"Yuy. Report to third deck ops." Heero couldn't be sure, but he thought the voice on the intercom sounded faintly apologetic. He muttered a curse under his breath, then turned to Duo.
"I have to go answer that call. I'll find you as soon as I find out what they want." He grimaced.
"Howard's making you work your way out here, eh?" Duo looked disappointed, but he accepted the summons with good grace. "It's probably better I decontaminate before-" He was cut off by the intercom.
"Duo Maxwell, report to the med bay."
Duo didn't bother muttering his curse. "Motherfuck! Can't a guy get a shower?"
"At least you'll be stinking up a part of the ship that's far away from quarters." Heero smirked.
Before he could change his mind, he pulled Duo close and squeezed his shoulders again. Heero figured if Duo wasn't, well, interested, he could always pass the contact off as excitement at seeing him again. He let go of his friend's shoulders and pointed him in the direction of med bay.
"I'll find you later." Sound casual, he thought. Casual is good.
Duo nodded and trudged down the corridor. He waved tiredly over his shoulder at Heero before turning the corner.
Heero sighed. So much for his chance to talk to Duo right away.
He found Duo several hours later in the lounge, eating an apple with a slightly disgruntled expression. Otherwise, his friend looked much better, hair washed and wearing a new jumpsuit. Duo nodded in greeting as Heero sat down opposite him. He wryly noted that Duo smelled much better, too.
"What's the verdict?" He asked.
Duo held up his hand, swallowing his bite of apple. Heero watched the motion of his throat, shifting slightly in his seat. He dragged his attention back to Duo's face as his friend spoke.
"OK, for the most part. The physical was pretty standard." Duo scowled at his apple. "Although I don't see what that part of my anatomy has to do with being in space for two years."
Heero chuckled, turning it into a cough when Duo turned the black look on him.
"Enough out of you." He waved the apple core threateningly at Heero. "Minimal loss of bone density. Significant loss of muscle mass," Duo made a face, "but that was expected. Heart and lungs are in surprisingly good condition." He smiled ruefully at Heero. "I won't need the walker, but it looks like I'll be taking a lot of naps. Good thing you have a comfortable couch."
Ah, Heero thought. As good of an opening as any he was likely to get. "Yeah, about the couch." He firmly quashed the urge to fidget. "I've been thinking about that-"
"You're not changing your mind about me staying, are you?" Duo sat up, looking alarmed and a little hurt.
"No!" Heero hastily reassured Duo. "No, I'm not." He continued with a calmer tone. "I want you to stay." He took a deep breath. "I've had some time to think, and I'm beginning to think that I'm-"
"Heero." This time the voice on the intercom belonged to none other than Howard. "You're needed in main ops. Acknowledge."
Heero got up and toggled the com. "Roger that, Howard. I'll be there in a half hour."
"No can do, kid. We need you here immediately. And Duo." Howard managed to sound disgustingly cheerful.
"What, old man?" Duo called from across the lounge.
"Go take a nap. Heero's going to be gone a while. Howard out." The com light flicked off.
Duo shot Heero a bemused look. "Need an assist?"
"No." Heero raked a hand through his hair, thoroughly frustrated. "Look, Duo, I'll-"
"'Find you later.'" Duo finished. He still looked slightly nonplussed. "Pushy old bastard, ain't he?"
"You got that right." Heero muttered, heading off towards main ops. A pushy old bastard with rotten timing, he amended silently.
Heero checked the time and swore softly. It was the middle of ship's night. It had taken hours to find the damn problem; a bit of code was resetting one of the boards down in the second cargo hold every time the bay doors were opened. Heero put patch on it until tomorrow. Well, he thought tiredly, today. He needed some sleep before tackling that bit of programming, but he wanted to talk to Duo first. With every delay, he could feel his resolve slipping away.
He found Duo's door and put his palm on the pad. He blinked tiredly as the door opened with a quiet whoosh, staring into the room. He realized after a moment that Duo must have keyed the lock to his print as well.
Peering into the dark room, Heero could just barely see Duo's form on the bed. The other man was sleeping so deeply that he didn't even stir at the opening of the door. Heero stood there for a minute, leaning against the doorframe and watching the barely perceptible rise and fall of Duo's chest as his eyes adapted to the darkness. Duo's face was in shadow and Heero briefly wished he could see his friend's sleeping face.
While I'm wishing, he thought, I could wish for the words to tell him how I feel without sounding like the village idiot. Or for the balls to just tell him and not dance around the subject. He snorted self-depricatingly. And while I'm at it, how about a pony?
A door down the hall opened and the slight noise caused the figure on the bed to stir. Heero hastily backed away from the door, letting it close. He didn't want to wake Duo up. Leaning against the wall across from Duo's room, Heero tilted his head back until it rested against the wall and closed his eyes. He thought of the lock keyed to his print and smiled. Tomorrow. He'd talk to Duo tomorrow.
Resolve firm once more, Heero made his way to his own quarters.
This time, Duo wasn't alone in the lounge. A group of people was off to one side, playing poker. Their attention seemed to be completely on the game, so Heero sat down beside Duo on one of the couches. Duo gave him a wary look and set the book he had been reading down on the table beside the couch.
"You were saying?" Duo asked. "I hope you weren't going to tell me that you adopted a cat that was allergic to hair." He laughed nervously. "Or that you had a live-in lover that was allergic to hair."
"What? No!" Heero was startled, but realized Duo was joking to cover up his unease. "No." He felt a creeping sense of déjà vu. "What I was trying to say was-"
"Duo! Get your ass down to the shuttle bay and tell me what the hell you did to this system!" Howard's voice, amplified by the intercom, echoed in the lounge. Everyone in the room started, one of the poker players even dropping a stack of chips. All eyes turned towards Duo.
"Jesus, does the old man have radar? I talked to you more out in fucking space!" Duo muttered, levering himself up off of the couch.
Heero gave serious thought to how much the old troll's internal organs would be worth on the black market. "Duo," he sighed.
"I know, I know. 'I'll find you.'" Duo gave him a curiously intense look. "You'd better, Yuy. You're making me nervous."
Heero watched him leave, then snorted. "I'm making you nervous. Huh."
Two days, Heero fumed as he waited outside the shuttle bay, two more days of delays and interruptions. He was determined to have his say with Duo, regardless of what Howard had in mind for either of them. If he had left the relative peace and safety of his solitary apartment to find Duo, then Hell, high water, nor Howard Garcia was going to keep him from telling Duo what he wanted. At least this time, he thought, darkly amused, he was fed up enough to just spit it out. He felt a twinge from his conscience; Duo probably wouldn't appreciate any sort of declaration in public, but dammit, he'd had enough of this!
The door to the shuttle bay opened and Duo trudged out, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly. His smile of welcome turned into a look of alarm at what Heero was sure was the grimly determined expression on his face.
"Heh. Uh, I didn't do it?" Duo said, stopping an arm's length away. "Hey, buddy, what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, unless-" Heero was interrupted by one of the ops crew.
"Heero, Howard wants to see you on the bridge. He says it's urgent." The man backed up a step as Heero glared at him. "Whoa, man, no need to kill the messenger."
Heero closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was right; strangling Howard would be much more effective. This was going to drive him crazy. Maybe what he needed was action. They could sort out the words later. After Howard's body had been disposed of. "Duo..."
"Haven't we been over this? 'I'll find you-" Heero didn't let him finish. Instead, he strode forward, cupped Duo's face in both his hands, and kissed the mouth hanging open in shock. Duo remained frozen in shock for a few seconds, hands half-raised and eyes wide open. Heero watched through half-lidded eyes as the other man's eyes slipped closed and he started responding to the kiss, lips moving against his. Heero closed his eyes, trying to prolong the moment for as long as he could.
A muffled cough brought him back from the present and he pulled back reluctantly. He opened his eyes to see Duo looking at him in amazement. He looked away for a moment, unsure of what to say. Clearing his throat, he looked back at Duo and dropped his hands.
"If you'll excuse me, I have to go shove Howard's sunglasses down his throat." He turned on his heel and set off towards the bridge lift, nerves humming with dread and delight. He didn't look back.
A/N: The whole gravity thing bothers me. Sometimes they're floating around in the series, other times they're walking around. Grah! *waves hand* This is not the consistency you're looking for.