Heero managed to get out of the club with only a few more hints that he should really be explaining what Duo was all about and a few more, less subtle hints that he should really be dating Quatre. It had all gone a lot better than he’d been expecting.
“So help me out here — is his name ‘Mill’ or ‘Zechs?'” Duo was wondering as they crossed the parking lot.
“His name is Milliardo,” Heero answered, rolling his eyes a little. “‘Zechs’ is an old nickname from dental school or something, I guess, and that’s what everyone but Treize calls him.”
“Those guys are a riot. How did you meet them?”
“Quatre met them here, actually.” Trying as he did so not to let his gym bag squash Duo (who was again in his pants pocket), Heero started fishing for his keys. There was another good thing he hadn’t really expected — very little talk about his car today from his fellow BMW drivers. “I got dragged into it because they needed a fourth for tennis and stuff.”
“But not basketball,” Duo recalled.
“Every once in a while we can convince them. They always act like they’ve done us a huge favor, though; it’s kindof annoying.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” chuckled Duo. “They were acting like everything they did was a huge favor to the whole world.”
Heero laughed too. He liked Treize and Zechs well enough, and tolerated their teasing better than he did that of a great many others, but Duo was certainly right about their attitude.
Once they were in the car and headed home, Duo’s first remark was, “You know a lot of really hot people.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah, definitely. These tennis friends of yours… pretty much all your co-workers — I mean, I know there’s a million women there, but they’re mostly pretty hot, for women… and that super nerd has that slick Chinese look going on… and even that other guy… what did you call him… the E.T. guy…”
Heero had to laugh a little at this. “I’m going to assume you’re joking about the IT guy. And I never would have thought to call Wufei ‘really hot.'”
“That’s only because he annoys you,” Duo stated positively.
“He certainly does that,” Heero agreed. “But, really, he’s not my type.”
“Oh? You have a type?” Duo asked his next question in a disturbing mix of his usual flirtatious tone and his excellent Wufei imitation: “And what might that be?”
If Heero himself had been better at flirting, he would have responded immediately, “Oh, a long braid and impossibly purple eyes.” As it was, there was no way to answer accurately without encroaching on confessing-a-crush-on-someone-else’s-boyfriend territory, so he had to resort to equivocation. “Like you said, Wufei looks very slick, and he has this sort of self-contained look to him that I don’t like. I prefer a…” He shrugged, trying to think of the right word. “A more casual look, I guess… something freer, something a little softer-looking, maybe.” He gestured vaguely at his head, thinking of Wufei’s silly little ponytail. “Looser hair, I think, among other things…”
“So more like Quatre?”
Very carefully Heero said, “He’s definitely closer to what I like the look of than Wufei is.”
A long, thoughtful silence followed, during which Heero rather hoped they were done with this subject. He didn’t really have a fixed opinion on what he found most visually attractive in a man, and at this point any description more specific than the largely incomprehensible one he’d just given would be that of his mental image of Duo as a human. He could probably avoid being forced to admit this by inquiring into what Duo found attractive — it would be a perfectly natural next step in the conversation — but he couldn’t bring himself to solicit what would undoubtedly turn out to be a general description of Trowa.
It didn’t matter; Duo shifted the topic anyway. “So why aren’t you dating Quatre? I mean, I know that’s a stupid question — why aren’t you dating any random person you know, right? — but you guys seem like you’re pretty close, and you get along really well, and he’s nice and everything…”
Heero stifled a deep sigh. That everyone at work thought he and Quatre were together was more amusing than anything else, and with Treize and Zechs the quizzing and denial had become something of a tradition… but when Duo started wondering about it, well, that carried an entirely different meaning. Heero didn’t care what anyone else thought, but he didn’t want Duo expressing the opinion that he and Quatre would make a great pair. And this was the reason he answered with more complete honesty than he’d ever used to respond to that question before:
“Quatre is nice. And we do get along really well. But there are some things you can put up with in a friend that would drive you crazy in a boyfriend.”
“Oh, really?” Duo sounded intensely interested. “What’s little Quatre got going on that would drive poor Heero crazy?”
“‘Little Quatre?'” Heero echoed dryly.
Duo chuckled somewhat sheepishly. “‘Little Quatre’ like ‘I-can’t-think-of-a-better-affectionate-nickname-on-the-spur-of-the-moment Quatre,'” he explained.
Briefly Heero considered supplying the Japanese ‘chan’ to meet this particular vernacular need of Duo’s, but upon further reflection decided that, in the long run, nobody would thank him for that. Instead he answered Duo’s question: “Well, little Quatre is very controlling. I’m not criticizing him for it — it’s why he’s so good at his job, and it doesn’t really bother me most of the time — but I don’t think I could deal with it in a relationship.”
Duo hmm‘d thoughtfully, but didn’t say whatever he was thinking. Heero supposed he probably shouldn’t be disappointed at this, since chances were good that it involved something he would rather not hear… but he was disappointed. So, instead of just asking, passive-aggressive though he knew it was, he supplied more information in the hopes that Duo would do the same: “He and I did kiss once, though…”
Rather than extracting the private thoughts from Duo, this seemed to extract Duo momentarily from his private thoughts. “Oh, really?” he repeated. “And how was that?”
Heero shrugged. “It was a long time ago. We thought we might as well try.”
“That good, huh?” Duo was evidently amused that this was the best description Heero could come up with for the experience in question. “Hmm…” And he slipped right back into his previous contemplative silence.
So Duo thought Wufei was hot and that it would be logical for Heero and Quatre to be dating. How discouraging. Heero tried to remind himself that this was perfectly natural behavior for a friend and only to be expected, but that wasn’t really comforting. At the same time, there was nothing to be done about it.
Duo only came out of his reverie after Heero had gone through a drive-thru and obtained some dinner for himself. Heero liked and rather looked forward to being treated by one of his excessively rich friends to a meal at the fancy club restaurant after tennis, but Duo’s comment in the changing room had been absolutely right — he’d wanted to get out of there before he had to talk about the doll in his pocket — so Burger King was the order of the evening. And Duo, on realizing he’d missed the opportunity to talk into the speaker (which was evidently something he enjoyed, since the person on the other end had no way of knowing he wasn’t human), finally set aside whatever had been occupying his thoughts so thoroughly.
“You know, I could count on the number of hands and feet I have total the number of times I’ve eaten at a restaurant.”
“So, four times?” Heero wondered, somewhat amused.
“Well, three actually. But I could count that on the number of hands and feet I have total. I can’t exactly count anything on one hand above, you know, one.” Duo waved one of his single-piece hands in the air. “But, yeah, cheaper restaurants where anyone could just walk in and get a sandwich or something took a while to get started… and the nicer places were way out of my league.”
“But you managed it three times.” Heero was already digging fries out of the bag as he drove; he never managed to get a fast food meal home with any of the fries left.
“Yeah… after Trowa started making bank but before I got sick of his new lifestyle, he took me to a couple of places. And before that, years before that, there was this one time when we thought we were going to get evicted, and we had no idea where we would go if we did, so I convinced Trowa to blow all the money we had on eating out and pretending we were all high-class, just to make us feel better. We were maybe… seventeenish… at the time, I think.”
“So instead of paying rent with your money so you wouldn’t get evicted…”
Duo laughed sheepishly. “It wasn’t that we couldn’t pay rent; it was that the guy who owned the building thought he could get better rent out of some family of eight that was looking for a place. You know, in our two rooms.”
“But still, it sounds like you spent your rent money on food instead.”
“It wasn’t just food… it was an experience. The menus were half in French — which was what got us started on the whole French nickname thing — and the waiters were all looking down their noses at us, and everything they asked, they asked all sarcastically, like, ‘Will you gentlemen have another glass of lemonaid?’ — because we couldn’t afford wine or anything, and they might not have let us have it anyway.”
Heero couldn’t help laughing. “That still doesn’t explain why you spent your rent money on this.”
“Well, it’s a long story…”
And a long story from Duo, Heero decided, even from a Duo that might think Heero ought to be dating Quatre, was the perfect way to spend most of an evening.
It is often very wicked for an author to air her opinions through her characters, but I will frankly admit that Heero thinking he’d better not introduce Duo to the Japanese ‘chan’ is my direct shout-out against the dreadful ‘Hee-chan’ I hear from Duo so often in GW fic. I hate that more than I can adequately express, and will not apologize.