NOTE: see part 1 for notes, warnings
AUTHOR: shira

Papillion + Part 20

Dealing with Relena the next morning had been a treat, but Heero half expected that she would be displeased by his departure to stay with Duo. It had been a game of "twenty-questions" when at breakfast he'd mentioned to the girl that his intent was to accompany Duo home from the hospital, and then stay on to help him for the two months that he would be confined by a full-length cast on his leg. Of course she'd asked why, and the look of amusement on her own face was comical as she answered her own question -- the man couldn't get around -- of course he was in need of someone to help him for a while. By the third question, though, Heero was convinced that Relena was sure that he'd never return to his comfortable bedroom in the mansion. Though he assured her that he would, and that his arrangement was only temporary, since he felt he needed to be there for his best friend, Relena was insistent that he was going to decide to stay, and come only for the remainder of his belongings at some point.

If he had to be perfectly honest with himself, the idea already had occurred to him, but Heero was willing to first see what developed before getting himself caught up in a situation that was all in his mind.

+

Having requested the rest of the week off to get Duo settled at home, Heero was there to pick him up from the hospital promptly at ten, just as he'd promised. The smile on his partner's face was enough to warm the coldest of icy hearts as Duo's face expressed his joy in seeing him. It sent a shiver through him that left him glowing on the inside and anxious to find out exactly what was going to transpire between them.

"Hey!" Duo said excitedly as one of the ward nurses helped him manage on his crutches. His bag was packed and he was more than ready to go.

"You ready?" Heero asked, nodding to the female assistant before assuming responsibility of his hobbling charge.

"Oh yeah, am I ever. Get me outa this place before I go stir crazy."

They exchanged a glance that said volumes more than any words could, and Heero looked away, blushing. "Let's go, gimpy. I think I promised you take-out today?"

"Hmm...Szechuan would be good. I'm in the mood for hot and spicy. Need to get the bland out of my taste buds from the hospital food!"

Heero took the overnight bag and slung it over his shoulders, then went to Duo's side to aid him as he fumbled with his awkward crutches. They moved slowly out of the hospital room and down the hallway of the ward and to the elevator, where they rode the car down to lobby level and exited the building. They had to do some creative maneuvering to get Duo into the passenger side of Heero's sport coupe without him having the ability to bend his injured leg, but they managed and were soon on their way home -- to Duo's home -- but not before stopping to pick up some Szechuan.

+

Duo's condo was comfortable. It was multi-level dwelling, with the lower level boasting a nicely sized open kitchen and eating area, and a large living room area, where he had every creature comfort imaginable to man -- HD TV, every method of playing discs and videos, and a top of the line CD player and receiver. The furniture looked practically new -- barely sat on -- all a nondescript style of useable. Not those gaudy, ugly contemporary things that some people filled their houses with, and not the stuffy, antique style that filled Relena's mansion. This style, the sofa and armchairs, were "relaxed," Heero decided. Big fluffy cushions that you could sink into and fall asleep on, and huge overstuffed TV chairs with matching ottomans that combined were nearly as big as a single bed. They made the living room look like a giant playroom with their welcoming appeal.

They entered the living area where Duo hobbled himself around so he could plop down on one of the cushy TV chairs and get his feet up. Heero brought in their bags -- Duo's and a couple of his own -- and set them at the foot of the stairway. Then he went to the kitchen to get a couple of forks for the Szechuan, which they sucked down in the living room right out of the cartons, spread out on the couch and watching TV as they ate. Heero got hot and spicy shrimp, one of his favorites, while Duo worked on a container of General Tso's Chicken, extra spicy.

After they'd eaten their fill and lain around for a while, experiencing that overstuffed feeling that Chinese gives for about the first fifteen minutes before leaving a person hungry again, Duo started to pull himself to his feet. Seeing this, Heero got up as well, wanting to know if there was anything he could do instead of Duo getting up.

"Gonna try and make it upstairs," the longhaired man said as he organized his crutches. He still had a lot to learn about coordinating them as he thumped his own cast with the leg of one crutch, making him see stars.

"You sure I can't get whatever it is that you want?"

"I want to go upstairs, but if you like, you can make sure I don't fall and break my back trying. A fucking broken leg is bad enough right now. I'll kill myself if I wind up in a body cast too."

Heero smirked, realizing it was going to be a unique couple of months living with Duo. He eagerly looked forward to it.

As they made their way across the living room and Duo started to hop up one step at a time, Heero grabbed their bags and stood close behind him, ready to drop everything and catch him if he needed to. He was almost wishing he could do that as the coppery-colored braided hair swung and bobbled in his face. As he waited to ascend the stairs one slow step at a time, he caught a scent of Duo's shampoo, and that smell of floral coming off his friend the way it did surprised him as he felt it deep inside himself and all the way to his core. Watching Duo's back as he crutched himself up the flight, Heero found his eyes taking notes of things they'd never noticed before, like how muscular Duo's arms and shoulders were these days, and the apparent firmness of his ass, visible through the "modified" sweatpants that he wore, and he blushed. Oh God. It's him. It really is him. He's the one causing the reaction in me. All this time and I've been so stupid. All this time, and he was right here in front of me.

When they got to the top of the flight, Duo stopped them in the hallway, where he gave the thirty-second tour. "Bedroom on the left is mine, one on the right, I guess can be yours. Bathroom is there, and linen closet here. Other closet is the washer and dryer. Feel free to use whatever I've got that you need."

Heero walked toward the right hand bedroom and deposited his bag just in the doorway. It was a room nothing like his room at the mansion in that the furnishings were comfortable but modest, as opposed to the expensive antique reproduction furniture there. There was a single window with open mini-blinds and a little drooping valance on top, and bright natural light filtered, giving the room a cheery, welcoming feel. In the middle of the floor and under the window was a single bed done up with clean bed linens that looked like they hadn't been used more than once or twice. A low dresser sat against one wall and a nightstand beside the bed. It was simple, sparse, but much more along the lines of what Heero was used to, and a faint smile graced his lips.

Turning and exiting the room, he went to the bedroom on the other side of the condo, carrying Duo's bag in for him. Duo was sitting on the edge of his bed. Heero motioned to ask where he should put the bag and Duo asked him to put it in front of the chest of drawers along the front bedroom wall, which he did. This bedroom, though a little bit bigger and with a queen sized bed, was decorated much the same as the other -- moderate but comfortable. Duo had a nice video screen and player in here though. Patting the mattress beside him, Duo invited Heero to sit beside him. Obliging, he did. Then for a few moments they said nothing, only just looked at each other awkwardly.

"So, how's it going with the case?" Duo asked him as he tried to come up with something to break the silence between them.

"It's doing well. Really well. Sally's been very happy with the outcome of everything, and I've heard rumors that the Preventers are going to be receiving a special award for handling the problem so efficiently."

"Wow. That's really great."

"Yeah."

Once more, silence. Heero let his eyes fall to the carpet as his mind filled with thought. Duo fidgeted with the edge of his cast and the curled edge of the cutoff sweats that he wore, the only thing that he could get on around the cast. When they looked up at each other again, they both half-smiled as if ready to say something, but not knowing what.

"Relena is aware then, that you're going to be staying here for a while?" Duo asked.

"I told her, yes. She was concerned."

"Concerned?"

Heero fidgeted now. "She thinks I'm not going to go back." The dark-haired man's face was written with guilt.

"Well," Duo said, catching Heero's eyes with his own and holding them tight in his gaze this time. "Are you?"

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