Author:FancyFigures
Disclaimer:I don't own 'em, wish I did, just enjoy writing about 'em for free etc
Pairings:1x2
Category:POV, romance
Warnings:Yaoi, lemon
Spoilers:None
Notes:Duo finds a novel way of stopping Heero's bickering. Heero finds a novel way of expressing himself!

This is dedicated to Dacia -- who knows the value of words!

Four Letter Words

"What the hell are you talking about?" Duo whirled round, the braid snapping behind him almost venomously, as if it had a life of its own.

"Sorry, but don't I already know that?" he answered himself quickly, before I could reply. "Yeah, of course - shock horror! - Heero appears to be criticising my language! Again!"

"I wasn't..." I said, unusually patient. That was only because I was considering reaching out and groping the boy in front of me, and that was distracting me from my discussion. But I could never have plucked up the courage, anyway. He looked astonishingly good this morning, with a vest barely thrown on, chest muscles flexing underneath it as he slammed the cereal packet down on the breakfast table. Slight sheen to his skin, having just come out of the shower. Loose pants, no socks. Casually dressed, because we had no formal plans today.

Just as I dreamed of him in my lonely, cripplingly embarrassing nights. Nights that ended up wet and sticky, most of the time.

And still lonely.

I winced as a hoop of chocolate corn missed my nose by an inch. I had annoyed him rather successfully, if it interfered with his eating.

"I just suggested that you say a tremendous amount for the smallest of messages. That you don't need so many expletives and four letter words for your conversation to be effective -"

"Effective? Quote Effective Unquote?" His hands sketched it out dramatically over the breakfast crockery. "What the hell kind of description is that? I don't talk to you to be effective, Heero Perfect Punctuation Yuy -"

"For heaven's sake," I sighed, "You're being deliberately obtuse now, Duo."

"Well, get you!" he sneered, brows knitted together as he glared at me. "It's Mr Word Police!" He rolled his eyes up, struck a familiar pose. "Look at me, does it show, this obtuse thing? On my head? Over my chest? Up my fucking butt -?" He answered himself as before; these rantings were never a proper conversation. Just a way to embarrass me. "No idea, Duo my friend! Perhaps, Heero," - he stared up at me fiercely - 'that's because I don't know what the fuck that means!"

I winced again. I tried not to, but the harshness of his language was, indeed, getting me down. While hanging on his every word - no, I don't understand the contradiction myself.

"There's nothing wrong in using a more frugal, yet sophisticated vocabulary, Duo. You don't have to put on any sort of an act with me. I know you are as articulate as any of us -"

"That something to do with my joints?" snapped Duo. He slumped down in his seat, and turned his back on me, reaching for the milk. He obviously considered the breakfast more important than me. I should explain that that's fairly usual.

"I bend as much and as well as I damn well like, y'know?" His voice was a little muffled as he went on, and I don't think it was only the chocolate hoops. "You should know about that, Remote Boy."

I know I blushed. And I could have bitten my tongue off. Perhaps I still will. Sewing it back on will give me something else to do during those lonely nights I've already referred to.

+

I knew what he was talking about, and so did he, obviously. It had been a very strange evening, only a week ago, and still burned fiercely on my mind. We'd both wanted to watch TV, everyone else was out, but - as usual - we couldn't agree on the programme.

I don't know what happened really - or rather, I don't know how it ended up the way it did. He had grabbed the remote control, and somehow draped himself over the back of the couch, dangling it in front of my nose, but just too far for me to grab it. And started taunting me! Apparently I cannot be parted from this small electronic box; apparently I hog its use to the exclusion of everyone else; apparently I should take it to bed with me and shove it - well, the rest was the crudest of Duo-talk, I won't repeat it here.

At first I refused to be drawn into such a childish game, but then I got just a little angrier - OK, a lot angrier - but every time I tried to snatch it back, he would somehow twist that long-limbed, athletic body and stay just outside my reach. I'm as fit as the next guy - well, fitter, of course - but I couldn't imagine how he bent back in such an unnatural way, and how he anticipated my every move.

The anger got just a little too real, and eventually I knocked the remote out of his hand, and grabbed him instead. I think I'd finally caught him by surprise, which was considerably more gratifying. We fell on to the floor together, the mat rucking up underneath us - and the TV hissed on to no station at all in the background.

Then we didn't seem to be bothering about the TV anymore.

I guess it was mostly my fault. OK, it was totally my fault. I can remember very clearly how warm and alive he felt underneath me. Harsh breath, pouting mouth. Temporarily silent for a change - he'd run out of insults and teasing and the endless stream of words as weapons. Or perhaps I'd winded him more than I thought. His arms were pinned to the floor under mine. His thighs tense and pressing against my legs. Ahh... now I'll have to think about something hideous like parsnip soup or cottage cheese quiche, just to try and dampen the teasing ache in my groin. Happens every time the memory comes back to humiliate me!

I've no idea whether Duo likes boys, or whether he's ever thought of me in that way. He seems to date a lot, but we never see any of them back at the apartment, and of course none of us can ever keep up any sort of long term relationship because of what we do.

Who am I kidding? I personally never even date, let alone maintain a relationship. The only person I ever think about romantically is him. And that's so patently ridiculous - and unattainable - that I swallow the thoughts down every day and concentrate on the real world and its missions.

But that night I suppose I let my instincts rule my head for a critical second.

I kissed him.

It was the best thing in the world! I'm shaking my head, now, mentally beating myself up, because all the memory does is torment me. But I can't stop running the scene through my head, like some old home movie, where only six frames run smoothly.

That's probably all it was - six frames of bliss. Some grainy, silent old film, full of the softest touch of surprise and panting flesh, and maybe the exciting hint of his tongue touching mine. My heart stopped for those glorious seconds. There was music in my head. Poetry overwhelmed me. And - believe me - I am no natural poet.

Then he pushed gently at me, and I leapt off him like he had the plague. Or like I did, which was a more accurate description, I suppose.

We stared at each other for all of ten seconds. If I was as red and hot as he looked, I could have sat on the rooftop and guided aircraft across town.

Guess what - Duo broke the embarrassed silence first.

It had been a strange, sudden madness, he said. Something about the weather - something about the chicken being undercooked at supper. He made some joke about Wufei's cooking, it having been his turn that night.

His voice had been a little shaky.

Yes, of course, I heard myself saying in reply. Probably the tension of the mission to come. Or the one just gone. Or something like that.

I can see myself now, nodding in agreement at all the excuses that Duo gave me.

All the chances he gave me to pretend it never happened.

All the chances that I took gladly.

Have I been kicking myself for that ever since!

+

"If it's so damn unpleasant being around me, why don't you take the fucking day off?"

Duo's voice was hardly shaky now. It was harsh and stubborn. I know he was being deliberately provocative. He wasn't so relentlessly foul-mouthed except when he was baiting me.

"We're both on call, you know that. We need to stick around here until the others are back to relieve us."

"You need to stick around," he snapped back, buttering some toast. How does he eat so much and stay so slim and fit? Nervous energy, I suppose. I watched the tendons on his arm as he wielded the knife like a samurai blade. I imagined the arm holding me tight. Then I imagined the 'blade' slicing through me. Interesting dichotomy. I gulped.

"You don't trust me to cope, do you?" he snapped.

"Of course I do," I said a little weakly, because I had, indeed, been worrying about that. He seems rather volatile nowadays.

"You need to lighten up, Heero."

"Lighten up? What does that mean?"

"Hell, isn't that in your precious dictionary? Like, I'm staring at a man who thinks Relax is a big neon sign announcing Welcome, Nuclear Holocaust!" He appeared to be talking to the spoon now. "Look, Duo, see how Mr Yuy perceives your unique ways. Are you a danger to the world of Oz? Do your missions cause madness and mayhem in the world of your enemies? No, my dear Duo - it's your language that threatens the world's very existence! Your imaginative and totally appropriate use of descriptive phrases -"

"You use too many four letter words, that's all." I sounded rather sulky.

"Like you never do?" he tossed back.

I gave it some serious thought - he deserved that from me. "I may occasionally. But I don't see the need. And, of course, I don't know as many as you do."

He laughed out loud then, and it seemed to relax the tension in the room. I'm not sure why, or what I said that was so amusing. But I wasn't ungrateful for it. And I love to see him laugh. The effect is loud and expansive and generous and lively - well, that's Duo all over, I suppose.

"You could learn some, Heero! They're damn useful; sharp, tasty little words that express what you want to say when there's hell to pay and you can't express the damn feeling otherwise -"

"There you go again!" I bleated. I was surprised at how pathetic I sounded, but I couldn't somehow let it go. "A veritable flood of words, but little content! I really don't see that you can express yourself adequately on such a limited vocabulary."

"Easy."

"I don't think -"

"Fine! As if I give a fuck what you think!" But his words weren't angry. He was staring at me again, rather thoughtfully. His face screwed up with that mischievous look that he has, when I know he's just hidden my laptop, or put marmalade on the toilet seat, or has sliced a fuse in half to use it in two explosive packs, but that means we've only got seconds to get out of the way, and he's only just thought to tell me -

He swung round in his chair, to face me. Tilted it back against the table. So ridiculously dangerous. "Let's put it to the test, shall we?"

"Test? Test what?"

"Whether my style can be as effective as yours! We need something to keep us amused until the others get back. We'll use just them!"

"Them?" I asked. He was leading me into monosyllables even as we spoke!

"Duo leaps back in amazement!" he mocked, a hand clutching his chest. "The man has the short term memory of a goldfish! Four letter words, Heero! We'll use just them." His humour seemed to be completely restored now. I had a sick feeling that it was entirely at my expense.

I stared at him. I heard the words, but they didn't seem to compute.

"What - swear constantly?"

"Oh, look at your face, Heero!" he laughed. "What a negative attitude! You're the literary geek - surely you can see the potential for short words that don't have to be swear words? We'll use any words up to - and including - four letters. A much sharper, crisper speech pattern, that's all it takes. Aren't you up to it?"

"I'm up to anything you can suggest!" I snapped back. Wished I hadn't.

"Ah-hah! That's a yes then, is it?" he smiled. "See my face, Heero. *Grin* is what you'd call this! Watch it and fucking weep! You are gonna learn to talk the Duo way."

"It's a stupid game," I gasped.

"So humour me," he replied. He was undeterred. He was Duo on a mission. Shinigami - and I was the target. What chance did I have against that?

"Come on, Heero," he wheedled. "It's gonna be fun! Or you can call it interesting, "cos I guess that three lettered word offends you. Look - you use the longer words, but I use the quantity - you've said it yourself until my bloody ears burn. It'll be just as much a challenge to me, won't it?"

"So for how long?" I said, grudgingly. I appeared to be swept along with his juvenile game. "Days? Or just for a few minutes?"

"Oh ye of little faith!" he grinned. "I'll let you get back to your dictionary soon. "Til lunchtime tomorrow. What d'you think of that?"

"I..." I was a bit confused. Of course, I wasn't sure what I'd been expecting in the first place. And his grin was so very distracting, all those white teeth, the moist lips curved and laughing. Laughing at me. That was fairly usual as well.

"You mean - all night?"

He shrugged. His eyes dropped from mine for a second. I wasn't sure why.

"The guys are out until tomorrow evening at least. Ideal time for us to have a lark, without you looking a moron in front of them."

"Or you!" I snapped again.

"Good, good," he nodded, pleased. "You're getting into the swing already! Is it a deal, then? Is the challenge on?"

"I - suppose so..." A chill ran over me, suddenly. "Do you have other conditions in mind that I should know about?"

He pursed those shining lips, looked up at the ceiling as if he were thinking hard. "OK, I see your point. No thesaurus to be used. Only words in your personal vocabulary. Names are OK. Yes and no are OK."

"Slang?" I said, rather spitefully.

He sighed. "So I'll keep it to a minimum. God forbid you should use such a thing yourself!"

He shifted in his seat, apparently satisfied both with his empty breakfast plates and his plans.

"One other thing. How are we gonna police this?" His scrutiny was making me feel rather uncomfortable. Deliciously so. Miserably so.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, how will I know you're playing by the rules? You might sneak out of the house and you could be rambling on with multi-syllabled sentences up and down the street all night and I'd never know -"

I protested most strongly. Firstly, at the ridiculous vision that conjured up. And secondly that he could think I would cheat!

"You have some problems with my trustworthiness?"

"Wordiness, more like," he growled, rolling those big, violet eyes up into his head. "Look, everyone - here's Heero Yuy! The man whose motto is 'Why use one syllable when four will do?" '

I grimaced. Things were spiralling out of my control. "Then we will stay inside - together - and watch out for each other. Adjudicate each other."

"That the same as spy?" murmured Duo. But there was the slightest hint of a sparkle in his eye that made me think he wasn't as angry with me as he made out. "OK. That's a deal. I have to go out to get supplies, but we'll start this when I get back. Over supper."

He stood suddenly, pushing his plate to one side. The mug was knocked, it spun and rolled off on to the floor with a crash.
'Shit!"

"I see no need for you to get in the swing, as you put it," I said, sourly. "You've rarely been out of it, as far as I can recall." I was thinking hard, whether there had been any other night we'd been in together. Alone. Since That Night. The answer eluded me.

"Watch the tension, Yuy," he teased. "Don't want your arteries hardening. We need our Perfect Soldier to be just that, in all mental exercises." His voice lowered slightly. "Not just physical."

Surprisingly, he put out his hand and took mine. Shook it, in a gentle mockery of sealing the contract. His palm was warm and firm.

I couldn't help myself - I snatched in a tiny breath with the delicious shock. I held on to it rather too long, as well. Though he didn't seem to be keen to draw away either.

There was a slight hiss of breath from him as we stood there.

"What's the prize, Mr Polysyllable?"

"What prize?" I was still wafting on a dream of touching even more of him. I ignored his implied insult, whilst admiring the vocabulary. God, what was I talking about? I pulled my hand back to my side.

"Don't you think there should be an incentive for each of us? So's we don't give up too easily. Just something to make it all a little more worthwhile." He was watching my face with a strange expression that I couldn't identify. Then he sighed, as if he'd been looking for something specific there, but hadn't seen it. "I guess you don't need incentives, eh? You're completely self-motivated."

"I don't - know what you're getting at," I struggled the words out through suddenly dry lips. "Isn't it enough to have the knowledge that -"

"- you have superior control? Or that I have?" He was grinning again, and he grasped at my shoulder quite unselfconsciously. "But I still think we should play for more amusing odds." He leant back, slapped his forehead. "Hey, world, Duo Maxwell has another brainwave! The one who trips up first loses, and treats the other to an evening out - or in - with whatever entertainment they choose. And that's my last polysyllable for the day! OK?"

But he didn't wait for my answer. He flipped his spoon into the sink, scooped up his towel, and left the kitchen, whistling.

I stared after him for at least twelve minutes.

What had I let myself in for?

+

It did seem extremely quiet that evening. The others were out, of course. But the house was never quiet when Duo was in. There'd be music blaring out, or his PS2 singing away. Probably the TV on as well, even if he wasn't in the room. He said he liked the company. And he talked all through everything, anyway. It annoyed me to distraction, of course, when I was trying to plan a mission, or complete a report.

I sat, and waited for him to arrive back. Wondered how long I'd been sitting like this, painfully inactive. I looked at the laptop, couldn't find the motivation to open it. I looked at the TV, considered turning it on, and then mentally slapped myself for acting out of my usual character. He had me rattled.

I sat some more. Just out of curiosity, how many four letter words could I think of? Not just swear words, I told myself sternly. Speak to yourself entirely in small words, Heero. Practise it. I don't need a big word to say what I mean.

I groaned to myself. I sounded like a junior kid, with the first reading book!

But I had my pride. I would abide by the rules, and I would show him what self control could achieve! And it would be a challenge, to show him that conversation could still be rich, could still be mature.

Even with just a tiny word or two.

God - I couldn't even convince myself!

But it was still very quiet. How would the rest of the evening be? Neither of us liked losing in any manner known to man! Stupid game or not, the challenge was on. I supposed that we would both consider every word before we spoke. It was a very interesting concept. Especially for Duo, who let speech flow over him like air; letting it pick him up as it wished, revelling in its freedom. Flying with it, wherever it went.

I wondered where on earth this poetic appreciation was coming from, nowadays. Seemed like I was rather volatile, as well.

I thought again on That Night. Wondered how This Night was going to measure up. Decidedly less attractively, I thought. I couldn't control the connections in my mind - how could I even consider attracting the man I wanted, without the power and protection of my words? Even if he despised them so much?

Why was I even thinking this?

Get back to the case in hand! No more than four... no more than four... my mantra began.

I was still chanting it in my head when the slam of the front door and a piercing, whistling tune announced Duo's return.

+

[cont]