Author: Merula
1x2x1. AU.

Californication + Part 4

When Heero opened his eyes again, he was alone in bed. The clock read 8:30 am- later than he'd ever slept before. The rumpled state of the sheets and the indentation of the pillow next to him proved that he hadn't dreamed the whole thing.

Not that his dreams were ever that good.

What was he supposed to do now? He wasn't very practiced in the whole art of the whatever this was- Affair? Fling? One night stand?

He supposed the first thing to do would be to put his clothes on and go find Duo.

Finding his clothes was a challenge in itself- how had his sweats gotten all the way across the room?

Sweats and t-shirt found, the next step was finding Duo. That was easier. He grabbed his cell in case Dorothy decided to harass him some more, opened the door and stepped into the hallway.

"I know that Quatre." He heard Duo say. "I know how important this is."

Heero slowed his steps down and moved quietly, keeping himself out of sight of the main room.

"Yes, yes... I know we've put a lot of work into it. I didn't just do a treatment for this one... I know you want him to sign..."

Heero leaned back against the wall, hating himself. But he had learned caution the hard way, despite what Duo had said at the table last night, despite wanting to believe that last night hadn't been a set-up of sorts, Heero also knew he'd be stupid not to be cautious.

"Look, I've talked with him. He really doesn't want his films made into movies..." Duo paused. "No, no, he doesn't care about the money either... Yes, I know, but the man already has more than he could spend...."

He heard Duo sigh heavily. "I know he agreed to the meeting today- I'm just saying don't get your hopes up... yesterday he was ready for me to take him to the airport..."

Heero closed his eyes, waiting for the next part- the 'I talked him out of it' part...

"His agent called.... Guess so...." Heero opened his eyes in surprise. "No, he didn't want to stay in one of the suites- didn't want to be beholden to the studio.... Ow! Quatre, don't yell in my ear!"

Heero looked cautiously around the corner. Duo was in the middle of the room, his back to the hallway. He was holding a phone about an inch away from his ear.

"No I don't- I didn't see him check in.... Yes, I know it would be bad if I couldn't find him this morning. I assure you that I will.... No, I don't know if he uses an alias.... yes...no... Quatre, I'm sure I'll be able to find him!"

Heero relaxed. He stepped out of the hallway and into the main room. Duo turned his head and his eyes widened. Heero smiled and held up his cell phone. Duo grinned.

"How do I know? I have his cell number..." Duo mouthed a 'thank you' at Heero and then gestured to the tiny kitchen nook. 'Coffee', he added. Heero stuck his cell in his pocket and moved towards the coffeepot as Duo continued reassuring Quatre.

"Yes, yes, I will go pick him up, take him to lunch, get him to the meeting... Of course, I'll be polite! That was only that one time! Yes, yes... okay. Bye." Duo pressed the disconnect button and gave Heero an exasperated look. "Sorry, Quatre's a little wound up this morning. Do you want coffee?"

"Because of the meeting?" Heero asked leaning against the counter. "The pot's a bit small- I don't want to steal yours."

"It's espresso- I don't need much, and yes." Duo tossed the phone onto the couch and joined Heero in the kitchen area. "The studio's last two films didn't do well- there's a few more coming out, but you know that landing the best-selling horror writer of all time would really boost things..." Duo pulled two cups out of a cupboard and filled them with coffee. "So he's a bit nervous. He nearly died when I said I didn't know where you had checked in- he'd thought I lost you or something..."

"That wouldn't have been good?" Heero scooted close to the counter as Duo reached past him to get to the fridge.

"I'd be a dead scriptwriter," Duo smiled as he pulled out a carton of milk. "Do you want me to steam this for you? Or do you want your espresso sans the au lait part?"

"Plain milk is fine."

Duo added milk to both cups, took an experimental sip of his and put the carton back into the fridge. "Not Starbucks, but not bad."

"You didn't tell him I was here," Heero looked at the cup Duo handed him.

"No way," Duo shook his head and sipped at his coffee. "Are you kidding? He'd... well, I'm not sure what he'd do but I'm sure he'd use it some way..."

He gave Heero a wry smile. "I love my boss, I do, but the man is cutthroat. He has to be here...anything to get the job done is his motto."

"I can understand that," Heero returned the smile. He wondered if he should confess that for a few moments he thought Duo might be that way too.

Duo put his cup down on the counter and moved closer to Heero, sliding his arms around Heero's waist, pinning his hips against the counter. Heero put his coffee cup down blindly, heart rate increasing as Duo put his forehead against Heero's.

"His call also made me forget to say good morning properly," he purred against Heero's mouth.

Heero opened his mouth slightly, accepting Duo's kiss, feeling slightly dizzy as Duo pressed even closer. Duo pulled back slightly and Heero opened his eyes. "I'm not like him," Duo said in a soft voice. "I'm not. I wouldn't use this for anything- honestly..."

Heero realized Duo must've known that he was in the hallway, that he'd waited there and listened...

"I'm sorry..."

"You have to be careful, I know that..." Duo smiled and leaned forward to claim his mouth again.

They kissed for a long moment until a growling sound made Duo pull back, blushing.

"Sorry, I guess I'm hungry- I'm usually up before now..." he apologized.

"It's okay," Heero smiled. "I am too."

Duo sighed and glanced around his kitchen. "I wasn't really ready for an overnight guest... is toast okay? I might have bagels too..." He opened the door of his cupboard and started to rummage.

"Either is fine."

"Oh good," Duo emerged with a sleeve of bagels a moment later. "You didn't complain about the pizza last night, but for all I know you're watching your carbs or something..."

"Watching my carbs? Watching them do what?"

Duo laughed. "Not eating any, you know. That's the latest trendy diet- thus the reason we were able to get into the Pizza Kitchen on a Friday night."

"Not eating any? But..." Heero shook his head. "Okay. I've missed that one."

"Don't diet much?"

"Not really. I exercise a lot."

"Oh, that's right, you said that yesterday." Duo sliced open a bagel and popped it into the toaster. "So, you are supposed to be on vacation. Our meeting isn't until later- is there something you'd like to do or see here?"

"I can't think of much... there was one thing I was thinking about doing, but I don't think it can be done in a few hours." Heero picked his coffee cup off the counter. Duo gestured for him to sit down at the small table.

"Really? What kind of thing?"

"It's sort of stupid."

Duo shook his head. "I doubt it. If you want to do it, we can. Does your flight leave early or late tomorrow?"

"Late- but don't we have another meeting?"

"Nope. Today's is the next part of the big sell- though I think they were hoping to get you to agree yesterday and then spend today's meeting going over script and contract stuff. We can do your thing tomorrow. What is it?" He pulled the bagel out of the toaster and put another one in.

"It's kind of a weird thing..."

"You already said. I'm still willing to do it. Though I warn you- if you want to jump in the Pacific Ocean- it's freezing. It's better to just look at it. Cream cheese?"

"Sure." Heero ran a hand through his bangs. "No, it's nothing like that."

Duo brought the cream cheese and bagel to the table.

"You're making me die of suspense here. What could be so weird for Southern California? We invented weird." Duo neatly inserted himself between Heero and the table, straddling Heero's lap. "Seriously. I won't laugh or make fun." He put his hands on Heero's shoulders. "Just ask- okay?"

"Well, you see..." Heero tried to think of a reasonable way to explain it. "My mom died when I was young- about four or so. We lived in Maine, in this small town, and my dad remarried. I liked my stepmother and stepsister so it was all okay. Things were good until I was eight, and then both of them... died. I was sent to live with my uncle." Heero shivered. "I didn't... I didn't like living with him. When things got bad, I used to try and focus on all the things my dad used to talk about- all the things he said we'd do or see..."

"Disneyland," Duo said and Heero gaped at him. "I'm right- aren't I?"

"Yeah," Heero felt himself blush. "I know- it sounds stupid- a grown man..."

Duo shook his head. "Not at all- and we can go easily. It might not live up to your hype," he smiled and tapped Heero's head. "But it is something to see- and a good way to spend some time."

"You don't have to go with... I'm already eating up most of your weekend as it is..."

Duo shook his head and kissed him. "We only have the weekend. I was hoping you wouldn't mind spending the rest of it with me, having fun, relaxing, making some good memories..." His voice trailed off for a minute. "Is that okay?"

Heero blinked. He hadn't thought about just having the weekend... but Duo was right. He'd be back to the East Coast and back to work, and Duo would be out here. He really was unpracticed in... whatever this was...

Still, a weekend didn't seem long enough.... He realized Duo was watching him, anxiety lurking in his expression.

"It's more than okay. It sounds great."

"Good." Duo climbed off his lap and went to go fetch his bagel. "Eat your breakfast, we'll take a shower, and then we'll go sightseeing for a bit okay?"

"Okay," Heero agreed as he spread the cream cheese on his bagel.

Duo joined him at the table. "I should let you know that the meeting today will be partly me presenting the script to you..." He snagged the cream cheese and looked down at his bagel. "I'm going to have to sell it hard, or Quatre will get upset with me. I don't want you to think that I'll be upset if you say no, or argue with me on plot points, or hell, if you want, use it as an excuse to leave early..." He glanced up at Heero through his bangs. "What goes on in there doesn't have anything to do with what happens outside of there- okay?"

"What goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas kind of thing?" Heero smiled.

Duo laughed. "I guess that does sound like a stay in Sin City- but that's kind of what life can be like out here."

"Would it make it easier if we said that I already read it?"

"When would you have had time?" Duo asked, surprised, bagel halfway to his mouth.

"In the car and at lunch today. I saw it with your stuff, asked to read it..."

Duo took a bite of bagel and chewed it thoughtfully. "That might be good. It would definitely cut the meeting shorter- not that they expected you to read the whole thing during the meeting but... do you mind doing it that way?"

"I wouldn't have offered otherwise."

"Okay then." Duo smiled. "We'll do it that way."

They ate in silence, both busy with their own thoughts. Heero was wondering about the meeting- how was he supposed to act after leaving like he did yesterday? What would they say?

He looked at the man across the table from him. Duo was finished with his bagel and was licking the remaining cream cheese off his fingers.

Heero's mind blanked out for a moment.

Duo glanced up and smiled at Heero as he licked the last little bit off.

Slowly.

"Shower?" He asked.

Heero thought he might need a very cold one. He nodded.

Duo apparently had other ideas. He led Heero down the hall and into his bedroom.

Heero noticed that the bed was neatly made, sheets unwrinkled, pillows plumped, and wondered why that seemed strange.

Duo tugged him into the bathroom and turned on the shower. "California tries to conserve water," he said and gave Heero a wicked grin. "We all have to do our part. So I'm afraid you have to shower with me this morning."

Heero found himself grinning back. "When in California..."

+

A couple hours later and they were in the car, heading for Hollywood. "You have to see the Walk of Fame at least," Duo told him.

"Obligatory spot for tourists?"

"You know it. They'll ask you if you've seen it before they let you get on the plane."

Heero looked out the window. "Is the sky always so... smudged?"

"Practically always- at least here it is. Some days the wind blows it all away- one of our Santa Ana winds can clear that away fast- and a lot of other things with it." Duo smiled. "But most of the time, our sky looks like that- dirty on the edges. And some days it's not really good to breathe the air."

"You're serious?"

"Unfortunately. Ah, here we go. Take a look out your window at the sign."

"I thought it would be bigger." Heero squinted at the Hollywood sign.

"Wait til you see Hollywood itself." Duo made a turn. "Keep looking out the window."

Heero frowned. The streets were dirty, the buildings shoddy and old... this didn't look like a good place to be driving through. "Where are we?"

"Hollywood."

"You are kidding me."

"Nope."

"It's not what I expected..." Heero looked over at Duo questioningly.

"Nothing ever is here." Duo's expression changed for a brief moment, sadness and something else that Heero couldn't identify passing over it. "Do you want to walk the Walk of Fame or get some lunch? I know breakfast was a bit ago- but it wasn't much..."

"Lunch sounds good." Heero didn't think he wanted to get out of the car here.

They passed the Mann's Chinese theater, and Duo pointed out a few more landmarks before pulling into a parking lot next to a red and white restaurant.

"More California cuisine?" Heero asked, amused as he studied the palm tree décor on the outside.

"Yep, and the good kind I might add." Duo laughed. "You'll need a good solid meal before you deal with Quatre today."

[part 3] [part 5] [back to Merula's fic]