“Quatre has the key,” Heero reminded his sister as she marched toward Trowa’s door.
She shook her head, dismissing this concern, and knocked loudly. Heero had to smile; Relena was nothing if not determined. Standing on tip-toe, she peered through the windows into Trowa’s entryway and murmured, “Well, there’s definitely someone’s house in there. Shouldn’t there be another apartment on the other side of this wall?”
“That’s right,” said Heero.
“The house isn’t on the other side of the wall, though,” Duo supplied.
“And here’s Quatre,” marveled Relena.
The door opened, and there, indeed, was Quatre. He looked surprised, but gave Relena a friendly smile as he greeted her. “So I guess you’re in on all this now?”
She nodded slowly, craning her neck slightly to see past him. “I don’t know if I believe ‘all this’ just yet, but this door thing is pretty amazing.”
Quatre grinned. “Well, come in and meet Trowa. We’ll have you believing in no time.”
“‘Come in,'” Relena echoed faintly. She looked back at Heero, who shrugged, and then, shrugging herself, followed Quatre through the door.
As it closed behind them, Duo began to laugh. “God… you know… this situation sucks a lot of the time, but a lot of the time it’s really funny too.”
Again Heero had to smile. “I’m glad to be able to tell her,” he confessed.
“Maybe it’ll make things easier on you.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Mostly Heero was glad to be able to confide in his sister, period. With the current tension between him and his parents, it was simply a relief.
Relena wasn’t gone long, which didn’t surprise Heero much; he doubted Trowa looked kindly on random strangers appearing in his house. She and Quatre were deep in conversation as they appeared again through the door, and it seemed to be some kind of enthusiastic discussion about magic, so far as Quatre understood it, and what it could do. Evidently Quatre had been true to his word, and Relena was now a believer.
She broke off, however, the moment she came back into the room. Heading straight for the couch, she bent and took Duo’s right hand between her thumb and forefinger. “I’m sorry I was rude before,” she said seriously. “It’s very nice to meet you, Duo.” And she shook his hand. Then she went on in the same level tone, “I find that you are very good-looking, and I notice your Starfleet uniform, and I acknowledge that you have no speakers or wires or anything.”
“Heero,” Duo breathed, “I think I’m going to have to marry your sister.”
Everyone laughed, and Relena, releasing the doll’s hand, sat back down on the couch. “So I may need to hear the story all over again, now that I believe it,” she said.
“Well,” said Quatre, who’d been standing behind Relena and grinning, “I’ve got a card game to finish, and then I’m going to see if I can convince Trowa to actually get some sleep tonight.”
“A card game, huh?” Duo said loudly (as loudly as Duo was capable, anyway; it was more of a tone, really, than a volume). “Is that what they’re calling it these days?” Heero thought there was a touch of bitterness to the tone, and wondered whether Duo recognized the fact that Quatre had a crush on his boyfriend or was simply jealous because he couldn’t spend as much time with Trowa as Quatre did.
Quatre had already turned back toward the door, and acknowledged this pointed statement with only a wave. Soon he was gone.
“Right, then,” said Relena. “Let’s hear it all again.”
The next hour and a half passed very pleasantly; strange as the situation was, to be able to share it with Relena was wonderful. Heero thought, too, that she divined a little more of what was going on than he actually articulated: the looks she gave him occasionally seemed to indicate that she was picking up on his unspoken feelings. That came as no great shock… she’d been his first family member to know he was gay, and hadn’t expressed any surprise; and she seemed to be one of the few people he knew whose mind it had never crossed that Heero and Quatre were anything more than friends. She simply understood him better than many others.
Most of the same questions Heero had asked over the weeks Relena now had, and she showed quite a bit of interest in everything the doll said. She was scrupulously polite, to which Duo responded (predictably) by flirting with her the entire time she was there. Silently watching as diplomacy was met with over-the-top flirtation reminded Heero of work parties; but not only did Relena lack the underhandedness of the office diplomats and Duo the desperation and pathos of those that tried to find dates at work parties, there was a sincerity to the friendliness of their words that further foiled the comparison.
As ten o’clock approached, Relena pulled herself with evident reluctance from the conversation. “I have to get home,” she said. Standing, she added to Heero, “You probably need to get to bed, too, if you’re going to have another fun day at work tomorrow.” And she grinned. She’d been quite amused by the accounts of what Heero had put up with there so far.
With a short, somewhat bitter laugh Heero stood as well, and followed her over to the kitchen counter. “I’ll just leave this here,” Relena went on, tapping the box she’d brought. “You can look through it and decide if you want any of it, and I’ll come by some other time and grab whatever you don’t.”
Heero nodded. “Oh,” he said, remembering suddenly. “Hang on.” And he went quickly into his bedroom to retrieve off his dresser the business card he’d gotten from Treize yesterday.
As he returned, Relena was looking at them both thoughtfully. “You really do just pick him up and take him with you everywhere, don’t you?”
Glancing down at Duo in his hand, Heero nodded again and held out the card.
“Not into the bathroom, though,” Duo said sagely.
Relena laughed, and thanked Heero for the card. “Well, Duo,” she said, turning to leave, “it was great to meet you.”
“Yeah, definitely,” Duo agreed, waving at her as she opened the apartment door.
“Oh, yeah, and Heero…” Relena halted and looked back. “There’s a book in there; it’s a present for you, not something I’m trying to get rid of, since I was pretty sure you didn’t have that one.”
“OK,” said Heero. “Thanks.”
“See you guys later!” She returned Duo’s wave and closed the door behind her as she stepped into the hall beyond.
Immediately Duo suggested, “Let’s see what book it is.” There was a mischievous tone to the statement that Heero thought more likely related to the bookshelf where the gift would eventually have to be placed than to the book itself.
“OK,” said Heero again, smiling, and went back to the box. He set Duo down on the counter next to it and began digging through the mismatched contents — what had led Relena to believe he could use any of this? — looking for a book. When he found one and saw what it was, he smiled again; this was a very clear symbol of solidarity to accompany the apology regarding their mother.
“Well, what is it?” asked Duo impatiently.
“The Tales of Beedle the Bard.” Heero held the book up so Duo could see the cover.
“Harry Potter?” read Duo. “My last kid used to love those books. I thought they were all called ‘Harry Potter and the Something of Something,’ though.”
“So Harry Potter,” Duo mused, “must be some of the books you’re so embarrassed about on your bookshelf.”
“They’re on the bookshelf, but I’m not embarrassed about them anymore.”
Picking the doll up again and heading into the computer room to put the new book in its place, careful not to let Duo see the shelf as usual — at which Duo made a number of amusing frustrated noises, even as Heero spoke — Heero elaborated. “Relena was following the series as it came out, and she kept bugging me to read them. She actually bought me copies of all the books that were out at that point, which was the first four. It turned into our sort of inside joke that she wanted me to read Harry Potter and I wasn’t interested, and it got so that she was calling me every single day to ask whether I’d started the first one yet. Eventually I figured I’d better do it before her head exploded.”
Duo broke off making annoyed noises in order to guess, “And then it turned out you liked it?”
“I…” Heero found himself smiling sheepishly as he admitted, “I liked it so much that I read them all in a month and made Quatre read them all too. Then I got the next three at the midnight ‘parties’ the day they came out.”
Heartily Duo laughed at him. “And then I bet Relena was like, ‘I told you so!!'”
“Yeah, pretty much.” Heero had gone back out to turn off the lights in the kitchen and living room and lock the door. “And she went with me to the midnight things.”
“Well, now I want to read them! I’ve seen some of the movies, and they were boring, but I guess the books are better if you liked them that much.”
“I haven’t liked the movies much,” said Heero, setting Duo down on the dresser and looking for pajamas.
“Well, can we read the books?”
“We have to finish Oz first.”
“But we still have, like, nine of those to go!”
“We have to finish Oz first,” Heero repeated firmly.
“OK, well, then, can we have some Oz tonight before you go to sleep?”
Heero glanced at the clock, thinking about what he needed to get done tomorrow morning — make lunch sandwiches, among other things — and just how early he would have to get up for that.
“Pleeaaase?” Duo begged.
And it turned out there was no part of Heero that could stand up to that word in that tone from that person. “OK,” he said. “Maybe just a little.”