Author: Justkat2790
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Reasons in a Nutshell + Part 6

Change in the Weather

It was an exhausting business going to the beach and when they got home, Howard was tired.

"Drunk," said Duo flatly, scraping cake off his foot. It was very kind of Mrs Elliott to leave cake, if a trifle unhygienic, but it really should come with a large sign saying Warning - Cake, especially when the bulb was flickering in the hallway and Howard was...

"Not drunk..." Howard found the couch. Flopped down and fumbled with his shoes. Oh. Shoelaces. Damn. "...under the weather."

"Only if the weather's a freaking typhoon," muttered Duo, and clattered a supermarket bag full of empty bottles into the recycling, with complete disregard for people trying to find their shoelaces on the couch, when their glasses had disappeared somewhere. Probably in with the bottles. Thunderation.

Heero was also tired.

"Grumpy," said Duo, to the empty hallway. Glared at Heero's emphatically closed door, but knew better than to attempt infiltration, especially when his gun was safely locked in the bottom of Heero's closet.

"Right," said Duo, who was not tired, and who had had a great day. Which was rapidly becoming less great.

The door cracked open, and a small tube of ointment arced into the hallway. With instructions.

"Put that on it."

"On what?"

"..." The door slammed again.

"Oh. Right."

Duo knocked, speaking very politely to the door. "Heero the burn's in a really awkward spot and Howard's conked out if you don't mind could you..."

"No!!!" Well. That seemed quite definite.

"Right."

Duo took the tube into his room, seeing as Howard was passed out on the couch. Anointed his burn, and a hand-span of plait, which was probably all right because this stuff was probably just like conditioner anyway, and then dialled a number that he knew by heart, and then another, and then completely forgot about burns, or drunken old codgers, or grumpy and disobliging ex-terrorists. Stole from his room and slipped through the apartment like a ghost from long past. He needed a long walk. Or something.

+++

It was comfortable on the couch. Howard burrowed deeper. Floated weightless through blackness pricked with stars as the Shy Girl tumbled inexorably away, to the slow tinkle of piano music. One two three one two three...Or maybe that was him tumbling. He tried the comm, but it was all static; short, sharp, shocks of sound, as if from another world.

"Leave...out there...sleep it off..."

"...third night this week!! And what's your problem anyway??? You've been grumpy as heck all afternoon! Anyway I gotta talk to him."

Thunderation. Howard burrowed deeper into the couch. Couldn't a bloke get some sleep?

And cracked one eye open. Something was poking him. He fumbled for his glasses. Oh that's right. In the garbage. Thunderation.

"Hey! Howie!" Poke. "You didn't tell me about Titch!" Poke, poke. Damned kid. "Wake up Old Man."

"Titch?" Aww heck.

Suddenly, Howard was awake. Fumbling his way upright, wishing he could find his glasses, and longing desperately for beer. Icy cold, and undemandingly foamy, sliding down like liquid gold and landing like a shot of anaesthesia. Although it probably wouldn't help. He sighed, and rubbed his nose where glasses should be.

"Whaddya want me to say Kid? Titch is dead. I'm real sorry." And he was. "I'd forgotten about it." Which he had. Howard sighed again and scrubbed his face with his hands, trying desperately to wake up. "It was a dirty reactor. Kid got radiation poisoning. Died just after you came down here that first time." And by then, there was just too darned much going on and Howard was more worried about whether the Kid was still alive than telling him depressing stuff about his dead, ex-best friend. "I really am sorry Duo. Thought that Schbeiker girl would've told you..."

"Don't s'pose she knows I know him. Knew him. Why didn't you tell me Howie?!"

"Well I was kinda busy dammit!!!" Howard had liked Titch too. Had sort of adopted him a bit after the Kid had buzzed off saving the world. "And just... forgot I suppose. A lot of people are dead Kid. It was war." A lot of good people. Friends. Howard hunched into the couch and pulled his blanket up around his ears. Wondered absently who had given him the blanket. Not Duo, if his face was anything to go by. Kid looked kinda like he did that time the Yuy kid had stolen all that stuff off of Deathscythe. Like he didn't know whether to punch the wall or cry all over it.

"Yeah but..."

Kid had a crumpled-looking photo in his hand.

"...I knew about all them. I didn't know about Titch. Not 'till just now when I talked to Jake."

Abruptly Howard found his glasses, down behind the cushion after all, and fumbled them on, heaving himself off the couch. Thunderation his head hurt! And why was Duo talking to Jake all of a sudden dammit? Hadn't talked to him in two years that Howard knew. And Jake would have told him for sure if he'd heard from the Kid. Knew Howard kept tabs on Duo.

Duo was still talking. Muttering, really, to the photo, more than Howard. Sank down onto the arm of the couch and rested the ragged photo on his knee.

"...it's like all this time he's been alive in my head somewhere you know? Not really dead. To me he's still there, but he's not, he's dead and he's been dead all this time and I didn't even know. Like...he was in storage or something. Just waiting to be brung out and done stuff with when I wanted him and...and... It wasn't even real. But to me it is real. He's still there. It's just...really weird you know? Wrong."

Nowhere near as wrong as seeing the kid with that look on his face. Helplessly, Howard looked away, and discovered the Yuy kid, silent at the far end of the couch. Watched as Heero drifted closer to Duo and eased down onto the couch beside him like a man settling down on a case of leaky detonators. Placed careful fingers on Duo's wrist, angling Duo's hand so that he could see the photo better, and Duo turned to look down at him. Smoothed out the photo with a finger.

"We were buddies Titch and me. The youngest you know? Had to stick together against that group of bastards." He laughed shakily. "Did lots of stuff together. He pierced my ears for me." Absently, he ran thumb and forefinger along the shell of his ear, remembering. "Gave me one of his earrings coz we couldn't get any where we were. 'Till the Doc ripped 'em out..."

"Like a friendship ring." Heero's voice even more expressionless than usual, but Duo didn't seem to notice.

"What..." He stared down at him, wide-eyed. "You mean...like a boyfriend or something? Naah... No way!" He shook his head dismissively, the tight lines of his face slowly easing into something that might have been a grin, on a better day and slid down onto the cushion next to Heero. Wriggled in beside him and handed him the photo, and Howard eased carefully away from the couch. Backed slowly towards the door, unnoticed over the swell of Duo's voice.

"Wasn't like that. We were mates that's all. It's not even like he was that good a friend really. Otherwise I would have tracked him down by now. It's just that...." Duo laughed a short, little laugh, and flopped back against the couch staring it the ceiling. "I just can't believe he's dead you know? That's what gets me. I thought all that was over with. Dead people following me around. I don't want any more dead people in my life Heero! I've had enough!"

"So tell me," ordered Heero Yuy quietly, and Howard slipped out into the hallway, closing the door behind him.

Maybe he'd go for another paper.

[part 5] [part 7] [back to singles a - k]