by Zillie
category: AU College, companion to Getting Physical in Geology and Five Black Dresses (takes place in between)
pairings: building towards 1+2; background 3+4
note: this part is of unpacking Heero and extrapolating Duo. . . dialogue, setting things up. Let me know what you think!

Road Trip + Part 3

12:44 p.m.
Northern Virginia; route 95 near the Capitol Beltway
soundtrack: Operation Ivy, 'energy'

+

"Kaku, kaita, kaite, kaki, kakimasu."

"Speaks."

"Heero-"

"You of all people should know this one."

"I do-hanasu, hanashita, hanashite, hanashi, hanashimasu. I did not know that the purpose of this trip was for you to grill me on Japanese."

"Considering your performance on the exam-"

"I got a ninety-two!"

"How well would you have done if you studied for it?"

Duo scowled at the road. "I was busy. And don't even think about asking what! God, you sound like someone's mother; worse, you sound like Quatre."

"Reads."

"No."

"Reads."

"No."

"Reads."

"No!"

"Reads."

"Yomu, yonda, yonde, yomi, yomimasu. Happy now? How about this one? Shinu, shinda, shinde, shini, shinimasu. Dies."

"I was trying to help."

"Heero, it's almost Christmas. It's vacation! We are free from school for a month-we're the kings of the open road-and we've got really good music playing. Can't you think of anything else to talk to me about?"

Heero's mind seemed to freeze.

::healthy body sick mind:: ::you're working overtime::

Duo sighed. "Tell me about your family."

"My family?"

"The people I'm driving you to Vermont to see. I coulda sworn that you were from Texas or somewhere."

"My uncle moved."

"Your uncle?"

"Yeah. I live with my uncle. Have my whole life."

"In Texas?"

Heero shrugged. "All over."

"Fair enough. How'd you end up at Gundam?"

Heero half-smiled. "I interviewed but wasn't sure I liked it, and then I walked out of the interview room and saw the scenery." A long, trailing braid, a walk somewhere between sway and swagger, a casual sexiness that had dried his mouth. "So I decided that was where I belonged."

"You went because the campus is pretty?"

"It was the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen," Heero said simply. "At that moment, I was looking for something. And I found it."

"Fair enough," Duo said again, shooting a look at his companion. "So it was sort of like love at first sight."

Heero considered that. "Yes," he said. "I suppose it was."

+

Duo managed to get onto 485, all the while giving Heero a lecture on the danger of the 'Mixing Bowl,' as the intersection was called-"one of the most dangerous junctures in the country!" he said cheerfully, cutting across seventy-two lanes of traffic in four seconds or less. "Second only to somewhere out in LA!"-and on the beauty of the Beltway. "See how they let all the vines grow over everything?" Duo looked slightly embarrassed, but smiled. "Sometimes when I'm driving around here I get this slight sense of the wonder the first settlers must have felt-to have this land, infinite in scope and paradisiacal in nature-all for them."

"Not entirely," Heero said.

"Well, no," Duo admitted. "The Native Americans. . . I don't think that there's anybody today who'd say that they didn't get shafted on the whole deal. To put it mildly. But the whole Manifest Destiny-yeah, I know that was later-thing is kind of understandable, given the Calvinist background of the country. If the land is there, it's there because God means for you to have it."

"I think that's oversimplifying a bit," Heero began, but Duo suddenly hissed and slid over to the exit lane.

"Almost forgot!" he said.

"Where are we going?" Heero asked warily.

Duo shot him a grin. "You'll see."

+

Hilde watched Duo slurp up noodles as Heero conversed in Japanese with the boy behind the counter. She glanced over her shoulder; Relena was still occupied by the tea sets that were laid out in the front of the massive Asian grocery store. "What's wrong?" she asked quietly.

Duo was watching Heero out of the corner of his eye. "He's sure not having any trouble talking to that guy."

Hilde rubbed his shoulder soothingly. "Having trouble talking to him?" Then the absurdity of that idea struck her and she grinned. "You?"

"Don't laugh," Duo grumbled. "He drilled me on Japanese most of the way between Fredericksburg and here. Samui desu. It's cold. Samuikunai desu. It's not cold. Samukatta desu. It was cold. Samukunakatta desu.. It wasn't-"

"I'm bored after two seconds of that," Hilde said. "Poor baby."

"Kawaisou," he replied automatically, and then winced.

"Should we switch around for a while?" Hilde asked. "I can come entertain you."

"What's this?" Relena asked, sliding onto the stool on Duo's other side.

"Maybe Heero and I should switch places for a while."

"Nah." Duo stood decisively. "Not yet."

"Why not?" Hilde took care to hide her smile.

"Because. . . because they might get lost. Only you and I know the way to," and here he lowered his voice. "Our next stop."
He nodded, seemed to gather his persona around him, and bounded over to where Heero stood. "Oi, Hee-chan!"

Heero looked up; an unfathomable look crossed his face before it froze into an emotionless mask.

"So how's the big plan going?" Relena asked, sliding over into Duo's vacated seat.

Hilde kept her eyes on Heero, who, with Duo's arrival, had pretty much shut down. "Not entirely as planned. . . but we're not done yet." In an unconscious mimicry of Duo, she nodded to herself and started towards the boys. "Duo! We're going to be late!"

+

"I love that place."

No response.

"I mean, they have that nifty ramen bar, and all that pocky and stuff."

Nothing.

"And the people are so nice. There's this one girl, Mei, who wasn't there today-"

"Duo?"

He fell upon the simple question. Hard. "Yep! That's me! My name, don't wear it out! Duo Max-"

"You do realize that north is that way?"

Duo regarded the sign Heero was pointing out as if he'd never considered looking at those strange green things before. "Yep," he said eventually. "North. Yep."

"Is there a reason we're not going that way?"

Duo considered again. "Yep." He looked at the road in that way that meant he wasn't going to say anything else. Heero reached up and batted at the rainbow hanging from the rearview mirror-Duo, he reflected, certainly wasn't subtle about his sexual orientation. The Black Beetle of Death was emblazoned with rainbow-striped hearts and stickers that said things like "I don't mind straight people as long as they act gay in public." Nope. Duo and subtlety weren't exactly an obvious pair. Which brought him to what he was about to say.

"Duo?"

"Still my name."

"I really hate it when you call me Hee-chan."

Duo glanced over, then quickly back at the road. "I was sort of surprised when you wanted to do this. This drive. I mean, I know it's an easy way home, but I was pretty sure you didn't like me."

That wasn't the response he'd expected. "Why?"

Duo's hands tightened on the steering wheel. "Well. The first few classes were fine. You were nice to me then. You didn't say much, though."

Heero had a hazy memory of those days; he'd been too surprised when he'd walked into the room and found the boy he'd spent the entire year before futilely searching for was in the class. He remembered that he'd tried to be casual-that he'd sat down next to Duo as if he didn't care at all. He remembered that Duo had talked to him.

"And during the speaking sessions, when we all met to just talk and you were in charge, you seemed really friendly towards me. Well. . . for you." Duo glanced over again. "You're not exactly the most open person. But I was pretty sure you didn't despise me totally. I mean, you did come along with us for coffee that one time. . . and you helped me out when I asked you."

That Heero remembered; sitting with seven students from the class, choking down bad coffee while Duo put on a show for them all. It had seemed the more the braided boy talked, the less he, Heero, could find to say. It had become obvious, during the course of that night, that he wasn't the only person on campus who had been entranced by the sight of Duo Maxwell.

The afternoon that Heero had met Duo in the library to help him with katakana, he had reminded himself a dozen times that Duo was not for him. And had forgotten, seconds after seeing the boy, all his good intentions. The constant jocularity of the boy had been toned down, appearing only in the odd remark and unprovoked smiles. Instead there had been a serious desire to learn, an approachable reality. They left the library together-and halfway back to Duo's hall, they had run into some guy who had apparently felt perfectly justified in walking up and kissing the hell out of Duo without so much as a hello. Heero had watched, stupidly, for a second; Duo had pulled back and shot him a slightly confused look. Heero was familiar with that kind of look-most of the time, it meant 'how the hell do I get rid of him?'

So he had left. And very determinedly not thought about Duo all weekend. And, Monday morning, when Duo had bounced into the room and called him "Hee-chan!" for the first time, Heero had not so much as smiled.

"But I felt like, for most of the class, you've been harder on my than you have on everyone else," Duo said. "That's why I kept calling you Hee-chan. Because it annoyed you."

"And that was supposed to make me like you more?" Heero asked, raising one eyebrow.

Duo shrugged.

"Nicknames. . . I'm not used to them," Heero said, not entirely sure what to say. "I guess I always thought of them as something between friends, or family. Or lovers."

Duo flicked a glance over at him.

"And to have you call me by a nickname without bothering to be my friend or my family. . . or my lover. . . you don't have any right to call me by a nickname."

"Maybe calling you that was my way of inviting you to be someone with nickname rights," Duo offered. His tone gave nothing away.

"Maybe it felt more like you were trying to prove your dominance-like you were trying to show everyone in the class that you were irresistible, and that even the TA was yours to call whatever you liked."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You're sort of selfish, aren't you?"

Duo was still, then, compulsively, reached out and changed the song. "Most people don't notice."

"I know enough about manipulation to notice when someone's being manipulative." Heero fixed his eyes on the car's ceiling. "You play people."

"They tend to like it."

"I don't."

Duo hissed. "So you don't like me because I'm a manipulative little man-whore who'll do anything for a laugh?"

"That's not exactly what I meant."

"What, precisely, did you mean, then? Because I'm not sure. You meant that you understood everything about me and consider me shallow? Is that it?"

"How many friends do you have?"

Duo flashed him a mockery of his usual grin. "Didn't you know? Everybody's my friend."

"How many people can say that you're their friend? And be right?"

Duo stared at him for a second, then turned back to the road. He took his hand off the gearshift and held it up, raising a finger as he spouted names. "Hilde. Quatre." He paused. Thought. "To some extent Trowa. . . Wufei. . . Miidi. . . ." He stopped. "That's five fingers. No more room."

Heero reached out and touched Duo's outstretched fingers. "When I'm one of your first fingers. . . that's when you can call me Hee-chan."

"I thought you didn't like me."

"If I didn't like you at all I wouldn't have bothered telling you any of that."

Duo snorted a humorless laugh. "I think I liked it better when you were quizzing me on Japanese." He looked over quickly in alarm. "Not that you should start again! But. . . when do I get to psychoanalyze you?"

"When you call me Hee-chan," Heero said, deadpan. Duo snorted again. "Tell me something about you."

Heero thought. "I've got blue eyes."

"I noticed. Tell me something else." He flicked his eyes over Heero again. "Anything."

"Like what?

"Who's your best friend?"

Heero shrugged. "I am."

"Have you ever been in love?"

"I'm not sure."

"Do you like boys or girls?" Heero noted that Duo's hands tightened a little when he tossed that question out; he eyed the boy. "No."

"Boxers or briefs-no?"

"Neither."

"Neither?" Duo looked really confused. "You're asexual?"

"No. Neither boxers nor briefs. I wear thongs. G-strings, occasionally."

"You're kidding."

Heero shrugged. "And I prefer adults to boys and girls."

"Which gender?"

Heero shrugged again. "In practice, neither."

"You in training to be a monk?" Duo grinned. "Okay. Let's put it this way. Who do you dream about at night?"

You.

"Hello Kitty."

"Hello Kitty?"

"Yeah. She's a recurring character in my dreams."

"In a non-sexual way, I sincerely hope." Duo was chuckling now; Heero was absurdly gratified by that. "Would you rather sleep with me or Relena?"

"That depends on your sheets."

"My sheets?"

"Yeah. Relena's are pink. They're a little intimidating. Especially when paired with all those stuffed rabbits."

"Could be worse. Could be Hello Kitty." Duo shook his head and peered at a street sign. "I have satin pillowcases."

"Satin?"

"They're good for your hair. And they're smooth, and soft, and the kind of thing you just want to rub your skin against for hours because it feels so good."

Heero eyed Duo's hair. "Hmm," he said. "It's a tough choice, then."

"You might want to make your mind up," Duo said, flipping on his turn signal and whipping a left turn. "Before we get to the place where we're spending tonight."

Heero glanced at the clock. "It's not even three. We're stopping already?"

Duo grinned. "Yeah, well. . . it's tradition, you know." He turned in and drove through an ornate gate and up a windy path. Heero looked out the window at the woods on either side of the car.

"Where are we?"

"We are. . . here," Duo said, stopping the car in front of what looked to be a fairly posh hotel.

"Duo."

"Hmm?"

"This place looks expensive."

Duo looked startled for a second, and then laughed. "Don't worry, Hee-ch-ro. All they'll ask for is your sanity. Friend of mine lives here."

Heero opened the door uncertainly, and then remembered what he'd been about to say. "Duo?"

The other boy paused in the act of unfastening his seatbelt. "Huh?"

"Just because I don't wear rainbows. . . that doesn't mean I don't suck cock."

The other boy's eyes bugged.

Heero smiled pleasantly and got out of the car.

[part 2] [part 4] [back to Zillie's fic]