He was trying to avoid admitting, to himself or anyone else, that the first workday of the curse-breaking month hadn’t been nearly as bad as he’d been expecting. Which didn’t mean it hadn’t been bad, but he hadn’t been ready to pull his hair out at any point during the day, and — more importantly — he’d gotten by without sending a single panicked email to Quatre. Not only that, but he’d been able to enjoy the basketball game after work without (much) brooding over how the day had gone or anxiety for tomorrow.
And then tomorrow had come.
It was 8:03. He was barely settled in his cubicle, had barely arranged Duo in the same spot as yesterday, and had barely started fielding questions about the other contents of his desk — just the questions Duo hadn’t gotten around to yesterday, for one reason or another — when it started.
“Heero, want a donut?”
“Not on the floor,” he answered promptly. “You know food isn’t allowed out here.”
“You are such a hard-ass,” Duo laughed. “Besides, you know she’s only here to see me.”
Heero did know it. If Sally’s real intention had simply been to offer him a donut before everyone else ate them all, she would merely have peeked over the wall of the cubicle, not come walking in and right up to his chair.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “It’s a cake donut…” Some of his co-workers were more perceptive than others, but the number of them that knew of his love for cake donuts could probably be counted on one hand; he might even have said on one finger if it weren’t for Sally’s propensity to tell Noin everything.
“Dooo iiit,” Duo urged.
Repressing a smile, Heero steeled himself. “Not on the floor,” he reiterated. “But thank you.”
“No problem. I’ll put it under a napkin in the break room and maybe nobody will see it.” She was bending down to look at Duo now. “How come he doesn’t have any socks?”
He’d expected some sort of remark or question about Duo eventually, but this one came so smoothly at the end of her statement about the donut, and was so unexpectedly specific, it actually startled him into answering. “I have no idea.” At least he did manage to cut his response short before blurting out that socks hadn’t been included with the outfit and he’d never really thought about it until now.
“It’s OK,” Duo reassured him. “I don’t need ’em.”
Sally peered at Duo even more closely. “I think he’d look better in purple,” she said at last.
Heero was ready this time, and was able to stifle his “So do I” without too much effort.
“Or a different red,” was Duo’s comment. “This one’s kinda blah.”
“Especially if he’s a gay thing,” Sally added as she stood straight again. “Purple would be more appropriate, don’t you think?” And then she walked away.
Left staring alternately after her and back at Duo, the latter’s surprised laughter in his ears, Heero couldn’t help remembering his mother’s comment, “Relena’s car would be much more appropriate for you, don’t you think?” He was reflecting on how strange was a world in which he could be given veiled negative hints about his sexuality on Sunday evening and then commended on an apparent display of it on Tuesday morning in such similar words.
Eventually Duo stopped laughing and said, “So that’s what they’re thinking: that I’m some kind of gay symbol! Isn’t it great to not tell people anything and then see what they come up with on their own?”
Finally Heero smiled. “I doubt that’s something you do very often.”
“And it isn’t a bad idea…” Heero went on musingly. Everyone on the sales floor knew he was gay — actually they all thought he was dating Quatre — though he was damned if he knew how they all knew, since he’d certainly never specifically told any of them. And since they were aware of his disinclination to talk about it, it should make sense to them that he didn’t feel like talking about the new pride symbol on his desk either (as contradictory as it seemed to have a pride symbol you didn’t want to talk about).
“But when I have my Starfleet uniform…” said Duo gleefully, giving the words the emphasis of extreme satisfaction.
Heero’s smile widened. He didn’t really believe that a Star Trek outfit on Duo was going to change anything, make Duo less conspicuous or help him look less like the property of a very gay man; nor did Heero think he could pass himself off as enough of a nerd for it to give the desired unspoken indication to his co-workers as to why Duo was there in the first place. The fact was, there weren’t many gifts he could buy for Duo at this point, and he’d jumped on the chance to get him this one the moment it was obvious Duo wanted it. He’d even paid extra for overnight shipping.
“Knock-knock!” Heero absolutely hated it when people said that instead of just knocking, door or no door, but there wasn’t much to be done about it. In came one of the IT guys from downstairs, moving with that confident restlessness all IT people had when they were moving at all. “Hey, 3-9-1, you know the whole building’s talking about you?”
“I could have guessed,” said Heero through gritted teeth.
The IT guy — whose name Heero could not remember and whose badge currently sat at an impossible-to-read angle — went for Duo so fast that Heero didn’t have a chance to stop him. He snatched the doll up and began turning him over and around, examining him, with an impudent grin on his face. “It’s like you’re that guy from The Simpsons. Um, what’s his name… That guy who’s gay for his boss and has all the Malibu Barbie dolls…”
It so happened that Heero knew exactly what he was referring to, but wasn’t about to offer any assistance.
“Hey, let me take this downstairs and show the–”
At this, Heero was out of his chair so fast it crashed into the desk behind him. “No.” And he’d reached out and taken Duo back, pulling him protectively close to his chest in a tight grip, before the IT guy could even blink. The guy stared at him, and Heero tried hard not to blush at the thought of how utterly bizarre and childish that must have looked. And he was drawing a blank trying to come up with anything to say that might explain it.
Finally the guy forced a laugh, and said, “You’ve lost it, man,” as he turned to leave.
Heero let out a long, frustrated breath once he was again alone with Duo, and reflected that it wasn’t even nine o’clock yet. How was he going to get through the day if this sort of thing kept happening? How was he going to get through the month?
“Those are some quick reflexes you’ve got, 3-9-1,” Duo remarked.
“What does it mean?”
“Oh, IT people live in their own little world… they think it’s cool to call people by their workstation numbers.”
“Riiiiight.” Duo’s tone clearly indicated that he’d understood essentially none of Heero’s statement.
With a little snorting laugh, Heero smoothed out Duo’s rumpled hair and clothing and replaced him between the coffee cup and calendar.
“Seriously, though,” Duo went on, “that was well done. You were like whoosh and totally rescued me from that guy.”
Fighting off a blush for the second time in five minutes, Heero mumbled, “Well, I couldn’t just let him walk away with you.”
“My Heero!” said Duo cooingly, forcing Heero to turn hastily toward his computer because there really was no stopping that blush.