by FancyFigures
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, wish I did, just enjoy writing about 'em for free etc
Pairings: 1+2, 3+4
Category: Romance, alternating POV
Warnings: Yaoi, shonen-ai/lime
Spoilers: None
Notes: The mission is to find compatibility; the problem is that opposites attract...
Feedback: If you liked it, PLEASE let me know!

How the Other Half Lives + Part 1

"No, of course I'm not trying to harass you." Quatre's voice is very calm, very soft. He insists he's not here to annoy me, nor to interfere with my life. He doesn't appear to realise that he's causing the very effect he's trying to avoid. I often wonder about this empathetic skill he's meant to possess.

"It's just a friendly word, Heero. Don't be defensive. It's just that your friends can see you ... objectively, as it were. And we worry about the impression you give to others."

"Impression?" He's sitting carelessly on the side of my couch. I'm worried that his boot buckle will snag on the fabric. The upholstery is new, and cost a large proportion of my last six month's salary.

"Heero, are you listening to me?"

"Do I have any choice, Quatre?" I place my drink back down on the co ordinating coaster, straightening the top right edge of it so that it lines up with the base of the lamp. "Look, I'm fine about the impression I give people. People can like it, or ... get over it. If they don't have the wit to cope with an alternative point of view, then that's their problem."

He gives one of those long-suffering sighs that I seem to provoke so frequently in him. His whole demeanour is one of compassionate disappointment: I think he must practice it in his leisure time. I suggested that once to Trowa and he spat his drink out all over the table. Thank goodness it wasn't actually in my apartment. Red wine stains can be a nightmare to get out. Trowa had growled a protest at me, though his eyes had been laughing. After all, I'd only been trying to help Quatre gain a deeper empathy.

Quatre's face is rather flushed. He seems frustrated. "God, Heero, but that's exactly what we're getting at! Your total lack of tolerance for -- or interest in -- the rest of the human race! How the hell are you ever going to meet anyone new, or, God forbid, someone romantically, if you show them no more respect than you do a piece of furniture?"

I stare at him, pityingly. "Actually, Quatre, I consider a fine piece of antique furniture far more worthy of respect than most of the pieces of human detritus that you persist in thrusting my way in the name of romance. Please leave me to organise my own social life and choose my own companions."

"But when was the last time anyone passed that interview?" he snaps back. He looks annoyed and confused -- I think he's struggling to remember the meaning of the word detritus. "You've lived here for six months, yet you have no idea who your neighbours are. You have no involvement in neighbourhood committees, no regular account at the grocers or a tab at the local bar --"

"I have a place of my own, surrounded by my own things, arranged just as I like them."

"Arranged!" Quatre is standing up now and his whole body language appears tense. "Hell, you can't always arrange everything in life! You've got to loosen up a bit -- be receptive to new experiences, to new relationships. Things can be ... irrational, sometimes, you know? People, too. Heero, you are so anally retentive that being around you makes me want to clench up! Will you please listen to me, for once?"

He really does look distressed now. This is usually how our conversations go, I must admit. It's another observation I've pointed out to Trowa. Quatre has a low emotional threshold -- a tendency to overreact. Or maybe that's just around me. Trowa smiles whenever I mention it, which leads me to assume that Quatre's excitable reactions are no problem to him.

"I'm listening," I say, seeking to keep his exclamations down below an offensive decibel level. "If it makes you less outraged, I'll try to ... loosen up a bit." His eyes are rolling now, which is always a bad sign. I cast around in my mind for some consolation prize for him. "There's a notice on the communal board downstairs -- an apartment-sitting scheme, for when tenants go away for weekends. That would be useful for me, I admit, for when I go to auctions. I'll sign up for that, OK? Just to show some public spiritedness. But nothing more. I don't want to join the book reading clubs or the Christmas carol concerts." I'm trying to explain my feelings to him, but maybe my small shudder does that just as well.

He nods gently -- it appears to be some kind of surrender. "That's a good start, Heero. Well done. We just ... I'd just like to see you enjoying life a little more. You're good-looking; you're witty and clever, and you're good company." He catches my glare at such a ridiculous resume. "OK," he says, with that eye-rolling thing again. "So you can be, if you try. Really hard. But I just think that you have a lot to offer someone, if you'd just ..."

"Quatre," I say, carefully. He's a good friend, I know. Even if he does disturb the feng shui in my apartment every time he comes around. "You don't need to make me your mission in life. You have your own idea of happiness and I'm pleased for you. But I have sufficient enjoyment of my own, already." He knows enough to let the subject drop, and we chat more generally before he's called away to meet up with Trowa.

I wait until the door closes behind him before I rush to tidy up his glass and smooth the couch where he sat. Then, to be fair to him, I look around the apartment, trying to see my life with his objective eye. All I see is ... me. The room is delightfully tidy -- soothingly quiet. The pale cream colour on the walls really does blend pleasantly with the chrome and dark tapestry fabrics of the furniture. I like the sparse, plain effect, and so I keep telling my friends. I have no desire to tolerate the vibrant colours of Quatre's modern art, or the loud volume of Trowa's latest music.

Of course, when Quatre talks about my enjoyment of life, he really means I should be dating, as he is with Trowa. But I've tried this in the past, albeit tentatively, and I've found it mostly unsatisfactory. And confusing ... and messy. In fact, everything I abhor. After all, there's nothing wrong with wanting people on my own terms. Nothing wrong with enjoying one's own company.

Nothing wrong at all.

+

Wufei has a damned colourful portfolio of Chinese curses. That's the second time he's fallen over that packing case of assorted china and stubbed his toe. I'm learning all kinda new words.

"Dammit, Duo, can't you clear this away? You've been here for months now, but it's like you only moved in yesterday." He's looking around with a wild expression in his eyes, rubbing surreptitiously at the injured foot with the other. "Look at it all ... everything a mess, no order to it. How the hell do you live here?"

I bite my lip, because after all, this is, indeed, where I live. It's just as I like it. I never see the need to unpack my stuff into cupboards and on to shelves because it just doubles the work. Stepping over boxes doesn't bother me. There's always something going on that's more interesting than cleaning -- beyond a basic spit and polish, anyway.

Wufei's a good friend, you know? He admits that he feels relaxed at my place, but he's been known to wander around after me, picking up stuff. That makes me laugh, of course. And I like to laugh. Today he's balanced gingerly on the only kitchen chair that's secure on all four legs and is looking around for a clean glass. I'm drinking from the bottle, as usual, perched on the edge of my table.

"I guess you can find your way around this place OK," he sighs. He's making that big effort again -- the one where he tries not to lose his temper and call me a slob. That happens on a regular basis. Still, it keeps him occupied, and as for me -- it's water off a duck's back, right? "But what do guests think?"

"Guests?" I grin, happily enough. "You're here, aren't you?"

He stares. "No, Duo. I meant other people -- people who aren't ..." Here comes that look again. "... who aren't used to your pathological hatred of housekeeping." He gives up looking for a glass and settles for drinking from the bottle like me. When he leans back in the chair, one of the legs bends crookedly with an ominous creak. "Where do you entertain? You never finished decorating the lounge -- you still don't have a decent couch."

I shrug. "I couldn't decide in the end between the crimson flock wallpaper and the purple paint. If I keep the two of 'em up on the wall there together, it may inspire me one day. And I don't see why I need a couch; it'd just be a waste of furniture. I work long hours; I work a lot of weekends away from home -- and I've got chairs. What are you, the Apartment Makeover Police?"

He smiles, but it's a little forced. "If you don't see why you might need a couch, I'm the last one to tell you. I mean it, Duo -- what sort of impression do you think you're giving to people? How will you ever make new friends? Sometimes it exhausts me, nagging you about your careless dress sense and your slovenly apartment and your lack of healthy male pursuits."

I find I'm looking down at my clothes rather defensively. I never see the need to iron tee shirts when they get creased again so quickly. And last time I caught a fashion programme on TV, wasn't it hip to have rips in your jeans? "You really mean I should be chasing other guys and gals. You mean I should be dressed like a gigolo, smelling like a brothel, lighting scented candles in the bathroom --"

This is way too familiar an argument, but it's an entertainment for us both, and I don't hold it against Wufei personally. He's a good looking guy and he has no trouble in attracting plenty of company. Of course it's a pity he likes girls rather than boys, or things could've been different between us -- if only to put a stop to all these 'elder brother' type talks. I mean, it's not that I don't like the thought of having some fun like that. It's just that dating's a hell of a lot of bother for a fairly unreliable outcome, and I don't often have the time or energy for it.

"Look, Wufei," I say, carefully. "Chill. I'm fine about the impression I give people. People can like it or receive it diagonally up the most appropriate orifice. I'm not bothered."

"That's just what I mean," he groans. "You don't seem to be bothered about anything. You never settle to one thing at a time -- trying to keep up with you is like watching mercury wriggle through someone's fingers. If you could just demonstrate some self-control, you'd show yourself to a much better advantage. I mean, you're good looking, you're always enthusiastic, and you've got a fine, creative brain, albeit your education seems to have bypassed interior design. I'm sure you've got a lot to offer."

"Thanks for such a glowing vote of confidence," I say wryly. "You want supper before you go?"

His eyes narrow with regret. "No thanks." He's my main test subject for all my inventive recipes, and I know it's the one area he never criticises me. But today, he has no time and gets up to leave. Cheats me of the fun of kicking that loose chair leg out from under him and dumping his ass on to the floor. "Just try a little harder, Duo, OK? I only want you to enjoy life to the full."

"I'll give it some thought," I promise him, showing him out of the apartment. "You've been a man on a mission for long enough -- though the last thing I need is another guy's guidance. Look, I saw a notice downstairs about apartment-sitting at weekends, maybe I'll sign up for that, make some new friends." It'll be useful for me when I'm on long shifts. And the return favour will be sort of like helping out -- but not having to go far out of my way. Won't have to dress up or anything; won't be beholden to anyone beyond a weekend or two.

When Wufei's gone, I feel a little unsettled. The way I live, it's a lifestyle choice -- that's what I try to tell my friends, though none of 'em really gets it. I can't bear feeling trapped -- bored -- obliged. My apartment is just that: mine, to do with what I wish, when I wish. Or not, as the case may be. I guess spontaneity's not everyone's idea of fun -- that might account for my rather dormant social life recently.

I drag a couple of boxes to the side so that I can get at the cupboard under the sink. I think that was the last place I saw my home brew equipment, and I remember that's what I was going to start this week. A pile of assorted papers falls off the counter and showers me; the door of the cupboard tilts on a single hinge and hits me on the foot. I'd been planning to mend that last week; guess I got distracted again.

When I straighten up, some dust in my braid and my arms full of grubby equipment, I catch a sight of the room with fresh eyes. It's like every other room in the apartment: full of stuff; jumbled together; piled up; a glorious jetsam of my life. All I see is ...me.

There's nothing wrong with being a free spirit, is there?

Nothing wrong at all.

[part 2] [back to FancyFigures' fic]