "Sorry to hear that. It's a stupid rule making you lose your license and then kicking you out of the union. I hope you find something soon." He stood up. "I have to warn you though, Boyd's getting really serious about it. You can't be hanging around here any more. It's not just you, it's all those he's marked as homeless, even if you used to work here."
Leroy nodded, now stirring the liquid in his cup slowly with a plastic spoon. "I'll go after this." He looked up and caught the guard's sleeve before he could leave. "Would be alright if I came back tonight? I'll stay out of sight. Just don't want to be out there. You know?"
The security guard nodded. "Come in from the south door. Stay away from the ticket and information counters and you should be all right."
Duo half listened to Jimmy chattering about his day at school, watching the man drink his makeshift soup in small sips. His eyes fell to his son. When I was your age, I lived like this man. His brows furrowed.
"And Missus Cambry said I was a good consayshalest."
He blinked, deciphering his son's word. Conversationalist, he thought, his partial smile hidden behind his cup. Duo supplied, "I've been called that a few times, too."
Jimmy tilted his head. "Is it good to be one?"
In all seriousness, his father nodded. "You bet. People get paid good money to talk."
The puzzled, slightly hurt look still lingered. "But they laughed at me."
Leaning forward, Duo plucked the apple from his hand. He took a bite, winking at the boy. "Well, you just have to learn when to talk, where you should talk more and watch what you say. That way you stay off of Missus Cambry's bad news list."
"Guess so." Jimmy sucked up his soda through the straw.
Duo found himself watching the man again. His glance took in the man's clothing, disheveled and patched, they'd seen better days, but at least gave the appearance of being relatively clean. The man sat in profile to him; Duo watched as he raised the cup with both hands wrapped around it to his mouth and drank. When the man looked in his direction, Duo stared a moment at the man's face, looking for telltale signs. The man dropped his eyes and looked away.
Not certain what prompted the action, Duo dug out a ten credit and a business card. After making a quick scrawl on the back, he stood. "Wait here a moment, Jimmy. I'll be right back." He left the table, headed in the man's direction.
Leroy looked up, a startled expression on his face when Duo stopped by his side. Without speaking, Duo laid the items down, the card on top of the bill, and slid them forward. The man looked suspiciously from the money and card to Duo's face. "What do you want?" he asked, his tone half defeated, half insolent.
Duo kept his gaze steady. "A couple of times in my life when I needed it, someone was there to give me a boost." He stepped back, still speaking but keeping his voice soft. "You take a cab to the address on the card. Someone will meet you there and set you up with a place to crash. We'll talk in the morning about what you might be able to do to earn the ten and maybe more." He didn't wait for a reply but turned on his heel and went back to his table.
Jimmy had been singing a nonsense song from the kid's program he liked to watch, swinging his feet under the table. "How long a'fore dad gets here?" He'd finished the apple; its core lay on a napkin in the middle of the table.
"Soon," Duo answered, surreptitiously watching to see what the man would do. The man stared at the items he'd left. Duo wondered if he thought it some kind of trick. He released the breath he'd been holding when Leroy finally picked up the card. The man glanced around at him and nodded once, rising to his feet. The money and card disappeared into his pocket. As the man walked away, Duo noticed his walk lost the shuffling steps, his shoulders straightened and he held his head up. I guess we all need something to be proud of in ourselves.
"Play 'teris with me, pop?" Jimmy asked around his straw.
"Maybe later, son. I've got to make a quick call." He pulled a mobile phone from his jacket pocket and hit a digit. "Joselyn? Yeah, Duo. Nope, still at the 'port. The flight's been delayed." Duo kept his eyes on the man as he slowly disappeared between the rushing crowd. "Listen, kiddo, I'm going to send someone over this afternoon. He's going to need a place to stay, and something to eat. Can you arrange that?" He grinned, and held the phone away from his ear. A rough bit of squawking could be heard before he drew the phone back. "You know I'd never think that of you. But I need to go." Duo paused for a moment. "Yeah, he's had a snack. Okay, I'll tell him. See you tomorrow." He shut the phone off and put it away.
"Jos says hi, and you'd better do your homework tonight." At Jimmy's sudden frown, Duo laughed. He gathered the empty cups, and wadded the core in the napkins. "Grab your jacket, let's go."
It was with a little surprise that Jimmy held his hand as they made their way back to the lounge. The boy had become quiet, and Duo watched him, almost seeing the gears shift behind the steady gaze. The waiting area had warmed, its seats becoming full. Duo found a pair of empty chairs, and took off his jacket.
"Do you think Jos'lyn is pretty?"
Duo's hands halted arranging his jacket over the back of his chair at the question. He glanced quickly at the boy before answering. Jimmy held his head to the side, his brow puckered. "She's a nice looking girl." He was expecting the next question, even as he sat.
"Can she be my mom?"
"She's not your mom. She's your friend, and a very good one." Keeping his eyes on his son, he watched as the boy mulled it over.
"But Kimmy has a mom and a dad. How come I don't have one?" Jimmy was leaning against him now, halfway in his lap.
"Because you have two fathers." Duo attempted to keep the words simple and the explanation only enough to answer his questions. He and Heero had talked about what to tell the boy when the time came. With a combination of the advice received, as well as their own need to not complicate it, they'd decided simple was better.
Instead of responding, Jimmy leaned farther into Duo's lap, one arm hooked around his neck. He touched a cut just below the elbow. "How'd you do this?"
Duo looked at his arm. Long and jagged, the still angry-red injury appeared worse than what it was. "At work. Taking that tractor apart Walt brought in last week."
"Did it hurt?"
"Sure did." Duo grinned at his son.
Jimmy's brows continued to pucker, his eyes remained on the wound. "Will it scar like dad's?" his voice was small.
Looking at his arm again, Duo shook his head. "If it scars, it'll be a small one." Jimmy continued to stare, his expression troubled. "My little cut was an accident," he said quietly, his tone neutral. "Dad's injuries were not. I'm going to be okay. Nothing sacrificed, so don't worry kiddo." He slipped an arm around his son, squeezing him tight.
Whether it was his words or the hug, Jimmy settled back, his head resting against his father's chest, his feet tucked up under his little body. Duo waited, wondering what question would pop out next, surprised it hadn't come up before. He looked at his arm and wanted to sigh, wishing he'd kept his mouth shut or at the very least, abbreviated the conversation.
"What's that one from?"
Duo stopped in the bedroom doorway, coffee cup in hand. Jimmy was awake, pajama clad, and sitting on their bed with a half-asleep Heero. Smiling, he leaned against the jam, watching the boy poke his father. Sunday mornings were typically quiet, Duo usually the first one up, making coffee and preparing breakfast. This morning being no exception but for the curious five-year-old demanding attention.
"Training," Heero murmured, watching the boy.
Seeing the area being prodded and knowing the scar indicated, Duo winced. 'Training my ass,' he thought. 'Torture of a ten year old, more like.' He had played this game with his lover years before, and knew every scar and mark on the man's body. He knew the history. He knew their story. The jagged white thread that ran between the fifth and sixth rib on his right side would have been a killing blow if the young Heero hadn't turned in time. Instead, he gained another scar, a two-day stay in the infirmary and passed another phase of his training.
Jimmy sat on his knees by his father's side, his finger tracing the scar. He touched another puckered mark of skin. "What 'bout this one? How'd you get it?"
High up on Heero left arm, a nearly perfect circle of lighter color flesh appeared. Heero's lips twitched. "Pop shot me." Duo nearly choked, but remained where he was, waiting to see what he'd say next.
"Shot you?" the boy stilled, looking at his father with wide-eyes.
Heero nodded seriously. "He thought I was a bad guy. Shot me here..." He touched his arm before bending his knee, kicking the sheet off and pushing up the leg of his boxers to point at another mark on his upper thigh. "...and here."
"Pop did that?" Jimmy's finger prodded at the rounded scar.
"If he hadn't, I would have become a bad guy." At his son's look, he smiled. "I didn't know better at the time." The boy nodded in understanding.
Duo sipped at his coffee even as their son moved on. "What 'bout these?" he asked in almost a revered tone. Seeing the mass of scars being asked about, Duo closed his eyes and could still picture the blue-eyed, intense teen standing determined on the platform of his Gundam, his thumb depressing the trigger.
"They're to remind me that I was an idiot," Heero's voice said with some humor.
Opening his eyes, Duo moved into the room. "Don't listen to him, Jimmy." He sat on the edge of the bed, and deposited his cup on the nightstand before nudging Heero over. "They're his badge of honor." He smiled at Heero before placing his own hand over his son's. "Each one is a mark showing his sacrifice - to show everyone what he'd done, what had been taken from him and what he'd almost lost."
"Duo," Heero said warningly. "I don't think it's something he needs to hear about."
"What? That you gave the colossal finger to OZ? Or that you were an idiot for doing so?" Duo demanded, unrepentant.
Jimmy looked from one man to the other. "Did it hurt?" he asked, his voice hushed.
"Yes, it did," Heero responded truthfully, his hand tousled his son's mussed hair. "Though I actually slept through most of it, after it happened."
The boy seemed content to track the marred flesh from shoulder to pec, and across the chest. Duo shared a looked with Heero, both remembering the events that created the scars. His hand sought his lover's, their fingers entwined.
"Do you have any?" Jimmy's question redirected Duo's attention.
He grinned. "Not where you can see them."
"Duo..." Heero frowned.
Pulling at the hem of Duo's tee shirt, Jimmy peered at the skin showing. "Here?"
"I've a couple, but no. Most of mine are ones you can't see." Duo lifted his arms, letting his son check.
"How come I can't see 'em?" He plucked at the waistband of Duo's sleep shorts.
"Because they're on the inside," Duo replied quietly, removing his hands. At Jimmy's puzzled look, he added, "Scars like this," He ran his fingers over Heero's chest. "Are the physical signs that someone has been hurt, injured. If you cut yourself, you bleed and heal, and sometimes it leaves a scar depending on how bad the cut is." Jimmy nodded his head.
"Not all hurts are physical." He watched his son carefully. "When Von called you a name, it hurt, didn't it?" Jimmy nodded slowly. "Those kinds of hurts will heal, but sometimes they can be worse than a cut. And it leaves a scar you cannot see."
Jimmy climbed on Duo's lap and pressing his face into his tee shirt. "Do kids call you names, too?"
Duo's eyes met Heero even as his arms surrounded the child. "Not any more."
"Can we play 'teris now?"
Looking down at his son, Duo smiled and nodded. "Let's go kick some alien butt." With a yell, Jimmy launched himself out of his seat and ran to the little arcade room. Duo rose, grabbed their jackets and followed at a slower pace. He spared a glance at his arm. Maybe, Heero, we can stop hurting and just heal.