1. Conditional Probability
by Saro and Merellia
Heero nodded a brisk acknowledgement of Duo's cheerful, "Over
here!" and wave, crossing the restaurant towards the other boy. He noted the duffle back next to Duo as he
slid into the opposite booth seat. "When
are you leaving?"
"The flight's scheduled to leave in about three hours, so we
can take our time," Duo said lightly.
One corner of his mouth quirked in what Heero had learned was an ironic
opportunity for gab and all that jazz."
Casting another glance around the place now that he had more
leisure for study, Heero took note of its generally shabby appearance and
proliferation of glass facing the high-rise opposite. He pressed his back securely against the
partition of the booth behind him and the windowless wall adjacent to it. "Why
Duo replied with a familiar glint in his eyes, "I didn't
think you'd see me off with a kiss at the shuttleport."
Heero frowned; he should have anticipated Duo willfully
misreading that question. He briefly considered asking again -- Duo seldom failed
to respond with the information he knew Heero wanted when asked a second
time -- then discarded that in favor of the plan he had developed while
recuperating in the Brussels hospital. "No.
But -- " He
closed his mouth on his next words when a waitress showed signs of approaching
"We'll have two waters, an orange juice for him, and a
coffee for me, miss -- Miss Julie," Duo said when the waitress stopped in front
of him. "But we'll need a couple more
minutes before we're ready to order.
"Sure," the waitress replied, not looking up from her notepad
as she wrote down the order. "Two
waters, orange juice, coffee. Back in five."
As she headed off, Heero gave Duo an inquiring look. "Coffee?"
"Hilde took me out to try some a few times, then started
buying some for the office; she said as long as I was on Earth I ought to ask
for some here; it's the real stuff, not the synthetic shit made in the
colonies," Duo said, pulling two menus from their metal clamp and handing one
to Heero. "It takes a while to get used
to it -- tastes awful bitter -- but it smells good."
"Ah." Heero glanced
at the menu, grateful for the brief descriptions of the items in Standard. The Dutch names told him nothing. "Why?"
"Why get used to it if the taste isn't pleasant?" Heero set the menu aside as he determined his
order. Duo was still making up his mind:
Heero could tell from the way the other's glance shifted back and forth between
two areas of the menu.
"Well, I don't know," Duo said vaguely, then flipped the
menu atop Heero's and leaned back against the booth, linking
his fingers behind his head. "Hilde says
it's 'cause of the caffeine. Me... You know how I like warm things."
Heero didn't need Duo's suddenly sly demeanor to tell him
that was a loaded comment. "Aa," he replied evenly, refusing to satisfy the other with
Duo laughed, straightening and letting his hands fall. He picked up one of the packets of synthetic
sugar from a tray on the table and flapped it idly. "So. You were
"Two waters, juice, coffee," announced the waitress, setting
the items down before them. Heero
resisted the urge to scowl at the interruption.
"Your orders, sirs?"
Duo reeled his off glibly, tearing open the packet of
sweetener and dumping it into the mug.
Heero gave his to the waitress, resisting the urge to scowl at the
interruption. He should have asked
immediately; by now he would have already known the answer. All it would take was a simple yes or no,
quickly enough given. Then again, this
involved Duo and he seemed to relish stretching out discussions to no end.
After the waitress walked away and Duo had added a second
packet of sweetener to his coffee and twisted the neatly torn-off tops of the
packets into little pink bows that put Heero in mind of Relena, Duo prompted
"But you could stay instead," Heero answered. He laid his hands flat on the table,
palms-down against the smooth surface, and laid it out as he would a mission
plan. "We tell Une that we want those
jobs she offered us. Rent an apartment.
Work for the Preventers."
Lifting his spoon from the coffee mug, Duo watched the drops
of dark liquid drip from it. Heero
studied his face carefully, but the other pilot, always adept at concealing his
true reactions, displayed none of the signals Heero had painstakingly begun to
catalogue as the One Year War had drawn to a close. Instead, the clink of metal against porcelain
hit Heero's ears, sharp as a gun report, when Duo
knocked the spoon lightly against the rim of his mug.
"Heero, man," he said after what felt like the longest pause
Heero had ever seen him give in response to a question. "Are you asking because you don't want to
miss getting any if I left?" He laid the
spoon on his saucer in a precise tangent line to the mug, keeping his eyes on
"It is a sensible move to make when one wants to maintain
daily contact with another."
One corner of Duo's mouth twitched, his eyelids
lowering. "An apartment, huh?" he said,
looking up at last. Heero recognized the
expression then; he'd seen it on the other's face once or twice during the war
when they had first fumbled their way through sex, usually after something
which Heero had said that surprised Duo.
Duo finally took a sip from the mug, his hands wrapped
around it. "One
apartment, for both of us?"
Duo's mobile features flexed, becoming intent as he leaned
forward and rested his elbows on the tabletop.
"Two bedrooms," he said, placing the words as he would a pawn in the
opening moves of a chess game.
"No pets," Heero countered.
Duo tried to strike bargains like it was a spinal reflex: Heero had seen
him at it once or twice when negotiating repairs for Deathscythe
with Howard. It was probably what had
made Hilde want him in her salvage business.
Duo shrugged, nudging his coffee saucer to the side when the
waitress arrived with their breakfasts.
"It has to have a bathtub."
Eying his food -- he thought he recognized everything except
some sort of mash next to the eggs -- Heero unwrapped the napkin from the
utensils the waitress had set at his hand and said, "As long as you take charge
of cleaning the bathroom."
"Heh," Duo responded as he smeared
butter over his own meal: it was some sort of square bread indented in a gridlike pattern. He
methodically began to fill each square of the grid with syrup. "You'd have to... sweep the floors, or mop, or whatever."
Heero sampled each of the foods on his plate before deciding
to start with the mash first. "If you wash the dishes."
Duo grimaced. "I hate doing the dishes."
"So do I." The mash wasn't that bad; it tasted like
pepper and potatoes and cheese.
Duo flicked a glance up from where he was neatly cutting off
a corner of the square bread: he had precisely angled the cut to include one
full square and bisected two others as right triangles. Heero's
contemplation of whether Duo's fascination with math extended to calculating
the surface area of the triangular forkful was interrupted by a teasing, "The
perfect soldier hates something?"
Heero lifted one shoulder in a shrug, taking a swallow from
the orange juice to clear his mouth of the greasy aftertaste of his meal. "We could split the dishes."
"And there's always disposable plates," Duo agreed,
cheerfully swabbing another bite of food in the spilled syrup on his
plate. This one was a rectangle, two
Heero estimated its surface area to be approximately two
hundred and twenty-five square millimeters. "Aa. Your flight?" The
orange juice made the mash much more palatable.
He began to alternate his intake of each.
"I can reschedule. We could start looking today," Duo said,
looking at Heero challengingly, as if he weren't yet entirely certain that the
mission wasn't about to go bust.
"Where would you stay?"
"Not with Relena, that's for sure." Duo grinned.
"I'm not up to the fainting-into-her-arms thing, if that's what it takes
to get an invite."
Heero cut the edges off the first of his fried eggs until he
had a square, exactly the length on each side as the length of the tines on his
fork. He responded flatly, "Now that the
Mariemaia situation is over, Relena will be returning
to her home. I was not planning to wait
until then to leave the embassy, however."
Cutting the square of the egg into smaller pieces, he watched the yolk
seep out and pool on his plate.
"We could go back to my hotel, I guess, and see if they have
rooms available. Hey,
Duo's tone had a note in it Heero had learned usually meant
that some plan was in the offing, one which the Duo anticipated would cause
aggravation for someone else, and amusement for Duo. Heero looked up and caught sight of a
familiar curve to the other's mouth.
"Let's make sure to tell Wufei before he heads out
again. I want to see him when he hears
Heero took in the other boy's opaque smirk, and asked on a
whim, "How big is this?" and flashed a bite of fried egg before putting it in
Duo's smile broke into a lopsided grin. "Two hundred and
thirty-four square millimeters."
* * *
"An apartment together, huh?" Duo
mused as he walked next to Heero, mouth curved up at one corner. He resisted the urge to grin at the
passers-by and amused himself by timing the elevated beat of his heart in the
intervals of his footsteps instead. "Got a neighborhood in mind? Thought about
commuting or accessibility to public transportation yet?"
"No," Heero said, his hands tucked into the pockets of the
dark jacket he wore. Duo started to toss
off a teasing remark;, but before he did socould get it out,
Heero spoke up again. "I thought I would wait to see what you wanted."
Duo shot him a look, finding the other's features
inscrutable as Heero stared at the flashing "don't walk" sign at the corner
across from them and came to a halt.
Heero had been thinking about
it, for damn sure. Asking him. Wanting
him to stay. Feeling winded by
the idea, Duo said weakly, "Yeah, first things first, I guess," as he lowered
his arms from where he'd clasped hands behind his head.
"Secure the hotel rooms."
"Uh-huh. And then make a couple vid
calls to let folks know I'm not leaving just yet." Duo's spirits rose as he studied the steady
red of the "don't walk" sign. He'd
missed something all this past year.
Maybe this was it; maybe Heero was it.
The vehicles rushing across the road slowed to a stop; there was a
ninety-eight percent chance that the walk-light would change in three seconds.. The 'walk' sign was about to come on. Duo rocked his weight onto the toes of his
feet and stepped forward eagerly.
A hand grasping his arm caught him short. "Wha -- ?" he began,
looking at Heero in surprise. The walk sign
shifted to flash a green figure at them.
Letting go of Duo's arm, Heero stepped past him onto the
crosswalk. "The light hadn't changed
Duo moved quickly after him.
"It was about to," he retorted. "By the time I stepped onto the street,
the light would have been green."
"Hn," Heero grunted
"Hah!" Duo replied in scoff to that skepticism, then continued quickly, "Anyway, this'll be fun. How do you find an apartment on Earth, d'you know? On L2,
you just have to know someone who knows someone who has space in their
"They have net listings. I think," Heero said.
Duo flicked a glance over the faces of those walking past
them, then onto the garish signs of the shops along the sidewalk. "This way," he said at another corner,
heading down the street to the right.
His stride hitched as he noted one with guns and knives on display in
the window. He couldn't read the local
language of the sign, but it the newness of the weapons made apparent that it
wasn't an antique shop. "You think? You didn't stay on Earth after the war? I
thought you had, since that's where you sent Wing to me and Quatre from. And when you called me,
your vid transmission originated from Earth." He looked sidelong at Heero and cocked a sly
smile. "Unless you were rerouting the transmission for
Heero's features remained impeturbablyimperturbably
calm, but Duo thought he could detect a flicker of what might be amusement in
the way Heero narrowed his eyes before his gaze shifted to the weapons
shop. They stopped in front of it to
look at the window display. "I did
bounce the transmission, but I was on Earth.
I didn't know vid units displayed call
"Ah, you never can know too much about who wants to track
you down," Duo said lightly. He studied
the Glock on display.
The gun he'd shot Heero with when they first met had been a Glock, he thought with a touch of nostalgia that
immediately made him want to laugh.
Instead, he leaned closer to Heero to whisper in the other's ear, "I
modified my vid unit a little." He caught the tightening in the muscles of Heero's shoulders and decided to have a little more
fun. "I could show you the code sometime... when we're alone."
"Yes," Heero said, and Duo would have laughed aloud had that
not had a high probability of making Heero mad.
Instead, he threw an arm around Heero's
shoulders and, encouraged when it wasn't immediately shrugged off, steered them
away from the window and back into the flow of pedestrians. "Some pretty pieces that guy had. I wonder how long before Relena and her
politician cronies make those kind of shops illegal."
Heero shrugged, slipping Duo's arm off his neck. Duo shoved his hands into his jacket pockets,
rolling one shoulder to reposition the duffel bag slung over it. "Another year, maybe two.
There will be more support for that thanks to this Mariemaia
business," Heero said.
Duo looked at the faces of the pedestrians passing him and
wondered what they'd been doing while he and the others had been fighting in
Brussels. Bremen wasn't so far away, and
it hosted the headquarters of the Preventers; it would've been high on Mariemaia's list of places to take control of. Had the locals been worried? Had any of them
gone to BremenBrussels,
to take peace in their own hands? He
watched a mother bend over a child in a stroller; a gangly boy with half his scalphead
shaved and a line of silver rings curving up his ear, taller than either he or
Heero, brushed past them. "Yeah, maybe. Not too
much, though, or the Preventers wouldn't want us."
When Heero didn't respond immediately, Duo decided to prod a
little. "You never said what you'd been doing on Earth." He wished that the
chance Heero would respond with something like, "There was this plan called
Operation Meteor" wasn't nonexistent.
The closest Duo had ever known Heero to come to making a joke was when
he had assumed Duo's name in one of the innumerable boarding schools they'd
hacked their way in and out of as covers during the war. And maybe that was only like a joke because
it had amused Duo.
"No," Heero said.
Duo screwed his features into a grimace, then
opened them in time to jerk out of the way as a businessman nearly knocked into
Duo as he hurried past. "Shit!" He turned his head to follow the
businessman's figure a moment, then sighed and caught up with Heero. "I bet that wouldn't have happened if I'd
been taller," he groused, then said, "So, is that a 'no' because you were
agreeing that you hadn't told me, or was that a 'no' because you didn't want to
tell me?" He paused for the space of a
heartbeat, then nudged Heero with his shoulder. "Tell
you what." Catching Heero's
sidelong glance, he gave Heero a challenging smile. "A bargain, since you said
this shared apartment was about maintaining contact, and you can't do that if
you don't talk from time to time. If you
answer one of my questions, you can ask me a question, and I'll answer. How's about that?"
Heero's brows pulled
together. "You would answer regardless.
I don't see what makes that reciprocal."
"I won't hedge, then," Duo offered, pushing open the hotel
door and holding it for Heero. Heero
returned the favor by holding open the inner door for him to pass through.
"Thanks. Would that work? Have we got a
Duo caught the eye of the woman waiting the reception
desk. "Guten morgen," she greeted in the local language, smiling a
welcome at him and Heero. In Standard,
she continued, "Mr. Maxwell, did you leave something here?"
Duo shook his head, leaning on the countertop with one
elbow. "Nah. I've had a change of plans and'll be staying in town longer. So I was wondering if you might have any
"I think we do. One
moment while I check, please," the woman said.
"How many nights do you plan to stay?"
Duo looked at Heero questioningly, sliding his duffel bag
off his shoulder and dropping it onto the ground by his feet. "Um, maybe a week?"
Duo answered after getting nothing but a shrug from Heero.
The receptionist resumed her typing; Duo toyed with the pen
chained to the counter. It was octagonal
and flat silver in color, with a join midway that made him think
of Deathscythe's beam scythe. After a moment of typing, the receptionist
said cheerfully, "We do have rooms available.
Would you like to reserve one for yourself?"
Duo put the pen down before he was tempted
to pretend it was the scythe and poke it at things, like the leaves of
the potted plant sitting on the counter.
"Yeah, thanks! One for me and one for -- "
"Just one," Heero interrupted.
Surprised, Duo said, "I thought you were going to be leaving
the embassy. Don't you want to go on and -- "
"Yes. But only one room is necessary."
"We have rooms available with two queen-sized beds," the
"Only one bed is necessary."
Duo laughed, feeling a return of the earlier excitement which
had bubbled through him after Heero had set out his plan in the restaurant. It was almost like being in Deathscythehis Gundam again, the way anticipation brightened
the edges of everything. "Just one bed,
then," he agreed, turning back to the receptionist. "Do you need to see my identification card or
"All your information is still on file with us, Mr.
Maxwell. If I could just see your
companion's ID, we'll be all set," said the receptionist with a smile.
Heero reached past Duo to place a card on the counter;
scanning it upside-down, Duo stored away the details of its information before
the receptionist picked it up. When he
looked away to see Heero watching him, he said, "They always do take the
shittiest photos for IDs, don't they? Yours looks like it could've been shot by
some OZ goon."
Heero gave him a flat stare.
The receptionist laughed as Duo had known she would, saying, "Isn't that
true? My vehicle permit photo makes me look like I've just walked out of jail,
too. -- Here you go." She slid two squares of plastic towards them,
then set down Heero's
identification next to them. "Those
keycards will give you access to your room, number 819. Thank you for deciding to stay with us again,
Mr. Maxwell. If you need anything,
simply screen us from your room."
"Will do," Duo said, picking up one of the keycards and
bending to get his duffel bag.
"Elevator's this way," he said to Heero, heading around the corner to
the far side of the lobby.
He didn't need to look at Heero to feel the tension that had
knotted Heero's muscles after the comment about
OZ. As soon as the elevator door slid
shut behind them, he watched Heero check the elevator out for cameras. Finding none, he hissed, "I can't believe you
said that, Duo."
Duo evaluated the entertainment factor of the several
possible responses he could make to that, then quickly
estimated the likelihood of his favorites putting Heero into a bad mood. It was that more than anything else which resulted in
his saying, as the elevator passed the second floorthat made him say,
"I knew she wouldn't read anything into it.
And it does. More than mine, and that's saying something, since my photo was taken by OZ goons."
Heero stared at him.
"You used an OZ profile photo for your identification card?" The
elevator binged as it paused at the fourth floor. Its doors slid open but, when no- one
entered, shut again and resumed its ascension.
Once the doors had closed, Duo said, "Yeah, why not? I
figured I might as well get something out of it. And of course I didn't use the photo they put
on the posters. They took some better ones later, when they weren't in such a
hurry." When Heero continued to stare at
him, he decided to change the subject.
As the elevator chimed its way past the sixth floor, he said, "Anyway,
you agreed to the bargain thing. We
should finalize that." His mouth quirked up at one corner. "Seal it with a
kiss." Heero eyed him, but when he
didn't say anything one way or another, Duo continued, "It's a tradition, you
know." The elevator announced its
arrival at the eighth floor with another bing. Its doors slid open. "Unless you've got
something against kissing in public?"
Heero stepped out beside him. "Is it different when it's in public versus
when in private?"
Following the prompting of the discrete brass plates on the
wall, Duo turned to the left and began counting off doors. "I cannot claim to have made a serious study
of the differences," he said. 823 . . . 821 . . . 819.
"Is that a hedge?" Heero asked, sliding his keycard into the
Duo hung back as he did so, wistfully picturing where he'd
place the explosive if he'd wanted to blast the door open. When the question registered, he made a noise
of amusement. "No, I was just quoting Wufei."
Entering the room, he dropped his duffel onto the drawers next to the vid unit. "I'm gonna call Hilde, let her know. You want to call Une after that?"
The bedsprings creaked as Heero sat down on it behind
Waiting for the vid screen to
finish running through its startup mode, Duo listened to Heero lie down on the
bed and tried to imagine what it would be like to live with him every day. He liked gambles where he couldn't predict
the outcome, and two bedrooms meant Duo'd have his
own space if Heero pissed him off too much, but. . . . "Ah, here we go." Duo disabled the vid
unit's audio feature, moving quickly enough to cut it off before it started its
welcome speech, then ran through the off-planet call options and entered Hilde's number.
Waiting for her to pick up, he leaned backwards against the seat so he
could look at Heero upside-down, pushing his toes against the floor so that the
chair rocked back as well. "Heero," he
Heero looked away from the open window and propped himself
up on an elbow to face Duo. Duo smiled
at him. "Your face is getting red,"
"I -- damn," said Duo, jerking upright and letting the chair
fall back to the ground with a thump as Hilde's
answering service took the call. "Yo, Hilde! Done talking to Une and all, but Heero begged
me not to go -- " Duo ignored the noise of protest from behind him, continuing
blithely with, " -- so he and I are gonna be looking
for a place to shack up and work for Une for a bit. I'll let you know when I'll be back to pick
up my stuff, 'kay?"
He bent closer to the screen to add in a conspiratorial tone, "I think
you were right about the red shirt. Be
He disconnected the call, stared at the screen a moment, then said, "I want to make one more call. That okay by
you? All yours after
that for calling Une."
"Aa. What was that about the red shirt?"
Duo started to answer with a casual, "Just some in-joke
that -- " He
paused. "Hilde gave me this shirt," he
said, thumbing the collar of the shirt he wore beneath his black jacket. "First time I wore it out to a bar, about
four guys hit on me. So Hilde said it
was obviously the shirt. . . . What do you think, should I hack this call
through, or just call some re-routers?" he asked, not really wanting to go into
what Hilde had specifically said about the shirt.
"What?" The bed
creaked as Heero sat upright. "Hack a
hotel vid unit?
Who are you calling?"
After a moment, Heero said, "They've got your name
"I suppose so. Damn. Bouncing's not as fun."
Duo dialed a number, waited for it to connect, and dialed a second, then
repeated the process for a third. When the call picked up, he pressed a number
on the screen keypad. "There. Now to
wait and see if he's around."
"You keep in touch with G."
I don't know so many people as to not. J
cut you loose or something?" Glancing at
Heero and taking in the tenseness of his carriage, Duo bent over to unzip his
duffel and rummage through it.
"Mm. After the
war. He said he wanted to spend
more time working on biologicals and not machines."
Duo pulled out the black sock and tossed the bundle to Heero. "My handheld's in
there. In the 'vid'
directory, look at the folder named 'zero nine.' Password's
Heero turned the slick black hardware around to look at its
various ports. "You shouldn't have told
me that. And it's obvious." At Duo's
shrug, he said turned the handheld on and plugged in the cloth keyboard which Duo had wadded up
around it. "New?"
"Yeah, I just -- " Duo began when a pop from the vid unit interrupted him.
He turned back to the screen, only to find it still black. "Hey, you don't have to roll out the red
carpet or anything, but at least turn on the camera for me," he complained to
the blank screen.
"Consider yourself red carpeted," G replied dryly, features
coming into focus. His gaze shifted past
Duo's shoulder to rest on Heero for a moment, before they flicked back to the
figure in front of the viewscreen. "And you would be calling because?"
"Do I need to have a reason to call up and bug the shit out
of you?" The scientist hmphed and moved his hand
towards his screen as if to disconnect them.
"Hey! Alright, alright. I'm considering a career change," Duo
"S knows this girl who is trying to start an improv troupe on L4. I've told you before,
your propensity for emoting makes could make you an actor. Not only that, but
you certainly demonstrated 'impromptu' skills in your missions." Duo made a
show of rolling his eyes. "As you see,
your facial dexterity alone -- "
"Yeah, terrorists are great comedians," Duo
interrupted. The handheld beeped as
Heero did something to it. "You better
not be messing with that thing's programming, Heero, or I'll kill you," he
threatened without looking around. To G,
he said, "I've decided to join the Preventers.
Heero and I are going to look for an apartment, so I won't be coming
back to L2 for a while."
G didn't even blink for a moment. Then, staring at Duo, he said, "Are you
crazy? Moving in with J's boy -- are you sick, Duo?"
"Mariemaia's soldiers caught me
and doped me up."
"Well, then." G moved
his hand again to disconnect the call.
"Have fun with your soldier boy and give Lady Janus
my greetings." The screen went blank.
Duo pushed the chair back and stood. "As if I needed to be sick to live with you,"
he grumbled, turning towards the bed.
"Lady Janus?" Heero asked, peeling the handheld's
motherboard loose of the bottom casing.
The top of the case, filled with screws, perched on his knee.
Staring, Duo demanded, "What the hell are you doing?"
"I wanted to see what the frequency jammer
you installed on this thing looked like," Heero said calmly. He nudged the motherboard out of the way so
that he could get a better view of the chips and microcards
wired to the various ports. "Lady Janus?"
Duo scowled but answered, "It's what he calls Une. I don't know why. Hell. I guess I'm going to have to screen her
now, since you're busy with that."
"I'm almost done."
"Hmph." Duo sat back down in front of the vid unit. Then he
smiled. "No problem. You can just make all the calls necessary to
get us in to look at some apartments."
Ignoring Heero's sour grunt, he entered the
number for the main line of the Preventers headquarters. Might as well have fun with some of the
lower-downs and make them find the higher-ups.
Calling Une's mobile number directly wouldn't
be nearly as interesting.