Of Sunshine and Childhoods
Well, it had finally stopped raining. After nearly a week of dealing with torrential downpours, Duo had been almost certain that they were going to have to suffer through the proverbial forty days and forty nights before they would ever see the sun again. When he'd woken up that morning and seen the tentative strands of sunlight filtering in through the partially opened blinds in his and Heero's room, he'd celebrated with a resounding, " YOKATTA!" before leaping out of bed with a thud that shook Wufei from his slumber next door.
" MAXWELL!" came the roar from behind closed doors, but underneath the hot spray of the shower Duo couldn't hear a thing as the water roared past his ears. He dealt with the mission of becoming clean in an efficient manner - the sooner he finished washing his voluminous mane of hair, the sooner he could be outside in the sun.
Heero was already up - and had been for hours apparently, Duo noticed absently as he scrounged through his pile of clothes trying to find something relatively clean that did not attract flies. One pair of Nike basketball-style mesh shorts and a matching black tanktop later, Duo was on his way. He slid down the banister of their two-story safehouse, landing with thump on the slickly polished wood floor.
" Itai.." he rubbed his side mournfully. A snicker was the response he got as Wufei peered down the stairs at the dazed American.
" Thbpppbttt!!" Duo blew a raspberry back at the Dragon heir who scowled and made his own way into the bathroom. Standing, Duo shrugged and entered the kitchen.
" Ohayo!" Quatre greeted him cheerfully. Trowa's newspaper lowered fractionally, allowing Duo access to one solemn eye that blinked at him. Duo waved and the head dipped slightly in acknowledgment before the paper slid back up into place.
" What's up, Duo?" Quatre asked curiously. The fact that Duo was up this early without requiring second and third wake up calls was monumental in itself - and the American had taken only twenty minutes in the shower as opposed to his usual forty-five. Duo gestured to the window where more tendrils of light were doing their best to successfully invade the shadows of the kitchen, and grinned a Cheshire-like grin.
" I'm going outside man! Look - the sun! It really does exist!" Duo snagged his black cap from the table where he'd left it the night before, securing it on his head before turning it around. His long chestnut bangs spilled out the front and Quatre noticed that his braid was only halfway done this morning, leaving a good foot of it or so hanging in a loose ponytail. With his casual attire, he looked like any other teenage boy, out to find a few friends to shoot some hoops with. Not a trace of the calculating, scheming terrorist Shinigami was to be found. Quatre gave a small sigh at the fact that they would never know the wonders of an unblemished, normal childhood, before giving himself a small shake. Moping solved nothing; it was up to them to make the most of their situation and he grinned back at Duo wholooked ready to seize the day.
" Where are you headed?"
Duo shrugged. " Just walking - wanna come with?"
Quatre nodded vigorously. " Trowa?"
The paper lowered slightly and while Trowa's face reflected his affection for the two youngest members of the team, he shook his head.
" You two go," was all he said before folding the paper neatly. " I have to finish some upgrades on Heavyarms."
Quatre nodded and then turned, racing Duo to the front door where they tried to see who could lace their sneakers faster. Duo threw his hands up invictory.
" I win!"
" You had a head start!"
" Did not!"
" Did too..." the voices were cut off as the door slammed shut behind them and the patter of feet was heard as the Arabian pilot chased the unrepentant American down the walkway.
Trowa chuckled and then headed toward the hanger.
" Ne, Duo - wait up!" Quatre was gasping for air - the combination of laughter and full-out sprinting did not do wonders for ones lungs. A glance ahead told him Duo was having the same problem. With one last chuckle Duo slowed to a stop underneath some large trees and flopped to the ground, smile still firmly fixed in place. Quatre sank to the ground next to him, giggling slightly. He reached out with one finger and poked Duo in the side, where, thanks to Heero's blurting it out during one of their all-night drinking sessions, he knew the American was ticklish.
" Did too."
" Did not," Duo responded automatically, curling up and away from those devilish fingers. He yelped as Quatre poked him again. " Agh! Quatre!"
" What?" The innocent look wasn't fooling anybody. Duo mock-scowled at his friend.
" It's going to be very undignified of me if I start screaming like a little girl in the middle of the bloody park!"
" Grrrrr........." Duo's grumblings tapered off as the sunlight hit them, highlighting the angles of their faces and forcing them to sprawl out, letting the sunlight seep in. Duo grinned.
" Man, it's been so long since anyone's had a chance to relax," he murmured, folding his arms behind his head for a pillow. Quatre was lying on his stomach, and he poked the ground distrustingly.
" I'm just shocked that after all that rain, the ground is already dry."
" Don't knock it, Quat-man."
The two relaxed in the sunlight, gaining an impromptu tan in the meantime. Duo's cap had migrated from it's precarious perch on the back of his head to cover his entire face. Quatre was zonked out, curled up against one of the large, uplifted tree roots. The whole peaceful scene resembled one out of a tranquil painting.
The tranquility was disrupted by the loud shrieks and laughter of children. Duo's ears pricked at the noises and one hand shot forward to tilt the wide brim of his hat up. A few feet away, a group of kids were playing together. Two little girls were playing hopscotch on a hastily drawn playing field, while another group of kids were huddled around the pond with paper boats, crowing with delight as some of them managed to cross the shallow poolbefore sinking. Duo's eyes were drawn to a small girl fiddling withsomething in her hands, a circular object with a string. Duo gasped as herealized what it was, and a wave of memories washed over him. The call wastoo strong. Sparing a quick glance at the sleeping Quatre, Duo got to hisfeet and bounded over to where the children were playing under the watchfuleyes of their babysitter.
Quatre yawned sleepily as he opened his eyes. He didn't sense Duo next to him and he sat up, looking around curiously. A shriek of laughter captured his attention and his eyes zeroed in at the cause.
Duo was surrounded by a group of children, laughing and joking to his heart's content, the watchful eyes of the children's guardians twinkling with mirth at the American's antics. Quatre noticed that Duo had something in his hand that flashed and whirled around, sparkling brightly and he jumped up eagerly as he registered what it was. Who said Duo was the only one allowed to have fun? With a big grin, he made his way over where Duo saw him coming and welcomed him. The kids accepted the boy instantly and soon, the whole group of them were having a wonderful time together in the sun.
" Finished yet Heero?" Trowa called as he climbed down off of Heavyarms. Heero nodded and jumped down from Wing Zero, meeting the lion tamer on the metal walkway. The two of them left the hangar and entered the kitchen. Heero glanced around quizzically.
" Where's Duo? And Quatre?"
" They went out for a walk," Trowa said, pulling the fridge door open and withdrawing two cans of pop. Handing one to Heero, he popped the tab on his own. He noted the time on the clock. " Hmm."
" They've been gone nearly two hours," Trowa said, sipping his drink. Heero paused, surprised.
" I wonder what they're up too?" Trowa mused. Heero smirked.
" If it involves those two, I'm not sure I want to know."
The two shared a knowing smile. Adorable and playful their respective mates might be - but they also had a near-sadistic mischievous streak in them a mile long. Heero tossed his empty can into the trash bin and jerked histhumb at the door.
" Let's go see what trouble they're causing."
As they neared the park, the familiar laughter that had been ringing through the trees all day, made itself heard to the two pilots. They rounded the corner - and stopped, mesmerized at the sight before them. Trowa's eyes glowed and Heero's shone, even as their hearts melted.
Closest to them, Quatre was sitting on the ground with a small, brown-haired girl in his lap. The little girl had her hair bound up in twin pigtails and she was sucking her thumb as they sat there, watching Heero's mate bounce around. Another child leaned against him, eyes wide. Heero watched, the corners of his mouth softening at the spectacle.
Duo had a large purple yo-yo in his hand and the crowd of toddlers were cheering his every move. Duo flipped the toy out, twisting his wrist at the last minute to let the whirling ball hover in the air for a few seconds. A gentle tug of his wrist the yo-yo snapped back up. without skipping a beat, Duo flipped the string up, cradling it across his hands as he let the toy sway back and forth.
" Cat's Cradle!" shouted a little boy. " Cool!"
" Ya ain't seen nothing yet," Duo chuckled as he let the yo-yo wind back up. A few around the worlds, and then he snapped it out again, this time letting it skim across the ground. The children watched, wide-eyed as Duo 'walked the dog'.
" Again!" came a chorus of pleas. Duo laughed and grabbed a second yo-yo from the ground, tying the string around his other index finger.
" Walking a pack of dogs, Duo?" Quatre chuckled as he ruffled the little girls hair. The girl mock-growled at him. " Ooops! Sorry Amanda!" He apologized to the child who paused for a second, and then wrapped her arms around the Arabian's neck.
Duo shot the two yo-yo's out, crossing the strings but amazingly, did not let them tangle. The children applauded. Suddenly two more pairs of hands joined in the applause as Heero and Trowa stepped forward. Duo grinned at the appearance of his lover, pretending to throw the yo-yo at him. The toy spun inches from the Perfect Soldier's face who didn't even blink, before returning to the cackling American. Trowa sat down next to Quatre, eyeing the child leaning against his partner warily. Said child scrutinized him before deeming him worthy. Next thing Trowa knew, both he and Quatre now had children in their arms. Trowa discovered that he rather liked the feeling and he gave child a light hug before turning his attention back to Duo who was performing more tricks. Heero leaned against a tree, content to just observe.
It was another half hour before the kids had to leave. Having tired of the yo-yo nearly forty minutes before, the remainder of the time had been spent on the various monkey bars, swings and playsets as the four older boys took the time to indulge in a round of games and fun that they had never truly been able to do previously. Even Heero found his cold exterior was no match for the warm laughter and sunny smiles the children gave out freely, and Duo watched with no end of pride or love, as Heero obligingly helped a child climb to the top of the dinosaur-shaped jungle gym, having been talked away from the tree into participating by a pair of twins who refused to take "........." for an answer.
All good things had to end at some point though, and Duo and Quatre waved as the children were gathered up by their respective parents and babysitters before heading home. The four of them then returned to their home, walking slowly, in no real hurry. Quatre looped his arm through Trowa's and Heero was just as content to hold Duo's hand as they walked, enjoying the lastremaining shards of light coming from the sun, even as it sank behind theskyline.
" Where'd you learn to do those tricks?" Heero asked Duo with interest. Duo laughed.
" Back on L2 - someone must have lost their yo-yo and Solo picked it up." Heero listened solemnly - he knew the story behind Solo, and how much Duo loved to talk about him. he squeezed his partner's hand, encouraging him to continue.
" His first try - he flipped the yo-yo out and the darned thing wouldn't roll back up no matter how hard he tried!" Duo chuckled fondly at the memory. It didn't hurt so much now to talk about Solo as it used to, before Heero forced him to open up and share. " He got so mad at it and was about to throw it out when he tossed it to me, saying that he'd better let someone else give it a shot before junking it. I snapped it out and remembered to tug it back up and Solo just growled at me!"
" What did he do?" Quatre asked from behind them where he and Trowa had been listening avidly.
" He snatched it back and tried again - me and the gang never laughed sohard as he did when the thing just went limp again!" Duo snorted. " He gaveit back and said it must have been made for me 'cause it wouldn't work foranyone else. And he stuck to that story, even after I let everyone else have a shot and no one else seemed to have a problem." Duo sobered slightly. " Theplague struck soon after, and I lost it - a tiny, wooden thing that hadchips in it and a ratty string. It didn't look like much but I remember howmuch fun we had just laughing every time Solo swiped it from me and tried tomake it work. I guess it was poetic justice - he was so good at so many things, it was only fair that something had to even it out." He sighed. " Then people got sick and well, food and medicine became top priorities, and we lost track of lots of our stuff, including the few meager toys the gang managed to scrounge up for the younger kids." Duo brightened. " But playing today - man, that brought back some good memories."
Heero smiled at him and squeezed his hand. Quatre and Trowa moved beside them and the four of them walked side-by-side until they reached the safehouse.
A few days later, Duo came in from where he'd been outside raking leaves with Wufei, the latter who threatened to cut off his braid and sacrifice it to Nataku if he continued to jump in the pile of leaves they'd created. Covered with bits of grass, twigs and crushed remnants of said leaves, Duo headed for his room where he would most certainly find his brush to rid himself of the signs of nature left on him as a calling card. Pushing his door open, he saw Heero sitting on the bed. Duo blinked.
" Hey Heero! What's up?"
" Nothing," shrugged the pilot as he stood. He walked over to Duo and held out his hand, showing a small paper sack. " Here."
" Huh? A present?" Duo beamed at his lover and practically tore the bag from his hand, ripping it open in his eagerness. A wide smile lit up his face as he stared at the gift, and he tackled Heero. " This is great, Heero!"
" Thought you'd like it," confessed Heero as Duo tapped the black and purple yo-yo thoughtfully. " Know any more tricks?"
" Hmmmmm..." the Shinigami pilot murmured. " Maybe ONE more..."
Duo stepped back and then threw the toy out. Heero blinked as the yo-yo wrapped itself around his body, pinning his arms in place. " Wha--"
Duo pounced on the immobile pilot, pushing him back down to the bed. " Like my trick?" he whispered huskily, reaching down to nuzzle Heero's neck. Heero smirked.