author: 0083
genre: AU
pairing: 1x2, 3x4
disclaimer: no need!
warnings: angst?
notes: no beta. bear with the grammar.

Special + Part 17

- The Sixteenth Encounter -

Thanksgiving. What a holiday, don’t you think? Supposedly, I’m supposed to give thanks for all I have gotten in the year, grateful for all I have. However, what am I supposed to be thankful for this year? The strange heartache that is eating away at me or the romance that I did not think was possible?

I am in the middle of my four hour drive to my parent’s place out in the nice suburbia of the good old U.S. of A., bitterly thinking about my past week without Heero. As dictated, he had not called, sent me e-mails or done anything to keep me in contact. I had requested it from him, but the fact that he really didn’t call rested unhappily with me. I sigh as I put a little more pressure on my accelerator, making my lovely car go five miles faster. I am a damned contradiction, telling him not to call and still expecting it from him.

I should put it aside, damn it. I am going home to spend time with family and I should not be bringing all this gloom with me. I should be happy with my days off from work, overjoyed at the prospect of eating a dead bird cooked to perfection and ecstatic at the chance to catch up with my only brother.

I should not be lingering with my thoughts on Heero.

I smile my first real smile since the day Heero told me of her when I spot my mother coming out of the front door to greet me as I get my stuff out of the trunk. She looks wonderful with her brown hair done up in a tiny bun, her blue eyes sparkling with contentment.

“Duo, my baby, you made it! How was the drive? Much traffic? Did you bring that girl with you? Need help carrying your things in?”

I cannot help the laughter that bubbles out from my throat. It is good to be home, I guess.

“Mom,” I say between my chuckles, “give me a chance to reply. In that order, it was fine, not so bad, what girl and no.”

My mother processes my answers as we walk up to the house. It is the house I grew up in, all mellow bricks and shingles, with vast amount of windows and a wrap around porch that did not go with the rest of the house. It was an unconventional house, but my parents had unconventional tastes.

As soon as I step into the house, my father greets me with a hug and a pat on my back hard enough to send me pitching forward. He looks a bit older and I wonder how long it has been since I’ve seen him last. His beard has more white in it, his brown hair is streaked with grays, but his eyes are still the same. My purple eyes with more life experience and scattered humor smile at me as I return the hard hit to the back.

“Hey, old man, you look good.”

That is how I have always greeted my father since I went away to college and the comfort of tradition sits well with me.

“Young man, have some respect for your aging father and get to your room.”

I run up the familiar stairs to my room. Yeah, my room. It is still decorated like it had been when I was living here, with outdated rock group posters, comic books and random junk. It is a piece of my history that I often neglect.

“Duo,” my mother’s voice floats up the stairs, “when you’re done unpacking, come down for some snacks, okay?”

“Sure thing, Mom.”

I am pretty sure that so far, all my depressed thoughts about Heero have not presented themselves plainly on my face. I just needed to spend four days with my family as if everything in life was grand and wonderful. I hate worrying them with my personal life especially when I could not give them details about my personal life.

I was in the middle of putting away my clothes when I was jumped from behind by a pair of strong arms.

“Little man, you’re home! Did you bring me anything cool?”

Ah, yes, the joys of an older brother. Even at my age, the older brother can definitely make you feel as if you are still six. And more than that, he is still the coolest person you know.

“Solo, do you mind? You’re wrinkling me.”

My brother laughs, but he does unlatch from me to come around to face me. His blue eyes take me in from head to toe as if checking for injuries and then I’m surrounded in a bear hug.

“Duo, man, I haven’t seen you in ages! Shit, you can’t be that busy right?”

“Sorry, Solo,” I reply, meaning every word, “but it has been murder lately.”

“That better not be a pun..”

Solo mutters and then helps me unpack, making comments about my choice of attire as he does so. He makes fun of my sweaters, saying how one of them probably cost as much as his rent and then he eyes my pants like he could make off with them some time during the night. Then his eyes land on my brand new coat that I pull out of the bottom of my suitcase.

“Damn it, Duo,” he exclaims, “that coat is awesome! Tell me you bought me one.”

“Christmas is only a month away, Solo. Don’t get all greedy on me now.”

It is an old running joke between my brother and me, the issue of clothes and other assorted things. I am much better off than he is, being a successful attorney and all. I rake in the money and I do have plenty of it. He, on the other hand, had some issues early in life which made him drop out of high school and go off on a ‘search-for-self’ mission for a while. That is a nice way of saying that he drifted from town to town until he finally couldn’t do it anymore.

Yeah, he and I are totally different in our outlook of life. I am driven, he is not. I tore through college and law school with top grades, he just barely got his GED when he felt like it. I have a job with a large law firm, he is a mechanic in the same town we grew up in. Despite all the financial differences, though, at least we don’t resent each other for any of it.

“How much does a coat like this cost, Duo?”

Well, I don’t think he resents me, I hope.

“That’s a Burberry. It’s about three grand.”

“Three..” Solo trails off, a bit stunned, “three fucking thousand for a coat? Shit! What’s up with that?”

I shrug as I take the coat from him to hang in the closet.

“Really rare breed of cashmere?”

We both laugh at my joke and then he ribs me about my education level, saying how all those years of schooling has not even taught me that cashmere was not an animal. Brotherly banter, nice and easy, right? But the situation with Heero must be making me a bit edgy because I swear, I sense a bit of something.. off with Solo. As if he was angry with me.

Weird.

We go downstairs after our unpacking and he pulls my braid like always. Then we race to the kitchen just like when we were both teenagers, our feet stomping loudly through the house.

Our mother yelled at us just like back then when we got there, too. God, I’m getting all nostalgic.

The comfortable feeling lasts until the dinner on Thanksgiving night, the turkey massacred at my father’s incapable hands sitting on the table long after we were done eating. But after the food always comes the talk and that’s when I feel decidedly uncomfortable.

“So, Duo,” my mother rambles, “when are we going to hear about this new woman in your life?”

If it was not so damned telling, I would have bitten into my nails. Thankfully, my father speaks in my stead.

“Helen, don’t go pestering the boy. He’ll tell us when he’s good and ready.”

“As his mother, I have a right to know,” my mother sniffs with a superior air, “and he won’t tell us squat until we drag it out of him.”

I hear Solo laughing at my side and I know I’m blushing a shade of red that shames the cranberry sauce.

“Mom,” I grind out, hoping to forestall questioning, “we had a really big fight not too long ago. We aren’t speaking. Can we not talk about this?”

Immediately, I get sympathy eyes from my parents who nod knowingly. Solo, on the other hand, opens his mouth.

“Duo, you actually have a female who does not cater to your every whim? You’re losing your touch, little man.”

Ha. He has no earthly idea.

“Stop picking on your little brother, Solo.”

My mom must still think we’re little children, admonishing Solo like that. But that is the wonder of parents, is it not? They never believe that you are as grown up as they were when they were your age. To them, Solo and I will be eternally ten and eight, squabbling over who got to play with the G.I.Joes on a given day.

The grilling of my love life does stop after I announce my depressing news, but it weighs on me for the rest of the weekend. Watching football with my father and my brother, I get flashes of brilliant cobalt colored eyes in my visual range. I hear a deep yet slightly nasal voice teasing me when I’m talking to my mother about my job. I feel hands encircling my waist when Solo and I rake the leaves in the backyard.

I must be losing it.

When Sunday finally comes, I’m almost too relieved to leave the presence of my family. It was not that I did not enjoy my time with them, but I suddenly felt as if I should talk to Heero. I could not do that with my family hovering around since they would have noticed something.

See, I realize that even though I may not have forgiven Heero for keeping his secret from me, I want to forgive him somehow. I miss him, didn’t my flashes of Heero all through the weekend say something about that?

My parents hugged me goodbye and I agreed to give Solo a ride back to his apartment. The ride back had some inane babble between us about sports and other masculine topics, but then it had to turn itself serious.

“Little man,” Solo begins, “you really like this girl, don’t you?”

I wonder if I should pretend as if I didn’t understand, but I decide against it. It is my brother.

“Yeah,” I reply, “but the fight was really bad.”

He shrugs his shoulders like he expected me to say that.

“All fights are pretty bad when you really like the person. I’m thinking you are going back and working it out?”

I nod in affirmative, but refuse to answer verbally.

“Duo,” Solo says, his voice more serious than I have heard in a while, “you work it out if she means so much to you that she could make you zone out for four damned days without even being here.”

I chuckle in embarrassment. I had no idea that I had been so obvious.

“And bring her home to meet mom and dad. They just want to know the people in your life. Don’t..”

Solo pauses and I tense up.

“Don’t what, Solo?”

“Don’t disappoint them. God knows I do that enough. You.. you are the apple in their eyes, you know? You can do no wrong. You, little man, are the perfect son.”

My throat constricts and my hands grip the wheel tighter. Oh god, only if they knew..

“We’re here.”

My voice is raspy and my stomach is clenching tight enough to produce diamonds out of coal. Why did Solo have to say all that, lay all that shit on me?

“Later, little man. Invite me down to your fancy digs sometime, okay?”

“Sure thing, Solo. See you.”

With the farewells said, my brother gets out of my car and I see him enter the door to his apartment building. Then I drive out of my home town as fast as I can, the demons spawned from Solo’s words haunting me all the way back home.

“Solo,” I say to the emptiness of my car, “I’m not perfect. And the rate the shit is going, I’m going to end up killing them.”

The rest of the drive is a hazy thing, my thoughts jumbling in a tangle of confusion as Solo’s words and thoughts of Heero intertwine. What am I supposed to do now, I wonder. Should I do as Solo says and not disappoint my parents? I mean, if I were to break it off with Heero, won’t this be the time?

I am still pondering that question when I walk into my apartment holding my cell in my hand with Heero’s number on the screen. I should push send, either to end it or fix it. Whichever I choose, I need to talk to him.

It isn’t until I have been home for a good hour that I push send and check the impulse to hang up before he picks up. For better or for worse, Heero picks up after the first ring like he has been waiting for me.

Funny how my heart lurches at that.

“Duo.”

He breathed out my name like a prayer, almost as if he didn’t believe that I was calling. The mixture of relief and nervous tension hits me through the electronic space, telling me that Heero had been waiting by the phone for my voice for nearly two weeks.

“Hey,” I say, noting that my voice is shakier than I wanted it, “how was your holiday?”

Okay, I admit that that was a lame beginning, but I don’t know what to say. I still haven’t decided on the fate of us yet.

“Good. Yours?”

So we do small talk for a while, each of us feeling out the other’s emotional space with empty words and pregnant pauses. Neither of us can say what is really on our minds, not yet, but at least we’re talking.

However, it is during this useless small talk that I receive an epiphany of sorts. Some time during Heero’s explanation of the bad weather conditions near Oregon, I realize why it was that I stuck with Heero even after all my doubts and mistakes. It was the same reason that Heero stuck with me after everything I had done wrong.

Special. Remember that, Duo Maxwell you ninny? I wanted it so badly and I found it in him. He saw it in me from the first moment. That was why I could not let him go, why he waited for me to call.

That is why I must forgive him.

“Look, Heero,” I say as soon as the epiphany passes, “come over now. We are going to work this out.”

I hang up without waiting for him to answer because I know for a fact that he’s coming.

He is coming to reclaim what is special.

And I’m going to do the same.

[part 16] [part 18] [back to 0083's fic]