Title: More Than Words
Pairings: Very very vague Heero/Duo
Warnings: mild language, implied shonen ai
Notes: Written in response to Merith's request on ficondemand.
"This policy change is bullshit!"
The speaker's voice thundered throughout the cubicles, reverberating loudly for all to hear.
"I don't know," a cautious voice replied. "It doesn't hurt anyone, really."
"The hell it doesn't! And I'll give you five good reasons why..."
Duo clenched his teeth and his shoulders stiffened, but he only hesitated in his stride momentarily before continuing to the office he shared with Trowa Barton.
Someone apparently heard about the Emancipated Minors Act, enabling agents under the age of majority to receive full benefits and equal pay.
Une had been adamant. Anyone who had demonstrated the proper skills, regardless of age, was eligible for jobs that had once been restricted to those who had demonstrated their experience through the traditional channels. Soldiers who'd worked for OZ, the Alliance, even White Fang - as long as they'd demonstrated the ability to follow orders when necessary and had a background approaching anything military in nature.
Trowa looked up as Duo walked right to his desk and sat down without so much as a word of greeting.
"All the urinals occupied?" he queried.
Duo grunted in response, and Trowa let it drop. If Duo wanted to talk about it, he would.
After about fifteen minutes of listening to Duo assault his keyboard, Trowa had changed his mind about waiting for his partner to open up. He pushed away from his desk and got up. He flicked off Duo's monitor and leaned against the desk with his arms folded across his chest.
"It's nothing," Duo said, attempting to reach around Trowa to turn his screen back on. Trowa blocked Duo's access with his hip.
"Nothing," Trowa repeated. "Well, that's exactly what you've gotten done since you got back from break."
Duo bit his lip in silence, and Trowa took a deep breath. "Let me know if there's anything I can do, all right?"
As he returned to his desk, he heard Duo say quietly, "you already have."
The day dragged on endlessly, and Duo was looking forward to getting the hell out of the office and going home, kicking back with a cold drink and a warm meal, and watching television, then turning in early.
Which is why he surprised himself by, instead of turning his car left toward the side road that led to the Preventers housing units, he turned right and drove to the nearby university.
A student was walking out as he arrived, and he held the door open for Duo. Once inside, Duo looked up and down the hallways, trying to remember which was the correct direction. He shook his head. Why was it so easy to maneuver around enemy bases with endless corridors and key-coded entryways, and yet ridiculously confusing to navigate a simple four story dormitory unit?
Because he wasn't sure what he was doing here, and was looking for reasons to not reach his destination.
He climbed the stairs to the top floor. Before he could decide whether or not he was making a mistake, Heero's head poked out of the door nearest the stairwell.
"Took you long enough," he said, leaning in the doorway with his hands in his pockets.
"Not long enough," Duo muttered under his breath, but he walked past Heero and entered the dorm room.
The fact that Heero had a single room came as no surprise, but that he'd bothered with university housing - that he'd enrolled in school at all - had been the last thing Duo had expected. He'd always seen Heero as someone after his own heart. An old song lyric teased at his memory.
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone...
And yet here was Heero, attending classes, living with other students. Granted, most of them were a few years older than Heero, at least chronologically, but he seemed at remarkably at ease. He'd come a long way from the boy who had stood out like a sore thumb with his dark brooding silences.
"I'd offer you a beer," Heero said, opening a small cubic refrigerator and pulling out a soda, which he tossed to Duo, "but this is a dry campus."
Duo opened the soda can, turning his head to the side to avoid any spray from the thrown can, and when he looked back, Heero was smirking at him.
"What?" he asked testily.
"You," Heero said. "Demolition expert, huh?"
"Carbonated shrapnel," Duo said, raising the can. Heero tapped it with the edge of his own and then took a sip before turning to his bed and sitting on the edge of it.
Duo looked around for a place to sit. Heero's desk was covered for the most part by his desktop computer and a couple of textbooks. His coat and a backpack were slung over the back of the chair. Duo gave a mental shrug and walked to the bed where Heero had scooted back to the headboard and had his legs stretched out.
He took another swallow of soda before sitting on the edge of the mattress. He turned sideways to face Heero, who was calmly sipping his soda and looking overhead contemplatively.
Duo leaned his head back and looked at the ceiling as well. Glow-in-the-dark stickers had been placed there, in a rather convincing replica of the Milky Way. Heero insisted they'd been there before he ever set foot in the room.
"Do you miss it?" Heero asked quietly.
"Space. You once said you were going back."
"Yeah, well, things change."
Heero's fingers compressed the soda can and released. "Is that because of circumstances, or because of people?"
"Circumstances usually arise because of people, wouldn't you say?"
"I'm not sure," Heero said, frowning at his can as he continued to crinkle the sides.
Duo took another swallow before responding. "Yeah. I find that's my answer to most things lately, too." He burped and winced at the taste in his mouth.
"So do you miss it?"
"I thought I would," Duo said. "Maybe I do, in a way, but really, what did I give up?" He glanced at Heero from the corner of his eye. "What about you? Homesick for your colony?"
"No," Heero said decisively. "To be homesick...you'd need a home in the first place."
Duo had no response to that.
"What's bothering, you, Duo?"
"Bothering me? Nothing's bothering me." He shrugged. "I mean, so there are some assholes bitching about the Emancipation issue, it's a good thing."
Heero drew his knees up and rested one arm across his thighs, tapping the soda can against the side of his leg.
"Are you thinking about the colonies? How they turned on us?"
"What, just because some jerk with a stick up his ass has a personal vendetta against us?"
Heero's chin came to rest atop one knee, and Duo could feel the weight of that piercing gaze.
"Exactly because of that. Do the opinions of others matter to you, Duo?"
"What about you?" Duo responded hotly. "Why aren't you working with the rest of us? Decided to let everyone else pick up the slack?"
There was silence after that, and Duo closed his eyes, disgusted with himself for taking out his frustrations on one of the few people who knew what he'd been through.
He wasn't sure what he'd expected, coming here. Trowa knew, too, and he'd not wanted to talk to his partner about it. He'd wanted to show he was capable of carrying his own weight, of letting things slide, like water off a duck's back.
He saw Heero moving, but wasn't sure what he'd expected. When the can of soda was removed from his hand and set on the floor next to Heero's, he wasn't sure what was coming next, but Heero sitting beside him and placing his hands on his shoulders wasn't it.
Heero's thumbs dug into his shoulder blades, hard, as he began to work on the tension in Duo's frame.
It hurt. Heero was mercilessly kneading the knots in his shoulders and the back of his neck.
"Why did you decide to join, Duo?" he asked.
"I don't know," Duo sighed. "Didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up; figured I might as well do what I knew best."
"As long as you're doing your best," Heero said, his breath hot against Duo's skin, "does anything else matter?"
"You tell me," Duo grumbled.
The fingers on his spine stilled, but Heero didn't remove them. "I won't lie to you, Duo," he said. "I don't have the answers. Why do you think I'm here?"
Duo turned to look at Heero, surprised to see how close Heero's face was to his own. "Why are you here?"
"Maybe I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up either," Heero said. Duo felt his insides churn a bit as he could feel the exhalation of breath against his face. "So why are you here, Duo?"
Duo swallowed. "I don't know." Despite his reluctance, his eyes dropped to Heero's lips.
Heero's hands dropped from the middle of Duo's back. One rested near his spine, and the other one clenched and unclenched a few times before Heero sat up and leaned over the edge of the bed, picking up Duo's soda and handing it to him. He then climbed off the mattress and picked his empty can up, walking to his desk and setting it next to the books.
He picked one up without turning around and caressed the spine.
"Remember that school we were enrolled in?" he asked.
"Yeah, 'course," Duo said, his fingers repeating the crinkling motion that Heero's had earlier.
"Did you ever wonder what it would be like to actually have been a student there, for more than a temporary cover?"
Heero turned around, book still in hand. "Did you really want to know, though? Did you want to throw it all away, stay there, pretend that you were nothing more than what we were, for the sake of appearances?"
"Yeah," Duo reiterated. His eyes traveled the length of Heero's body, taking in the set of his shoulders, the way his hair hid part of his face as his gaze looked at the book he held tightly. Duo heaved a sigh. "No."
"Which is it, Duo? Yes, or no?"
"I don't know, damn it! What's the point, anyway? Things can't be changed. We were what we were, we are what we are!"
Heero looked up and pinned him with a gaze that sent shivers down his spine.
"What are we, Duo?"
"Ex-terrorists? Colonial rebels turned keepers of peace?"
Heero shook his head, and Duo touched his cheek with the can, feeling the condensation on his skin like a cold, wet kiss.
Almost like he'd imagine it would feel if there really was a god of death. Maybe the personification of death was like a mob boss, marking the end of one's days with the touch of chilled lips.
"When you throw off all of that," Heero said slowly. "What's left?"
"I don't know, Heero," Duo said, closing his eyes briefly. "You're the academic these days. You tell me. What are we?"
Heero picked up the empty can from the desk behind him, and held it aloft. Duo returned the gesture before draining the rest of his soda.
On his way out the door, he turned to Heero and gave him a wan smile, but a smile nonetheless, and noted the light in Heero's eyes that reflected the sentiment.
"Thanks, Heero. For..." he trailed off, uncomfortable saying anything more aloud.
Heero's hand reached out and touched his shoulder, reminding Duo why he'd really come here in the first place.
It was, after all, just as Heero said.
OK, it wasn't exactly what Heero had said, because his mouth opened and he'd said, "see you later, Duo."
But for Duo, it was enough.
04 September 2004