Author: Justkat2790
Pairing/Characters: Heero/ Duo
Rating: T/PG13 in later parts
Warnings: shounen-ai hints
Summary: Post EW. Howard discovers that Hero and Duo's relationship is more complicated than it seems.
Written for GW500 Challenge 109 - nutshell

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is the property of Bandai, Sunrise and Sotsu Agency. No disrespect is intended to its characters or creators.

Reasons in a Nutshell + Part 1

Howard hated coming back to Earth, these days. More and more, really. Just too many people, and you didn't know 'em the way you did back home, where sometimes names escaped you...too often, actually, ...but usually faces were familiar. It baffled him, why Duo stuck here, ground-bound. Time was, he'd said he'd go back to space. Howard just hoped the kid was okay. Big, lonely place, Earth.

Guarding his bag on the too-hot pavement, beset by breeze that blew from all the wrong directions, Howard spotted the kid outside the spaceport with a secret sigh of relief. He firmed his sunglasses onto his nose, blocking out noise and bustle and endless sky, and dropped into the low seat of Duo's latest death-machine.

And hauled himself right back out again. Kid had his hand all bandaged up like something outa the war. No way was Howard letting Duo drive one-handed. Two-handed was terrifying enough. He waved for the keys.

"I'll drive." Sometimes, firmness worked with the Kid.

"No freaking way..."

But not very often.

"...thanks anyway Old Man. Besides. You look kinda tired." Sometimes, Duo looked just like the cute kid he'd been a few years ago. That mile-wide smile was irresistible then, too. Dammit. "It's really good to see you Howard."

Defeated, Howard grinned back and resisted the urge to ruffle Duo's hair. Bloody kid.

"I told Heero we'd meet him for a beer before dinner. Thai food okay with you?" Duo swerved away from the kerb, steering with an elbow as he changed gears, and Howard scrambled for his seatbelt. Forced himself to grab the seat and not the steering wheel. Kid'd had way too much pilot training.

"Mm hm." He nodded vaguely, uninterested in food. He'd eaten on the shuttle. Lowered his sunglasses thoughtfully and peered at Duo over them. "That Yuy boy here too? Thought he'd be off saving the world somewhere."

"Heero? Naaaah. He's here." Duo looked away, changing lanes as if dodging enemy fire, then swerved back, unnecessarily Howard thought.

"Hmm." Howard was undeterred by screeching brakes. "See him much?" Hellfire... now the kid was messing with the radio.

"Heero? A bit." Duo fiddled with his side-mirror. "Oh look! We're here!! You'll like this place Howie."

And Howard did, following Duo through heavy, glass doors into quiet dimness. Recessed down-lights, a low ceiling, and the gentle hum of air conditioning, and Howard felt his fingers unclenching as he trailed Duo, falling behind as he hooked his sunglasses onto his cotton shirt. Duo wove unerringly through the tables and Howard discovered Heero Yuy, hidden in a corner alcove behind a potted palm, back to the wall, gaze flicking around the room. Some things didn't change.

"Hi Howard." The Yuy kid stood up to shake his hand, uncharacteristically chatty. "Duo put your sling back on. I'll get drinks." Well. Maybe, some things did.

When the Yuy kid came back, he was juggling drinks with a bag of peanuts, which he dumped in front of Duo.

"Aww Hee-e-ro..." Duo eyed the nuts. "No chips?"

"No." Heero slid a glass towards Howard. "Now eat. You missed lunch. And breakfast."

Howard blinked at Heero, wondering when Duo had mentioned breakfast, then was distracted by creamy bubbles and glowing amber fluid, and buried his nose in his glass. Admired the condensation trickling down the sides. Somehow, Earth beer always tasted better. Wetter. Foamier. Maybe Duo stayed for the beer.

He obviously didn't stay for the nuts.

"Heero they're not even shelled! How'm I supposed to shell 'em one-handed?! Like this?!" Indignantly, Duo crunched a nut in his good hand. Hard. Shell shattered all over the table and nuts shot straight up from his fist, plopping into Heero's beer. "Oops!!" Duo's lips twitched. "Sorry buddy!!!"

Calmly, Heero fished nuts from his beer and thrust them into Duo's mouth, clamping his jaw closed. "Eat."

"Phuu! There's beer on 'em!" Squirming away, hampered by his ruthlessly tightened sling, Duo swiped a sleeve across his wet face and stuck out a nut-covered tongue. "Gross!"

"So's that." Heero force-fed another nut. "Don't talk. Eat. And chips're bad for your cholesterol."

"Heero I kicked Oz's ass! I think I can handle a bit of oil!"

Howard raised the eyebrow that he could spare from his beer, remembering a time when the Kid'd eat anything that wasn't nailed down. And, probably, the nails, if it was. He'd have eaten peanut shells for sure.

His beer seemed to have evaporated. Sadly, Howard pushed it away, looking to see if the boys were ready for seconds, and blinked at the drift of nutshells before Heero Yuy. The nuts, heaped near Duo. Glanced up, and wondered, with a pang that pierced his heart, if he'd ever seen Heero Yuy smile before.

Thoughtfully, Howard stole a nut from Duo's pile and chewed.

Sweet. Raw peanuts were sweet.

Maybe Earth wasn't so lonely after all.

+++

A/N: Nuts in this story would, of course, be a very deep and meaningful metaphor for...well...nuts. But the very best nuts. ^_^

[part 2] [back to singles a - k]