Heero, Duo found, was still not in the best mood on Thursday. Duo wanted to bother him to find out what had been bothering him, but, after Heero’s remark yesterday about the whole lunch-for-a-year thing having been a joke, didn’t feel he was quite to the point where he could pry into such personal matters. Which was disheartening when, if you’d asked him on Tuesday, he would have said that he probably had reached that point.
But, then, that remark had been disheartening in general. Every time he started to think that maybe…
Well, it didn’t matter. Heero was breaking the curse for him; Heero was his friend; that should be enough. When Heero was already giving him so much, Duo shouldn’t be bitter about not getting more. And he could enjoy Heero’s company no matter what was or wasn’t likely to come of it, and, to some extent, no matter what Heero’s mood.
The latter, at least, did improve as the day progressed. Heero was still a good deal more quietly pensive than usual at lunch (which Duo tried to make up for by being twice as cheerful himself), but by mid-afternoon his normal demeanor seemed to be back in place. Duo thought it helped that not a single person had come by to stare or ask stupid questions today. That was a first — although, as Heero had hoped it would, the harassment had slowed up quite a bit this week. People still gave the doll funny looks when they came seeking Heero’s help, but they’d stopped showing up specifically to see Duo.
Of course Live Long And Prosper Guy was still around, but he was a separate category: he didn’t come to see Duo, but rather to find out Heero’s thoughts on tanar’ri, baatezu, and censorship. When Heero had no idea what he was talking about (and was forced to admit it, since Duo didn’t either), the guy didn’t appear at all put out, as his real purpose seemed simply to have been to rant about it to someone. Heero tolerated him for a while, and then dismissed him with the threat of Dorothy.
Heero still had to hasten through the door when the day was over, though; Hazard A Guess Guy had been eyeing him at around five o’clock lately as if he might want to corner him on his way out and talk more nerd at him. Today, at least, they made it downstairs and out to Heero’s car safely, and as they commenced the homeward drive, Heero mentioned, apparently more to himself than his companion, that it was the fifteenth.
“How many days left?” asked Duo.
After only half a moment’s thought Heero answered, “Eighteen. But the fifteenth is bill day, so you’ll have to watch TV or something for a while.”
“Nooooo!” Duo cried. “Not TV!” As he’d hoped, this made Heero smile a little.
Unusually, Heero didn’t change clothing when he got home. Duo hadn’t ever been able to decide whether he liked the t-shirts and jeans or the suit and tie better, and was glad to have regular exposure to both, but he did wonder at the reason for this behavior today. When Heero explained briefly that looking over his bills felt like work, Duo had to restrain a laugh at this interesting compartmentalism of thought.
Bill time didn’t last very long; evidently it was more a financial checkup than any real sort of diagnosis and treatment. That seemed like a good idea, if you happened to have money; Duo had never had enough in his life to give much thought to budgeting. He wasn’t terribly surprised that Heero was responsible about this sort of thing, though.
There was actually no TV involved, since most of what Heero was looking at was on the computer. Evidently to Heero’s great annoyance, however, the one thing he still couldn’t do from home was pay his rent — which meant that the last part of bill day was walking down to the apartment office to put an enveloped check into the night drop-box.
“I only even have a checkbook anymore for rent,” Heero complained as he turned away from this successful operation and directed his steps toward the mailboxes up the hill. “Everything else I either have set up on an automatic payment, or else I can do it online.”
Duo laughed. “The internet makes life so much easier for anti-social people, doesn’t it?”
“I am not anti-social,” Heero said calmly — but it was a hopeless calm that bespoke the frequent repetition of this sentiment.
Heero made a doubtful sound. “I guess I’ll accept that.”
“I’m sorry?” As she pulled something from her own mailbox, a woman that Duo, at least, had not noticed as they approached looked up with this startled query.
“Oh…” Heero sounded embarrassed. “No, I was talking to myself… sorry.”
The woman smiled and went back to what she was doing. Duo tried not to laugh. It would have been even funnier, probably, if she had noticed him in the pocket of Heero’s slacks, but it was already pretty entertaining. He didn’t want to make Heero feel bad, though.
Heero, Duo had noticed, rarely checked his mail, probably because the boxes were on the other side of the complex from where he lived and not even on his way in from the parking lot. The few times he had gone out there while Duo had been here with him, he’d come back practically overloaded with mail, most of which he threw away. Duo supposed it made sense, if Heero managed almost all his finances online, that he didn’t care much what he got in the paper mail. Now he took his armful of what looked like a large collection of coupons and whatnot and headed back to his own apartment without daring to speak to Duo again. Once inside, he began sorting through the mail on the counter, grumbling softly about the excessive amount of junk.
Duo was just beginning to ask whether it was possible to live without a mailing address when Heero suddenly went still, looking at an envelope he’d just picked up. Duo, who was sitting on the counter facing him, could easily see the slow smile growing on his face into an expression that looked happier than anything Duo had seen there all day. Duo broke off what he’d been saying to ask, “What is it?”
“It’s for you.” Heero turned the off-white envelope around and held it down where Duo could see it.
Duo found himself unable to speak as he stared at the rounded handwriting that spelled out his name above Heero’s address. Abruptly he was feeling all the incapacitation of being choked up without a throat to give him the actual sensation. Somebody had sent him mail, just as if he were a normal human being. Somebody had written out his name over an actual address on a real envelope, put a stamp on it, and mailed it to him. What he finally managed to say, inappropriately, was, “Shit…!”
Heero laughed. “How long has it been since you got mail?”
“I don’t know… ninety years?” Again he was having speech difficulties with nothing physical to excuse them. “And there wasn’t all that much of it for people like me back then anyway…”
“Want me to open it?” Heero’s eyes rested on Duo with interest. Duo was almost certain that, despite his limited plastic facial expression, exactly what this meant to him was plain to Heero.
“Let me look at it for one more second,” Duo said breathlessly.
Heero laughed again and complied, allowing Duo to look his fill at his own name, at the physical stamp featuring a basket of purple pansies and the word ‘love,’ at the post office stamp atop that, at the lack of return address. Duo got the feeling Heero knew where it had come from, but he wouldn’t for the world have asked and spoiled the best surprise he’d had since Trowa had walked into this very room and back into his life after eighty-seven years.
“OK,” he said finally, when the excitement and interest and pleasure had made him almost giddy, “open it.” As Heero’s hands moved, Duo added hastily, “But don’t mangle the envelope or anything, OK? I want… I mean, do you mind if I keep it?”
“It’s your mail, Duo,” Heero replied with a smile as he neatly slit the top of the envelope with a butter knife he’d had out for this purpose. “You can do whatever you want with it.”
“Well, in your space…”
Instead of answering, Heero pulled a card from the envelope and held it out for Duo to see.
What to expect from this Duo really hadn’t had the faintest idea. The number of people that could have addressed the envelope was incredibly small, and its contents, however much they meant to Duo, were unlikely to be particularly intrinsically meaningful. Or so he’d thought.
Inside the card’s low-relief floral border, it read in gold script, “The honor of your presence is requested at the marriage of Relena Yuy and Colin Elwynn Morris, Saturday, July 10th, 2010,” followed by the name and address of an Episcopal church in the area.
If Duo had been capable of it, he would have cried. The only written invitation to anything he remembered ever having received before had been in crayon and delivered simultaneously to two Barbies and a teddy bear. A mailed invitation to a wedding was something people sent to their real, normal, human friends. And he’d only met Relena just the once! Such kindness and thoughtfulness was unexpected and overwhelming.
“The actual wedding, even,” Heero murmured. “Not just the reception. And she knows you’ll be human again by then too.” He sounded impressed and pleased, and Duo in turn was pleased that his happiness at this was making Heero happy — especially as it seemed to have erased the last lingering traces of Heero’s previous mood.
“Can you call her?” Duo requested eagerly. “I need to ask her to marry me.”
What was Wufei talking about? “Baatezu” and “tanar’ri” replaced “devils” and “demons” in the second edition of Dungeons and Dragons in response to concerned parents’ belief that their children would be sucked into Satanism by the inclusion of devils and demons in an already extremely dangerous game. (They changed it back later, though, when at least some people realized that this was utterly idiotic.)