Author: Merula
1x2x1. AU.

Californication + Part 12

Heero sighed inaudibly and shifted his glass to the other hand. The moment he'd stepped into the party, he'd been cornered by one of the people who worked for his publishing house. He had no idea what the woman did- other than talk at a high rate of speed. She was going on and on about... something. He'd lost the thread of the "conversation" a while ago and had no intention of even trying to find it again. He just nodded occasionally and that seemed to satisfy her.

Duo stood beside him, his elbow touching Heero's, also apparently listening to the woman, but Heero doubted Duo was listening either. Who would be? What was she talking about now? Deconstructionism? Good Lord.

He caught Duo's eye as the other tilted his head towards him. Duo's lips curved up in a faint smile.

He was nervous again, Heero realized. Duo had worried him when they'd left. Once they were in the cab, Duo had gone silent, staring out the window, his hands clenched in his lap. His unusual behavior had snapped Heero out of his worry over Duo wanting nothing to do with the East or with him. Duo's nervousness over the night to come was more important.

Duo comments about being a 'comeback' finally clicked in to Heero's brain. Authors were just as catty to 'comebacks' as Hollywood was- no doubt Duo had remembered that from his time before. There were sure to be a few snippy people tonight- though hell if Heero was going to let them get away with saying anything nasty to Duo.

He kicked himself for being so concerned about himself that he had forgotten what Duo must be going through. Heero had started talking to Duo, tried to get him to relax by telling him silly things he'd seen at other parties. Duo had relaxed and started talking again, but now... it looked like all that work was for nothing.

"Please excuse us," Heero said, cutting across the woman's river of words. "I see my sister over in the corner, and I need to talk to her about something really important." He grabbed Duo's elbow and they escaped into the crowd.

Duo let out a loud sigh of relief and gave Heero a shaky smile. "Thank god. I was ready to pour my drink down her throat just to get her to stop. What the hell was she talking about?"

"I have no idea, but you're nicer that I am," Heero smiled back. "I was ready to strangle her."

Duo was scanning the room as they moved towards the corner where Sally stood with Dorothy and Une. "I don't see anyone I recognize- I was sure I would..."

"Is that why you're nervous?"

"It's that obvious?" Duo looked dismayed.

"To me it is." Heero squeezed Duo's elbow reassuringly. "I told you, don't worry."

"Won't leave my side right?"

"Right."

Duo shook his head and laughed a little. "I sound like I'm two."

"No, you sound like a man who has been to one of these parties before and knows that it's like swimming with piranha. I'm counting on you to stick by me too after all."

"Won't leave your side," Duo promised and then stopped dead in his tracks his arm tensing under Heero's fingers.

"What?" Heero asked and scanned the crowd around them. What had spooked Duo?

The answer was a few feet away- a very familiar face.

Damn it, Heero thought, and then cursed himself for not realizing the man was going to be there. He'd been at all the other parties Heero had attended. What should he do?

He tightened his grip on Duo's elbow and dragged him through the crowd to the corner where the women waited.

"Enjoying the party?" Dorothy asked when they joined them.

"Oh sure." Duo replied in a flat monotone. "It's great."

Sally raised an eyebrow. "Sooo, take it you saw Jerkface over there?" She nodded towards the infamous reviewer and grinned. "Wanna help me get some good quotes for my article?"

"He doesn't know you're writing one, does he?" Heero asked, alarmed.

"No, of course not." Sally replied airily. "All the more fun that way, you see?"

Duo smiled, much to Heero's relief. "What are you up to?"

"Welllll," Sally drawled. "If he just says something to you in my hearing, than I can quote him directly- as in 'I was at a party with Mr. Maxwell and we were approached by Mr. Roth who said...'" She grinned ferally. " You see? The nastier the better!"

"Damn," Duo looked over his shoulder at the reviewer and then at Heero. "I almost want to go talk to him now."

"Don't worry," Heero shook his head. "He'll come over to talk to me. He nearly always does. I forgot about that- it's something I try to block out of my mind in my memories of these events."

"Why does he come and talk to you?" Duo looked puzzled. "He hates your books- I know you told me that."

"He has to come and tell me how much he hates them. Then I point out that they are bringing in more money than he'll ever make and then he storms off." Heero shrugged. "You think he'd just avoid me by now... maybe I'll punch him this time..."

"Then he won't look good in all the tabloid photos he's going to have taken of him soon," Sally scolded. "Unless you hit him in the stomach..." She looked thoughtful. "Or kicked him in the knee..."

Dorothy chuckled. "I feel like thanking him- the prospect of bringing him down has gotten me some really good contracts for my writers. Maybe after the article comes out- I'll send him a fruit basket. What do you think?"

Duo laughed. Sally caught Heero's eye and winked.

"Shh," Une hushed them. "He's spotted Heero and he's on his way over!" In a louder tone, she went on: "So, Sally, you really must go see the new show downtown... something about an insane man at the opera.... So thrilling!!" Heero heard Duo stifle a snort at Une's exaggerated tones.

"Yuy," a hand landed on his shoulder. Heero resisted the urge to smack it off. Instead he turned around, moving out of the man's grip.

"Roth." He said icily.

"Still writing those dreadful things you call novels?" Roth was never one for at least attempting polite conversation.

"Of course!" Heero looked at Dorothy. "How long was I on the best seller list this year?"

"You're still on it," she replied with a catlike smile. "The movie news was a huge boost."

"They aren't making a movie out of one of those things?" Roth frowned. "It can't be profitable."

"On the contrary," Duo spoke up, much to Heero's surprise, "with the tie ins and ad placements- the production costs are already covered."

Roth's eyes widened as he looked at Duo. "You? What are you doing here?"

Duo glanced at Heero. They didn't want to give away the real reason after all. Heero jumped in. "I brought him. Duo wrote the screenplay for the film. My publishers want to publish the screenplay, so I brought him out here to talk to them."

"You're a screenwriter now?" Roth sneered. "How fitting."

"Thank you," Duo smiled irritatingly. "I like it."

"You could've been big- pity you had to be stupid. If you hadn't turned me down you wouldn't be writing second-rate screenplays for hack writers."

"Trust me," Duo's eyes narrowed. "I don't regret a thing. Some things are just not worth the price."

Roth bit back a snarl. "Wouldn't have mattered- I still would've panned your book. I'm sure you aren't any better at fucking than you are at writing."

"Well, you wouldn't know if I was if your knowledge of that is as limited as your knowledge of literature." Duo countered. Dorothy laughed and Roth turned, ready to stalk off.

Heero caught his arm for a moment. "Just so you know," he murmured in Roth's ear, "he's amazing." He let Roth go and hid a grin as the man nearly stumbled in his haste to get away.

Dorothy was shaking her head as Une and Sally tried to stifle their laughter. Duo looked at Heero and shook his head. "If we weren't in public, I'd kiss you for that."

"I'll hold you to it later." Heero tried to look apologetic. "It was a bit childish of me..."

"True, but I found the whole thing very satisfying." Sally whipped out a recorder from her pocket. "And I have it on tape so I can get those quotes word-perfect..." She dropped the recorder back in her pocket and winked. "I think I will circulate a little and see what other quotes I can get about our Mr. Roth..."

"I think I know who you need to talk to," Dorothy smiled. "Let's go mingle."

Once the women left the corner, Duo and Heero were joined by a group of editors. They were followed by some of the PR people... who were followed by another group Heero recognized but couldn't remember what they did.

It was hours later when he finally managed to get himself and Duo free and out the door.

"I thought you said no one bothered you at these things," Duo teased once they had found a cab and were on their way back to the hotel.

"Usually they don't. It must have been you." Heero smiled back. It had been. With Duo beside him he just couldn't work up the needed mindset to glare properly- besides, the other man had the groups eating out of his hand with stories about Hollywood. Heero had enjoyed just standing back and watching.

Duo checked his watch and swore softly. "It's later than I thought. What time does your plane leave in the morning?"

"Six-thirty," Heero frowned as he checked his own watch. Time was definitely running out.

"Mine's six. At least we can go to the airport together."

"Doro's coming to pick us up," Heero remembered. "Sally's flight is leaving around the same time so she said that she and Une would drive us to the airport in the morning. I think they're coming to pick us up at four thirty or so."

"That's nice of them." The cab stopped in front of the hotel and they climbed out. Heero paid the driver and then allowed Duo to pull him into the hotel.

Heero had to hurry to keep up with Duo's pace. "Why are we going so fast?"

"Are you kidding me?" Duo slapped the button for the elevator and grinned at Heero. "I don't want to waste any of the time we have left!"

Heero nearly said that they could have more time, lots of time- he wanted to outline his plans to Duo, try and convince him once again...

But the elevator doors had opened and once inside, Duo pinned him up against the wall, his breath hot on Heero's cheek. "You can sleep on the plane right?"

Without waiting for an answer, he kissed Heero fiercely, pushing him against the cool wall of the elevator, demanding a like response as the car moved upwards.

Once they reached their floor, Duo released him long enough only to get down the hallway and open the door.

Heero wanted to go slow, wanted to savor this time- who knew how long it would be until they were together again?

But he couldn't go slow. Not with Duo's hands impatiently tugging off his clothing, Duo's mouth on his throat...

He moved them back towards the bed, falling, bringing Duo with him, sliding his thigh between Duo's knees, catching Duo's mouth with his, trying to show him without words how much he needed the other man...

Duo's legs wrapped around Heero's waist, his lips opened willingly under Heero's, his hands slid down between them and Heero gasped.

"Can't wait..." he murmured against Heero's lips.

"Slower..." Heero tried.

"Next time!" Duo's caresses turned demanding and Heero gave in...

........................

The alarm went off too early. Heero dragged himself out of bed, pulling Duo along with him to the shower where they stood sleepy-eyed under the spray, exchanging kisses as they washed hastily.

Then it was confusion, bags packed quickly, Dorothy rapping on the door, the ride to the airport in a car full of drowsy people and the scent of coffee. Une was the only one who seemed truly awake, which was good, Heero reflected, because she was driving. She got them to the airport, sorted their bags, pointed them to the gates and prodded her sleepy partner into saying goodbye when it looked like Dorothy was ready to fall asleep against a newspaper kiosk.

Sally's flight left first. Heero and Duo walked her to the gate where she hugged and kissed them both before heading towards the boarding ramp, a large cup of coffee in one hand.

"I'll send you the rough!" She called as she vanished down the ramp.

Heero waved his cup carefully back at her. "Have a good flight!"

Duo looked at his watch. "My flight will be boarding soon. Walk me down there?"

Heero noticed that Duo's pace seemed slow as they walked towards his gate and wondered if it was exhaustion- or something else.

"I'm going to miss you," he said quietly, watching Duo's face carefully.

"Even after spending a whole week with me? Not looking forward to some time to yourself?" Duo sounded like he was trying for a light tone.

Heero grabbed Duo's shoulder and stopped, making the other man turn to look at him. "No. A week wasn't enough."

Duo smiled faintly. "Not for me either."

"My offer is still open you know."

Duo's eyes widened. "Really?"

"Really- though I was thinking that it wouldn't be fair to ask you to give up your whole life... I wouldn't mind moving West if you don't want to go East. Or.. we could go back and forth between to the two. Or somewhere in the middle..." Heero stopped himself.

"Heero... I..."

At that moment the intercom announced that flight 242 to California was departing soon and that all remaining passengers needed to board the plane.

"Damn it." Duo swore. He dropped his bag and grabbed Heero in a tight fierce embrace. "I'll call you okay? I want to talk about this..."

"Call me the minute you can," Heero hugged him back and then let go. Duo scooped up his bag and ran for the gate.

Heero watched him vanish down the ramp and then went to meet his flight, his heart considerably lighter than when he'd arrived at the airport.

+

He knew there was no way Duo could've called him already- Duo had a longer flight home and a longer drive to the airport. But he still checked the message machine when he got home, still signed on to his email account. There were no messages yet of course, but he couldn't help himself.

He unpacked his clothes, started a laundry load and then went to sit at his desk. Hopefully Duo would call today... it would be a few weeks before either of them could move... unless they planned to keep both places... Duo still had his job though...

Heero forced himself to stop. Duo hadn't said yes yet. He'd only wanted to talk about it. That might not mean he was willing to move in- or have Heero move in with him. Maybe he didn't want to rush into things... they hadn't known each other all that long... but...

His doorbell rang.

Heero frowned. Who could that be? He got up from his chair and headed towards the door. He hadn't ordered any groceries yet; he's stopped his mail and paper for the week...

He opened the door without looking through the peephole, half-expecting it to be one of the neighborhood girls selling cookies...

The man on his doorstep smiled widely. "Hey- you did say I could just show up on your doorstep."

"Duo?" Heero managed. Was he hallucinating?

Duo nodded, his braid falling over his shoulder as he scooped up the bag by his feet. "Going to invite me in?"

Heero stepped backwards and Duo followed. "Why...? How...?"

"I wanted to talk to you all week about that offer of yours... I just kept getting so nervous... and when you first made it I knew it was to help me out... but my book was finished and I wasn't sure..." Duo shrugged. "I'm an idiot, I know, I should've said something- you made the offer first after all... but I was a coward- and then in the airport you said that- and I was so glad that you still wanted me with you. I got on the plane and realized I was going the wrong way. So I got off and I bought a ticket since your flight had already left... and here I am." He gave Heero a shy smile. "I know you weren't thinking right away, but I can work on screenplays from here, and you did say you didn't mind sharing coasts and houses and will you please say something because I'm feeling like an idiot..."

Heero reached out and slid his hand into the base of Duo's braid, pulling him into a brief kiss, halting his flow of words.

"Welcome home."

[part 11] [epilogue] [back to Merula's fic]