see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
in a Nutshell +
The Kid was late.
Monday night, gym night, with Heero already changed into shorts and t-shirt,
and Duo was late. Even if the lack of noise from the television didn't
tell you, the way that Heero Yuy kept eying the kitchen clock was a dead
giveaway, dug-in behind a pile of vegetables at the dividing bench, with
one eye on his chef's knife and the other on the doorway.
Abruptly, the chopping stopped and Howard glanced up from his newspaper.
And dropped his pencil, fumbling for his glasses, as the kid skidded in
through the door dressed in skin-tight, black leather pants with a bandolier
across his chest. Kid looked like some kind of refugee from a terrorist
thriller. Kind of odd actually. There was something not quite...
"Duo you're late. And ..." Heero inspected him narrowly from the bench,
"...you have a black eye."
"Oh yeah." Duo elbowed the door closed behind him, fists full of a brown
paper bag and something on a plate. "Forgot about that. Got a bug in my
eye. Damn train. Sorry I'm late!"
Howard stopped trying to cram ridiculous into a 6-letter word starting
with A, and squinted at the kid over his newspaper. Snorted with disbelief
and fished his pencil out of his beer. Windows hadn't opened on trains
for 350 earth years. So much for I run I hide and all that honesty hokum.
Duo looked like he'd been in a fight to him. Damn kid.
Heero was chopping again, slower now. "Told you. You should've worn glasses."
"Yeah well smarty I had glasses but some idiot swung a punch
at me and knocked 'em skew-wiff and then they fell off when I slid off
the roof of the train. Then I got the bug. Creepy big sucker too."
Duo shuddered exaggeratedly at the horrors of earth bugs and dropped the
paper bag onto the couch beside Howard. "Hiya Howie." Creaked his way
leather-squeakingly towards the kitchen and draped himself over a stool
and half the bench, dumping the plate beside him. "I liked those glasses
too dammit. Preventor specials. Made me feel all tough and all."
He grinned at Heero and batted his eyelashes. Posed with hand on hip and
twirled the end of his braid, looking somewhat like a very tough, and
very exotic, dancer. Wearing, apparently, a fishnet shirt, to Howard's
appalled fascination. "Whaddya say soldier?"
The knife slipped and carrot skittered across the bench, to be captured,
lightning-fast, by Duo, and eaten, with crunching noises. Expressionlessly,
Heero fished another carrot from the bag, not looking at Duo. "In that
get-up? Worrying." Chopped carrot forcefully into perfect rectangles.
"Have my glasses. You'll need them tomorrow. I'll rec another pair from
"Thanks buddy!" Duo grinned happily and stole more carrot. Wrestled with
the bandolier and dumped it onto the bench, shoving it away into a heap
of neatly chopped cabbage. "Yeah. Couldn't be bothered changing. Stupid
thing. Weighs a ton. And like I'd really need that much ammo! What's for
"Don't know," said Heero drily. "You're cooking. And lock that thing away."
"Aww heck!" Duo thumped his forehead into his hands. " Shit! I forgot!!
Again! Hell! Sorry! Really! Sorry man! Oh...hey!" Duo reappeared,
face brightening. "I got pie! Check it out. Apple! That'll do. Shove buddy."
He snagged the plate and slid it towards Heero. Nudged Heero briskly aside
with a hip and squeezed in front of him at the knife drawer with complete
disregard for his personal space, so close that Heero would have been
hugging him from behind, if Heero had wanted too. Or if he hadn't had
a chef's knife in one hand and an onion in the other. Or been quicker.
Or... Caught mid-swallow, Howard coughed up beer, as the Kid spun in Heero's
almost-arms and wedged his hand between them, holding up a piece of pie
for inspection. "Want some?"
Spellbound, Howard watched, glass poised mid-tilt. Listened to the sound
of the tap dripping as Heero stared speechlessly at the pie. Pressed thigh-to-thigh
with Duo, upraised arms hovering abortively around Duo's shoulders, trapped
blue gaze escaping from the pie to the sunshiny smile behind it as the
Kid licked a finger appreciatively. Didn't look like the Yuy kid wanted
pie to Howard. And was gonna drop that onion any minute if he didn't look
"No!!! After dinner." There was a scrape, and a scuffle, mainly
involving Heero's shoulder and a handful of mesh, and suddenly, Duo was
banished to the other side of the bench, the pie was safely on top of
the fridge, and Heero was whisking eggs as if his virtue depended on it.
Howard blinked. Put his shaking glass carefully down on the coffee table
before he spilled something.
Beer escorted to safety, Howard eyed Duo narrowly. Kid looked as if he
was about to infiltrate the kitchen. Had his eye on the pie like an Ozzie
supply truck full of C4. Howard decided to take pity on the Yuy kid, before
the onion was mush and the stir-fry was toast. He liked Heero's stir-fry.
"Where'd ya get the pie kiddo?"
Reluctantly, Duo aborted the pie operation and turned to Howard.
"Mrs Elliott. I was fixing her vid-phone. She let me keep the old parts
Howard blinked. Mrs Elliott? Wasn't that the annoying old biddy with the
Abandoning Heero, and the pie, Duo squeaked to the couch with his bandolier.
Grabbed the paper bag and stowed it safely away with the other junk that
lived in the box in the bottom of the living room cupboard. Howard eyed
the box approvingly. Never knew when that sort of stuff might come in
handy, to repair a radio or stealth device. Make a detonator even, at
"You missed The Jonessonns." Heero's voice came accompanied by spattery
sounds of frying, as Heero poked at some chicken and added sauce from
a safe distance outside the perimeter.
"Naah. Mrs Elliott let me watch it at her place. She's got 3D holo."
Howard blinked. Tried, and failed, to picture an old biddy with a dog
watching The Jonessonns with the Kid. Or anyone, for that matter. Thought
enviously of 3D Holographic Activision and ambled to the kitchen for another
beer. Stir-fry was nearly cooked. "Thought you didn't like her."
"Naah. She's okay." Duo had his box spread out all over the floor and
was sorting it out into what appeared to be junk and less-junk. Or possibly
combustible and non-combustible. The bandolier was apparently non-combustible,
despite 30megaton shells. Howard didn't need to look to feel Heero glaring
at it's un-locked state from the kitchen. "Told her I'd program her new
'phone for her. She couldn't read the numbers." The bullet-proof vest
hovered dangerously over the junk pile. "Sucks to be old!" Duo grinned
cheekily over the top of the box. "Don't you think Howie?"
Howard glared frostily over his beer. "Wouldn't know Kid."
Duo glared frostily back. At the glass, then at Howard. Dropped the vest.
"You're drinking too much Howie."
"Need to store those shells in silica Kid."
"I mean it!!"
Not unexpected, but now that it was here, Howard didn't know what to say.
Didn't want to say anything actually. Shook out his paper abruptly, the
creases catching so that he had to flip it apart with his hand, tearing
it at the crease. Hefted it high with a grunt of annoyance and focussed
determinedly on the crossword. Go away Kid. A 6-letter word...
"You've been drunk every night since you got here Old Man."
Behind the paper, Howard reached for his glass defiantly, newsprint blurring
into static feed. Paper skittered against his knee, with the rustle of
dying autumn leaves. Nosy damn kid.
"None of your beeswax kid."
Abruptly, the paper crumpled down from the top. Tore, jaggedly, through
Nine Across and Howard glared furiously. "What the..."
"Damn well is!!"
Carefully, Duo opened his fingers, releasing shredded paper. Stepped back
and pinned himself to the cupboard, arms folded and clenched fists lodged
in his armpits, vibrating with the effort of not strangling an annoying,
old idiot who was probably the closest thing he had to a father.
"I talked to Jake."
Beer shivered and spilled onto Howard's clenched fingers. Thunderation.
He'd known that phone call to Jake was trouble but...be damned
if he was going to start spilling his guts now.
"Jake told me you've been out of action for months! Said he's worried!
Jake's worried. Jake!! Jake couldn't give a rat's about anybody!"
Was part-rat himself, from Duo's recollection. "You've gotta do
something about this Howie!!"
"Butt out Kid!!!" Howard dropped the ruined paper. Took a defiant
swig, a trickle spilling sourly onto his chin. No damned kid was gonna
tell him what to do. "It's none of your damned business what I do!!"
"Yeah it is!" Duo bounced off the cupboard, fists clenched. "Damn straight
it is!! If you don't care that you're killing yourself then someone has
to!" His eyes sparkling, too-brightly
That was quite enough. "Thunderation Kid!!! I'm sixty three years
old." Howard heaved himself off the couch, glass in hand. "Sixty three
dammit! I've earned it! How I die and when I die is none of your damn
"But what about your friends?!!! What about me?!!! I'll miss you
Old Man! Don't you even care?!"
"Well that's your damn problem!!! When I'm dead I won't be here to see
"But I will!! How dare you do that to me!!" Duo's face twisted.
Suddenly stone-cold killer, and not at all like an exotic dancer. Abruptly,
Howard became aware of Heero Yuy hovering on Duo's wing, brimstone and
cordite, and concerned blue eyes drifting over Duo, then gutting Howard
where he stood. "You've got no right to do that to me dammit! No right
Well, Howard could be pretty damned tough when he had to be as well.
"I've got every right Kid!!!"
Driven beyond endurance, he clenched his fist and roared, nose to pointy
nose with Duo, holding his glass high like an old Olympic torch. A warrior's
red badge of courage.
"I'll do what I damn well like and no whippersnapper half my age is
gonna tell me what to do!"
"A quarter your age Old Man and I'm telling you now..." Duo raised
his hand, "...stop drinking or piss right off!!!"
Dashed from Howard's hand, the glass landed and bounced soundlessly on
the carpet. Three pairs of ears strained to breaking point waiting for
the sound of shattered glass, but none came. No sound at all, just a spreading
pool that foamed a little around the edges and soaked the pile darkly
with the sour smell of hops.
Soaked into the cuffs of Howard's trousers.
And furiously, miserably, tarred and feathered with beer and shredded
newspaper, Howard stormed out the door, and went.
The door slammed.
After Howard had gone, Heero hovered in the doorway of Duo's room, watching
as Duo threw things willy-nilly into Howard's duffle bag muttering furiously
Duo hefted an open can of shaving cream and abruptly Heero was there,
fingers clamped around his wrist.
"Duo what are you doing?!"
"He wants to go, he can damn well go. Old bastard wants to die so bad
he can do it someplace else! I sure as heck aren't gonna watch him do
it!! Done too much of that already!"
"Duo you can't! He needs you. Why do you think he's here??! And you need
"No I don't!!"
The shaving cream rocketed from Duo's fist and smashed against the wall.
"I don't need to be left alone again while someone that I care
about dies in my freaking arms!! I won't do it!"
Abruptly Heero yanked on Duo's wrist, hauling him into a clumsy embrace,
smacking Duo's nose against his chin so that Duo's teeth clicked sharply
together as he flailed in shock. "Duo you're not alone." Held on
tightly, refusing to let go.
Awkwardly, Heero rubbed circles against Duo's stiff back, not quite sure
if he was doing it right but knowing that it was the sort of thing that
mothers did to comfort their children. Nobody had ever tried to comfort
him when he was small, but he knew that it had made him feel better when
Relena had done it to him in the hospital. Odd that. No physiological
reason for it. Maybe it was like acupuncture. For the heart.
And slowly, Duo relaxed. Let his forehead sink against Heero's hard chest,
feeling Heero's warmth through the soft, cotton shirt against his face.
Breathed out, a whisper of sound. "Yeah. I know. It's just...just...hmm..."
Tentatively Heero rested his cheek against Duo's hair, monitoring the
trembling release of the tension that locked Duo's spine.
Duo closed his eyes, just breathing, out and in. Heero always smelled
so nice. Comforting, kind of. Seeing as Heero didn't seem to be in any
hurry to let go, Duo relaxed against him. Sighed, rubbing his cheek warmly
against the worn cotton and hugged back. Felt the rhythm of Heero's heart,
a rapid tattoo against his cheek. It was always such a safe feeling being
around Heero. Being able to stand-down and know that Heero would fend
off the slings and arrows of...whatever it was. Or blow 'em up. Very reassuring
feeling, having Heero Yuy for a best friend. If he didn't have to find
that old idiot he could stand here all night.
Silly old codger.
Sighing, Duo squeezed tightly, then let go. "Thanks buddy." Wriggled free
and marched determinedly for the door. "Better go find the old buzzard
and drag him back before he bails huh?"
Duo hadn't shut the door properly, but for once Heero Yuy ignored the
two deadlocks. The security code and chain.
Abandoned to cold chicken stir fry, a spill that was probably going to
stain the carpet and a cardboard box of junk strewn all over the floor,
Heero sank down onto the couch. Rested his hands on his knees and stared
blindly at palms still imprinted with the checkerboard marks of warm skin
through fishnet shirt.
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