Duo thought he could spend many an hour dwelling exclusively on the idea that he was Heero’s gay symbol without getting tired of it. However, since there were other things going on that he wanted to pay attention to, he saved that dwelling for later; it would be a good way to occupy time tonight when Heero was asleep.

For now, he was starting to wonder just how many people worked in this building, and how many of them were willing to abandon their work completely in order to come interrupt someone else’s just because they’d heard he had a doll on his desk. Of course, Duo reflected, it probably had more to do with Heero’s reputation than the mere presence of a doll… but, seriously, this level of general interest was weird and a little scary.

The worst one of the day came just before lunch. She didn’t greet Heero the way most of them did; she didn’t bring an excuse; she didn’t ask questions or hesitate or anything; she only bounded into the cubicle, making an enthusiastic high-pitched noise of some sort, and caught Duo up in both hands.

“He’s so cute!! Carol said he was so cute, and he is!!”

Duo hadn’t even gotten a good look at her before he found himself suddenly becoming acquainted with her chest in a manner that really reinforced the size differences between his body and an actual human’s. Suddenly he couldn’t see a thing, and there was a substantially muffled quality to the woman’s next exclamation. “I have to show him to Stephanie!” And then she was running.

Panic gripped Duo, all the worse for his being completely unable to do anything about it. Well, sure, he could talk to her, try to get her to stop, but it might already be too late. Where was she taking him? Where was Heero? Had he been able to follow, or was the woman too quick? Duo tried desperately to remind himself that they were only a few days into the month, that starting over at this point wouldn’t kill them… but of its effect on morale — particularly Heero’s — he didn’t dare think.

“Hilde!” This was definitely Heero’s voice, reassuringly close, though muffled like everything else. He did not sound happy.

“Oh, my god, look!” cried the woman Duo guessed was called Hilde. “This is that doll of Heero’s!” And Duo emerged at last from the valley in which he’d been clasped to find himself thrust into the face of another woman, presumably Stephanie, who looked surprised.

“Seriously? I thought that was just a joke!”

And Heero was there. As in at least one instance yesterday, he seemed simply to appear, without having moved, to snatch Duo out of the hands of the enemy with adrenaline speed. “Hilde!” he snapped. “You can’t just take things off of people’s desks!”

Hilde made a disappointed sound. Duo would have liked to look at her, but he found himself once again pressed, face-first, up against someone’s chest. He didn’t mind this one so much, though; in fact, in the midst of agitation and confusion, having Heero pull him against his chest was pretty much optimal. If only he could really feel it, instead of just coldly knowing it was happening.

“Well, at least let Stephanie see him!” demanded Hilde, evidently completely unfazed by Heero’s dire tone.

Heero took a breath deep enough to move Duo’s entire body, slowly relaxed (though he did not release) his two-handed grip, and allowed Duo some distance away from him. Duo didn’t dare turn his head, so he could only see the two women out of the corners of his eyes. One of them — Hilde, he thought — seemed to be making some kind of excited gesture, while the other — Stephanie, perhaps less unfazed than her friend — was sitting quite still.

“Isn’t he so cute?” Hilde prompted. “I love his hair!”

“Yeah, he’s cute,” said Stephanie dutifully. Duo definitely thought her lack of enthusiasm was due to Heero’s manner, and this was totally understandable; Heero was now pushing past Hilde, heading away from the two women without saying anything else, and his movements, as far as Duo was able to read them from his current position, could be described as ‘stalking.’

He didn’t dare say anything while he didn’t know whether or not Hilde might be following, and it was a few moments before he noticed that Heero didn’t seem to be returning to his cubicle. Rather, they were now in the hallway outside of the big room Heero referred to as the ‘sales floor.’ Heero stepped briefly into the break room before making his way, if Duo was not mistaken, toward the elevators. And not until they were inside one of the latter, thoroughly alone, did Heero’s tension fade. He slumped back against the railing on the wall and dragged one hand over his eyes with a ragged sigh.

“Did she…” Duo began somewhat tremulously, not certain he wanted to know.

Evidently aware of exactly what Duo was trying to ask, “No, I got after her in time,” Heero said, sounding tired. “But if that happens again I swear my heart’s going to stop.”

“Mine would still be racing if I had one,” replied Duo. “I thought for sure we were going to have to start the month over.”

“This has got to calm down once everyone’s come around and had a look at you,” Heero said desperately. “They can’t all keep doing this forever.”

“You could put me in a drawer or something.”

“No,” Heero said quietly as the elevator doors opened and he stepped out on the ground floor. He checked for anyone nearby that might observe him talking apparently to himself before he went on, “I’m not doing that to you unless I absolutely have to.”

That heart Duo had just mentioned as nonexistent was warmed by this. “Well,” he said reassuringly, “remember, if it comes to that, that I’m totally used to it. Add it all up and I’ve probably spent a total of twenty years or something inside toyboxes with nothing to do but think about how boring it is.”

“God, Duo…” Heero sounded horrified. “That is so–”

Duo broke in hastily, “Hey, I didn’t mean to play a pity card there. I mean, yeah, it sucked, but it’s nothing you need to worry about. Hell, you’re the one who’s going to fix all of that. If you want to pity me,” he added thoughtfully, “do it because boobs have been ruined for me forever.”

Heero was walking through the parking lot now, and forbore from responding just then as he passed somebody coming the other direction. Once he was approaching his own car, however, and nobody else was in earshot, he said, “OK, now, boobs what?”

“Boobs have been ruined for me forever,” Duo repeated. “That was traumatic, man. She pushed me up between those things, and everything went dark, and I couldn’t hear properly, and I didn’t know where you were… I’ll never be able to look at a woman’s chest again!”

“Um, Duo…” Heero seemed torn between laughter and further horror as he set Duo down in the passenger seat. “You are gay, aren’t you?”

“Yes! But that doesn’t mean I can’t — couldn’t appreciate nice breasts. Before. Before today. But never again.” And he made a shuddering sort of noise.

Now Heero really did laugh, though the sound was still somewhat baffled. He’d turned on the car, and was starting to back out of the parking space. “I probably shouldn’t be driving,” he muttered a moment later, “since my wallet’s in my briefcase inside…”

“You did kinda bat-out-of-hell out of there,” Duo grinned.

“And I’m not going back until two,” was Heero’s grim reply. Which, given that it wasn’t even one yet, meant he would be taking an over-long lunch for the second day in a row. This didn’t really bother Duo, of course, but he did hope Heero wouldn’t get in trouble because of it.

“And then I think you’re going to have to put me somewhere other than where I’ve been sitting,” the doll said. “It’s too easy for people to get at me there.”

Heero nodded.

Evidently wherever he was driving wasn’t too far from the office parking lot, for he was already bringing the old car to a stop and turning off the engine. Then he rolled down the windows, as he had yesterday, and picked up the lunch-cooler-bag-thing he’d seized from the break room fridge.

“Where are we?” Duo asked.

“Shopping center parking lot,” Heero replied. “The far end where nobody parks except when things get really busy.” He’d extracted his sandwich and Coke and little bag of chips. “We should be safe here.”

“Aww, Heero, did you want to be alone with me?”


So startled was Duo by the intensity of Heero’s answer that he couldn’t think of any clever reply. He knew the desire to be away from the curious co-workers probably had a good deal more to do with how emphatically Heero had spoken than any desire to spend time alone with Duo (something he actually did quite a lot); but even so, it was exactly what Duo liked to hear, and might have made him blush a little if he’d had circulation and flesh and all that.

He wondered suddenly why he didn’t just tell Heero that he liked him, instead of giving him stupid lines all the time. Heero seemed totally unaware of him in that sense, responded only neutrally to his flirting, and basically treated him like an unfortunate friend… but Heero was so private about so many things, how could Duo be sure? Heero was a nice guy; he would let him down easy if that was what it came to. What was the worst that could happen?

OK, well, the worst that could happen was that Heero really was every bit as disinterested as he seemed, the confession would make the necessity of keeping Duo within five feet of him incredibly awkward, and Duo might actually lose his chance at becoming human. And that… that was a pretty bad ‘worst.’

But the moment the curse was broken…

For right now, though, he thought something perfectly innocuous to talk about was in order. So, cheerfully, he began relating a dumb story about the Chevrolet 490 Trowa had bought back in the day, and speculating about what had happened to the thing, while Heero sat in the driver’s seat and ate his lunch in silence.

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