“I really don’t know how you stand this,” Heero remarked conversationally. “Some TV is fine, but this is insane.” They’d essentially spent the whole of Monday in front of the television, and Heero didn’t think he could handle a repetition on Tuesday; he wondered how Duo could.
“Oh, I have a special power,” replied Duo mysteriously, “which allows me to watch TV for days on end without doing anything else.”
Heero looked over at him, curious.
Duo explained. “It’s called ‘having no other choice.'”
Heero winced. There were just so many ways being a doll must be miserable; it didn’t quite seem fair that even Duo’s primary source of entertainment formed one of them. Remind me never to piss Trowa off, was Heero’s immediate reaction to this thought, but he forebore from saying it aloud. Duo had been complaining lately that Trowa hadn’t come to see him for so long, and Heero didn’t feel like bringing the subject up if it wasn’t already on Duo’s mind.
Instead, he stood abruptly and said, “No. We’re going to find something else to do.”
“‘Something else to do?'” Duo echoed in an eyebrow-waggling sort of tone.
Firmly, Heero took the remote control from where it lay next to Duo on the end table, and turned the TV off. “Yes,” he said. “Anything but more TV.”
“‘Anything?‘” said Duo in that same suggestive tone.
Heero gave a monosyllabic laugh and rolled his eyes. He was already pondering what kinds of pastimes besides television-watching were available to someone that couldn’t hold, eat, or drink anything, couldn’t stand under his own power, whose knees and elbows didn’t bend, and who would be considered more than a little bit anomalous to the world in general. (He couldn’t deny that a little voice in the back of his head added, ‘and whose entire groin is a solid piece with no movable parts,’ but he did brush the thought away as entirely unhelpful.) He hadn’t come up with anything yet when his reflections were interrupted by the ringing of his phone.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to cell phones,” Duo remarked as Heero dug into his pocket.
It was one of his parents calling. Heero took a deep breath, bracing himself mentally, before picking up.
His mother always greeted him, “Heero?” in a questioning tone, as if someone else might be answering his phone.
“Yes,” he replied. “Hello. How are you?”
“We are very well,” said his mother with her usual businesslike, almost brusque cheerfulness and faint trace of disapprobation. “Relena and Colin are coming over for dinner on Sunday, if you’d like to come too.”
Heero counted the days since he’d had dinner with his family, and saw very plainly that he could not turn down this particular invitation. If only they’d planned this for Monday, so he could plead Final Four… Stifling a sigh, he said, “Yeah, that would be great. Six thirty?” Because no dinner at the Yuy household had ever happened at any other time.
His mother confirmed this, then proved that, as usual, she didn’t have much else to say besides what she’d specifically called for. She wasn’t very good at chatting on the phone, a trait Heero had inherited from her — but at least he didn’t try. She asked what he’d been up to lately without really wanting to hear the answer, which was good, since he didn’t really want to give the answer.
He could just imagine telling his mother, “Well, I found a talking Ken doll in the gutter and have since developed a crush on him, but he’s already got a 100-year-old boyfriend.” She might, at least, be glad to hear that Quatre was chasing someone else; she was just sure that, any day now, Heero was going to announce he’d started sleeping with his best friend.
They exchanged a few more somewhat stiff comments, and finally hung up, with the reiterated promise of a meeting on Sunday that Heero wasn’t particularly looking forward to. A couple of months ago he wouldn’t have minded, but at the moment there were few places more awkward and uncomfortable to be on a Sunday evening than at his parents’ house with his sister and her fiance.
“I didn’t know you were bilingual!” said Duo, sounding impressed, as Heero put his phone away.
“Oh. Yeah.” Heero shrugged slightly. His family tended to speak Japanese among themselves, which included phone conversations; Heero didn’t really think much about it.
“Well,” Duo went on matter-of-factly, “that is extremely sexy, and I am totally jealous.”
Heero laughed briefly. “Didn’t you say you spoke some kind of Spanish, though?”
“I said I spoke maybe ten words of Wade Spanish, which doesn’t even start to count.”
Looking down thoughtfully at the doll, Heero said, “You keep mentioning this ‘Wade.'”
“That was what they called the neighborhood Trowa and I lived in growing up.” Duo’s plastic head was swiveled upward to return Heero’s gaze, and his eyes blinked with unnerving regularity, like an animation in an old video game or something. “See, the city was right up against this shallow river, and there was this big old sort of shantytown on the other side… a bunch of poor people lived there, mostly non-white, the kinds of people that got kicked around most back then.”
“Has that changed?” asked Heero with light dryness.
“It was worse back then,” promised Duo somewhat flatly. “Anyway, it was quicker for them to wade the river than walk a couple of miles to a bridge to get into the city, so they got called ‘Waders’ and the part of town where most of them worked — hell, it was practically the only part of the city a lot of them could get work — but that part next to the river got called ‘the Wade.’ I mean, this all started before I was born; I always knew it as the Wade.”
“And what was it like?” Heero asked curiously.
In response to this question, Duo laughed. “You know, there’s this thing I see happen on TV,” he began in an amused, pensive tone, “and you probably know about it too, if TV hasn’t been lying to me like it sometimes does.”
“Yes?” Heero prompted, returning to his seat on the couch and facing Duo.
“Someone’ll find out that someone else speaks another language — say, Spanish — and they’ll say, ‘Oh, oh, say something in Spanish for me!’ And the other person suddenly has no idea what to say.”
Now Heero laughed too. “OK, yes, I do know about that.” He was certain, however, that Duo, if he found himself in that situation and did happen to speak Spanish, would be one of those smartasses that just translated the words ‘something in Spanish’ into Spanish.
“Because you know about a billion words in that language, right?” Duo said. “And how are you supposed to decide just at a moment’s notice which ones will represent the language and how it sounds to someone who doesn’t speak it?”
“Are you sure you haven’t experienced this personally?” Heero asked, eyebrows raised.
“Well, I think that’s about what it feels like when you ask me what the Wade was like.” Duo said this in some triumph, as if he’d just made an irrefutable point in an intense debate.
“Oh,” said Heero, understanding, and laughed a little again.
“I mean, I could tell you a million things about life there, but there’s no quick and easy way to tell you ‘what the Wade was like.’ What would you say if I asked you what this city was like?”
“All right, I see your point,” Heero conceded. For, while there were a lot of concise answers he could have given to the proposed question, none of them would really paint a reliable picture of the city in general. “How about this, then: do the movies get it right? I guess that’s more about era than location,” he admitted immediately, “but still…”
“Well, sometimes…” Duo went on in a ‘scratching his head’ sort of tone. “As right as anyone can get it when they’re trying to cram all the social changes and attitudes and stuff of an entire decade into an hour and a half. They always try to capture ‘the spirit of the times’ in movies, but that’s something you can only do after the fact, I guess. I mean, I don’t think I ever did anything that embodied the progressive and inventive spirit of the 1910’s, and I definitely never looked around and thought about it. But sometimes the movies do get sets that look pretty good.”
Again Heero nodded his understanding, and couldn’t help thinking about how movies a hundred years from now would portray this decade; what ‘spirit’ might they attempt to capture? “OK,” he said. “Then tell me one of the million things you could tell me about life in the Wade.”
And as Duo obeyed, leading them into a fascinating, lively, and long-lived conversation, Heero wondered why he’d ever been under the impression that they lacked interesting things to do.