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

Reasons in a Nutshell + Part 8

Two's Company (But Three Would be Better)


Of course, Duo brought Howard back.

Lying in bed, staring at the darkened ceiling, Heero heard them roll in hours later, struggling with the security chain, the couch, the wall and Howard's door. There was a curse, a muffled thump, and then Howard's door closed.

"...'ro? You 'sleep buddy?" Heero's door cracked open and Duo tiptoed across the room to plonk himself uninvited onto Heero's bed, wriggling back to sit against the headboard, stinking of beer and cigarette smoke.

"No..." Heero lay stiffly under the covers, staring up at the vague Duo-shape in the darkness.

"Told the old codger he can stay. Thought you'd wanna know. Was gonna tell him he's gotta stop drinking but...dunno..." Duo yawned widely. " ...'s'kind of up to him right? Damn I'm tired. Had to troll through ‘bout a zillion pubs at the docks to find him. Then lug him ten blocks to the Jeep. Weighs a ton for a skinny old guy." Another yawn, and a thump, as he kicked off his boots onto the floor. "Thanks buddy." He aimed a pat at Heero's shoulder in the darkness. Missed and got his nose. "...'ps. Sorry. Yeah. Would've sucked if he'd just gone off 'n carked it somewhere. Silly old thing." Another pat. "...not you. Howie...not like Titch...hmm...tired..." His voice mumbled to nothingness somewhere in the shadows above Heero's head.

"Duo?"

Heero Yuy lay silently in the dark. Listened to Duo sleeping braced against the headboard, his long legs sprawled over half Heero's bed.

Woke up the next morning with his forehead sticking to the soft leather encasing Duo's muscular thigh and his hand clutching Duo's shin.

And by the time he came back from a very long shower, Duo was awake, and complaining that Heero had kicked his boots under his bed as punishment for waking him up in the middle of the night, and Howard was doing the crossword at the table and drinking very strong black coffee, wearing his sunglasses and an Hawaiian shirt. Things were back to normal.

At least for that week.

+

Friday night and the boys arrived home together, via the fire escape. Sometimes Howard thought that Duo only avoided Mrs Elliott just to keep in practice, or maybe for the exercise, because as the door cracked open he could hear Duo talking to her quite civilly in the hallway, and returning her dog.

The phone buzzed, and Duo dived in through the front door, leaving Heero to fend for himself.

"Hey! Princess!! Not trying to steal my buddy again are you?" Abruptly, Heero was there, grabbing for the phone, and Duo dodged and angled his shoulder towards him, holding the handpiece away over the back of the couch.

"You can't have him Relena. I need him." He grinned and stuck his tongue out at Heero over his shoulder as he spoke, but Howard, who had the misfortune to be sitting on the couch, beneath the disputed phone and most of Duo, caught the momentary frown behind Duo's messy bangs.

"Duo give!" Abruptly, Heero scrabbled desperately for the phone and Duo grinned broadly, fending him off with a hand over his face, and a knee to the chest, bent almost backwards over the couch.

"Nuh uhh. Not until she promises! Relena promise you won't take my hero!" Chuckling, he nearly tumbled over the back of the couch as Heero abruptly stopped grappling for the phone and stalked away. "Aww don't be like that!" He grinned into the phone. "Big squash tournament this week. Uh huh. You bet. Uh huh. Okay. Hey! Heero..."

The handpiece arced towards Heero.

"...princess on the phone for you!"

Howard decided to go out for the paper.

+

Taking advantage of Howard's absence, Duo had invaded Howard's bedroom, once his, and was looking for something.

His voice drifted to the kitchen from the hallway, accompanied by the sound of opening and shutting doors. "Hey Heero...can I borrow your new shirt?"

"No." Then Heero looked up sharply from the microwave. "Out of my room Duo. Now. And touch my laptop again and I'll..."

"Aww come on. I can't find my black one. It's not in the hamper."

"Under the couch."

"Aww heck!" Bare-chested, and clad only in a pair of combat fatigues, boots and gaiters, Duo dived under the couch. "It's got pizza on it. I can't wear that." He held it up inspecting it critically. "Oh heck...maybe..." Picked at something with a fingernail, wandering into the kitchen to peer over Heero's shoulder. "Naaah don't think so. Pleeese?" Then, "Oooh...popcorn."

"Duo you need a shower." Heero was braced stiffly against the bench in front of the microwave, hands, white-knuckled, on the edge of the bench top. "You smell..." Abruptly, he opened the microwave, shaking the popcorn around briskly.

"I do? Hmm. Guess so." Duo raised an arm critically and sniffed at a tuft of brown hair. "Hey you shouldn't stand so close to the microwave buddy. Don't think you need any more radiation. Pleeese can I have your shirt?"

"No!!"

"Why not? I lent you my jacket this morning!"

"Because I'm wearing it."

"You are? Oh yeah. Damn. So you are. Hmm. I really like that shirt." He eyed the shirt covetously, looking Heero up and down. "Well...Hey what the heck are you all dressed up for anyway? You going out?" Duo sounded vaguely put out.

"NO! I'm not going out."

"Oh. Well why're you all dressed up then? Hey!" Duo inspected him closely. "Are they new pants?" He eyed them as if he was considering asking to borrow them as well.

"..."

"...'Cause if you've run out of clothes I'm doing laundry tomorrow. Wonder if Howard's got anything to chuck in? Although he seems to have a million of those damn flowery shirts. Probably never needs to do laundry." Folding his arms across his bare chest, Duo leaned companionably back against the bench, next to Heero.

"Oh here! Have the damned shirt and go shower!" Goaded beyond endurance, Heero unbuttoned the shirt and flung it at Duo's face from a hand span away.

"Aww thanks buddy You're the best!" Duo grinned delightedly, grabbed the shirt off his head, and dragged his best friend into a one-armed hug; bare skin to warm, bare skin. He really liked the fact that touch-o-phobic Heero had suddenly decided that it was okay to hug, and he wasn't going to let Heero stop doing it if he could help it. He drew back abruptly. " Hey Heero...." He frowned repentantly. "You're shivering. You cold? I don't really need the shirt that bad you know." He gave Heero's arm a companionable rub.

"Just put the damned shirt on!"

The microwave dinged and Heero removed the popcorn. Duo fetched the butter and an armload of stuff from the refrigerator, elbowed Howard's juicer out of the way, and jumped up to sit on the bench, conveniently close to the popcorn. Balanced a slice of bread on one hand and started piling things onto it.

Stirring butter into the popcorn, Heero took a deep breath, not looking at Duo.

"Duo...have you ever..." He stared into the bowl and then allowed himself to be distracted by Duo's bulging sandwich . "Duo that's not sprouts it's Howard's wheatgrass."

"So? He ate all the peaches. Hey you forgot salt!" Duo leaned for it, not moving from the bench.

"The butter's salty enough already!" Heero stirred and stared some more then risked a sideways glance at Duo's leg. "Duo...I was wondering..."


The door opened.

"Hey Howard!" Turning to look over his shoulder, Duo stole a piece of popcorn. Flipped it into the air and caught it. "You got any stuff you need washing?" And frowned. "Howard that's a lot of beer."

Howard blinked at the two bare-chested boys in the kitchen. Dang kids had gotten pretty darned muscly in the last couple of years. Wondered if he should go out and drive around the block a few times, then took in Heero's hunted expression and decided to stay put. Besides, the pizza would get cold.

"Beer for the pizza," he announced. "Movie and Pizza night. Can't have pizza without beer." He hefted the boxes and grinned. "Extra pepperoni for you Kid."

Duo was looking meaningfully at Heero, so busy rolling his eyes and twitching eloquently that he almost missed what Howard was saying. Abruptly it sank in.

"Aww heck!! Pizza!" He looked stricken. "Shit! Double overhead shit! I didn't tell you did I? I have to go out. Shelley had a spare ticket for the premier of Besieged and asked me if I wanted to go." He spun to face Heero, hands outflung in dismay. "I'm so-o-o sorry buddy! She said it was sold out. Otherwise I'd have got you a ticket. And you Howie," he added over his shoulder. Then, when Heero still said nothing, "You know...Shelley? That girl we played volleyball with at the beach? She rang me up at work. I must have told her that I like that kind of stuff. I meant to tell you but Relena rang and then I couldn't find my shirt and... Damn."

+

Determinedly, Howard set out pizza and plates on the coffee table. Fetched beer, and glasses, the popcorn, turned on the television and dragged a silent Heero Yuy from his room.

Past weeks of being hauled to the beach, of late dinners for squash and early ones for gym, of squabbles, over what movie and pineapple on pizza, and Howard had concluded that the boys clung to their routine like a talisman. Like some sort of proof that life could be normal. That they were in control, and not about to be upheaved and uprooted, and blown up, tortured and shot all to shit.

Tonight, Duo had broken their routine, for the first time since Howard had been there.
And tonight, Howard thought that Heero Yuy desperately needed normal.

Seating himself on the couch, Howard flipped through the pile of discs. "Which one do you want to watch first kid?" Heero shrugged noncommittally, so Howard sorted through the pile again, trying to remember what Heero liked. Kid definitely looked like he needed cheering up. Although there didn't look like a heck of a lot in the pile that Heero would enjoy, despite the fact that it had been his turn to choose the movies.

Howard squinted at the titles, rearranging his glasses. Seemed to remember that the Yuy kid liked foreign movies a bit. Intelligent thrillers, maybe. And sometimes he'd caught him watching some pretty soppy stuff when no one was around, concentrating like it was some kind of educational video. These didn't look like Heero kind of movies to Howard. Looked more like Duo kind of movies. Lots of explosions. Not surprising that the Yuy kid didn't like 'em. Howard supposed that once you'd shish-kebabed your own Gundam from the inside out, movie explosions'd be pretty tame. And a bit too close to home. He kinda wondered what Duo saw in 'em really. Kid hadn't been real happy when Wing blew up either.

"That one." Heero pointed, and Howard looked at the cover. Some long-haired guy jumping from an exploding shuttle. He slipped it into the player.

Two movies into the pile, and Duo still wasn't home. Enjoying his beer in the darkened living room, Howard eyed Heero out of the corner of his eye. He'd gotten used to the new chatty Heero, or at least, a Heero that answered, and now it was back to the monosyllabic Yuy kid from the war.

Looking back, Howard realised that this was the first time that he and Heero had been alone together for any great length of time. Normally the Kid was there, cementing them together with conversation, and, probably, spaghetti sauce.

Abruptly, he wondered what Heero would be doing if he wasn't here with Duo. Seemed to remember that he'd done a stint of looking after the Foreign Minister a while back. Seemed like he was still on pretty good terms with her too, judging by that phone call earlier. Couldn't be a bad thing for a kid from nowhere to be all buddy-buddy with the ex Queen of the World. Nice looking girl. Rich as, although that didn't count for everything. Sounded like she wanted him back too. He took a mouthful of beer and eyed Heero thoughtfully.

"Seems like you're pretty chummy with the princess Kid. Have to be a pretty cushy job guarding the Foreign Minister I reckon. Good money too. Didn't you want to stick with it?"

For long moments, Heero stared at the screen, where the hero jumped, fell, burst into flame and then was run over by a very long train. He winced, and then turned to look at Howard, his face expressionless again. "But then I would have had to live in Sanc."

Unspoken, the words, "I wanted to be with Duo," hung heavily in the air between them. But of course, Duo was not there to hear them.

Before Howard could question him further, Heero fired his own question, direct as a buster rifle, and about as subtle

"Why are you drinking so much Howard? You never used to."

"You don't know squat about what I used to do kid," said Howard bluntly. He'd out-faced tougher men than Heero Yuy, back in the day. Possibly. Decided he liked it better when the damned kid wasn't talking. "And besides. It's nothing to do with you. What do you care?"

"You're upsetting Duo," said Heero, equally blunt.

"Thunderation!" Damned kid was staring at him as if that was the end of the conversation. Maybe to Heero it was. "It's none of the Kid's damn business what I do!! He's not the one who..."

Hellfire.

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