A Moment of Perfection
The following morning, Duo put me in charge of organizing our trip
to Earth. It didn't take much preparation. I RSVP'd, bought us transport
tickets, and made arrangements to see a tailor in the time it took for
him to cook breakfast.
"Done already?" Duo arched an eyebrow and scraped equal amounts of
scrambled eggs onto a pair of light blue plates. One of them had a tiny
chip along the edge and they were of slightly different hue that told me
he'd probably bought them on separate occasions.
"Basically. Do you have any suggestions for a gift?"
"Ask Hilde," he said. "She's good at that sort of thing."
Hilde. Before Mariemaia, when Duo and I had shared an apartment
briefly, I'd met her several times and she stayed with us for two weeks
on a holiday; even so, she and I had hardly ever spoken.
"Want salsa for your eggs?" Duo craned his neck over his shoulder.
I shook my head. "No thanks."
He dropped a plate full of eggs and potatoes in front of me and I
returned the smile that my breakfast beamed up at me.
I stabbed my fork at the bare spot in the center of the plate and
asked, "Where's the nose?"
"Sorry, nose not included."
"I'm terribly disappointed."
Duo chuckled and pulled a carton of juice out of the fridge. I heard
it slosh as he set it down on the counter, then he leaned over my
shoulder and grabbed the fork out of my hand.
"Can't have my guest disappointed," he said. The warm rush of his
breath near my cheek smelled like toothpaste and he reached around me
with his free hand to twist my plate around.
I had the urge to turn my head and kiss his neck, but he was already
standing up again. I mourned the loss of his closeness while I
celebrated the facelift my breakfast had obtained at his hands.
After we had eaten, Duo walked with me to the yard and Hilde met us
halfway through the scrap that rose like metal dunes on either side of
the driveway. She was waving a few pieces of paper in her hand and
"Duo! Mr. Sherwood is threatening to cancel his contract!" she
exclaimed, then glanced at me quickly and her face crinkled into a cute
smile. "Oh, hi Heero. Long time no see."
"What's the problem?" Duo asked.
Hilde's expression went serious again. "His last two orders got lost
somehow and if he hadn't called, this latest one would've also. I just
don't know what to do." She puffed out her cheeks and blew a burst of
Duo gave me a calculating look. I knew what was churning behind his
eyes and I offered to take a look at their filing system before he had
His face split into a broad smile and he threw an arm around my
neck, "Great! You can ask Hilde about gifts while you're at it."
"For Relena?" Hilde asked.
"I know just the thing! Come on," she smiled and dragged me towards
"See ya tonight," Duo called out and I looked over my shoulder just
in time to catch his thumbs up.
Fixing the Scrapyard's filing system took longer than it should
have. I ended up working on it well into the afternoon. The entire
network was rather shoddily set up and I knew for a fact that Duo could
program well enough to make something that ran more effectively.
"Oh you know Duo," Hilde said with a soft bubbling laugh. "He has
more fun digging through the scrap than selling it."
"What about you?" I asked. A girl who had enough skill to lift the
technical readouts for the Libra could probably do better than the
half-assed job I was busy fixing.
Hilde didn't answer immediately and I pinched the set of wires I was
untangling to look over at her.
"Oh sorry," she smiled at me. It looked forced and I wondered if I
should press the matter.
"Do you enjoy working here, selling scrap?" I asked. That hadn't
been my original question, but it was likely that was she thought I'd
"In all honesty?"
I nodded and her eyes flickered to the door momentarily as if she
expected someone to burst in and hear her confession.
"I hate it," said Hilde. "I really, really hate it."
"Then why are you still here?" I returned to my task, so as not to
make her uncomfortable by staring at her.
"I was part of this from the beginning," she said slowly. "I wanted
to help Duo... Actually, as long as I'm being truthful, I was head over
heels in love with the goofball when I agreed to help him set this place
Hilde tossed her pen into the cup on her desk and leaned back in her
chair. "It's a little embarrassing to think about how I used to hang
around waiting for him to notice me, when the whole time he was in love
I dropped the wires I'd just sorted out.
"Oh God. You knew didn't you? I didn't just out Duo in the worst
possible way, did I?"
"You didn't. I knew," I half lied and picked up the wiring again.
I knew he liked men. I had found out fairly early on during the time
when we were living together. The spaceport was shut down for security
reasons and I had returned home instead of sleeping there to catch a
flight the next day. I stepped out of the elevator and found Duo getting
hot and heavy with another guy in the hallway. I had been too irritated
with my experience at the spaceport to spare the energy to feel shocked.
He had practically jumped out of his own skin when I cleared my
throat and asked if they were planning to go inside anytime soon, or if
I should just squeeze past them and leave them in the hall. He'd
stammered that they'd been planning to go in and I asked for an
introduction, same as I did when he brought a girl home. After that,
there were a few other guys sprinkled in with the wide range of girls
that paraded in and out of his life.
However, getting back to the situation at hand, what I hadn't known
was that Duo had ever been in love with me.
He'd made a few overtures, but at the time, I hadn't paid any
attention to the sexual side of a body that I never felt comfortable in
and his flirting always came with a bit of teasing. I suppose, the humor
helped soften the inevitable rejection on my part.
Hilde had gone back to explaining to me why she was still here and
as far as I could tell, it was simply because she felt she couldn't
I finished sorting the wires again and plugged them in before I
swiveled around and focused on Hilde. "Duo would understand if you tell
him you want to move on to other things."
"I can't tell him, not when he needs me this badly."
"A rat will be able to operate the system by the time I'm done
setting it up," I said.
"It's not the system that's the real problem," Hilde sighed wearily
and ran a hand through her closely cropped hair. "Before the war was
over, Duo would just blow up a few suits, tow the scrap back and we'd
sell it. Then, when we started this place up again, there was still a
good amount of debris in the surrounding space. By now, most of that's
been picked clean and the larger companies have bought salvage rights to
any large pockets left."
"What about Duo's art? He had a gallery showing, doesn't that bring
any money in?"
"He's only being doing it for a short while. Maybe with the 'Vice
Foreign Minister' commissioning that monster he's working on, interest
will pick up, but that still doesn't solve our problem here; besides, it
just wouldn't be fair for him to need to pump all his personal earnings
in this place to keep it afloat." Hilde trailed off for a moment. "If
only he'd stop refusing to trade off his notoriety and just publicize
that he's a former pilot."
All of us weren't particularly proud of what we did as pilots. There
was as much, if not more, pain as there was pride in our pasts. Out of
all of us though, Duo seemed the most adamant about not taking favours,
even going so far as to actually wade through the significant paperwork
needed to secure a salvage permit around one of the Winner owned
satellites instead of just calling up Quatre. I suspected that accepting
a commission from Relena was perilously close to the edge of his ethical
boundaries. It was odd how those boundaries shifted, given that I'd seen
him steal everything from apples to cargo ships. There was little use in
my trying to puzzle that out; Duo was an odd bundle of contradictions.
One simply learned to accept it.
"Almost done?" Hilde came over and hovered near my elbow. I glanced
at my chrono; it was later than I thought.
"I can finish after I get back from the tailor's tomorrow."
"Want me to drive you? We can go shopping for Relena and get that
taken care of too."
"I'd like that."
The following evening, I discovered that Duo hadn't lost the habit
of leaning against my shoulder when we sat and watched TV. Only now, I
noticed every rustle of his shirt or warm surge of breath on my arm.
"Your shoulder is all sharp edges," Duo complained and shifted for
the fifth time in two minutes.
"I guess you need to start feeding me more to fatten me up so my
shoulder is more comfortable for you," I said and jostled my shoulder.
"Hah! You eat more than I do!" he exclaimed and dug his fingers into
my side to tickle me. It took everything I had to keep from bursting
out laughing. He didn't give up until I squirmed.
"Find a pillow," I said. When he didn't move, I grabbed one from the
far side of couch and whapped him with it.
Duo did a slow motion melodramatic fall backwards, then hugged it
to his chest before twisting around to lay his head in my lap. He looked
up at me through his mass of chestnut bangs and said with a hint of
insolence, "Found a better one."
The rest of the week went fairly quickly. I spent my time trying to
make myself useful. After I helped Hilde reorganize the file network, I
decided to stick around with her in the office during the mornings. We
brainstormed about possible solutions to their financial problems and
got to know her a bit better. Duo had often talked about her and made me
almost feel as if she had been a friend of mine, but now I could happily
label her that in all certainty.
In the afternoons, I helped Duo put the final touches on his hollowed
out Leo memorial. It was delicious torture. When I was with him, there
were moments where he set my skin on fire with an accidental touch or
made me feel dizzy just by looking at me. Then there were the moments
when he stood a certain way, or said something that made me want to grab
him then and there and seal his mouth with mine.
Knowing that he had been in love with me at some point gave me a
skewed perspective on everything. I wasn't sure if he was sending
signals and trying to hint that he hadn't given up on me after all this
time, or if he'd past that point and thought of me as nothing but a
friend. He flirted with Hilde the same way he flirted with me and from
both of their individual statements on their relationship, there was no
seriousness behind it.
That they each felt the need to make sure I knew they were only
friends could've been telling me something; but, until I sprouted a
romantic backbone and was able to outright ask Duo, I decided to happily
endure each little engagement that was just as unexpected, just as
thrilling, and just as bewildering as the one before it.
When we were getting ready to leave for the spaceport, Duo was
eyeing me as he trotted down the stairs behind me. He carried my bag
along with his own as I had the task of safeguarding Relena's present.
"You alright?" he asked.
"Just a little tired," I said and yawned right on cue. My makeshift
bed on the couch was comfortable enough, but taking into consideration
the longhaired devil in the loft directly above me who insisted on
trying to keep me up as late as possible, by laying there telling little
jokes and stories to see how long it took before I broke down and
laughed, I got very little rest each night.
"Going to sleep during the flight?" he asked, slinging his bag into
the back of his convertible and dropping into the driver's seat.
"Guess I should've brought something to read," he said and tapped a
beat along the top of the windshield while I attempted to find a safe
spot for Relena's gift.
"You could always see if they'll let you pilot the thing," I said
and chuckled at the grin that crept across his face. I gave up trying to
find a spot for the gift and got into the passenger seat, wedging it
firmly between my feet.
"Think they'd let me fly?" he asked as we tore down the street at
three times the posted limit.
"I hope not," I said.
"Hey! I haven't gotten rusty," he replied, sticking out his lower
lip in a mock pout.
"Exactly," I said, and leaned my head back. I made myself
comfortable in the low bucket seat and stretched out as much as I could.
I let my left hand rest on the shoulder of Duo's seat and playfully
tugged a stray wisp of his hair. "If you were flying, we'd get there so
fast I wouldn't get a proper nap."
Duo laughed and floored it.
I smiled and closed my eyes as the wind tore at my hair. His braid
eventually wormed its way free from where it had been pinned and trailed
behind like a living thing. I let go of Duo's seat and wrapped my hand
around where it began at the base of his neck. I slid my hand down its
length and pulled it back into the front of the car. I didn't let go, if
I had, I told myself, it would've whipped back again. Secure in my
excuse, I twisted the end around my fist and eventually found myself
systematically brushing my thumb across its feathery tip.
After a few minutes, Duo looked over at me, but my eyes were more than
half closed. I think he assumed I'd fallen asleep. He looked oddly
serious and stared at me for a few seconds until the road claimed his
I couldn't decide if I wanted to know what he was thinking and I
couldn't quash the fluttery feeling of hope and nervousness that staked
a claim in my chest.