Duo felt nothing less than resplendent in his new first officer’s uniform, which he hadn’t expected to be wearing for at least another couple of days yet. It was so nice of Heero to have had the thing shipped here so quickly, undoubtedly paying extra money to do so… Of course, he’d probably done it primarily out of desire to get more quickly at the excuse it provided, but, even so, Duo appreciated it. He felt like one of those awesome people that went to those awesome convention things in totally accurate costumes.
So as not to miss anything that was going on around him during the day, he was getting into the habit of putting off his daydreams until Heero was asleep, and now he made a mental note for tonight: think about the (improbable) possibility that his clothing might grow to human size with him when the curse was broken, and he might end up with a full-sized Star Trek uniform he could still wear at that point.
Heero had been keeping him just to the left of his computer monitor ever since yesterday afternoon, which made Duo impossible for anyone to reach if they didn’t want to get right into Heero’s personal space. It had done the trick so far: evidently Heero’s personal space was quite the no-man’s-land to his co-workers. Not terribly surprising, that. Duo’s new location also, sadly, greatly reduced his ability to see much of anything besides Heero and certain dustier corners of the cubicle. Heero was, of course, an absolute treat to look at even at the worst of times, but it did make it more difficult to see who was coming and try to guess why.
The why was still usually ‘to stare at Duo,’ though most of the latest ones had been smart enough to provide work-related excuses as well — and to a few, Duo thought, he was just an attraction additional to the assistance they legitimately needed from Heero. And the traffic was slowing, as Heero had hoped it would. By the end of the week, perhaps, things would be business as usual, with only a new eccentricity added to Heero’s reputation.
Mid-morning, yet another woman showed up to bask in Duo’s splendor. There was something very eye-catching about this one; he thought at first that it was the pleasantly fat curliness of her red-brown hair, but the line of her nose and the shape of her eyes made him rethink this assessment. He certainly had time to do so, since she was just standing there, very quiet, poised slightly on tip-toe to look over Heero’s shoulder. It appeared she didn’t necessarily have any desire to talk to Heero, just to see Duo; and, while this would have been easy enough yesterday morning, Duo’s new location made it nearly impossible today for her to observe him without alerting Heero.
The latter seemed, as he sometimes did, to be very deliberately ignoring her. There was a difference to the way his eyes moved across the computer screen, Duo noticed, when he was only pretending to work. Evidently he was planning to see if she’d go silently away if he had nothing to say; maybe this would be the first gawping co-worker encounter to end without a conversation.
This possibility was negated by Duo himself, however, when, a few moments later, he realized what it was about the woman’s face that was so interesting. “She looks like Trowa!” he said in some surprise.
Hearing this, Heero sat up a little straighter in his chair, pushing it back away from the desk slightly and causing the woman to start. Then he swiveled around to face her as she took a step away from him. By now his tone was more resigned than impatient in asking, “Did you need something?”
“No,” she replied, giving a smile whose irritation was clearly not aimed at Heero, “and I didn’t mean to bother you. I wasn’t going to come over, but they–” she made a somewhat impatient gesture toward the rest of the sales floor– “wouldn’t stop bugging me until I came to see this doll of yours.” Now that Heero had moved, the woman was evidently able to get a more satisfactory look at Duo. She gave a decisive nod. “So now I’ve seen it. I’ll get out of your way.”
Heero didn’t respond verbally, only nodded as well and turned back to his computer. And the woman, true to her word, left without asking him any questions. Duo watched her go, then looked at Heero again. Observing narrowed eyes and lowered brows, Duo remarked, “I’d have thought you’d be happier about that one. It looked like she wouldn’t even have said anything if you hadn’t.”
Heero’s lips tightened before he opened them to answer. “If even the people who don’t want to come over here and look are being pressured into doing it, we’ve still got a ways to go.”
“OK, you’re probably right about that,” Duo admitted. “But don’t you think she looks like Trowa?”
“Not particularly,” replied Heero shortly.
Duo mused on. “Well, I guess I know his face better than you do. I think his nose is pretty much the same as hers… she’s rocking it, too; you don’t see many women who look that good with a nose that strong.” Heero offered no opinion, so after a moment Duo continued, “Something about the eyes, too… I think it was in the outside corners, or…” But without having her in front of him, he couldn’t quite articulate the similarity.
Still Heero said nothing.
“You really didn’t see it?” Duo pressed on. “I wonder if they’re related…”
Finally Heero volunteered something. “Well, her name is Catharine Barton,” he said without removing his gaze from his computer monitor or slowing whatever he was typing, “if that helps.”
“What!? Really?? Barton??” This startled outcry won him a skeptical look from Heero, and he explained immediately, “That’s Trowa’s name!”
Heero nodded his understanding and returned to his work, seeming singularly uninterested.
“I bet they are related. Let’s see… Trowa’ll be a hundred and twelve this year… she could be his great-great-great-great-niece. Do you know where her family comes from, like, five generations ago?”
“It’s not something that’s ever come up in conversation,” Heero replied dryly.
Duo laughed. “No, I guess it wouldn’t. But the next time you talk to her, you should totally ask her. Trowa ran away from his parents when he was eight, but I know they came from–”
“Duo, once you’re human, you can study the genealogy of every single person in this company in detail if you want. But at the moment, I really don’t need to give any of them another excuse to come over here.” Heero sounded a little impatient as he said this, and Duo’s first instinct was to tease him about being grouchy… but he decided against it. After all, it didn’t seem quite fair to be inflicting this situation on him and then to get on his case for reacting naturally to it. So he just watched the reflection of the glowing screen in Heero’s eyes and said nothing more for the moment.
If Heero had been in a bad mood that morning, Duo was pleased to find him over it by lunch time. They went to the same parking lot as yesterday and talked cheerfully while Heero ate, and Duo had nothing to complain of beyond his fierce desire to try a chicken salad sandwich like the one Heero had.
“I’m not a bad cook,” Heero told him when he expressed this sentiment. “When you’re human, I can make you all kinds of things.”
“I have never once seen you cook anything ever,” Duo declared in grinning disbelief. “Unless it came from a package or something, I mean.”
Heero shrugged. “I don’t much like cooking for just myself.”
“But Quatre’s around all the time!” Thoughtfully Duo added, “I bet he’s a great cook, though.”
Heero smirked. “You’d think so… but he’s actually totally useless in the kitchen. It comes from having a paid cook all his life. He lives off leftovers from the stuff that guy makes, and anything you can just throw in the microwave.” As Duo laughed (reflecting that at least the microwave part of that description would probably apply to him someday as well), Heero went on. “And I do sometimes cook for him… but you caught us during March Madness, and you don’t cook for that.”
“Well, I seem to remember something about me owing you lunch every day for a year anyway,” Duo said.
Again Heero shrugged. “That doesn’t mean I can’t make you dinner.” And this statement, Duo thought happily, totally made up for being unable to experience the delicious-looking sandwich. There was a lot about Heero, in fact, that made up for a lot of things. No one person could ever really erase eighty-seven years of tribulation, but Duo was starting to think those eighty-seven years might have been worth it when he’d gotten to meet Heero at the end of them.
Today they were only nine minutes late back from lunch. They’d left about five minutes early (Duo thought; it was hard to tell the time from his angle), and the resulting fourteen or so minutes’ lateness was much better than Monday and Tuesday had been. This was probably a good thing, since Duo was sure that even the best friend of whatever managerial position Quatre occupied could only go so long on that sort of sloppy schedule without some kind of trouble arising.
And just after lunch, they had the most interesting encounter of all.