Duo didn’t really need much convincing that a shower was the night’s best next step when he knew Heero would be joining him. For one thing, it was a perfectly acceptable location in which to tease Heero about Animorphs and Goosebumps, which had been a long time coming (for all he hadn’t expected it to take place in that particular venue).

For another, he had a certain soreness in his lower half that, while he didn’t at all in any way even the tiniest bit mind, needed some getting used to; standing relatively still in hot water for a time before he did anything else was perfectly welcome.

For a third thing, it meant a chance to wash his hair, which Duo let Heero help him with because Heero so obviously wanted to. Heero’s hands working through its length, unraveling the braid and combing out the long strands with his fingers, then moving up to massage Duo’s scalp and rub shampoo downward, was an absolutely wonderful sensation Duo would probably never forget… but, honestly, just the action of hair-washing, no matter who was doing most of the work, was enough to bring him to tears that were quickly rinsed away by the running water.

He thought about asking Heero to elaborate on what he’d been doing in the shower with Duo right outside the door on prior occasions, but decided to save that for another time; no reason to be wasteful, after all.

The open air chilly against wet flesh, the roughness of towels — not to mention Heero’s hands rubbing him down with the latter and the reversed sensations as Duo did the same for him — were all divine, and so were Heero’s damp lips that found Duo’s at some point during the hair-wringing process and did not let go for some while.

When Duo would have left the bedroom naked a second time, Heero pulled him back. After kissing him again quite thoroughly he said, “Let’s see if my pajamas fit you.”

“OK,” said Duo jovially, but couldn’t help adding, “Why?”

“I can tell you want to go explore,” Heero replied with a smile. “But if you wander around like that, you’re going to find yourself right back in here pretty quick.”

Duo shivered and grinned. “I’d never have thought you were so horny, Heero.”

“For you, yes.”

“What have I gotten myself into??”

Heero laughed and hugged him.

It turned out that Heero’s spare pajama pants were a bit short on Duo, but they were nonetheless comfortable, and there was something so sexy about wearing them that Duo thought he wouldn’t have noticed even if they hadn’t been. Once he had one of Heero’s soft old t-shirts on as well, he spun around the room in glee and fell down. As Heero helped him to his feet Duo remarked, “Now I smell like you!”

“Since I haven’t worn those since I last washed them, I doubt it.” Pulling Duo close and inhaling near his neck Heero added in a pleased murmur, “No, you definitely smell like you.”

“And what does that smell like?” Duo was flirting, of course, but it had been so long since he’d had a scent, or the ability to discern scents, that he also genuinely wanted to know.

Heero’s intense response, “My Duo,” didn’t really answer the question, but Duo was more than happy to accept it anyway.

Duo hoped that Heero wasn’t hurt or offended at the strength of his desire to explore the apartment as a human. He also wanted to touch and taste and smell Heero for the rest of all eternity, and only the awareness that he and Heero had already done plenty of that tonight, and could do more later — whereas he’d barely gotten started on the other goal — sent him out of the room at all… and he hoped Heero didn’t take it personally.

The first thing that attracted Duo’s attention outside of the bedroom was Trowa’s door, and it was with a pang of guilt that he realized he hadn’t even wondered what had become of his friend since he’d left him in the living room earlier. But as he moved toward the door, Heero stopped him. “Now’s probably not the best time.”

“But I want to see how he turned out! If his eyes are all fixed and stuff!”

“Yes, but he and Quatre must have gone in there together when the curse was broken…”

“Well, I want to see Quatre too!”

“Duo, what have we been doing since the curse was broken?”

“Oh!” Duo’s smile widened into a grin, then a laugh. “Oh, OK.” Then he turned away from the door and regarded the rest of the apartment with greedy eyes.

There was nothing he did not get his hands on that night. He felt the texture of the painted walls; turned light-switches on and off in every room because he could; sat in the computer chair long enough to pick out a hypothetical message on the keyboard (“happy human day heero”); pulled some of the books down, mostly just so he could continue teasing Heero about being embarrassed about them; bounced on the guest bed until he fell off on the floor; made out with Heero on the floor for a minute; embraced the TV and assured it that it would always have a special place in his heart and they could still be friends (in the process almost knocking it off its stand, for which he apologized to it heartily); ostentatiously adjusted the lamp on the end table where he used to sit, and turned it on and off; picked up his invitation to Relena’s wedding and, hugging it tightly to his chest, engaged it in a brief, clumsy waltz (he was getting the hang of walking again, but waltzing was still definitely beyond him); sat down on the couch, bounced a few times, stood up, and pulled Heero back down onto it with him; tested its horizontal amenities with Heero for a few minutes; opened every single drawer and cupboard in the kitchen and rifled through them, twanging the silverware and clinking the glasses; messed around with Heero for several minutes against the stove; and abruptly remembered food.

“Oh, my god,” he whispered as his eyes, widening, fell on the fridge and his brain recalled what it was and what lay within. He’d come across edible things in the cupboards, of course, but somehow hadn’t really seen them as anything more than objects to be picked up in celebration of the fact that he could once again pick up objects. But all of a sudden he was conscious of a sensation in his stomach and throat — god, he had a stomach and throat — that he hadn’t felt in so long he’d almost forgotten what it signified.

He turned abruptly to Heero again. “Heero!” he hissed. “I’m hungry.”

Heero had several times tonight given him the world’s most beautiful smile, one that expressed unequivocal happiness in Duo’s current state and in Duo’s own happiness, and he gave it again now.

“I’m fucking hungry,” Duo reiterated with a grin.

“I made extra pasta salad just for you, you know. I hope the crunchy vegetables haven’t gone soggy by now; it’s not as good as leftovers.”

Duo hugged him tightly, momentarily unable to find words to tell him that soggy vegetables prepared by Heero especially for him sounded like the greatest food ever made, then attacked the refrigerator. Before he could get at the pasta salad, however, he had to examine pretty much everything else in the fridge and freezer: pick it all up, revel in the feeling of coldness his fingers could finally minutely discern again — god, he had fingers — and open just about everything and sniff at it. His mouth was watering, and he thought he was feeling a little sick to his stomach (he couldn’t be 100% certain at this point) by the time he finally got to the rectangular Tupperware that held the pasta salad. His pasta salad. The pasta salad made particularly for him by his wonderful boyfriend, who knew what this would mean to him.

He pried off the lid and stared at the noodles and bits of shrimp and vegetables, and inhaled deeply. He thought he was going to cry.

Turning slowly, he found Heero holding out a plate with that same smile again. “It’s your first meal in eighty-seven years,” he said. “You should do it right.”

“That would be easier if you had a dining table.”

“Great… are you going to start that too?”


Heero leaned forward across what each of them was holding and gave Duo a brief kiss, then took the pasta salad from his hand and turned with it toward the counter and the drawer that held the silverware. Soon he had a full plate, accompanied by knife and fork, ready for Duo’s use.

Duo approached with great ceremony and took up the implements. He gave Heero a very grave look, then, slowly and just a little clumsily, as he hadn’t done it in so long, scooped and lifted a forkful.

The sensation was so sharp and overwhelming — suddenly, surprisingly so — that he actually made a startled noise through his full mouth, and so strong in contrast to all those years of nothing that the mere ability to taste food was entirely negating, for the moment, the ability to discern flavor. He had no idea what this tasted like, only that it tasted. And, though he’d never actually thought about the actions of chewing and swallowing, nor thought he specifically missed them, he found now, as he went about them, that tears were again running down his face.

“I think that’s the first time my pasta salad has made someone cry,” Heero murmured.

Duo wiped his face with the back of one hand and took another bite.

The sauce was somehow tangy and buttery at the same time, the pasta was mild, the shrimp was pleasantly firm, and the vegetables (which, he would have to reassure Heero later, had retained a marvelous crispness) were an excellent, somewhat bitter contrast to the rest. “This is amazing,” Duo mumbled through his third or fourth mouthful.

Heero laughed and thanked him; but after a moment he added in some concern, “You’ll make yourself sick if you don’t slow down.”

“Uh-uh,” Duo replied, and kept shoveling it in.

Heero was right, though. Duo had barely finished the contents of the plate, and was attempting to wash it down with a glass of water that Heero had poured for him, when it all came up again. His abused stomach gave a painful heave and him no chance to aim responsibly, and he lost the too-hastily-consumed meal onto the floor at random.

Vomiting, he noted, felt just as horrible, tasted just as nasty, and resulted in just as disgusting a mess as it ever had… which was why it was really quite strange that he’d almost kindof enjoyed it. Stomach still a little sore and throat burning, he turned guilty eyes up toward Heero, who had stepped away.

“You told me so,” Duo said.

“I did,” Heero agreed, mostly stifling a rueful grin and beginning to pick his way around the disaster. “Come on,” he said, taking Duo by the arm. “You’ll have to go a little easier on breakfast tomorrow.” And he led him down the hall.

“I’m sorry,” Duo said. “All over the kitchen…”

“Seems pretty natural to me.” Heero took Duo into the bathroom, where he began rummaging through drawers. “I’m sure I have a…” He stood straight again, holding up a toothbrush two-pack with one remaining brush. Facetiously he finished, “I assume you know how to use this?”

Duo accepted the offer and answered in a mock huff, “We had toothbrushes, thank you very much.”

“Good.” Heero then pointed out the toothpaste and added, “I’ll go clean up the kitchen.”

“I’m not sure how long I’m going to survive,” Duo told him loudly as he left the room, “before I die of how nice you are.”

“Would you prefer me to be mean?” Heero called back.

Duo would have answered, but was too distracted by the toothpaste. It looked much the same as the Pepsodent and Ipana he remembered — just a greyish-white sort of cream stuff — but it smelled better, and, once he got it into his mouth, definitely proved to taste better than what they’d used back then. And, good god, he had teeth. He could rub the brush all over them at different angles, get all their different sides, feel the slight burn of the toothpaste on his gums — he had gums! — and even feel a bit of a gag reflex when he pushed the brush too far toward the back of his mouth.

So engrossed was he in this process that when he noticed Heero standing in the doorway watching him with evident amusement, he couldn’t be sure he hadn’t been there for quite a while. Whether he had or not, it was a good reminder to Duo that, fantastic as his teeth were, he had plenty of time ahead of him to enjoy them and there was really no need to spend any more on them right now.

Once he was all rinsed and finished, he placed the toothbrush (with more than a little thrill) in the cup that held Heero’s, then turned. “All clean!” he announced.

Heero made a businesslike gesture. “Let’s see.” And, pulling Duo close, he kissed him exploringly. When he drew away at last, he gave a satisfied nod. “Now you taste like toothpaste.”

Duo grinned. “OK, there’s one more thing I want to see.”

This quickly turned out to be a lie, or at least an understatement: there were, in fact, about a million more things Duo wanted to see. Granted, some of these were things he’d already seen, just from different angles; but in any case Heero accompanied him throughout with the same look of patient amusement on his face (though as time passed this was more and more frequently split by yawns) as Duo went over everything in the apartment with continual excitement, much of it for the second time.

It was coming up on four in the morning when Duo became aware of a new sensation, another feeling he hadn’t experienced in eighty-seven years and almost didn’t recognize at first. When he did, he was nearly brought to tears again. Instead, abandoning his inspection of the bowl Heero had taken Quatre’s dog water in last Thursday, he turned once more to his companion, gripping his arm and grinning somewhat manically at him as he announced, “Heero, I’m tired!”

“Are you really? Finally?” Heero asked, also grinning. “I was starting to think you were going to end up staying up all night.”

“I probably would have, if I hadn’t had so much excitement.” But now all of a sudden Duo was thinking about curling up with Heero in bed, having him so warm and close by as he’d longed to for so many nights, and sleeping… sleeping… “Let’s go to bed,” he suggested, and it came out in a whisper that was yet deeply enthusiastic.

Smiling warmly, Heero moved to turn off the light in the kitchen. “Good idea.” Then he took Duo’s hand, and they headed down the hall back toward the bedroom.

There were still a huge number of experiences to be had, but Duo would get to them later. In fact, sleep, rather than an interruption of his pursuits, was simply another thing on the list — and not a small one, either. That he would have Heero by his side for his first night’s sleep in almost a century — something he certainly had not expected up until just a few hours ago — made everything that much closer to perfect. And it hadn’t been that far from it to begin with.

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