Disclaimer: Not mine. not for profit.
Note 1: This is for Snowdragonct, with fondest wishes, on her birthday.
Thanks to Kaeru Shisho for helping with the multiple drafts, and to Chekenko, the real life Shinnie, who actually was Swept Away, and lived to tell the tale.
Note: This is set in the 'Puppy Love' universe and takes place about six months before Quatre meets Trowa..
'Duo, it's pouring rain!'
'It's only a little drizzle,' my best friend slams the front door behind him and lets our hyperactive border collie tow him down the path. 'Shinnie needs some exercise and you've hardly come out of your room all day. You need some fresh air. Now stop complaining or Shin will think his mommy doesn't love him any more.'
'He knows I love him!' I bend down to tweak one of his floppy ears. 'But I do wish you'd stop calling me that; I'm not his mother.'
'Sure you are! I officially found him so I'm the daddy and that makes you the mommy.' Duo beams at me; wiping rain from his face. 'It's like we're this little family.'
'Why can't he have two daddies?'
'Because he's a dog, Quat. He'd just get confused. Remember we watched that docco about wolves, and how every pack has an alpha male and an alpha female?'
'And I have to be the female, why? You're the one with the long hair.'
He swishes his braid catching me across the face with the sodden tip. This is not just a drizzle; more like a torrent. Sanque in October is never terribly pleasant. 'I forgot to tell you what that asshole said to me yesterday morning. About my hair!'
Not that asshole again. Heero seems to be the only thing we talk about nowadays. Ever since Duo came home from work three weeks ago, and spent the whole evening complaining about the architect who'd designed the house he and Howard were working on. After hours of moaning and groaning, he'd admitted, just before we'd gone to bed, that the man just happened to have the bluest eyes he'd ever seen.
'What did he say?' I ask dutifully, pulling my cap down more tightly. I could be at home now, with my violin and a cup of tea. But Duo had wanted company on his walk so….
'It was stupid; I'd been painting this wall and I turned around and the tip of my braid just dipped into the paint pot, and he made this huge deal out of it, like one little hair might have fallen into the paint and ruined it, and I had to go off and wash it. Asshole. And then he gave me his 'phone number, in case I had any 'problems' with reading his plans when he's not there. Like he thinks I'm a totally illiterate idiot or something.' He sighs. 'I've tried really hard. He doesn't like the fact that I joke around, so I try to be totally polite and serious around him, and nothing works. Oh, well. It's probably sort of good that he's such a dickhead or I'd really fall for him, and I don't need to start obsessing about some straight guy.'
'You're not actually sure he's straight, are you?'
He makes a face. 'Well, not really. He's got a lousy sense of fashion, though. Hey, Shinnie, don't eat that! Bad! Dirty!' We both drag our dog away from the half-decayed corpse of a blackbird, trying to ignore his little whines at being deprived of such a lovely treat.
'Not that you're stereotyping or anything!'
'Whatever. He has pretty nice clothes actually; the other day, he took off his jacket before getting into his car, and he was wearing a really cool tank top that just showed off his arms. I mean, the guy is seriously built. But he wears these horrendously vile trainers all the time; sort of the colour mustard would be if you threw it up.' He sighs. 'Oh, well. Sorry, Quat. I don't want to keep banging on about my hopeless crush on someone who hates me.'
'It's OK. Maybe it's good that one of us has some sort of romance in his life, even if it's only a crush on a sartorially inept straight guy.'
At least one of us is trying to move on a bit. Not still trying to get over his ex-boyfriend, almost six months after breaking up.
Shouldn't it be getting a little easier by this stage?
'He thinks I'm totally incompetent. Honestly, yesterday I was painting a door frame and he literally stood watching for nearly ten minutes, to make sure I did it exactly right. It's like he can't trust me to do the stupidest little thing.'
'Perhaps he just likes watching you?' I suggest carefully. I'm not even sure why I say it; I can't imagine anyone not falling for Duo. If this Heero person were actually interested, I'm sure he would have done something about it by now.
'Don't make me laugh, Kitty Quat! He was looking at me with that glare of his that can strip paint off walls. I don't even know why I'm so hung up on the guy,' Duo grumbles. 'It's not just the physical thing. At least, I don't think so. I've seen him smile about twice in two months, and I'd give anything for him to smile at me, just once, instead of that glare I get all the time. I don't know know how to explain it; it's like there's this…edge to him. And he's really smart; not just one of those architects that stay in the office; he's always coming around to check up on how we're doing and he even helps out sometimes.'
He grabs Shinnie's collar and tugs him away from a broken bottle on the pavement. 'No! We can't afford to pay any more vet bills this month if you hurt yourself again. One of us is going to have to start offering them personal services or something. Pity there isn't a cute guy working there or we could maybe negotiate some sort of a discount!'
'Because of course any vet would be perfectly happy with that arrangement,' I tease, and he laughs.
'Yeah, maybe not. Still, I'm going to stop talking about Heero now. It's just I can't stop thinking about him. Have you ever felt like that about anyone?'
I don't say it. I never do. I'm his best friend. That should be enough.
'Um, no, not really.'
'Not even about Simon?'
I shrug; we tend not to talk about my ex-boyfriend. 'At the start, maybe. I suppose I did think about him all the time, but I…well, you know.'
He reaches over to give my shoulder a quick squeeze, just letting me know he's there for me, even if I don't want to talk about it.
'Shinnie, heel! Do you think we should try bringing him back to those obedience classes?'
I make a face. 'Do you think we'd actually be allowed back? After what happened?'
Duo laughs. 'Good point! Do we could try another dog school? There has to be more than one in the city, don't you think?'
'I imagine so. Actually, one of the new volunteers at the Youth Club was talking about some problems he's having with his dog. He was going to research dog training classes. Maybe I can ask him if he finds a good place?'
'Sure.' he tosses me a quick grin. That wouldn't happen to be the hot Chinese guy you were talking about last week, would it? The one teaching martial arts? Could be a good excuse for you to get talking to him.'
'Oh, I don't think so,' I tell him, glad it's getting dark enough that he can't see my blush. Mr. Chang is …very attractive though. 'He's not really my type; far too intense.'
'Heero's way too intense for me, too,' Duo muses. 'I don't think I have a type, though. I've only ever really fallen for three guys in my whole life and they're all poles apart. Solo was a car thief, Zechs is a prince and Heero is - I don't know. A total asshole who hates me. I guess they do all have blue eyes, though. And they're all really hot.'
I have blue eyes…
I don't think I could ever be described as really hot, though.
'D'you think we could risk letting Shin loose for a little bit? Just to tire him out?' Duo suggests as we get dragged down the path to the river. 'Otherwise, we'll be walking around this park for the next three hours and he'll still be full of energy.'
'I suppose.' I glance around. At six o'clock on a cold, wet evening, the park seems free of other life forms. 'I can't really see how much trouble he can get into by himself.'
'There you go. Freedom!' Duo bends to slip off Shin's lead, rolling it into a ball as he straightens up. 'Still, we'll be finished this job next week. I'll probably never see him again after that. Probably a good thing.'
Ah. Back to Heero. It'll be something of a relief to me as well when we can talk about something else; I hate seeing Duo so downcast.
'It just seems a shame that you didn't fall for someone who's interested in you,' I say gently, watching Shinnie tear off across the grass. I hope I never meet Heero; he really must be a total asshole, as Duo calls him. Even if he's neither gay nor interested in my friend, it wouldn't kill him to be at least civil.
Duo hunches one shoulder. 'Can't pick the people you fall for, can you? Don't worry, Kitty-Quat. I know it's impossible. I just…really like him. It's ages since I felt that way about someone.' He glances around. 'Now, where's that stupid dog? Shinnie! Here, Shin! You don't think he's down gone to the river, do you? You'd think he'd be wet enough without wanting to go for a swim!'
The 'river' in truth is little more than a trickle. Usually. The heavy rain we've been having lately has turned it into a fast-flowing torrent, swirling under the bridge. There is no sign of the dog.
'Shit!' The same idea hits us both at the same time. 'He must have fallen in!' Duo gasps and I grab his arm to pull him back.
'Let me the hell go and get my dog! He'll drown in that!'
'So will you! Just calm down, all right? He's a good swimmer; he probably just got swept away by the current. The river widens once it gets under this bridge; that means it'll slow down and he should be able to scramble out. Or we'll be able to pull him.'
A couple of miles later, though, the current shows no signs of abating. And there is no sign of Shinigami. Breathless, we stand at the park's boundary and look at the high fence surrounding the South City Industrial Park.
'Hell!' Duo pants. 'I didn't know the river went through this industrial place.'
'I didn't know there was an industrial place,' I admit. 'What are we going to do? It's all locked up! Do you think we should call the police?'
'Yeah, right.' He mutters. 'They're just going to love being called out on a Saturday night to look for a dog. They'd probably just laugh at us. Nope, it's down to the two of us….Quat, did you hear that?' If I concentrate, I can hear a faint sound over the wind and rain that might possibly be a dog. 'It's Shinnie! Come on!'
Before I can even blink, he's over the fence and I'm left gaping at him from the other side.
'How in the world did you do that?'
He snickers. 'Sorry, Quat. I forget you didn't have a delinquent youth like me. It's way easier than it looks; first put one foot on this bar, right? Now, pull yourself up and just drop.'
'Just drop?' I echo uncertainly; the ground is looking an awfully long way down.
'Sure. Remember when you were teaching me to ride? And you said I had to learn to fall properly; to relax my muscles. It's just like that.'
OK. I can do this. It's not that far down; not really that much farther than from the back of a horse. And I don't need to worry about flailing hooves this time.
Duo helps me up from the ground. 'Cool! You did that like you've been breaking in and out of warehouses all your life. Now, come on. I think the barking came from this way.'
I can't help glancing around furtively as we hurry across the open yard. 'What if there's a security guard, Duo? Or an attack dog?' The fence we've climbed over is strung with large signs proclaiming that it's protected by the Lowe Security Company, and that all trespassers will be prosecuted.
Oh, dear. What will my parents say if I'm arrested for breaking and entering private property? If they disowned me for the crime of being gay, they'll probably try to have me committed for actual criminal activities.
'Just stop worrying, OK? If there's a guard here, he'll be tucked up in some little hut somewhere. No one's going to come out in this weather but us! And try to act a bit more casual, will you? The trick is, not to look suspicious.'
No one is right, I can't help thinking, wrapping my arms around my body. It's freezing. I don't think I've ever been this cold or this wet. All my clothes have got to be plastered to my skin, and I'm starting to lose feeling in my hands.
Thirty minutes later, we are still no closer to finding the source of the barking. This place is like a labyrinth, full of dead ends and fences that are too high for us to climb. Duo's torn his jacket on a spiked railing and we're both plastered with mud from sliding down a steep bank. In a few minutes, we're going to lose what little light we still have.
'Duo! I think I hear something. Over there! Listen!'
His face lights up. 'Jesus! I think you're right. Come on!'
'How the hell are you still so clean?'
'I'm not clean,' I object, casting a rueful glance at my jeans. I doubt all of this mud will ever come out. Still, I'm probably clean relative to Duo; one of his talents is the ability to attract dirt. He looks like a swamp monster.
'Shit!' Duo mutters. 'Where the hell is he? It almost sounds like he's below us….you don't think the river flows underneath at some point, do you?'
'I hope not! What are you doing? Are you all right?'
'Yeah, just stubbed my toe on something. Look at this!' He drags some brambles aside, revealing a low concrete wall surrounding some sort of drain. 'This has to lead down to where Shin is, right?' We both crouch on the ground, peering into the darkness. 'I think there's some kind of metal steps,' he decides, reaching one arm down into the hole. 'Wait there, Quat. I'll see if I can get down. Shin! Here, boy! Shinnie!'
Frantic barking explodes beneath our feet.
'Duo, you can't go down there! What if you get stuck? I'm smaller than you are. I should be the one to go down.'
Duo flashes me a quick grin. 'I bet that's the first time in the history of the universe that two guys had this particular fight over size. Sorry, Quat. He's my dog, officially. And I'm the one who let him off the lead. I'm going down.' He tosses me his wallet and 'phone. 'Mind these for me, just in case I end up in the river. I won't be long.'
'Hey! I can see him!' Duo yells a few minutes later over a delighted volley of barks. 'I just need to find a way to hoist him up and we…ahhh!'
'Duo!' I hang over and try to catch a glimpse of what's happening. 'What is it? Are you all right?'
'Yeah. I'm OK. One of the rungs broke and I sort of fell into this big hole. My ankle hurts and I think I got some sort of wire twisted around my leg.'
'I'm coming in after you!'
'No!' he yells. 'Quat, don't do that! It's too dark; you'll only fall in as well. Listen, call Howard and tell him we need some help here. Get him to bring torches and a rope and a pair of wire cutters, OK? And don't worry about me; I'm fine. I've got Shin with me. Just call Howie.'
Dialling Howard's number takes a ridiculously long time; my wet, frozen fingers jab several wrong buttons until I finally hear a dial tone. Shinnie's howls in the background drown out his voice message and I have to shout.
'Howard? It's Quatre. I'm really sorry to bother you, but Duo's crazy dog has managed to get himself trapped down some sort of drain. Duo went in after him and he's hurt his ankle. He says he's OK, but I can't get him out by myself. Would you mind coming over, please?' I gabble directions over Shinnie's banshee wails in the background. Duo's battery is on the verge of dying so I really, really hope he gets the message.
I'll give Howard ten minutes. If he hasn't arrived by then, I'm going in. I don't care what Duo says.
'I've left a message,' I call. 'Are you sure you're all right? I could call the Fire Brigade.'
'Nah, I'm fine to wait for Howard. They're usually busy enough at weekends without having to help stupid guys who don't watch where they're going. Listen, Quat, there's some weird echo down here when I shout and it's driving Shin crazy. I'm going to have to be quiet.'
The next minutes are a nightmare. It's cold and wet and there is only the occasional noise from below me to show that Duo and Shin are still alive. I really hope Howard got my message. I hope he'll arrive soon. I don't even want to think of Duo in the darkness, injured.
Come on, Howard…
Precisely nine minutes later, I've had enough. I'm going to call for help and then I'm climbing down. I can't leave Duo down there alone for any longer; I don't even know how badly he's hurt.
Switching on the 'phone, waiting for the screen to light up, I don't even notice the man approaching in the near-darkness until he is almost beside me. Duo was wrong about security guards coming out in this weather; we probably showed up on some security camera.
Remembering Duo's advice on acting casual, I lean nonchalantly against the fence, trying to look as if this is a perfectly normal way to spend Saturday evenings. In the rain. On private property. Oh dear.
This is ridiculous.
'Are you Quatre?'
'Um, yes.' He doesn't look like a security guard, actually. Maybe an assassin. If assassins wear stylish black clothes and have an unfortunate taste in footwear. His eyes, under the headlamp he's wearing, are an unbelievably vivid blue.
Oh, God. It can't be…surely there are two dark, blue-eyed men in this whole country who wear such appalling mustard-coloured trainers…surely there are hundreds.
'You called me,' he raps out. 'Ten minutes ago. You said Duo was in some sort of danger.'
It can't be…..it really, really can't.
'Of course.' He takes a step closer, peering at me. 'Are you all right? Where is Duo?'
I take a deep breath. And another one. 'I'm sorry. I - meant to call Duo's boss, Howard. I must have dialled the wrong number by mistake; my hands were so cold I kept getting the number wrong and then…'
'It doesn't matter. Where is he?' Heero drops his backpacks and produces another headlamp. 'Put this on.'
'He's down there.' I point. 'He told me not to go after him; one of the rungs broke on the ladder.' I gulp. 'He said it's pitch dark. He can't see anything and I think he's sprained his ankle…he won't believe you're here!'
'Don't tell him. Not yet.'
'Why don't you want me to say you're here?' I ask curiously, fumbling the straps around my head.
'He…doesn't like me.' Heero digs into the bag at his feet, and hands me small silver hip flask. 'It's brandy; I didn't have time to make a hot drink. You look like you could do with something to warm you up.'
'Thank you,' I choke on the first mouthful, and then feel the delicious warmth spreading through my body. 'Why do you think he doesn't like you?'
'It's obvious.' Heero sounds a little forlorn, shouldering his backpack again. 'I imagine you know that we work together. He's so friendly and relaxed with everyone else; he treats me like a grenade with a loose pin.'
Dangerous, my mind supplies, and I have the sudden feeling that he could be. An edge, Duo had said, and Duo is the most perceptive person I've ever met. I grew up surrounded by bodyguards; the only son of the Winner family. I've met men like this before. Dangerous, yes.
But he rushed out on an abysmal Saturday evening to help us. That has to mean something. And the looks on Heero's face when he said Duo disliked him makes it rather obvious what that something might be. My insightful friend has, apparently, got it wrong for once.
Like Duo, I tend to babble when I'm nervous about something, and I do it now, watching Heero delve in the bag at his feet. 'What's down there, do you know? Is it some sort of tunnel?'
'There's a whole network of them in this are of the city; I think most of them date back to the last century. They were used for food storage during the wars. They're mostly abandoned now, though.' He reaches into his bag, which appears to have the magical properties of Mary Poppins' carpet bag, and pulls out a length of rope and a leather harness. 'Do you know anything about mountain climbing?'
I can see from his face that he expects me to say no, but I was a member of my school's mountaineering club, and I've climbed in the Swiss Alps with Zechs. 'Yes, actually.' Ha!
'Good. Get the harness ready.' Heero watches as I begin to sort out the buckles and check the knots, and then produces a small hammer and knocks pitons into the concrete base.
'What are you doing up there, Quat?' Duo calls; he's never able to be silent for too long. 'Is that Howard with you? What's that noise?'
'The cavalry's arrived, and we're coming to get you. You're OK?'
'Sure. I'm just great!'
Heero looks relieved; I know Duo would say that if he were lying there with two broken legs.
'Heero, don't you think we should maybe call for an ambulance?'
'It would take too long for them to get here. I have some first aid training; enough to ascertain his medial status; if necessary we can call for help afterwards. But I…I don't want to leave him down there alone. Now, what sort of dog is it? Will we be able to pull it up?'
'He's a border collie; not too big. Well, he's mostly border collie. He's called Shinigami.'
'The God of Death.' For the first time, his expression lightens; not nearly enough to be described as a smile, but I can see what Duo sees in him.
'I want to go first.'
Heero just cocks his head at me. 'You have experience in mountain rescue? Or administering first aid?'
'Um. No. Not really.'
'I see. Then I take point. Once I'm down, you can pull the harness up and follow. Got that?'
'Heero!' Duo's eyes are enormous in the torchlight as he gapes at his rescuer. 'Quat! What's he doing here?'
'I made a mistake when I tried to call Howard, and dialled Heero instead.'
'Oh!' Duo, my articulate, witty friend, is suddenly silent for once in his life and then recovers slightly. 'Um, thank you. But I don't get why you're here! You could've just called the cops or something. You don't even like me!'
Shinnie, crouched at his feet, growls low in his throat, shifting in front of his master.
'Good dog,' Heero extends one hand and Shin moves to sniff it. 'Good Shinigami. We're just trying to help your master, OK?' The dog whines gently and rolls over for him tummy to be rubbed. Duo's eyes, meeting mine in the torchlight, are vast. Shinnie is a rescue dog; he's been abused and he doesn't like strangers.
'He ..he doesn't normally do that to new people,' Duo stammers.
Heero grins slightly. 'Maybe he's a good judge of character. And of course I like you,' he says, almost too quietly for me to hear.
'I - um - sort of like you too.' Blushing furiously, Duo hugs Shinigami to him, kissing the top of his head, and then letting me take the dog to one side.
'Quatre, there's a blanket in my bag; can you get it for me? Duo, I want to take off some of those wet clothes before I check your leg, OK? You're freezing.'
'Oh, man,' Duo groans. 'Is all this some sort of dream or something? I never thought I'd hear you saying stuff like that to me!'
I can't believe he's said that! For someone who's outwardly so confident, he's actually rather shy; maybe he does think he's dreaming? Or he's just so glad to be rescued that he doesn't care what he says?
Heero blinks and then smiles, sliding Duo's sodden jacket off, and settling the blanket comfortably around him. 'It isn't a dream.'
'That feels really good.' Duo's eyes are very bright as he gazes up at the other man, who still has one arm draped over his shoulders.
Heero grunts uncomfortably; I can't tell if it's because of how my friend is gazing up at him, or the proximity, or the fact that Duo is very obviously flirting with him. Or if it's because I'm watching them. 'Quatre said you'd hurt your ankle. I want to check that first. I need you to tell me if I'm hurting you.'
'OK,' Duo goes even paler as Heero gently manipulates his ankle, biting his lip,
'I don't think it's broken. A few days' rest and it should be fine. You just need to tape it up and keep it iced. But we'll get you home first…Now, wire cutters, Quatre. They're in the side pocket of my bag.'
'You don't have to cut my jeans off, do you?' Duo mutters. 'They're my favourite pair. Show off my ass and everything.'
I don't believe this. They're flirting. Despite the fact that we're in a cold, dark tunnel and Duo is obviously in pain, and shivering from the cold.
We don't know this man. We don't, really, know anything about him. I knew that Zechs would never have hurt Duo; it had seemed like such a perfect equation. My two best friends; I would never have had to lose either of them.
Heero, though, is an unknown quantity.
But Duo's eyes are shining like stars at twilight, and the look on Heero's face, watching him, is impossibly tender.
'I'll have to cut the leg off this one. I'm sorry. But you could probably make shorts out of them.'
'Hmmm. Like those really short ones?'
'That would be ….acceptable, yes.' Their words are softly spoken, punctuated by the snip of the wire cutters as Heero cuts Duo free. Shinnie is restless, pulled against me, not knowing quite what is going on here. Neither do I, really.
I don't know whether Heero is serious, whether this is how he behaves normally, or whether he's just trying to distract my friend. I don't know which I want it to be.
'You still have that black pair,' Heero says quietly. 'The ones you hardly ever wear. I like those too. Perhaps we could have dinner some evening and you could wear them?'
'Are you asking me on a - a date or something?'
'Not a something. A date. If…you'd like that?'
I swallow, caught by that tiny hesitation. This means something to him. Shin whines and I suddenly want to join in. I shouldn't be watching this …this intensely private moment, watching my best friend fall in love.
This is difficult, for so many reasons.
Duo has never looked at me like that.
No one has.
'I - I would like that. A lot, actually.'
'Good. Now, we need to get you out of here.'
I'm not sure if he's even realised, but his hand rests on Duo's leg, stroking absently, then hands Duo the little flask. 'Before we try to move you, try a little of this. You're frozen.'
'I don't drink.'
'It doesn't count if it's medicinal.'
'I don't drink, Heero!' Duo casts me a panicky glance, obviously scared that Heero is going to try to force the brandy down his throat. 'Tell him, Quat!'
'Listen to me,' Heero orders. 'You're freezing! You've lost some blood. If you're not careful, you're going to catch double pneumonia after all of this. Or go into shock.'
My best friend glares at him. 'I'm not that much of a wimp! If you want to warm me up, you'd better find some other way.'
'Fine! You are the most stubborn person I have ever met in my entire life!' Heero snaps the bottle free and takes a gulp of his own, before swooping down and sealing his mouth over Duo's.
'Uh…you have an interesting way to warm people up,' Duo stutters, and Heero actually laughs.
'I'll show you some other ways later, when we're out of here.'
Duo and I burst into simultaneous blushes; neither of us is precisely inexperienced, but that voice, the depth of promise and meaning behind it, is….shattering. A world away from the cosy, safe world we have built up for ourselves.
'Do you think you can walk on that ankle?' Heero's voice is much gentler suddenly. 'It's time we got you out of here.'
'I guess I can try.'
Duo is trying to sound positive, but his face twists in pain when Heero helps him to his feet.
'OK,' Heero decides. 'Option two. Quatre, can you take the dog? It's better if you go first this time, and help Duo from there.'
I buckle myself into the harness, locking Shinnie's leash around my wrist, and Heero hands me the dog. 'I'll send Duo up next. Can you take him? Try not to let him put any weight on that ankle. Then I'll send the bags up. Got that?'
As Heero winches me upward, Shinnie wriggling frantically in my arms, I can hear Duo saying something about not normally being into bondage on the first date. But that maybe he can make an exception in this case.
Five minutes later, we're all back on solid ground. Duo and I are crouched together in the shelter of the low wall, in a vain attempt to share non-existent body-heat, while Heero collects his possessions.
'Shit, Quat,' my friend mutters. 'What the freaking hell is going on? Did I fall down the rabbit hole or something? He actually kissed me!'
'I did notice,' I say dryly. 'Duo, what did he say to you when he first got down to you?'
'Ready to go?' Heero stands over us; for some unfair reason, the rain doesn't seem to be touching him at all. He doesn't look cold either.
My poor friend gulps audibly. 'Ah, Heero, I don't know if I'll be able to manage it that far, even with you guys helping me.'
'We had to climb over a lot of obstacles to get here,' I add. 'With his ankle, I'm not sure if…'
'Don't worry about that. Quatre, you take the dog. He can walk, can't he? I need you to hold on to him and make sure he doesn't get under my feet. Duo, put your arms around my neck.' Before Duo can object, Heero is bending down and when he rises, he is holding my friend securely in his arms. 'Come on. My car's parked just around the corner.'
'But..how did you get in here? All the gates are locked!' I stammer, trailing after them. 'Did you break in?'
He looks back at me, and quirks a lopsided grin. 'Not exactly. I don't have your talent for that sort of thing. No, my stepfather's security company looks after this site; I was having dinner with him when I got your call, and he lent me the keys and the alarm codes.'
'Uh oh,' Duo groans. 'Does that mean we're in trouble for B and E? If your step dad knows what we did?'
'Oh, I don't imagine so,' Heero assures him airily. 'He likes dogs. And I'm sure he'll like you.' He gives another of those quirky little grins. 'He's been looking forward to meeting you for weeks, actually.'
'He … knows about me?' Duo sounds stunned.
'Naturally. I've talked about nothing else since the day I first met you. He said he's getting rather tired of me not doing something about it.'
'I know the feeling.' They both totally ignore my comment, wrapped up in each other in every sense of the word.
'So…were you ever planning on doing …something about it?'
'Naturally. I thought that maybe you didn't want to date someone you were working with, so I'd planned to ask you out when you finish the job. I wasn't sure if you'd be interested, though.' That little despairing note creeps into his voice again. 'I was thinking that you didn't like me at all; I'd done everything. I gave you my numbers; all my numbers and my email addresses. I spent every spare minute at the house with you, trying to think of excuses to be there; and you never seemed to notice.'
Duo laughs softly. 'I think you need to work on your courtship techniques a little bit, Yuy. All I got out of that stuff was that you thought I was an inept loser who needed constant supervision.'
'Maybe you'll help me practise a little?' Before, they can start…practising, we arrive at Heero's car. 'Where did you two park? On the road?'
'We don't have a car with us. We just live around the corner from the park so we walked.'
'Do you two live together?' His eyes focus suddenly on me, and I have the uncomfortable feeling that he'd be quite happy to throw me back down the hole. Any convenient hole.
'Sure we do. He's my best friend.' Duo lifts his head and smiles at me. He looks so happy. 'Aren't you, Kitty Quat?'
'Absolutely,' I step up beside them, giving Duo's braid a little tug, and Heero a glare to match his own, letting him know that I may not be competition but I'm a part of Duo's life. Always.
'Quatre, car keys in my back pocket. Can you get them?'
'Hey, that's not fair.' Duo grumbles, lifting his head slightly. 'How come he gets to grope your ass and I don't?'
'I'm sure something could be arranged later.'
Heero takes the keys and helps me get Duo installed on the back seat, with another blanket tucked carefully around him, and Shinnie, fortunately tired out from his adventures at our feet. 'What's the address?'
'Number four, Red Oak Terrace,' I supply, pulling my shivering friend against me. Actually, we're both shivering. 'Are you all right?'
'Just cold. And my leg hurts like hell.' He lowers his voice. 'He actually kissed me! And I must look like I just got out of the Black Lagoon or something!'
'I don't think he minded,' I whisper back, wiping some of the mud from his face with a corner of the blanket. 'And I don't think he dislikes you as much as you thought.'
He grins faintly. 'No, I sort of got that bit too. I, uh, I really like him. He asked me on a date!'
I nod, unable to help myself smiling at his expression. If Heero can make him look like that, then maybe he deserves a chance.
'Quat…' he looks hesitantly down at the blanket. 'Is this OK? Or is it totally crazy? I just feel like I've been swept off my feet or something, you know. The way he just swooped in and rescued me and everything, and then the way he kissed me….'
Not the kiss again.
Drat. Maybe I should have done that years ago; just grabbed him and kissed the hell out of him, the way Heero apparently did. Except he'd made it very clear, right from our first meeting, that he was never interested in me like that.
And..he is interested in Heero. Like that.
I don't spend every waking moment pining over my best friend. I don't. I have accepted that we'll never be more than friends. It just hurts, sometimes. Like now, being the one on the outside.
I smile down at him, chestnut head resting lightly on my shoulder. 'Of course, it's OK if it's what you want. It was incredibly romantic actually. And at least now you're not going to be complaining about him all the time!'
I am rewarded by one of his blinding smiles. He's my best friend. I want him to be happy; if he can't have that with me, then maybe Heero can give it to him.
Maybe I should think about getting a dog of my own?