Over Coffee + Part Three (cont)

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A week later Zechs and I sat down to lunch at Howards. I was humming with excitement, I couldn't help but feel excited. Duo would like Zechs--I was sure of it. And then--happily ever after--

"So, do you recommend anything on the menu?" Zechs asked, eyeing the mains.

I smiled. "Let's see--I like the salmon pasta--but the foccacia loaf is also good--actually, everything is pretty good."

A familiar chuckle sounded behind me. "And we don't pay him to say that either."

Duo. I smiled at him. He was looking much better--were things going well with Wufei?

Zechs laughed. Have I mentioned that his laugh was gorgeous? "Well, what would you recommend?"

Duo read us the specials of the day, then took our drink orders while we made up our minds over the mains. Pretending to have a question about one of the mains, I followed him back to the counter.

"How's things?" I asked.

"Not bad," Duo said. "Aced my psych test. Howard gave me time off to make up the study I missed while I was feeling sorry for myself, but I'm working extra hours at the moment to make up for it."

"And Wufei?" I pressed hopefully.

Duo laughed. "Of course--he wouldn't have told you, would he."

"Told me what?"

"When we last saw you, I was taking him to meet Sally, remember? Well--" Duo shook his head. "I'm not sure what happened. We were talking about the Spiderman movie--Wufei was arguing that the Green Goblin's apparent split personality was at odds with his motivation throughout the film, and Sally disagreed with him. I don't think anyone has argued back to Wufei before, so when Sally suggested they continue the discussion later, he agreed. And then she said 'So it's a date?' and there was nothing he could do about it." Duo laughed. "She's got him exactly where she wants him--"

"Oh dear," I said, trying not to smile.

"Ah, it'll be all right. Sally's great--once Wufei gets over the shock, I think he'll be very happy."

"Oh dear," I said again, giving up on my attempt not to smile. Then a thought struck me. "Duo--are you okay? I mean--"

"Quatre, I'm fine," Duo said. "Now, go back to your sex-god, okay? He looks like he's waiting for you."

I blushed. "So, what do you think?"

"He certainly looks the part--" Duo winked. "I'm suspending judgement until later though."

I smiled, returning to Zechs.

Lunch was very enjoyable. Zechs knew exactly how to make you feel special. Just being around him made me feel intelligent and cool and sexy--it was with considerable surprise that I looked at my watch and realised I should be leaving for work.

"I'll call for the receipt--" I said.

"No rush, Quatre," Zechs said. "I'll take care of it. You go to work--I don't want you to be late to work because of spending time with me."

I wavered--while I was impatient to get the receipt from Duo and have confirmation of what I already knew, that Zechs was perfect for me, I didn't want to be late. And it was such a sweet gesture--I kissed Zechs goodbye.

"You are wonderful," I said.

He nodded. "I know. Now shoo, before your sisters fire you."

I was in such a good mood that I managed to remain smiling despite my sisters pointed comments that it was nice to see me being punctual, etc. etc. I'd come up with a back up plan. Leave work, rush over to Howard's and get Duo's opinion then. I wasn't sure he would still be there--but he had said he was working extra hours so--

Howard's was just closing up when I got there. Hilde was just locking the front door as I arrived.

"Quatre!" she greeted me happily. "Nice to see you. How are you?"

We chatted for a bit, and then she told me that while she was just leaving Duo was still here--had a bit of sweeping to finish up. She let me in, and I found my way to the kitchen where Duo was just finishing.

"Hey Q," he said. "Didn't expect you to see you this soon."

He sounded--not exactly delighted to see me. "Is something wrong?"

"I guess you could say that," Duo sighed. "Bad news, I'm afraid." He pulled a folded receipt from his pocket and threw it to me.

I caught it, opening it with trepidation--and paused.

"Duo--this is Zechs' phone number."

"Yeah," Duo sighed and sat down.

"I don't understand," I said, looking from the paper to Duo. "How did--what--"

"After you left, he hung around a while. I almost thought he was flirting with me--but I shrugged it off. After all, he was with you, right? And then, he left that on the receipt--" Duo sighed. "I'm sorry, Quatre--"

He would have cheated on me? I ground the note up into tiny little pieces. "It's not your fault, Duo."

Duo watched as I put the remains of the receipt into the rubbish bin. "We have a tub of chocolate ice-cream in the freezer. Sounds good?"

"Sounds perfect," I agreed fervently.

It was about three quarters of the way through the ice-cream that Duo had the idea.

"You know what we should do?" he asked.

"Get some sauce to go with the ice-cream?" I suggested.

"No! We should teach the cheating sleaze basket a lesson."

That appealed. "What do you suggest?"

"Let's egg his car!" Duo said enthusiastically. "Come on, it'll be great--"

It was. Giggling helplessly, Duo and I watched from a hidden vantage point across the street as Zechs discovered the mess.

"Oh dear," I said, but without any sincerity.

"That shows him," Duo said triumphantly. "Bastard."

I blinked at him. That was an uncharacteristic amount of ire for the good-tempered waiter to display.

"Sorry," Duo said. "I got to thinking about how what Zechs tried is basically no different from what Heero did--only when I first met Heero I didn't already know he was involved."

I nodded sympathetically. "I guess I should thank-you--I'm glad I found out now rather than later--"

"Yeah." Duo nodded, grave.

"Hey," I said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Let me buy you a drink. I think I owe you one. And we're already uptown, I don't have any plans and you've finished work--come on, Duo, it'll be fun. After all, we can't let the sleaze bucket ruin our evening right?"

It worked. Duo laughed. "I guess not. Well, Quatre, where do you want to go?"

It was one of the best evenings I've had out in my life. Duo did not share Wufei's aversion to anything retro--and even introduced me to a night club that specialised in disco. Laugh all you want--we had fun. So maybe we got a few odd looks--neither of us were exactly dressed to go clubbing, nor did our use of seventies dances moves go unnoticed.

I'm not that sure now how it happened.

So maybe we'd had a bit too much to drink--the atmosphere of the club had something to do with it too. Dancing with Duo, thoroughly enjoying ourselves and not caring what the other patrons thought of us--I felt reckless, kind of euphoric--

There was also the anger that remained from Zechs. He'd hurt me--and despite what I told Duo, I was not really all right about it. I felt a desire to get back at him, to prove to myself I was not hurt by him--

Even deeper down was fear--I was alone again. Would I be this way for ever?

Despite his assurances to the contrary, I don't think Duo was as okay as he claimed to be either. So, maybe it shouldn't have been such a surprise--

I'm not even sure now who first kissed who. All I know is that once we started it was as if someone had opened the floodgates. So when Duo breathlessly suggested we take this back to his place, it made perfect sense to accept.

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"You know, Quatre," Duo said languidly, between kisses. "This might be easier--"

"Mmm?" I said, very intelligently.

"--if you stopped kissing me a second," Duo continued. It was his third attempt at unlocking the door. So maybe we had had more than enough to drink--and I wasn't helping any. But then Duo kissed fantastically--and he was warm, and there, and wanted me--

I smiled, snuggling into him. "So what?" I said. "This is a nice hall-way--"

Duo groaned as I kissed his throat. "Much as I agree with you Quatre, I don't think my neighbours will--"

I broke off to tell him at length what I thought of his neighbours. This gave Duo the opportunity to get the door open--and with our means of support removed, we stumbled, laughing, into the room.

"Guess that takes care of that problem," Duo said with a smile, reaching up to brush my fringe away from my eyes--and froze, staring beyond me.

I blinked, realising I was not about to get kissed. Frowning I turned around--and paused.

This was not good.

The grim Japanese guy I remembered seeing at Howard's was sitting at Duo's table, his usually serious expression replaced by one of bleakness. He stood as we entered, his eyes flicking from Duo and myself to fix on Duo--

"Heero--" Duo breathed stepping away from me. "What--what are you doing here?"

"I had to see you," Heero ignored me, speaking urgently to Duo. "Please, Duo, I need to talk to you--"

"This is kind of not a good time," Duo said, with a glance in my direction.

Heero saw it and his jaw tightened. "Duo, I must speak with you--please--I need you--"

"Yeah, sure. Which is why you left me. Now if you don't mind, I have things to do--"

"Duo--" Heero clutched at his hand.

"No," Duo said sharply. "It's over. I don't want anything to do with you. You might have taken a hint when I changed the lock--"

"But you left the spare key hidden in the same place," Heero persisted. "You must have wanted me to find it--Duo, please--don't say it's too late--I couldn't bear it--"

Duo wavered.

I saw the indecision on his face and moved towards the door. "I can go--"

"No Quatre, you can't go home by yourself--it's too late." Duo opened the door to his room. "Take my bed tonight. I can sleep on the couch--I don't mind."

I nodded, looking over his shoulder at Heero. "Will you--be okay?" I asked, so low that only Duo could hear me.

He nodded. "He's right--we do need to talk. One way or another, this needs to be resolved."

It's funny how you can go through different emotions so quickly, I thought, as I stumbled, fully clothed, into Duo's bed. Look at my day--from euphorically happy to angry and revengeful, to aroused to this--I wasn't exactly sure how I felt now. Disappointed sure, but also worried for Duo's sake--and hesitant of intruding--

Somewhere in the midst of trying to work out what my feelings on this subject were exactly, I fell asleep.

+

I blinked in puzzlement at the ceiling. Something was odd here--

That wasn't my ceiling.

Come to think of it, this wasn't my duvet. Or my pillows, or my bed.

There were a few fuzzy moments when I tried to work out what someone else's room would be doing in my house before I remembered.

I was in Duo's bed.

I groaned as I sat up. My mouth felt like paste, my head twinged slightly--but that faded and I was able to sit up. I should get home, I thought. I need to change clothes--my sister's will have a fit--

But first--I needed to find Duo.

That was easily accomplished.

As I lurched round the bedroom door, I heard a radio on in the kitchen. I made my way there to find two places set at the breakfast table, and Duo buttering toast.

"You're up just in time," Duo greeted me. "Breakfast is ready."

My stomach rolled. "I don't really think I could eat anything," I said, hesitantly.

"I'm sure you'll be able to manage this. It's not really breakfast so much as a good drink--and you know you need lots of fluids--" Duo pushed a glass towards me full of some sort of fruit smoothie--a combination of banana and some sort of berry. After a little indecision my stomach decided this was all right with it and we ate --or drank--breakfast in silence.

This was as unusual for Duo. If there was one trait that characterised the braided waiter, I would say t was his readiness with an answer, a smile, a joke--this silence was very unlike him, and I realised that Duo felt as awkward about the situation as I did.

This knowledge made me laugh. "So," I asked. "Are we just avoiding the topic, or are we going to pretend that we didn't nearly sleep with each other?"

Duo laughed. "Actually, I thought I should leave that conversation until you were less hungover--how are you feeling?"

"A lot better now I've been fed--nothing a couple of aspirin won't fix," I answered. "How about you?"

"Very glad I haven't got work today," Duo said. "A couple of hours in bed, I should be fine."

"That's good," I said. "So--uh--what happened?"

"You mean with us?" Duo asked. "Or between me and Heero?"

"Either," I said. "I'm confused."

"Understandable," Duo nodded. "Well, Q, I don't think anything happened between us last night."

"Huh?" I said, ever so intelligently.

"I mean sure we almost wound up in bed together--but we didn't. And if I'm not mistaken, neither of us were after more than comfort sex--think about Q. You've never even flirted with me before, our friendship had never strayed into the sexual--until last night, when, even ignoring my problems, I don't think either of us was exactly ourselves--"

I swallowed fighting down the small feeling of disappointment and hurt. "What do you mean your problems?"

Duo sighed. "When Heero arrived last night, I realised two things. One that things between us need to be resolved--two, that I'm not over him at all. I'm still in love with him, Quatre." Duo gave me a sad smile.

"So, you talked last night?"

Duo nodded. "He wants to get back with me. I'm not sure--I love him, but breaking up with him hurt so much, and I don't think I can do that again. I told him I'd think about it."

"I hope things work out," I told him, checking my watch and doing a double-take at the time. "I should get to work now--"

"Not like that, Q. Have you seen yourself this morning?"

While I attempted to make my hair behave itself Duo sorted through his wardrobe to find clothes that might suit me.

"Lucky we're about the same size," he said. "Here you go."

I arrived at work just on time, hurrying up the stairs to my desk.

"One minute, little brother!" Iria called after me, halting my rush. "I've got good news."

"Oh no," I thought.

Iria caught up with me in the hallway. "Nice shirt," she told me reaching in to straighten it. "You should wear black more often, Squirt. It makes you look more mature."

Like I wasn't already mature? I rolled my eyes. "Good morning Iria. What is it?"

"I've found the perfect girl for you. You'll meet her at tea tonight--Dorothy Catalonia. She's wonderful--you're going to adore her."

Unlikely, I thought but didn't say anything. After all I had agreed to this--that thought was all that was needed to complete my depression.

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