Disclaimer: They aren't mine. Duh.
On The Sidelines
Ah. He was bored, standing on his feet for the third hour in a row. His mind was wandering... back-story time? Back-story time.
How to start it? The war ended? Nope. That was pretty apparent. He remembered... but that was boring. Ah! How about this?
It was hard.
And it was true. He'd be lying if he said otherwise, and considering his calling phrase, at it were – running and hiding but never lying – he wouldn't bother, anyway. Even if the lie were believable.
Well, he should probably back up a bit more for just a second. There'd been the war, that very memorable war with its very memorable last battles. Five very distinct teenagers with five very distinct machines. And then those last battles had ended and he'd been alone.
Okay, that sounded melodramatic. It wasn't as if he'd put in a million volunteer hours into possible friendships with Heero and Quatre and the others, but hell if he hadn't at least tried for some old-fashioned camaraderie or something. Maybe looking for some peace? He'd kind of failed, of course. Miserably, if one felt like adding more to the summary.
So into the proverbial box his hurts had gone, and like Pandora's stupid mistake, only in reverse, his hope had gotten caught up in the box, too. If that didn't sound too self-pitying and emotional.
He could go on about trying to be funny and tough and a good little soldier, switching back and forth every once in a while in an effort to make them come out of his shell, even going so far as to be himself a few times, but the outcome's pretty apparent and who wanted to listen to all that?
Another summary could easily say he got tired of rejection and decided to skip the whole process.
He looked around the room he was in now, thinking about backstory and wishing he could jump out of one of the windows to escape his current job.
At least, he tought, thinking back to the rejections, he hadn't completely failed. He'd won over Quatre and Hilde, at least. Oh. Hilde. And he winced. She'd liked him, and he'd had to reject her. Kindly, of course. He just explained that, unfortunately, he didn't swing that way, but if he did he certainly would've been looking up her number. He remembered how well she'd handled it, so that hadn't been too bad. He also remembered – very, very vividly – what he'd made sure not to bring up during said rejection. An already-existent love interest.
Nope. He definitely hadn't told her that. Maybe that was why she'd taken it well. Or maybe she'd really only had a crush. Or whatever. Like he had ever been able to fully understand that girl's mind.
Yeah. Even now, looking outside to the bushes lining the window, Duo couldn't say why he was interested in that bastard. Okay. Beyond the body that was custom-made for wet dreams. Seriously, what could've attracted to Heero? His personality was like a rock. His smiles were nonexistent unless the guy was imagining some sort of strategy or victory or... something else mission-related. The guy probably jerked off to mission assignments or something.
And raise the sirens if Duo started a conversation. The man was like chiseled ice.
How in the hell had he fallen in love with that?
So. Anyway. Good-bye with Maremaia, hello to a salvage business partnership with Hilde. Hello debris. Hello corpsicles. But what other job options were available? Anything he could get involved in would easily lead to another war. No thanks.
The two of them did all right, but the whole salvage thing eventually fell out. How long could salvage last when accidents hardly ever occurred anymore?
Things were rocky for the last three weeks or so and he and Hilde called it quits. They parted amicably enough, and Duo thought she got into business as a secretary to some businessman or another. She was a nice person, and he was happy for her. He, however, was not doing so well. He'd grown up on the streets, and he had no documentation of his time with Doctor G. He was basically screwed when it came to getting a job. It was embarrassing whenever Quatre called Duo, since inevitably the blond asked Duo how he was doing. Duo always dodged the question. Like hell he'd admit where he was right now.
So, a final sum-up. Enter real time. He found himself oddly proud of the fact that he wasn't on the street completely. Close enough, but a victory was a bloody victory, dammit. Especially since his lack of official documentation of how freaking smart he was somehow made people believe that he was a flaming moron. What the hell did papers have to do with anything? But damned if he didn't need proof that he wasn't some... well, bum off the street wasn't a good analogy, but what the hell.
He recalled searching for a job for that first month. He couldn't begin to count how many people who'd asked him for a college degree. The fact that he could do college calculus in his head didn't matter to them; they wanted proof that he knew what he was doing. The fact that he looked so young didn't win him any brownie points, either. And like hell he was bringing up the whole 'I'm a Gundam pilot' taboo piece.
So where had he found a job? Where was he right now, staring out the windows and wishing he were practically anywhere else? Why, Taco Bell.
Taco fucking Bell.
Technically – very, very technically – he was the right age for the job. Around seventeen or eighteen. How should he know? And here was the selling point: he didn't need documentation to get the position. Pfft. Position; like such a word was applicable in such a situation. It was just humiliating. He was a fucking Gundam pilot, for God's sake. And here he was in a fast food restaurant. A fucking fast food restaurant. And every time he looked around he only saw inefficiency. If he were in charge of the place, food would be getting out to the customers in half the time, at least. Some days he thought he could feel his brain matter leaking out his ears. There was no thought processing necessary for this damn job.
Probably why he'd gotten it. Dammit.
But he sucked it up and did it; he needed the money, and he wasn't able to go anywhere else. His background didn't really leave him with a lot of options, after all. He was basically screwed any way he looked at it.
So... Taco Bell. It had been about a year or so since Maremaia had been stopped and Dekim Barton had gotten his ass kicked. Salvage had gone on for a while, about half a year, and then after that he'd searched for a job for a couple of months. So that left four months. He'd been working at Taco Bell for around four months. And in the course of those four months he'd met more stupid people than he'd believed were left on the planet.
He pulled up an order, cashed in a new one, and pulled up a second. His eyes sought out the window again, tired and disturbed simply by the idea of dealing with this shit. At least, he thought happily, he'd been able to glean from Quatre the places where Heero and Wufei and Trowa and Quatre all lived and hung out, and he'd researched the places for Preventors' headquarters, so before he'd chosen this particular Taco bell he'd already known that no unsuspecting old acquaintance or lunch-break Preventor could see him. Thank goodness for that. Talk about combustion due to inflamed embarrassment.
Another person stepped up to his cash register, and he pasted on his usual dopey smile. "Hello, miss. How can I help you?" The woman looked to be in her twenties, blond. And nervous. Her body was tense, shoulders slightly hunched, arms wrapped defensively around one another. She caught his friendly smile and tried to return it.
"I'm sorry," she murmured. Those bright blue eyes flashed to his for a short instant, but they inevitably fell again. The woman seemed nice enough, he supposed, if he looked past her blatant nervousness. He cocked his head a slight bit and upped the grin a bit, offering her the comfort of a stranger's kindness. An old tactic, one he'd kept for several reasons, but one that had helped him several times during the war. Nothing like a kind person to open up one's defenses. "sorry," she repeated, and he saw her body relax a tiny bit. "I'm meeting someone today and I just feel so nervous." She pushed back a lock of hair and chuckled under her breath, unconsciously reinforcing her own words.
See? Kindness worked better and easier than force. Most times. And when the past flashed into his mind again, his smile almost slipped; shit. All this mental back-story to keep his brain occupied was costing him.
"It's quite all right, miss," Duo said politely, keeping the miss, cutting through her guard with practiced ease. The woman only then seemed to realize she was in the front of the line and apologized for a third time, quickly scanning the menu above Duo's head. He wasn't very tall, even with his stupid Taco Bell visor on, but he took a small step back so she knew not to rush.
It took her a few moments, but finally she smiled at him and he returned to the register. "I would like a number three, please. With a Coke."
"All right." Duo rung it up and patiently waited for her to give him the money, then went to grab the food from the shelf personally. He made sure to grab the warmer food. She needed the best they had, not the shit that had been waiting for over fifteen minutes. Talk about a nervous wreck.
It was when he turned around to put food in front of the blond woman that he saw him. Him. Enter bold, capital letters.
He walked through those stupid glass doors and scanned the room just as Duo plunked the woman's tray down. That cold cobalt gaze noted everyone, just as they always did. Searching for threats. Duo saw customers back away from Heero instinctively, wary of the look. Duo was even worse, shamefully hiding his sorry ass behind the taco maker, carefully sliding as naturally as possible while not turning his back around to show off his tell-tale braid.
What the hell was that guy doing here?!
That blank gaze moved to Duo's cash register, over Duo's hidden form – and stopped. His heart froze, then jackhammered. Had Heero seen him? Shit, shit. He would die of humiliation if he had. No. He would live. That would be worse. Duo almost prayed for some deity to save him from such an experience, but he didn't dare call any deity's attention to him just in case. Deities, if they existed, had a bad habit of fucking with him. Immortality gave them too much free time, he figured.
Heero walked toward the counter in front of Duo. And the taco maker gave him a funny look.
His breath was almost impossible to control, but control it he did, with an iron control borne of the knowledge that Heero would notice such a strange breathing pattern. Shit. At least the taco maker – Richard, if he remembered correctly – and the woman he'd been serving were both preoccupied with Heero's arrival, too.
He felt his face flame as Heero marched his way forward. Shit shit shit. Just what he wanted Heero to see – him with the gay Taco bell hat and apron on. Shinigami tossing tacos. Fantastic.
And then Heero paused in front of none other than the blond he'd just served. His first reaction was a sigh of relief that would have been outrageously stupid of him. The second was a tiny little jolt of insight. Click. The meeting. Why she was so nervous. Heero, Duo knew from Quatre, was with the Preventors. She was probably a witness or something. That was why Heero was here. That was why she was so seriously scared, why Heero wasn't scanning the room with his usual fervor. He had been scanning the crowd for the woman, not for anything out of place – like an ex-Gundam pilot in a Taco Bell uniform.
Thank you, God. Or whoever. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Heero paid absolutely no heed to the other people in line, but they sure as hell paid heed to his entrance and backed up, giving him plenty of space. "We need to move," he said in his short, clipped voice. Duo found himself reacting to it subconsciously, moving a little closer. His body remembered that voice. His mind remembered how much he'd once wished for it to soften. And he remembered this exact feeling that was hitting him, the mix of happiness and pain. He wanted to get the hell out of there. He wanted to form into a puddle and slide through the cracks in the tiled floor. He wanted... he just wanted.
He kept his ass hidden, angry with himself.
"What's wrong?" she asked nervously. Shit. 'Nervously' again. She was trapped in that damn 'nervous' state again.
"We need to go. There's no time for questions."
That had to have been the longest explanation Duo had ever heard come out of Heero Yuy's mouth. It had only been a year since Duo had last seen him. Had he increased his vocabulary so much in so short a time? Heero would've stayed silent or simply said 'move' to Duo. Or maybe a 'hn.' Those 'hn's had been popular, too.
Maybe the man had gone through special training. Usually the man's form of communication had been a gun in the face. How many times had Duo seen that barrel?
"Have they found me?" the blond asked, and Duo's senses sharpened as she asked. So he'd been right. She was on the run.
"Let's go," was Hero's answer, and he grabbed her arm. So his vocabulary hasn't greatly improved, Duo thought, but the words in his mind were drowned out by the sounds of hell breaking loose.