Alternate Coping Strategies
Duo set down the converter and lifted his braid to fan the back of his neck. "Damn, it's hot."
"And we can all thank Captain Obvious for that brilliant observation," Wufei replied, not bothering to look up from the motor block.
"Piss off, Wufei," Duo retorted agreeably, picking the converter back up to squint at the connectors. God only knew why Wufei bothered with all the hassle of changing out the converters. He agreed that the '45 converters had faster rise time than the '52s, but getting in to change the configuration was a real bitch. It was almost as if the manufacturer didn't want anyone screwing with their proprietary pre-sets.
It wasn't long before the back of his neck started prickling again. Someone was watching him, he knew it. He looked up, but Wufei still had his head buried under the hood of the car, Sally was on the porch, putting the cover back on the secondary fuel cell, and Heero seemed engrossed in waxing the car. He shrugged and went back to work. That was the third time today.
Damn, but it was hot. He managed to keep from saying it out loud again. He shook his head. The things he did for his friends. Or rather, the things he did for his friend's car. Maybe he should suggest that Wufei could invest in an air-conditioned garage. Or perhaps he could go with Heero's solution; he certainly approved of his partner's method of coping. Heero's motto was evidently "If you can't take the heat, take off your shirt." He stole a quick glance as Heero leaned over the fender. After all these years, he was the master of surreptitious study of his private obsession. Good God, that man's shoulders should be outlawed. His ass... well, best not to get into that. Such thoughts were better kept for time alone, where it was more appropriate to sport a woody.
He frowned. Something was not quite right with the picture, though. Heero appeared to be a bit flushed, more than waxing Wufei's early mid-life crisis could account for. Well, damn. Had Heero forgotten sunscreen? He didn't remember Heero carrying anything other than his keys when he had picked him up. Well, damn. Duo set down the converter again, picked up his backpack, and got up.
"Heero, man, you're getting a little red. Forget your sunscreen?" He asked, rummaging through his backpack. "I've got some here, somewhere." Finding the sunscreen, he dropped his backpack. He shoved the bottle at Heero, who looked at the bottle dumbly, then back at Duo. Duo rolled his eyes. "Man, your ears are turning pink." He proffered the bottle again and this time Heero took it, with a little look towards the sky and a nervous swallow. Sheesh, Duo thought, I know he doesn't like nagging, but at this rate, he'll be crispy before the afternoon's over. "Make sure you get your neck and chest, too."
A sudden thought struck Duo. "Hey, I think I have an extra hat in here." He bent over to rummage through his bag again. Behind him, he heard choking. He popped back up and turned around, but Heero was busily smearing sunscreen on his face and chest. "You OK?" He asked, concerned. Heero just nodded, clearing his throat. Duo gave him a dubious look. "Hat?" Heero shook his head. "Whatever." Duo dropped the hat. "Let me get your back." This prompted another bout of throat clearing before Heero turned around. He spread the sunscreen over his shoulders, trying to make keep his hands as impersonal as he could manage while his thought roamed into definitively personal territory. Grimacing, he stomped on those thoughts. Not the time, he chanted to himself, not the time! After running his hands as low as he could legitimately let them, he cleared his own throat. "There you go. I believe you can get the rest." Shoving the bottle back in his backpack, he beat a hasty retreat back to his spot under the tree.
As he passed Wufei, he heard him muttering something about "score another one for Captain Oblivious." Duo rubbed his ear. He knew his hearing wasn't nearly as good as Heero's, but he could swear Wufei just said "oblivious." He shrugged mentally and sat back down to fool with that damn converter. Wedging his screwdriver under the corner of the housing, he firmly put his mind back on track. He wanted to get the connectors changed and be done with the damn thing. A quick twist with the screwdriver and a sharp tug with the needle nose pliers, the housing gave an ominous groan but the last connector fell into place. Done. That, in his opinion, deserved an ice-cold beer. He dropped the converter off at the toolbox on his way to the cooler.
Just as he popped the cap off his beer, he heard Wufei around the corner of the house talking on his phone.
"Barton? Remember a certain wager about Maxwell?" Pause "Yes, I know it's been a long time." Longer pause. "I know it won't die. Look, I want to put twenty bucks on Maxwell." Loud, garbled reply. "That has nothing to do with it, but yes." Pause. "Good. I'm in." Click.
Duo winced. A bet. Jeez, what had he done now? He thought back over the past couple of weeks, but could think of nothing he'd done that was particularly stupid or wager-worthy. Then again, there was the behavior of the girls last week. And Heero seemed to be mentally miles away half the time lately. He took a meditative sip of his beer. Well, fuck. Evidently he'd done something. He'd just have to get it out of Heero on the ride home.
Damn. He hoped it wasn't anything too embarrassing. He was still working on living down the cherub thing.