by: zillie
warnings: AU, College, no relation to the tom green movie (that's a good thing), molly ringwald propaganda.
feedback: no. please, please no. don't even consider it. sarcasm: yes, that was :)
thanks to: Yume and Sandra--who I completely forgot to mention in the last bit of 'sleep'--for being so amazing and helpful.
spoilers: no.
disclaimers: 311 and their album 'transistor' don't belong to me. GW doesn't belong to me. Heero and Duo don't belong to me, and while I might bemoan that fact now and then in the long run it's probably a good thing, because I really don't have a good place to keep a gundam.
fanfiction rocks ;)

Road Trip + Part 4

Heero hesitantly put his hand on the gearshift.

In the seat beside him Hilde yawned, and stuck her feet on the dash. "Dude, it's okay. No matter what Duo says it is just a car."

Heero glanced up at the rearview mirror; behind him, Relena was laughing at something that Duo was saying. "You could drive," he offered.

Hilde grinned. "Nah. I'm too lazy. Besides, he said he was going to sleep-the whole reason for him being in Relena's car, right? More room?"

Heero had his doubts about that; he looked in the mirror again.

"And the best time for you to drive Shinigami for the first time is while he's not watching." She yawned again. "If he didn't think you could do it he wouldn't have let you drive." She considered. "You might want to say a Hail Mary or two before you start, though."

"Very funny."

She reached forward and rummaged through the glove compartment. "I'm pretty sure there's a rosary in here."

He put on a stoic statement and started the car.

Hilde leaned over him to wave to the people standing on the porch. "Bye!" she shouted, cranking his window down. Deafening him. "Thanks, Mii! See you, Wufei! Merry Christmas!"

Heero nodded his thanks as well; Midori waved back before dragging Wufei back inside the mausoleum that was her grandmother's house.

"Dude," Hilde said, yawning. "It's early! We definitely need something with a decent beat to wake us up, right? What kind of music you like?"

"Whatever," he said, pulling out in front of Relena. He hid a smile; with Duo asleep in the back of the pink Beemer they might actually make decent time.

Hilde shrugged. "Cool," she said, and slipped in a cd.

+

Friday, 8:30 am.
Leaving Washington metropolitan area.
Soundtrack: 311, transistor.

+

::today seems like a good day::
::to burn a bridge or two::

+

"Do you have a big family?" Heero asked, startling Hilde out of her perusal of her feet.

She realized why he was asking and laughed. "Not like that. Mii's family is of mythic proportion. Every time we go see her she's got half a dozen different cousins nearby. I don't know how she remembers all their names. Me, I've got a couple of annoying siblings, two parents, a dog, a few cousins I see maybe once a year if I'm unlucky. That's how I met Relena, actually-my cousin Lucrezia is dating one of her brothers. I can't remember which one, actually- it might be Mill, it might be Zechs-but they look exactly alike. I mean, Zechs has stranger taste in accessories from what I know, but. . . ," she trailed off. "I'm fairly normal. What about you?"

He flicked a glance over at her from behind his sunglasses. "Normal."

She rolled her eyes and pouted in a gesture somewhat reminiscent of Duo. "Don't be like that. Share."

"Did you know that when you pout you look exactly like Duo?"

She looked surprised, then flushed. "Oh. Ah. This is probably one of those 'I learned all my social skills from him' situations." She made a face. "Somehow none of it ever works quite as well when I do it."

"You've known Duo for a long time," he said, trying to keep his voice casual.

"Long enough that I'm fairly good at telling when people are more interested in what I know about him than anything else I have to say."

Startled, he glanced over. "I. . . ."

She sank farther down into her seat. "That was probably not tactful."

They were silent for a moment; then he offered, "I'm not so good with the tact thing either."

"Yeah?" She considered that, brightened. "All right. What do you want to know about Duo?"

Heero considered that. "What's your middle name?"

"Mine?" She was obviously surprised by the question. "Adelaide." She stretched out her feet again; the toes were painted a deep green. "Duo calls me Hilde-Heidi when he's in a particularly annoying mood. Heidi's a nickname for Adelaide. Is this the thing where you try and make friends with me and therefore get into Duo's pants? Because I have to tell you that you're wasting your energy. Me liking you has nothing to do with you and Duo and sex. Most of the time people don't need to have my approval-or much of anything else-for Duo and sex."

"Do you?" he asked.

"Do I what?"

"Like me."

"You could be worse," she said matter-of-factly.

He accepted that with a nod.

"I don't really know you," she continued. "I mean, I know people who like you. Quatre for one. Trowa, though I don't know Trowa all that well. Relena. Wufei. I didn't realize you knew Midori, though." She laughed suddenly. "I don't know what was funnier yesterday-your face when Wufei opened the door, his face when he saw Duo, or Duo's when he saw Mii's hair."

Heero smiled, and, in an eerily accurate imitation of Wufei's voice, barked "Maxwell! What the hell are you doing here? I thought I'd escaped!"

Hilde laughed. "Only you have to get your eyes to bug out, sorta like this-yeah. Yeah! God, I wish I had a camera."

Heero shoved the sunglasses back into place quickly. "Please, no photographs."

"And Duo was just standing there staring at Mii."

"I thought it was a little too much to start crying," Heero offered.

Hilde hooted, shifting again. She didn't sit still well, Heero noticed. "Yeah, well-we've stayed with Mii before, but only at her cousin's house in New York. Apparently she dyes it to some normal shade every time she sees her grandmother. I just never pictured her as a blond."

"It was a little startling," Heero agreed. "The first time I met her-it was when I was interviewing. She was in the waiting room with me, and just started talking to me. I didn't even notice that her hair was green until she stood up and the light hit it-it just looked black."

"How did I meet her?" Hilde asked rhetorically. "Oh, right. She and Duo formed a support group for people with hair that went past their butt. I was made an honorary member. I had to wear a wig for the club picture, though." She shook her head. "I do not make a good redhead."

His mind had gone back to something she'd said a few minutes ago. "This cousin in New York. . . is it that guy I met last night?"

"Jet?"

"That's not his real name."

"Nah," Hilde agreed. "But he's the sort of person who can get away with a stupid nickname."

"Sounds like a porn star. Or a surfer. Or a really bad actor," Heero muttered.

"I think you covered that with porn star," Hilde told him. "No-not his house-but we've met him before. You might have guessed that by the way he threw himself at Duo and started trying to swallow Duo's tongue."

"Duo seems to have a lot of people who greet him that way."

Hilde looked skeptical. "No, not really. It tends to annoy him. There was some guy earlier this year-I think they flirted at one party."

He had a feeling she was using the term 'flirted' euphemistically. "Yeah?"

"He seemed to think that it gave him some sort of right to Duo-he'd walk up to him and expect Duo to start making out with him just to say hello. You should have seen it-I think it's one of the few times I've ever seen Duo look embarrassed. Or pleading. He used to sort of look at me like, "what are you doing standing there? Help me!" So finally I told the guy that Duo was taken and he should keep his hussy mouth to himself."

"You told him you were Duo's girlfriend?"

"No-I told him I was going to be Duo's boyfriend as soon as the operation was complete, and that I didn't appreciate him snogging my man in front of me."

"And he believed that?"

"No," Hilde said matter-of-factly. "I had to hit him in the stomach and blacken his eye. And even then I think it was the way Duo was laughing that got the message through."

There was quiet again; Heero was running through his memory, and, in hindsight, that look Duo had given him that day by the library-the look he had taken to mean 'aren't you gone yet?'- certainly could have been a 'please help.'

Fuck.

"Have you ever been in love?" Hilde asked quietly.

Before he could stop himself he glanced in the rearview mirror; Duo looked to be drooling on Relena's spotless interior.

"That wasn't the only person I've had to save Duo from," she said. "They tend to latch on and not want to let go. And he has a short attention span-give him a week and he'll be bored."

"Is that a warning?" Heero asked, meeting her eyes levelly.

"Maybe."

He mulled that over for a second before asking his next question; "Have you? Ever been in love?"

Her eyes, too, shot to the car behind them. Telltale. She squeezed them shut before answering. "I hope not."

+

::I know a drugstore cowgirl::
::so afraid of getting bored::
::she's always looking for something::
::so many things ignored::

+

They drove through Maryland with only one stop; Relena's fevrent honking was enough to make Heero pull over. He and Hilde watched while Duo jumped out of the car and ran up to them. "HIL!" he yelled.

"What the hell?" Hilde asked, rolling her window down and pulling herself up to sit in it, her head visible above the car's low roof. "Duo-"

Grinning, he yanked her backwards against him and planted a sloppy kiss on her mouth. "Good tydings!" He blew a kiss to Heero after planting Hilde back in the car and ran back to where Relena was waiting.

Heero stared after him. "Do I want to ask?"

Hilde pointed; Heero followed her finger. "The Millicent Tydings Memorial Bridge?"

"It's a tradition," Hilde said, and sank deeper into her seat.

+

Duo slipped into the seat beside Relena. "Thanks!" he said cheerfully.

She gave him that look-the one he never knew quite how to take-and turned the car on.

It could be a 'what is he on? look, Duo speculated. Or a 'I have no idea what to say here' look.

Or it could be a 'I have class and you don't' sort of look. He shifted around, finally sticking his feet out the window as they drove over the small bridge that had so excited him.

"Isn't that dangerous?" Relena asked after a minute.

Duo looked up from his book. "The feet? Ah, not really. They're only out a little. If I was driving it would be dangerous. But I have a stick shift so that's rarely an issue."

That look again.

"Aren't you cold?" she asked a minute later.

He regarded his bare feet. "Nah. It's not that cold for December, don't you think?" He glanced over; she was a bit blue around the lips. "Though now that you mention it, I probably do want to keep my toes." He dragged his feet back in and rolled up the window. "You know, not lose them to frostbite?"

She spared him a brief smile and a nod.

"Because the whole frostbite thing would not be fun," he finished weakly, and bit back a sigh.

Relena weirded him out.

He dug into the bag at his feet and pulled out a book. Relena glanced over. "You're reading. . . ."

He tapped the copy of Jane Eyre against his head. "Yep. Learned how to in kindergarten." Her face didn't change, didn't betray any hints of the amusement he was so used to seeing. "I'm doing an independent study on religion in Gothic novels next semester."

"Interesting," she said politely.

"You're IR, right? International relations?"

She nodded. "My father is. . . involved in diplomacy. It's always interested me."

"I guess it seems a little stupid to you," he said, tilting his head back. The ceiling matched the interior of her car; a delicate pale pink. Hilde had not been too amused when he'd dubbed the car the Pepto-Bismol mobile. "English and religion. I mean, even if IR is appallingly trendy these days it's a little more useful than an English major."

Hilde would have smacked him, told him that was post-exam talk-the kind of thing he said after churning out the amounts of bullshit that were required to finish the classes.

"It seems a little. . . impractical. Or maybe non-practical makes more sense. Are you planning on entering the ministry?"

"Nah. Couldn't, really. If I'm Christian at all-and I'm not sure I am-I'm Catholic, and somehow I can't see them wanting me. Hell. Half of my tuition comes from a Catholic group-if they found out I was gay they'd probably stop paying."

Relena looked slightly horrified. "In that case, shouldn't you be more discreet?"

He sneered at the trees they were driving past. "Nah. As long as I send them letters twice a month and copies of my papers they're cool. And they are, really-I just did a paper on feminist interpretations of the Eve myth and they were cool with it."

Relena laughed-just a small laugh. "I quite like that bumper sticker of Hilde's."

"Eve was framed? I gave her that."

"No-the one about Adam being a rough draft."

He frowned. "I didn't give her that one."

"I think she got it from our friend Sarah-she's active in the local NOW branch."

He didn't know any Sarah. "I didn't know Hil had a friend named Sarah."

Relena seemed to think him a bit dim. "Well, no. I suppose you wouldn't, but there's no reason for you to know all of Hilde's friends."

He toyed with the cover of Jane Eyre and thought that one over.

+

The night before Heero had not slept well; despite the proliferation of bedrooms in the house, Duo had decided that it would be more fun if they all shared. "A sleepover!" he had exclaimed. "What could be more fun?"

Heero could think of thirty-seven things off the top of his head, starting with washing dishes and ending with pulling out his toenails. A sleepover with Duo? That would be fun. A sleepover with Duo, Relena, Midori, Hilde, Wufei, and three of Midori's cousins, one of whom seemed to count touching Duo among his hobbies? Hn. No.

But he had been a Good Sport. He had listened without wincing to the tales Hilde and one of the cousins-who was for some unfathomable reason referred to as BooBoo-exchanged about bikini waxes. He had let another cousin-Verity, which was almost as bad as BooBoo-paint his toenails, even after she had blithely informed him that she usually did this for Jet's mom's cats and so wasn't very experienced with humans. He had been mildly comforted by the idea of Jet-who had at that point been sprawled across Duo's lap enumerating the virtues of his Boyfriend-being the child of a cat lady. Until the other boy had raised his head at Verity's words. "My Boyfriend," and he said the word with a sort of hushed awe that made Heero sure that the word should be Capitalized, "gets along with the cats. I mean, most people are afraid of them. They're quite tame, really-they have to be. Otherwise they wouldn't be allowed on stage." And it had turned out that Jet's mother was a cat lady: she specialized in lions. Duo obviously found that very cool.

Heero was sure that he could tame a lion, too. Well. . . he could at least shoot one. He wasn't at all convinced that Duo would find that sexy. So he had sat back and let Verity paint his toenails while he imagined using the artful tousles of Jet's hair for target practice. It would take a lot of skill to shoot the hair without harming the skin; Heero was almost sure he could do it. Almost.

He had slipped out during the John Hughes marathon and, taking great care to avoid all of Midori's family, had found his way outside. Duo had followed him.

"Not a big Molly Ringwald fan?"

Heero had shrugged, pulling his legs up against his body. He sat on the stone railing that bordered the garden; through his jeans he could feel the chill of it beneath him. "Nothing against her."

Duo swung a leg over the railing and sat facing the other boy. His legs hung on either side; he beat them against the railing like a child. Rhythmically.

Heero had not been able to stop looking at him, even though it hurt him to do so. "It's a big house."

"Yeah-her grandmother's some kind of politician or something, so they have balls or some shit like that." Duo rocked a little, his denim clad thighs making a little noise as they swept over the granite. "I visited her here for a weekend once, as Quatre's guest because his father was attending. I was going to have to rent a tux, just like it was a prom or something. But then he had an extra one so he lent it to me." He laughed, a little self-consciously. "Have to give that back someday. I keep forgetting."

Heero had never been to a prom-to any kind of party that required a tux. He could imagine Duo at one though; he was pretty sure that Duo had effortlessly charmed the entire room.

"I like it when you smile like that," he said.

Duo's half-smile brightened into his usual grin. "Like what?"

Heero reached forward and put his hand on top of Duo's rapidly drumming fingers. He knew his own hands were cold. The other boy didn't seem to mind.

"Like the way you were smiling a minute ago; like nobody's watching and you're just smiling because you feel like it."

The smile slipped completely from Duo's face; he licked his lips nervously. Swayed in a little. "I. . . can't think of a single clever thing to say."

"That's okay," Heero said, not really conscious of his own words. He was too busy observing every line of Duo's face in the darkening light. "I like you when you're not clever."

"You like me when I'm stupid?" Duo was smiling again; his lips curved richly, the left side a little higher than the rest-his real smiles were always slightly off balance. There was a faint indentation in his right cheek-not enough to be a dimple, but enough that Heero noticed it. He noticed everything: the sardonic sweep of his eyebrows, the way he tilted his head so that the left side of it was exposed, the way his hair started down over his ears in what would have, but for the grace of Gillette, have been a sideburn. The small silver skull set into the smooth perfection of his earlobe. The way he blinked and breathed and talked with his whole body and the way he said Heero's name. Just like that. "Heero?"

"Hn."

"I said, you like me when I'm stupid?"

The way he talked.

"Yeah." Heero slipped his fingers in between Duo's, interlacing their hands, pinning Duo to the cool stone. "I like you when you're stupid. And when you're not."

"So basically you like me?"

The way he didn't realize that when he was feeling vulnerable he bit down on the insides of his cheeks.

"Basically," Heero said, leaning forward, "yeah."

He kissed the boy.

The way his eyes opened wide, then drifted to half-mast; the way his experienced lips let Heero be the explorer; the taste of him.

Like. . . indescribable.

When he sat back there were tears in his eyes, but Heero didn't care. Because Duo was reaching forward, stroking a rough thumb across his face, pulling him back into another kiss.

"Duuuuuuuuuuu-oh!"

Duo's mouth curved against his own. "Ain't it always the way?" Then, pulling back, "We're over here, Hil!"

Hilde appeared in the doorway. "Hey! It's time for the Breakfast Club-we have to do our Molly Ringwald dance!"

Duo breathed laughter, standing up, trailing his hand over Heero's thigh. "You coming in?"

"In a minute," Heero said, his voice low. At that moment-in the chill wind, with Duo touching him-he could not have faced anyone or anything that lacked this element of truth. He was too conscious of being alive to be able to do anything except glory in it. "I'll see you soon, then," Duo said, and was gone.

Heero lay back, his head pressed against the stone, and silently waited for all the things Duo ripped open inside him to close.

+

He wanted to tell him; wanted to explain how he felt when he was with Duo. How he had never understood himself until he had known the other boy-how when he was with Duo he felt self-actualized, like he was the platonic ideal of himself. Like he was human, like he was real. But when he'd gone back inside there had been too many people. He had slept, that night, at a spot in between Duo's sleeping bag and the bed Relena shared with Hilde. When he looked one way he saw Duo: turn on. When he looked the other he saw Relena: she wore a Minnie Mouse nightshirt. With matching hair scrunchies. Enough said-turn off. He spent the night staring at the ceiling, which wasn't as boring as it sounded: it had been painted, apparently, by yet another cousin. And in the morning, after Duo had caught him alone for half a second and pressed a kiss to his breathless lips, the braided boy had winked at him, yawned at everyone, and declared his intention of sleeping in Relena's car for the first part of the journey. "I'll see you guys later," he said without looking at either Heero or Hilde. And Heero had been entranced in the way Duo walked for just long enough for his annoyance to die down and for him to realize what was going on. He ripped things open in Duo, too. He scared Duo, too. Duo, for all his flirtation, had never felt like this before, either. Heero hoped.

+

Beside him, Hilde stretched. "Is it almost time for lunch yet?"

His eyes went to the rearview mirror yet again; Relena and Duo seemed to be engaged in a conversation. Huh. "Yeah," he said. "It's almost time."

[part 3] [part 5] [back to Zillie's fic]