5. Oblique Relationships
by Saro and Merellia
Duo put the glass of milk
and plastic container of raspberries down on his computer desk. The raspberries were still dripping water
from having been run under the faucet, so a moment's shuffling through some of
the papers he had stacked there -- Heero had paid the first set of bills, so this
month was Duo's first turn to pay them -- turned up an unopened envelope. Its grinning cartoon mascot identified it as
junk mail, so he stuck it under the wet container as a makeshift coaster. There.
He'd picked a good time: evening in Bremen meant early morning on L2, and Hilde answered the call
wearing her salvage jumper. That meant
she was already set for work, but had plenty of time before she needed to
leave. She fixed him with a glare the
moment the video turned on. "Duo, you
asshole, you've been moved in for more'n a week and you haven't called me. Tell me Heero has been screwin'
your brains out, 'cause otherwise I'm gonna be
"Heero has been
screwing my brains out the whole time," Duo said promptly, and ate a raspberry
after giving Hilde a grin. Hilde set
herself up for torture all too easily sometimes. It was harder to resist taking advantage of
that with her than with Heero -- Hilde could always be counted on for a good
She leaned closer to the screen excitedly. "Really?"
"Of course not," Duo said dryly, enjoying the slump of her shoulders. "We have to go to work, y'know." It was a relief talking to Hilde, not having to keep so close a watch on his accent. Falling back into the familiar speech patterns, listening to Hilde,
Hilde brushed that
necessity away with a flip of one hand. "Yeah, but, afterwards. Or before! You said you thought it'd be a
change for the better." She gave him a
flat look. "Not that I agree with you
that a move away from my salvage yard is gonna be better."
Hilde-baby," he said, holding his hands up in mock-surrender. "No flak for the yard from me. You know I liked workin'
Hilde sighed. "Yeah, when you weren't off starin' at
the Earth. Where's Heero?"
"Buyin' groceries for dinner. We
didn't have the kind of cheese he wanted."
Duo held back the smile that wanted release at the memory to avoid
encouraging a remark from Hilde. Heero'd looked so serious when he shook his head at Duo's
suggestion to use an equal amount of the processed cheese slices they already
had, which was too bad because it would've been interesting to see how that
would have turned out. Cooking was
rather cool that way, like a personal chemistry lab. Mix Component A with Component B and hope it
does what you think it should.
"Cheese, huh? Very domestic," Hilde managed to twit him
anyway before her demeanor sobered. "I
wasn't too surprised, y'know. You Gundam
pilots -- I don't think any of you could be happy for long, workin'
for some two-bit salvage affair."
Duo swallowed a
raspberry and said firmly, "You've gotta better place
than that, Hilde, and you know it." He
quickly moved to change the topic: that Hilde's comments could strike nearer
the bone than that damn psych doctor he'd seen the other morning -- it was one of
the disadvantages to having friends. "Speakin' of, how's it goin' with
O'Rourke's account? You find any of those parts for him?"
She grimaced. "Yes and no. We found the 167 timing
converter, but between his placin' the order and our findin' it, guess what happened?"
"He gave up on the
Hilde blinked at
him, startled. "Yeah, pretty much that's
what he did. He had a mechanic look at
the Metahelion and whatever that guy told him made
O'Rourke decide against the repairs. Did
he say something to tip you off he was thinkin' about
that? You didn't say anything to me."
Duo shook his
head. "Nah. He just didn't seem too committed when I
first talked to him, was all." Heh. It had been the first time Duo'd attempted to
track probabilities for more than a few minutes or so in advance; the headache
he got when the possible futures exploded into the infinite was real persuasive
against trying it again. "You charged
him for shippin' costs and all, right?"
Hilde's expression was grimly satisfied. "You
bet. It cost him, too, 'cause I'd had
that thing sent in from one of the L3 colonies.
But Howard bought it off me -- said he's got a buyer down on Earth
somewhere -- so it turned out alright."
"Cool," Duo said
approvingly, rocking his chair back so he could cross his legs under the
desk. The secondhand chair squeaked with
a protest of plastic at his shift in pressure.
Hilde eyed him, a
gleam of speculation in her gaze. "So, wanna come back and help me keep this place from turning
into one of those two-bit salvage yards?"
Duo shook his
head. "You're doin' fine without me. 'Sides," he added with a quirk of his lips,
"you'd be hard put to beat an offer of sex from Heero."
"He's that good,
huh?" Hilde said teasingly. When Duo
just flashed her another grin, she said, "So it's goin' well. I'm
glad. What about your job, d'you like
it so far?"
mostly. They had us memorizing those new
interplanetary laws for carrying personal firearms this week. And some stuff about armament control. Then reading some briefs that're being considered by the ESUN Dispute Resolution
Committee." Duo tried to keep out
the sneer that wanted to creep into his voice every time he thought about the
DRC. Those politicians whose papers he'd scanned had as much a chance of
success as -- as Trowa did getting out of Quatre's clutches.
fascinating," Hilde cooed with patently false enthusiasm. "You left me for that? It can't be all you're doin'
or you would've gone mad by now."
"Clean bill of
mental health as of Tuesday from the company shrink," said Duo loftily. "But yeah.
It's not what'll be typical, far as I can tell. My partner and I, we're prepping t'go on an assignment next week. Not too big a deal, they wanna
make sure I'm up to snuff before letting me out on my own," he said, with a wry
expression. "But it's not make-work,
either. Investigating some weapons stockpiling. Maybe I'll get to blow something up," he
said, playing up the wistfulness in the phrase for the pleasure of seeing Hilde
"If they won't let you
have any fun, Agent Maxwell, come back for a visit and we'll set you to
salvaging some of the old minefields, 'kay?" Hilde brushed her hair out of her eyes and
glanced past Duo's shoulder, taking in the apartment, he assumed. "What'll Heero do while you're gone?"
He shrugged, picking
up the stack of unsorted mail and flipping through it. "He hasn't mentioned a mission to me yet,
though I dunno.
He's pretty close-mouthed about work stuff, so he might have one. Stay home if he doesn't, I guess. He'd enjoy himself more if he'd go out and
hook up, but he sorta likes stayin'
Hilde chortled. "Take his left hand for a date, then, huh?"
A handful of
circulars got tossed into the trash. "Tcha," Duo noised derisively. "He's right-handed."
appreciatively, then asked, "So, if he's not much of a
go-outer, what do you guys do for fun?"
At Duo's pointed look, she laughed again. "Yeah, yeah, I got that part. But what else? What's Bremen like? Any
sights to see, groundside attractions to take a look at?"
Duo shrugged, taking
a swallow of the milk and eating a raspberry with it. "I dunno that. We haven't done much, really. Unpack, start
work, go home, that sorta thing." He began to slice open the envelopes of the
dubiously, "You haven't done anything?"
"We went out to a
movie on Monday," Duo conceded. "It
sucked, though. We left early and went
home to screw around," he said, smirking.
Hilde propped her
chin on her linked hands. "Lemme get this
straight. You've been livin' with the guy in the capital of Europe for two weeks,
and that's all you've done? Work, home, sex?"
Nettled, Duo said,
"We had dinner out before the movie."
Empty envelopes followed the circulars into the trash with a little more
emphasis than strictly necessary. Being grilled, even by a friend, pushed all the wrong buttons.
patience, Hilde said, "So have you guys done anything besides work -- and grocery
shopping doesn't count -- that hasn't ended in sex?"
"What is this, Hilde? Nosy Bitch Day?" Duo leaned away from the screen and crossed
his arms, his mouth thinning. He
couldn't quite maintain the expression, though, and slid her
a sly look. "Grocery shopping ended with sex, too, a couple of times."
Hilde laughed, her
bangs slipping down in front of her eyes.
She pushed them back again. "I'm
nosy? Who was it warned me away from that dick Pat Benton? Answer the question already."
irritably, "So what if we screw a lot?
What's your problem with that, Hilde? Hell, it's half the reason I moved
in with the guy." And the other half he
wouldn't mention to anyone, especially after Sally's interrogation on
Monday. The discussion of that particular
mine was one he had no interest in triggering.
He sucked a raspberry seed from between his teeth. Straightening, he said with a smile, "You oughta settle down with one of your men, do the good
Catholic wife thing for a while. You've
got the role down already."
She frowned at him.
"We can talk about me later. Besides,"
she said lightly, "maybe I already have. Thought of that, huh?"
Shit, you've got to be kiddin' me!" Duo jerked in his seat, indignant. Plastic creaked as the chair's
back flexed. "One of your guys actually proposed? In the past
week?" He sat back, narrowing his
eyes as he studied her face. "You're lyin'."
Hilde grinned. "Got you. Anyway, Jean might. He appreciates a girl who knows what his
favorite color is."
"I know that Heero
can hack through a firewall in forty-five seconds and break a paracol-128
encryption key within sixty," retorted Duo.
"I think that counts for a little more than what his fucking favorite
"Depends on whether
you're talkin' about a coworker or a lover." With a glint in her eye and a cloyingly
sincere tone, Hilde said, "You guys need to bond,
This sounded like a
comment straight from one of those women's magazines he'd looked at out of
curiosity in the psych's office, full of touchy-feely
shit. "Fuck, it's not Nosy Bitch Day, it's Miz Therapist Day," Duo
announced to the room at large, throwing up his hands. "Parade at ten.
"Look," said Hilde
patiently, pushing her bangs back again. "All I'm suggestin'
is that you do stuff together. Get to know him outside sex and work. Play board games, for God's sake."
games?" Duo said
Hilde made a face at
him. "A videogame, then. Whatever it is guys do."
We have nightmares
together, Duo thought sourly, this morning's early awakening coming to
mind. "Yeah, Hilde,
whatever." War was supposed to be
the most bonding experience there out there, wasn't it? They'd gone through it together, sometimes
the only allies each other had. He
didn't see how shooting some badly animated Aries suits would make them any
closer. It'd be worse than the fucking simulator. He fingered the raspberries and ate another.
"That's rude, Duo,"
Hilde snapped. "I'm just sayin' that you seemed more taken with the guy than I've
seen you with anyone else. If you want
it to be a flash in the pan, then fine, go right ahead and keep right on doin' nothing with him but screw."
"Hilde, look at how
old we are," Duo said, going for patience in the face of her rebuke and
crossing his arms. He ignored the
queasiness that had uncoiled in his gut at the thought of Monday
afternoon. "Guys our age are supposed to screw a lot."
"Guys your age don't have half the experience you do, and they aren't livin' together and holdin' down
shifted in his seat. "You make it sound
like we're married or something."
said, "If the shoe fits -- "
"A gnat couldn't
wear that shoe. That shoe's on the far
side of Jupiter and heading away at light speed." Damn it, what was this? Show some interest in a guy -- alright, he'd
never moved in with another guy before, but it wasn't like Heero would get a
typical response any more than Heero was a typical guy -- and Hilde already had
them walking down the aisle of her mind.
"I think," he said before Hilde could open her mouth to let loose with
some other whacked-out proposal, "that it's time to talk about your sex life. You usin'
protection and all? Not gonna end up with any 'war orphans' of your
He relished the
discomfited look on Hilde's face. "Of
course," she said tartly.
"Good girl," he said
with caressing condescension, watching her eyes narrow in irritation at his
tone. It was almost like springing a
trap on OZ. Timing, speed, surprise,
preparation -- they all worked together, were all working together now as he
smiled to himself and unleashed the really good question on her. "Have you gone down on Jean yet?"
Her expression of
appalled shock was all he could have wished for. "Duo!"
He watched with
satisfaction as Hilde turned red. Just
as he'd thought; she was willing to talk about this if it applied to him, but
she wasn't willing to have the tables turned.
He crossed his legs again, tapping one foot idly. "What about the other, what was his name? Paul?
Or was that the previous guy? I could give you some pointers. Want some
"No!" She all but squirmed in her chair.
Duo grinned at her,
leisurely propping his elbows on the back of his seat. "There's a spot right behind the balls -- "
Even Hilde's neck was flushed.
I don't want to hear -- "
"I bet your saint would
like that. And even more if you'd swirl
your tongue right around -- "
"Damn it, Duo!" Hilde punched the disconnect button in
retreat, but not before Duo had dropped the pretense to laugh at her. God, it was good being able to set her off
A thump and a rattle
at the front door brought Duo out of his bedroom to see Heero shoving the door
aside, arms laden with plastic grocery sacks.
He was still chuckling as he crossed to his roommate and shut the door
for him, flipping the deadbolt locked.
"Got the cheese, babe?" he asked.
"Two shops," Heero
muttered in displeased reply as he headed towards the kitchen. "Why are you laughing?"
"No real reason. Just a call with Hilde."
The last time he'd played with anyone else his age, he'd still been learning
not to color outside the lines. Wait,
no, he'd played chess with Wufei and Trowa on Peacemillion. But Heero'd never
agreed to a game, so how was he supposed to know what kind of things Heero
would like to do? "So, whatcha get besides the cheese?"
forward eagerly as the screen lit with video feed and Duo smiled at him. "Hey, man! It's been a while. -- It's Quatre," Duo said, flicking a glance
towards someone offscreen, Heero presumably. Despite the grainy image from an inexpensive vid camera, the Deathscythe pilot looked well.
"Only you would say
a month and a half has been that long," Quatre said, smiling, and holding back
the grin that wanted to burst free only with great effort. You
head WEI now; you can take the time to be pleasant before hijacking the
conversation to your own purposes!
Forcing himself to be patient, he focused on the image before him. The video quality couldn't disguise the
decade-old style of the cabinetry in the kitchen visible behind Duo, even covered
by fresh paint. An open cabinet above
the sink showed boxes of foodstuffs, the vid
resolution too poor to permit reading them.
They were arranged in soldierly rows by height. Had Duo been responsible for that, or Heero?
Or maybe they had a maid service?
A mumble sounded
from elsewhere in the kitchen; Duo looked back to the screen and grinned. "Heero says hi, too. And it has -- been a while, I mean. You heading this way
"I've got a con -- Duo."
Quatre came to an abrupt stop, his excitement growing cold and the words
tangling in his throat as he stared at the grainy image. "What did you do to your hair?" It was all gone,
shortened into some style that barely brushed his ears. Quatre knew the astonishment in his eyes had
to be giving him away, but he couldn't stop staring at the other pilot in
"My hai -- oh!" Duo's mouth twitched before he
broke into a laugh. "God, you should see your face, Quatre. I haven't done anything, see?" He reached up behind his head and pulled out
something; the familiar braid tumbled over his shoulder and Duo's mouth tipped
up at one corner at Quatre's reaction. "Just keeping it out of the way of the stove." He displayed a long-shafted wooden spoon in
explanation of his words, apparently the item that had been used to skewer the
braid out of the way.
Quatre drew in a
rough breath, feeling his heart rate slow down again even as he fought back the
embarrassed expression that wanted to paint itself on
his face. To have been misled by substandard
video equipment, even. He could only
hope that Duo didn't think it a joke worthy of passing along to others. "That's -- that's a good idea," he said,
struggling for nonchalance.
"You bet," Duo
said. "I learned that lesson last year
when I lost a chunk of it 'cause I didn't realize it had fallen on one of the
burners. Man, the stench! So I shove it down my shirt now."
"You used my
chopsticks last night," Heero grumbled, still off-screen.
"Hey, I promised I'd
leave them alone in the future," Duo protested, turning away from the screen to
plead his case with Heero. He turned
back to Quatre when that only got a grunt from the other pilot, saying in an
undertone, "He acted like I'd been eating off a plate I fed rats from."
"I am the one who would have to eat with
them," Heero corrected in a pointedly stiff tone. Quatre had heard him talking like that aboard
Peacemillion, on the rare occasions Heero deemed some
action taken by their opponents imprudent enough to warrant comment.
Duo's face turned
sly before he vanished off the screen.
"Then I'll," Quatre could hear him saying, accompanied by the clink of
metal against glass, "just have," and the sound of scuffling feet on a waxed
floor, "to eat you." A thump that Quatre could clearly envision as
an elbow to a gut cut off whatever Duo had been about to say with a pained
grunt. Quatre held back on a laugh; he
admired Heero for cutting straight to the point. It was a tactic which often seemed to have
the best results with Duo.
The double meaning
of Duo's words caused Quatre to pause as Duo stumbled back in front of the
screen, wheezing with breathless chuckles around a mouthful of something. I didn't think they were together like that. "Heero's... making a... pasta
casserole," he offered in explanation as he caught his breath, one hand pushed
gingerly to his stomach.
"My nanny used to say that to me," Quatre
offered with a slight smile, considering the possibility. Maybe... ? "Then she'd pull up my shirt and blow a
raspberry on my stomach."
Swallowing the last
of his mouthful, Duo nearly choked on a laugh.
"She said she'd eat you?" He gave a speculative glance away from the
screen. "Maybe I should try that on Heero, that blowing thing. . . ." The grinding sound of shattering glass
answered that suggestion. "Shit! Oh, Heero, man, shit! You okay?"
"Heero?" Quatre asked worriedly, setting aside his
reanalysis of Heero's interactions with Relena.
Heero moved towards
the sink, opening the cabinet beneath that to drop the shards of something into
it. Quatre could hear the heavy clinks
of thick glass shards landing on each other.
"I'm fine," he said shortly, sticking his hand under the faucet. "It was just a cup of tomato juice." He spared a glance at Duo, peering over his
shoulder. "You will not try that."
"Didn't even cut yourself," Duo said, bemused, before his smile snapped back
into place with every ounce of the insouciance Quatre had seen him display
during the war. "Guess I can't offer to
kiss and make it better, then."
Quatre watched Heero
closely; the other pilot didn't even blink at Duo's reply, as if he were used
and resigned to hearing outré statements like that. Quatre wished he could read
emotions over vid units; then he would know for
certain. It's just Duo joking. "Quatre," Heero greeted, moving back
towards the counter where he'd been preparing the dishes. He stopped ignoring Duo
long enough to ask, "Is there another measuring cup?" They
would have told me if it were more than that.
"I didn't have any
more glass ones," Duo said, leaving Heero to rummage through a drawer as he
turned back to Quatre. "So, why the call? Not just making sure we haven't killed
each other yet? Heero has come close to
it a time or two," he said with a deadpan expression, "but he restrains himself
when I point out that he's the one who gets up at two in the morning to clean
excitement returned full-force with an euphoric
rush. He smiled, this time knowing knowing he looked smugger than Wufei when a woman's misstep
had proven his misogynistic views correct.
"Trowa proposed," he announced, allowing himself to gloat openly.
Duo's eyes flew wide
in astonishment. "Trowa?"
"Of course Trowa,"
Quatre said indignantly before Duo's grin caught up with him.
man!" Heero appeared next to Duo's
shoulders to agree to that with a nod.
"Why'd you say it
like that? Trowa," Quatre asked, trying to mimic Duo's tone around the smile
that continued to interrupt him.
Duo just laughed,
crossing his arms. "'Cause I figured
you'd be the one to ask him. So when'd
morning." Quatre's smile grew wider at the memory. "He had to leave last night -- the circus starts
its spring touring next week -- so he put the ring around my toothbrush where I'd
find it first thing."
Even Heero looked
amused at that, huffing a breath that was almost an
outright chuckle. Duo's face scrunched
up, as if he were trying to hold back another laugh. Quatre eyed him, trying to appear ready to be
"That's just -- so -- so
fucking Trowa for you," Duo said at
last on a plosive breath, his eyes alight with the laughter he held back. "I guess it's good he didn't punch you in the
gut to pass it to you that way. You said
yes right away?"
Quatre folded his
hands together solemnly despite his continued delight. "I messaged him immediately."
"I bet you guys're gonna have a fun
reunion," said Duo slyly, getting jostled a little as Heero nudged him. "Hey!"
appreciates your jokes, Duo."
"But you do,
huh?" Duo aimed a grin at Heero over his
Heero moved back to
the counter, out of the range of the camera.
"You definitely have
it good, Quatre," Duo said, turning back to face the vid
unit. "Your roommate is good to you."
"Oh, he's very
good," Quatre said with a wry chuckle and earning an appreciative guffaw from
Duo. "There are several reasons why I'm marrying him."
"Like?" Duo invited with a smirk.
"Like..." Quatre mused, then
smiled. Duo would expect a joke, but it wasn't something he wanted to joke
about. "Like the way he can figure out the right counterpoint to play to my
music, every time. Like the way his
happiness feels. Like," he finished,
seeing Duo shift his weight and then stop the movement before it could become a
fidget -- Duo must be uncomfortable with the mushiness -- "the way he didn't kick
me out of bed the other night, when I woke up with a nightmare and kneed him in
Duo all but choked
on a laugh at that. "A definite keeper,
I guess! Congrats again, man. That's really cool."
Quatre propped his
chin up on one hand, grinning at the other pilot. "We'll be setting a date
soon, I think. It will probably be next summer -- so keep your schedule clear, alright?"
"Next summer?" Duo said, astonished, then continued, "Will
do. More time to think of a really great
gift for you guys, I guess."
"Thank you," he said dryly. "So, you'll
excuse me, right?" He said in
explanation to Duo's look of expectation, trying not to let his smile become
something foolish and infatuated, "Trowa's evening performance ends soon, and
he -- he might call."
"Sheesh, man! Don't let us keep you." Suiting
action to words, Duo disconnected the call before Quatre could even give him a
proper farewell; the window faded to black with a final sight of a cheerful
wave from the other pilot.
Quatre stared at the
blank window a moment in the silence of his office, thinking, then keyed in a
hold on all incoming calls but Trowa's into his system. That done, he rested his
glance on a stack of documents, feeling the excitement of the announcement
drain away in the face of a wait.
"I suppose -- "
His computer beeped in announcement of an incoming message. His hand flew to accept it. "Trowa!"
"Yuy," Heero said, answering the
beeping vid unit without turning away from the pan he
was scrubbing. He seemed to be making
very little progress. Had he known how
hard viscous cheese could become when properly heated, he would not have suggested
casserole for dinner.
"Well that's a fine hello," a familiar voice remarked
wryly. "You could at least look at me
when you say it."
"Hello, Relena," Heero said, shifting so he could see her
face. She was watching him with fixed
interest, chin propped up on one fist and eyebrow cocked at an amused angle.
"Hi, Heero." The eyebrow lifted a bit more. "You know, I realize that vidphones
are complex machines, but I think a big, tough Gundam pilot like yourself can
brave it from time to time to call a friend, don't you?" Her eyes flicked over the dishes he was
scouring. "Which one of you takes the
credit for this culinary disaster?"
Heero snorted. "Did
you just call to tease me?"
"Ah," she said, smiling.
"That would be you then. Do you
have any idea how to get baked on cheese off a pan?"
"Duo suggested solvent."
Glancing up, he had the privilege of seeing Relena
gape. Finally, she managed, "He was
"He could have been," Heero told her with a shrug. "Sometimes it can be hard to tell with
him. He might have been joking, unless
The girl sighed. "How
about if you let that soak for a while and talk to me, okay? How is it going with Duo?"
"We're figuring things out," he said, after a pause. There were a number of things about living
with Duo he hadn't anticipated, but thus far, nothing he couldn't cope with.
"Figuring things out?" She repeated incredulously. "Which is
Heero-speak for... ?"
"For: we're figuring things out." Heero chuckled softly as he considered his
reply. "I'm getting used to sleeping
without a pillow."
Relena laughed, and he decided to take her advice and let
the casserole dish soak. Drying his
hands on a dishtowel, he focused his whole attention on the phone. She looked pleased with herself. "So," she said, "living together is working
"We've only been living together for two weeks," Heero told
her. "I think it's a little early to
make conclusions like that."
"But you're getting to know each other better?" She pressed.
"Yes." He was
learning new things about his fellow pilot, and it was different than their
brief stints as roommates in boarding schools.
Duo was... not entirely what he expected.
The more time he observed the other pilot's seemingly casual actions,
the less casual many of them seemed to become.
The method behind them remained largely a mystery, however.
"And that's what you wanted, right?"
Nodding, he leaned against the counter top. The incident with the telemarketer flashed
through his mind, and the way Duo had seemed to anticipate the go ahead on the
firing range. Other things that hadn't
caught his attention when they happened, but which, when viewed in light of the
theory Heero was piecing together, took on new importance. The way he'd sounded so confident when they
were moving in and he said that the cereal and milk were going to spill, or the
way he'd rushed to open the window seconds before the smoke alarm went off
while making dinner weren't much on their own, but taken together, it was
enough to make him wonder.
"So, is this a good thing?"
"Yes," Heero told her, taking his time with the answer. "I think it is."
"I'm glad to hear that!" Relena said, and sounded it.
"You just like being right."
"Who doesn't?" she came back immediately, waving the sentiment
away with a gesture that conveyed both carelessness and refinement. "I can be
happy for you, and happy because I'm right at the same
time. The way I'm being run around these
days between school and politics, I'm getting accustomed to multitasking."
"I'm sure," Heero said dryly.
"Where is your better half, anyway?" she continued, not
noticing or willfully ignoring his tone.
"I wanted to say hi to him, too."
"I doubt either of us qualifies for that title," Heero
commented, crossing his arms across his chest.
"And he's out picking up Chinese takeout."
"Very wise," Relena said with mock solemnity. "I'm not sure whatever was in that pan was
Choosing not to respond to that, Heero said instead, "He
should be back soon, if you want to wait. Or you could call back later."
"I don't mind waiting."
A knowing grin was growing on the young woman's face as she spoke. "It gives me time to grill you for all the
"Relena," the Wing Pilot chided, "it sounds like you're
asking for information about my sex life."
Relena feigned innocence very well. The guileless look she gave him was very
believable. "You know," she said, "I
nearly think I am. So are you going to
tell me, or do we keep playing twenty questions?"
"I have no complaints about that aspect of our
relationship," Heero said, a little smugly.
"No complaints?" Relena asked. "I wanted gory accounts of seduction and
"He woke me up on Saturday with a blowjob." Perfect deadpan.
"Does that count?"
"Only for a guy," she told him, sighing
melodramatically. "Don't you have
anything a little better than that? I
need romance and drama to live vicariously through."
"You need a boyfriend," Heero corrected.
"Details! I need details!" She smacked her desk in
emphasis. "I need something to distract
me from the Political Philosophy reading I've been doing for the past two
hours. If I don't get some sort of
outside stimulation, I'll probably have dreams about John Stewart Mill."
The door opening interrupted what Heero was going to ask
about her preference of dreaming about Duo and himself, and his housemate's
voice announced, "Hey, babe. I got the
General Tsao's extra spicy. I know you don't mind -- " he appeared in the
kitchen carrying a pair of white plastic bags with little red pagodas blazoned
"Oh, hey kitten," he said with an exaggerated airiness as
his eyes landed on the vidscreen. Heero knew it was tone he reserved
specifically for the young pacifist leader.
Idly, Heero wondered if Duo had a tone like that for him. Relena waved hello. "How's things?"
"Better than when I had to read Neitzsche
in Ethics," she said, wrinkling her nose in distaste. "That man made me want to beat my head
against the table. I think Romefeller must have cut their teeth on The Antichrist."
Duo tutted sympathetically as he
unloaded the food. Heero watched the
exchange with interest. If Duo didn't
know who Neitzsche was, he showed no sign of it,
breezing through his response with characteristic ease. "I'd have thought they would've let you
through those classes on a gimme. Maybe you should visit us sometime. We'll help you relax."
A what? Heero
started as his housemate arranged the cardboard takeout boxes on the
countertop -- parallel to the edge of the counter, but staggered regularly against
"You two could visit me sometime." She countered, ushering the conversation away
from her studies. "I already told this
guy," she indicated the young man who had answered the vid
with a jerk of her thumb, "that the phone wouldn't bite him. I should yell at you for not calling,
too. You know how much I love you two."
"Yeah, I love me too," Duo said, handing Heero a pair of
disposable bamboo chopsticks. "Here you
go, so you don't have to use the hairy ones."
Heero accepted the chopsticks without comment, while Relena
gave both of them a suspicious look. "The hairy ones? Dare
"Nope. Too kinky for you," Duo replied, his grin
twisting up into something lopsided and lecherous.
"It wasn't kinky," Heero explained, rolling his eyes. "He used them in his hair, to hold it up."
"Just spoil the whole mystique, why don't you," the long
haired youth said with mocking regret.
"Guess I'll just have to come up with a kinky use for them later."
Relena laughed, a happy, expressive
sound that drew Heero's gaze straight to the vidscreen. He had the distinct impression that she was
laughing at him, even though Duo was the one who'd made the joke. The impression was only heightened by the way
her eyes twinkled as she glanced between them.
"This is why you have to call me more often. I need to laugh like this more." The last chuckles died down as she
spoke. "Unfortunately, Mister Mill is
calling. I have to finish On Liberty
by next class and I'm supposed to read the other Heero Yuy's
treatise on colonial rights before next week, so I should probably get on
"Alright," Duo told her, grinning as he helped himself to
the first serving of chop suey. "We'll talk at y'later."
Heero nodded a goodbye just as the screen blacked out, then turned
to dinner, and his housemate who had already moved on from the chop suey and was dishing out the General Tsao's
chicken. Picking up his own plate, he
asked quizzically, "What's a 'gimme?'"
"What?" Duo looked
up, his expression momentarily clouded.
"You said you though Relena should get advanced through her
Ethics class on a 'gimme,'" Heero prompted, watching
as the other's face abruptly changed with understanding.
"Yeah, I did say that, didn't I? It's just something obvious. You know, like the fact Relena already knows
about ethics is a gimme... " He trailed off. "I don't know where the saying comes
from. 'Give me a break,' I suppose."
"I've never heard you say that before," Heero told him as he
got a serving spoon for the rice. "Is it
an L2 thing?"
Duo shrugged indifferently.
So, how's Relena doin'
besides the class load stuff?"
"Fine." He let a smirk touch his lips as he
continued. "She was curious about our
Instead of the answering smile and jibe Heero expected, the
former Deathscythe pilot said, "I imagine with Quatre and Trowa's little
announcement, she'll have other things on her mind for a while."
"You didn't seem surprised by the announcement so much as
the instigator," Heero said, remembering the earlier conversation, and making a
mental note to buy a new pyrex measuring cup.
"Nah," Duo told him around a mouthful of noodles. "It seemed pretty likely something like this
would happen soon. I just figured
Quatre's timer would wind down quicker than Trowa's. You can be sure I'd kick you out of bed
though, if you kicked me in the nuts during one of your nighttime
rampages. I draw the line at waking up
to shouting in three different languages."
Heero's cheeks heated slightly at
the memory, but he managed to keep his expression neutral. "I'm not the only
one with trouble sleeping. You are just
as bad. And apparently, Quatre is too."
"Not so surprising, I guess," the other said stopping to
think about it. "We've all seen enough
to give a person an excuse to have nightmares."
Agreeing silently, Heero ate his meal.