Heero glanced up to see Trowa leaning back in his chair on the other side of the conference table. Trowa's booted feet were up on the chair next to him. Une had just arrived, and was still sorting out her papers, while the rest of the Directors seated themselves. Wufei appeared behind Trowa, glaring down, but Trowa just grinned and didn't move his feet. Wufei arched an eyebrow and yanked the chair away from the table. Trowa's feet hit the floor with a thump. Trowa laughed and said something Heero couldn't catch. He was too busy listening as Sam explained the latest proposals to the systems development project.
"Everyone," Une announced. "Let's get this started, and try to keep it short. I've got a―" She looked up to see Duo rushing in, his assistant director at his side. Duo slid into the seat at the end of the table with a dramatic sigh. Une tapped her pen on the table. "―meeting with the Board in an hour."
"Don't be sore, Une," Duo told her, grinning. "We all wish we could be as popular as you."
"Shut it, Maxwell," Une snapped, but there was no rancor. "Or, keep it open and you can start."
Duo rolled his eyes and leaned back, glancing over at Heero with a suddenly wicked expression. "Uh, broke the server about two minutes ago."
"Broke the..." Sam's jaw fell open. "What did you do this time?"
"Ah, well, see," Duo said, his expression rueful and only marginally innocent, one hand behind his head as he stalled. "I had my team running tests on the dev system, and I wanted screen shots of the steps. So we raised the IP number up one, from dot-sixteen to dot-seventeen, to show the process for server additions."
"Dot-seventeen," Heero repeated, blinking. He was somewhere between coming up out of his chair and gaping. Across the table, Trowa snorted, but his face was perfectly serious when both Une and Heero glanced his way. Heero returned his attention to Duo, who looked like Ifrit after the cat had sufficiently killed a paper ball. Heero coughed, and tried again. "So now both dev and prod think they're running the same IP."
"Looks like it," Duo replied. "Which means your dev is not tight from your prod. Furthermore, when we made the change, we backed out. So there's a major bug in there that lets changes go through even without a send command."
Sam looked like he wanted to crawl under the table, and Heero gritted his teeth. He was going to be in the server room all night dealing with this, he just knew it. "Why didn't you tell me this sooner?"
"Just now got here," Duo said, shrugging, then his look turned a bit chagrined. "And we were kinda hoping we could fix it..."
"Don't fix it," Wufei groaned. "Please. Your fixes are the most Byzantine possible."
Trowa leaned forward on the table, appearing to rest his chin on his fist, but his fingers were clearly pressed against his lips as he struggled not to laugh. Duo gave Heero a wide-eyed look, and shrugged.
"Hey, it's my job," Duo protested. "Have you considered threatening your programmers?"
Heero considered growling. Then he considered shooting Duo. It'd been a long hard day, and he really didn't need the extra aggravation, even if it was his team's fault for not debugging more thoroughly. Just as he looked up to say something to Duo, the other man subtly tugged at the edge of his shirt, as though completely unaware of the motion. The pendant flashed in the overhead lights, and Duo's quick glance to Heero was missed on everyone but Heero and Trowa. It was both apology and offer to help, at the same time. Heero sighed, and stared down at his notes.
"Well," he finally said. "I guess we know my team's top priority now." He flipped through his notes and pulled out a list of systems operations. "And the former top priorities are now secondary, as long as our live systems are screwed..." He began handing out the weekly report, but in the back of his head were sneaky little ideas for getting even with Duo. Not because it was professionally required - or even very professional - but simply because getting even with Duo was always so much fun.
"Quatre's in town next week," Trowa said, dropping the onion peels into the trashcan as Heero came through the door. He leaned over, accepting a quick kiss. "Thought we'd have him and Emmy over for dinner."
"Blonds aren't to my taste," Heero quipped, setting his work satchel on a kitchen chair. He toed off his toes and put them in the rack by the back door, glancing around. "Duo?"
"Upstairs with Martin, working on algebra homework." Trowa ran something under the faucet, then shut off the water. "And Bethie's waiting in the garage for you."
Heero smiled to himself. "Thought you were going to help her with that. Or Duo was." He tugged at the tie around his neck, unsurprised when Trowa reached over and grabbed it, pulling them closer. Trowa twisted the tie around his hand, and pinned Heero against the countertop.
"I like ties," Trowa whispered, kissing him deeply for a few seconds. "They're almost as good as braids."
"I'm not growing a braid," Heero retorted. "And I just might dip Duo's in green paint for what he did to my servers."
Trowa laughed and released Heero after another quick kiss. "Fix it yet?"
"We had to shut down prod for an hour while we reconfigured dev. Couldn't keep both up while they were in conflict," Heero said. "I'm going to change...and then I'll go see if the engine is now in twenty pieces, or forty."
"Dinner will be ready in an hour," Trowa called. Heero nodded, waving over his shoulder as he headed to the bedroom.
"Hey..." The whisper was too loud to be a true whisper, delivered in a stage-level tone. Heero kept his breathing even, and lay perfectly still. Sure enough, a second whisper followed, a little softer, followed by a poke to his ribs. "Hey...you're not really mad at me, are you?"
On Duo's other side, Trowa rolled over, murmuring something that made Duo hum happily for a few seconds. Heero smiled inwardly and kept up the pretense, wondering how long it would take. Sometimes, it wasn't a good idea, he knew; sometimes, such reactions triggered Duo's worst fears of being abandoned and ignored, and nightmares would follow. But the past few days had been good ones, given Duo's continued excellence as the only man who could run a team of reprobates. And that was a team, Heero reminded himself, who could find any flaw in any Preventers system, firearm, or machinery, and exploit it perfectly until the item was in sixteen pieces. While it might seem counter-intuitive, somehow it was a point of pride for Duo to find the errors and thrash them until they begged for mercy, or thrash the teams that created the flawed systems, if that's what it took. And with six issues discovered this week alone - and it was only Wednesday - Heero knew that meant Duo would be quite pleased with himself, and self-confident enough to keep pushing, rather than recoil in anxiety at Heero's silence.
When the gentle poke came again, followed by a soft laugh, Heero knew he was right.
"You're not really sleeping," Duo whispered, wriggling closer until his mouth was against Heero's ear. He ran his tongue along the edge of Heero's ear, and chuckled again when Heero shivered involuntarily. "Ah, didn't think so...which means you're awake..." Duo ran his fingers along Heero's chest, under the blanket, down to Heero's groin, the palm of his hand brushing across Heero's half-hard erection. Duo made a hissing sound, his bedroom laugh. "Well, you're up, at least."
Heero smiled, then, and opened his eyes to see Duo only a few inches away. "Long day, and that car is never going to run," he informed Duo. He glanced past Duo to see Trowa watching with curious eyes, and Heero put on a long-suffering expression. "Dinner was the high point. Now I'm digesting."
"I've got better things to digest," Duo retorted, and one second he was still. The next second he was gone, disappearing in a flash of blankets.
Heero pushed himself up on his elbows, keeping his eyes on the Duo-sized lump near the foot of the bed. Trowa moved his legs, and the bundle squeaked. Trowa grinned at Heero, who sat up against the headboard at the same instant as two hands under the blanket reached for his thighs. The quick move left the hands grasping at his knees. Heero leaned over, tackling the Duo-shaped huddle and pinning it down. Trowa shifted farther down the bed, scissoring his legs around Duo, under the blankets.
"Got him," Heero said, and Trowa grinned.
Trowa's arms disappeared under the blanket, and followed by most of Trowa. The Duo-shape began thrashing in earnest, giggling madly as Trowa tackled him. Heero held on, waiting until Duo collapsed, laughing, and then Heero pulled back the blanket.
"Mercy," Duo said, gasping. He stuck his tongue out at Heero, who leaned down for a kiss. The move turned into an open-mouth gasp from Heero as Duo's hand found its way to Heero's groin. A second gasp from Trowa indicated Duo had left no one out.
"I'll show you mercy," Heero growled. He glanced at Trowa from over Duo's head, and Heero leaned down for another kiss, grabbing Duo under the arms. Trowa immediately grabbed Duo's hips, pulling the longhaired man out from under the blankets, backwards, as Heero pulled Duo's upper body as well.
Duo ended up lying across their laps, twisted in the blankets he still clutched. He grinned up at Heero, and wriggled in place until one leg was up. A foot poked Trowa in the ribs, and Trowa giggled, falling against the headboard as Duo pressed the advantage. It left a few parts exposed, but Trowa took full advantage, and Duo's teasing quickly subsided into soft moans.
"I was going to sleep tonight," Heero said, watching Duo's face go lax, his mouth open. Heero leaned over to give Trowa a deep kiss, one hand intertwined with Trowa's free hand, as Heero's other hand ran blindly up Duo's chest towards Duo's waiting, open mouth. Heero pulled away from the kiss with a grin as Duo's hand found his erection again. "Okay, plans changed." He bent over to run his mouth down Duo's chest.
Trowa chuckled, and grabbed the edge of the blanket, pulling it over all three of them. Soon there was one large lump under the blanket, which alternately moaned and laughed, with soft whispers and whimpers as they moved against each other. At one point Trowa threw back the blanket, pretending to gasp for air, but was dragged back underneath by Duo and Heero.
Sometimes, Heero knew, sleep was overrated. Play was far more important in the scheme of things.
"Elizabeth," Wufei said, handing the young woman a bouquet of flowers. Duo rolled his eyes behind Bethie, and Wufei made a face at him.
The girl completely missed the men's interaction, burying her face in the flowers and inhaling deeply before trotting off to the kitchen to find something to hold the flowers. Wufei accepted Duo's hug with grace, followed with Trowa's and Heero's more reticent handshakes. Quatre stood, along with Emmy, who kissed Wufei on both cheeks. Martin hovered in the background, pleased when Wufei took a few moments to compliment the boy's progress on achieving green belt at the local dojo.
"Timothy's got to finish his college essay," Heero explained, taking Wufei's coat. "He'll be down as soon as he's finished."
"It's amazing what you've done with the house," Wufei told him, looking around. "I could've sworn the living room was yellow the last time I was here, though."
"Blame Trowa," Heero said. "He's incapable of driving past the hardware store without stopping."
Quatre made a point of turning on the sofa to poke at the wall. "Look on the bright side. For every layer of paint, that's one more thickness that would help prevent a house fire. And with these old wooden houses―" He was cut off when Emmy elbowed him.
"You are not inviting them to paint our living room purple," she informed him. Quatre laughed.
"I like the color," Duo said, looking around. "It's very...purple."
Trowa sighed melodramatically.
"You should see what he did to the bathroom," Martin interjected. "It's blue, with orange splotches."
"It's―" Heero started to say, but Trowa jutted his lower lip, and Heero took the hint. Duo grinned behind his hand. Bethie returned with the flowers in a bottle, and set it on the dining room table. A quick look from Duo, and she nodded, her ponytail bouncing as she began helping Martin with setting out plates and silverware.
"Heavyarms," Quatre finished for Heero, ducking quickly when Trowa pretended to deck him. "Not my problem you had the craziest color scheme."
"Could be worse," Trowa retorted. "If we were channeling Deathscythe, this place would look like a morgue."
"But it would be the coolest damn morgue ever," Duo replied. "White wine, Emmy...red wine, Quatre? Wufei?"
"White," Wufei replied, and sniffed. "Smells great." He paused, and eyed Heero suspiciously. "Duo did cook, right?"
"I am not that bad," Heero told him, a bit stiffly.
"You're right, I hear you're―" Quatre's words ended in a yelp, and Heero looked over to see Emmy smiling wickedly. Heero blinked, a little uncertain what that was about.
The doorbell rang, and Heero stepped over, pulling the door open to reveal Relena and Neil. He took the coats, accepting Relena's kiss on his cheek at the same time he shook Neil's hand. "Just in time," Heero told them, as if quietly indignant. "I may need assistance pummeling these heathens who don't think I can cook."
"Heero's a very good cook," Relena informed the room, between hugs with the rest of the pilots and a quick kiss on Duo's cheek. "He makes a mean ramen."
"You're not helping, Rel," Heero glared.
"Ramen is a good thing to make," Neil protested. "I'm up to macaroni and cheese."
"This is why I don't love you for your cooking," Relena told him, draping one arm around Duo's waist. Duo beamed, a little smugly, as Relena laid her head on his shoulder. "If food were the top priority, I'd run away and live with Duo."
"Why not?" Wufei glanced over at Martin, who was busy setting the table. "Seems like every time I turn around, there's people staying here."
"Hotels are no place for friends," Trowa said.
"Besides, it's not often I can stay in a pink-and-yellow striped guest bedroom," Emmy reminded Wufei.
"Can't sleep in it," Quatre grumbled. "I feel like I'm trapped in the world's largest bonbon." Quatre winked at Trowa, who merely arched an eyebrow in return. A napkin hit Quatre in the side of the head, and Heero glanced up to see Bethie pointing at Martin, who gave her a baffled look.
"It was Bethie's room when the boys were at summer camp," Trowa replied. "We just haven't come up with a new scheme."
"Is that her stained glass workstation, then?" Emmy accepted a glass of wine from Duo, who poured another glass and handed it to Relena. "You remembered my favorite," Emmy sighed, and gave Duo a grateful smile. Heero was amused to see Duo flush, just a little.
"No, that's Heero's," Trowa replied, setting out coasters on the table. "New project."
"You're doing stained glass?" Relena looked up from her perch on the end of the sofa, squeezed between the arm and Neil. "Now there's something I didn't expect."
"We need something for the front door," Heero said, shrugging. When Relena raised her eyebrows at him, he rolled his eyes. "Or so I've been informed."
"We do! It's boring!" Duo shook his head. "I wanted red."
"A red front door is a good luck sign," Wufei agreed.
"Houses sell better with red front doors," Emmy pointed out.
Quatre gave his wife a puzzled look. "How the hell do you know? We've lived in the same house for twelve years now!"
"Oh, I read it somewhere," Emmy replied, casually. "I do read, y'know, when I'm not busy remonstrating your three hooligans."
"Mine!" Quatre shook his head.
"Oh, they're definitely yours," Wufei replied. Trowa perched on the edge of the sofa and grinned at Quatre over Relena's head. Quatre made a face, and Wufei pointed a finger at him. "Blonde hair, blue eyes, and they go crazy on a regular basis."
Emmy's smile was tight, and Neil laughed politely, but the five pilots all grinned widely as Quatre flushed, a little guilty. He grumbled something under his breath, and Relena only laughed harder, clapping Trowa on the thigh as the tall man chuckled at Quatre's expression. It was one thing to know the story, but neither Emmy nor Neil had been there. Heero could recall those years as through a haze, but it was no longer a source of pain, but a strength. He laughed with the rest of them, understanding the real reason for the joy.
Heero realized then that Duo was next to him, offering him a glass of red wine. The hand around the glass remained for just a second longer than necessary, and as Duo let go of the glass, he brushed the back of his hand across Heero's knuckles. Giving Heero a quick, shy smile, Duo ducked his head and went to fill Quatre's glass, then Neil's. The rest continued to talk, but Heero watched Duo, amazed yet again at the playful grace, the quick smile, and the ready wit. Duo met Wufei's and Quatre's and Relena's friendly barbs, and threw them right back again.
When the bottle was empty, Duo set it on a side table, spoke with Martin for a few seconds, and glanced over his shoulder at Heero. Timothy was probably done with his essay and ready to come down and be social, but one of them would need to check the essay first. Heero nodded, accepting the task. Duo smiled in return, moving to stand by Trowa, who reached out without looking to wrap his arm around Duo's waist. The group was laughing and chattering, but Heero heard them as from a distance, his eyes on his two closest friends, his two lovers.
"I still say a red door is the best way to get your house noticed," Emmy was protesting.
"Noticed by teenagers who'll egg it," Wufei grumbled.
"Amazing, you get along with the three's three just fine," Relena pointed out.
"That's because I trust Yuy to threaten them if they get out of line," Wufei said, implacable. "Besides, Bethie's not so bad. Even if she thinks cars are better than motorcycles." He glanced across the room to the fifteen-year old, who blushed.
"A red door," Neil was saying at the same time. "So many houses have such boring doors. A red door...that pretty much says that the people in the house want to be noticed, I think."
We don't, Heero thought. No...we just don't care. There's no need to have a fancy door, or stained glass, or red, or even a spare bedroom that's in colors that still make me wonder if Trowa had inhaled too much jet fuel at work that day. It doesn't matter. I know what really matters, he told himself, and realized both Trowa and Duo were watching him. He gave them a secretive smile, and laughed when Duo's tongue slipped out to wiggle at him, for a split-second. Trowa winked at Heero, and squeezed Duo close. Heero laughed again, and went to join his lovers.
I don't own the boys, or any other original character from Gundam Wing. I just like to take them out and play with them, and I promise to put them back where I found them.
I wasn't going to do it, I swear, but all day long, I kept thinking...it just needs something else. I know my style is usually to leave a story open-ended, and let the reader imagine what might happen next, but I think in this case, the story needed a bit more concrete conclusion. Something that says: yes, they do live happily ever after. Maybe not always peacefully, or perfectly, but very happily. And now that I know for a fact that these characters will live on with a lot of joy - or perhaps I really am getting sentimental in my old writing age - now, and only now, do I feel like I can really let them ride off into the sunset. Bet you can hear them laughing from here...but I think that's 'cause Duo is tickling Trowa, and Heero's helping more than hindering...