Duo was frankly proud of his lunch today, since with his own hands he had mixed the mayonnaise stuff into the tuna and, his very self, put that tuna-and-mayonnaise-stuff on the bread. Of course Heero had closed the sandwich and bagged it up, but what a productive member of the household Duo was becoming!
A few minutes must be spent admiring his handiwork before he could bite into it, and this delay was useful in that it gave Heero time to catch up. Latasia continued to release her trainee for lunch at around 12:45, and Heero couldn’t always get away from the sales floor before 1:00, especially after Quatre had harassed him yesterday about leaving early.
Heero had mentioned sadly that he used to eat lunch with Quatre when the latter was at leisure to do so. There was more than one reason to look forward to Dorothy’s return.
Now Heero joined Duo at the table, and the smile he gave him was wan at first. It warmed, however, as he looked at the sandwich in Duo’s hands. This reminded Duo, as several things had since yesterday morning, that Heero could read his thoughts. His feelings about that were still mixed, but he did try to suppress any active discomfort when Heero was around. Eventually he would be used to it — he was good at getting used to things, and had assimilated circumstances that offered far less consolation than his boyfriend having a window into his head — and until then, there was no reason to make Heero feel bad thinking Duo was intensely or completely unhappy about it.
Partly because he didn’t want to talk about that at the moment, partly because he really did have a comment to make about the other subject that had already been more or less brought up, Duo spoke right through his first bite of lunch. “I think someday I might not like tuna sandwiches.”
“But right now they’re OK?” Heero wondered, grinning. It was, Duo reflected, very considerate of him to ask this aloud even though he’d probably already caught Duo’s full meaning from his thoughts.
“Right now everything’s OK still. It may take a while for that to wear off.”
“Let me know when it does, and then we can start testing to see what you actually like.”
“Actually,” Duo suggested pensively, “I should probably eat all the things people think are totally gross, because now’s the only time I’ll like them.”
“Like escargot and tripe?” Heero was still grinning. “We’ll have to find some place that sells stuff like that.”
On the subject of Heero spending money on him, Duo’s conscience bothered him a lot less these days, especially since he now had a job of his own. Some uncertainty, though, had arisen in relation to that very job, and as it was recalled to his mind by this turn of the conversation, Heero’s expression went from amused to concerned. This time he didn’t wait for Duo to speak before responding to what he’d picked up on: “You’re worrying about job security already?”
“I know it’s stupid…” As Duo took a drink of his Coke, his fleeting consideration that the modern cheapness and accessibility of carbonation was a sign of mankind’s progress toward sublimity brought the smile reluctantly back to Heero’s face, and this derailed everything briefly. “Did that block out the other stuff?” Duo tapped the top of his soda can curiously. “Or do you get it all at once in a big jumble?”
“It’s just what’s on top,” Heero replied. “I haven’t tried to get at anything deeper.”
When Duo reflected that, all potential discomfort aside, there was something vaguely sexual about the way Heero had phrased that, Heero cleared his throat, glanced around at the room that would only be this empty for about two more minutes, and lowered his voice. “So, yes, you thinking about carbonated soda did block out you worrying about your job.”
“Well, then, if I ever want some privacy, I know what to do — just think about food or something.” Duo instantly regretted saying this when Heero frowned, and then he regretted regretting it since he knew Heero would know. This communication magic business really did complicate things — which was the reason he’d specifically avoided talking about it a minute ago and probably shouldn’t have brought it up just now. Quickly he said, “It’s totally fine. Just something we’ll get used to.”
Heero nodded with a faint sigh and deliberately returned to their previous topic. “So you’re worried about the job…”
Duo shrugged. “People are making me a little nervous, but that’s probably something else I just have to get used to.”
“They’re all really nice and friendly — I don’t want to say I think anyone’s deliberately trying to make me uncomfortable — but the way everyone talks to me makes me feel like they don’t expect me to last very long here.”
“You have the perfect personality for sales. You’re going to be a natural at this, and I’m sure everybody here can see that.”
“Yeah, but I haven’t been to college like the rest of you human people. Someone could come along any time who’s better qualified for this than me.”
“You’re a human person too, Duo.” Heero lowered his voice even farther as two chatting employees entered the room. Duo thought they were from HR, but freedom from the sales team couldn’t last too much longer. “And, like I said, you’re very qualified for this job, better than a lot of people who do have degrees.” Heero’s face was set in an expression of determination that appeared almost unhappy, and he didn’t let Duo make the protest he’d been planning against the encouraging words. “Besides, how many people here actually know you haven’t been to college?”
It was a good point, but it didn’t change the attitude Duo decidedly felt he’d been picking up from his new co-workers: that of saying goodbye with every conversation, getting to know him quickly while they had the chance.
“That’s strange,” Heero murmured. “I wonder what everyone’s problem is.” He shook his head and went on with unexpected intenseness. “But don’t worry. You’re exactly the kind of person we hire who always does the best job. Who cares what anyone else thinks?”
Duo half smiled. “I definitely care what you think more than what they think… but why are you so, um, passionate about this? I mean, thanks for being so reassuring, but…”
“I just don’t like to see you so worried,” Heero admitted. “You’re usually so confident.”
“Well…” Duo leaned forward as the noisy flood of salespeople they’d been expecting now began pouring into the room, but eventually decided not even to make the statement aloud: that this was more than just any old job to him. It was his chance to prove — to himself as much as to the world — that he really was a human person, and someone that nobody needed to carry around anymore. This employment opportunity meant more to him than it probably did to anyone else here, and if he screwed it up–
“You won’t,” Heero insisted, almost harshly.
“But there are these stupid little tests at the end of the training modules,” Duo complained, feeling more comfortable about the possibility of being overheard with this more frivolous branch of the subject. “I’m terrible at them! I suck at tests!”
His demeanor abruptly lightening, Heero actually chuckled a little. “I don’t think anyone ever actually looks at your results from those. They’re just there as proof that you went through the module.”
“Yeah, but…” Duo shrugged again and somewhat reluctantly brought up the last point he was worried about. “Quatre…”
Heero went right back to his previous moroseness. “Quatre,” he repeated with a sigh, and it was obvious he had no specific reassurance to offer in response to the idea that Quatre’s current state might make Duo’s position here more precarious. His expression hardened, though, as he said in a quiet, granite tone, “We won’t let him ruin this for you.”
Though he’d said ‘we,’ there was a strong implication of ‘I.’ In fact, there was about the statement a feeling of ‘I’ll go up against my best friend for your sake’ that made Duo sit up straight in surprise. He didn’t for an instant want to see any conflict between Quatre and Heero, and he fervently hoped it wouldn’t come to that — but the willingness Heero thus displayed to take Duo’s part, if necessary, even against someone as important to him as Quatre, was deeply touching.
A vague idea of one way Duo could express his appreciation for this sign of love floated through his head, and, trying not to grin wickedly all of a sudden, he dragged the thought to the forefront of his mind and enhanced the hell out of it just to make sure Heero would see it. He had a pretty decent sensory imagination, if he did say so himself; it came from valuing sensation so much.
He could tell he’d succeeded when Heero’s eyes widened as he too sat up straight in surprise and his face went slightly pink. Evidently he couldn’t think what to say in response. Communication magic might complicate things, but it could potentially be a lot of fun, too.
“I just hope there aren’t any other communicators in this room,” Heero eventually managed in a somewhat choked voice.
Duo laughed and glanced around. “I don’t see anyone leering,” he reassured. “Besides, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve thought stuff like that about you in public.”
The pink deepening to red, “Speaking of things I just have to get used to,” Heero muttered.