Head Games (cont)

The pizza had beaten me to the house, and I found Heero in the kitchen putting out napkins and paper plates, setting out a bottle of beer for each of us.

"There you are," he greeted me with a warm smile. "Get lost?"

"Traffic," I mumbled and took my seat at the table.

Heero sat down across from me, opening the pizza box and we each took a slice. I reached for my beer and caught him looking at me with an odd _expression.

"What?" I asked. "I can't have pizza sauce on my face already, I haven't taken the first bite."

He snorted, picking his own slice up. "I was just wondering if you felt up to this. You seem... distracted."

"Sorry," I muttered, embarrassed that he had noticed. "It was just... a long day."

"You want to talk about it?" he prompted, cocking his head off to the side in that way he has.

I almost laughed. No, I most decidedly did not want to talk about it. "Nah," I told him, dredging up a bright grin. "Rather just forget about it. So... tell me what's on the agenda?"

So he did. Told me what he'd gotten done on the car since the last time I'd been over, outlining what he had left to do. I started to relax a little; Heero can get so... animated when he starts in talking about engines, that it's hard not to get caught up in his enthusiasm. Looked like he was hoping to have the thing done before the weekend was out.

We finished our dinner, took our beer and made our way out to the garage. I only had to work at it for a little while before the awkwardness began to bleed away and I lost myself in the familiar banter, before the task consumed all my attention and I forgot how the day had started out.

This was what had made the two of us good partners during the war, the way we could work together. Sometimes, in my more poetic moments, I thought of it as a dance. I don't have to tell him which tool I need him to hand me... he just knows. He doesn't have to ask me to hold something steady... I just know when he needs an extra hand. Not that I'm saying we work in stony silence, we talk, but we don't need to talk about the job. Our hands just go on about their business, and our minds go off on tangents. We talk about the old days sometimes, but we can talk about the future too. We talk about some of the nightmares that we all seem to have, but we can talk about our dreams as well. We bitch to each other. Sometimes we even gossip a little bit. The thing is... it doesn't really matter. On nights like this, we can damn near finish each other's sentences. It's just so... comfortable.

You understand why I won't risk screwing this up? No matter what the hell Quatre imagines? No matter... what I might wish?

It was damn near midnight when Heero finally called it quits, tugging on my sleeve like a little kid, laughing at my reluctance to give it up.

"Duo," he chuckled, squatting down beside where I was lying on the floor. "Sometimes I think you're more obsessed with my car than I am."

I pushed the rest of the way out from under the frame and quirked an eyebrow, grinning up at him. "How do you ever expect to get the thing finished if you keep quitting?"

He laughed and reached a hand out to rub a smear of grease off the bridge of my nose. "It's not going anywhere. Come on... it's almost midnight."

"Midnight?" I asked, a little incredulous, and let him pull me to my feet. "I didn't realize."

He shook his head, moving off to find us a couple of rags to wipe the worst of the grime off our hands with. "You do seem to lose track of time when you're hip deep in axle grease."

"It's not my fault I happen to like mechanical... things," I informed him in a haughty tone.

"Things?" he chuckled, leading us back into the house. "Would that be the technical term?"

I started to dredge up a witty retort, but found myself yawning hugely instead. "Damn," I muttered. "Sorry about that."

He gave me a rueful little smile, moving to the kitchen sink and turning on the hot water so we could do a proper job of washing up. "My fault for keeping you so late; you told me you'd had a hard day."

I watched him lather his hands, waiting for my turn with the bar of soap. "It wasn't so awful," I appeased with a shrug. "And this evening kind of made up for it."

He handed the soap over and rinsed while I lathered. "You did have a crappy day if busting your knuckles all evening was an improvement."

I started to tell him it was the company. I started to tell him I'd bust every knuckle I owned as long as it bought me an evening with him. I started to say a whole bunch of shit that was all pretty much in the category of 'not appropriate', but caught myself in time, and didn't say anything at all. Heero's elbow found it's way into my ribs.

"Hey," he said softly. "You are tired; you going to be all right to drive home?"

I snorted, taking the hand towel from him. "I'm fine," I said and we headed for the front door.

"You want me to come back tomorrow?" I offered, thinking about how close we were to being done. I reached for the doorknob and apparently Heero did too. I jumped when his hand closed over mine. I turned my head to look at him when he didn't immediately let go.

There was the strangest damn look on his face, something between amused and nervous. Kind of a bastard mix of excited and anxious. I couldn't seem to manage to say anything; just staring at him, trying to fathom what was going through his head. "Don't I get... a goodnight kiss?" he suddenly said, and my mouth went dry so damn fast I thought my tongue permanently glued itself to the roof of my mouth.

"W... what?" I finally managed to stammer out, and was only relieved that the adhesive in my mouth kept me from gaping like a carp.

"Isn't that the traditional way to finish a date?" he asked, and the amusement seemed to be winning over the nervousness.

"You call this a date?" I blurted before I had much chance to think through what I should say to a remark like that.

His hand let go of mine and he crossed his arms over his chest, cocking his head to the side and smiling at me gently. "Well, isn't that what dates are all about? Two people doing something they enjoy together?"

My own hand just sort of fell off the doorknob, completely nerveless. "I... I..." was about all I could manage. Later, about the only coherent thought I could remember forming was, Quatre was right.

Heero seemed to draw encouragement from my state of speechlessness, and uncrossed his arms to rest his hands on my hips, turning me around to face him completely.

My God, I thought I'd been struck by lightening. There was a spark that flared to life in my hips where his fingers were resting against me, that shot like fire down my legs and up into my chest. It kicked my heart into high gear so suddenly that my throat constricted and my knees felt weak. All I could think was... that's through two layers of cloth! Oh sweet Jesus, what would it feel like if he were actually touching my skin?

Heero had shifted somehow, without my noticing it, and was suddenly very close to me. Damn close. And leaning closer. With a somewhat self-satisfied look on his face. The asshole.

My own hands were still dangling at my sides, completely undecided on just what they should do. Wrap themselves around his shoulders? Settle on his own hips? Thread through that damn unruly hair?

"Now about that goodnight kiss..." he fairly whispered and leaned in to claim it.

My right hand, damn near trembling, rose almost of its own volition and... planted itself in the middle of his face. I pushed gently and grinned at the wide-eyed look I received from between my splayed fingers.

"I don't kiss on the first date, Yuy," I informed him and turned away with a flip of my braid to reach for that doorknob again.

I was actually out the door before his bright laughter burst forth, following after me. I turned on the steps to look back and found him leaning in the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest again, grinning at me ruefully.

"Good night, Heero," I called, grinning back, and finished the climb down to the sidewalk.

His laughter had faded to a soft chuckle and just before I climbed in my car he called, "Hey."

I stopped with my door open and leaned with my folded arms on the roof of the car. "Yeah?"

He moved on out of the house, taking the few steps to the edge of the porch and gave me that cocked-head appraising look. "Do you kiss on the second date?" he asked, voice a silken damn thing.

I looked at him for a minute, giving him my own once over, before replying, "Sometimes."

His smile widened. "Then what are you doing tomorrow night?"

It was my turn to laugh and he waited patiently. "What time should I be here?" I finally asked, and it won me a brilliant smile. He took another pace forward, coming down a couple of steps so that he didn't have to raise his voice quite so much.

"I don't want to work on the car tomorrow night," he told me firmly. "How about I pick you up at six and we'll go out?"

It surprised the hell out of me and I could only nod, not sure I trusted my voice. He inclined his head in answer and then turned to start back into the house. I straightened, almost ready to climb into the car, when he stopped and threw me a rather wicked grin over his shoulder. "And how about you wear that outfit you had on this afternoon?"

He didn't wait for a response, but went on into the house. I was just as glad, I wasn't sure whether to try to match my complexion to the color of my car again, or laugh out loud. I settled on getting in and driving away.

A block from Heero's place, I stopped at a stop sign and put the car in park long enough to retrieve my cell phone from the floor of the car. I punched in Quatre's number and sat expecting to get his voice mail again. I was a little surprised when Trowa picked up.

"Should I be afraid to talk to you?" he greeted drolly, obviously having checked the caller id.

I snorted. "Why should you be afraid to talk to me... unless you're in on Quatre's little head-games?"

"Well, your last message was less than... genial," he replied and I could hear the asshole grinning at me. Maybe he was in on Quatre's little... hobby.

"But it was directed to your sick partner," I informed him. "Where is he, by the way? I want to talk to the little jerk."

Trowa chuckled, enjoying himself just a little too much and told me, "In the shower... shall I take a message?"

I sighed, thwarted again, and thought about it for a moment. "Tell him... tell him that being right doesn't make him any less of a bastard."

There was a moment while he contained a snicker. "Ok... got it."

"Tell him just that way, ok?" I persisted.

There was a disdainful little pause before he told me, just a touch haughtily; "Duo, I understand yours and Quatre's... strange communication system. You are the only human being on Earth that can leave an 'eat shit and die' message on his answering machine... that makes him grin like a loon. I'll tell him just what you said."

"Just checking," I groused. "There's a subtle undertone that has to be just..."

He cut me off with an audible smirk, a damn tricky thing to do well, and said, "I have it Duo... I'll tell him. Duo says that 'being right doesn't make him any less of a bastard' and Heero says that 'if he gloats about being right, he'll get beat senseless'. I've got it... goodnight, Duo."

It was just as well he hung up; he didn't have to listen to me squawk like an indignant parrot.

Those God damn, conniving, sneaky, wonderful jerks.

After I got over the squawking, I started to chuckle and ended up sitting there laughing like some sort of demented idiot until somebody pulled up behind me and blew their horn. I hastily put the car in drive and got the hell out of the way, still wiping tears of mirth from my eyes.

Those little scheming devils. I couldn't quite make up my mind whether I wanted to kiss Quatre Winner or kick his ass, but it somehow made me feel better to know that Heero hadn't been a player in Quatre's little head game.

A very great deal better.

And I no longer had any doubts at all about whether I kissed on the second date or not.


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