Author: Merula
1x2x1. AU.

Californication + Part 10

Heero managed to get over his surprise enough to return Duo's hug. "Glad to see me?" Duo asked softly in his ear.

"You have no idea how much." Heero squeezed him tight for a moment and then let him go reluctantly. Sally was sitting there watching after all, with a knowing smile on her lips.

Duo slid back into the booth, opposite Sally, and Heero slid in next to him, close enough to feel Duo's warmth. He was smiling, and he couldn't help it.

This trip had suddenly gotten a lot better.

Sally leaned over the table, that smile still on her lips. "So, we managed to surprise you?"

"Completely," Heero nodded. "So, you're here for an interview?" He asked Duo. That part was a bit odd- usually Sally went to her people, they didn't fly out to meet her. How long was Duo going to be in town? How much time would they have together?

"And other things," Duo turned faintly pink and Sally chuckled.

"Maybe I need to explain," she said. "Do you remember when you first came home and told me about Duo? We talked about that reviewer, remember?"

"Yes," Heero said. "You said you were going to talk to your editor about making a story out of it..."

"And so I did. He thought it was a great idea. The reviewer has way too much power in my editor's opinion- he panned a book that my boss really liked. So it wasn't too difficult to get him to agree when I outlined the story for him." Sally grinned. "I started looking up the writers this guy had attacked and found quite a few. A lot of them, like Duo, had actually started other writing projects under different names or were writing in different areas- and doing very well."

"I'm not surprised," Heero frowned. "I'm sure most of them were very talented."

Sally nodded. "I agree. It would surprise you to learn who some of them are now- one or two ended up on the bestseller lists! But I'll save that for the article!" She smiled.

"Tease," Heero muttered.

"So I was talking to Dorothy," Sally continued, ignoring him. "And she came up with the idea to present a few of these authors to publishers as a way to 'ride' the good press from the article."

Of course- after the article came out people would want to read the authors and judge for themselves, Heero had to admit that was a clever idea. How very Dorothy.

"So she contacted a few that she thought might be interested in getting back into novel writing and then went to a bunch of different publishers to pitch the idea."

"So how many went for it?" Heero asked.

"Well, no one wanted all of the projects- too much was riding on it- the article might not be successful after all! But quite a few were interested in specific writers, so there are several here this week that Dorothy are taking round to different publishers."

Heero smiled. "So, she'll be too busy to go with me, right?"

"Wrong," Sally laughed. "You're still her favorite client, though you might get boosted from that position soon."

"Oh?"

Sally grinned. "Duo here has a meeting with every single publisher she contacted. They were all interested in his book."

Heero looked at Duo, who was now blushing furiously.

"Not every publisher!" He protested.

"Nearly every one," Sally lifted an eyebrow. "You have how many meetings this week? Four? Five?"

That many? Then he'd be here for a few days at least! Heero wasn't surprised by the amount- he'd read most of the book after all and knew it was good. Which reminded him...

"I told you it was good," Heero nudged Duo with his elbow.

Duo nudged him back. "I'm still not sure you didn't pull a string somewhere," he said, his voice slightly teasing, but Heero recognized it for the genuine question that it was.

"Nope, other than complain about that reviewer, all I did was brag to my sister about how talented the screenwriter of my script was. She's read your books too you know." He replied, meeting Duo's gaze evenly.

He saw Duo relax slightly and was glad that he hadn't pulled any strings. Duo wouldn't have trusted him again.

"I wouldn't have called it bragging," Sally teased. "It was more like gushing." Heero tossed a napkin at her and she laughed.

"Speaking of the article," Sally checked her watch. "I need to go get started. Can you get Duo checked in and settled?"

Heero blinked at the abrupt change of subject, realized what his sister was up to, mentally blessed her, and then smiled. "Of course."

"Thanks. I'll see you both tomorrow?" She reached across the table and shook Duo's hand. "It was nice to finally meet you in person, Duo." She slid out of the booth and then leaned over to kiss Heero's cheek. "I really like him. Don't mess it up!" She whispered and then vanished into the crowd.

Heero turned back to Duo, who was still faintly pink. "I'm really glad to see you."

"Me too." Duo replied. "I hope you aren't upset that I kinda dropped in on the party here..."

Heero lifted his hand and touched the back of Duo's with his fingertips. "Didn't you hear me? I'm really glad to see you. Haven't I ended every email and call with 'miss you'?"

Duo nodded. "Yeah, but... uh..." He flushed a little more. "I... I've been worried about this trip. I really wanted to see you, and I was worried that it wouldn't be like last time... you know- where we connected so fast? I mean, not that we haven't stayed friends- I think I sent you 20 emails on one day alone, you know... but..."

"Duo," Heero interrupted him, wondering why the other man seemed flustered. Was he really that unsure of himself? Why now? "Let's go get you checked in okay?"

"Okay," Duo smiled back. Heero got to his feet and Duo followed him.

"I left my bag with the bellboy, I didn't have time to do check in," Duo said as they entered the lobby. "My flight was delayed- I barely met your sister on time."

"No problem," Heero smiled. He walked over to the front desk and as Duo gaped beside him, informed the smiling lady there that his friend was going to be staying with him- could he be checked in and have a key? And could they retrieve his friend's bag? He could carry it up himself.

The clerk was helpfulness personified and did exactly as Heero asked. Heero thanked her and then with Duo's bag and key in hand, he led Duo to the elevators.

Duo finally found his voice.

"Are you sure Heero? I mean this is a whole week..."

He was staying the whole week! Heero was tempted to kiss him in the middle of the lobby at that piece of news, but refrained.

"Does it sound bad to you?" Heero asked instead as they got on the elevator. "I mean- you have to stay with me for a week- maybe you would've preferred your own room? I just thought that we'd grab the time together that we could..."

Duo shook his head, making his braid twitch. It was funny to see him so off-balance- in California he'd been so sure of himself... was it because they were in neutral territory, or was Duo nervous about something?

"No, of course not. I'd love to stay with you. I just don't want to get in your way."

The elevator stopped on their floor.

Luckily they were only a few steps away from the room. Heero didn't reply. He merely opened the door, ushered Duo in, closed the door behind them, took the bag out of Duo's fingers and put it in the closet.

Then he turned to Duo who was hovering nervously by the bathroom and smiled.

"I didn't get to greet you the way I wanted to," Heero said simply and kissed him.

Duo's arms went around his waist, pulling him closer as Duo's mouth welcomed him, and Heero reveled in the feeling of Duo's body pressed against his. It had been too long...

"I'm glad you're here," he said again, against Duo's lips when Duo let him. "You won't get in my way. I might get in yours."

Duo shook his head. "Doubt it." He leaned his forehead against Heero's. "I want to talk to you about all the things I didn't write to you about. I want to show you the ending of the book and have you give me your opinion. I want to try out restaurants with you, make friends with your sister, and... does all this sound sappy beyond belief?" He stopped. He was smiling, but Heero saw the badly concealed concern in his expression.

Heero laughed and kissed Duo's chin. "It all sounds like a plan to me. There's just one other thing I want to add to your list- in fact, I want to do it right now."

Duo's mouth touched his collar bone. "And what's that?" Heero captured Duo's lips again, this time, tugging him the few steps to the bed. Falling backwards, he pulled Duo down with him, swallowing Duo's moan as their bodies pressed tight together.

"Guessed yet?" He asked and Duo laughed breathlessly.

"This was on my list too..." His fingers started undoing Heero's buttons. "I just... well, I didn't want to push anything this week, like I said, but I was hoping..." He kissed Heero's exposed chest gently. "I've missed this..."

"Me too." Heero rolled over, pinning Duo underneath him, and pulled off his shirt before he started working on Duo's. Somehow in the unbuttoning, his mouth found Duo's again, and then it went quickly, clothes yanked off, sent flying, hasty preparation, and a fast joining that then slowed down as they both realized they had time to spare... the pace slowed, kisses and caresses were exchanged almost lazily as their bodies rocked together.

Duo moaned when Heero's teeth scraped his throat. "It is always so good with you..." His eyes were half-closed, his body shivering in Heero's arms. "Don't want anyone else..."

The words were soft, but Heero heard them, and he smiled against Duo's skin.

"I don't either..."

+

It was nearly midnight when Heero woke up. It wasn't a nightmare that woke him, nor was it Duo's soft snoring. He'd finally remembered that he had something to do before tomorrow. Something that would incur the wrath of his agent if he forgot.

He slid from the bed and went to his computer. He'd promised Dorothy that he'd look over those contracts before their meetings tomorrow. He pulled his laptop from its case and powered it up. It wouldn't take him long and then he could climb back into bed with Duo. Dorothy always got frustrated if he didn't know the details. Since she was partly responsible for Duo being here, the least he could do was be prepared for the meetings for her.

He was nearly done when a soft noise made him look up. Duo had rolled over and hunched up under the blankets, only the tip of his braid sticking out.

The noise repeated itself, a faint moan that made Heero get to his feet and go over to the bed He lifted the sheets up and squinted in the faint light of the computer monitor. Duo's face was scrunched up. Heero realized that Duo was having a nightmare. Before he could shake Duo awake, Duo let out a soft wail:

"No...!" Heero slid under the blankets beside his lover and shook Duo's shoulder.

"Duo? Wake up!"

Duo's eyes opened, the pupils wide and dilated. He stared at Heero blankly for a moment before recognition flooded his face and he buried himself in Heero's arms.

"You okay?" Heero asked softly.

"Bad dream..." Duo shivered.

"Need to talk about it?"

Duo shook his head no, and shivered again. "Would rather forget about it," he said after a moment, lifting his head for a kiss.

Heero understood. He returned Duo's kiss, pushing him back against the pillows, and helping him forget the best way he knew how.

+

Heero woke up the next morning to find the bed empty. He sat up quickly.

"Good morning," Duo was sitting beside the window, hunched up in a chair.

"Are you okay?" Heero asked. Duo slid out of the chair with a self-conscious smile.

"I'm nervous." Duo sat down beside him on the bed. "I haven't done this for a long time after all. I was just looking out the window and thinking about the last time I was here..." He sighed.

"You don't have to worry." Heero reached out and tugged at Duo's braid. "The book is terrific, and besides, Dorothy will be with you. She eats these publishing guys for breakfast."

"That's always a good thing in an agent." Duo laughed and looked at the clock. "I didn't mean to wake you. I just woke up and started thinking about things..."

"It's okay," Heero soothed. "Why don't we get showered and dressed and then go down for breakfast? We'll try to keep your mind off things, how's that?"

"You'll shower with me?" Duo asked mischievously.

"If you like."

"I'd say that will do a lot to get my mind off things..." Duo laughed for a moment, and then suddenly sobered. "Last night... thank you."

"You helped me." Heero reminded him.

"And you helped me." Duo bent his head, his bangs shading his eyes. "More than you know. I... I have nightmares too. Almost every night... I knew what you meant when you said that you didn't sleep well, because I don't either..."

Heero remembered going into Duo's bedroom the first morning after they'd made love and seeing the neatly-made bed- it had struck him as odd at the time, but he hadn't realized.... And then the way Duo had told him that he'd be awake if Heero needed anything... he should have recognized the signs...

"What are yours about?"

"My family." Duo bit his lip and looked up. "I told you that they died when I was young- that I didn't really remember them..."

Heero nodded. "I remember."

"That was sort of a lie. I do remember them... I remember how they died. That's what I dream about..."

Heero looked consideringly at the young man beside him. "Do you want to tell me about them? You don't have to..."

Duo shook his head. "Not... not this morning. But, yes, later... I think I do."

"Okay." Heero bent his head and kissed Duo's cheek. "Come on. Let's go get cleaned up and get some breakfast. You are going to need your energy to keep up with Dorothy today."

"Is that a statement of fact or a warning?"

"A warning," Heero laughed. "You'll see..."

+

"Good morning!" Dorothy appeared by their table just as they were finishing breakfast. Heero was drinking the last of his coffee; Duo was breaking his toast into tiny pieces. Heero suspected nerves and was doing his best to keep Duo calm with simple talk about things that they might do in their free time.

"Good morning," Duo answered, his eyes widening as he watched Dorothy kiss Heero's cheek and then descend on him. Dorothy kissed Duo's cheek and then sat down in the extra chair, dropping her briefcase to the floor beside her, before she launched into their plans for the day.

"I'm glad to see the two of you up and dressed. Sally said I might need a fire extinguisher to get your attention, but I knew the two of you were professionals. I know you have lots of things you'd like to do together, and I did my best to schedule all of your meetings close together in the mornings so you can get things done with and then go play." She smiled wickedly before she continued. "So Duo, your meeting this morning is with Heero's publishers. That way, you can finish and wait for him in the coffee shop downstairs. I'll show you where it is before I go to Heero's meeting with him. You don't mind meeting me there do you, Heero?"

"No of course not," Heero said, amused at Duo's shell-shocked expression. Dorothy in business mode was practically a force of nature. "Is Une with you?"

"Of course. She's spending the morning with your sister. They want us to meet them for lunch, and then you two can go do whatever you like. Hopefully, that's acceptable?"

Heero raised an eyebrow at Duo, who had recovered enough to nod.

"Perfect!" Dorothy checked her watch. "Then you and I need to get going, Duo. Stand up." Duo did so, and she ran her eyes over him. "Perfect. I'm so glad you seem to have a good dress sense. So many men don't." She sighed and got to her feet. "I'll be in the coffee shop when you get there," she told Heero. "Come and find us." She scooped up her briefcase, linked her arm through Duo's and led him away talking at a furious pace. Heero waved when Duo looked back over his shoulder as Dorothy hauled him out through the door.

Heero finished his coffee, still amused. Dorothy was obviously ready to work hard to get Duo's book published. Hopefully her attitude would bolster Duo's and he'd be more relaxed.

He got to his feet and decided to go back to the room for a bit. Once there, he sat down at his laptop but let his gaze linger on the bed as he thought about Duo.

Duo had nightmares too. That explained some of the things in his books...

He had said that he'd explain the nightmares to Heero. That he wanted to tell Heero about them. On one hand, this made Heero happy, because it meant that Duo was entrusting him with a part of himself.

On the other, it just underlined how little he knew about Duo. This time they would have a week together, and there was always email and phone calls, but...

It wasn't enough. Heero wanted more. A lot more. But did Duo?

[part 9] [part 11] [back to Merula's fic]