Heero was used to being a little restless at work on Fridays — not that he showed it, but he liked his weekends. And today there was the added bonus of really wanting this week to end, since he was hoping that the fervor about Duo would die once everyone had had a Saturday and Sunday to calm down and perhaps forget. So it was no surprise that he was a little more impatient even than usual with anyone that approached him for anything less than a perfectly businesslike reason.
“I think you made that one cry,” Duo remarked, and not in a terribly accusatory tone, as someone from HR that had only had the very flimsiest excuse left in something of a hurry.
Heero stood halfway out of his chair, looking after the woman. He certainly didn’t enjoy the undue attention he and Duo were receiving, but making people cry was not something he wanted to do. From here, however, it was impossible to tell whether or not he had.
Evidently seeing the concern on his face and guessing at its cause, Duo hastily reassured him, “I was exaggerating. I don’t think she was really crying.”
With a nod, resolving to try for greater patience with his next visitor just in case, Heero resumed his seat. And as he did so, he caught sight of the doll stand Wufei had brought him on Wednesday. Heero had pulled its three pieces apart and tossed them aside after Wufei had gone, and after that entirely lost track of it. Now he reached around the computer monitor to retrieve each of the parts, and started fitting them back together contemplatively.
“Oh, no,” Duo said. “I hoped you’d forgotten about that.”
“I did,” Heero murmured, “until I saw it just now.”
“Please don’t put me in that thing,” Duo begged.
Heero shook his head, trying to figure out how the last piece went on.
“Please?” reiterated Duo. When Heero still didn’t answer, Duo continued in a sort of chant, “Please? Please? Please? Please? Safe word?”
His full attention most definitely procured by this, Heero was startled into a laugh. “It’s so strange what you know about and what you don’t,” he told the doll.
“Yeah, I know,” replied Duo somewhat bitterly.
“You don’t know what IT people are,” Heero went on, setting the doll stand aside and giving Duo his full attention, “but you know about safe words…”
“Yeah, it’s stupid,” Duo admitted. “I’ve just picked up random things from various people and TV shows, and I don’t know a lot of stuff a normal person would.”
“How do you know about safe words?” persisted Heero. “Or would I rather not know?”
“Weeeelllll… it hasn’t all been kids…” Duo’s tone was somewhere between ‘shrug’ and ‘grimace’ with a touch of sheepishness thrown in, and the fact that he wasn’t using this topic as a springboard for flirtation indicated — to Heero, at least — that he took it very seriously.
“I can see I would rather not know,” Heero said lightly, not wanting to make Duo uncomfortable. And then he tried to return to his work and not think about everything that conversation had just dredged up in the back of his head.
Heero had never done anything that required a safe word, and knew little more about that kind of play than what was supposedly common knowledge. He was aware that there could be ropes or handcuffs involved, and spanking or whipping or something like that… that it was supposed to be about trust, and one person submitting to the control of another…
Duo had been so absolutely under the control of others for so long, with no recourse for decent treatment beyond begging, having mental discomfort and embarrassment forced on him… Even now that he’d found his old friend again and was on his way to having the curse broken, he was still completely at Heero’s mercy… Heero doubted very much that deliberately putting himself in the role of the victim (or whatever it was called in that context) was something that would at all appeal to Duo.
The other way around, however…
No, Heero did not need to be thinking about that. He was at work, and his face was clearly visible to Duo, and he probably shouldn’t be fantasizing about someone else’s boyfriend in the first place. And yet it was proving quite a daunting task to escape from the mental image of Duo — the hypothetical human Duo in Heero’s imagination, with his smooth tanned skin and his strong hands — tying Heero up, blindfolding him, making it Heero’s turn to beg, and–
He wasn’t sure whether he was more irritated or grateful at this. He’d been afraid Wufei might start coming over here to talk to him more frequently now that they’d inadvertently bonded over Star Trek, but at the same time couldn’t really think of a better buzz-kill than the somewhat creepy tone of Wufei’s formal greeting — and a buzz-kill was exactly what he’d needed just now.
Heero swiveled to face him. “Hello,” he said. For some reason, his eyes locked onto and could not tear themselves from Wufei’s tie, which had a vaguely familiar pink heart in the midst of some kind of machiney grey stuff and actually didn’t look too bad against his dark red-grey shirt.
“And how is your first officer today?” Wufei stepped up and reached for Duo before Heero could stop him. To Heero’s dismay, Wufei’s other hand went for the doll stand at the same time, and Heero could not think of a damn thing to say to prevent the union of the two objects. Wufei filled the silence, however. “Who is he supposed to be?” He added with absolute certainty, “He isn’t an original series character, or anyone from that awful movie.”
“He’s a…” Heero scrambled for a plausible answer, and perhaps it was what he’d just been thinking about before Wufei’s appearance that supplied his eventual, “…role-play character.”
Wufei set the newly-ensconced Duo back down on the desk and turned eager, calculating eyes on Heero. “I was not aware that you role-played.”
“I… yeah, sometimes,” said Heero weakly.
“My group–” Wufei began.
Hastily Heero interrupted him. “I think Dorothy is coming over here. You’d better get back to your desk.”
Wufei looked around with a frown, then nodded. “You’re right. We can discuss this later.”
Not if I can help it, Heero reflected as he watched Wufei’s surreptitious departure.
Somebody else approached Heero at that moment looking for information, and throughout this encounter Duo said nothing. But the instant this second co-worker was out of the way, Heero turned to the sound of a pathetic noise from Duo and pulled the doll out of the stand.
“Thank you,” Duo said intensely as Heero replaced him in his previous seated position beside the monitor.
Heero nodded, and began dismantling the stand again.
Duo sighed. “I’m starting to lose track of who’s picked me up and who hasn’t.”
“I’m sorry,” replied Heero. “I try to keep them from doing it.”
In a head-shaking sort of tone, Duo said, “Not your fault,” and sighed again.
“Only twenty-four more days…”
“Hey, that’s only a little more than three weeks!” And Duo sounded a little more hopeful.
Again Heero nodded. Then he opened one of his desk drawers and pulled aside its contents, looking for a place to hide the pieces of the doll stand. “I know this thing is terrifying,” he said as he did so, “but what is it that bugs you about it?”
Now Duo snorted. “Oh, just that I spent three years in one of those as a decoration in somebody’s guest room — which never got used — with nobody to talk to and no TV or anything.”
“Oh,” said Heero softly. Inwardly he was swearing fanatically that Duo would never have to occupy a doll stand ever again if he had the slightest say in the matter.
“Just staring at the horrible picture above the bed across the room…” Duo murmured in a tone that was the emotional polar opposite of nostalgic, “standing there with some nice-looking books nobody ever read on one side and a Happy Holiday Barbie on the other… listening to the world keep moving outside… going crazy…”
“Wow,” Heero breathed. As often happened when Duo spoke of his experiences as a doll over the years, Heero was overcome with an almost physical sensation of pity and horror, and he just wished there was something more he could do to make things right for Duo.
Abruptly Duo shook his head, as if to shake the memories away. Cheerfully — too cheerfully, Heero thought, especially all of a sudden like this — he repeated Heero’s earlier words: “Only twenty-four more days!”