‘No,’ I informed them, moving
away, keeping my back turned. I knew every moment that passed would make
my eyes less damp looking. ‘Though he ought to be back any minute, he
only ran out to order the carpet for the bedroom.’
I heard them settling on the couch together, so I went to sit in the armchair,
as far away as I could get without being obvious.
‘Why in the world did he go without you?’ Quatre asked, voice puzzled.
I sighed, realizing suddenly that they didn’t have a clue about my new
Preventor employee entertainment act. On the one hand, I have to admit
it was a pleasant change from the normal ex-pilot information net that
seemed to pass data instantaneously between all four of them. But on the
other hand, I wasn’t all that thrilled with having to sit there and explain
‘I...’ I began, sighing again. ‘I kinda had some... more problems with
being lightheaded. Heero wanted me to stay home and... rest.’
‘We didn’t wake you, did we?’ Quatre asked, his expression flickering
faintly with guilt.
‘Nah,’ I waved dismissively. ‘I was just trying to catch up on some things.’
Quatre seemed to accept that, but Trowa was eyeing me closely, so I looked
away. ‘So what brings you guys all the way out here?’ I asked by way of
Quatre’s face did something funny. He got this weird little smile, this
strange glitter coming into his eyes. He looked like... a kid on Christmas
morning. He turned his gaze to Trowa, smile widening. ‘Well... we should
probably wait for Heero...’ he said, but his tone of voice was clearly
asking Trowa’s permission to not wait for Heero.
‘I don’t think it would matter,’ Trowa said, smiling benignly at his partner.
Quatre fairly lit up, and a small box was suddenly brought into view.
I couldn’t believe I’d missed seeing him carry it in.
‘We wanted to get you and Heero a house-warming present,’ he told me,
grinning from ear to ear.
‘Don’t you traditionally give house-warming gifts after the house
has been moved into?’ I teased, eyeing the thing in his hands. It was
a flat little box, gold with a red ribbon around it. It crossed my mind
that it was just about the size of a bank check. I hoped to God Quatre
wasn’t getting ready to do something... overblown.
‘We thought you might want this sooner than that,’ Trowa told me, and
when I looked, there was a touch of Quatre’s excitement hiding in the
backs of his eyes.
Quatre proffered the box and I really didn’t have much choice but to accept
it. I glanced from one of them to the other, but really couldn’t get a
clue. I kind of wished Heero were there to take some of the focus of their
‘Open it, Duo,’ Quatre prodded me, and I thought for a surreal moment
that he was going to start bouncing where he sat.
Let it be known that Quatre Winner likes to give gifts. I suspect that
it takes a lot of ‘reining in’ on Trowa’s part, to keep him from showering
us all with things like... houses and cars. He is particularly bad if
he’s worried about you for some reason. I had been the recipient of everything
from new sheets to books, when I’d first gotten out of the hospital after
the accident. I wondered if whatever I was holding in my hands had been
prompted by my dizzy spell at the house the other day.
I slipped the red bow off, the ribbon falling into my lap in a coil. The
box proved to be one of those things that looks wrapped, but really isn’t.
I gingerly lifted the lid, only to find a folded up piece of paper nestled
in a nest of tissue paper. At least it didn’t look like a check.
Sparing a glance at Trowa and Quatre, I plucked the paper out and set
the box aside. When I unfolded it, I discovered a picture that looked
like it was cut from a catalog or something of that nature. It was a picture
of a large four-poster bed. It was a massive looking thing, solid oak,
and looked like it was going to go in our bedroom like it was made for
We hadn’t bought a new bed because Heero’d had to buy one when I’d moved
in with him. What was now ‘my room’, had been a study prior to my accident.
I hadn’t known that the bed was his until we started talking about buying
furniture for the new house. There was not a thing wrong with that bed;
while it was nothing to write home about, it was perfectly serviceable
and we had opted to keep it.
But you know? I hadn’t been thrilled about it. I hate that bed. It reminds
me of those dark, dark days at the beginning of my convalescence. Reminds
me of nights spent sobbing into my pillow, desperately trying to keep
Heero from hearing me. Nights of lying awake and wondering if I’d ever
be able to walk again. But that didn’t justify buying a new one. There
was technically nothing wrong with the old one.
I didn’t know I’d lost control of those tears I’d fought off until Quatre
was sitting on the arm of my chair and I was suddenly wrapped up in his
‘How did you know?’ I had to ask him, scrubbing at my face again, wishing
I hadn’t gone through so many of those damn e-mail messages in one sitting.
‘It’s just how I would have felt,’ he said simply.
I took a deep breath and managed to get things stifled, glancing around
his arm and noting that Trowa wasn’t in the room anymore. ‘Thank you,’
I told him, not really knowing what else to say.
‘You’re welcome,’ he told me, sounding amused. ‘I take it you like it?’
I snorted and straightened. He let me go, but stayed perched on the arm
of the oversized chair. ‘It’s perfect, Quat,’ I smiled for him.
He grinned back at me, satisfied that I was pulling myself together, I
think. ‘I had seen it in the furniture shop, and when I saw that room
of yours, I just knew they were made to go together.’
I looked at the picture in my hands again, faintly chagrined to find a
water spot on it, and blotted it on my sleeve. ‘I wanted a new one...
wanted to start... clean somehow,’ I told him, not sure what prompted
me to say it. ‘But I didn’t know how to ask. It seemed... stupid.’
‘How you feel about something is never stupid, Duo,’ Quatre told me, sounding
oddly defensive. ‘Heero should have thought of it.’
‘I think you can forgive Heero missing the sapling for the forest of redwoods,
little heart,’ Trowa said, suddenly reappearing behind us, handing us
each a glass of soda. I took mine gratefully, sipping at it and smoothing
the picture of my new bed against my thigh.
Quatre chuckled lightly, accepting his own glass. ‘Well, I expect the
man to take better care of my big brother,’ he proclaimed in a somewhat
arrogant tone. I almost snorted soda out my nose. Quatre looked pleased,
and Trowa sympathetically patted my back while I cleared fizzing liquid
from my airway.
When I stopped coughing, they moved off to sit on the sofa again. ‘It’s
to be delivered before Friday,’ Quatre told me. ‘So if you still think
you’re making the move this weekend, you’ll have it.’
I had to sigh, thinking about how hard I’d worked to see to it that we
made that self-imposed dead-line. ‘I don’t know,’ I confessed. ‘I’m not
sure Heero’s going to try for it... since...’ I trailed off, not sure
I wanted to say more. Not sure just what to tell them.
But Trowa was looking at me intently and I knew he was onto the fact that
something had happened that they didn’t know about. ‘Duo?’ he questioned
gently, cocking his head to look at me in that way he has that makes me
feel buck-naked and turned wrong side out. ‘The rest of the story?’
I felt my face flaming and dropped my gaze to the depths of my soda glass.
‘There was an accident at the garage yesterday and I kinda... passed out,’
I muttered. ‘I’m on two days of medical leave per my Boss’s orders.’
Quatre’s eyes flew wide. ‘Are you all right?’ I nodded for him, swirling
my drink in my glass, watching the ice cubes drift and turn. The two of
them shifted again, Quatre sliding down to the end of the couch closest
to me, and Trowa coming to perch on the edge of the coffee table, right
in front of me.
‘Tell us what happened?’ he asked, reaching to lightly touch my knee.
So I told them the sordid little Mickey story, leaving out the guilt trip,
the hamster improvisation act, the criminal artist thing, and the rumor
mill part. Sticking strictly to the injured co-worker narrative. Oh yeah...
and the passing out thing.
Quatre had to have a peek at my shoulder, when I got to that confession,
wincing compassionately. Trowa grimaced and shuddered when I told them
the kid had lost his leg in the end anyway. They both looked concerned
when I finally got around to the part where I’d done a swan dive onto
the garage floor.
‘So you see,’ I concluded. ‘I seriously doubt that Heero is going to let
me lift a damn finger for the rest of this week, much less spend the weekend
‘It’s all right Duo,’ Quatre told me. ‘There’s no rush.’
I nodded, because he was right. The simple fact that I wanted to
move into my home, was not enough to make it a high priority item. We
had all the time in the world, and it wasn’t going to kill me to wait
Really. It wasn’t.
Trowa was there, as usual, to gently steer the conversation on to something
else once his curiosity had been appeased. We talked about the house for
a bit. Quatre told me about his new nephew; I couldn’t have told you which
sister it was who’d had him. She’d opted to do it the old-fashioned way,
going against family tradition and there was a strange light of pride
in Quatre’s face while he told about it. Trowa talked for a bit about
the last letter he’d gotten from his sister Catherine, about where they’d
traveled last and the new guy who was getting knives thrown at him in
Trowa’s place. It was rather soothing. Kind of... homey, or something.
Or as homey as you can get with stories that involve twenty-nine siblings
Then Quatre rather brought me up short again, making me squirm.
‘Duo,’ he ventured, and I thought I saw a faint frown flicker across Trowa’s
face. ‘I promised my sister Aleyah that I would ask you something.’
I looked at him, watching him fidget with his glass in a manner that reminded
me very much of myself. ‘Aleyah?’ I questioned, not recognizing the name.
‘I told you about her,’ he murmured, his eyes on the floor and his face
starting to tinge pink. I wondered about it, until I caught Trowa trying
to catch his partner’s eye. ‘She’s gotten rather successful in the art
world. She does watercolor?’
I nodded, remembering Heero mentioning her. I had a feeling the woman
had to be the pushiest damn person on Earth or in the colonies. I’d never
met her, but I still knew her by reputation. ‘I think I remember,’ I told
him, so he wouldn’t waste a bunch of time on the back-story.
‘She’s been... badgering me about talking to you,’ he told me and there
was a small sound of disapproval from Trowa. Quatre’s eyes flicked his
way but he dropped his gaze quickly enough, looking almost ashamed of
himself. ‘You certainly don’t have to if you’re not interested... but
I promised I would ask... so now I have.’
I couldn’t help laughing at him, the mental picture of an overbearing
sister pestering and pestering until he finally caved and agreed, just
to shut her up, was simply too funny. He gave me a sheepish little smile
and even Trowa looked a little less... unhappy.
‘I’m sorry, Quat,’ I chuckled. ‘But that would just be... ridiculous.
I wouldn’t know how in the hell to act in that kind of circle. Just tell
her I said no thanks and forget about it.’
He nodded, looking relieved and disappointed all at the same time. I could
see him worrying with something though, and Trowa actually reached out
to lay a warning hand on his knee.
But all of a sudden, Quatre looked irritated, his rebellious streak showing
a mile wide. He looked me right in the eye and ignored Trowa altogether.
‘Duo,’ he said earnestly. ‘You are a damn good artist. Light-years better
than ninety percent of the people my sister rubs elbows with in her damn
galleries. I’ve gone to a couple of her showings and you can paint rings
around those phonies with your eyes closed!’
I blinked. Trowa blinked. Quatre blinked, and then gave me a quiet little,
‘I’m sorry... that just needed to be said.’ Then he pulled a business
card out of his shirt pocket and tossed it down on the coffee table. ‘There...
I’ve fulfilled my obligation. Trowa? Are you ready to get going?’
It was rather abrupt and I had to assume that the two of them were about
to have words, and Quatre preferred to do it elsewhere. I felt kind of
bad about that, kind of guilty, like I’d somehow made them fight, so I
tried to temper the whole thing just a little bit. ‘It’s all right little
brother. Tell Sis I’ll think about it... but not to hold her breath.’
It takes so very little to please Quatre. Whenever I manage to win the
kind of smile I got then, I just find that I feel guilty for not trying
harder with him. We just have so very little in common, now that we don’t
have a war as a shared hobby.
My taking it so flippantly seemed to ease some of the tension from Trowa’s
face though, so perhaps I’d managed to derail any major argument between
them. The whole thing just made me very apprehensive about ever running
into this Aleyah Winner though.
But it didn’t stop their exit, so I just trailed along behind them as
they gathered their coats and headed for the door.
‘Tell Heero we said hi,’ Quatre said politely as he stood in the doorway,
looking at me just a touch wistfully. I was suddenly taken with the urge
to hug the damn guy, and pulled him into a quick embrace where I could
tell him, ‘Heero’s going to love the bed too, Quat. Thank you... I can’t
tell you what it means.’
His return hug was fierce, but he let me take the lead and let go as soon
as I tried to withdraw. ‘I’m glad you like it,’ was all he said and then
he stepped into the hall.
I looked up at Trowa and grinned. ‘Don’t be mad at him,’ I said softly.
‘It shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It wouldn’t be... if we were talking
about anybody else but me.’
He got that little smile that spreads so slowly you almost don’t notice
it happening. ‘I promise not to have him caned, all right?’ he vowed,
one hand raised in mock pledge.
I snorted and just shook my head. He started to follow after Quatre, but
then hesitated, looking back at me for a moment. ‘Don’t bring his fears
to life, Duo,’ he told me softly, not talking about Quatre any more. ‘You
have all the time you need to make your home... slow down a little.’
All I managed to do was blush, before the door was shut and they were
God, but those two can be emotionally exhausting.
I went back and flung myself down on the couch in front of my laptop,
but when I looked, the next message in the queue was from Octavia and
I just didn’t know if I was up to it. There weren’t that many more messages
left to go through anyway and I decided to just call it a day. I remember
shutting the system down, watching the screen while I waited for it to
shut off and the next thing I was aware of was gentle fingers brushing
my hair from my face.
‘Wake up, love,’ Heero said softly and I blinked open uncooperative eyelids,
surprised as hell to find myself curled on the couch. Damn; I’d take that
stupid nap after all.
‘This is the part where I’m supposed to act surprised about the carpet,
right?’ I asked, voice gravely from sleep.
He smiled, kneeling there beside me, managing to look damn pleased with
himself, and for about two seconds I wondered if he’d drugged my soda
somehow. But no, my head wasn’t that damn fuzzy.
‘No,’ he chuckled. ‘This is the part where you act surprised that I managed
to find it in stock... it’s being installed tomorrow.’
I blinked up at him, not sure I’d heard him right. ‘What?’ I asked, unbelieving;
you don’t just get that damn lucky. ‘Is that what took you so long?’
His soft smile turned into a slightly rueful grin. ‘I did have to visit
almost every carpet store in the city.’ But then his expression changed
again, going tender and fierce, somehow, all at the same time. ‘I’ll have
you in our house this weekend, love. I promise.’
I didn’t know whether to be mortified that he’d figured out how much I
had wanted that, or thrilled that he’d figured out how much I had wanted
that. ‘But...’ I began, not sure what he was saying, and almost afraid
that he meant that he would move us all by himself. ‘Does that
mean that you’re... I mean...’ I flailed somewhat unattractively after
words that were being damned elusive. I blame it on the grogginess of
having just woken up.
‘It means I hired movers,’ he informed me with a hint of some kind of
warning in his tone.
‘But Heero,’ I objected. ‘We decided against doing that... we can do it...’
‘I’m not going to argue about it,’ he told me, in his firmest ‘mother-hen’
voice. ‘Your health is much more important than a couple of hundred dollars.’
‘Heero...’ I began, but then stopped at the somewhat whining sound of
my own voice. This wasn’t the kind of conversation one should have thirty
seconds after waking up.
‘I won’t take the chance that you might pass out on the stairs or something,’
he said, and I could see in his eyes that he’d been thinking about this
a little too hard. ‘The Doctor said it might be weeks before you build
your iron levels back up... it’s not worth the risk. It’s not worth the
risk to me.’
His fingers were ghosting over my face still and I had to give in with
a snort of annoyance. ‘You make it damn hard to be indignant,’ I told
‘You can be indignant if you want,’ he teased gently. ‘As long as you
take care of yourself at the same time.’
I felt a stirring of that... pride. That... stubbornness, that always
makes me want to struggle to my feet just one more time. Makes me want
to object to his coddling. Maybe he felt it too, because he leaned down
and pressed a kiss to my collarbone. ‘Please?’ he whispered, breath hot
on my skin. ‘For me?’ That breath moved and he kissed the hollow of my
throat. ‘Because you love me almost as much as your soda-pop?’ He dusted
little kisses up the length of my throat, making me tilt my head to receive
them. ‘Because you love me at least as much as Fuzzy-butt?’
No way in hell could I maintain the urge to argue with him. ‘Asshole,’
I muttered, just before he brought his lips to cover mine.
‘I know,’ he sighed, and actually managed to sound contrite.
When he drew away, his eyes were serious, the teasing banished from sight.
‘You know I love you,’ I had to tell him, just to clear the damn point
up. ‘More than my stupid co-pilot... more than anything.’
I couldn’t miss the strange wash of emotion that ran through him at the
words. It made me feel badly, somehow, like maybe I didn’t say it enough.
‘I know,’ he said simply, smiling softly and tracing the lines of my face
with a gentle fingertip. But then he changed the subject all together
with a quirk of an eyebrow. ‘So where did the little gold box on the coffee
table come from?’
I flashed a wide grin. ‘Quatre and Trowa,’ I told him. ‘Open it... it’s
our house-warming gift.’
‘House-warming?’ he queried in amusement and turned to reach for it. I
watched his face while he pulled the thing out, saw the same trepidation
that I had felt at first, worried that Quatre had gone overboard and gotten
us something like... a live-in maid, or worse. Then the expression went
to a faint frown, right before he looked at me quizzically. ‘A bed? But
‘Yeah,’ I cut him off, afraid he might be leading up to telling Quatre
it was too expensive. ‘But it goes in the room like it was custom made
for it, doesn’t it?’
If he understood the deeper reasoning, he didn’t belabor it. Just smiled
and agreed with me, opining that it was indeed a beautiful piece of furniture.
But he kissed me damn hard one more time before going off to make dinner.
I actually got very little argument out of him when I insisted I was going
back to work the next day. I like to think he knew better than to argue
with me, but I’m pretty sure it was more that he trusted Griff not to
assign me anything much tougher than changing windshield wiper blades.
And don’t laugh, that’s damn near what I ended up doing all that day.
And light bulbs, changing out light bulbs. I think the hardest work-order
I got all day was putting in a set of spark plugs.
When I grumbled about it, I got this little speech that went something
‘Damnit, Maxwell... I been with the Preventors since they laid the first
damn corner stone of this building. I been in charge of this garage since
there was only two other guys working in here. I ain’t never had
a mechanic pass-out on the job before. It was damn fuckin’ scary, and
I ain’t lookin’ to have it happen again, you understand me?’
Having that communicated to me at Griff’s normal volume in the middle
of the garage in front of everybody, was enough to convince me to shut
the hell up and go change the next set of wiper blades.
[cont] [back to Sunhawk's