Title: Digging the Weeds
Word count: 3,205
Warnings: shonen ai, language, vague symbolism
Notes: Written for Link Worshiper for the GW Yaoi/Yuri Wedding Ficathon. It's a rather loose interpretation of the theme, but I hope you like it anyway, Link!
Heero Yuy swatted at the fly buzzing around his head, then he wiped the back of his hand against the sweat trickling down the side of his face. The hedge clippers had dulled considerably since the start of this job. He should have taken Duo's advice and used the machete instead, but that had suggested images of an untamed jungle.
Looking at the butchered shrubbery on the side of the house, he was willing to concede that was exactly what he'd been up against.
Why he'd ever volunteered to do landscaping for Hilde was beyond him. Duo had given him one of Those Looks - the ones he used to associate with things like not pulling his parachute cord or attempting to go for his gun even after taking a shot to the arm.
Incredulous was a good word for those looks.
He supposed it wasn't actually that hard to understand, if he wanted to dig deep enough. He liked working with his hands. Specifically, he liked working with them in ways that were constructive.
Tearing down overgrown weeds and bramble hardly may have seemed anything but destructive, as far as appearances went, but he knew that they needed to be removed in order for the rest of the plant life to flourish.
He tried not to draw any parallels between that branch of logic and Zechs, the White Fang, and their misguided attempt to make life better for all of mankind by purging it of undesirable elements. History was rife with such mistakes, and Heero could only hope that he might avoid seeing it again in his lifetime.
He fingered the brown leaves of one of the branches he'd cut thoughtfully. It had already been dying before he'd ever gotten near it.
Duo almost spit out his soda at Heero's words. He rubbed at his nose in annoyance, cursing at the carbonation in his sinuses.
"Are you sure you aren't suffering some sort of hallucinogenic fever?"
Heero shrugged. "It was just a passing thought."
Duo shook his head. "Maybe it's a symptom of post traumatic stress," he offered. "I mean, not too many people-" he bit off the rest of what he was going to say, his own guilt suddenly weighing heavily on him.
"I don't regret killing them," Heero said very quietly. "I have a lot of regrets regarding the loss of life, but that isn't one of them."
"I didn't mean to imply that," Duo assured him. "Just not used to people philosophizing over the demise of parasites."
Heero wrapped both hands around the neck of his soda bottle and held it under his chin. His eyes stared over Duo's shoulder, toward the wall, but Duo knew that whatever it was he was looking at wasn't in the room with them.
"Insects have a very short life span," he said. "Some of them are born, grow old, and die, within a day. Makes us seem like ancient dinosaurs in comparison."
Duo remained quiet, afraid to as much as sip at his soda lest he break Heero's train of thought.
"An insect's death is never mourned. If anything, it is often celebrated. I think people were glad when I died."
Duo dropped his soda can and jerked Heero's arm, pulling one hand free of the bottle.
"Fuck. You," he said between clenched teeth.
Heero turned to look at him, meeting Duo's angry gaze with his own calm one.
"The truth is rarely pretty, Duo."
Duo's breath was heaving, and he clenched his trembling fingers into fists. Heero turned to look at the spot on the wall again.
"My heart stopped beating," he said. "I wasn't conscious, but I do remember when it started again. I had no control over my heart rate - that's how I knew it had stopped. Trowa never said, but he didn't have to.
"He told me that as far as the world was concerned, Heero Yuy was dead. And for a brief instant, I was. There was nothing waiting for me on the other side. Maybe there will be if I stay dead long enough, and it will be exactly what I deserve."
Heero had never pulled his punches, and Duo felt the pain in his gut more than when a fist had been buried there. This entire conversation was taking him off guard just as much.
"Duo." Heero said, his voice very soft, and very quiet.
Duo refused to answer, still struggling with the waves of anger and hurt.
"Ever hear of the Isle of Wight?" Heero didn't wait for an answer. He stood up and opened the patio door, sliding it closed behind him.
Duo never followed him.
It was nearly two weeks before Duo reappeared on Heero's doorstep. When the door opened, Heero was greeted by the sight of Duo standing there with his shirt on inside out, his shoelaces untied, and a few ragged bangs peeking out from under the rim of his baseball cap.
Heero didn't look much better. His hair was full of a fine yellow powder, his eyes were bloodshot, and there was a large red welt on the end of his nose.
Duo walked past him without a word and headed for the couch, taking a seat at one end. Heero closed the door and latched it, then moved to take the opposite end of the couch, leaving an open cushion between them.
"Nature can be a real bitch," Duo observed. He laced his fingers back to back and held his hands firmly between his knees, taking a deep breath to collect his thoughts. It had been so easy in his head, but sitting here in Heero's apartment, he wondered if his idea was as sane as it had seemed when he came up with it.
"Insects serve a purpose in the eco-system," he began, freeing one hand to gesture vaguely toward Heero's face. "Co-evolution is responsible for the relationship between bees and plants. Bees obtain nourishment from the plant, and plants continue to reproduce thanks to hairy bodies and pollen buckets. There is nothing taken away that isn't repaid in kind.
"I mourned your death, Heero. Quatre mourned your death. We didn't cry or shave our heads or anything, but it was still a loss, and not just because you'd had a nice shiny Gundam.
"I don't have your gift of philosophical gab, Heero, but I thought maybe that we could, I dunno, co-evolve together."
He winced at the way his last words came out, unhappy with the manner in which he expressed what he'd struggled with for days to come to terms with. His shoulders were hunched, and he tilted his head so that he could see Heero's expression. Heero drew his right leg up on the couch and turned sideways, his body facing Duo's. His head cocked to the side so he could look into Duo's eyes.
"And every summer," Heero said softly, "we can rent a cottage."
Duo squinted one eye, then sat up and mirrored Heero's position. Hesitantly he replied, "I could be handy to have around."
One corner of Heero's mouth curved upward, and by the end of the month, Duo had taken permanent residence in the spare bedroom of Heero's house.
Heero wiped the back of his thumb across his brows to prevent the perspiration from trickling into his eyes and surveyed his handiwork.
While he'd cultivated something more aesthetically pleasing for Hilde, he'd originally intended to only plant food-bearing botanicals in her yard.
Then he'd remembered that petunias were good at repelling aphids and leafhoppers, and that the bright red flowers of pineapple sage attracted birds that were beneficial in addressing the parasitic insect problem.
From there he'd decided that the color scheme needed more balance, and he'd found himself adding bright sunflowers along the walkway, dahlias along the border of the garden itself, and a bit of lavender to repel moths and fleas.
Gone were the overgrown weeds and unattractive shrubs, the winter beaten rhododendron bush, and the ivy that had woven itself around everything in Hilde's backyard.
She'd given him carte blanche to do with it what he wanted, and even now, when he stopped by once a week to check on the garden, often neglected due to Hilde's busy schedule, he found himself almost breathless.
It was, he decided, pretty.
A convenient, overused adjective, he acknowledged, yet it summed up all that he surveyed. The word balance again came to mind as well. A structured chaos of color and greenery.
Heero was pleased.
He pulled the bandana from his forehead and mopped at his face, then stuffed it into his back pocket. He'd call Hilde later when he got home to let her know he'd set the timers on the sprinklers. It wouldn't do for her to be taken by surprise in the backyard, but the forecast had called for a stretch of dry weather. It would be a shame for the brilliantly colored petals to droop and fall off this early in the season.
Heero noticed one dahlia bending over in half, likely trod upon by a neighborhood cat darting through the yard in pursuit of a squirrel. He crouched next to it, cupped the flower in his hand and carefully snapped the stem, near the root. He raised his hand, ready to toss it into the pile of yard waste that he still had to shovel, rake, and bag, then paused.
Slipping it into his pocket, he stood up and walked toward the shed to obtain the gardening tools he needed. A quick glance at the position of the sun assured him that he'd be home in time to whip up a quick meal before the end of Duo's shift.
It was with renewed vigor that he tackled the chore ahead of him.
Duo's eyes fell on the limp blossom centerpiece. The huge pink flower hung over the side of the drinking glass almost comically. He opened his mouth to inquire about it, then changed his mind and closed his lips around his forkful of salad.
"I know," Heero said. "I suppose I should have thrown it out, but..."
Duo glanced up at Heero, and he reached out a hand to lift the flower from the glass. "It's going to die anyway, right?" he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he bit down on the stem, two inches from the bloom itself, and then placed it back into the glass. The flower sat on the rim of the glass, its stem protruding below it into the water.
"It's pretty," he commented, taking the stem from his mouth and setting it on the table next to his coffee cup. The pleased look on Heero's face made the simple effort more than worth it.
After dinner they went out into the backyard to watch the sunset and the filtering of light through the foliage of the birch and maple trees.
Heero's soft chuckle reached Duo's ear.
"Care to share?" Duo prompted.
"I am the stag of seven tines," Heero said, pointing toward the white bark of one of the tree trunks. "Birch represents beginnings, and birth." He glanced at Duo out of the corner of his eye. "I think I'd like to plant an oak tree back here.
"I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke. That's you, Duo. Power, endurance," he hesitated slightly, "fidelity."
He leaned forward, crossing his arms over the wooden rail, and stared out at the garden. He'd dug up a good portion of it after Duo had moved in, and replanted.
The apple blossoms, peonies, and white roses were new. The violets that had grown wild had been removed, but a small thatch of them had been transplanted to a window box. Heero had been almost reluctant to clear the ivy, but had done so, and he'd had not a single compunction about removing all the lavender from the backyard.
Heero knew he'd been incredibly fortunate. That he'd managed to find a house like this, despite the amount of work it had needed when he'd put down a deposit on it. That he'd been able to work from home, pouring the time he saved on commutes into repairing holes in the roof and replacing broken windows and rebuilding the back deck.
Labors of love they'd been, or so he'd considered them. It had felt good to use his hands to transform something on the brink of decay into what felt like a home. Yet neither new wallpaper nor storm doors could compare to sharing the dwelling with another person. He understood the difference, now, between a house and a home.
When Duo leaned forward as well, his arms dangling over the rail and his elbow bumping against Heero's, that last thought was amended slightly.
Not just sharing the house with another person. Sharing it with Duo.
"Hey, Heero," Duo said. "What's this thing?" He held up a tangle of roots and leaves.
"Garbage," Heero replied, turning his own attention back to digging a hole to plant one of the bright yellow daffodils he'd purchased outside the supermarket. He covered the bulb and smoothed the soil around it, patting it before moving on to the next.
Duo snorted and tossed the weed into the trashcan. It caught the edge and hung there, taunting him as it fell, not inside the pail, but back onto the ground. He shrugged and dug up another of the dandelions.
He'd learned long ago not to ask Heero why he didn't just use some sort of spray to kill all the weeds. Kneeling in the pile of dirt and yellow flowers, Duo watched Heero work. There was something about the way the lean body rippled, the muscles in his arms flexed, and the way his sweat soaked shirt clung to his body, that gave Duo the impression that he was seeing Heero for the first time.
He blinked as he realized his eyes were still glued to Heero's backside, and he quickly looked away, removing a couple of flowers that he didn't recognize, but that Heero had probably meant to keep, along with the yellow weeds. He picked up the lot of them and carried them to the pail.
"I'm going to get us some water," he called to Heero without turning around.
Inside the house, the sweat rapidly evaporated with the cool air from the central air that Heero had installed the previous summer. He shivered and ran his hands up and down his arms.
He pulled a couple of sports bottles out of the cabinet and filled one with cold spring water from the refrigerator and the other with warm tap water. He leaned against the counter and sipped at his, eyeing the wallpaper border and the small potted fern on top of the fridge.
Duo liked the fern the best, he decided. The lacy fronds reminded him of feathered wings, of a bird in flight.
Of Heero's Gundam.
He shook his head, took a long swallow of water, and marched back out to the garden.
It was the day they were picking out tiles for the half bath they were constructing in the basement that Heero brought it up.
Duo didn't know why neither of them had thought of it before, but it made perfect sense. Neither of them had any surviving family, and the idea of the government or some random stranger disposing of the property or determining how they'd be lain to rest seemed like a violation of more than just privacy.
He and Heero met with the attorney the following week, and they spent hours over the next couple of days just going through documents, discussing the fine print, and making jokes about the likelihood of dying in a northbound train caught in an electrical storm during a flood.
A notary public witnessed their signatures, and just like that, they'd assumed responsibility for each other in times of sickness, loss of sound mind, and even after death.
They smiled at each other as the attorney tapped the stack of papers on her desk and told them that everything was in order. Copies of the documents would be sent to them by certified mail, and that was that.
It was another step, but it took Duo just a bit longer to realize it.
It was a stupid bird.
That's what Duo told himself as he ran his left hand under cold water, adjusting the tap with the right until the water was warm, bordering on hot. He pumped some of the liquid soap into his hand and lathered them both carefully, then rinsed and dried them. He heard Heero's footsteps behind him and moved out of the way, checking the small puncture wound on his hand. A tiny dot of blood welled up again, but an adhesive bandage would take care of that.
He threw the towel to Heero after the water was shut off and opened up the cabinet drawer, removing one of several first aid kits scattered throughout the house. He tore open one of the bandages and flicked the adhesive backing several times to get it to fall from his fingers to the bin under the sink, then wrapped it around the injured digit.
Heero looked uncertain whether to apologize or make a joke out of it, so Duo took the decision away from him.
"Damn thing is lucky we don't go around armed anymore," he said, pointing his finger at the tree where the bird had flown. He grinned and depressed his thumb. "Bang. One shot, all I need."
Heero gave him a weak smile, he trailed off, then went back outside, most likely, Duo assumed, to refill the bird feeder now that he'd assured himself that Duo wouldn't take the act as a sign of treason.
Duo didn't think he'd ever have pictured himself worried about germs from an overly aggressive bird. He'd never have imagined actually being in a position where he'd take part in feeding them, either, not anything more than a few stray crumbs from a slice of stolen bread.
He watched Heero as he carefully crept around the squirrels and replaced the suet hanging from the tree. Domesticity looked good on him. Duo glanced down at the bandage wrapped around his finger, then back out at Heero.
Hell. He'd never know unless he tried. He walked to the door, leaning against the frame with his arms crossed, and waited for Heero to throw away the suet packaging, lifting the handles of the plastic garbage can to lock the lid into place.
The two of them had always been men of action more than words, at least when it counted the most. Duo pushed himself away from the door when Heero was just a few feet away. He suspected Heero knew what was coming even before he placed a hand behind Heero's head and slammed their lips together.
He broke it off a short time later, uttered five words, and walked back into the house without waiting for a response. Heero was left staring after him, a small smile quirking at the corner of his mouth.
Heero nodded. "'Til death do us part," he repeated softly. His smile widened. "'Til death do us part."
14 December, 2004
My apologies to the Beatles and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for not so randomly plucking a couple of lyrics from their songs for this story (When I'm 64 and Right On Time, respectively).