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

Reasons in a Nutshell + Part 9

Not the Seven O'Clock Police

Six-thirty in the morning was too early for basketball.

Or maybe not. Jolted from disturbing dreams in Duo's borrowed bed, Howard opened a bloodshot eye to the sound of thumping. Someone was bouncing a basketball in the living room.

And the kitchen, judging by the sound of drawers, refrigerator door and the crash of a stool. From the kitchen, the basketball bounced its way down the hallway, then into the laundry, via the bathroom, starting the washing machine. Detoured quickly into Heero's room, where it made a few squashy, mattress-y sounding thumps, and then, apparently, smashed into the ceiling, slammed abruptly into a wall and knocked over a lamp. Bounced its way back up the hallway, accompanied by the scuffle of feet and a muffled yelp-turned-giggle.

Howard groaned, and checked the bedside clock. Checked again, in disbelief. Yep. Six-thirty. Thunderation. Rolled over, pulled the blankets over his head and went back to sleep, savage mutters see-sawing slowly into snores.

+

Seven o'clock of the same morning saw Duo Maxwell and Heero Yuy in the small park at the end of the street. It was a glorious Saturday morning, a perfect beach day, with the mist just burning off amongst the trees, but Duo had to work, so he'd dragged Heero to the park for an early run and a quick session of one-on-one.

Duo had apologised about the beach the night before, after he got home from the movies.

It had been late, must have been one o'clock or something like that, because he'd gone for coffee with Shelley after the movie, and then she'd wanted to split a pizza and Duo had agreed happily, having missed out on pizza once already that day, and because pizza was pretty cool at any time of the day, or night, but by that time it had been pretty late, so he was surprised when Heero appeared, boxer-clad, in the living room doorway. Heero normally went to bed early.

"Hey Heero. Still up?"

"Mmm. Reading." Heero padded bare-foot into the kitchen and helped himself to a glass of water. "Good movie?"

"Yeah. Pretty cool. Not enough jelly when they blew up the tower though. Only half went." Duo dragged his bedding out of the corner cupboard, and Heero put down his glass and went to help him make up the couch. "Thanks buddy. Hey Heero I have to work in the morning. We finally got permission to cordon the street. I'll meet you at the beach after lunch okay? One-ish I guess. Sorry about that."

And that had been that.

So now they were playing basketball.

Duo bounced on his toes, waiting for Heero to make his move, and worried, loudly, about Howard.

"Silly old codger's still drinking like a fish. I thought that he might've cut back a bit, after I yelled at him the other night, but seems like he's still hard at it. Idiot."

Heero swayed from side-to-side bouncing the ball, one eye on Duo, the other on the backboard, wondering what to say. He'd promised Howard not to say anything to Duo, but... Abruptly, he faked right and then cut to the left, diving under Duo's arm for the hoop. Nothing but net. He smirked.

And turned, to see Duo running towards their abandoned jackets, a boy skating away, outstretched arms flinging from side-to-side as his blades picked up speed on the path.

"Heero! Grab him!"

Heero sprinted. Legs pumping effortlessly. Shot out an arm and hooked the boy from behind, scooping him effortlessly off the ground and into the air, wheels spinning.

Duo jogged across from their clothes. "It's okay. Nothing's missing."

Heero set the culprit on his feet and held him with an iron grip, glaring at him, as Duo panted up to them.

"Should know better than to go poking around people's stuff kid." Duo eyed him sternly, still catching his breath.

"I didn't take nuthin'." The boy glared defiantly up at him, pale eyes fever-bright against tanned skin, beneath a shock of bleached blonde hair.

"No," said Duo agreeably. Surreptitiously noted the shadows under the too-bright eyes. The dirty, shaking hands. Eleven years old, twelve tops, and the kid stank of dope and unwashed clothes. Someone else's by the look of them, seeing as they were about two sizes too big. "If you had you'd be going to jail. It's broad daylight. You'd get nicked for sure."

Heero blinked. That was not quite the message he'd expected.

"You two pigs??" The boy glared at them suspiciously.

"Naah." Duo grinned. "We look like cops to you?"

"He does. He's got cop written all over him." He jerked his chin towards Heero. "You look like..." He eyed Duo frankly, suspicion easing, just a little. "...dunno. Is that real hair?"

"Well thanks a bunch! And yes it's real. Check it out." Duo swept off his baseball cap like a sideshow magician, and gave his braid a healthy tug.

Replacing his cap, he bounced the ball idly from hand to hand. Attempted to spin it on a finger. "Live round here kiddo?"

"Yeah. No!!! I live with my Dad!! At least..." He caught himself abruptly, looking up at Duo firmly. Wobbled a little on his skates. "He'll be back soon!!!"

"Oh. Sure." Duo eyed him sideways. "Guess he left you money and food and stuff though...right?"

"Uh huh." The kid knelt to fiddle with his roller blade, eyes hidden behind hair and oversized baseball cap. Nails broken and bloody as if he'd been scrabbling over brick walls. Bloody weals on thumb and forefinger, from struggling with a piece of wire maybe. He looked Latino. Quite dark-skinned, despite the unusual eyes. Eyes a lot like Dorothy Catalonia's, but without the scary armour. Yet. Duo racked his brains, trying to think if there was an Hispanic neighbourhood nearby.

"Gotta name kid? I'm Duo. And..." He grinned and jerked his thumb. "...the scarey one's Heero."

"I aint scared of him." The kid glanced up sullenly, as the scary one glared indiscriminately at both him and Duo. "I aint scared of no one."

Duo felt a pang, remembering that tone of voice from not so long ago. Remembering when it seemed like all the world was against you. Trying, and failing, to remember a time when he hadn't been scared of anyone. Especially someone twice his size and age. Kid hadn't been on the streets that long then, otherwise he'd know better. But, back when he'd been on the streets, he'd had someone to watch his back. This kid...

Thoughtfully he looked down at the boy, and stretched elaborately. "Hmm. Could do with a burger. Heero...you want a burger? Bet you'd like one huh kid?"

Startled, the boy stood and started to slide away, looking from Duo to Heero, and back. "Naah...I gotta go...I..."

"Duo it's nearly eight o'clock." Heero looked pointedly at his watch. "You have to work remember?"

"Aww heck." Duo glanced at his wrist. Heero was right. "Oh well. Gotta have breakfast right? You had breakfast kid?"

The boy looked stubbornly away, hands fisting by his sides, but couldn't control the interested gurgle of his stomach, and Duo squashed a grin. Shot the ball towards him, taking him by surprise, so that the kid's hands flew out, catching it by reflex and he wobbled on his blades. Started jogging backwards, hands outstretched for the ball. "Hey buddy! Over here! Right over home plate!! Chuck it here kid!!"

"I'm not Kid I'm Rikky," muttered the boy almost too quietly to hear, and threw the ball back, still pretending to look away.

I'm not Kid I'm Duo... Duo blinked. Whooped, dived extravagantly and rolled, leaping to his feet. "Hey Heero!! You're pig in the middle buddy!!" Bounced the ball back to the kid, dodging under Heero's limply outstretched arm, and veered in the direction of Gino's Takeaway.

He'd just have to be a bit late this morning.

+++

A/N. Pig in the middle is a game where the one in the middle has to steal the ball, but you knew that.

[part 8] [part 10] [back to singles a - k]