Author: Justkat2790
Pairing: 2x1
Rating: R
Warnings: yaoi, non-graphic lemon and lime, mild angst, sap
Summary: NOT precisely a blanket fic. Although I daresay it might have been one, if Heero had thought to pack a blanket...

Written for Livejournal GW500 Challenge 118: wrinkle. Feature element: ribbon
Word count 11264
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is the property of Bandai, Sunrise and Sotsu Agency. No disrespect is intended to its characters or creators.
Aknowledgements: Thanks to Forevertwoxone, Katrina Jamieson, Muffie, and Wicked Game for information about Preventor names.
Feedback craved like chocolate, even if it’s just ^___^.

The Long Way 'Round

The last place that Heero Yuy expected to see Duo Maxwell, was on his doorstep on a Saturday afternoon, during a power cut, in a thunderstorm.

Heero Yuy didn't expect to see Duo Maxwell at all, and hadn't expected him for at least twelve months, which was why he wasn't thinking about it.

He was thinking about dinner.

Thank heavens for gas, he thought, putting a saucepan of water on to boil, and settling against the bench to wait.

Absently, he gazed out of the window, fingers finding their way to the single black band that he wore as a bracelet. Thoughtlessly, he slid it around and around his wrist, watching the rain.

It was still pouring down.

The electricity had gone out around lunchtime and was still out, even though it was now late afternoon. Or dark, anyway, although that might just be the rain. The phones had gone as well, meaning that it was a really bad time for him to have forgotten to recharge his cell-phone. Luckily he had a gas stove, otherwise he would have been driving into town for dinner. Heero shivered. It was chilly without the central heating. He should probably start searching for candles, and then he could curl up in bed with a book for the evening.

Or maybe not.

Was that someone at the door?

Heero dithered, worrying a fingernail, trying to decide whether to dump the rice into the water now, or to leave it until he'd answered the door. Most likely, the caller wouldn’t want much. Probably, just someone needing directions to Carson's. Heero didn't get many visitors.

There was another knock, louder, and longer this time, and showing all the signs of continuing indefinitely, whether Heero put the rice in or not.

Sighing with irritation, he put down the rice, managing to upend the packet all over the bench in the process, and turned off the gas. Took a moment to scoop the spilt rice into a cereal bowl, then cat-footed his way down the edge of his dim hallway to the front door and lurked silently in the corner shadows, with two neat pairs of shoes, and a rolled umbrella. Old habits died hard. Out of direct line of fire, and safe from observation, Heero peered at his visitor through the tall, narrow window beside the door.

It was Duo.

Heero stiffened with shock.

Duo Maxwell, sopping wet, and hunched into the collar of his soaked leather jacket, waterlogged braid dripping onto Heero's doormat.

For a surreal moment, Heero though about pretending to be out. All the lights were off. Duo would never know. Although... Duo Maxwell would never be standing out there, dripping onto his doorstep unless it was important. Duo hadn't stood on his doorstep in two years. It must be some kind of emergency, and Heero had been out of contact because his phone was out.

Taking a deep breath, Heero opened the door.

"Hullo Heero," said Duo.

Heero stared at him, abruptly forgetting what it was that he’d been about to say.

Duo looked just the same as always. Violet eyes, buried somewhere beneath those messy bangs. Hair still caught up in its long braid, the usual, warm brown on top, darkening to sodden tea as it dripped its way down his back. Helmet, thought Heero. Duo’s head was still dry. And combat boots. Duo must be riding his motorbike.

"Une asked me to pick you up. And don't panic!!" Duo grinned at him, with all of the old Duo sparkle. "It's not Relena! I'll brief you in the car." He wrang out his braid onto the doormat. "Oh. Your phone's out," he added helpfully, shaking water indiscriminately all over the mat, the door and Heero. "And you're off-line."

"I know that," said Heero, gripping the door handle. It was his day off, the first in ten days, so he hadn't worried when the phone went off. He’d thought that maybe, just maybe, the world could survive without him, for one day. And if it wasn't Relena in trouble, then...

"It’s my day off." He gritted his teeth. Maybe Duo didn't know. "Where's Agent Leaf? Or Falcon? He's supposed to be in the office."

"Yeah. I know it's your day off. Sorry," said Duo uncomfortably, grin vanishing like sun behind clouds. Heero blinked, surprised that Duo even remembered where his house was, to pester him on his day off, let alone knew when his day off was, to pester him on it.

Duo hunched his shoulders awkwardly. ""I hate to drag you out like this Heero. It’s just that Steele's broken his leg. Motor bike accident. There was a pile-up on the bridge in all the rain. Completely annihilated his bike..." Duo grimaced in sympathy, whether for Steele, or for the bike, Heero wasn’t quite sure. "And O'Grady's got glandular fever. And seeing as Marko's wife's having a baby, I've got no partner either. So you're stuck with me okay? I'll try not to cramp your style." He sniffed, and rubbed his face vigorously. The tip of his nose glowed endearingly pink, which, Heero told himself, was not actually endearing at all. Just messy.

He looked away, fiddling with the band around his wrist. Abruptly realised what he was doing and shoved his hands into his pockets.

At least now he knew why he was being paired up with Duo. He was never paired up with Duo.

"Don't be stupid," he said. "Who's driving?" There was a handkerchief in his pocket. Unable to help himself, he pulled it out and thrust it at Duo.

"Umm. You are. Oh. Thanks." Duo blew his nose thoroughly. Rolled the handkerchief up into a squashy ball and made to hand it back to Heero, then noticed a smear of mud on his elbow and scrubbed at it with the handkerchief. A pink monogrammed R poked out from between his fingers, and Heero stared at it with vague horror. Hell. Relena must have lent him a handkerchief. Maybe he could tell her that he'd lost it.

Duo held out the handkerchief, then, when Heero just stared at it dumbly, shoved it into a pocket. Shuffled his feet in the pool of water from his braid, and shivered. "It's my day off too." He grimaced skyward. "Gaah! Some day off! You'll have to drive because I only have my bike."

Oh. That's right. So he did. Heero hadn’t realised that it was Duo’s day-off. Time was, when Heero had known Duo's roster just as well as his own, but not any more.

"I'll get my stuff." Firmly, Heero shut the door, and then hovered indecisively in the hallway, still holding the doorknob. Reluctantly opened the door again. "Did you bring a change of clothes?"

Duo stared at him, and bit his lip. "Umm... It wasn't raining at home." He waved at a bulging duffle bag, behind him on the doorstep. "I brought the suspect kit. And grenades."

Heero sighed, and held the door open wider.

"Thanks Heero." Duo smiled sunnily at him, dripping his way into the hallway, and Heero ignored him, closing the door smartly behind him.

Duo could catch pneumonia, for all he cared.

He just didn't want his new leather upholstery getting stained.

+

Ten minutes later, Duo’s motorbike was hidden in the garage, and Heero was backing out of his driveway, wondering if he remembered how to get to St Claire. He sighed. He seemed to remember that it was a good two-hour trip. And that was on a good day. Probably longer in torrential rain, and, most likely, fog, going through the mountains. Damn. He checked the gas, relieved to see that it was more than half full. The last thing that he needed was to run out of petrol, and look like an idiot, with Duo in the car.

"Left," said Duo helpfully, twisting to dump his duffle and two plastic bags full of wet clothes behind the back seat.

"I know that!" Heero flattened the accelerator, making the speedo jump, and then forced himself to slow down. Struggled to relax his death-grip on the wheel. Damn. It was ridiculous to get uptight over Duo. In two hours they'd be in St Claire, they'd have Jex interrogated, and Duo would go back to the rest of his team, whoever they were, and Heero could go home, and stew over all the things that he would have liked to say to Duo, if only he'd thought of them in time.

"Lucky you live out in the sticks," said Duo. "At least we’re half way there."

Heero ignored him. It didn't matter to him, what Duo thought of where he lived. He lived out of town, because there was nothing to keep him any closer, and because he liked the solitude. Not that he was home much, but it was a nice change from the chaos of the Palace. Being around people all the time made him edgy and uncomfortable. It seemed crazy to him, to live on earth and be crammed up in the city. You might as well be back on the colonies. And it was comforting to know that no-one could get closer than a kilometre, without being seen across the fields. He always had a room with Relena, if he wanted to stay in town.

"It’s nice out here," said Duo, and Heero glanced at him in surprise. He’d thought that Duo would hate the quiet of the countryside.

"Pretty," continued Duo. "I like it. At least..." His voice was muffled beneath one of Heero's towels, as he towelled his braid vigorously. "...what I could see of it with all this rain. And fog. Did you know it was sleeting at Hawkhaven?" He threw the towel into the backseat, making Heero duck for cover, and dropped his braid into his lap, with a sigh. "Phew. That's better."

Humming softly, he gazed out of the window at the shadowy trees ghosting past, and beat time with his fingers on his knee. Beside him, Heero fiddled with the windscreen wipers, trying to decide which speed was best, and eyed Duo out of the corner of his eye.

Duo was not normally so quiet. Heero had never heard anybody talk the way that Duo talked before. There had been times, back in the war, in their shared dorm room, when he'd driven Heero to distraction, chattering about chocolate, or C4, or industrial metal versus gothic metal, or what-car-will-you-get-after-the-war, and Heero had had to yell at him to shut up. Or hit him with a pillow. Or shove a sock in his mouth, but that had only happened once, because Duo had simply held him down and returned the favour, and it had been a very dirty sock. Or sometimes Heero had ignored him, but that wasn't nearly as entertaining.

However, there had also been times when Heero had clung to the sound of Duo's voice. To his soothing chatter, and his quiet query in the middle of the night, that said that Duo was still there. That everything was okay. Or, at least, that it would be.

Duo was the first real friend that Heero had ever had. Duo, who had taught him everything he'd ever needed to know about comics and ice cream, cartoons and Internet porn. Or being a friend.

Heero had known about fighting, more then he ever wanted to know, but Duo had known about people. It was always Duo, who attracted the crowds. Heero had watched, as Duo had been whirled away, into this group, or that one. Although, always, back then, Duo had whirled Heero away with him. And Heero had been happy to go, basking in Duo's presence like the sun, drinking up all that warmth and humour. So different to anyone he'd known before.

No matter which school they hid out in, by the end of the first day, Duo’s desk was always surrounded by a crowd, between classes, both boys and girls. At first, Heero would grit his teeth and ignore them, and Duo. Ignore his classmates, because they weren't worth his time, and Duo, because he could hardly hit him, without blowing his cover. Heero would try to study, blocking the giggles and chatter with his fingers, but always gave up in the end, feeling Duo’s pencil poking him in the back. Or Duo’s finger, or, occasionally, Duo’s eraser bouncing off his head. Then Heero would sigh, and turn around, and Duo would chatter to him about random things, like the latest movie, or song, or what was for lunch. Somehow, Duo managed to keep track of that sort of stuff, even in the middle of a war, and lunch was always important to Duo.

And gradually, Duo’s crowd would send out a feeler to include Heero’s desk as well, absorbing him into it. And, reluctantly, he would let himself be absorbed. And later, there had been the other pilots. But no matter how many new people Heero met, Duo remained his best friend. He didn't need anyone else. He had Duo.

The rain was bucketing down now, even heavier, if that was possible, and reluctantly, Heero eased off on the accelerator, leaning forward to peer through the windscreen.

"Would you like me to drive for a bit?" Duo shifted beside him.

"No," said Heero baldly. He wanted to arrive in one piece, thanks very much. Duo subsided back into his seat with a sigh, drumming his fingers softly against his thigh.

"You could check the map." Heero relented. "Unless you know where we’re going?" He’d thought that there should be a turn-off, but the roads had all been heading in the wrong direction so far.

"Well I had a look before I left home but...yeah." Duo shrugged his shoulders. "Is it in here?" Without waiting for an answer, he opened the glove box, and fished out the map. "It’s a bit wrinkled." He eyed it critically. "You’ve folded it wrong."

"No I haven't." Heero was defensive. "It doesn’t fit any other way. And I don’t use it much. Normally, Satellite Navigation’s enough, but this blackout seems to be effecting everything."

Duo unfolded the map and peered at it, frowning. "Figures," he said. "The bit that we need is right in the crease, where it’s ripped. And all the writing’s rubbed off. I think..." He squinted. And frowned. "Heero that's coffee. Anyway...I think you have to take the next left. That should bring us up onto the highway."

Carefully, Heero downshifted and took the turn, flicking on the headlights, and trying not to think about how much this felt like being back in the war, back when they'd go on missions and do stuff together.

When they'd joined Preventors together, Heero had expected it to stay the same. Partners. Best friends. Silly really. But it hadn't taken long before Duo started to drift away. He supposed that it wasn't surprising really. After the war ended, they were free to make their own friends, and Heero had always known that he wasn't sociable enough for Duo.

Not exciting enough. Not entertaining enough.
It had taken some months to sort out the roster for Relena's security detail. By that time, it hadn't been a huge surprise to Heero when Duo wasn't partnered with him. When Duo wasn't even on the roster.
Except that Relena had taken him to task over it. Demanded to know what he'd done to upset Duo, in a tone of voice that made him glad that she believed in Total Pacifism.

He'd realised by the look on her face that she hadn't meant to tell him that Duo had asked for the transfer.

+

"You need to hang a right at the next T-junction." Duo leaned forward and fiddled with the dash. "Do you mind if I put the heater on?"

Heero checked the gauge. The outside temperature was dropping, as they climbed into the hills, and he knew from bitter experience, mainly involving a borrowed pillow, that Duo's hair would stay wet, until he un-braided it. Duo must be cold.

He glanced at him. Worried a fingernail, and wondered if he should offer him his jacket.

Duo was dressed in Heero's black t-shirt and jeans. No Preventors jacket, because Heero hadn’t had a spare one. He didn’t need many, because he was mainly with Relena. Duo was still wearing his own sodden combat boots, his feet being quite a bit larger than Heero's. Once upon a time, Duo had teased him that big feet meant that Duo was going to be much taller than Heero, but that had not yet happened. There had also been some other stuff, about big hands and big noses, which Duo had thought was absolutely hilarious, but Heero couldn't comment whether that had happened, not having seen Duo naked since that one brief glimpse, in the shower on Peacemillion. Judging by the clothes, they were still pretty much the same size, now that they were eighteen. Just taller.

Although Duo had filled out, too. Still slender, but hard and tight with muscle, his biceps swelling with the curve of his arm. Broad shoulders that looked as if he was still growing into them. Heero wondered if his old, black t-shirt looked as good on him as it did on Duo. Probably not. On Duo, it looked edible. On Duo, it looked...

Looking at Duo, Heero's stomach seemed to flip over, in a way that it hadn't done for two years, and he had to look away, swallowing hard

Clenching the wheel, he tried to concentrate on the white lines unreeling in the headlights, and fought to control his sudden intake of breath, terrified that Duo would hear it.

It wasn't so much that he'd forgotten how good Duo looked. He'd just locked it away, in a corner of his mind labelled 'Duo', and refused to think about it.

Duo was still poring over the map, humming softly. His cross swang forward out of his shirt as he leaned, and he ran his fingers absently along the thick, black string that held it. String or... Curiously, Heero peered closer. Ribbon. It was a black, velvet ribbon.

"I thought you always had a chain for that thing," said Heero, desperately needing to fill the silence. Duo's cross was sacrosanct. He'd never taken it off, that Heero could remember, and it had always swung from an old-fashioned, silver chain.

He remembered it vividly, hanging against Duo's wiry chest as he undressed in their shared dorm room. Gleaming, pale as moonglow, when he'd looked across to Duo in the night. Crystal water droplets, beading on it after Duo's shower, slipping from the cross onto smooth, pale skin and down... Heero shivered, and forced his eyes back on the road. Wondered, desperately, how much further to St Claire.

"Yeah," said Duo thoughtfully, smoothing the velvet gently, between thumb and forefinger. "I used to have a chain. But it broke, and I wanted to use the ribbon. It was kinda precious..." Voice trailing off into silence, he looked away from Heero, staring out of the side window.

"Oh," said Heero, hating the sarcastic tone of his voice, but hating Duos wistfulness even more. Hating the thought of someone else giving Duo presents, of Duo thinking about them, missing them, whoever they were, even though Heero knew that he should be happy that Duo had friends. "From a friend I suppose?"

"Yeah." Duo turned to look at Heero oddly. "Someone who was important to me. I do have some friends you know Heero."

Oh. Heero tightened his grip on the wheel, glaring straight ahead through the rain-smeared windshield. A boyfriend probably. Heero's stomach twisted savagely. Duo had had lots of boyfriends. At least that was what he'd heard. Special agents gossiped as much as high-school girls. It was all that down-time between missions. And Duo was the kind of person that people gossiped about. Not that it was any of Heero’s business, how popular Duo Maxwell was, or whom he was popular with. Or where. Duo had always been popular.

Heero had ached with jealousy, thinking of Duo with Seth, or Jake, or whoever it was supposed to be now. Had avoided the toilet on the third floor at Preventors, which had several messages about Duo Maxwell and Seth, or Jake, or whoever. Heero supposed that he was jealous of Duo, who seemed to be able to blend into a normal life, where Heero hadn’t. That Duo had a boyfriend, had love, where Heero didn’t.

Jealous of Seth, or Jake, or whoever it was, that they had Duo, when Heero didn’t.

Jealous, because he wanted Duo.

Had always wanted Duo.

Would always want him, just a little, no matter what.

Heero had wanted Duo from the first moment he saw him, when Duo shot him. There was no one else like Duo. He'd been cute, back then, and cute had grown into irresistibly hot, as he got older. Duo made Heero's heart pound and his mouth go dry, just to look at him. To think of him and...

Sharing a dorm room with him had been torment. Duo was gorgeous, and sexy, and completely lacking in any sort of modesty, with the cutest butt that a wide-eyed Heero had ever seen.

And a beautiful smile. Not the wide grin that he normally hid behind, but gentler. Happy and trusting. A smile that was just for Heero.

But, in the war, it was never the right time to say anything, and it wasn't until after the war that he'd been sure that Duo was gay. But, by then, when Heero thought that maybe it was the right time, Duo was not there any more.

Was not his partner, was never in the office, didn’t ring, didn’t visit, didn’t...do anything.

Maybe Duo had known that Heero wanted him. Maybe that was why he’d started avoiding Heero, so that he wouldn't have to let him down. After all, he could have anyone. There was no reason why he would want Heero.

"Hey Heero... Heero! Oi!!"

Duo flapped the map at him with a crack of paper, and Heero jumped, and glared at him. It was getting hard to hear over the drumming rain on the roof. It was torrential, now. And was that thunder? Hell.

Duo had the map folded into a small rectangle, showing lots of squiggly dotted lines and densely packed contours, and Heero eyed it with foreboding, sidelong, his other eye on the road.

Duo was looking at him hopefully, eyebrows raised. "Do you mind a bit of dirt? It's quicker. Bit windy maybe..."

"How much dirt?" Asked Heero suspiciously. Duo could never resist a short cut, even if it was a narrow, winding goat track, on the side of a cliff, that took twice as long as the highway. Said that nice, straight roads sent him to sleep. Heero liked nice, straight roads, that took him directly to where he wanted to go, so that he could sleep when he got there.

"Umm...hmm..." Duo counted, sucking his forefinger thoughtfully, in a way that Heero thought was hot as hell. He looked away. "30 kilometres?"

"No," said Heero, shifting in his seat and watching the road.

"Oh okay. Fine then," said Duo. "Go the long way round. See if I care. Go right."

Heero went right.

Duo hummed, and rested his foot on his knee and tapped out a syncopated rhythm on his combat boot.

His knee brushed against the back of Heero's hand every time Heero changed gears, sending small electric jolts up Heero's arm, and Heero put both hands firmly on the wheel.

Maybe, Duo had had no idea that Heero wanted him so much, and there was some other reason why he kept away from Heero.

But that was almost worse.

Almost.

It made something twist inside him, to think that he might have upset Duo somehow, enough to make him avoid Heero. Heero didn't want anything to hurt Duo.

Had spent an entire war trying to protect him. Worrying about him. Breaking him out of jail and patching him up after missions. Had cannibalised his gundam, to keep him on the ground. Had even broken two of his ribs, to make sure that he wouldn't follow Heero into danger. Heero shuddered just to think about it, even now.

He couldn’t seem to stop caring for Duo. Worrying about Duo. Wanting Duo to be happy. It wasn’t just that Duo was loyal, and clever, and fun, and a great friend. Once. Duo was also stubborn, and wilful, and very annoying, all the time. But still, Heero had to look out for him. It was something in Heero that went far deeper than just wanting Duo. He supposed that meant that he loved Duo.

He really, really loved Duo.

Damn.

+

The rain wasn't letting up, and, now, it was accompanied by drifts of fog, that whisped between the tall trees hemming the road. Rivulets of brown water cut tracks into the muddy shoulder of the road.

Heero slowed the car to below the speed limit, resigned to a slow trip. There was no way they were going to make it to St Claire in two hours. He slowed further, as the road rose and then dipped down steeply. Leaning forward, he peered into the darkness, his eyes widening at the unexpected warning sign.

"Damn," he muttered. "The river."

Duo was poring over the map, still humming under his breath. "Great. That means we're on the right track."

"Yeah but..." The car rolled to a stop.

"Hey!" Duo looked up and his eyes widened. "Where's the bridge?"

"There isn't one." Absently, Heero worried the band around his wrist, stretching it out and letting it snap back, as he stared at the racing stream, flattened and spreading beyond its low banks. He could just dimly make out the far bank, in the light of the headlights. Rain churned the surface of the water like machine gun fire.

"I can see that!!" Said Duo. "How the heck are we supposed to get across?! It's flooded! Look at it! The bridge must have washed out!"

Heero sighed. "Duo it’s a ford."

"A what?" Duo eyed him curiously

"A ford. A crossing without a bridge. And it's flooded."

"Yeah." Duo eyed the torrent with a jaundiced eye. "I can see that. Damn." He scrubbed his face with his hands. "That's what that word was in the wrinkly bit on the map. I thought that it said ferry."

"Well it's not. It's a ford. And we can't get across." Heero felt obliged to make sure that Duo knew that, emphasised with a healthy snap of elastic.

"Yeah. I know." said Duo, appearing from behinds his hands. He bit his lip. "You told me." Abruptly, he grinned. " Damn! Everything's so complicated on Earth! Sort of stuff that used to happen to us back in the war."

Silently, Heero agreed. This was just the sort of thing that used to happen to them back in the war. Just like the old days, when they were partners.

Irritation warred with a comfortable warmth, that he hadn't felt in far too long. Heero had never felt so conflicted in his life, torn between overwhelming desires, to either strangle Duo or kiss him senseless. Unfortunately, he could do neither.

All he could do was turn the car around.

They'd just have to find another road.

Carefully, he placed his hands on the steering wheel, without either banging his head against it, or punching it. Or Duo.

"Gee. It's really bucketing down. Hear that thunder!!" Duo leaned forward to peer up at the sky through the windscreen, side-lit by a brilliant flash of electricity. "Hey! That's lightning! Woah!!! That was close!! Check it out! Hey!!!" Lightning forked, and Duo twisted to peer behind them, clinging to the back of his seat. "That hit that tree!!! Holy..."

Ponderously, the tree toppled towards them, slowly at first, then picking up speed and groaning as it fell.

Duo shoved Heero towards the door and scrambled from the car.

...SHIT!!! Heero!!! Run!!!"

Arms pumping, they sprinted from the car, towards the river. Heero stumbled, and Duo dragged him to his feet, falling and tripping, heart racing madly. They ran on.

A thunderous crash shook the earth behind them, just as they reached the flat sheet of water, and Heero jerked as if he'd been hit. For a moment he thought his heart had stopped. In tandem, they slowed to a stop, spinning to look behind them. Heero panted and coughed, lungs on fire in the cold air. He squinted into the headlights, at the dark mountain of tree that loomed behind his car. Damn.. It looked as if it had only just missed the car. Probably by a few car lengths. He shuddered in reaction, heart racing, and turned to Duo.

"Holy shit!!!" Hands on his knees, shuddering and gasping for breath, Duo’s eyes were as wide as saucers, staring back at the enormous tree. It’s ghostly trunk was higher than the roof of the car. "That was a close one! Nearly got your car buddy! Geez! Earth!" He grinned and shook his head. "Kinda makes you glad that they don’t have things like that back on the colonies!"

Grimly, Heero shoved his sodden hair off his face, and walked back to the fallen tree, picking his way through a carpet of leaves and twigs and broken branches. The trunk had missed the road, but the crown of the tree had fallen right across it, and the road was completely blocked by the tangle of branches. Tentatively Heero cat-footed out onto the muddy shoulder of the road, and nearly sank to his ankle, red clay sucking to the sole of his shoe. He scraped his foot against the asphalt, frowning. There was no way he could drive around the tree. They'd get bogged.

And they couldn't go forward across the river.

Duo appeared at his shoulder and whistled softly, staring at the tree.

"Looks like we're stuck buddy."

+

Duo sighed and shut his cell phone with a snap, putting it down on the dashboard.

"That was Une. She said they're sending someone out to clear the road, but it could take a while. There's trees down all over the place. And she said that she’ll send out another team for Jex. You can question him back at the office. Hell!" Duo scrubbed his hands over his face. "What a waste of time!! Oh well." He took his hands away, grinning at Heero. "Just another day in the office eh hero-boy?"

Heero nodded, gazing out of the window into the darkness. He'd turned the headlights off, but left the car running, so that they could have the heater and interior light. It was going to get pretty cold if the road crew didn't arrive soon. Shirtless and sopping, they were huddled into a towel each, their shirts spread behind them on the back seat to dry.

Towel dangling like a cape, Duo twisted around to lean over the back seat, and rummaged in his duffel bag, and Heero smiled faintly, watching his reflection. Duo always had a stash of food and drink somewhere. Almost had a phobia about being without, and when they'd been working together during the war, he'd started to pack snacks for Heero as well. Chocolate bars and soda for Duo, packets of chips and iced tea for Heero. Heero had always preferred iced tea to soda, to Duo's disgust, but, with Duo's help, he’d nurtured a guilty passion for other kinds of junk food.

Duo sat back and popped his soda, and Heero almost grinned. Some things never changed.

"Want one?" Duo held out an iced tea and Heero stared at it, and him, in surprise. Duo had remembered.

"Thanks," he said, taking the can, and they drank in warm, companionable silence.

As he drank, Duo played with the ribbon around his neck, clutching it in his fist and rubbing the dark velvet between his thumb and forefinger, staring absently through the windscreen.

Now that he had leisure to look closely, Heero saw that the velvet was flattened and shiny from constant rubbing, even a little bare in some spots. Duo obviously fiddled with the ribbon, the way that he had once fidgeted with his braid. Whoever had given it to him must have been very important. Definitely a boyfriend.

The warm glow, from the gift of iced tea, disappeared.

"Hadn't you better ring your boyfriend?" he asked, trying to sound nonchalant, but only sounding grumpy, even to himself. He gritted his teeth, as Duo turned to look at him, startled.

"What boyfriend?"

"Oh," said Heero. "I thought... Well...What about your flatmates?"

"Naah." Duo finished his soda and crushed the can, twisting to slip it into the plastic bag with his wet clothes. "I'm in Preventors barracks. I've never really found anyone that I wanted to share with. I'm kinda hard to get along with you know."

"Oh." Heero digested that. He didn't know. He'd never had any trouble getting along with Duo. But maybe it was different now. Quite likely, Duo wanted to be able to stay out late and have wild parties or something, which might not suit a roommate. Silently, Heero drank his tea, trying to adjust his mental image of Duo, to picture Duo all alone. This was not what he'd expected at all. He'd imagined Duo cosily settled with Seth, or Jake, or whoever it was.

"And at least in the barracks there's other people around. Even though they're not right there."

[cont]