Road Trip + Part 5 (cont)

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Inside it looked even more like a dive. The décor was predominately red, and while seventies style furnishings could conceivably be quite fashionable, Heero was pretty sure that when they included all the dirt they'd accumulated since the 1970s they lost that trendy feeling.

There was a picture of Duo hanging on the wall. He was surrounded by autographed prints of people in sports paraphernalia-and, Heero thought as he took in a picture of a man in a double breasted suit, Mafia members.

Well, it was New Jersey.

But they were all barely noticeable next to Duo. It might have had something to do with the long, shining hair. It might have had something to do with the come-hither expression on his face. It might have had something to do with the dress, tight enough to leave no doubt that he was, indeed, a man. In other words, it might have had something to do with the fact that it was Duo.

Heero was quite seriously considering writing to some of his teachers and pointing out to them that they had made a serious oversight in their teachings. Not one of them had ever explained to him that around certain people-well, around one certain person-the laws of the universe didn't function in quite the same way. They had never told him that some boys would have lower gravity fields around them, so that every time you stood near one you felt like you were going to float away. Or throw up. They had never explained that some boys could have eyes like black holes, that sucked you in no matter how hard you pushed away. And they had never explained that when you met Duo Maxwell you could fall in love in less time than it took to blink, all pheromones and urges toward reproduction aside. Yes, he was definitely going to have to write those letters. The government should have known better.

At the moment Duo was disrupting the personal gravity of a man who looked to be in his early twenties; that was to say, Duo was currently being hugged by a man who most people would probably find fairly attractive. Heero narrowed his eyes and walked over.

"Heero!" Duo said, already looking a little drunk. Heero surveyed the generous bar with some distrust.

He didn't drink alcohol, either.

"Heero, this is Nasty Nasty Nikos. Niko, this is Heero."

"Nice to meet you, Heero," the man purred. "Can I get you a drink?"

"I'm underage," Heero said stonily.

"I wasn't offering alcohol," George said so smoothly that Heero wasn't sure if he was being truthful or not. "We have a decent selection-trying to encourage that whole not drinking and driving thing, y'know? On the house. Any friend of Duo's."

Hilde was beginning to thrust and grind her hips slightly to the music. "Are we in time for the fun, Niko?"

"I saved the fun for you," he told her. "C'mon, Hilbert. Let's get this started."

"Geo?" Duo called after them; somehow even in that din his voice was audible. "Did you find that song I wanted?"

Nikos looked at him, then at Heero. "Oh, yes. I found it."

Hilde kicked off the karaoke night-"by invitation only," George told Heero in a low voice. "If I don't invite you, you don't up on that stage. And I don't invite just anyone." He grinned reminiscently. "The only person who has ever gotten up on that stage within ten minutes of meeting me for the first time-"

"Duo?" Heero asked.

Nikos nodded slowly. "Yeah. Duo."

Hilde's performance of 'Santa Baby' was cute but not particularly remarkable.

"Been an awful good girl, Santa cutie!" she sang.

"She's a sweet girl, Hilde is," George mused. Heero was fairly certain that the older man had not been dipping into the nonalcoholic drinks. "It took me two years to remember her name, but she's a real sweet girl."

Nobody, Heero thought, would ever resort to calling Duo a sweet boy. From where he sat with the owner he could see Duo grinding-to 'Santa Baby,' no less-with anyone on the dance floor who wanted to slip into his orbit for a minute.

"She's great," he said abruptly. "She's smart and funny and occasionally insightful."

Niko toasted him. "And you're dying to fuck her best friend."

Heero gave him a look that said, 'and you aren't?'

"If my boyfriend wouldn't have ripped my balls off I would have," Nikos said thoughtfully. "But my Marc is a jealous bastard. If I hadn't had Marc I would have."

Heero didn't know what to say.

"It's a good thing I have Marc. For a lot of reasons. In part because I'm not at all what Duo needs." Nikos took another slug of his drink.

"And what do you think that Duo needs?" Heero asked softly.

Nikos seemed to think about it. "Someone who centers him, y'know? Someone who can calm him down when he gets too hyper and balance him out when he gets too. . . well, hyper. Me, I'm too like him. We'd burn each other out in a week."

"In other words, someone boring to be Duo's watcher."

Nikos looked surprised. "No, not at all. Someone a little more internal than Duo is. Someone who's more interested in what he's really like that what he does up on stage, or in front of a group." His gaze went a little dreamy. "Like my Marc. I could have thousands of lovers, you know. When I'm up there I could have any of them, standing out there screaming how much they love me. But Marc's the only one who does, because Marc's the only one who knows when to love me and when to slap me across my self-indulgent face."

Heero had absolutely no idea what the guy was talking about. "I think you're exaggerating how much like you Duo is. He likes. . . men with personality." He gestured towards the dance floor, where Duo was laughing in between two striking individuals, one male, one female.

"When I was younger and fucked everything in sight, one of Marc's cousins was telling me about something in her psychology book. She told me that people picked partners in different ways in different parts of their lives. Like in high school you're more concerned with what they look like and what they blow like and stuff like that." He tilted his head back; on his left hand his thumb reached over to rub at what looked to be a wedding band. "When you get older you get a little smarter. Hopefully. And Duo's not stupid."

Heero took a sip of his drink.

"And you're not exactly a dog," Niko said, leaning in; for a second Heero thought the older man was going to kiss him. "Not at all."

"I'm not very good with people," Heero admitted.

"You're doing just fine with me."

"What does your Marc do?" Heero asked, casting about for a different subject.

Niko smiled smoothly as he sat back. "He's got seven PhD's. He works in a think tank. He's a complete and utter nerd who happens to be, in my opinion, the most gorgeous man in the universe."

"What do you do?" Heero asked.

Niko's smile grew faintly derisive; Heero got the feeling he was mocking himself. "I write songs. Sometimes I even sing them." He spread his hands. "And I own a little bar in New Jersey because my family lives nearby. And because it relaxes me."

"Why do you call it the green door?" Heero asked.

"How into Duo are you?" Niko asked in return.

"Very."

"How much is that?"

Heero shrugged. "I've never been in love before. I don't have much to compare it to."

"When I was little, we lived in the trailer park down the street about four miles," Niko said, leaning back. "One night my sister's boyfriend kicked in the door. We found an old green one in the dump. And so, because my awkwardness and my clothes and my family just weren't enough for the bullies at my school, they decided they were going to beat up the little fledgling fag. I was fifteen at the time, and for some reason I decided I wasn't going to take it. Not the beating, and not the teasing just because they thought I was gay. So I fought back, and managed somehow to knock them down. I broke this one kid's nose, and then stood there and looked at him, and said something along the lines of, 'you just got your ass kicked by a fag.' It was the first time I'd ever said it."

"What happened to those kids?" Heero asked.

"One of them still hates me. One of them manages my bar. And then-my drummer, Georges? He still has a crooked nose." Nikos grinned. "I have a way with people."

"And that's why this place is called the Green Door?" Heero asked dubiously.

Nikos grinned again as he lit a cigarette; the brief flame illuminated his face, giving it a devilish cast. "Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it sounds good, don't it?"

Another karaoke-er finished and a light, bouncy music began to play. Heero looked around for Duo-Nikos poked him and pointed towards the stage.

Duo bounded out in time to the music, swinging his hips and his hair back and forth.

"I want a Heero-potamus for Christmas!"

Heero blinked.

"Only a Heero-potamus will do!" He looked soulfully out at the crowd, who, for the most part, had turned to watch him strut his stuff. "Don't want a doll! No dinky kinky toys! I want a Heero- potamus to play with and enjoy!" He bounced over to the edge of the stage and blew a kiss to one Heero Yuy, currently a bit in shock. "I can see me now on Christmas morning, going down," and here he paused long enough to wink, "the stairs! Oh what joy and what surprise when I open up my fly and see a Heero hero standing there! I want a Heero- potamus for Christmas! I don't think anyone will mind!" He sank down into a crouch and, whispering as if he was imparting a secret, asked "do you? He won't have to use the dirty chimney flue!" And then, bouncing to his feet and slapping his butt so that nobody could doubt the meaning of what he was about to say, "just bring him through my back door that's the easy thing to do!"

Nikos was laughing. "Very interesting, that," he said, flicking the ash from his cigarette.

"There's lots of room for him! In my two person bed! I'd feed him there and wash him there and give him lots of head!"

Hilde joined them; she was sparkling with laughter. "Would you call this a romantic gesture, I wonder?"

Heero thought he would.

"Mom says a Heero would eat me up but then! That's half the point so let's do it all again!"

In fact, as Heero sat there, he thought he might call that the most romantic thing he'd ever seen.

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They followed Nikos home; neither of them said anything. Hilde was trying to make the word 'inflatable' fit into the 'don't want a doll' line, but Heero and Duo were too intent on each other to even notice.

Nikos showed them to the extra rooms. "We've got three, so with your friend showing up someone will have to share," he said innocently.

"I think that's my cue to leave," Hilde said, grabbing her bag. "Night, Duo. Heero."

Nikos followed her and pulled the door to the guest room closed behind him. "Night!" he called.

Then there was just Duo. "Hi," he said, swinging his braid just a little.

For once, Heero felt absolutely confident; he was not about to make a mistake. He knew exactly what to say and what to do. "Hi," he said. And that was enough.

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