Title: Par for the Course
Author: Mookie
Pairing: Duo, Heero
Rating: R for language, PG13 for situation
Word count: 1,564
Warnings: other than the language, just the fact that this is another of those random ideas I got after talking to my less evil twin, and then it sorta went astray as they so often do. More a gen fic than shonen ai, gasp, shock
Notes: Dedicated to Natea and her blue-as-Heero's-eyes car


"What the fuck is going on here?" an enraged voice thundered over the raucous din in front of the apartment complex at the end of a small cul-de-sac.

As one, the young hooligans stopped what they were doing and whirled around to face the newcomer, a young man whose face was dark with anger. His navy blue trench coat swirled around his legs with a passing breeze, and dried leaves rustled over the pavement. He cut an intimidating figure, and the youngest of the group slinked away quietly.

Duo Maxwell glared at every single one of the remaining youths. "When someone asks you a question," he said, his voice low, "it is considered courteous to respond." None of them pointed out that the manner in which Duo's question had been delivered had been less than polite.

One of them attempted an easygoing smile, adopting an air of camaraderie. "We were just playing. Chill out, man." He tossed the soccer ball he was holding in the air a few times and bounced it on his knee. One of the others snickered when he dropped it and it rolled away, but no one made any move to pick it up.

Duo put his hands in his pocket and clenched his fists. He tried to remember he'd once been like them, had been without parental supervision or guidance. He walked around his car, checking the mirrors, hubcaps, and the paint. The day he'd found a long scratch in the paint running from the handle on the door to his front fender, he'd wanted to hurt someone. It had taken him a long time of standing in the middle of his living room, breathing deeply and reminding himself that once upon a time he'd never imagined himself owning anything as permanent as a vehicle, to bring his blood pressure down.

He'd been a fool to settle down here on earth. Even after the planet had avoided an endless winter, there was little sense of gratitude just to be alive. He remembered the illusion of immortality of youth. It had seemed like none of them would ever die. Hell, Heero had tried to blow himself up and failed.

To be honest, although Duo knew full well that he could die, that any of them could die, in battle, he supposed he really didn't believe it. Only the good died young, and all.

His car hadn't acquired any new damage. Since he'd gone out and loudly threatened to break every bone in the body of whoever was responsible for the keying, his was the only vehicle to escape similar incidents.

It didn't, however, mean that the neighborhood kids weren't attempting to test how far they could push him. It wouldn't have been so bad if anyone else in the apartment complex seemed to care, but apparently they'd grown so accustomed to the vandalism and rowdy behavior that it was just par for the course.

It was wrong.

He climbed the stairs to the entrance and headed down the hall, to the apartment all the way at the end. Once inside, he threw his coat over one of the chairs, then dropped onto the couch, resting his arm over his forehead. He should be thankful he had the opportunity to live in a place where he had complaints as minor as unruly neighborhood punks.

The sound of the soccer ball hitting against the brick wall near his sliding glass patio doors had him shooting up from his seat, his tentative calm threatening to break. He slid open the door and leaned out to give the kids what-for, and his mouth dropped open in shock as he saw who had kicked the ball and was now spinning it on the tip of his finger.

"Gonna stay out there all day," he said, attempting a grin and failing, "or you coming in?"

Heero dropped the ball and vaulted over the small metal rail surrounding the slab of cement outside Duo's apartment. He followed Duo's retreating back into the living room and watched as his friend sank back onto the sofa. Duo leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

Heero stood there for a moment and then looked from the armchair to the couch and back, before walking over to Duo and sitting next to him. "Normal isn't quite what you thought, is it?"

Duo's eyes flew open and he turned his head to stare at Heero. "Normal? That's what this is? Shit, Heero, when I was their age-"

He swallowed and looked away.

Heero's voice was quiet when he said, "it's not egotistical, Duo."

"What isn't?"

"To expect that there is some sort of karma out there. To think that either you're being punished now for all the things you did wrong, or to hold on to a tiny scrap of hope that maybe after all you'd sacrificed, that it was your turn to get a little something in return. It's human nature."

Duo opened his mouth to point out that punishment for his past transgressions was certainly going to be far worse than living in an inner city apartment complex with neighbors who didn't care what happened around them as long as it didn't directly affect them. He snapped his mouth closed, remembering just who it was sitting next to him on the couch.

He laughed, a sound without mirth, then turned his face toward Heero. "Human nature, huh?"

Heero shrugged. "Not even we can defy all the commonalties."

Duo turned his entire body so he was sitting sideways on the couch and stared at his guest. Same tousled hair, same wiry frame, same piercing blue eyes.

"Hit me," he said.

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me, hit me."

"Duo." Heero shook his head.

Duo stood up. "Do you trust me?"

Heero sighed heavily, and got to his feet. "Duo..." he tried again.

"Heero, please. Throw your best punch."

Heero cocked his fist and let it fly forward. Duo deflected the blow by wrapping his fingers around Heero's wrist. "You insult me, Heero. That wasn't your best. I thought you trusted me."

"I do. You should do the same. Are we done now?" He pulled his hand away from Duo and sat back on the couch, looking rather sullen.

Duo nudged at Heero's ankle with his shoe. "Heero. You know I do." He wasn't really sure why he'd asked Heero to punch him, either. At first he thought he just wanted to feel the sort of pain that made sense, not the weird unsettled feeling he found sinking into his bones at the oddest times. Maybe he'd wanted some sort of penance for being ungrateful for what he had.

Perhaps he'd merely wanted to bait Heero, to see just how much their friendship meant to him, and if Heero would put Duo's request over his safety. If he thought Duo was man enough to withstand one of his punches.

The fact that he'd held back when he threw that punch said a lot. Duo just wished he knew exactly what.

Heero looked up at him and shook his head. "You've always been one to make me do things I never thought I'd do. Sure you and Relena weren't separated at birth?"

Duo laughed, this time an honest to goodness expression of amusement. "And you've always been one to do things that no person in their right mind would ever do."

Heero looked up at Duo, his eyes peering beneath the long fringe of dark hair. "And if I were to tell you I was just in the neighborhood and thought you might like to pick up a couple of hamburgers?"

It was an outright lie, and they both knew it. Nobody was ever just in this neighborhood. Duo grinned at him. "I'd say you were full of shit and that the closest hamburger joint was a good fifteen miles away."

Heero stood up. "Guess that means you're driving." He walked toward the door, opened it, and waited.

Duo followed him to the hallway and closed the door behind them, locking the deadbolt and pocketing his keys. On the way out, Heero's shoulder brushed against his own, a slight pressure that was gone almost as quickly as it had been there.

He had no idea where Heero lived, or what Heero was doing for work. He'd not spoken to the other man in months, and never for more than a couple of minutes here or there.

He pressed the button on his keychain remote, unlocking the doors, and watched Heero open the passenger side and hesitate, looking at Duo over the roof of the car before climbing in.

Duo slid behind the wheel of the car. "Ya know," he said, turning the key in the ignition. "I've got this sudden craving for donburi. Unless you're really set on hamburgers."

Heero shook his head, and Duo pulled away from the curb. Another smile spread across his face as he turned right, out of the cul-de-sac, and onto the main road. The nearest Japanese restaurant was a good hour away.

"So what have you been up to?" he asked casually. As Heero started to fill him in on where he was living and what he'd been doing for work, Duo approached the highway ramp. He passed it.

The scenic route would take a bit longer, but he had a feeling neither of them would mind.