Warnings : Yaoi, angst/sap, lemon, OOC, language, Duo POV.
Thanks to Christy for beta reading once again faster than the speed of
light, and Em who is my new technical consultant. Thanks guys!
Feed-back is a dream I have.
And I don't own anything in this series, either.
[ note: again with me
not having time to format this my way... >_< ]
In the end, it was the stupid
closet that sold the house, though I’d certainly never let the Realtor
know that. Or Heero either, for that matter, it sounded kind of nuts.
It’s on the first floor, under the stairs. It’s like the builder just
put up walls around the bottom of the staircase and put a door into the
end. The inside of the closet is like... reverse stairs. Made me think
of an Escher painting. Made me think of some of the places we’d hidden
in when I was a kid. Made me think... secure, as stupid as that
When you first stepped into it, of course, it was well over your head
but as you moved forward you soon had to squat. If you wanted to get to
anything in the very back of the closet, under what would be the first
step, you practically had to lie down to reach it.
I was... enchanted. It was like finding a hidden room. I could envision
throwing a pile of blankets down way in the back and curling up with Solo
and the other kids. It would have been like a cave. Dark and close and
all the things that spoke to some ancient part of me of safety. Not that
Solo would ever have let us sleep there, since there was only one way
in and out, but somehow it was just the feel of the thing.
The upstairs had proven not to be a disaster, even having the added bonus
of a second bathroom right next to the master bedroom. There wasn’t a
doubt which room we would take for our own, nor was there any question
that nothing else would happen before we painted over the horrendous ‘rose-blush’
walls in it.
The day we had looked at the house again, poor Miss Montoya in tow, Heero
and I had gone our separate ways, looking at different aspects of the
place. Ok... I was exploring, he was looking for signs of termites; that’s
what I call different aspects. After about a half an hour, Heero had come
hunting for me and found me dangling from the bedroom ceiling, head stuck
up into the attic. He had demanded I climb down before I fell. I had complied,
grinning like a loon, and proffered a handful of walnut hulls, exclaiming
‘Squirrels!’ in utter delight. He just stood and stared at me for a moment,
then shook his head and went to get Miss Montoya.
Heero is very much the hard-ass negotiator that I had imagined he would
be. Poor woman never stood a chance. By the time Heero was done with her,
I thought she was going to agree to come and move us in herself. We were
going to have enough leeway left in our finances to actually furnish the
place, which was a good thing because Heero’s apartment came with the
furniture... almost none of it was his.
And yeah, I figured out much later that squirrels in your attic are not
necessarily a good thing. There were a lot of things I didn’t know in
the beginning. Like the ‘domino effect’. A term I had never heard before,
but quickly learned. Every homeowner in the world will learn it sooner
or later and we opted, quite unknowingly, for sooner.
Before we could paint, we had to pull nails and patch the holes. The former
owner must have had a picture fetish, because there had been a couple
dozen nails in the walls, some of them in the oddest places. While pulling
said nails, we discovered that there had been a leak at some point in
time, from a pipe in the wall. Examining the bathroom, on the other side
of that wall, had shown us were the repairs had been made, but the water
had soaked the plaster in the bedroom and no one had noticed. It had probably
been sitting there for years, just waiting for some poor sucker to come
along and innocently touch it. I was the sucker. The end result was a
great chunk of crumbling plaster all over the floor when I had set nail
puller to stubborn nail. And that, children, is an example of the domino
That had led us on a journey into the depths of a thing called a ‘home
improvement depot’. We walked through the doors of that place and I am
almost certain that I heard angels singing a carol of welcome. Or maybe
that was just the sound of Heero’s heavy sigh. Don’t laugh at me; I’d
never been in one before. Never had a home to improve before.
My God... those places can sell you anything, and tell you how
to use it. Or sell you books that tell you how to use it. And there’s
samples! It took Heero three hours to get me pried out of there.
We went in for a couple of gallons of paint and the stuff to plaster over
the massive defect in our bedroom wall, and left with a load of lumber,
three different colors of paint, four kinds of paint brushes, and a brand
Once we were far enough away that I stopped hearing the siren call of
tools and gadgets, appliances and lumber, I started worrying that Heero
was irritated with me, but every time I’d looked at him, he’d been giving
me one of those gentle little, pleased smiles. So I bulled forward
with mastering the art of sponge painting, and the ‘quick coat of paint’
that we’d intended to slap on the bedroom in an afternoon, turned into
a three week delay in our moving in.
Instead of plastering over the hole and trying to blend the patch in,
I opted to panel the bedroom all around the bottom half and paint the
top. A thing called the ‘chair rail’ gave us more trouble than anything.
Damn complicated thing this home improvement. We already had a small stack
of ‘How-to’ books and we weren’t even moved in yet.
But the bedroom was finally finished, the one thing that we’d wanted done
before we’d moved in, and I had to grin to myself as I cleaned out the
last of the paint brushes, thinking that we’d probably be sleeping in
the house by next weekend.
It was late on a Monday afternoon, and I’d been working all day, doing
the paint job in the bedroom. Heero had worked with me on the carpentry,
cutting, fitting and nailing up the tongue and groove wainscot, but had
adamantly insisted that he wasn’t any good with paint. I’d worked a Saturday
to get that Monday off; so that I’d be there when the delivery guys came
with the furniture we’d ordered. Heero’d had to work, but was supposed
to be bringing the guys afterward, each with a carload from the apartment.
The plan was for them to get another round of boxes moved, be there to
help us manhandle the furniture into place, and have a pizza dinner with
us before going home.
I’d left for the house at the crack of dawn, beating Heero out of the
apartment by a good hour, and worked like a mad man all day to get the
paint job finished before the guys got there. I was exhausted, fighting
a paint-fume headache, but otherwise feeling fairly pleased. The job was
done, it looked pretty damn good, even if I did have to say so myself,
and we would have enough furniture by the end of the day to get serious
about moving out of the apartment for good.
I had just finished with the brushes, and was reaching for the cup on
the back of the sink to get a drink when I heard the knock at the front
door. Forgetting about the water, I made my way to the living room, running
a hand through my sweaty bangs as I went. Who would have thought you could
get so damned hot as cold as it was outside?
I could see a big man standing on the front porch... our front
porch, through the door glass. Sure looked like a delivery guy to me;
he was holding a clipboard and looking a little disgruntled. I imagined
this was their last stop for the day and they had a shit-load of stuff
to cart up my front steps. I did my best not to grin at him like a loon.
There were four guys all told, three big, burly ones that towered over
me and a fourth who wasn’t any bigger than I was. Of course, he
was the one who did most of the damn work. It was comical as all hell
to watch. I did my best not to laugh, as the guy made two trips for every
one the other three managed. It took them a surprisingly short amount
of time to dump a truckload of furniture into my living room, get my signature
and high tail it off into the sunset. Well, a figurative sunset, it wasn’t
that late yet by a long shot. In fact, it would probably be another hour
before Heero and the guys showed up, so I started distributing the pieces
of furniture I could move on my own. Might as well get as much done as
I could, I reasoned, there was no sense in just sitting around waiting.
I thought about that drink of water again and promised it to myself as
a reward when I was done.
We had a brand new dining room table with a set of six chairs. The chairs
were simple enough and I moved them all to the little... you couldn’t
call it a dining room, it wasn’t big enough. Breakfast nook? Eating room?
Kitchen annex? Whatever. I put the chairs there, against the wall and
out of the way, until we got the table moved, and stripped the little
bit of token packing material off them. I kind of wanted to get the table
in there, but a couple of experimental shoves told me I’d only end up
tearing the floor up trying to move it by myself, best to leave it until
I had help.
The couch too, was going to have to wait, but I managed the coffee table
and matching end tables with no problem. The armchair was a massive thing,
but I found I could just reach across the seat, catching the two arms
and managed to waddle across the room with it. I set it in place with
a massive groan of effort and straightened, rather pleased with myself...
and almost fell down. The room tilted dangerously, and I had to reach
out for support, my questing fingers finding purchase on the chair I’d
just moved. What the hell?
I locked my knees because they were feeling kind of saggy, and just bent
over at the waist, supported by my arms on the chair. Ok... this was...
unexpected. I won’t try to say that it wasn’t a damn familiar feeling,
but one I hadn’t had in months.
That part of my brain that recognized the sensation was quick to supply
me with a catalog of my blunders. Paint fumes; no ventilation. Too hot;
no water breaks. No breakfast, no lunch.
And then I heard footsteps on the front porch. Well... crap. I straightened,
but the room tilted again and I had to clutch at the chair, knowing damn
good and well I was swaying on my feet. Fuck.
‘Duo?’ I heard called from outside and I managed to turn myself around
and dump my ass into the seat of the chair.
‘Come on in, Qat,’ I called and winced when my voice came out sounding
kind of strained.
The door opened and both Quatre and Trowa came hesitantly in, their eyes
sweeping the room until they spotted me. I could tell the instant they
saw me, they knew something was up. I sighed. They didn’t run across the
room, ok? But they didn’t waste any time getting to me either.
‘Duo?’ Quatre asked fearfully. ‘What’s wrong? You look...’ he fumbled
for an appropriate word and glanced at Trowa.
Trowa snorted softly. ‘White as a ghost,’ he supplied and his hand brushed
across my forehead. ‘And sweat soaked.’
Somewhere in the back of my head, it was in me to try to cover this up.
I guess it’s a habit ingrained as deep as my need for independence. At
least... that’s what Dr. Webster, my one time therapist, had told me.
My upbringing had taught me that signs of weakness were a very bad thing.
Therefore all signs of weakness had to be hidden away as fast as possible.
I looked up at my two friends, hovering over me with concern on their
faces, sighed again, took a deep breath and made myself say, ‘I... I’m
sorry, but I don’t feel so good.’
The admission was almost worth the pole-axed look on their faces.
Quatre knelt in front of me, reaching for my hand. He’d been doing that
a lot lately, ever since that stupid disaster of a cookout, forcing himself
to touch my hands. I didn’t much care for it, but sometimes there was
just no way to avoid it, that didn’t amount to ‘damn rude’.
‘What’s wrong?’ he repeated, his voice gentling, and I flushed. Or I tried
to flush. Ok, I didn’t exactly try, but my face seemed to want
to without permission and... ah hell; you know what I mean.
Maybe this embarrassment factor had something to do with my normally hiding
stupid shit like this?
‘Just a little dizzy,’ I muttered, suddenly not able to look either of
them in the eye. The pattern of paint spatters on my jeans was suddenly
very damn interesting.
Then Trowa had me by the arm and was pulling me to my feet. ‘Come on,’
he said rather congenially. ‘We need to get you out of these paint fumes.’
‘But,’ I stuttered. ‘Its just water-based latex...’
He cut me off with a chuckle, wrapping an arm around me to steady me as
the three of us made our way toward the front door. ‘Duo... it reeks in
here. How long have you been working in it?’
‘Since this morning?’ I evaded and evoked a matching set of heavy sighs.
‘I had to get done before the furniture got here!’ I blurted, feeling
defensive, and already kind of sorry that I’d opened my mouth.
‘Where’s your coat, Duo?’ Quatre asked, and the tone of his voice made
me look up at him. The somewhat... amused affection in his eyes was enough
to make the blush happen despite me.
‘In the kitchen,’ I mumbled grudgingly. He and Trowa shared one of those
looks, the kind I hate, that passes large amounts of data in some form
unreadable by anyone outside the couple involved. The couple’s look. I’m
sure I’ve mentioned it before.
The end result was Quatre went off to fetch the afore-mentioned article
of clothing while Trowa finished the job of maneuvering me out of the
house where he settled us on the steps.
I had to admit that the fresh air made me more aware of the cloying taste
in my mouth that had been coming from the paint. I took a couple of deep
breaths of the stuff and shivered convulsively. My headache settled to
a dull throb between my eyes and I was just suddenly very... damn tired.
I slumped forward a little bit and propped my elbows on my knees, wishing
that I had someplace I could just go lie down for a few minutes.
‘It’s nice here, Duo,’ Trowa said genially and it rather surprised me.
I snorted softly. ‘It doesn’t seem too... rustic, next to your place?’
He gave me a little grin, leaning back on his elbows and stretching his
long legs out in front of us. ‘I think that’s what I like,’ he mused.
‘It’s... peaceful here. Simple.’
I twisted to look over at him, and found him with his head dropped back,
looking up at the sky. ‘Peaceful,’ I echoed, and turned away from the
sight of him, looking so fit and strong. I looked out across my narrow
front yard, watching the black birds hop around the dried grass, looking
for whatever the hell it is black birds eat. ‘You know,’ I told him. ‘I’m
not sure I’d have this place now, if it weren’t for you. Did I ever thank
I thought I heard a sigh, but he chuckled lightly right on top of it,
so I wasn’t sure. ‘Several times, Duo.’
I grinned across at him. ‘Driving it in the ground, am I?
‘Just a little,’ he told me amiably, and grinned back at me to make sure
the words didn’t sting.
‘Can’t help it,’ I told him softly. ‘I love this place, it’s full of...’
I started to say ghosts, but stopped myself. ‘History.’
‘I didn’t do anything but nudge the two of you in the right conversational
direction,’ he said, voice holding a hint of the amusement he’d gleefully
exhibited that night.
I just laughed and shook my head, not really wanting to start an exchange
that had anything to do with communication. But the action made
my head feel funny again, so I stopped. In the lull, I heard the front
screen door open behind us.
Quatre reappeared and I took my coat from him before he could start trying
to put it on me. I wondered what had taken him so long as he settled on
the step on my other side, but then he held out a glass of water. His
expression showing just a hint of trepidation, as though he were afraid
I would be angry with him for bringing it. ‘You looked... hot,’ he told
me, and almost made me laugh.
I took the glass with a rueful little smirk. ‘Fetch the coat ‘cause it’s
too cold... bring water ‘cause it’s too hot...’ I mumbled and he grinned
The water was a damn balm though, and after the first swallow I couldn’t
seem to stop until the glass was completely drained. When I lowered the
cup again, I found two pairs of eyes watching me suspiciously.
‘Duo...’ Quatre began in a warning tone and I couldn’t help sighing.
‘It was hot working upstairs all day,’ I grumbled.
‘Exactly how long have you been here?’ Trowa asked, a hint of something
unnamable coloring his tone.
‘I came out first thing this morning,’ I hedged, glancing from one to
‘Duo,’ Quatre suddenly sounded suspicious. ‘Have you stopped to eat at
I felt my face warming as I realized how damn predictable I apparently
was. ‘I had to get the bedroom painted before the furniture got here.’
I said, feeling a strange sense of déjà vu, hadn’t I explained
this once? Quatre gave me a look of mild reproach, but on my other side,
Trowa chuckled dryly.
‘So let me summarize briefly,’ he grinned at me. ‘You’ve been working
since... what? Seven? Eight this morning? Without a break, without food,
without water, in an unventilated, hot room?’
I refrained from mentioning that it had actually been five in the morning,
not seven or eight. ‘Well, when you put it that way,’ I muttered, turning
the water glass in my hands. ‘It does sound kind of...’
‘Stupid?’ Quatre suggested helpfully and I mock glared at him.
‘Let’s just call it less than bright, all right?’ I finished and endured
another round of chuckles at my expense.
Before I knew what was happening, or could decide whether I wanted to
object or not, Trowa had pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and punched
a button. Watching him hold the thing up to his ear, knowing who he was
probably calling, I damn near reached out and grabbed the thing from him.
It was a combination of Francis, my repress hamster, and knowing just
how stupid I’d look, wrestling Trowa for his cell phone that kept me from
doing it. Hell, I figured I probably already looked stupid enough. And
I wasn’t in any kind of shape to win a tussle with Trowa anyway.
‘Hey, Wufei... it’s Trowa,’ he said after a suitable pause and the call
was answered. ‘You guys on your way yet?’ Another pause, not as long,
and then, ‘No... that’s fine. Quatre and I had an early lunch today and
we’re pretty hungry, could you two go ahead and stop for the pizza on
your way?’ It took long enough for Wufei to answer, that I suspect he
was conferring with Heero. When he came back to the line, the answer must
have been yes, because Trowa closed with, ‘Great... see you when you get
I might very well have breathed a sigh of relief when he finally terminated
the call. I looked down at the glass that I found rolling between my hands,
not really sure I wanted to look at either of them and blurted, ‘You’re
going to help me cover this up?’
There was a rather heavy sigh from my left, where Quatre sat, but Trowa
only reached out and put his hand on my shoulder for a moment. ‘I didn’t
cover up anything,’ he told me in that bland tone he has. ‘What you tell
Heero is your business. But understand... I won’t sit by and let you work
yourself until you pass out.’
It made me look up at him and the obvious tenderness in his eyes made
my face flame and I went back to looking into the empty depths of the
‘Now we are going to unload our car,’ he informed me in a voice
that would brook no argument. ‘And you are going to sit and rest
until dinner gets here.’
‘Come on, man,’ I groaned. ‘It was a simple little dizzy spell, it’s not
like I even fell!’
‘And we’d like to keep it that way,’ Quatre muttered under his breath.
I grudgingly gave in, because I honestly didn’t have much of a choice.
But I felt like a flaming idiot sitting on my ass while they carted box
after box past me. I finally had to leave the steps, going around the
house to sit on the back stoop before I fiddled the damn end right off
my braid. I was feeling completely humiliated, and a little bit angry
with myself. I guess it had been kind of a stupid thing to do, but sometimes
it’s so easy to forget that physically I’m not quite up to Gundam pilot
standards anymore. I’d had to watch myself, and be so damn careful, for
so long after that accident. I was so far removed from those first days,
that sometimes I could almost forget that I still needed to make allowances,
needed to remember that my body wasn’t quite that of a seventeen year
old who’d just come off some of the most extreme training known to man.
Hell... sometimes I wondered if I could manage that training now, if I
were to have to do it all over again. I consoled my wounded ego with the
promise of an elusive ‘someday’ and tried to distract myself with watching
the blackbirds hop around the backyard. Someday wouldn’t cure everything,
but it truly should eventually cure my physical condition. The
doctors had all told me so, that I’d done no permanent damage. So I held
out for someday and tried not to let myself wonder when it was going to
Blackbirds are just weird things. They walk with this ridiculous head-bobbing
thing going on that usually makes me grin. Like they’re doing some stupid
dance that nobody else can hear the music for. They’re kind of pretty,
in an oily sort of way, when the sun shines on them at least. And the
sun was shining, here in the backyard where the porch wasn’t covered,
and it was warming me, taking the chill of the air away. It was soothing
and oddly nice, that contrast of winter air and warm sun. Either the heat
or the fresh air was easing my headache, and I decided I’d better get
up when I found myself nodding drowsily.
I went in the back door, making my way through my studio yet to be, and
down the hall toward the living room. It was the tone of Quatre’s voice;
sounding oddly caught somewhere between amused and shocked that made me
slow my steps.
‘Trowa!’ he gasped out, sounding like he was trying to stifle a
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