One person in a king-sized bed should be the eighth deadly sin.
There was far too much room. Too much space in which to wallow shamelessly, luxuriating in the barely-awake feeling of a morning well-spent sleeping in as long as Duo-ly possible, feeling the warmth of the sunlight through the blinds, the near-stuffiness of the room in mid-morning.
Relena rolled over onto her stomach and threw one leg across her blankets and the body pillow next to her, cuddling it close and heaving a great big yawn as she nestled deeper into her covers. A sin, indeed.
Wufei leaned his head against the headrest and glance out of the corner of one dark eye at Duo.
"We're going where?"
"To do what?"
"And she . . ."
"And this is . . ."
"Perfectly acceptable. She'll love us for it. I might get laid."
Wufei pursed his lips gently and pondered his next words. What came at the end of Duo's sentences didn't always have to do with what came at the beginning. "Do you do this often? By whom?"
"Never. Some girl I met at the club. Hey, look, she's still in bed. Awesome."
Wufei glanced up as Duo pulled his truck into the driveway and killed the engine. Relena lived in a rather upscale area of the town; her living room was probably as big as his apartment, but then, most living rooms were. Preventers housing was crap.
It had to be the top story. Then again, the buildings were only two storeys high, but still. It was the principle of the thing. Wufei sighed and unbuckled, then paused only slightly when he saw Heero and Trowa standing by the doors. Trust Duo to cause as much havoc with as many people's lives as possible. He'd never even formally met Relena. Well, nine on a Sunday morning was as good a time as any, he guessed.
"---room tannish-red shades, and her bedroom maybe in blues or greens, what do you think?" Duo was saying as Wufei got to the little group.
"I think she'll blow a gasket if you bring puce anywhere near her home," Heero remarked. Trowa started laughing.
"Trowa, it wasn't that funny," Duo half-snapped with a slight grin. Trowa sniggered once more, then fell silent. They flashed their badges at the doorman, who opened the doors with a nod and ushered them through. The dismay he must have felt at seeing them decked out in coveralls and olds shirts, jeans and sneakers, all well-worn, torn and stained, hauling painting gear for an entire house between the three of them, didn't register for an instant.
High class, indeed.
Relena roused briefly; she could have sworn she'd heard her front door open. There was no more noise, and besides, only Heero and her brother had keys, and they both called ahead. She nestled back down, asleep again almost before she stopped moving.
Duo grinned and surveyed the living room. It was spacious, with very little furniture. Not that Relena went without; everything she had was functional, practical, and probably cost more than Wufei made in a year. A couch, a set of armchairs, a coffee table and four tables did little to fill up the space of her living room. And Wufei had been right. It was bigger than his apartment.
"Right," the long-haired man said softly. "Let's get the furniture moved." He, Heero and Trowa started moving with much purpose, and Wufei lagged behind.
She had real hardwood floors. Redwood, if Wufei had any guess. Aside from the palatial living room, her kitchen was gigantic. It even had a real fireplace big enough to roast a hog. True, a middle-sized one, but a hog nonetheless. It was all warm browns, tans and reds in the kitchen, making it cosy and rustic, and there was plenty of evidence that the woman cooked.
In fact . . .
Feeling slightly guilty, Wufei sidled over to a gently steaming pot on the stove and lifted the lid a bit. The aroma that met his nose made his stomach clench and his knees go weak. Spaghetti sauce. Not just any spaghetti sauce, either. This had been simmering for at least a day, and it was full of good meat and chunks of tomatoes and other ingredients and . . . Wufei inhaled deeply and closed his eyes to savour the aroma even better. Cinnamon. The woman knew how to use cinnamon in cooking. He was in love.
He snorted to himself with a smile and set the lid down again, lest he ruin her sauce, and poked around a bit more. This high-class, straight-out-of-Better Homes and Gardens North American Southwestern Edition-kitchen was well-used and well-loved. There were herbs hanging up to dry, and more growing in pots and dishes around the place. The dining room was good-sized; about a quarter the size of the living room, making it half again the size of the kitchen. It was done in whites and pastels, though not much of those, making it very fresh and open. White lace curtains moved gently in a slight breeze and the cedar table gleamed in the light. The chairs matched, with white cushions that went with the white tablecloth.
She certainly knew how to colour-coordinate, Wufei mused. That was, if she'd had any hand in it. He filed through his library until he found her book and glanced through it, then nodded and wandered back into the living room. She lived alone, so it wasn't a roommate's doing.
Then again . . . He leaned against the wall as he watched the three other men work. They certainly seemed to know what they were doing.
"I think you lied to me, Duo," he called out. Duo glanced over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow. "I think you've been redecorating Miss Darlian's home for her."
He got an unabashed grin. "Yeah, you caught me. She'll yell when she gets up, but don't worry. She doesn't mean it, or she'd have gotten a restraining order against me by now."
Wufei let out a chuckle and moved to help Trowa with the couch. Duo was already laying out plastic to cover the floor, and Wufei took in the obnoxious shade of gray the walls were. They definitely had to go.
"Why not go with a mixture of the kitchen and dining room colours?" he asked.
Duo paused, then bit his lower lip. "So they blend together?" he asked. Wufei grunted an affirmative. "Hey, you know, that works! I don't have much of either one left; I was going to send you for more." He got a glare and laughed. "Right. Okay. Let's do that. Heero?"
The Japanese man shrugged and crouched over the paint cans, counting and wiggling his fingers. Duo started directing Wufei and Trowa, and together they worked to move the living room's furniture and pictures to the middle, where their work on the walls would be undisturbed.
Relena finally gave up on sleeping and opened her eyes to the sounds of male laughter and the sweet, toe-curling smell of her mother's spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. She inhaled deeply and then rolled her eyes, debating on yelling at Duo, but figured it'd do more harm than good and anyway, at least she didn't have to paint her flat alone.
She got up and pulled a robe on, then padded to her door and opened it. She belted the robe as she walked down the hallway, then paused and smiled as she entered the living room.
"What's that palace of yours got to say about heat sensors?" Duo was asking. She shook her head. He just wanted to blow things up, he really did.
"Let me look."
That was a voice she hadn't heard before, and Relena turned to the speaker. He was Asian, with tanned skin and glossy black hair. His features were strong, proud, and he held himself with a self-possession that had nothing to do with bravado or arrogance and everything to do with strength and competence. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, then let his breath out slowly and opened them again. Relena frowned as she worked around Duo's question and the man's behaviour.
"Northeast tower, dragon statue in jade . . ." He rambled off technical jargon that would have gone completely over Relena's head in any case, but she was staring now, her mouth open in shock.
"You have a memory palace?" she blurted out.
"You have a memory palace?"
All three men turned sharply at the surprised and surprising soprano from the hallway. Trowa grabbed his shirt and pulled it on quickly, Heero paused mid-stroke, Duo turned with a quizzical expression on his face and the man with the palace looked at her with raised eyebrows, flushing a little.
"Relena, this is Wufei. Wufei, Relena. He's with us," Duo said helpfully.
Relena ignored him and fixed Wufei with a penetrating stare, pushing away from the wall and coming at him. Wufei swallowed and tensed, very sorry he'd poked around her kitchen.
"You have a memory palace?" she repeated.
He blinked, then his mind caught up with events. He coughed. "Ah, yes. Yes, I do. You've heard of them?"
"Is today the day for dumb questions, or what?" Heero asked irritably. "Come on, the paint's drying."
Relena forgave them the intrusion into her space and focused on Wufei, who looked uncomfortable, but also curious.
"I've read about them," she answered. "I'd like to know more. Tell me?"
"Of course," Wufei replied. He blinked at her again, then cleared his throat. "Of course," he repeated.