Word count: 1,428
Warnings: shonen ai, minor sap, the evils of Christmas lights
Notes: Christmas fic for Sharon.
"It's not this one either," Duo said in annoyance, tossing the small detector into the box with the replacement bulbs.
Heero paused in his own quest for the defective light to nudge Duo with his elbow. "You're the one who wanted to use the old fashioned kind. Most of the newer ones don't run in serial like these do."
Duo bumped Heero's shoulder with his own. "Yeah, yeah, I know. I just wanted something different. Something old school."
Heero made a sound suspiciously like a snicker, then handed Duo a small colored light bulb. Duo brightened, exchanging the one in Heero's hand for a new one and waited for the bulb to be screwed in before leaning over and plugging the end into the outlet. His face fell when the string of lights remained just as cold.
Heero removed the replacement bulb Duo had given him, screwed it into the small bit of plastic in his hand, and it glowed a cheerful red. He held out his palm toward Duo, who sighed. So much for suggesting the detector was malfunctioning. The idea that the string of lights itself was faulty was discouraging. He liked the larger lights with real honest-to-gosh light bulbs rather than miniature bits of colored plastic or fiber optics.
Duo sighed again and picked up the tangled cord in his lap. Perhaps he should leave the identification of all the burned out bulbs to Heero and content himself with merely freeing the various strings from each other. The routine of checking each bulb was the sort of thing Heero was good at. He worked with seemingly infinite patience, something Duo was sorely beginning to lack.
He picked up the section he'd been working on and unwound the green cord from around one red and two green bulbs, then lifted it to shoulder height and released one half of it. He watched the bulbs spin, the cord untwisting until the next knot in the string stopped its progress.
Heero held out his hand again, and Duo reached over to pull out another bulb from the package, laying it on Heero's palm. Heero's fingers closed over his and squeezed, then the bulb was gone and another, the dead one, had taken its place. A yellow one with half its paint flaked off.
Duo tossed it into the box he'd set next to his coffee and picked up his mug, inhaling the scent of the cinnamon creamer before taking a sip. He leaned back just enough that his shoulder pressed against Heero's. Duo could feel Heero's muscles flex and knew he was retrieving another strand of lights.
"Plug it in," Heero said quietly, and Duo resisted the urge to sigh a third time. He pressed his thumb along one of the prongs to straighten it and pushed it into the outlet. His efforts were rewarded with a colorful glow from one of the strings. Just one, but it was more than they'd seen all day. While Duo stared at the glowing colors, Heero's fingers carefully untangled the single functioning string and held it aloft. Duo made a sound of triumph and set his mug back down before unplugging the lights and setting them aside.
Heero was already busy screwing another bulb into the detector to determine if the bulb was burned out or not. It was another beat-up looking one, the loss of coating showing a spot of harsh white-yellow light in contrast to the blue where the paint had not yet chipped away.
"Keep or replace?"
Duo looked up from the weathered bulb and into Heero's eyes, intense beacons beneath too-long bangs, and the single thick eyebrow raised in question. He took in the knuckles of the hand holding the bulb, noting small cracks in the skin from the harsh winter climate.
His eyes moved to the pajama top Heero was wearing with its torn pocket, one corner folded over, and the gap halfway down where the fifth button was missing. His eyes flicked past the pile of lights to Heero's coffee mug with the small crack near the rim, and the steam still wafting from it despite the length of time they'd spent amidst the tangle of lights they'd found in the cellar with the dilapidated artificial tree. It had been the impetus for Duo's desire to decorate for Christmas this year. Heero was busy removing the bulb from the detector. He turned to hand it Duo.
Duo's fingers covered Heero's. "Keep," he said, looking into Heero's eyes. A small spark in deep blue irises and then a slow withdrawal of his hand, a lingering touch and a slight grazing of the scratched blue bulb against Duo's fingertips. Heero screwed the light back into the string and resumed his task.
An hour later, when Duo unplugged the third set of lights and grinned at him, Heero picked up his mug and sipped at it, pleased that it was still warm. He'd specifically chosen the mug for its thermal insulation. Peacetime had given him the opportunity to develop trivial preferences, minor likes and dislikes. Heero had a few things that fell under the latter. Holes in the heels of his socks. Taking out the garbage and not realizing it was leaking until after a trail of liquid had followed him from kitchen to back door. Having Duo flush the toilet while he was in the shower. And drinking cold coffee.
He breathed deeply the rich bold aroma of Duo's latest blend and raised the mug to his lips again. Duo had just finished wrapping the lights around his arm from elbow to thumb and set them with the first two strings before picking up his own coffee.
Heero leaned over and wrapped his fingers around the room temperature ceramic, lifting it from Duo's grasp before replacing it with his own. Duo's brows lifted in surprise, and Heero answered it by raising Duo's mug aloft. Duo answered in kind before sipping from Heero's high-tech coffee cup. His sigh of pleasure as the warm beverage hit his stomach was barely audible. Heero took a deep draw of coffee before setting the cup down a safe distance from their project and picking up the next set of lights.
He noticed something attached to the end of this particular string, and he handed the plug to Duo, who reached over and pushed it into the outlet. Nothing happened.
Duo unplugged the lights, removed the attachment, and plugged them back in. The lights - every one of the remaining strings - lit up.
"They're not going to blink," Heero said quietly. Duo picked up Heero's mug and turned to face him. They were both surrounded by the glow of green and red, yellow and blue, the bulbs growing warm against their pajama clad legs.
"I think," Duo said slowly, "I'd like to see them stay lit all the time."
Heero once again picked up Duo's mug, and Duo followed suit. Heero tapped the rim of his cup against the one in Duo's hand.
"To keeping the lights burning at all times," he said. He tossed back the dregs of Duo's coffee and grimaced.
When he set the cup back down, Duo was looking at him with a contemplative expression. His complexion was glowing with a mottle of primary colors as his eyes searched Heero's face. Duo's thumb reached over and wiped a bit of coffee from Heero's lower lip, the callused pad running over gleaming white teeth before his fingertips made their way to Heero's cheek.
"No matter how much time and effort it takes," he responded. He withdrew his hand, removing his thumb first and letting his fingers slide along Heero's jaw, when he changed his mind. He gripped Heero's chin firmly and drew his face close, capturing Heero's lips with his own.
His fingers slid through thick dark hair as Heero enthusiastically returned the kiss, his fingers clenching in the front of Duo's pajama top, dislodging an already loose button. They both drew back at the same time and Heero stared at Duo. He tapped the tip of his nose against Duo's and carefully extricated himself from the tangle of Christmas bulbs.
Duo watched Heero pick up the empty mug and make his way to the kitchen before he leaned over to unplug the lights. His hand hesitated over the outlet, then he picked up Heero's mug instead. He took a sip and surveyed the knotted lights around him. It was near impossible to tell where one ended and the next began.
A wide, honest smile spread across Duo's face.
19 November 2004