Expectations (cont)

‘Between you and Mickey,’ Giles voice came from the next bay, where he was working on something interesting. ‘He’s about to have a cow.’

I snorted and turned back to my toolbox, sorting through my screwdrivers until I found the one I wanted. ‘Nothing to worry about where I’m concerned,’ I muttered. ‘I’m fine.’

It was his turn to snort and I glanced that way to find him grinning at me. ‘Oh yeah,’ he chuckled, when he saw he had my attention. ‘That would explain why you’re barely using your right arm at all.’

I flexed that hand and waggled my fingers at him. ‘Just a little sore, is all,’ I informed him and bent to work to prove it.

I did notice though, for the rest of the day, every time I had to do anything that even smacked of heavy lifting, that one of the other guys was suddenly there, helping me out. I wondered if it was their own idea, if Griff had ordered them to keep an eye on me, or, in retrospect, if I just looked that damn pathetic.

I was kind of surprised when Heero showed up for lunch, he’d taken the morning off to let the carpet layers into the house, and I had expected it to take longer.

‘Something go wrong?’ I asked, as he walked across the bay towards me.

He flashed a grin. ‘No, you wouldn’t believe how fast they got done,’ he told me, seeming kind of amazed by the whole thing. ‘I don’t think it took two hours. You ready to go get something to eat?’

He waited while I put my tools back in the box and wiped my hands on a rag, then followed me out to the sidewalk.

I noticed a somewhat satisfied look on Griff’s face as we walked past his office, and I was sure, in that moment, that if I’d tried to skip lunch, I’d have heard about it in no uncertain terms.

Heero doesn’t have the time to come down to go to lunch with me very often, and I hesitated, once outside, not sure if he’d intended on going anyplace special.

‘Where do you usually go?’ he asked, as though reading my mind and I had to grin.

‘I found a new place over on Andover,’ I told him and watched the frown come over his face.

‘That’s kind of far...’ he began and I laughed.

‘Lazy,’ I taunted him, but then relented. ‘I found a short cut.’

So he let me lead and I took him over to the Andover Deli and Sub shop by way of two back alleys and a quick dash across a busy street. I’d found the place because I really just did not like RJ’s sandwich shop across the street from work, where everybody else seemed to eat.

The Andover was nicer, cleaner, a little brighter and more open. They ran it kind of like a buffet. You got your bread and meat at the counter, then picked whatever extras you wanted off the bar, and they charged you by weight of the finished sandwich. There were little tables peppered all over the place and I usually just sat by the front window, ate my lunch and watched people go by.

I was absurdly pleased that Heero seemed to like it. I took our tray and grabbed a table, while Heero brought our drinks.

‘This is nice,’ he said when he came to sit down with me. ‘How did you ever find it?’

‘I just really don’t like RJ’s place,’ I told him and he grinned around a bite of sandwich.

‘Never been all that fond of it either,’ he told me. ‘But it’s right there, so that’s always where everybody goes.’

‘I’ve been coming here since I stumbled across the place,’ I confessed, opening my bag of chips. ‘I kind of like the fact that I almost never run into anybody I know here. It’s more... relaxing.’

He took another bite and chewed thoughtfully for a moment, trying to look me over without appearing to look me over. ‘How are you doing today?’ he finally ventured.

I had to chuckle. ‘It’s not like I can overwork myself with Griff around.’

The comment did more to reassure him than anything else I could have said, I think. It was almost a visible thing to see him relax. He started telling me about his morning’s adventures then, the carpet layers and how they had worked. Describing the weird stretchers and how surprised he had been about the ‘tack strips’ that were used to hold the carpet in place. We’d neither one of us ever bothered to think about just how carpet stayed where you put it before. He was oddly excited about the whole thing and it made me laugh to listen to him. That made him smile, just to hear me laugh, and all in all, it was a pretty decent lunch.

I was almost kind of sorry when our time was up. It’s funny; I usually end up back at work barely having used half my hour, but that day... we took every minute and still felt short-changed.

I led him back down the alley, stopping to grab a soda out of the machine that sits just up the street from the Andover. If there’s one thing about that restaurant that I don’t like, it’s the fact that they carry Coke products and I’m a dyed in the wool Mt. Dew addict. So I was always pretty thirsty after lunch and grabbed a bottle as I went by for the afternoon. There’s a machine in the garage, but it only has cans, which, if you ask me, is hardly more than a couple of swallows. Heero stood beside me as I fed the machine my coins, and sighed faintly.

‘That stuff will end up rotting your insides,’ he grumbled, just as he always did.

I grinned as I uncapped the bottle and took a long swig. ‘Leave me my one vice, Yuy,’ I told him... just as I always did.

He shook his head and we went back to work.

The afternoon went excruciatingly slowly; I wanted to go see our bedroom with the new carpet in it, and all those tedious, boring jobs did not make the time go any faster.

Griff stepped away from his desk about an hour before quitting time, standing in his office door and announced to the room at large that Mickey’s condition was now listed as stable.

I was surprised to find guilt beast sitting behind the wheel of the car I was working on when I turned from listening to Griff. He leered at me in that way he has, tongue lolling from the side of his mouth. I could only stand and blink at him, unsure of the why of his presence. Not for the first time, I wished he came with sub-titles like the hamsters did. I thought we’d been over that whole ‘Mickey guilt’ thing.

‘Duo?’ Giles voice was a gentle summons back to reality, and when I glanced his way, guilt vanished. ‘You ok, man?’

I smiled for him, my fingers sorting through my tools for the wrench I needed. ‘Just wishin’ this day was over,’ I chuckled dryly.

He chuckled along with me but couldn’t help pointing out, ‘You know Griff would let you go ahead and go home early.’

I shrugged, found that the movement hurt kind of good and repeated the roll of muscles with a tiny little groan. ‘Almost there, now,’ I told him. ‘I think I can survive another hour.’

He just shook his head, but kept standing there looking at me like he wanted to say something else. I waited, but he only ended up shaking his head again and turning back to the job he was doing. I can’t say I was sorry.

I thought quitting time would never get there, and though I was a little worried that Heero would be working late to catch up, he rather predictably showed up a few minutes early. I had my head under the hood of a Chevy, but knew Heero was on his way across the garage when I heard Giles snicker. ‘Your mother hen’s here, Maxwell,’ he informed me, voice tinged with amusement.

I found it a little embarrassing, that my private life was obviously not all that private, and turned with my ears trying to turn red. Giles just snickered a little harder. I think Heero missed the whole by-play though, because he didn’t seem to be the least bit perturbed, only watching me like a hawk as I straightened. I knew I was moving stiffly, but just couldn’t help it.

‘Ready?’ he asked.

‘Whenever you are,’ I told him, and went to clock out.

He’d brought his car up to the rear of the garage to save me the walk. He tried acting like it was something he did all the time and I just let it go. I wondered idly how long it would take before he stopped treating me like an invalid. Reflected that the next time I decided I was going to pass out, that doing it without an audience would probably be a good idea.

I was somewhat... shocked when he wouldn’t take me out to the house.

‘What?’ I exclaimed, staring across at him as he drove. ‘But I...’

He grinned at me in a totally unrepentant way. ‘No,’ he told me in a tone of voice that was just a touch self-satisfied. ‘I don’t want you to see it until after the new bed comes tomorrow.’

I wanted to be pissed off at him; I’d been looking forward to going out all afternoon. But... he had this bizarre-ass gleam in his eyes that reminded me a bit of the look on Quatre’s face when he’d handed me our house-warming present the day before. I just couldn’t work up to being really mad in the face of that almost... boyish delight.

Then I thought about what he’d said. ‘Tomorrow? On another workday? Heero... we can’t keep taking off...’

‘It’s all right,’ he informed me. ‘I gave Quatre a key and he’s going to meet the delivery truck and let them in for us. He knows where it goes.’

We got quiet then, I don’t know what he was thinking about, but I was waffling back and forth between feeling thwarted about not getting to see the carpet and elated thinking about actually sleeping in our new bed, in our new bedroom, in our new house, under our new...

‘Sheets,’ I blurted and it made Heero look at me.

‘What?’ he said, sounding vaguely confused.

‘We need new... sheets,’ I muttered, trying to explain myself, and feeling kind of stupid. We certainly didn’t need any new sheets; we had plenty of them since Heero had been supplying for two beds.

‘I think Quatre and Trowa got some to go with the new mattress,’ Heero informed me, reaching across to take my hand and bringing our twined fingers to rest on his thigh.

‘Oh,’ I managed and just shut up. I think I was starting to amuse him.

New sheets. New bed. New room. New house. New life. New start. All new. Mostly. Except for a bit of excess baggage, a troop of thought hamsters, one large guilt beast, a closet full of ghosts, and two ex-Gundam fuckers.

The kind of ‘new’ you had to believe in to make it happen.

Yeah, damn it... I clapped for Tinker Bell too. And don’t ask me how fucking old I was, because I’m not telling.

‘Hey,’ Heero said after a bit of quiet, sounding like he was suddenly remembering something. ‘One of the carpet guys wanted to know which interior decorating place we got to do the bedroom.’

I managed to choke back the laugh and looked across at him to make sure he wasn’t teasing me. But he had that look in his eyes again... the one I really liked, that made my chest feel all tight and kind of warm. ‘What did you tell him?’ I asked.

He smirked at me. ‘That I had connections in the business and had gotten the job done for free.’ I was snickering quietly until he informed me with a smug look on his face, ‘He told me I was damn lucky; that I couldn’t touch that kind of custom, hand-painted work for less than a couple of thousand.’ Deer. Headlights. Need I say more? Heero laughed with delight.

He cooked again that night, and I took the time to sit down at my laptop to have at another batch of e-mails while I waited. I realized that I’d never gotten around to doing more than reading Toria’s latest message and determined that I’d damn well better answer it before Heero ended up murdered over that fact.

I couldn’t resist the perverse urge to fire off a message that simple said ‘not dead’, as she had suggested. But then tackled a somewhat more coherent reply right after.

Sorry spacer-girl, been a tough couple of months, which is no excuse, but the only lame explanation I have. I am a shit and I freely admit it. Love me anyway?

I’m just trying to teach an old ex-spacer how to be a ground-bounder, and finding it not as easy as I’d thought it would be. I promise I’ll try harder to keep in touch.

The ship is a real beaut; looks like you guys picked a good one. Though you’re right, that name is the dorkiest thing I’ve ever heard. Don’t you know better than to christen a ship while you’re drunk? And Hayden let you? I’m surprised at you both.

Let me know the next time you’re going to be dirt-side and I’ll come paint your ship any way you want. Can I give Helen that puppy she’s been begging for?

I really am sorry, and I promise to do better.

I miss you guys.

Love, Duo

It was the only message I got to. Dinner was ready by the time I’d managed to compose that little bit, writing and rewriting and staring at the screen. I hit send and went to eat.

I decided when I sat down at the table that Heero wouldn’t be cooking again the next night. Braised pork liver and spinach? Dear God... I am not a picky eater, but freakin’ braised pork liver and spinach? I don’t even know where in the hell it had come from, and could only surmise that Heero’d gone shopping while he’d been off that morning.

I ate what he put in front of me, waiting until we were doing the dishes to question it. ‘What the hell did you do? Go out on the net and look up iron rich foods?’

If the color of his face hadn’t told me, the odd little choking sound he made, would have. ‘Maybe,’ he finally grudgingly admitted.

I gave him a look that was meant to impart my lack of enthusiasm for the menu. ‘Listen Yuy,’ I groused. ‘I am on iron tablets only slightly less strong than pig iron... you do not need to supplement them. Tomorrow night we’re eating something normal.’

He was quiet for a minute and then, reaching to take a clean glass from my hand to dry and put away, ‘Normal for who, you? I’m not eating ration bars and soda for dinner’

His smugness only lasted until he got the handful of dish soap lather down the front of his shirt.

There was a very strange moment then. I kind of froze. He kind of froze. I’d never done something like that to Heero before. It was the kind of teasing that had gone on among the Sweepers all the time. Hayden and I had indulged a little in that kind of horseplay. But... this was Heero, and all I could do was stand there and stare, trying to get my head around what in the hell had possessed me to do that.

But then the stuff started to drip out the bottom of his perfectly proper Preventors’ polo shirt and I just lost it. I started to chuckle, tried vainly to stifle it, but couldn’t, as he just stood there staring at me, soap dribbling down the front of his pants.

I would never have imagined what happened next. He stalked the step or two it took to back me up against the counter and before I really had time to decide if I’d seriously pissed him off or not, he had a rather large handful of lather shoved down the back of my pants. It felt... extremely damn weird trickling down the crack of my ass. I ended up gasping and shuddering rather convulsively at the shivering feel of it. That sort of brought our bodies together in a way that suddenly had nothing what so ever to do with teasing.

We never did get the dishes done. We were supposed to start boxing things up that evening, in preparation for the movers coming Saturday morning, but we didn’t get to that either.

I thought I would bust a gut the next day at work, waiting for the damn shift to be over. Griff had graduated me from the windshield wiper brigade, mostly because there wasn’t a car in the fleet that I hadn’t gotten to the day before. He actually let me take on a couple of oil changes and I even got to patch a flat tire. Go me.

Let this be a lesson to you; fainting on the job is not a good idea.

I had already decided that if Heero refused to take me out to the house again, I was damn well just going to walk; my curiosity was killing me. I had put a lot of work into that bedroom and I wanted to see what it looked like now that it was almost done.

I needn’t have worried, and the almost boyish expectation in Heero’s eyes when he came to pick me up after work, gave me all the reassurance I needed that I was going to get what I wanted.

‘Finished?’ he asked, standing with his hands in his jacket pockets and waiting for me.

‘Absolutely,’ I grinned at him, shutting my toolbox and going to get my jacket. He clocked me out while he waited and then we walked out through the back bay doors.

‘You don’t have to keep bringing the car down here,’ I told him with a mock glare.

He snorted. ‘I need you to keep your strength up,’ he quipped. ‘Since we didn’t get any packing done last night, we have it all to do tonight.’

‘And whose fault was it we didn’t get any packing done?’ I grumbled as we climbed into the car.

Once the doors were shut, he quirked me a grin and said, ‘I believe you were the one who begged to just go to sleep and forget it.’

‘But you are the responsible one in this relationship,’ I told him with a haughty little snort. ‘You should not have let me.’

I got the raised eyebrow thing. ‘It wasn’t my fault; you... said please.’

I had to laugh at him.

God, he was in such a good mood. It always amazes me how much younger he looks when he’s smiling and laughing, and not wearing that little almost-frown. Damn near looks his age.

By the time we got to the house, he was fairly vibrating with tension. One part Christmas-morning, ‘I’m gonna bust’ expectation, and one part ‘What have I done’, ‘I’m gonna puke’ apprehension. I was starting to suspect that there was more going on here than just new carpet.

He led me in, taking me by the hand as soon as we were in the house. He didn’t speak and I didn’t press him, as he took us up the stairs. He did what I’d tried the day I’d shown him the paintjob, bringing up the rear and watching me like a hawk. His hand tightened on mine as we came into the doorway.

My first thought was... somebody lives here. My second thought was... we do.

Yes, there was carpet; a rich golden brown that echoed the Celtic knot work pattern and the oak wood every bit as well as I’d hoped it would. But there was also our bed, massive and solid and sitting right where we’d planned for it to go. It didn’t look like furniture that had just been delivered; it was all made up with brand new sheets and a comforter, pillows looking plump and inviting against that headboard with the leaf pattern carved on it.

There was our afghan from the apartment, thrown artfully across the footboard. There were blinds on the windows and valances that matched the bedclothes, in an ivy print that made me wonder if someone had somehow had them custom made in the scant time since they’d seen my paint job. Somehow Heero’d managed to get the rest of the furniture into the room, our dressers and the bedside tables. Fuzzy-butt was sitting on the dresser, right underneath my portrait of Solo, all neatly matted and framed and hanging on the wall.

Our... things were there. The book Heero had been reading was on the nightstand on his side of the bed. One of my sketchpads and a pencil was on mine. A vase that I had gotten flowers in while I was in the hospital was sitting next to Fuzzy. The picture that Heero had kept in his room at the apartment, of the five of us pilots, sat on the bookcase by the window. My set of Kipling books were there right next to Heero’s Japanese history books.

It... looked lived in.

It looked like we lived there.

Heero seemed to find something in my face that eased his tension and I awakened from my gawking to remember my own trepidation when I had shown him in here. ‘It’s perfect,’ I breathed, feeling oddly like speech was going to spoil something.

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