Author: Merula
Eventual 1x2x1. AU.

Californication + Part 2

A few minutes later they were sitting in the shiny white, black and yellow restaurant, and Heero was looking at the menu in surprise. Some of the stuff on these pizzas was...odd... to say the least.

"I take back the pizza is pizza comment," he said to Duo, who smiled.

"I know. They are all good though. Honest." He put his menu down.

The waitress dropped by and they placed their orders. Once she was gone, Duo propped his elbows up on the table.

"So, do you think you'll go to the meeting tomorrow or try and catch a plane home?"

Heero shrugged. "I don't know. I suppose I need to talk to Dorothy..." he sighed and reached into his pocket for his cell phone. The message light was blinking. "Damn, looks like the she-devil called."

"If you dislike your agent so much you should change her," Duo suggested.

"It's not that I dislike her, she's just... very persuasive. I told her I was having trouble with the next book and that I was going to take a vacation. She managed somehow to get me to come out here for my vacation."

Duo raised an eyebrow. "A weekend vacation isn't much..."

"I just needed to see some new things, breathe different air..."

"Meet new people?"

"Sort of. I don't know many as it is. Oh I meet a lot- especially on the tours," Heero shrugged, "but that's more of a 'hi, what's your name, yes, glad you liked it, uh huh, thanks, bye' kind of thing."

Duo chuckled. "You know, a vacation to most people is some time on a beach, or skiing or something... did you bring a towel? Were you planning on going to the beaches or the mountains here?"

"I don't know how to ski or swim." Heero admitted. "I have a spa thing at home, but that's just for sitting in."

"Do you sit in it?"

"Not often."

Duo sighed. "Then what do you do for fun? To unwind from your writing?"

"I walk or jog or bike. That's it."

"You don't hang out with your friends?"

"I see Doro whenever I'm in New York. I see my stepsister and her family occasionally, but they all live pretty far away."

"Sounds lonely." Heero shrugged.

"What do you do?"

"Me?" Duo laughed. "I go to a bunch of silly parties given by shallow people and try and keep myself working. You're only as good as your last movie out here."

"That doesn't sound fun."

"It's not." Duo rolled his eyes.

Heero's phone vibrated under his fingers. "It's Doro."

"You didn't look at the number."

"She's the only one who calls me on the cell." He answered the phone. "Dorothy."

"You did so good today darling!" His agent laughed delightedly in his ear. "They doubled their offer! And gave you final say on the scripts! The contract they sent me is perfect!"

"Dorothy- I don't want to do this..." Heero protested.

"Heero, darling, why not? Most authors would kill for this kind of contract! You'll never have to write again!"

"I don't have to now," Heero pointed out.

"Heero," Dorothy's voice dropped. "Honestly! They doubled the amount of money. That big director Zechs wants to direct! There's some starlet already cast! They have an award winning screenwriter! Your fans will be lining up weeks in advance! You don't want to disappoint all your fans? The ones that send you letters asking about movie deals?"

"I don't think they'd be that upset. " Heero told her. "Did you know they made a clip to show me?"

"A clip?" His agent sounded puzzled. "Like a mini-movie?"

"Yes. It..."

"That's wonderful!" She caroled in his ear. "They really must've wanted to impress you! Mr. Winner said he had some more things to show you tomorrow!"

"I'm not going back there."

"Heero, dearest, these people have done a lot already- could it really hurt to listen to them?"

"Yes."

"You haven't scheduled a flight back?" Dorothy sounded slightly worried.

"Not yet."

"Good! Then you can still go listen to them tomorrow!"

"Dorothy...."

"You sound grumpy. Call me in the morning. You want to do this Heero!" Dorothy hung up.

Heero put the phone down with a groan.

"Eat," Duo advised him, gesturing with his fork to the salad that had appeared in the middle of the table. Heero picked up his fork and looked at the salad.

"I didn't order this."

"I did. We'll share it. Trust me- the pizza takes a bit to cook. So, she wants you to do it?"

"Of course." Heero took a bite of salad and looked at Duo. "Are you the screenwriter they have lined up for this?"

Duo nodded. "As far as I know. The scripts get passed around a lot, but yes, I think so."

"You've won awards?"

Duo poked at the salad. "A few, I guess. Screenwriters' guild stuff. No big deal." He looked faintly pink.

"Did you write one for All Fall Down?"

"I have a draft of it, yes." Duo met his eyes. "Quatre asked me to write one. We're scheduled to present it to you tomorrow."

Heero considered this for a moment, his mind going down a path he'd been trying to avoid. He couldn't help it. "Is your job riding on it?"

Duo looked surprised. "No. I write drafts for stuff that never gets done all the time. Such is my job. Why?"

Heero didn't answer, unsure of how to frame the question he wanted to ask. Unsure if he wanted to ask it.

Duo looked at him for a moment, eyes narrowing. "Hey. You don't think I'm trying to set you up, do you? Make friends with you and then guilt you into this movie?" He sounded indignant.

Heero looked down at the salad, suddenly feeling like an idiot. "It's happened before. Though it wasn't a movie..." He took a breath. "I'm sorry..."

There was a long pause. Duo's hand touched his arm. "It's okay." Heero looked up. Duo's mouth wasn't smiling, but he didn't look mad- more accepting. "I don't blame you for thinking it. But, honestly, my job does not ride on it, and all Quatre asked me to do was drive you around. He tends to do that because he feels the screenwriter needs to understand the author and the work- or we'll lose the book fans. That's all. I swear it."

"I am sorry." Heero tried again.

"And I said, it's okay." Duo smiled. "I promise you that I usually drive the writers to the meetings and nothing more. I rarely go out to dinner with them, and I've never dared offer the use of my spare room to one before."

"Why'd you offer it to me?"

"Because I'm enjoying your company," Duo patted Heero's arm. "And because after seeing your face during that clip today... well, I just thought you'd appreciate the company."

Heero felt himself flush a little. Thankfully, the waitress appeared at that moment with their pizzas. His, much to his relief, looked like a normal pizza. Heero blinked at Duo's. "Is that... duck?"

Duo grinned. "Yep." He pulled a piece off and stuck it on Heero's plate. "Try it, Heero, walk on the wild side."

Heero picked up the piece and took a cautious bite. To his surprise it was actually good. He took a piece of his Hawaiian pizza and held it out to Duo. "Fair trade?"

Duo smiled and reached out, taking a hold of Heero's wrist, letting his fingers caress the pulse point. "I just want a taste." He took a bite from the slice Heero offered him. His fingers slid away from Heero's wrist and Heero had to remind himself to breathe.

Duo's smile widened as Heero searched for something to say. "Uh... are you working on a book? Or are you only doing screenplays?" He finally managed.

Duo chuckled. "What writer isn't working on a book? Hell if I'd be able to get anything published again that way though. I really should just stick to screenplays."

"That would be a pity. I liked your books. Did they ever get made into movies? You said Quatre..."

Duo shook his head. "Nope. I still think my books would be corny- though Quatre still asks me about turning the first one into a movie sometimes." He focused on his pizza. "I just think they would be... well, awful. Even if they were done well. I just can't see it."

"I know what you mean." Heero said, and Duo shook his head.

"I don't think that applies to yours- I really don't. I mean- they are so visual already..." He picked up another slice of pizza. "It was easy to screenplay yours- it just flowed- I didn't have to fight it."

"Have there been ones you've fought with?" Heero asked, interested in the process.

"Have there ever been! Did you ever read...." And Duo launched into a long description of a best selling children's series that he was asked to write the screenplay for and the resulting fiascos. Heero listened, eating his pizza and asking occasional questions.

Mostly though, he watched the man across from him. Duo didn't look like the kind to be haunted by anything- and yet, he seemed to understand Heero's nightmares. Then again, his books... this wasn't how Heero had pictured Duo Maxwell.

They finished their pizza and headed out into the warm California night. Duo had wound down a little, he was silent as he maneuvered through the traffic on the freeway, and Heero wondered what he was thinking about.

"Do you have the screenplay?" He asked.

Duo glanced over at him. "The one I wrote for your book? Yes."

"May I read it tonight?"

"Sure." Duo lifted an eyebrow. "Why?"

"I want to see what you did to it. I want to see... how it came out."

"Okay. But keep in mind it's a draft. And if you do end up wanting to make the movie, you don't have to use it. And you can change anything you like. And..."

Heero laughed. "Duo, relax. Why do you apologize for your writing?"

Duo gave him an incredulous look. "You really don't know your fellow writers well do you? I'm messing with your art, my friend. I need to apologize for everything. One of them said it must be my eye color that caused me to mess with his vision and add all the purple prose to it..."

"You are kidding."

"Nope. I think he was mad when I told him that I don't wear contacts." Duo made a sharp left turn. "Almost home."

"Nice neighborhood." The houses were mostly tiny looking bungalow style houses, like something out of the fifties- and maybe they were.

"Thanks." Duo pulled up in front of one of the houses and hit his garage door opener.

Heero followed Duo inside. Duo flipped on the lights. "It's not great, but it's home."

Heero felt himself relax. The furniture was comfortable and used looking, and not one piece looked fashionable or trendy. Duo flipped on a few more lights, one illuminating a pool in the backyard.

"I always have to check to make sure no one's floating in it," Duo joked. Heero smiled. "Sorry- Hollywood humor. Why don't you have a seat? I'll put your bag in the spare room and get the script for you."

Duo vanished down the hallway and Heero tried to perch on the couch, only to fail when the overstuffed cushions pulled him in. Duo returned a moment later, a sheaf of paper in his hands.

"Here you go." He handed the script to Heero. "I'm going to check my messages and email. Can I get you something to drink?"

"I'm fine," Heero smiled. Duo turned towards a desk stuck in the corner of the room and Heero bent his head over the papers in his hands.

It was a long time before he resurfaced, nearly gasping, knowing the dreams were going to be bad tonight, but...

He looked up. Duo was sitting at the desk, a laptop open in front of him, it's glow illuminating the planes of his face.

"Duo-" He tried, and searched for the phrases he needed. Duo turned away from the screen and got to his feet.

"That bad, huh?" He said as he moved to the sofa, sitting down beside Heero. "I told you..."

"It's wonderful. You... you changed some things, yes, but they needed to be changed for this... and you... I could see it again... more so than even in that room today..." Heero closed his mouth. He was messing this up terribly. He took a breath and looked up into Duo's eyes. They were wide with surprise. "Damn, you are a terrific writer..."

The papers were suddenly gone from his hands, and Duo was leaning over him, claiming Heero's mouth with his own.

[part 1] [part 3] [back to Merula's fic]