see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
in a Nutshell +
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.
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.
"Put that on it."
"..." The door slammed again.
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
"No!!!" Well. That seemed quite definite.
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
"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.
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 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
"...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.
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