Watercolor Pencil (CretaColor Aqua Monolith) is my favorite medium. I also enjoy graphite. Prismacolors frustrate the hell out of me, though they certainly have beautiful results. I used to work with a tablet quite a bit, but these days fibromyalgia makes that difficult. I did a lot of stuff in pen when I was younger, and most of it was crap, but these days I still combine pen with other media pretty frequently. I’ve experimented with a few other things such as pastel pencil, marker, and makeup.
Although I’m still on for the rest of my lengthy shifts until Christmas, I was fortunate enough not to have to work today. So I decided to finish that picture from yesterday!
I’m more than a little astonished at how nice this turned out. I should start more pictures at work. You hear that, EA customers? Just stop… well, no, I can’t curse my own job like that, for fear of another place I work at going out of business. Aaanyway. Then I decided some color was in order, and I like the color version even better (which is a little unusual for a piece designed in black and white):
It even looks kinda Christmassy, doesn’t it? That’ll have to do for my Christmas offering this year, since I’m sure as hell not going to finish anything else in time. So happy Christmas, everiun!
Incidentally, it became clear, specifically while coloring this, that Duo is wearing Heero’s scarf. I wonder why that is…
Remember not long ago when I was complaining about a paltry $90 charge for a tetanus shot? Well, today I scheduled my three appointments for rabies vaccination at a local health center (since my doctor does not offer this vaccine), and learned to miss paying $90 for a poke in the arm. Even if each of these three visits were only $90 I would be satisfied. As it is, the entire thing is going to cost upward of eight hundred. I’m having serious second thoughts about doing it at all at this point.
Aaanyway, the revelation of this price rendered me useless for most pursuits for the rest of the day, and this combined with a pairing freakout I’ve been having of late led me to do the first drawing besides art exchange stuff I’ve done for quite a while. I don’t know if anyone else has been watching Once Upon a Time, but ZOMFG YOU GUYS Aurora and Mulan. I’ve been shipping them essentially from the off, and the writers have provided no lack of subtext to encourage me in this, but on Sunday they had this moment like no moment I’ve ever seen. So here is a picture:
I colored it, intending it to be a washed-out scribbly piece… but then I found that no combination of lineart and color pleased me nearly as much as each one on its own. So here are some colors:
Now I just have to decide whether I really want this rabies vaccination right now. Well, that and watch my Broncs totally obliterate the Raiders again. What a difficult life I have.
“A curse affects both the victim and the caster. A skilled curse-caster can bend this effect so that their share in the curse is something they don’t mind, something that doesn’t inhibit them… but even if they manage that, repeatedly having a share in any curse leaves a mark eventually.”
When Heero rescues an abandoned doll from the gutter, he hardly thinks it’s going to change his life; but now he and his best friend Quatre find themselves involved in the breaking of a curse from almost a hundred years ago, and perhaps in falling for exactly the wrong people.
Heero had accomplished very little at home on Saturday, as he’d been too busy helping Relena get some of her furniture to a consignment store and fondly watching Duo flirt with her. Technically Relena didn’t need to be getting rid of the contents of her apartment just yet, but she was so eager for her wedding and moving in with Colin that apparently certain organizational activities in preparation for that were sometimes the only way she could keep herself from going crazy. So, since she’d known Lindsay would be out most of the day, she’d bribed her brother with pizza to help her make sure the furniture she was selling was clean and in good repair, which had turned into a many-hours-long term of hanging out.
Ironically, when that little party had broken up, it had been so Relena could go off to the dinner with their parents that Heero had claimed a prior engagement to get out of, and Heero could spend the evening not having dinner with his parents. Relena had reminded him that he was going to have to accept the invitation next time or risk insulting their mother, and she threw a surreptitiously thoughtful look at Duo as she said this.
At any rate, this had prevented him from doing much at home besides wasting time and reading to Duo, so his usually weekly cleaning took place on Sunday instead. What he was really concerned about was the vacuuming, which he’d neglected for a while.
As he was getting this done, he came across the doll he’d bought off Amazon a couple of weeks ago in order to divest it of its uniform. He’d completely forgotten it in the midst of Duo’s excitement about the gift, and poor Spock had fallen to the floor and been hidden by the skirt of the sofa in back. Now Heero picked the thing up and looked at it thoughtfully.
“Aww,” said Duo, who was, as often, in Heero’s jeans pocket. “I forgot about him.”
“This one’s an ‘it,'” Heero smirked.
“So it is.” Duo shook his head pityingly. “Put a paper towel on that thing!” He added in a suddenly much-altered tone, as if he was seriously concerned but masking it with casualness, “Unless you’re just going to throw it away.”
Considering how unnerving it would be to see a body that resembled his own tossed carelessly into a trash can, Heero answered immediately, “No, I wouldn’t throw it away; it’s in such good shape. I’ll send Quatre to Goodwill with it; or wait ’til you’re human again, so you won’t have to go, and take it myself.”
“Oh, I think I’d be OK to go to Goodwill if you were there to protect me.”
Heero, who was playing with paper towels and making a skirt for the second time in his life, smiled at this. “You know, I can’t really see you as a damsel in distress.”
“Really?” Duo sounded pleased. “Even though I can barely even move on my own?”
Heero shrugged. “Maybe physically you need some help sometimes, but you definitely don’t have the personality of someone who needs ‘protecting.'” He was heading into the computer room by now, taking Spock to set by his computer so he’d remember to deal with it at some point.
“Well, thanks, Heero!” said Duo in satisfaction. “It’s nice of you to say so.”
Heero liked the way Duo said his name. He couldn’t help contrasting the doll in his left hand with the doll in his right, nor thinking in some interest of how much more real one seemed than the other. Even though he’d never seen Duo except as a doll, even though the Spock figure was modeled after a living person he had seen (on screen, at least), Duo seemed infinitely more human in every possible way. Heero could picture Duo as a human a hundred times more clearly than he could Zachary What’s-His-Name, and he was definitively attracted to one and not the other — hot though Zachary was.
He thought about Duo as a human all too much these days; as he went back to his vacuuming, he was dwelling on the image once again. He wondered how accurate it was. A week from tomorrow night, assuming everything worked properly, he would find out, and he speculated that it might drive him mad. That he would find Duo attractive as a human, whatever he looked like, he had no doubt whatsoever, and he was bracing himself for it. But he feared he could never be adequately prepared for whatever form Duo would present.
Once he’d finished dealing with the carpets and had put the vacuum away in the coat closet where it lived, he pulled Duo out of his pocket and looked at him.
“What?” Duo wondered.
Heero tugged on the untied end of the doll’s little braid. “Was your hair really like this?” he asked.
“Yep!” Duo sounded a little curious, probably wondering where the question had come from, but didn’t seem to mind answering. “I guess the curse liked it too, since it left it like this.”
“That’s a lot of hair,” Heero murmured. He hadn’t really thought about it before, but Duo’s braid went all the way down past his lower back; on a human that would probably equal pounds.
“Yep!” said Duo again, this time in a tone of great pride. “It was the envy of all the lovely ladies.”
“Yeah, I bet. I don’t think I’ve ever met a guy with that much hair.”
“Yes, you have: that super-gay friend of yours.”
“Oh, Zechs?” Heero hadn’t thought of him. “I guess you’re right.”
Deliberately to pet the hair in question as he’d once seen Trowa do Heero did not dare, though his hand longed to feel its texture again. And since he’d never braided anyone’s hair and really had no idea how, he couldn’t even use the excuse of repairing the failing braid. But his brain was flooded with images… he knew what he would be fantasizing about tomorrow in the shower…
“And how ’bout you?” Duo wondered. “Was your hair always all messy and stuff like that? Did you ever bleach it like your sister does?”
“The style’s always been about the same, but…” Heero grimaced slightly. “Quatre once convinced me to bleach part of it, back in high school. Just the top…” He gestured. “He called it ‘frosting’ or something.”
“And you hated it,” Duo guessed, sounding amused.
“I want to see pictures!”
Heero snorted. He was looking around now for The Scarecrow of Oz, since continuing to stare lustfully at Duo didn’t seem advisable.
“There must be some,” persisted Duo. “I remember listening to you guys go on and on and on about those pictures of you and Relena at your parents’ house; it sounded like there were about a million.”
“I wasn’t going on and on and on.”
“No, you never do. But pictures? Are there pictures of your frosty hair?”
“Probably somewhere,” Heero mumbled. “Do you want Oz?”
“Yooouuu are being evasive. I bet there are a bunch of pictures, and you’re embarrassed about them, and I will totally see them one day and see how your hair looked.”
“I plead the Fifth.”
“You are the Fifth!”
Heero laughed. In actuality, though he hadn’t much liked the bleach effect in his hair back then, he wasn’t particularly embarrassed about pictures from high school — but it amused Duo to believe he was, so Heero let him think that.
“Oh, and I do want Oz,” Duo added.
So Heero, who by then had located the book, headed for the couch to make use of it.
“Do you want to come play with the dogs with me again?”
Quatre had made a policy of not mentioning the whole death thing at all if he didn’t have to — thereby refraining both from reprimanding Trowa and from upsetting himself — but that didn’t mean he wasn’t thinking of it just about every moment he was with Trowa. Little unspoken addendums kept appearing after his statements; this one was, “While you have the chance?”
“Certainly,” said Trowa, setting his book aside and rising. “Let me get ready.”
Aware that he would probably rather not know, Quatre did not ask him what he was working on. He’d been buried in that same book when Quatre had visited earlier on his lunch break, and Quatre simply wasn’t interested in hearing what it contained. Instead, he followed Trowa into the next room.
He seemed to have done a good job getting Trowa into the habit of going to bed at night; Trowa almost always had his contacts out when Quatre came over anymore, and had to put them in if they went anywhere — whereas previously he’d never seemed to remove them, as he’d so rarely bothered with intentional sleep. Now as Quatre watched him insert the lenses, he reflected that, for one reason or another, Trowa probably wouldn’t be needing to buy any more of them.
Once again they managed to sneak through the Winner house without encounter, but soon thereafter their luck ran out. Evidently his parents had either noticed or been alerted to their presence, and had come to investigate; Scrat had barely run out after the ball twice when the back door opened and a hearty voice greeted them from up the path.
“Quatre! This is at least the third time you’ve brought this young man here without offering to introduce him to us!” As Quatre turned toward the house, observing both his mother and his father approaching, the latter continued, “Is this the infamous Trowa Barton?”
“‘Infamous?'” Trowa echoed at a barely-audible murmur as he too turned. Quatre really should have warned him that Mr. Winner was likely to say something like this. He probably also should have mentioned that this confrontation was inevitable, and discussed options. But now there was no time to come up with answers to the questions that would undoubtedly be asked, and Quatre had no idea how this meeting was likely to go.
“Yes,” he said as his parents drew up to them at the edge of the lawn. “This is Trowa, my boyfriend. Trowa, these are my parents, Catharine and Bernard Winner.”
Gravely Trowa stepped forward to shake hands. “I’m very pleased to meet you both. Quatre talks about you quite a bit.”
“Oh-ho!” said Mr. Winner. “All good, I hope!”
“He hasn’t told us anything about you, Trowa,” Quatre’s mother said, smiling warmly. “Do you live in town?”
“He lives out east,” Quatre put in.
“In Lujoso? Or past the county line?”
“Farther than that,” Trowa answered with amusing honesty. “But I travel a lot.”
“What do you do, Trowa?” asked Mrs. Winner.
“I’m a human resources consultant.” This lie had the calmness of boring truth, and Quatre was impressed. It occurred to him that of course Trowa was ready with something to say in situations like this; it had probably never been a lover’s parents before, but this couldn’t be the first time Trowa had needed to explain himself without mentioning magic — and that just because he didn’t like dealing with people didn’t mean he was entirely incapable of it.
Quatre was even more impressed when, upon his mother’s remarking politely that that sounded interesting and his father’s more blunt question about how this economy was treating independent contractors, Trowa responded with specifics about this hypothetical job of his that he must have determined upon at some earlier point.
Actually, he seemed to have taken all his experiences doing magical favors to make people’s lives easier and cast them into a business context so as to pass himself off as an expert on the improvement of employer-employee relationships and workplace convenience — and he was so quietly convincing that even Quatre, who knew the truth, found himself almost believing it, and thinking that Trowa would probably make a very good human resources consultant in reality. If he didn’t die. He wondered if Trowa planned on doing any kind of work after the curse was broken. If he wasn’t dead.
Fascinating as it was to watch Trowa thoroughly con Quatre’s parents, the topic itself was rather dull — as dull as anything spoken in Trowa’s voice could hope to be, anyway — and Quatre was certain that Trowa had chosen this particular fake profession so that people wouldn’t be interested enough to ask too many questions. Even so, Quatre completely lost track of the dogs while listening to the conversation, little part though he took in it.
“It can’t be easy to convince employers there’s a direct correlation between that and turnover,” his father was saying.
Trowa shook his head. “I always conduct a survey a year later, so I have a set of hard evidence.”
Mrs. Winner’s interest in this discussion had by now (understandably) lagged, and, turning to Quatre in the next convenient pause, she asked, “Are you two having dinner here tonight?”
Smiling appreciatively at this let’s-move-on question, Quatre answered, “No, we just came by to see the dogs, and then we’re heading out again.”
“Well, Trowa–” and she turned back to him– “you’ll have to come to dinner sometime. We’d love to have you.”
Trowa nodded. “Thank you. I’d like that.”
“Yes!” Mr. Winner took his wife’s hint and addressed his son. “Bring him by sometime and let him meet everyone.” He shook Trowa’s hand again. “It was excellent to meet you, sir. You two be good!” And, though he didn’t wink or otherwise indicate any secondary meaning, Quatre felt his face heat somewhat.
“I’m glad to have met you both,” Trowa agreed politely, without reacting at all to the potentially embarrassing statement (perhaps without even noticing the potentially embarrassing statement).
“We’ll see you later,” said Mrs. Winner. “Have fun with the dogs.” And with a smile she turned and drew her husband back toward the house.
Once his parents were well inside and out of earshot, “That was amazing,” Quatre commented. “You didn’t miss a beat! You must have been expecting that.”
“Not specifically.” Trowa bent to retrieve Scrat’s ball, and threw it across the yard. “But I always have some answers ready, even if I’d rather not have to lie.” He didn’t seem entirely pleased about it — as a matter of fact he looked fairly drained — but he said it placidly enough.
“But you must have known you’d meet my parents eventually, so it’s good you had a plan.” Just like he had a plan for his potential death seven nights from now. Only less depressing.
“No,” said Trowa, “I didn’t think I was likely to meet your parents.”
Quatre hid his frown and bit back his “Why not?” He didn’t really want to hear Trowa explain that he’d speculated he would be dead before the opportunity to meet Quatre’s parents arose.
Trowa was gazing at him consideringly as Scrat brought the ball to Quatre. “You look like your mother,” he noted.
For the millionth time, Quatre tore his thoughts away from Trowa’s possible impending death, and threw the ball again. He could talk about family resemblances; he would be glad to talk about family resemblances. If it took his mind off what he didn’t want, what he never wanted to think about, he could talk about anything.
Traffic was unusually bad on Tuesday morning, and, even standing up out of his door and trying to peer past the other cars at one point when everyone had been at a standstill in the road for at least a minute, Heero couldn’t tell why. “Probably an accident,” he speculated when even Duo down in the passenger seat, who couldn’t see the congestion, noted how much longer than usual the commute was taking. “Probably going the other direction,” he added wryly, “and everyone’s just slowing down to look.”
“Well, let me look,” Duo requested.
Disregarding how it would appear to anyone that happened to have their eyes turned this direction, Heero lifted Duo up to window height and held him there as long as his second hand wasn’t required for driving — or what passed as driving in this stop-and-go.
“Looks like a bunch of cars,” remarked Duo, sounding disappointed. “I was… hoping… for…” He trailed off.
“What, an accident?”
“Just something interesting…” Duo’s tone was quiet and somewhat odd, but Heero had to put him down at this point and couldn’t really look at him.
“Pick me up again,” Duo ordered. “Like at the next light or whatever.”
Immensely curious, Heero did so, and, in response, Duo let out a long, wondering sigh. This was always an interesting action to observe, as it was purely aural: no actual air came from Duo’s lips, nor did his chest rise or fall with the supposed breath. At the moment, however, it was less interesting in itself than in its cause. “What?” Heero demanded.
“I can… feel… your hand…” Duo said, a slow grin growing on his little face. “I mean, there’s still nothing — it’s not, like, tactile… but I can feel the temperature difference.” When Heero had to set him down again, he went on in a more excited tone, “Yeah, your hand is definitely warmer than just sitting here. Come on, come on, pick me up again.”
As the traffic hadn’t really sped up, Heero was soon able to comply, and to observe Duo’s renewed grin. “Oh, god,” the doll exulted, “this is so awesome! I can feel it! I can totally feel temperatures! Ha-hah!” After setting him down again, Heero could see, out of the corner of his eye, little plastic arms and legs waving in excitement.
“It’s working,” Heero forced himself to say. “Six more days!” Mentally, though, he was reeling from the buzz he’d gotten hearing Duo talk about the warmth of his hand and being able to feel him; he knew Duo hadn’t meant it that way, but he couldn’t help considering it downright erotic. It didn’t help that Duo’s hands, and the warmth and strength Heero imagined in them, were a constant feature in his fantasies. It was awfully early in the day and awfully far from the shower to be getting aroused by the thought of something he couldn’t have, and he worried about this one in particular because he was sure Duo wasn’t going to let it go.
He was right. When they eventually reached their destination (it had been some kind of emergency road construction slowing the traffic), Duo proceeded to spend the entire workday demanding that Heero pick him up and put him down repeatedly. And, though the majority of his reaction consisted of, “Warm! …cold! …warm! …cold!” — which was too absurd to be arousing, though it was endearing — there were comments here and there that more than made up for it:
“Every time you put your hand on me, it surprises me all over again! I’m so not used to this anymore!”
“I’d forgotten how nice it is to be warm… not that the cold isn’t fun, even if it’s just for contrast, you know? Now, if only I could feel the texture too, it would be perfect.”
“I can feel it on specific areas, even! Like, I can tell where you’re holding me. I could always tell before, but I couldn’t feel it. Now it’s all warm in particular spots.”
Fortunately, Duo was too caught up in the interest and glee of the circumstance to notice the effect it was having on Heero, but a few of Heero’s co-workers weren’t so preoccupied. Among others, Dorothy raised one of her strange eyebrows at him when he answered only absently a question she asked; and (though it was difficult to tell) even Wufei seemed to be able to see, from the distance of his own private planet, that Heero was paying less attention to him than usual when he came around to find out if Heero had ever seen The Wizard of Speed and Time and relay his own thoughts on it.
The day’s tribulations didn’t end after work, either. Duo wanted to feel the heater and the air conditioner and see if he could detect temperature differences among the various rooms of Heero’s home. Most of this was far less maddening than the earlier comments about Heero’s warm hands on Duo’s body, and Heero humored him in the majority of his requests — but drew the line at holding him under hot and cold water.
“You don’t need a bath right now,” he said with a laugh.
“Well, do I get to take a shower with you tomorrow, then?”
“But I want to feel the hot water!”
“You’ll just have to wait until next week when you’re human.” Heero was really quite pleased with how placid his tone was in the face of the idea of showering with Duo.
“Next week when I’m human,” Duo sighed happily. “Can I use your shower then?”
That definitely didn’t help with the mental images, but Heero was again quite proud of himself when he managed, “Sure,” without any trace of unsteadiness in his voice.
“You gonna shower with me then?” wondered Duo next, slyly. And it was a good thing that such a jokingly flirtatious remark didn’t really require an answer, because, after the type of day this had been, Heero didn’t think there was any way he could have given one.
It got worse when, as they settled down to read some Oz before bed, Duo demanded a seat in Heero’s lap rather than on the end table. This was simultaneously exactly where Heero would like Duo, and probably the last place he should have him if this continued. Because if Duo made any comment about the warmth of Heero’s lap, the temperature increase was unlikely to stop there.
Heero couldn’t at first think of a decent excuse not to comply with this request, since he had held Duo on his lap before. He couldn’t bring himself to explain that, at this moment, having Duo there would make him feel like some kind of rapist, doll-form notwithstanding. What he eventually came up with — and rather cleverly, he thought — was, “No. I don’t want to read if you’re not going to be paying attention.”
“I’ll pay attention!” Duo protested.
“You can sit here,” Heero allowed, placing him on the arm of the couch and curling a hand around him for stability.
“Ahh,” Duo said, which was almost as bad as anything else. “OK. But do I get to sleep in your bed tonight?”
Heero felt himself flush, and wondered whether the heat would make its way down to his hand and Duo’s attention. There had been days when he’d wondered how he was going to get through the lunar cycle… at the moment he was just wondering how he was going to get through today.
Quatre had once asked whether there were schools for magic, and sometimes Trowa thought their casual time together almost qualified as one. Quatre was charmingly eager to learn what he could about magic and how it worked, especially whenever Trowa cast some type of spell he hadn’t seen before, or when an eager couple of magicians showed up at the door with a pie they just innocently thought Mr. Barton might like.
“That’s the disadvantage of having lived in this house for so long,” he told Quatre in a sigh once he’d gotten rid of the followers without answering most of their questions. “Half of the magical community knows my address.”
“So how did you find Denis Roblund’s daughter?” Quatre asked in great interest, echoing one of the things the followers had wanted to know.
Trowa shrugged. “I just jumped to her.”
“How? I mean, if she needed to be found, I assume nobody knew where she was…”
“If you have a very specific knowledge of someone, you can use them as a destination.”
“And you had a very specific knowledge of Denis Roblund’s daughter?” Quatre’s tone and look expressed playful false jealousy. “Who was this, anyway?”
“An eight-year-old girl. She was kidnapped. It was…” Trowa thought back. “1987. And it was her mother who had the very specific knowledge.”
“Oh, OK. So you just…” Quatre paused with a frown. “And this wouldn’t have worked on Duo why?”
“Because that very specific knowledge you need includes the physical, and he was in a completely new body. Don’t think I didn’t try, though.”
Quatre’s frown lingered for several seconds, but finally he let it go and climbed onto Trowa’s lap in the chair, as he often did at moments like this. “So the kidnapped kid… you locked onto her mom’s mental picture of her like you do on a place I want to go?”
“It’s more difficult with an image of a person; people’s images of other people tend to be far more… subjective… more prone to inaccuracy…”
“OK. So what did you have to do?”
It consistently pleased Trowa to find Quatre so fascinated by the topic he could most easily talk about, and so did the further queries Quatre used in trying to understand. Additionally, such discussions were good exercises in wording magical explanations comprehensibly, which was something Trowa would need to be able to do if he ever actually started writing the book he’d been contemplating. So he enjoyed these conversations very much, and not just because he held them with Quatre.
This evening’s culminated in his evicting Quatre from his lap so he would have the space to cast a spell as a demonstration of the principle he was elaborating upon. Gesturing wasn’t technically necessary, as he clarified to the displaced Quatre, but it sometimes helped a great deal in maintaining concentration — which was necessary, especially for a communion spell.
When he’d finished with the illustration, he found to his disappointment that Quatre did not intend to return to his lap; it was getting late. Quatre did pull him forward by his shirt collar, however, and kiss him slowly. When he withdrew, he reiterated the opinion he had expressed before that Trowa still had a hard time believing: “It is so sexy when you do magic.” With a grin he added teasingly, “I should have had that on my list of criteria for boyfriends years ago.”
“You’ll have to add it for your next one.” Trowa tried to match Quatre’s teasing tone, but obviously some of the dismay he felt at thinking about Quatre’s next boyfriend must have sounded in his voice, for Quatre’s expression gradually turned grim.
“You know,” he murmured, looking up into Trowa’s eyes, “I kept thinking it was just because you’d realized you might die soon…” Quatre shook his head. “But not all of this fits, and some of it started before that.”
“Some of what?” Trowa wondered warily.
“You’re just holding your breath waiting for this to end, aren’t you?”
Trowa frowned and said nothing.
“You assume I won’t care if you drop dead. You assumed you wouldn’t ever meet my parents. You talk about my next boyfriend like it’s something that’s going to happen pretty soon. You always look at me like you’re surprised I’m still around. You’ve never really thought this was going to last, have you?”
Finally Trowa admitted, “No, I haven’t. I’m just glad to be with you while you’re here.”
Quatre took a deep breath. “So what is it you’re thinking about me? That I have a short attention span? Or that I’m too spacy to have any idea what I want and I’ll realize pretty soon here that it isn’t you? Or do you think I’m just using you for sex and I’ll get tired of it one of these days?”
“No!” Trowa was horrified. “Of course I wasn’t thinking anything like that.” He hadn’t even realized that what he was thinking might imply any of that. “I just thought…”
Closing his eyes, Quatre sighed. “You just thought I don’t really know you, and the more I find out, the less I’m going to want to stay with you.”
It didn’t sound like speculation. And since it was perfectly true, Trowa could return nothing but a heavy, “Yes.”
“I don’t know what to do to convince you that you’re really, honestly stuck with me. What is it you’re…” Quatre raised both hands in some frustration and shook them beside his head. “Do you have some dark secret I don’t have any idea about yet? Were you a Nazi or something?”
“No! I… it’s just…” Trowa knew Quatre wasn’t going to like this, but there was no way around it. “Everything about me.”
“I thought it would probably come back to that.” Quatre sighed again, and allowed his hands to fall and clasp Trowa’s arms. “Let me tell you what I know about you so far. You are absolutely persistent and devoted; you’re not the kind of person who abandons a friend even after eighty-seven years, no matter what you personally are going through. You are intelligent and skilled and knowledgeable, and you use that to help and teach other people, and only ask for tiny little things in return. You’re blunt and clever, and you think fast on your feet; you’re fun to be around. You’re interested in talking about just about anything, and you make just about anything interesting to talk about. Not only that, but you’re extremely attractive and fun to have sex with. Should I go on?”
Trowa was definitely blushing, and he’d wanted to break in after every other word and deny it all. “I don’t really think that’s–”
“I know you don’t. And it’s driving me crazy. Why is it that you can believe the curse will be broken and everything will be fine, but you can’t believe that I honestly like you?”
“It took me eighty-seven years to believe the first one,” Trowa reminded him, forcing a weak smile.
“Trowa!” Quatre sounded simultaneously fond and very exasperated. “I’m twenty-four! I’m not going to live eighty-seven more years! I can’t wait that long!”
“I’m sorry,” said Trowa, almost automatically.
“I’m going to ask you for another favor.” Quatre slid his arms back up Trowa’s, and, as he had done on previous occasions, took Trowa’s face in both of his hands. “I know I ask a lot of you, my poor Trowa,” he said, half facetiously, “but I hope you can do this one more thing for me.”
“You haven’t asked much of me.”
“Then you shouldn’t mind doing this.”
“I’ll certainly try, whatever it is.”
“Well, it’s this: even if you can’t see anything good about yourself — yet — can you please try to believe that I do see it? That I’m not just arbitrarily with you because I have nothing better to do?” It was that same tone as before — the one that was both reproving and pleading — and Quatre’s facial expression just about matched… only there was a touch of sadness that was almost despairing to it as well.
In response to that look, the only thing for Trowa to say was, “All right.” Unwilling to be dishonest, however, he did add, “I’ll try.” He took a deep breath and attempted again to smile. “It isn’t as if it’s an unpleasant thing to try to believe.”
Quatre murmured approvingly, “That’s the attitude I want to see.”
Heero had changed clothes and was just starting to think about dinner on Thursday evening when Quatre called. “Hey, Heero, I’m running some errands with Cairo in the car, and he’s already getting a little carsick… I’m going to let him walk around outside your apartment for a bit. Do you happen to have a bowl you could fill with water and bring out for him?”
“Sure. Are you already here?”
“I’m a block away.”
“OK, I’ll meet you down there.”
As Heero put his phone away Duo asked, “What’s up?”
“Quatre,” Heero replied briefly.
“Oh, is he actually going to pay attention to us today?” Duo grinned.
“Only because his dog’s getting carsick.” Heero also grinned, though he wasn’t entirely cheerful about the question and answer.
Duo probably thought Quatre hadn’t been around much lately because he was busy with work; Heero, on the other hand, was convinced that Quatre had a magic door of his own into Trowa’s house, where he’d been spending most of his extraprofessional waking time (and probably, if Heero knew Quatre, much of his sleeping time as well). It wasn’t a theory he wanted to relate to Duo, though. Unfortunately, it was a theory he needed to relate to Duo, and undoubtedly couldn’t. It fit with the fact that Quatre was currently running errands with his dog, too: he’d probably been neglecting the animal as well as his friends, and now was giving it the unusual treat of riding in the car with him as an apology.
With a Tupperware bowl full of water held carefully in both hands and Duo in his jeans pocket, Heero headed down to the parking lot, having a little trouble managing doors but eventually making it without spilling too much. Outside, Quatre had already let the dog out of the car and was fussing with something in the back seat — possibly simply adjusting the sheet he kept spread over it for Cairo to sit on, and possibly something less pleasant.
Cairo was a calm, pretty creature that didn’t think much of Heero; Quatre had assured him that Cairo was that way with everyone, and it didn’t bother Heero greatly as he’d never really been a dog person anyway. Now Cairo didn’t appear to mind him, however, as Heero set the water down on the sidewalk and called, for he came slowly over, sniffed at Heero’s hand briefly, and began to drink. Heero, not terribly fond of the smell of vomit and speculating it might be part of what Quatre was dealing with over there, sat down on the curb a couple of parking spaces away and set Duo beside him.
“He looks OK,” he said loudly enough for Quatre to hear him. In response, Quatre made a sardonic noise. Heero smirked. “How’s that other one? The hyper one?”
“How many dogs does he have?” Duo wondered.
“She’s fine,” Quatre replied at volume. “I had to have Darryl come out and distract her so I could get Cairo into the car without making her sad.”
“Hoooowwww many dogs?” Duo reiterated.
“You know, if Scrat didn’t have Cairo for company and such a big yard to run around in, I’d say we should get rid of her… Cameron never pays attention to her.” The guilt in Quatre’s tone told Heero he’d been right in speculating recent neglect of Cairo; the nephew’s offense must be pretty severe if Quatre was still mentioning it in the face of his own.
“Just two dogs?” Duo guessed. “And who’s Cameron?”
“Sorry… Quatre’s oldest nephew,” answered Heero. “And, yes, two dogs.”
“Well, this one is a mighty fiiine-lookin’ animal,” Duo drawled.
Heero laughed a little.
“What was that?” Quatre called.
“My voice is too goddamn quiet!” Duo yelled.
It seemed Quatre still didn’t hear him, so Heero replied, “Nothing.”
Duo sighed and turned his attention to Cairo, who was now sniffing about.
“Four more days,” Heero murmured reassuringly. With his little plastic hands, Duo patted appreciatively at the one of Heero’s that was half curled around him where he sat on the concrete; it was a strange sensation.
Meanwhile Quatre was saying, “I still need to go to Carquest and a grocery store; do you guys want to come with me?”
Heero had a secret love of auto parts stores, but was being perfectly honest when he replied, “Not in a car that smells like dog vomit.”
“We could take your car,” was Quatre’s teasing suggestion.
“That animal in my nice car?”
“Oh,” said Quatre in mock surprise, “did you get a nice car?”
Duo had been talking nonsense at the dog, to which Heero had been half listening in amusement as he held this distance conversation with Quatre; now, all at once, Duo’s tone changed, and his random noises abruptly became a good deal more intelligible: “Whoah! Hey! Hey, stop! Bad dog!” And at the same moment, Heero felt Cairo’s warm, wet, snuffling nose against the hand he’d had on Duo’s body.
It happened with dizzying quickness. At the sound of Duo’s supplicating but somewhat muffled, “Heero!” the latter looked down in time to see Cairo take the doll by the head, pick him right up, and start to turn away. Heero made a grab for Duo, but missed entirely as Cairo began trotting toward Quatre.
“Hey!” cried Heero in his turn, diving after the dog, missing again, and scrambling to his feet. He never actually did manage to get his hands on Duo, and it was a startled and confused Quatre that pulled the doll from Cairo’s mouth.
“What…” Quatre began.
Heero snatched Duo in a panic and began looking him over for damage, despite knowing that he was supposedly indestructible. As he did this, Duo was swearing continually, and only stopped when Heero’s eyes met his. Breathlessly he asked, “How far was that?”
“I don’t know,” replied Heero, his panic settling into horror. “I couldn’t– Quatre, did you see?”
Quatre’s eyes had gone wide as he’d realized what had just happened, and he shook his head. Then they all simply gazed at each other blankly. Cairo leaned complacently against his master, unaware that he’d caused any trouble.
“Shit,” Duo said again at last, sounding distraught.
“It may not have been too far,” said Heero quickly. However, as even he wasn’t sure how far the dog had gone before he’d caught up, his tone was none too certain.
Duo just stared up at him, painted eyes wide.
Heero held him tighter. “I’m sure it’s all right,” he said, though he wasn’t. “I’m sure I got to you in time.” Though he wasn’t.
“I’m so sorry,” Quatre breathed, one hand on the dog’s head rubbing almost absently at its ears. “I don’t know why he did that. Maybe… maybe he thought… I don’t know…”
Duo took what sounded like a deep breath and spoke in that disconcerting tone of false cheer Heero had heard from him a few times before: “I’ve never known what it is about me that dogs like so damn much. They’re pretty common familiar animals… maybe they sense the magic or something.”
“I guess we’ll find out on Monday.” Quatre clearly wasn’t referring to why dogs liked Duo so much. There was a distant, contemplative quality to his voice, which Heero attributed to his suddenly thinking of Trowa and how this might affect him.
Perhaps Duo was on the same wavelength, for he said, “Don’t anyone mention this to Trowa, OK? He shouldn’t have to worry about it before he has to. Especially if it turns out he doesn’t have to worry about it at all.”
Slowly Quatre nodded, though he didn’t look entirely convinced.
Heero also wasn’t sure what to think. If he were the one under a curse and approaching what he believed to be the end of a long period of suffering, he would want to have clear expectations about the day in question, know whether or not he could anticipate success. On the other hand, Trowa didn’t seem the type to get his hopes up — about anything, really — and Heero didn’t feel it was his place to make the decision when Duo and Quatre were both more familiar with Trowa and more concerned for his well-being. So finally he nodded too. Then they all just stared at each other again, bleak and pensive.
When somebody showed signs of wanting to pull into the parking space they were occupying, Quatre finally stirred. “I’ve got to go,” he said reluctantly, looking around as if he’d forgotten where he was. “I am so sorry about this.” Seeing his human moving again, Cairo climbed up through the car’s open back door without being urged.
Duo shook his head, dragging his somewhat slobbery braid back and forth across Heero’s hand. “Not your fault,” he said. “It’s not exactly something you can train your dog not to do.”
Quatre smiled weakly at Duo, then raised his eyes to Heero. There was in his face that thoughtful expression that suggested he wasn’t saying something he had on his mind. Heero remembered him wearing that look a few days before the email about Trowa; he wondered what Quatre was thinking now, and whether he wasn’t saying it because Duo was present or for some other reason. What Quatre did say eventually was, “Thanks for the water.”
Heero nodded. Their goodbyes were subdued, and then he stood on the curb holding Duo in both hands and watching Quatre drive away.
Duo was very quiet as they returned inside, even once the door was closed and they were alone and out of anyone’s earshot. Heero hadn’t put him back in his pocket, but continued to keep both hands possessively on him as he walked with the bowl under his arm dripping down his side, and now he gazed at the doll in similar silence.
Finally Duo said, “If that just ruined everything…”
“Then we start over,” Heero interrupted tensely. “We start a new month and try again. We try harder.”
Heero would not even hear the beginning of an objection. “We start over,” he reiterated.
For a long moment Duo stared at him, his eyes blinking away in their uncannily regular rhythm. And eventually he said, as quietly as before, “Thank you.”
Not trusting himself to answer verbally, Heero nodded.
“And now,” Duo announced next, clearly changing the subject, “I think I really do need a bath.”
Heero forced a smile. “Yes, I think so too.”
“So bring on the hot water! That’ll be my silver lining.”
Smile widening somewhat, if a little sadly, Heero hoped it could be his as well.
So what was going through Cairo’s head? Find out here.
His Own Humanity is an AU series set in modern-day America (plus magic) featuring characters from Rurouni Kenshin (primarily Saitou and Sano) and Gundam Wing (primarily Heero, Duo, Trowa, and Quatre). In chronological order (generally), the stories currently available are:
Sano enlists the help of exorcist Hajime in discovering the nature of the unusual angry shade that's haunting him.
Best friends Heero and Quatre have their work cut out for them assisting longtime curse victims Duo and Trowa.
During Plastic (part 80), Cairo thinks about thinking and other recent changes in his life.
A look at how Hajime and Sano are doing.
A look at how Trowa and Quatre are doing.
A look at how Heero and Duo are doing.
A meeting between Kamatari and Wufei.
Couple analysis among Heero, Duo, Trowa, and Quatre.
Quatre undergoes an unpleasant magical change; Heero, Duo, and Trowa are forced to face unpleasant truths; and Hajime and Sano may get involved.
During La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré (parts 33-35), Sano's 178-day wait is over as what Hajime has been fearing comes to pass.
During Guest Room Soap Opera (part 3), Cathy learns a lot of interesting facts and Trowa is not happy.
A few days before the epilogue of La Confrérie de la Lune Révéré, Duo and Sano get together to watch football and discuss relationships and magical experiences; Heero listens in on multiple levels.
On the same evening as That Remarkable Optimism, Trowa tells Quatre's parents the whole truth, as promised.
In case you, like Duo, are curious about Heero’s high school hair adventure, have a look at this excerpt from his senior yearbook that I drew:
It tends to be rather a matter of chance whether or not people I draw look attractive, and I’m often just happy if they look human. In this case, that Heero turned out looking not very handsome I don’t mind specifically because of Duo’s thoughts on the matter in part 74; Duo finds him attractive and doesn’t give a damn what the rest of the world thinks, so it kinda doesn’t matter how he looks when I draw him for this story :D
I really would’ve liked to have Mrs. Winner’s name spelled and pronounced differently in order to state that Quatre was named after her, but “Quatarine” looked way too much like “Quarantine,” and I just couldn’t handle it XD
This is an illustration for a story Zombie Girl was writing. She decided after the first chapter that she wasn’t actually wasn’t going to write it after all, so now nobody but me ever gets to read about Quatre finding Trowa poisoned in the snow and rescuing him and giving him a haircut and falling in love with him. This is sad. Here is a detail of Trowa:
I wanted a Heero/Duo icon for my other lj to use with the Blue October line, “I want to show you just how fascinating kissing it,” so I drew this. I love how Heero’s hand looks all puffy.
I believe I would be every bit as smug as Sano in this situation. And, oh, look, Saitou’s face is at that angle I can never draw. Mou.
Sano’s romantic night with Saitou is completely perfect, except for one little detail.
There was no response to his knock, but this didn’t surprise him, given the hour. He believed, however, that Saitou was inside and not likely to ignore him all night, so after a few moments he knocked again more loudly. Listening carefully and still hearing nothing from within, he raised his fist to pound a third time — but at that moment the door opened.
Sano’s hand unclenched to wave at the irritated man glaring from the darkness within. Saitou looked pretty damn hot in a yukata, though Sano wondered why he’d bothered to put it on when he must have known who waited at the door.
“What,” Saitou demanded.
“I gotta show you something,” Sano replied. “Get clothes and come on.”
Saitou’s eyes rolled and narrowed at the same time. “Tomorrow,” he said flatly, “or maybe never.” And he started to close the door.
“No, no, no,” Sano protested, stopping the door’s progress with a foot. “You gotta see it right now. It’s — how do you cops put it? — time-sensitive.”
For a moment Saitou stared at him, probably trying to decide whether it would be more trouble to get whatever Sano had planned over with or put up with Sano’s disappointed harassment for the rest of the night, and finally gave a half-audible sigh. “Fine.” And he disappeared into the dark house.
“What do you mean ‘What am I talking about?'” Sano was demanding, sounding truly startled.
Saitou barely glanced up from his paperwork. “What I meant by that was, ‘What are you talking about?’ It seems a logical question when you come in here talking about ‘last night’ when I didn’t see you at all yesterday.”
“But you did see me last night,” Sano insisted, his apparent confusion only growing at Saitou’s words. “You know, when I came to your house and woke you up?”
Now Saitou looked up more pointedly, fixing Sano with a skeptical expression. “If you had done that, you would know better than to be in here bothering me now.”
Sano stared, as if searching for some sign on Saitou’s face that this was a misunderstanding. Saitou shook his head and went back to the work at his desk.
Sano couldn’t be sure Saitou wouldn’t just return to bed, leaving him standing at the door waiting until whenever he finally caught on, but it was a chance he had to take; he’d known perfectly well what Saitou’s initial reaction was likely to be in this situation, and had proceeded anyway. And given that Saitou hadn’t threatened him with physical violence if he didn’t get lost, things were already going pretty well. Sano alternated between listening hard for whatever Saitou was doing inside and hopping from one foot to the other glancing impatiently over his shoulder into the sky.
To Sano’s great relief, Saitou eventually did reappear, clad predictably in blue police pants and one of those sexy black shirts. Sano had hoped he would wear something more interesting, but at least he’d left off the jacket. With an air of supreme annoyance Saitou locked his door and turned to glare at Sano, who had already advanced a few paces toward the street like an expectant dog anticipating a walk.
“So what is it you’re showing me?” Saitou wondered darkly as he stalked toward him.
Sano seized the cop’s hand and tried to urge him along faster, but Saitou resisted and eventually shook free. “What are you showing me?” he demanded again, more insistently.
“I can’t tell you,” Sano said doggedly. “You just gotta see it.”
“Ahou, if you’ve dragged me out of bed just to look at some drunken animal or something–”
“No, it’s nothing like that. Besides, you thought that was as funny as I did.”
“It wouldn’t have been nearly so entertaining in the middle of the night.”
“Well, this isn’t anything like that.”
Again Saitou sighed quietly, quickening his steps slightly, obviously sure that whatever Sano had to show him was little more worth his time than the aforementioned, but apparently having decided on the get-it-over-with method of dealing with it.
“But…” By now Sano was thoroughly baffled. “I knocked on your door until you woke up and came outside! How can you possibly not remember that?”
Saitou threw Sano another quizzical look, eyebrow even higher this time. “And I didn’t kill you?”
“No! We went on a walk!”
“Yes! ‘Cause the moon was really big and shit…”
“Yes, dammit. It was really… pretty.”
Their destination lay not far from Saitou’s house, though the distance took longer to cover than it had the other direction since Sano had run to fetch his reluctant lover to come see. When Sano left the street, however, for the space where a couple of trees grew and the ground sloped up to a hill that stood behind two properties, Saitou complained again. “I will arrest you before I’ll let you make it look like I’m party to your trespassing.”
Sano rolled his eyes jovially. “Well, if you hurry up, we’ll be past their houses before anyone even starts to wake up.”
They’d been walking mostly in shadow until they topped the rise, the houses of Saitou’s neighborhood having blocked the ascending moon. But as they emerged from the trees and looked out, there seemed to be a surplus of light. Even after coating the downward slope of the hill and the treetops and the roofs below, it made the very air feel heavy and sparkling, and the river appeared full of that rather than water.
“Well?” Saitou demanded when they’d stood still for almost a minute.
Sano gestured. “Isn’t it great?”
Although Saitou didn’t look too terribly impressed, at least he also didn’t look away as he asked, “This is what you woke me up to look at? A nice view?”
“Even you said it was a nice view.”
“And you expect me to believe I not only got up in the middle of the night at your request, but actually went somewhere with you? And still didn’t kill you even when it was just the moon you’d dragged me out to see?”
“Holy shit, Saitou, I can’t believe you don’t remember all this happening! Do you have amnesia or something?”
“Ahou, try to be logical about this. Why on earth would I do what you’re describing?”
Sano looked away and said in a petulant tone, “Because maybe you like me a little.”
“Whether or not I like you has nothing to do with it. If I had work the next morning, there’s no way I would be out in the middle of the night with you.”
“But I remember it all, even if you don’t!” The desperation of Sano’s confusion was beginning to calm, and doubt seemed ready to creep in. “How could I remember all that if it didn’t really happen?”
“Sake?” suggested Saitou mildly.
“Well,” admitted Sano, his gaze shifting back and forth between the silver view and Saitou’s face, “it was also a test.”
“A test?” Saitou still did not look at him; however much he did or didn’t appreciate the breathtaking scene, he certainly was observing it meticulously — that or lost in thoughts of his own, perhaps entirely unrelated to the situation.
“I heard somewhere that sometimes guys get turned into wolves under the full moon…” Sano cleared his throat. “I thought maybe it might work backwards too.” Even from this angle he could see Saitou’s raised eyebrow. “I mean, turn a wolf into a real guy. Who likes to spend time with his boyfriend sometimes. You know?”
“I wasn’t drunk!” Sano burst out, sounding insulted. “You think I can’t tell when I was drunk the night before? I know you think I’m an idiot, but even an idiot can tell the difference between waking up after a night of drinking and waking up after other shit.”
“And where did you wake up?”
“On the hill.”
“Like you’re ever there when I wake up.”
“Maybe it was a dream.”
“It…” Sano had obviously been about to discount this new theory just as immediately and energetically as the last, but apparently thought better of such a determined denial.
Finally, slowly, Saitou turned to face him, and Sano’s breath caught. A good percentage of the extra moonlight seemed to have pooled in the older man’s eyes, making them almost silver rather than gold, and they stared now into Sano’s with an intensity Saitou rarely wasted on him. “You…” Saitou reached out and took his hand. “…are a complete idiot…”
Sano’s spirits fell at the failure of his experiment, and thoughts flitted through his head of bitterly spending the remainder of the night in a bar somewhere cursing unromantic cops and their cynical ways — but this lasted only a moment before Saitou drew him close and kissed him, threading fingers leisurely through Sano’s hair and holding Sano’s body tight against his own with his other arm.
Given that he hadn’t really been prepared for his silly idea to work, this was something of a surprise. It was nothing, however, compared to how he felt when Saitou pulled back far enough to speak, still staring into Sano’s eyes, and finished his statement: “…and I love you more than anything in this world.”
“So what else did we supposedly do?” Saitou asked in a tone that could almost be called politely disinterested, “after I supposedly didn’t kill you for all this?”
“We were standing on top of the hill looking at the moon,” Sano explained, his voice sinking to a murmur as he continued. “You kissed me and said…” and he trailed off unintelligibly.
“I said what?” Saitou wondered.
“Something romantic,” Sano muttered, still almost inaudible.
Sano couldn’t help thinking the moonlight must actually have had some transformative effect, considering he’d never been able to wring even a standard ‘I love you’ out of the normal Saitou. This longer version of the phrase, the like of which he’d never expected to hear from his pragmatic lover, had sent his heart into a strange, quick, erratic pattern, and the night was suddenly hot. But he didn’t have a chance to comment on the wonder of it, rendered speechless as he was by an even greater wonder: Saitou released him and sank suddenly to his knees.
“And then?” prompted Saitou, still in the same relatively gentle tone as if humoring a lunatic or a small child.
“All right, fine, you’re right,” Sano admitted bitterly, “I probably was dreaming or something.” And he even seemed to be blushing slightly; Saitou hadn’t thought there was anything that could call up that reaction in Sano these days.
“It’s not a bad idea, though,” was the officer’s reflective concession as he returned yet again to his paperwork. He could almost hear Sano’s head snapping up to look at him hopefully. “Just the kind of romantic nonsense women like to read about. You should get your friend to put it in his newspaper. With different names, of course.”
As the recovering Sano attempted to remember how many times Saitou had ever done that before (something like maybe once), Saitou was encouraging him to give in to the demands of his trembling legs. And as soon as Sano lay in the grass without pants, it didn’t take long for Saitou to join him in a similar state.
Somewhat caustically, “At least the sex was good,” muttered Sano.
Saitou laughed and remarked softly, to no particular purpose other than derision, “Sex with you in a public place…” He shook his head. “Go home, ahou. I have work to do.”
After a long moment of silence during which Sano clearly didn’t leave, Saitou looked up again. The young man stood quite still, staring at him with wide, sad eyes, appearing so crestfallen and disappointed that Saitou really couldn’t stand it. “Why don’t you come by my house at some reasonable hour tonight?” he added, successfully making it almost sound like he’d meant to say it all along. “I doubt we can recreate your little fantasy, but I’m sure we can find something you’ll enjoy.”
This seemed to cheer Sano immensely, for the storm in his eyes cleared up and his demeanor brightened. “All right,” he said, though still a little morosely. “I’ll see you then.”
Saitou nodded and again returned his gaze to the papers in front of him as Sano finally left the room. Maybe now he’d be able to get something done. Then he should probably go home a little early; he needed to take a bath before Sano arrived, just to make absolutely certain the grass stains were gone from his knees.
You are a terrible person.
Love, this faery.
This story is for 30_kisses theme #27 “Overflow.”
It has been suggested that the italicization here should be reversed, and for the longest time I resisted that proposal without precisely knowing why, since the choice of italicizing what I did was one of those instinctual things I wasn’t at first able to define. Eventually I realized I’d done it because, although it’s more standard for the scenes taking place farther in the past to be italicized, I like it better this way because it emphasizes that some aspect of reality in each scene is in question. In the end it turns out that there is more truth in the non-italicized portion of the story than in the italicized part, which seems appropriate. I’m not sure if this explanation makes sense, but to me it feels right the way it is.
I’ve rated this story .
The payback for Sano’s winter pranks is more than he bargained for.
The rurouni paused and turned. As the young man, slipping occasionally but never quite falling, pelted up the hill toward where his friend stood on the more level road, Kenshin wondered, “What is wrong, Sano?”
“Look out!” Sano cried as he reached him, and, ducking behind Kenshin, this time really did fall full-length into the snow. Kenshin didn’t have time to worry about that, however, for, the very moment Sano was behind him, a snowball struck his scarred face so forcibly it knocked him backward; he tripped over Sano and fell, and his tofu bucket went flying.
“Thanks, buddy,” Sano gasped as he wriggled from beneath Kenshin and took to running again, off the road once more into the field on the other side.
“I’d apologize, Himura,” came a new voice, “if that hadn’t been the most comical thing I’ve seen all week.”
“No need for an apology, Saitou,” Kenshin replied as he sat up. “I am used to Sano using me as a shield against missiles. Of course,” he added, smiling brightly and bringing a large handful of snow with him as he stood, “that does not mean he always gets away with it.”
Sano had ducked behind a hedge, presumably to assemble an arsenal, and it only took a single glance between the other two men to coordinate their attack: Saitou crept around the shrubbery’s far end while Kenshin approached it broadside just at the point where he sensed Sano opposite him. Then, simultaneously, Saitou came charging at Sano from the right while Kenshin cleared the hedge in a jump and landed on his left; Sano was pelted with multiple snowballs from both directions.
With a yelp, Sano tossed the one he’d been making at a bad angle, missing his two assailants entirely, and, ducking away, once again ran off.
Kenshin, obviously satisfied with this, turned with a grin and the intention of searching for his lost bucket. However, as he did so, a snowball struck him squarely on the back of the head, and when he turned again another hit his face. Saitou, who’d been more alert and therefore successfully dodged Sano’s attack, threw Kenshin a look that said, Are you just going to take that?
Kenshin bent and scooped up another handful of snow.
Sano wasn’t giving much thought to strategy, but was vaguely aware that the belt of trees toward which he was slowly being driven by the now-doubled enemy force was 1) not likely to provide much snow for further missiles but 2) likely to provide better cover than the field. It was just as he started trying to think what to do about this change in terrain when he noticed someone on the road off to his left and his face broke into a grin.
“Hey, Katsu!” he called.
The figure, which was indeed that of his good friend Katsu, stopped and looked in his direction just in time to see him take two snowballs to the chest. Sano’s subsequent cry of, “Help a guy out, will ya?” was a little breathless as a result.
Katsu stood quietly watching for several moments as Sano dodged another assault. Deciding that the hedge he’d abandoned was probably a good option as long as he didn’t let anyone take him by surprise by jumping over it again, the kenkaya tried to run back that direction and throw snowballs at both Kenshin and Saitou at the same time. One endeavor worked better than the other: although he hit his targets, his calculated movement was entirely thwarted by the return volley.
And that was when Katsu’s first snowball struck him squarely between the shoulder blades from behind.
“Katsu!!” Sano bawled in anger and surprise.
“Sorry, Sano,” said the grinning Katsu, “I like these odds better.”
“Your friend has sense,” Saitou smirked.
“My friend’s a fucking traitor!” Sano growled, now trying to watch all three of them at once.
“Besides, Sano, I still owe you for shoving snow down my pants last week,” Katsu explained as he took careful aim and hit Sano’s forearm so accurately that the ball Sano had been about to release from it was knocked right out of his hand.
“He shoved snow down your pants?” asked Saitou in an odd tone.
“It was a non-sexual shoving,” Katsu assured him quickly.
“I am not sure in what context shoving snow down someone’s pants could be considered sexual,” remarked Kenshin.
“Well, with Sano, you never know,” was Katsu’s mock-sober response.
They all got back to business. The brief exchange, though, had given Sano an opportunity to take a better stance against them and hastily manufacture enough snowballs that he was able to hold his own for a few minutes. He felt rather proud of himself, actually; he knew he excelled at facing off against multiple enemies, but he wouldn’t have thought he could last this long at snowballs against both Saitou and Kenshin — and Katsu was proving uncannily good at this, too.
“What’s this??” A new voice from the road. “Nobody told me it was Everybody Throw Snowballs At Tori-Atama Day!”
“Shit,” Sano muttered.
As Chou came sliding down the slope to join the others, Sano had another moment of relative freedom in which to replenish his collection of weapons somewhat desperately.
“You’re supposed to be at the station,” Saitou was admonishing.
“I think you are too,” Chou grinned. “But I need to get even with this bastard for shovin’ snow down my pants the other day.”
“Hmm…” Thoughtfully Kenshin cocked his head to one side. “Whose pants has Sano not shoved snow down recently?”
“His own, presumably,” Saitou replied.
“We should totally fix that,” Chou suggested.
Sano did not like the sound of this. Gathering up his snowballs, he turned and fled into the trees.
They followed him — Kenshin the most quickly, of course, but Sano, expecting that, slowed him up with a pointed missile. Then his heart lightened as he cleared the trees and came upon exactly what he needed.
A little ridge of rock curved toward the forest belt, a considerable snowdrift piled between its protective arms. If his enemies kept to the cover of the trees, they would have little ammunition; if they advanced to where the snow began again, they would be forced into the narrow space between the rocks, and he would have an easy shot. And he had plenty of snow within reach; he didn’t even have to bend down for it. He grinned in triumph and turned to face them.
They must have seen immediately the advantageous circumstances in which he’d placed himself, for after a few missiles they’d probably brought with them from the field, everything went still and silent. Sano watched carefully for their movements behind the trees they were using for concealment, a snowball in each hand and a defiant smile on his face.
Finally, after a tense minute or so of this stalemate, Saitou stepped out into plain view.
Sano threw immediately; Saitou dodged one and took the other, and kept walking forward. Sano reached back for more snow, at which the officer raised his empty hands and Sano paused. He would accept their surrender graciously.
“You’re freezing,” Saitou murmured as he came within arm’s length of the younger man and observed his heavy shivering.
“And whose fault is that?” Sano wondered.
“Entirely your own,” replied Saitou with a smirk. “We should probably stop…” He bent and kissed Sano soundly, working the coldness from his lips with a massaging motion.
As he drew back, Sano’s shivering increased, but his eyes were sparkling. Then his expression changed completely as Saitou added softly, “…but not yet,” and sprang abruptly backward, bending for a handful of snow.
“What the fuck was–” Sano began, but was cut off as snowballs came flying at him from all directions. He dashed for cover, but found the very ridge he’d been using for that purpose now held against him. Two of his enemies must have scrambled up it from either side while he’d been too distracted to notice and thwart them.
“Your diversion techniques are rather unusual, officer-san,” Katsu remarked from high on Sano’s left.
“What?!” Sano demanded as he attempted to dodge in multiple directions at once and failed miserably.
“Yeah, I gotta try that one one of these days,” Chou laughed from high on Sano’s right.
“No, you don’t!” Sano growled as he went to scoop up more snow to retaliate, only to have an unfairly accurate projectile knock his hand away.
“Sano, you really should know better than to lower your guard in the middle of a battle,” Kenshin’s voice came from not far behind Sano to his left, “no matter who it is kissing you.”
“‘Battle?'” Sano swatted a snowball out of the air but took another to each side of his head.
“I keep telling him that,” Saitou remarked from Sano’s right, “but he really is too thick-skulled.”
“You’ve never said a word about kissing in the middle of a battle!!” Again Sano attempted to fight back, but started to recognize the futility of his efforts. Soon there was nothing to do but fall to his knees and try to guard his face and head with upraised arms.
“Well, Sano, do you give up?” Kenshin wondered cheerfully.
“Never!” Sano roared.
“Come on, Sano, my hands are getting really cold,” Katsu prodded, nearly as cheerful as Kenshin.
“Not mine,” Chou put in, more cheerfully than both of them. “I could do this all day.”
“You’re wearing leather gloves,” Katsu pointed out.
Despite his defiance, Sano was weakening. What’s more, he was beginning to be able to distinguish which snowballs were whose, and that was pretty pathetic: Saitou’s hit hardest, Kenshin’s came fastest, Katsu’s were the most accurate, and Chou’s were just sloppy. Not that it mattered much; four on one would suck in any case. He was getting to the point where he was almost ready to start thinking about maybe giving in when he was unexpectedly saved.
“What is going on here?”
The tone was enough to stop them all in their tracks, frozen more thoroughly than the snow could render them.
“Kenshin, I sent you out after tofu an hour ago!”
Sano, peering warily through his arms, saw Kaoru standing back beyond Kenshin and Saitou in the trees, brandishing the bucket Kenshin had dropped earlier and glowering like death incarnate. “I come out looking for you because I’m worried something might have happened to you, and what do I find?? A bunch of grown men playing around in the snow!?!”
“And if you were all gonna beat up on Sano,” grumbled Yahiko from her side, “you could at least have invited me.”
After smacking Yahiko briefly, Kaoru held out the tofu bucket and growled, “Kenshin…”
“Yes, yes, Kaoru-dono.” Kenshin dropped the snowball he’d been about to throw and began self-consciously brushing and shaking snow from his clothes even as he went to join his dojomates.
“I swear, you’re as easily distracted as Sano is!” Kaoru ranted as she turned sharply and walked away with a tight, hauling grip on Kenshin’s sleeve. Sano noticed Yahiko casting those that remained in combative positions a somewhat wistful glance as he followed.
Watching with grins and rolling eyes, Katsu and Chou began making their way off the high ground they’d so unfairly captured — one careful, the other reckless. “I’ve entirely forgotten what I was on my way to do,” Katsu said.
Chou glanced over at him. “You were on your way to have dinner with me?” he suggested hopefully.
“Oh, was I?” wondered Katsu with a laugh. “I guess I’m late, then.”
“Oh, I have a feelin’ you’ll get there the same time I do,” Chou grinned, “so it’s probably all right.”
“Better get going, then.” Katsu returned the expression, then glanced at Sano. “Sano, it appears I’ve got a date, so we’ll have to finish this another time.”
Sano, who had not yet removed his arms from over his face, grumbled from behind them, “You’re wasting your time with that guy, but all right!”
Soon, therefore, the only people left were the two with whom the entire drama had originated, and the scene had become very quiet. Seeing both of Saitou’s hands engaged in lighting a cigarette, Sano deemed it safe to emerge.
“How the hell did that start, anyway?” he wondered, standing at last.
Saitou looked over at him with a raised brow. “By you stuffing snow down my pants?” he suggested.
“Oh, yeah,” Sano grinned. “Well, I guess that was worth it.”
“You’re going to be black and blue,” smirked Saitou.
“No shit, man.” Grimacing, Sano glanced over the various red spots that had already developed on his raw, aching skin. “I swear Katsu’s had little eyes and brains of their own.”
“He does seem to be quite a good shot,” Saitou agreed. “But I meant you’re going to be black and blue once I’m finished with you. Come on; let’s go take a bath.”
Sano’s grin widened as he bounced over to Saitou’s side and took his arm. “All right!”
With narrowed eyes and a puff of smoke that seemed double in the frosty air, “And we’ll make sure it was ‘worth it,'” Saitou added.
I’ve rated this story .
Funny thing that was floating around DeviantArt that definitely needed to have Saitou and Sano in it.
Seaobhan (actually I believe one of those vowels should have an accent mark, but for the life of me I can’t remember which) is a character of Farstrider’s from a story she was always thinking about writing. I used to think this was the greatest picture evar, but now I look at it and kinda go, “Eh…”
GetBackers‘ Akabane again, full-length this time. I’m not sure why there’s no Mugenjou in the background; I thought that was required by law in any GB cityscape. Ah, well. At some point I also made this version because I thought it looked cool:
Akabane of GetBackers looking inappropriately unremarkable.