Expectations (cont)

He sighed and smiled, pulling me into a tight hug. ‘I wanted it to be... ours. You were doing all the work, and I wanted a hand in it too. Is it... all right?’

‘Perfect,’ I repeated, holding him tight.

I could have wept. He got it. He really fucking got it. I’d had his reassurances, but until that moment I hadn’t been sure that he truly understood how important it was that this become our home and not just the home that Heero gave me.

‘Thank you,’ I told him, and kissed him like tomorrow wasn’t going to dawn.

‘Only eight more rooms to go,’ he sighed, when I let him.

‘Don’t care,’ I whispered against his lips, going back for more of what I needed from him. ‘We can do it... we can do anything together.’

I felt his body stirring in response to my kisses... in response to my words. ‘Oh God, Duo... don’t make me be the responsible one... we’ll never get back to the apartment.’

I laughed, but it took some physical effort to pry myself off him.

We did leave then, because we had to, but at least I got Chinese take-out for dinner and not another form of liver.

It took us until well after midnight to pack up almost all that was left. We were both rather surprised at just how much crap was there. All the dishes and food that we’d hung onto out of the kitchen took us several hours alone. It’s kind of amazing how much stuff you just can’t do without over a long term. The place looked pretty dismal by the time we were done, with a couple of dozen big packing boxes stacked in the living room and all the personal stuff gone. It looked kind of sad and... abandoned.

The last two hours I thought Heero was going to give himself an ulcer trying not to fuss over me. He wanted so desperately to make me stop working and just finish on his own; it was about to kill him. I’ll be the first to admit I was pretty damn tired and sore by the time we were done, but I was not feeling dizzy and I’d be damned if I could sit back and just watch Heero work.

We were barely through with the last of the stuff we could do without in the morning, before Heero was steering me off to the shower.

We were both too tired for any more horsing around though, just getting clean and almost falling into bed still damp. I curled against him with a groan of relief, just happy to finally be prone.

‘You doing ok?’ he asked hesitantly, arm winding around me.

‘I’m fine,’ I smiled against his chest, reaching to rub my knuckles reassuringly up and down his arm, eyes drooping already. ‘I just can’t believe we’re finally going to be doing this tomorrow. Finally getting out of here.’

He was quiet, dropping a kiss on the top of my head, and letting his fingers trace random patterns over my back. ‘Did you... really hate it here that much?’

My eyes blinked open and I contemplated the smooth expanse of his chest as I thought about that one. ‘No, I didn’t hate it. I just... never felt like I belonged. I always felt like your... guest.’

‘Should I have... moved us into someplace new, when you first got out of the hospital?’ he asked, sounding hesitant and very unlike Heero.

I couldn’t help grinning. ‘It wouldn’t have mattered if you’d moved us into a cave at that stage, love, or the Taj Mahal.’ Then I thought about something. ‘Are you... sorry to be leaving here?’

‘No,’ he breathed, pulling me in close and slipping his leg under mine until we were twined together like a couple of snakes. ‘I’ve lived here for a while, but you’ve shown me it was never really a home the way our house is going to be. It’s just...’ he hesitated.

‘Just what, love?’ I prompted, tilting my head to look up at him.

He looked almost... guilty for what he was about to confess. ‘Not all of my memories of our time here are... bad ones.’

That was kind of an odd bend to be making to my head when I was already so tired and groggy. Trying to look at some of my worst moments from the outside. Heero had told me before that he liked taking care of me. While I had been on the edges of a frustration driven nervous breakdown, had he been... enjoying those times? Bathing me, carrying me from place to place until I’d regained enough strength to sit up in a wheel chair for more than five minutes. Cooking for me. Reading to me.

It was too much of a twist to ask my poor brain to make that late at night and I stopped trying. Letting myself drift off to sleep with the feel of Heero’s hand brushing languidly up and down my back.

Morning was pretty much a sucky blur. We had to get up entirely too damn early to finish being ready before the movers were scheduled to arrive. The first thing I did was hunt up the box of bathroom supplies and rip that puppy back open, extracting the bottle of aspirin and the tube of Ben-Gay before even thinking about getting dressed.

The next time I passed Heero in the middle of the strange landscape that was the living room; he wrinkled his nose and caught at my arm. ‘We’re paying these people to do a job. You do not need to be lifting and carrying today... that’s what they’ll be here for.’

‘I won’t, if you won’t,’ I grinned at him, and could tell I took him by surprise.

‘Fair enough,’ he agreed with a sigh that told me he thought it was anything but. I just smirked at him.

The movers were there promptly at nine and looked a little surprised that there wasn’t more stuff to be moved than there was. They actually looked rather pleased when they realized the only furniture that would be going with us was the couch and one bed. It only served to make me feel like more of a wimp though; we really should have been able to handle the last of things on our own.

It was all downstairs and loaded into the somewhat too large moving truck within an hour and a half. I did my best to just stay out of the way.

Heero gave the two guys the address and promised to meet them at the house within the hour. They took off down the stairs talking about the fact that they’d have time to stop and grab lunch on the way.

I couldn’t help making one more walk through of the place, once the whirlwind of burly box movers wasn’t fracturing my thoughts any more. Heero was in his own room, doing the same, I suspected and I made my way into the room that had been mine for... God... for how long? Had it been a year yet? Not quite, but getting close. It looked weird with the bed gone. Though we wouldn’t be using it ourselves, it still belonged to us and there was no reason not to put it in a guest room. I paced around the room, looking for the signs that said this had been my... sanctuary for so long.

Because, I suppose it had been. I’m not sure I’d have gotten by in those early days if I hadn’t had that room to retreat to. Someplace where I could hide for awhile.

‘Still runnin’ and hidin’,’ Solo tsked near my ear. ‘Still a street kid down to yer soul.’

‘Yeah,’ I sighed. ‘Guess I’ll always be one of your street rats, old friend.’

‘Damn straight,’ he muttered, looking around with me. ‘Damn straight.’

‘Let’s blow this place, King-rat,’ I whispered and he went on without me, winking from the sight he’d never really been in.

I found Heero standing in the living room waiting for me, an oddly wistful look on his face. When he saw me, he stretched out a hand, asking me to join him. I went as I was beckoned and found myself taken by the arms to be turned around. ‘See that?’ he whispered.

‘See what?’ I queried, not at all sure what I was supposed to be noticing about the wall.

‘The window,’ he told me, voice very damn strange. ‘Can you remember that for me? The way the sun falls through it... the shape of it?’

I studied it with the artist’s eye that kept things where I could get at them later. Looked at the slant of sunlight. Saw the dance of dust motes. Felt the grain of the wood trim. Knew the mathematics of the grid the windowpanes formed. ‘Yes,’ I told him.

‘I want you to draw that for me some day,’ he said then, hands on my upper arms tightening. ‘I want you to draw yourself, standing there looking out at whatever it was you used to see... I found you there so often... I want you to capture that for me.’

I flushed, but couldn’t deny the almost thick emotion in his voice. ‘All right,’ I promised. ‘I’ll try.’

That seemed to be enough, and he let go of my arms and turned away. ‘Let’s go then,’ he said, voice kind of brusque. I knew better than to poke at him in the mood he seemed to be in. I think leaving that place was a little harder than he admitted to. A little harder than he had realized it would be.

We didn’t look back.

The moving truck was a good ten minutes behind us despite our slight delay, and we had time to get the house opened up and decide where we were going to put the things they would be bringing. The couch we had talked about selling, since we’d already bought an entire matching living room suite, but for the time being at least, it was going into my studio. The boxes were clearly tagged and we could have them hauled off to either the kitchen, the bathroom, or the spare bedroom based on that labeling.

I can remember looking around at the sea of packing boxes that were already all over the house and wondering if we’d ever get it all unpacked. I wondered if we would ever find everything. And then I wondered how the two of us were ever going to fill the space that was our new home. It suddenly seemed... very vast.

When the truck finally arrived, I just assigned myself kitchen-duty and once again tried to stay out of the way, letting Heero direct the offloading and delivery. I didn’t feel quite so bad if I wasn’t actually watching other people sweating and straining to move my stuff.

There was plenty to do, unpacking the food and dishes and deciding where we were going to keep things, that I didn’t have to think too hard about how much I felt like a lazy moron.

Heero had been right about one thing; the kitchen really did need to be gutted and redone. It was horribly unhandy and awkward, almost as though someone had started to remodel and never finished. The refrigerator was a mile and a half from anything else in the room; clear over in the corner across from the doorway into living room. The sink was an old thing, porcelain over some sort of steel or something, and all chipped. The cabinets all had this ugly floral contact paper on the shelves. All told, there were four doors in the damn room, one into the dining room, two on the living room wall, and the door down into the basement. It crossed my mind as I was putting away cans of soup, that it would make sense to close off one of the doors on the living room side; it would offer us more options and we certainly didn’t need another way out of the stupid room.

In the bottom of the box that held some of the dry goods, I found the file folder that had been lying on our kitchen table back at the apartment all week. It had gotten shoved in between the boxes of cereal at the last minute. I pulled it out to put on the counter for later, but then was moved to open the thing one more time.

There was a hell of a lot in that little folder. It held the pre-requisite hopes and dreams, layered in with a whopping big bundle of change. There were a couple of sheets of history right next to a couple more pieces of the future. There were some fears. There were some tears. All wrapped up in a deceptively simple manila folder simply labeled, ‘house’.

It wasn’t all about the house, but if it wasn’t directly related to our acquisition, it had been spawned by that purchase and had ended up in the same folder until we’d moved in enough to have a filing system again.

I looked at our copies of each other’s Power of Attorney. I looked at the copy of our wills. Same sex marriages aren’t exactly legal where we live, but we were about as close as you could get without the flowers and the rice. That kind of hit me for the first time, standing there in our kitchen getting ready to put away a box of saltines in our ugly kitchen cupboards. We were pretty much a married couple. Death do us part and all that damn shit.

That made me think about the woman who had lived here before us. The woman who had loved this house probably more than I could ever imagine. I found my fingers leafing forward, looking for our copy of what was half ours and half the banks, for now. It took a bit of looking to find the woman’s name behind all the legal jargon and the name of the executor of her estate. It kind of made me shiver, thinking about that, having just looked at my own will. I wondered if the woman had ever imagined outliving her husband. Had ever imagined on the day they moved in, how her life would end.

Patricia Dent. I wondered what her husband had called her. Pat? Patti? Tricia? I looked a little farther and found his name too. Lester. Lester and Patricia Dent. Les and Patti, I decided. Mostly because Pat Dent just sounded... weird.

I wondered if she’d hated this kitchen and had nagged at Les to get around to remodeling it. Or maybe she was too busy with her flowers and plants to care that the kitchen was less than... optimally arranged. Maybe she’d loved it. Maybe she wouldn’t be happy with us for thinking about changing it.

I emptied another box, stepping away from the counter to add it to the stack by the door, opening the next full one. I found Heero’s box of tea and decided to store it in the cabinet nearest the stove. Heero had kept it in a similar place and I guess I was hoping it would help things seem more familiar for him. I opened the cabinet door, placing the box inside, and started to close it again before something caught my eye. There was a small piece of paper taped to the inside of the door, down in the corner and I felt my heart give a little leap of discovery. There was a verse printed on it, looking like it had been typed on a manual typewriter.

‘Yes, in the poor man’s garden grow
Far more than herbs and flowers-
Kind thoughts, contentment, peace of mind,

And joy for weary hours.’ [2]

I had to smile, imagining the woman coming out every morning to get her cup of coffee or maybe even tea like Heero drank. Reading her little verse to remind herself of all the things she had, even in her darker moments. I thought about her puttering with her plants and flowers and thinking about those lines. I’d be willing to bet that once upon a time there had been a vegetable garden in our back yard. I wondered where it was, and in that moment knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would learn to garden someday. I would learn how to grow our own food, could already imagine how good it would taste. Sister Helen would like that. And I would learn how to grow flowers too... because Patricia Dent would like that even better.

‘Duo?’ Heero’s voice, tinged with concern, brought me out of my reverie and I turned to find him standing in the kitchen doorway, holding a box, and looking at me quizzically. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Unpacking,’ I told him absently. ‘Do you know anything about gardening?’

He blinked at me for a second before shaking his head. ‘Not really. Why?’

‘I think... I think I want to learn how,’ I told him and watched while he sat down the box he was holding to come to where I was standing.

‘You do?’ he smiled gently. ‘And what, pray tell, did you find in the tea cabinet that made you want to take up digging in the dirt?’

I flushed and frowned at him. ‘What makes you think that I found anything...’

He chuckled, his hand settling on mine where it still held the doorknob, pulling the door open a little wider. ‘Because you’ve been standing here, staring into an empty cupboard for several minutes now.’

He saw the little square of paper and raised his hand to brush his fingers over it, looking puzzled.

‘Leave it?’ I asked and he glanced at me oddly before looking close enough to read the thing. Then he smiled and leaned in to place a gentle kiss on my cheek.

‘All right,’ he said simply, and went back to work.

I swear, the movers were done moving us in faster than they had moved us out of the apartment. But then, I suppose they didn’t have near as many stairs to deal with. It was something of a relief when I finally heard Heero seeing them out, making arrangements to have the bill mailed to us.

Once they were gone, Heero insisted on keeping the unpacking to the bare minimum. I’d pretty much finished in the kitchen, and Heero had us concentrate on the bathroom supplies and the clothes we would need to get through the weekend.

There was part of me that wanted to tackle more, wanted to clean up the mess and just work until everything was unpacked. I didn’t really like the... chaos. The clutter of boxes and the irritation of not being able to find anything. It went against my spacer ‘everything in its place’ instincts.

But there was another part that was getting really damn tired and just wanted to stop for the night. Part of me that wanted to go lie down on that new bed and just try and let this whole ‘ownership’ thing soak down into my bones.

So when Heero finally made it plain that he wasn’t letting me work any more for the night, I didn’t really fight it all that much. ‘Make you a deal,’ I grinned at him instead. ‘If you’ll let me cook dinner while you shower... I’ll let you wash the dishes while I shower and we’ll be done for the night, ok?’

If he suspected my offer to cook was mostly just to make sure I didn’t get spinach again, he didn’t let on. He even managed to keep from asking me, again, if I was all right before he left for the upstairs bathroom.

In retrospect, I wish I’d thought about that being our first meal in our new home and had managed something better than I did. We had deliberately been letting the perishables dwindle over the last week, so we didn’t have to worry about moving so much. All I could come up with was canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It looked rather damn pathetic when I set it on the table, so I opened a can of fruit cocktail to go with it. That kind of made it look even worse, but when Heero came down from the shower, still toweling his hair dry, he didn’t say a word. Just sat down and dug in like it was a five star meal. It did taste pretty good, or maybe it was just the fact that we were so hungry.

I found my bottle of iron tablets pressed into my hand just as we were finishing and I had to wonder if he’d been carrying them in his pocket all day to make sure they didn’t get misplaced. I suppose it beat being force-fed liver and onions, so I didn’t complain about the touch of obsessive behavior on his part, just took the damn thing and settled the bottle on the shelf over the sink before going off for my shower.

‘The plumbing job is... amateur, apparently,’ Heero warned me just as I was leaving the room. ‘The hot and cold faucets are reversed.’

I had to chuckle, imagining him making the discovery the hard way. ‘Thanks,’ I called back over my shoulder, hearing him rattling around looking for the dish soap.

Heero had left me a stack of fresh towels with my shampoo and conditioner lying on top of them where I couldn’t miss them on the counter. I was tired enough that the gesture got cataloged in my brain under ‘sweet’ and not ‘annoying’.

It felt like... showering in a hotel room, or at a friend’s house. Weird. I wondered how long it would take before things felt more like we belonged there.

Heero had been right about the faucets; though they were labeled the way you would expect them to be, with hot on the left, but hot was cold and cold was hot. I was starting to imagine that good old Lester hadn’t been much of a handyman.

About half way through the shower, it kind of came to me that this would be our first night together in our new home. I stopped thinking about being tired and going to sleep, and started thinking... about other things.

I won’t say that I consciously thought ‘this is our first night in our new home and I want it to be special’. I won’t say I was thinking much of anything. I just suddenly wanted Heero’s arms around me, wanted the anchor his touch always brought. Wished I’d waited and we’d come up here together. I’m afraid I rather rushed the rest of my shower, skipping the conditioner part of the ritual all together.

I was out, combed and toweled to the point I wasn’t dripping, in my ages old time limit without really even meaning to. I couldn’t have told you, in that moment, what I wanted or what was going through my head. I actually felt kind of stupid; there was just the vague need to be with Heero. To find Heero and touch him... hold on to him.

I left the bathroom and drifted to the top of the stairs, not sure about going down to find him. The house was quiet and it seemed wrong to call out for him. It was a very... strange moment. I felt like a stranger in my own skin. In my own home. I hesitated in the hall at the top of the stairs, finally hearing Heero as he moved about on the first floor.

He came to the foot of the stairs, perhaps curious why the shower had stopped running so soon. Perhaps having heard me come to stand there like a loon.

‘Duo?’ he called, voice subdued as if he felt the strangeness of the moment too. I simply held out my hand and he came up the stairs to take it. ‘Is everything all right?’ he asked gently.

I nodded, smiling for him, and stepped backwards, drawing him toward our bedroom. Our bedroom. It was like an electric tingle on my skin as we passed through the doorway into that new but familiar place. I felt it starting to sink into my head... into my heart. Our bedroom. I lead him to the side of the bed and stopped, letting go of his hand.

I stood there in front of him; naked as the day I was born and found myself glad my hair was unbound. I needed the cover. Needed the shelter. I felt unbelievably vulnerable like that, him fully dressed and me... not. His eyes were... very intense. Almost... hungry.

[back] [cont] [back to Sunhawk's fic]