see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
in a Nutshell +
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
"...'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
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
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
"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
"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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
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
"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..."
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