Yaoi, angst/sap, OOC, language, Duo POV.
Thanks to Christy for beta reading (over the holidays!) and Aya for continued
encouragement. Thanks guys!
Feed-back is a dream I have.
And I don't own anything in this series, either.
Well, the car-shopping trip
was one of those things that turned out to fall under the category of
'seemed like a good idea at the time'. It had been an unmitigated disaster.
We'd never been shopping together before. Not serious shopping. Not haggling
and bargaining shopping. I'm a spacer still, down there in my bones, and
the other name for spacer is frugal. In my mind I was being thrifty. I
was being systematic and thinking things through. Apparently, in Heero's
mind, I was just being damned picky. It had turned out to be a less than
stellar idea. I was still tired, still pretty damn high-strung, and Heero
was just getting on my nerves with his impatience with the entire process.
I'm pretty sure he bought his own car brand new. Probably did a bunch
of research on the Internet and knew exactly what he wanted before he
ever left the house. I'd be willing to bet that he went down to the dealership
and just told them what they were going to sell him, and what he was damn
well going to pay for it. I don't think he'd ever gone shopping for a
used car before. I had in my mind what I was looking for, knew my price
range, and had a secondary mental list of things that fell under 'desired'
but not 'necessary'. Things I could live without. I knew what I was after,
but I just hadn't found it yet. I was content with knowing that this process
could take days on end.
I swear to God, Heero left the house that day with the idea that we'd
be home with a vehicle all bought and paid for, and still be in time for
It was on the third car lot we visited that it kind of came to a head.
Let me put it into perspective... I was thinking, 'only the first day',
Heero was thinking 'the third damn lot!' Understand now? He was getting
impatient. I was getting a headache. And then I walked away from what
he deemed the perfect car without even looking at it, he finally got irritated
enough to reproach me about it.
"Duo?" he called after me, sounding a little perplexed... a
little pissed. "Where are you going? What in the hell is wrong with
I stopped in my tracks and tried to dredge up some logic that would explain
my aversion to the car he was standing next to, other than... 'It's red.'
That just sounded nuts. I took a deep breath and tried to push down my
own irritation, wanting to be able to explain myself and not at all sure
how. I couldn't think of a way to put it that didn't just sound stupid.
I think red just might be a jinxed color for me? Yeah... right.
I heard the scuff of Heero's foot on the pavement as he moved toward me
and I was considering the idea of asking him to go the hell home and just
let me handle this on my own, when somebody in the service bay fired up
an air wrench. I all but dropped to the ground in a panic. If I'd had
a gun... I would have drawn it. I'm not entirely sure that my fingers
didn't reach for one that wasn't there anyway. Crappy days have this tendency
of bleeding over for me.
Heero was suddenly at my side, a hand under my elbow to steady me. "This
was a horrible idea," he told me gently. "I'm sorry... you're
just too stressed for this. Let's go home and try again another day."
But he couldn't quite hide the faint disappointment in his voice.
I couldn't stand that look in his eyes and sighed, shaking my head. "No...
you're right, there's nothing wrong with the car you were looking at.
Why don't you go get the sales guy and we'll test drive it?"
The relief was more than plain, but he made himself ask, "You're
"Yeah..." I told him, my resolve bolstered by that look on his
face. And the understanding that buying that car would make this nightmare
be over. "It's in the right price range."
He went off to find the salesman then, while I stood and stared at that
stupid car and tried to make myself not hate it. We took it home that
afternoon. I vowed to save the money to have the Goddamned thing painted
at the first opportunity. For some odd reason, red cars just give me the
We each drove 'our' cars back to the apartment. And yes, I had my license;
Heero had insisted that I get one right after he got out of the hospital.
I looked the thing over as I drove, trying to sell myself on it. It was
an automatic, where I would have preferred a stick. It didn't have a decent
stereo system at all, strictly a radio, not even a CD player. I kept finding
things I didn't like and tried to stop, I knew I was just being pissy.
I had a headache, I was tired... and the damn thing was red.
I wondered idly, as I parked in front of the apartment, why I was so focused
on what color it was. Color had not even been on my list of 'issues'.
I'm not that damned picky. But red? Did it have to be red? I already twitched
whenever I saw red cars on the road and now here I was driving one.
I locked it and went into the building, trying not to look at it. Ok...
suck it up, Maxwell. You don't like it; so what? It's a car. It runs.
It will get you from point A to point B, and that's what this was all
about, wasn't it?
I had beaten Heero back to the apartment and I was just as glad, it gave
me a chance to take a couple of aspirin before he got home. I thought
about throwing myself down on the sofa and just mindlessly channel surfing
until he showed up, but all the news casts were still talking about the
bus accident and the sniper incident and I was sick of seeing it... sick
of thinking about it.
Yesterday had been one of those days that turned out to be tougher after
it was over. I had gotten through it on a strange mixture of 'this can't
be happening' disbelief and adrenaline. Once it had all been done, I had
crashed and burned, and discovered that my day had left me with one or
two mental images that wanted to live behind my eyelids for a while. Every
time I closed my eyes I could see the sniper victims lying on the sidewalk,
twitching convulsively. I could hear the screams of that mother as she
realized that her baby girl was still on board that bus. I relived that
moment when I'd had to turn Jock over to the police. Saw that lost and
lonely look on his face.
So I just laid on the couch and stared at the ceiling for awhile and tried
to think of something else. I had off-loaded a lot of my stress when the
ship and the vacuum suits had all sold. When I had gotten the job in the
Preventor's motor pool. All things that had allowed me to start a steady
trickle of money going to the Maxwell home on L2 again. Not nearly the
amount that I had been sending when I'd owned my own business, but enough
that my guilt had eased. Davey's violin lessons had never been interrupted
and Octavia had sent me a couple of messages, expressing her surprise
that the boy really was getting rather good. Those letters made me feel
good... and bad all at the same time. Good because I was still able to
help those kids try and achieve their dreams. Bad because I realized I
would probably never see any of them again.
Finally getting through with therapy had helped a lot, too. Physically,
I suppose I wasn't anywhere near the shape I had been in before the accident,
but I was getting there. I could jog up the steps to the apartment now
without gasping for breath when I got there. Could play a little basketball
with Heero and not feel dizzy after a half an hour. I seriously doubted
that I would last the session if I tried to go to the gym with Heero and
Wufei, but I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Was
starting to feel like a day might come when I could.
So I suppose the scales were starting to balance a little. Not necessarily
in the manner I would have chosen for myself... but a balance all the
same. If there was any one thing that I could point to and say, 'this
is making me crazy', it would probably be the completely fruitless search
for Mrs. Anna Camden. Wufei had been using all the resources at his disposal
in the hunt, but so far had come up empty. The woman had simply dropped
out of the universe as we know it, after the war. Wufei hadn't found a
trace, and that... that broken promise to a dead Captain, was probably
the thing that preyed on my mind the most. Left me sometimes seeing the
man's visage over my shoulder in the mirror, staring at me with accusation
in his one remaining eye.
It took Heero so long to get back, I damn near dozed off on the couch,
twitching almost violently awake when I heard the front door finally open.
I really hoped my nerves settled soon... this was getting to be ridiculous.
I sat up, blinking blearily and found him looking at me with an odd little
smirk on his face.
"I half expected to find you with your head under the hood of your
car," he teased lightly and beckoned me to follow him to the kitchen.
He'd stopped and bought take-out for dinner. He had something else in
his hands as well, and I found myself glancing at it as I helped set the
table and dish up the chicken.
"What's that?" I asked, inclining my head at the papers in his
hand. I was a little taken aback by the almost sheepish look on his face.
"I stopped off at the real estate office and picked up some flyers,"
he murmured, laying them down beside his plate. I blinked at him for a
second, and then went to pour our drinks.
He was sitting down when I returned to the table and took my seat across
from him. He studiously dished up his mashed potatoes, not looking at
me. "I know you wanted to wait... but I thought it wouldn't hurt
to get some idea of what was out there. See what kind of price range we're
going to be dealing with."
"That's fine," I told him and bent to cutting up my chicken.
I wondered idly if this was going to be another of those things that I
should just let happen. Another of those things that wasn't worth voicing
an opinion over. I wasn't quite ready to go house hunting with Heero yet.
I wanted... I wanted a clean slate before I went in search of a new home.
I wanted to feel like I was completely back on my feet, with all my little
hamsters in a row. I wanted it to be a... happy thing, when he and I set
off to find our house. But I didn't think it would be, as long as I had
Captain Camden breathing down my neck. I wondered, suddenly, if searching
for a house with Heero would be anything like searching for a car had
"I just gave the clerk some loose parameters," he ventured.
"There's a pretty wide sampling here." He was waiting for me
to show some interest, so I took a few of the flyers from his pile and
glanced over them.
I took a couple of bites of dinner, trying very hard to get passed the
melancholy and the headache to really make myself read what was in front
of me. "Heero... you forgot to put 'English' in the parameters...
what in the hell does all this mean?" I finally managed to quip and
he flashed me a grin that bordered on relieved.
So he began to explain, and I got a little lecture on what all the little
abbreviations and codes meant, about the fact that not all houses had
basements and that some of them were built on things called 'slabs'. About
the desirability of a thing called 'city sewer'. I understood very quickly
that this might be the first time that Heero had brought home real estate
listings, but it was far from a new subject for him. I wanted to shove
the things back across the table at him, but he was getting really excited,
explaining things to me and I just didn't have the heart to tell him that
I wasn't ready for this. I felt rather bad, actually, for making him wait
when he was so obviously ready to make this move. I repressed a sigh and
wondered about the possibility of bribing guilt-beast with a little chicken
under the table. I could hear him licking his chops down there.
After dinner, Heero wanted to curl up on the couch with me so that we
could look over the fliers together. I found it all to be rather... overwhelming.
"Heero," I blurted after about a half an hour of poking at the
endless pile of house listings. "There has to be a way to narrow
the field. There are just too many choices here! I can't make sense of
He chuckled at me, taking the scraps of paper from my fingers where I
held them spread like a hand of cards. "Well, what's most important
to you?" he asked gently.
"Price!" I told him instantly. "Look at this one; they'd
be paying for this out of our estate thirty years after we're dead!"
His smile faltered a little bit and I suspected that wasn't what he'd
been looking for. "I mean," he clarified. "What do you
want in a house?"
"I don't know a thing about houses," I told him honestly. "I
don't even know where to start. Brick? Frame? There must be a superior
building material... but I just don't know."
He chuckled at me, laying the listings on the coffee table and reached
to pull me towards him. "There isn't a right and wrong in this, love,"
he said, trying to bring me in against his chest, but I wasn't comfortable
yet resting against his stomach, and shifted at the last minute to lean
against his side. He sighed softly. "It's personal preference in
a lot of it. It's... aesthetics. What to you like? What do you want?"
I wanted to not deal with this yet. I wanted to not make such a huge decision
while I still felt like there was so much other stuff on my plate. "I
don't know," I said, trying to keep the grumble out of my voice.
"Heero... I've never lived in a house before. Unless you count the
occasional safe house during the war when we went undercover."
There was an odd little silence and I could feel him looking at me, but
I didn't twist my head to look up at him. "What do you mean?"
he asked gently. "Surely you lived somewhere..."
I took my turn delivering the sigh, absently rubbing my knuckles over
his knee. "My earliest memories are of living on the streets,"
I said, keeping my voice rather clinical. "We were lucky if we stayed
in the same place two nights in a row. We slept in burned out buildings...
in alleys. When the plague came through... I ended up in the Maxwell orphanage.
We had a dorm room in the basement of the church. After that... during
my training... I lived in the barracks and the labs." I shrugged,
getting a little uncomfortable under that stare I could still feel. "After
the war, I worked for Howard and lived off his salvage ship until I...
until I bought my own. I lived aboard my ship from then on."
There was a tense little silence, then he carefully kissed the top of
my head, where it rested against his chest. "All the more reason
that our house should be... perfect."
"That would be fine if I knew what perfect was," I said, wincing
when it came out sounding a little dejected.
"What do you see when you think about a home?" he murmured,
his hand stroking gently up and down my arm.
My ship, was what popped into my head, without even any help from my thought
hamsters; I knew that one all on my own. But it wasn't what I could say
to Heero. When I didn't immediately answer him, he continued softly. "Come
on... close your eyes and think about a home... our home. Don't you see
I dutifully closed my eyes and tried really hard to think past my Demon-ship,
but only saw one thing. I smiled up at him. "You."
He snorted softly, but looked pleased, and leaned down to kiss me. "You're
not helping," he murmured when he drew away.
"I'm sorry," I grinned up at him. "I just haven't thought
about it too much... I thought..." I hesitated on telling him I hadn't
thought I had to worry about it yet.
His _expression grew pensive and he shifted a little so that I could look
up at him without twisting quite so hard. "Duo-love, I know you had
your heart set on finding this Camden woman... but you realize you might
have to give it up?"
I frowned. "Wufei hasn't quit, has he?" I had to ask. I knew
it had been over a month since we'd actively started hunting, but I just
assumed Wufei had been too busy to devote a lot of time to it. I assumed
that he would tell me if he stopped looking altogether.
"No," Heero told me, but he seemed hesitant. "But... he's
found no sign of her at all. You may have to face up to the fact that
we aren't going to locate her."
I gnawed on that for a minute and found I wasn't all that happy about
the thought. But it was a possibility I had to admit to. If Wufei could
not find the woman with all the damned impressive resources of the Preventors
network, she wasn't going to be found. I knew that Wufei must be reaching
a point of giving up or I wouldn't be getting this little talk from Heero.
I lay my head back down and thought about that. Tried to follow the thread
of that possibility through to its conclusion. I already felt guilty because
Wufei was doing all the work on this project, but it didn't really make
much sense for me to stumble around trying to do what he could do ten
times as easily with the tools he had at hand.
Guilt beast joined us on the couch, resting his imaginary head on my thigh
and leering up at me in high good humor. I sighed. This wasn't something
I could talk to Heero about. I'm afraid Captain Camden will be pissed
if I don't find her, just didn't fucking sound sane. I didn't want to
revisit that scene where I looked into Heero's eyes and saw fear for my
mental stability reflected there.
Heero didn't appreciate my free-form thinking. Wouldn't have understood
a thought hamster if one crawled up and bit him on the butt. But honestly?
I was a little afraid that if I called the search off and admitted that
we couldn't find the woman, that my nightmares were going to come back.
It had been quite a while since I had found Captain Camden's journal,
but the knowledge that a search was underway had salved whatever guilt
I had felt over it. I was pretty sure that guilt would come back full-force
if I actually had to officially say 'I give up'. Ok... that really does
sound nuts, doesn't it?
Heero's fingers were stroking lightly over my hair. "I'm sorry,"
he said gently.
"It's not your fault," I told him.
"I know," he murmured. "But I can still feel badly for
you, can't I?"
I squirmed around until I was lying more facing him, so that I didn't
have to keep twisting to see him, and smiled. "I suppose you can
if you want to."
A bit of a frown flitted across his face and he tried to ease me over,
more on top of him than beside him. I balked. "Heero... don't."
The frown solidified and he gave me another half-hearted tug. "Will
you stop worrying about hurting me? It's been almost two months."
That made me laugh and he looked a little peeved at being made fun of.
"That's a hell of a line coming from Mr. Overprotective," I
The pissed off look faded a bit, to be replaced with a sheepish little
almost-grin. "I'm fine," he murmured and all I could do was
snicker at him.
"That's my damn line, Yuy," I mock growled and began pulling
at the hem of his shirt. He slid down to aid me and I continued to tug
until I found the snap on his jeans, and then I finally found those mostly-healed
scars. I used lips and tongue to give them a modicum of the attention
I felt they deserved, until Heero forgot about the damn house. Forgot
about the damn journal. Until he was pushing at his own jeans, frantic
for more than just the teasing kisses. Until his voice took on a hint
"Touch me!" he moaned, sounding oddly... pained. "Damn
it Duo... touch me!"
I took pity on him then, stopped the light nibbling, and got serious.
It didn't take long before he was shouting out his release, his fingers
buried in my hair, his chest heaving with the exertion.
He pulled me up then, to claim a searching kiss, and I felt him shiver.
He loves that... to kiss me afterward, to taste himself on my tongue.
It never fails to make him almost breathless with this strange... tenderness.
He turned me in his arms and I didn't fight it, just tried not to put
too much weight on his abdomen. His hands slid over my exposed belly then,
pulling shirt up, pushing jeans down. Fingers questing and stroking, hunting
over my bared skin, until he succeeded in making me do my own forgetting.
No journal. No car. No house. Only Heero's sure, strong, gentle, wonderful
We woke there on the couch, some hours later, cold and cramped, and staggered
off to bed.
The next day was Saturday and I had been rather looking forward to spending
a large part of my time with my head under my pillow, avoiding the news
and pretending that I didn't own a bright red Chevy. Those plans had not
anticipated the rest of the guys showing up to 'see my new car' and ostensibly,
to hear all about my day from Hell. I guess a day was more than Quatre
could stand to wait.
The doorbell woke me, but Heero was already up, so I tried burying my
head in the blankets and ignoring it, hoping it was just a package delivery
or something. Mrs. Moffitt from up the hall borrowing sugar. A door-to-door
traveling evangelist. Mickey Mouse. I didn't care, just so long as whoever
it was left me alone. The sounds of voices in the living room not long
after, told me that not only was it not Mickey Mouse... the 'whoever it
was' was the guys, and they would not be leaving me alone. I sighed and
got up before somebody came after me.
I'd had kind of a crappy night, not really sleeping well, not having nightmares
exactly, but a series of bizarre dreams that involved fire in one form
or another, and the 'pocking' sound of gunshots.
I took the time to dress and do my hair before leaving the sanctuary of
my bedroom. I figured if they had the nerve to descend on us at this hour,
on a weekend, they could just fucking well wait.
I pulled on a clean pair of cargos and my 'Hell-Bound Beavers' shirt,
just because I was feeling pissy, and went out to meet the public.
They were already ensconced all over the living room and I did my best
to grumble a 'good morning' as I made my way through to the kitchen. This
was going to require a bit of caffeine.
I heard a tiny little grunt of shock from Heero through the replies of
the other guys, but I ignored it. When I came back from the kitchen with
my bottle of soda in hand, he was staring at me, wide-eyed. "You
let Relena wear that shirt out in public?"
I flashed him a grin that probably looked rather unabashed, hesitating
as I realized Trowa and Quatre were sitting in 'my' spot on the couch.
Heero was at the other end and Wufei had laid claim to the armchair. I
finally settled on one of the stools at the breakfast counter. "If
you will recall, I had nothing to do with dressing her Ladyship that day.
Besides... she was wearing one of my work shirts over it... you couldn't
see the back."
He'd never seen the back of the shirt before, and was managing to look
a little green thinking about sweet, innocent little Relena walking around
wearing a t-shirt with a group of beavers... well; they aren't called
the Hell-bound beavers for nothing. "Still," he muttered. "I
wish you'd told me. I can't believe she agreed to wear that thing!"
I couldn't help snickering. "If I know Toria... she probably never
let her see that picture."
He scowled darkly and I had to sigh. That had probably not been the best
thing to say. Heero was not Toria Brannigan's biggest fan to start with.
"We heard you're the proud owner of a new car, Duo," Trowa interjected
gently, quite obviously turning the conversation in a new direction.
[cont] [back to Sunhawk's