Four ex-pilots go on a needed vacation to Maine where one of them completes a goal and two of them discover reasons to enjoy life in the new peace.
A.N. I had the inkling for this idea somewhere in the 24 hour time frame wherein yet again, I was sick as a dog. The inkling remained just that until last night (5/26/10) when I had to admit that at 4 a.m., having to be up to get my daughter up at 5 a.m. for her senior field trip, I just was not going back to sleep. So, I grabbed my laptop as quietly as possible so as not to wake my husband who works nights, and our baby, who is due to share the room with her sister-really soon, and with the dexterity of a covert op high-tailed it to the living room. And here be the fic:
More A.N. It actually took me a very long time to complete this. In the time that it took the baby has been rooming with her sister now for a while and is 4yrs. old.
Also-shout out to: SilverDragon-Purity, Kai-Chan94, PainfullyPassive, PrincessQ04, and Kuro42Neko, animeluv96, Falcner, Citrine Rain(love that handle), Miss-murdered, lensman37, animekitty7, , KissFromABlackRose, Amethystaura, Prime's Little One, StarLightsDream, skywright, depth of light, xRuneStone, HunterLady, Pyro-Neko-Isis, .
1) Getting Started
Duo yawned hugely as he sipped at his travel mug full of hot black coffee. He held the plastic mug adorned with a smiley face sporting a bullet hole between his hands, feeling dazed. They had only been on the road for an hour and he was still marveling at the fact that they were even up at the ungodly hour of five a.m.
Trowa and Quatre were snoring lightly in the back seat of Heero's Ford Ultra (or ultimatum), as Duo jokingly referred to the halting momentum the heap had-that is until Heero restored it. Naturally Heero could not see the humor in the nickname, but Heero's sometime lack of sense of humor rarely stopped Duo from joking or perpetrating pranks. It was the cross all of his friends had to bear. Besides, they all secretly enjoyed Duo's sometimes inventive pranks and Duo enjoyed making his friends forget their worries, even temporarily.
The roadway sped by, trees appearing to zoom past them at the speed of light; Duo knew that his Preventer partner of two years, four months and six days adhered to the speed limit with regard for law enforcement that only another agent of the law could have: they were at least twenty miles above the posted limit.
They were traveling east on I95 and were approaching Connecticut. When Quatre pointed out the beauteous sunrise, Duo grudgingly agreed.
They wended their way from Island New York rising at 3 a.m. (which Duo thought absolutely criminal and Trowa had been inclined to agree), thinking to avoid traffic in the busy city. Both the braided young man and the green-eyed fellow Preventer thought that starting a "vacation" so early in the morning made little sense, but Heero and Quatre had overwhelmed them with reasons for the early start, none of which either man could refute.
They had stayed overnight in Quatre's penthouse, which boasted a lovely view of Central Park.
The previous day they had flown in on a Trans-Euro flight from Brussels because Heero insisted that if they were going to vacation in Maine, as was the plan, then not only did they need to drive, but they needed to drive his car. Which required special automotive transport. Heero had had no trouble at the air-shuttle port-Lady Une, Commissioner of the Preventer organization gave him clearance to do as he wished as long as it remained within legal limits. In fact the Lady mandated that Duo Maxwell, Heero Yuy and Trowa Barton take up to an entire month off in vacation time.
Quatre Winner needed some time off as well from heading the monstrous WEI, the family corporation that kept him and his sisters and their families set for life and what better plan than to go on a vacation with his closest friends, particularly Trowa Barton.
Prior to the imposed vacation the three agents had been working on a case investigating reports of a resurgence in the production of mobile suits. After Mariemaia supposedly all suits had been destroyed-starting with the infamous Gundams, at Vice Minister Relena Peacecraft's behest.
The reports that came in had come as a shock to Une, the audacity of such brazenly illegal actions appalled her and saddened her at the same time. Why was keeping the peace so difficult? What was wrong with people-why could they not strive for the good?
She had assigned her three top agents to the case. What was uncovered was not mobile dolls, but something more heinous: a massive white slavery ring-males and females, some as young as fourteen years of age. The culprits were a well-trained group from Bolivia, all seasoned fighters with guerilla backgrounds and not happy to be discovered, or dismantled.
Duo had been in charge of helping the victims, while Heero and Trowa made the arrests.
The arrests had become extremely violent and by the time the Preventer back-up arrived six of the thirty armed men were dead, half of the cargo bay and surrounding warehouse that housed the criminal operation was destroyed, and Duo had to be restrained from furthering the body count once he saw what shape the victims were in.
The victims were all transported to a local hospital for treatment, as were Heero and Trowa who sustained minor bruises and abrasions.
The assignment had come on the heels of several hard cases and Une felt, along with Sally Po and Preventer psychotherapist Mark Bridge, that the three young men needed serious r&r.
And for once, no one argued against it, all three agents weary and beleaguered by their duties.
It had been Duo's idea to plan a vacation in Maine, citing the pristine countryside and coastal attractions. He was determined to see a whale on this trip, and the others were amenable.
"I am very excited about the prospect of dining on fresh lobster," declared Quatre when they began discussing their itinerary.
Trowa smiled lazily. "I don't care what we eat-I'd like to just relax, take in a little local color-but at a relaxed pace, you know? A real vacation."
"Hn." Heero wasn't sure what he wanted to do, but he was in good company and so far what he'd heard sounded fine to him.
It was eight-thirty a.m. and they were nearly out of Connecticut. Duo voiced his desire to eat rather loudly, starting with the rumbling of his stomach, which actually woke Quatre, who was known for being able to imitate a corpse in slumber. "Look, Heero," he yawned sleepily, "there's a sign for Denny's. Let's stop here before Duo's stomach really gets noisy."
"yuk, yuk-Q-ball," Duo groused. "First you make us get up before the birds even, and then you harass me for bein' hungry." He followed up the statement with an interesting hand gesture.
Trowa chuckled as he stretched his lanky frame outside of the car. "Duo, you are so not a morning person!"
"You mean, a dead of the night person!"
After a satisfying breakfast that consisted of four Grand Slams, a pitcher of orange juice and a whole pot of strong French roast coffee they piled back into the gleaming emerald green Ultra. As they pulled out of the parking lot onto the main road the car slowly came to a halt. Very quietly Heero said, "Look."
His three sleepy passengers looked out of the windshield to view the astonishing sight of a doe with two fawns trailing her. She ambled along, smoothly and unhurriedly, hooves padding softly against the asphalt, babes following her every step. Her coat was a lustrous tan and the yearlings had light spots.
Duo was entranced. Trowa smiled, thrilled by the sight. Quatre held his breath for fear that any sound, no matter how minute would scare the woodland family off. Finally, the trio walked out of sight and Heero began to accelerate.
"Just that alone was worth the trip," Duo sighed.
2) On their Way
It was nearly ten-thirty when they hit the principal toll just before entering Maine. They had only made one other pit stop in Massachusetts for a bathroom break and to switch drivers. Trowa decided he wanted to drive the last leg of their trip because he was completely over the back seat passenger experience. Quatre switched with Duo so he could ride shotgun and Duo sat looking contentedly out of the rear passenger seat window, indulging his favorite pastime: daydreaming.
So far, despite waking at an obscenely early hour, he was enjoying himself. There was something so exotic and exciting and fun and romantic about a road trip. He'd only ever been on one other such trip although he did not have to get up before the sunrise.
He had gone with Hilde to a vineyard in the New Los Angeles Territory. They had a great time, stopping here and there along the way, getting so tipsy from the wine tasting that they wound up staying overnight. Duo smiled as recalled dancing a Polish folk dance called the Polka, though he had not understood why the refreshment at the dance had been Sangria.
They had had a wonderful time, but it was not nearly as special as this felt now, with Heero and the guys. Duo was glad for the break-if he needed it, then Heero and Trowa really did too. They worked hard and it took its toll especially on the kind of men both Preventers were: intense, relentless; dedicated.
Duo had always vented stress by joking and playing pranks, it was his way of releasing tension and hopefully getting those around him to loosen up some. But Heero and Trowa were serious guys.
At least Trowa had his part-time gig with the circus and his relationship with his almost-sister Catherine to buoy him. Not to mention Quatre and what Duo suspected was between them. He was happy for them both, if what he suspected was true. They deserved some happiness and if they had found it with each other? All the better, after all they had shared experiences and commonalities that helped them to understand each other, and why not ...romance.
Duo sighed wistfully at the thought. He certainly could use some romance of his own. A fellow his age had needs, didn't he? Camaraderie was a fine thing, but he was at a point in his life where he needed something substantial.
When he was fifteen all he wanted was to survive another rotten day; he had and then some. Now, four years later, his life very much improved, he was surprised to find himself wanting more. Not material things, though he had those now, but the things that truly mattered: love, companionship; a home. He could not add family to the list because he had that in the personages of : Heero, Quatre, Trowa, Wufei, Hilde, Howard, Sally Po, Noin, even Zechs and Une, of all people. From psycho Oz commander who once ordered his execution to boss and friend, kind of. He laughed to himself and garnered a nudge from Heero who had leaned toward him in his sleep.
The car rolled slowly toward the tollbooths. "I cannot comprehend why in this day and age they still use this archaic toll collection system," complained Quatre. The sun was shining brightly overhead and there was a glare on the windshield. Trowa shaded his visible eye and suddenly began laughing even as he gaped at the road in front of them.
Traffic was heavy at the toll, presumably they had caught New Hampshire and Maine's rush-hour, but what had Trowa positively in stitches by now was the sight of a man running, on foot, in their general direction. All four former pilots were gaping, open-mouthed, even Heero. Four heads swiveled to follow the runner when Duo said, "Shit! I forgot the car!" Laughter erupted in the vehicle.
Patience was wearing thin. Duo had sworn up and down that he had accurate directions for the town they were headed to, but this was the third time they had looped around the route and the sign they were supposed to see was not there. Heero came out of the gas station manager's office with a determined stride and new directions.
A half an hour later they were crossing a very long bridge, passing carrier ships that rivaled those in space for size. "Wow," Duo said, clearly impressed, "these give Peacemillion a run for its money, huh?"
Quatre whistled appreciatively. "I have a yacht that is almost that large."
Duo did a doubletake, eyes widening at the blond Arab. "What would you need a tub that big for, Quat?"
Quatre grinned at the description of a carrier likened to a "tub". "Duo-you know I have twenty-nine sisters and their families. Where else would you expect them to all fit for a leisurely cruise," he sniffed haughtily. Then he snickered. Duo knew he wasn't really a snob although sometimes his refinement was a bit intimidating.
"At last," Trowa breathed as they approached the road sign proclaiming Boothbay Harbor; their destination. Heero who had been quieter than usual asked, "How much longer, do you think, Trowa?"
"Hopefully only a half hour more."
"Hn. We should have been there an hour ago," the unsaid accusation made Duo wince. "Hey, I know my directions weren't the best but..."
"They were incomplete," Heero replied.
"Yes, I know, but..."
"It really doesn't matter, Duo. We're almost there."
Duo was nearly placated until Heero added, "despite the delays." His cracked grin gave the game away and Duo smacked him playfully.
They sped along, eateries and roadside stands offering lobster, further whetting Quatre's appetite. He could not wait to tuck into a lovely one to two pound broiled lobster.
There was a long stretch of road where nothing much was visible except for signs advertising a railway museum, a campground and some sort of book barn, which Heero craned his neck to see as they whizzed by. He made note of the address, thinking it would be useful later when he was looking for an activity to do.
"Hey!" Duo exclaimed, "that's it-the sign says Boothbay Harbor, great!" They were nearly there and Duo's excitement increased tenfold. As they traveled along, visible were nice, neat homes with blossoms in the front yard: azaleas, impatiens, red, pink and yellow rose bushes, violets and bearded irises. They approached a small strip mall that had a CVS and a movie theater. "Let's stop here," suggested Quatre. "I need some sunscreen."
"Yeah," Duo agreed. "I could use a few things too."
Back in the car Heero eyed Duo's purchases dubiously. "I understand the sunscreen and the shaving cream-but what are the rubber whale, lobster and crab for?"
Duo shushed him, whispering, "Quat's so hot about having lobster, I thought I'd have a little fun with him, yeah?"
Heero rolled his eyes and returned his attention to the window, a small grin leaving a brief trace on his face.
The town of Boothbay Harbor was quaint, to say the least. As they wended their way around town Heero noted the curious mix between old Victorian era homes and structures amid newer contemporary storefronts. Their path led them through town in a gentle spiral and Quatre noted many intriguing little shops and restaurants. Trowa rolled his window all they way down and inhaled deeply. Brine scented air awoke his senses and he smiled, feeling relaxed already. He thought he was going to enjoy this break.
At a stop sign Trowa slowed. "According to our amended directions," Duo shot him a glare hoping that the back of his head suddenly felt hot, "it's this right turn."
They pulled onto a long narrow road and passed a garden center, and some clapboard cottages, all decorated with annuals, perennials and what could only be described as beach comber-chic: rustic-looking anchors, colorful painted buoys, nets with shells strewn across them and of course, decorative lobster traps. Duo suspected that only the summer homes sported such decor-surely the locals were more subtle.
The road wound around the inlet and led them past a sign that advertised an aquarium and passed a small marina. Having grown up in L2 Duo was always amazed by the sight of so much water. He lowered his window all the way to take a deep breath and inhale the salty air. Exhaling he smiled; like Trowa he already felt relaxed and the day was a glorious one: sky the color of washed sapphire and puffy, cotton-like clouds, the horizon meeting the water and land as only earth could. In this instance it seemed ludicrous that man had wanted to reach out and colonize space.
They came to a slow stop. "Oh! look!" Quatre exclaimed. They watched as a green painted bridge began to rotate away from the main road. It stopped after a moment and a flashing stop light halted traffic. There were four or five cars in either direction, including Heero's. After about a minute the bridge began to move until it slid smoothly back into place, reconnecting the road. "What the hell was that?" asked Duo.
"It's called a swing bridge-whenever a boat needs to pass the bridge swings aside to allow the craft passage," Heero answered, sounding a bit like a tour guide. Duo grinned. "Cool. More research, Yuy?"
"I like to be prepared-unlike some people."
Duo ignored the jab. "I like surprises-don't need to know everything about a place, I like to discover things."
They drove past an inlet, landscape rising and falling irregularly with pines scattered everywhere and around a bend where they turned left onto a large parking lot. A weathered sign read: Puffin Inn. "We're here," Trowa declared unnecessarily.
They drove up to the main office and Trowa shut off the car's ignition. Quatre looked around. "Quaint, and rustic, hmm?" What he thought to himself was that the place seemed rather pedestrian, not at all like the luxurious accommodations he was used to, like in Island New York.
Trowa stretched his long, lean legs once he climbed out of the driver's seat. It had been a helluva long ride, particularly cramped in Heero's compact, and while he was used to traveling with the circus on occasion, this kind of driving proved more tiring.
Duo and Heero went inside the motel office to see about their reservations. It only took a few moments and both young men emerged with keys, honest to goodness keys to their respective rooms.
Heero handed Quatre a key who in turn examined it for the relic it was.
"Talk about rustic," Trowa muttered beside him. Duo chuckled and waved a hand clutching several brochures. Evidently the braided boy was interested in seeing many of the local attractions. "Let's get to our rooms-I'm dying for a dip in that pool," Duo indicated the large pool only a few feet away. The day was warm and pleasant but the other three young men were not convinced that it was hot enough for the pool.
"Ow! Son of a bitch," Duo exclaimed in angry surprise as he came out of the bathroom, rubbing his backside. It had been a long ride and he had had to go to the bathroom. When he tried to get up from the toilet the seat, which he now knew had a crack in it, pinched his ass cheek. It actually left a small, bloody welt on his pale skin. He marched over to the motel front desk and told the manager about it, and despite assurances that the seat would be replaced he was still pissed off. Probably because the manager had not offered an apology, definitely because Heero had thought it damn funny.
Which is why Duo found himself floating in the pool which had been frigid at first, alone.
After Duo had had enough of the water he stretched out on a chaise lounge and enjoyed dozing in the warm, late afternoon sun.
A shadow appeared over him and his eyes reluctantly opened. "Oh, hey Quat, what's up?"
"We thought we would try that lobster place just down the road for supper. It's one of the few spots that stays open past nine o'clock. How does that sound to you?"
"Okay, I guess. What time are you thinking?"
Quatre glanced at his wristwatch. "It is nearly seven now and the manager at the front desk said reservations are not necessary, so how about eight?"
"Sure. I'll be ready."
"Good." Quatre rose to leave. As he exited the pool area he said over his shoulder, "we can get a pillow for you to sit on, if you like."
"Son of a bitch!"
3) Vacation Begins
Dinner at the nearby lobster place was quite good and the four young men shared a couple of pitchers of beer, good conversation and a feeling of contentment. But this was a town on the Maine coast and by ten thirty everyone was sleepy from the alcohol and long drive and eager to get a good night's rest.
Quatre was sitting outside on the balcony of the room he and Trowa shared. Being colony born and raised he had a habit of looking up at the stars whenever he was earthside. He wasn't homesick, exactly; he was just looking toward L4, as if to bid the colony goodnight. The sound of the screen door sticking in the track attracted his attention. He chuckled to himself; the room was adequate, if not old fashioned with its frayed floral bedspreads and clichéd lighthouse paintings. He did not mind, really. "Hi Trowa," he said amiably, shooting a friendly glance in the taller man's direction. Trowa held two glasses, one of which he offered Quatre.
"Merlot? Thank you, Trowa," he said taking a sip. "Mmm, it's very good."
"Looking at L4?"
Trowa knew him well. He smiled. "Old habits die hard. Look at the sky-you never see colors like this on a colony."
Trowa raised his eyes to look: the sky was a deep navy color. The stars glittered like jewels overhead and the water below was dark and whispered its secrets against the rocks on the shore.
He took a drink from his own glass and pulled over a chair to sit near Quatre. It was quite cool out on the balcony and they sat together for some time, enjoying each other's presence and the fact that they could just be, quietly, peacefully.
Trowa could have opted to book his own room, but it was fun to share, fun to share with Quatre. They had formed a close bond during the wars and Trowa had always respected Quatre's ability to strategize, his calm, logical way of doing things.
And there was their shared love of classical music.
Quatre was kind, patient, intelligent and refined, but not stuffy. He couldn't be-not and remain Duo's best friend.
Trowa idly wondered how Quatre would classify their friendship. He knew how he would like the blond Arab to think of him, but his fantasies remained that; he would not weigh them against reality and risk losing the friendship he valued most.
Quatre caught his eye and smiled. "Thanks for the wine. I think I'll go to bed now-I was tired before, but the wine pushed me over," he chuckled lightly.
"Goodnight, Quatre," Trowa said, as he watched him, longing unseen by Quatre, in his green eyes.
"There is absolutely nothing worth watching on this whaddayacallit again?"
"Television," Heero said without looking up from his novel. Duo frowned at the television set as he fiddled with his fake lobster, Larry. He had plans for him. "I don't get how in this day and age they don't have vidscreens here. It's positively, archaic!"
"You picked this place," Heero pointed out.
"Well, yeah, but-how was I to know?"
"A little thing called research, Duo. Ah," Heero had a glint in his eyes-either he was being playful or he was planning mass destruction, "but you like to be surprised. How's your ass, by the way?"
The resultant glare Duo sent his way was reminiscent of Heero's wartime persona. But as in the war, like Duo, Heero remained unimpressed.
"Ya know," Duo said with an air of petulance, "that really hurt and it was a crappy way to start of my vacation."
Duo responded to Heero's raucous laughter with a well-launched pillow.
Several minutes later, feathers swirling around the room, Duo pointed an accusing finger at his partner. "The maid is going to looove you!"
"I did not start it."
"I beg to differ."
Heero resolved to leave the maid a generous tip before they left.
Heero started to become conscious but his inner clock told him it was still far too early to be awake, particularly on vacation. He rolled over and punched his pillow when he noticed the blue glow from the TV set. Duo was sitting in front of it watching some program while tying the laces on his sneakers. Heero heard a "moo", shook his head, turned over and went back to sleep.
The sun had not yet completely risen and Duo made his way down the steps at the end of the motel units where the four were staying, which led to a small dock. He remembered reading, when he booked the place that there was a small dock for fishing or launching small craft.
It was nearly six a.m. and no one else was about as Duo made his way to the bottom of the ramp leading to the dock. There were two sets of benches bolted on either side of the dock, which bobbed slowly on the water. Duo went right to the edge and sat down. The view was breathtaking: water a deep blue/green, colorful buoys riding the gentle waves, and several small islands dotted with pine trees in the distance. The gold of the sun glinted off the surface of the water as it ascended slowly.
It was practically a religious experience, sitting there like that. Duo said a short prayer, honoring his beloved dead and thanking his maker for his good fortune and praying for his new friends who were more like family.
He sighed contentedly as he breathed the air and pulled out his digital player. Serene tones surrounded his ears and he thought nothing could be more perfect.
Duo had nearly dozed off when he heard the gull's cry. The sun was high in the sky now and there were a few boats skimming the water. He watched one nearby boat raptly as a man dressed in yellow rubber overalls tipped a cage over the side of the stern. The cage hit the water with a slight splash and sank. He noticed the red and yellow buoy that bobbed over the spot the cage sank down into. Lobster trap, he mused, recalling a paragraph in one of his brochures. The man looked his way and gave a friendly wave. Duo smiled and waved back. Then he lowered himself onto his back and relaxed to the musical combination of water, wind and the cries of the gulls, interrupted occasionally by the chug of a boat.
Duo's eyes snapped open and he looked up to see three young men hovering over him. Remembering that he was on vacation he tamped down his initial reaction, which would have been to take the three guys out. But he was on vacation. And one did not attack one's friends. "Hey guys."
Quatre looked around, appreciating the beauty of the area. "Have you been here all morning Duo?"
"Yeah-I woke up at five and I couldn't sleep so," he shrugged, "I decided to sit on the dock. What time is it now?"
"Almost ten a.m.," Trowa supplied helpfully.
Heero stared at Duo with an odd look in his eyes. "What were you watching this morning? I dreamt I was in a field somewhere with cattle." Heero ignored the overly amused looks Trowa and Quatre exchanged. Duo yawned hugely and patted his stomach. "I was watching the farm report."
"The what?" said Trowa, not trying very hard to contain his laughter.
"That's all that was on at that hour. On the television," Duo said, as if it was an affront to humanity to not have a vidscreen in the room.
Quatre smiled brightly. "Never mind, Duo. We're on vacation-we didn't come here to watch vids anyway, right?"
"I'm starving," Duo replied wanting to change the subject.
Heero was staring out across the water. Duo had gotten one thing absolutely right: this was a beautiful place. "The coffee shop at the top of the hill only sells coffee, little boxes of cereal and plastic wrapped bagels."
"Nuh-uh, I want a real breakfast. Let's go into town."
Everyone agreed with Duo and they piled into Heero's car.
The four young men had a delicious meal consisting of blueberry pancakes (both Duo and Quatre had been fascinated by the tiny pearl-like blueberries named for the State), eggs, bacon, stuffed French toast, hash browns and gallons of hot, strong coffee. Fortified with a hearty breakfast they set about looking around town.
"What do you want to do today, Duo," Heero heard Quatre ask. Duo pointed toward the marina in front of them. Cap'n Fish's Maine Coast tours was the third spot along the pier. "I want to go on a whale watch."
Three hours later the boys exited the tour boat. The ride had been fun and exhilarating, but the only part of a whale they got to see was the waterspout. And no one told them that it would be so cold on the water. It was the end of July! Fortunately the boat was stocked with blankets, itchy, woolen blankets, but at least they were warm.
Quatre surprised everyone by getting slightly seasick.
"But you were a pilot, Quat," Duo said, incredulously. A warning look from Trowa curtailed any further commentary.
The boat tour took up a significant portion of the afternoon, so the four men wandered around town. The highlight for Heero was a used bookstore in a building that looked like it had once been a town hall. There were old books-some of which had been out of print for decades. Heero was thrilled to acquire a copy of a Stephen King book called Thinner when he wrote under the nom de plume of Richard Bachman. He found it on the porch of the building and all he had to do was place a credit in a slot.
The four young men climbed a steep sidewalk on their way back to Heero's car when Duo stopped and gestured exuberantly. "Look guys! A popcorn store." He peered in the storefront window and read a sign above a long, polished counter. There were all kinds of exotic flavors: Piña Colada, cotton candy, three berry mix and something that sounded divine, Kennebunkport Mud. There was even lobster-flavored popcorn. "Oh, I have to go in," Duo said pushing open the door.
Duo closed his eyes in bliss. "Mmm, taste this one Heero."
Heero looked at the proffered popcorn dubiously. "What flavor is this one?" He had not liked the sweet flavors that he sampled at the popcorn store, and the lobster was just plain weird. He purchased a small bag of the plain, ordinary cheddar, which Duo scoffed at, but he found to be tasty.
"This is Kahlua-flavored-try it, it's good." The Kennebunkport mix had Kahlua, peanut butter, caramel and chocolate popcorn.
Heero took a handful. It was sweet, but had the flavor of actual Kahlua. Not bad.
Duo munched noisily. "Ya know-I'm gonna buy one of those big cans, before we leave, one with this," he brandished the baggie full of Kennebunkport Mud, "and the cinnamon, and the piña colada, mmmm."
Heero could not help but stare as Duo closed his eyes again. The braided young man looked so young and carefree and sensual? while he enjoyed his popcorn.
When Duo's eyes opened again he found himself looking into Heero's deep blue eyes and he smiled.
All of a sudden there was a shout from the room next door accompanied by muffled laughter. Seconds later; pounding at their door.
Heero shot Duo a look as he opened it on a flustered looking Quatre who was wearing a very fuzzy blue bathrobe.
"What did he do this time?" Heero asked stoically. Duo had already begun to prank Quatre mercilessly with his props and for some reason Quatre did not find it amusing when on their trip to the aquarium, Duo convinced him that he'd accidentally handled a crab too vigorously and needed to resusitate it by massaging its claws. Quatre went crimson with embarassment when he found out that it wasn't a real crab he was massaging.
Quatre moved further into the room with Trowa trailing behind, trying to hold in a guffaw.
"Imagine my surprise," Quatre began, "when I opened the freezer door to my refrigerator, after reading a note that said, 'brrr, help me, help me,' to find a rubber lobster in it-the same lobster, no doubt, that had been substituted for my dinner last night at the restaurant!"
"Larry!" Duo exclaimed. "Thanks for finding him, Quat. You should know better than to put a lobster in the freezer, though. Gets damn cold in there."
Quatre smirked and threw "Larry" the lobster at Duo. "Keep that, that, thing away from me from now on, Maxwell!" Quatre turned on his heel and left.
Trowa looked at Duo, smiling broadly. "He doesn't like that rubber thing, Duo, he thinks it's obscene."
Duo was giggling madly at this point and Heero, while he found it highly amusing did not want to encourage him.
After Trowa left Duo turned to Heero. "Obscene, huh? That gives me an idea."
"Trowa will boil you like that lobster, Duo."
"Yeah-he gets all protective of Blondie, doesn't he? Ah-bah. We're on vacation and that means fun and games."
Heero considered that statement. Perhaps that was true enough, but he thought that maybe Duo could have a little less, fun.
When the four young men met for dinner later that evening they ventured into the town and found a lovely restaurant in a white clapboard Victorian house. The top floor sported turret-like towers with large windows that looked out onto the street, an enticing view filled with flowering trees and bushes.
Inside the decor was consistent with the architecture and the four found themselves comfortably seated in an elegant dining room gorging themselves on filet mignon, potatoes, green beans, hot buttered rolls which Quatre proclaimed delectable and a very good chablis.
Afterward, they walked into town and found a lively bar. They played a few rounds of pool, attracting spectators as the former Gundam pilots showed off their coordination and accuracy in making their shots. Three games ended slightly in Heero and Duo's favor, but Quatre and Trowa rallied and won the four subsequent games, all while indulging in friendly rivalry and competition.
Duo was playing darts when Heero handed him a bottle of stout. Duo grinned broadly. "Thanks, buddy." Stout ale was rare in Brussels and impossible to come by in the colonies, and Duo appreciated the bottle Heero gave him. He took a long pull on the bottle and licked his lips. "Yum-it's really too bad we can't get this in space, huh?"
"Hm. The weightlessness during transport does something to it-I had some before it stopped being exported, I believe the term was, skunky."
"Yeah? Oh well, guess I'll just enjoy it while we're here. Hey-where are Trow and Quat?"
"You didn't have to come out here with me if you were enjoying the atmosphere, Trowa. I think Duo may have wanted to get a dart game going."
Trowa shrugged. "We can do that tomorrow. We have lots of time. I wanted some air too. After all these years bars still allow cigarettes," he said, shaking his head. His sister Catherine had had a cancer scare last year and that was what finally made her quit smoking. Trowa was no fan of tobacco.
Quatre touched his arm lightly. "How is Cathy?" he asked, his empathy guiding him.
"She's doing well. Still has a hard time with the cravings, particularly since so many circus folk smoke. She's hanging in there. When she first quit it was hell on the guy who helped her with her knife throwing act."
Quatre chuckled. "Good. I'm sure she appreciates your support."
Trowa turned to face Quatre fully. The shorter man looked into his eyes, smiling. Quatre always seemed to know when he was feeling...feelings. And he lent his own brand of support, strong, quiet, definitely there; Trowa never doubted his friendship.
He appreciated Quatre's sensitivity, but at the moment he just wanted to enjoy things: the cool brine-scented evening breeze, the star-filled night, the sounds of the water lapping against the dock in the distance, and the presence of his first true and now, best, friend.
Quatre watched him watching the night. Trowa's green eyes had always fascinated him; his jade eyes were the first such color he'd ever seen. Other things about the quiet man fascinated him: his dry wit, his immutable unflappability, his inner strength in adversity had impressed Quatre early on in their friendship.
There were other things he felt, things that he feared might jeopardize their friendship, should he be careless enough to let his guard down, to show his true feelings. He bit his lip in frustration.
"Quatre? You okay?"
He smiled again. Trowa was always worrying about him like he was fragile or something. Some might interpret that as a suggestion of weakness, but Quatre knew that Trowa's concern was not meant to demean him.
"I'm fine. Just thinking too much, I guess. Duo said that we are here for vacation-fun and games, and I forgot that for a moment."
"I'm sure your sisters are home handling things at WEI just fine," Trowa said, misunderstanding.
"Why don't we go back in and see what Heero and Duo are up to," Quatre said, willing to let Trowa misunderstand his consternation.
"No, not just yet. It's a lovely evening, don't you think?"
Quatre watched the moonlit landscape across the water, deep in thought. He was having a wonderful evening with all the guys, but there was no denying in his heart that most of his enjoyment came from being with Trowa.
Since they first met, standing on the arms of their Gundams, Quatre's fondness for the ex-pilot of Heavy Arms grew exponentially.
But Quatre was confused and unsure. His heart was insistent that his feelings for Trowa had become romantic, but his head argued that it was one-sided and he did not want to risk what was essentially the most meaningful friendship he had ever had.
It wasn't exactly comforting to know that in a family that consisted of a virtual horde of females, he was the only male heir, gay and Muslim. Being gay was one secret he'd learned to keep. His family might understand, but he was also in charge of their corporation and he needed to be respected, something that was not always a given regarding homosexuality even in this century.
One thing that war had taught Quatre was that with an uncertain future one had to be true to oneself.
Sometimes he still felt that uncertainty, even with the wars over and the new peace beginning to grab hold of earth and colony alike.
There had been no more threats to his person since he'd had to fake his own death, but he was well aware of the tightrope each and every person walked. Maybe one could survive a war or even two, but you could still step off of a curb somewhere and be killed by a bus. Or you could fall in your bathtub and break your neck.
"Now what has you frowning," asked Trowa, concern tingeing his voice.
Quatre looked up at him and grinned. "Sorry. I was wool-gathering. Trowa, do you believe in fate?"
"You mean, like things in your life that are preordained?"
"Yeah-things that are meant to be."
Trowa considered the notion for a long moment. The water slapping the pier was the loudest noise around them.
"No," he said slowly, as if he were measuring every word, "I believe we make our own destinies. We make our way in life picking and choosing what befalls us. Own it, and no regrets."
He glanced sidelong at Quatre, really loving the way he kind of glowed in the low lamp light. "Yes."
"So-if I want something, I should not wait to see if it is meant to be? I should reach out for it?"
"With both hands," Trowa nodded in agreement.
Quatre looked at him, something behind his gaze calculating. "With both hands," he repeated, low and intense. And then he grabbed Trowa by the shoulders, leaned in toward his lips and gave him the best kiss he knew how.
To say that Trowa was shocked was an understatement. Quatre's mouth on his, hungry and insistent was surreal and he was definitely having a "this is a dream, cannot be real" moment.
But just before the seconds ticked over into, Trowa's not responding, I'd better stop, the taller man got with the program and opened his mouth letting Quatre's tongue play tag with his. "Mmm," he murmured, leaning in closer to the smaller man.
Suddenly Quatre pulled away, coming back to himself, realizing with horror that he'd just made a pass at his best friend. "T-T-Trowa," he stammered, "I'm s-"
"Don't," Trowa said softly, looking him in the eyes. "Quatre, don't you dare apologize. We both wanted that, right?"
Quatre's eyes widened a little. "I-I never thought that you would feel..."
"I do," the green eyed young man cut in. "I do."
Quatre smiled then, a mix of relief and happiness. "Me too," he said. "For a long time."
Trowa nodded. They had both shared the same feelings but had been frightened to act upon them. Now the truth was out and the question remained, what were they going to do about it?
Duo scooped up the darts they were playing with. At some point competing against Heero became boring as their games kept ending in ties. Eventually they found two willing tourists and had a few games. Their opponents stacked up against the two ex-pilots admirably, but in the end the scores favored Heero and Duo three games to two.
The losers bought the winners a round of drinks: a nice lager for Heero and a whiskey for Duo.
They made brief but polite conversation with the two young men and discovered that there was a local boating tour that would take them around the surrounding coast where there were puffins and seals to be seen. After they parted company Duo told Heero he wanted to find out about the tour.
"Hn. What is it with you and these nature tours, Duo?"
"I like animals," he shrugged. "Besides, poor kids like me never got to visit the zoo on L2 and even if I had, you know there are no ocean creatures in space."
Indeed, the brilliant minds who devised a way to colonize space had not been able to figure out how to sustain ocean life forms, which was why imported seafood was insanely expensive. Duo's first tuna fish sandwich was had on Earth.
Duo downed the remainder of the beer he ordered as a chaser to the whiskey. "I wonder what Quat and Trowa are up to-haven't seen them for nearly forty minutes. Maybe we better look..."
"Hi guys," Quatre said as he and Trowa approached the bar.
Duo gave them a quick once-over. Hmm. Quatre looked a little flushed and Trowa's unibang seemed, mussed. Duo smiled to himself, suspicions confirmed, mostly.
"Are you guys ready to go back to the hotel? I wouldn't mind getting some sleep."
Quatre smiled. "That sounds like a good idea. Let's go."
The following day Duo lounged poolside, dozing off occasionally. He had lain awake most of the night listening to the room next door. Perhaps the next time the four young men decided to vacation together they would book rooms farther apart to spare Duo's keen hearing from the moans and rustling sounds of two people obviously getting it on. He did not understand how Heero had slept through it, especially when Trowa shouted Quatre's name quite audibly around one a.m. Heero's hair trigger responses were evidently on vacation as well.
The sky was a bright, clear cornflower blue, no clouds in sight. Duo yawned and settled in more comfortably on the cushioned chaise lounger. He felt rested and wonderfully comfortable, despite the lack of sleep. Lying out in the sun with the soft breeze caressing his skin he felt weightless, almost like he was in zero g, but with no movement.
While Duo lay out by the pool Quatre and Trowa had gotten up late and walked to a nearby coffee shop for breakfast.
Heero had long departed, waking at seven a.m. He decided to walk around the area and see what there was to see.
Later he found a delicatessen and purchased hero sandwiches for all four of them.
At about twelve thirty the four friends ate their lunch on the little dock Duo had become enamored of before parting ways again. Heero went for a run, Duo returned to the pool side and what Quatre and Trowa did remained a mystery, though Duo suspected that their room and its comfortable queen-sized bed came into play.
Prior to his run Heero discovered Duo by the pool; he had taken a few moments to observe him while he was dozing. Duo was stretched out, long lean frame taking up every inch of the lounger. He already had a bit of color. Heero warned him to use plenty of sunscreen on his fair spacer skin.
Heero watched him for a few minutes and held in a breath when Duo turned over to get some sun on his back.
His muscles were not as sharply defined as Heero's but there was no denying that the braided man was a handsome specimen.
Heero forced his gaze away before it became obvious that he'd been ogling his friend's ass. After the erotic sounds coming from Quatre and Trowa's room the previous evening, the combination of his friends' activities coupled with the enticing visage Duo presented was too much, so Heero opted to do a little running, counting on the physical exertion to settle him.
Evening came with the usual drop in temperature for Maine and the four young men found themselves at yet another seafood restaurant. It was as if Quatre was determined to try every single eatery that served lobster on their vacation.
Heero had a broiled trout dish, declining anything richer than a little salt and pepper on it with steamed vegetables. He wondered if Quatre would survive their trip without having a stroke from all the rich food he was eating.
Duo and Trowa were having the same chicken dish, something savory with olives.
When the meal was over Duo sighed and rubbed his stomach. "Mmm, that was delicious."
The other three knew how much Duo appreciated food. Having lived in poverty on L2 the ex-pilot of Deathscythe Hell would pretty much eat anything, but if the food was really good it was like a religious experience for him.
Back on the main drag they found a quaint ice cream parlor. Duo had to try the triple fudge ripple waffle cone. It was so large and generously slathered with hot fudge and crushed peanuts and whipped cream that Duo needed a spoon to eat it. The other men tried a little bit of Duo's ice cream, but were too full to have some of their own.
"You must have a hollow leg, Duo," Trowa observed.
As the evening wore on clouds gathered limned by moonlight. The temperature dropped at least ten degrees and the wind picked up significantly.
"I cannot get over how cool it is in this part of the east coast in the height of summer. I was surprised to find that our rooms had heaters but no air conditioners. Now I know why," Quatre said.
Duo's eyebrows arched giving him a decidedly impish appearance. "Were you cold last night, Quat? I wouldn't have thought so, not with Trowa there to warm you up."
Quatre turned scarlet.
Trowa rolled his eyes. "Duo," he said warning his friend, "don't."
"Don't what, Trow?" Duo said innocently.
Trowa just huffed, feeling a little embarrassed. "Just don't, okay."
"Aw, c'mon guys. It's ok, isn't it Heero?"
Heero looked up at them having been staring out at the water. "Hn." Heero was in fact fine with the new relationship status of his friends, but their embarrassment embarrassed him.
He should say something more encouraging; the glare he received from Duo told him so. He cleared his throat. "It, it's none of our business, but there is nothing wrong with," words failed him and he made a vague hand gesture, "your relationship-whatever it may be."
Duo laughed brightly. "See? We're happy for you two, really."
Quatre smiled timidly. At least he was a normal color again. "Thanks guys. Uh-could we just not talk about it and do something befitting our vacation?"
Everyone agreed and began walking.
Trowa was confused and a little upset. With their relationship out in the open why was Quatre acting so embarrassed?
They found a bar that had a local band playing. The music wasn't bad, it was techno and Duo liked it for dancing. He managed to entice a cute couple of girls onto the dance floor.
Heero drank slowly, watching Duo as he whirled and gyrated. Duo was graceful and bouncy, the girls he danced with were giggling and trying to get closer to him as he danced.
Heero wished that he had the courage to approach Duo and relate his feelings to him. Quatre and Trowa had gotten closer to each other during this trip-he wished he could do the same with Duo but he had trouble showing his feelings. He also did not know whether or not Duo would or could be attracted to him. As he watched Duo flirt with the girls, which now included two more, he felt wholly inadequate. I'm not what Duo wants or needs, he thought ruefully.
Trowa carried two drinks from the bar. He set them down on the table the four shared and looked out at the dance floor. "Duo is sure having a good time."
Quatre looked and smiled. "He loves to dance. So do I," he said wistfully.
Trowa recognized his opportunity. "Come on Quatre-let's dance."
Quatre turned to face Trowa and was taken aback by the earnest look on his face. "Oh-you were serious. Um, I-thanks, Trowa, but I don't think so."
"Why not?" Trowa did not understand his reluctance; there were a few same sex couples on the dance floor.
"I don't know, I just don't feel like it."
Trowa scowled at him. Suddenly it was very clear. "You are ashamed of me in public."
Before Quatre could formulate a reply the lanky man slid out of the booth and walked away.
Quatre was aghast. "No! Trowa-wait!"
Trowa was swift and disappeared before Quatre could get to his feet. He stared after him, woe writ on his face.
Duo came over and grabbed his beer. "What's going on?"
"This is not what I wanted," Quatre said, dejected.
"You better go after him, 04," Heero said.
Quatre nodded realizing he was right and made his way out of the bar.
Duo looked at Heero. "What the hell was that about?"
While Heero filled Duo in, Quatre searched the streets frantically. Finally he saw a lone figure silhouetted by a small cluster of trees in a playground.
Trowa was sitting on a park bench, hunched over.
"There you are," Quatre said trying for a light tone. He sat at the other end of the bench. "Why did you run off like that?"
For a long moment Trowa did not say anything. He stared at the grass at his feet. "Did I ever tell you about how I was raised?"
"I was raised by a group of mercenaries. They were a brutal group of guys and sometimes they beat and abused me, but they did look after me-and eventually I wound up with Professor S."
Quatre watched him as he spoke. Trowa was still bent forward. "I was a kid, so I never really mattered much. Sometimes they called me Nanashi."
Quatre sighed. Nanashi-noone.
"For a long time I thought that about myself, that I was no one, I didn't count. And then you came along, and the rest of the guys. All of a sudden I was part of this big, important thing. I was a part of something, I contributed. You guys needed me. I thought you needed me, Quatre."
Now it was Quatre who hung his head. "Oh, Allah. I am so sorry, Trowa."
"It's okay. Better that I find out now."
Quatre frowned, lifted his head, confused. Now what was he thinking? So much misunderstanding.
"Find out what, Trowa?"
Quatre could barely hear the muffled reply. "I'm sorry-can you repeat that? I didn't quite hear it."
Trowa straightened up at last, sighing deeply. He still would not make eye contact with Quatre, though. "I said that it's for the best that I find out this was just a vacation fling. I guess it was stupid of me to hope for more, to think you could ever feel for me what I feel for you."
Quatre was shocked. "But what about the other night-what we said to each other; we made love, Trowa."
"And tonight you made it clear that you did not want to talk about us with Heero and Duo, and you wouldn't dance with me."
Quatre rubbed his forehead wearily. "Oh, my love-I just did not want to share with Heero and Duo at the time, it doesn't mean I am ashamed of you, of us. You know how Duo is, I just did not want him to tease us. This, you and me-it's still so new. I can't be blamed for wanting to be private about it, can I?"
"I suppose not, but..."
"But it was insensitive of me to not realize how much you need affirmation from me. Trowa Barton, you are not Nanashi. You are my lover. I am proud of you, of us."
"And what about your family? What will they say-or do you plan on not talking about us with them as well?"
Quatre slid closer to Trowa. He looked him in the eyes and said, "my family will come to terms with us. I don't think they will be problematic, but I don't care if they are. You are the one, Trowa." It astonished him and broke his heart to see the true extent of Trowa's insecurities. He would change that; he must.
He leaned into Trowa's personal space and kissed him. "You know, the word "love" is in lover. I love you, Trowa."
Trowa smiled. He still had a niggling fear that Quatre's words could not stand up to reality, but he had to have faith in his lover.
Otherwise what did they really have together?
"I love you too."
When Quatre and Trowa returned to the bar to tell Heero and Duo that they would grab a cab back to the hotel they had their arms entwined around each other.
Duo grinned and told them to be quieter tonight which made the color flare in both Quatre and Trowa's cheeks.
"Why do you have to tease them like that?" Heero wanted to know.
Duo shrugged and stretched, his shirt riding up enough to show his navel. "If I razz them about being together that's my way of letting them know I'm cool with it, that's all. Sometimes when you treat people differently because of a situation, they get upset, they think that something is wrong. Teasing is my way of letting you know nothing is wrong."
Heero was sure that that made sense in some alternate universe. Rather than have Duo expound more on his theories of interpersonal relationships Heero asked, "Would you like another drink?" He hoped Duo would say yes because he did not want to sit around watching him dance with girls all night.
"Nah. Let's take a walk."
There were so many piers crossing one end of the bay to the other that they had their pick and they chose the one at the far end of the strip; it was dark and isolated, private.
Duo leaned over the weathered railing and peered down at the water. It was as dark as ink, illuminated by the moon now that the clouds from earlier had dissipated.
He breathed in deep, filling his lungs with sea air. Turning to Heero he said, "what's on the agenda for tomorrow?"
"I thought I would visit a bookstore we passed on the way in to town."
"Yeah? Aren't there bookstores in town?"
"Hai. But this one is different-it's in a barn."
Duo laughed. "Looking for a rustic experience, are you?"
Heero nodded and smiled. "What are you going to do-more animal tours?"
Duo's expression turned thoughtful. "There's a hobby show in the local high school. I thought I'd take a look."
Heero was surprised by this. He did not know that Duo was interested in such things. "Hobby show? What kind of hobby?"
Even in the moonlight Heero could detect Duo's blush.
"I, uh-I collect miniatures."
"Really?" Heero had not meant his voice to squeak.
Duo shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. "Yes, really." He wished that Heero would change the subject. He felt very self-conscious about his interest; he never mentioned it to anyone-except Hilde.
But Heero's curiosity was piqued. "Tell me about it," he urged.
"I don't know Heero, you'll probably think it's stupid."
"No, I, I'm just interested. Tell me, please?" He left out the part where he found Duo fascinating, not just him but the things he did.
Duo looked unsure but he began to speak. "I like to collect twelfth scale miniatures. Furniture, houses, little replicas of things."
"Yeah, that means one inch equals twelve."
"Ah. And you collect these things?"
"Well, yeah. It's interesting. It started way back in the BC era with doll houses for little girls. But craftsmen who created real-life items: furniture, appliances, like that, they used to create these tiny models to show customers. Salesmen went door to door in those days and you can well imagine how impractical it would be to lug around a full-sized washing machine, ne?"
"Aa." Heero nodded, understanding.
"Yeah," Duo continued, "it kind of caught on and people began collecting and crafting these small replicas for doll's houses and room boxes. Some of the craftsmanship is outstanding. I once met a lady at a miniature show who knitted tiny sweaters with sharpened piano wire."
Heero's eyebrows rose at that. "Sounds fanatical."
Duo laughed. "It can be an obsession. I like being able to create my own world, ya know?"
"And have you? Created your own world, I mean?"
Heero wondered at that. After a moment he said, "I think it is constructive to have a hobby as long as it provides satisfaction, fulfills a need."
Duo turned to him, eyes wide and vulnerable. "Yeah?"
Suddenly Heero's breath caught in his throat. Duo was absolutely sublime in moonlight, staring up at him with hope in his eyes, hope of acceptance, and something else.
Duo was glad that Heero did not make fun of him because of his hobby; in fact he seemed interested. And now he was looking at Duo with an expression he had never seen on the perfect soldier before. The intensity of Heero's gaze was making him weak in the knees. Even in the dark Heero's blue eyes glittered, beautiful and somber at the same time.
Duo looked away, self-conscious all of a sudden. He felt the need to talk, something he did when he was nervous. "So-Quatre and Trowa, huh? I'm glad they finally stopped dancing around each other and got together."
"Did you know?"
"I guessed. Blondie always seemed to light up whenever Tro was around, ya know? Anyway I'm happy for them."
Duo nodded. "Sure-why not? It's good they can find happiness with each other."
Heero considered this. "Being happy seems...elusive."
"Well, yeah, sometimes. You can be happy without romance, I suppose, but it's a helluva lot more fun sharing the things that make you happy with someone else."
"Hn." Heero thought about that. Perhaps happiness wasn't as elusive as he thought.
The morning came with a cooling rain. Heero had been restless part of the night, tossing and turning. He could not stop thinking about the conversation he and Duo had the previous evening.
Heero had come to the conclusion that he would like a little happiness himself. He watched Duo who was still sleeping with renewed determination.
Trowa's eyes opened and he was instantly awake and aware of three things: that it was very dim in the room and raining, and Quatre was in his arms.
He looked up at the ceiling, did not notice the mildew stain in the far corner and smiled. Here, in this second-rate hotel, Trowa had found his bliss.
He had been feeling sorry for himself and unworthy and rejected when Quatre seemed to be embarrassed about showing that they were together. He was rather shocked to find out that he wanted that from Quatre. Trowa was a bit mortified to realize that he was so needy, but then again it sort of made sense given his past and the relationships he had had.
But when Quatre said that he loved him Trowa's whole world changed. It was as if his whole world took on color where before it had been muted shades of gray.
However he managed to get the exquisite creature in his arms to love him, he would make certain to always be worthy of that love and return it in abundance.
Quatre shifted and smiled sleepily up at him. "Good morning, love."
"Um-do you think that you could relax a little and stop thinking so hard? I love you, and maybe its me who is unworthy of your affection."
Trowa swallowed hard. "You felt all that-while you were asleep?"
Quatre disentangled himself from Trowa's embrace and sat up against the headboard. "You are feeling things rather intensely, my darling. Let's agree that we are in love and are both worthy of each other, okay?"
"Okay," Trowa agreed smiling broadly. "Oh, and Quatre?"
"Um-don't call me darling."
Quatre arched an elegant eyebrow.
Trowa chuckled and shrugged. "Not in front of Duo at least?" he relented.
At breakfast the four friends lounged comfortably, drinking coffee.
"What are we doing today?" Quatre said looking around at everyone. No one said anything for a few moments and then Heero spoke up. "Why don't we each pick something and we'll all do each other's picks."
"Well, I'd like to visit the railway museum," Trowa said.
Quatre smiled at his lover. "That sounds interesting. I'd like to try a café the desk clerk told me about; it's supposed to have the best lobster in the area."
Duo rolled his eyes. "Quat, I hate to tell you, but you're beginning to look a little like a lobster yourself."
Quatre shrugged, completely unoffended. "What can I say? I really like lobster."
"I want to go to a bookstore just outside of town-it's in a barn." Heero said.
Now everyone was looking at Duo who was very interested in the contents of his coffee mug.
"What would you like to do, Duo?" Trowa asked.
"Nothing in particular," Duo hedged, but then he caught the look Heero gave him. That look said, go on, tell them, don't be afraid. "Actually guys, there is a hobby show at the local high school. I'd like to check it out."
"Hobby? What does that entail exactly?"
"Mostly miniatures and train stuff, Quat." Duo got very quiet.
"Is that a hobby for you, Duo?" Quatre seemed interested; it was better than him thinking Duo silly or childish.
"Yeah, it is. I collect miniature figures and objects. I have been working on a twelfth scale town."
"Really?" Trowa sounded surprised. "But isn't that like, dolls' house stuff?"
"The miniature collecting hobby boasts many adults-in fact it is an adult hobby with many talented artisans recreating all manner of objects: furniture, houses, food, figures," Heero informed them.
Duo looked around at him startled. He had only just clued Heero in about the hobby and he already knew all that?
Regarding Duo's wide-eyed look Heero added, "I read the show pamphlet."
"Well, that sounds interesting. When does it start?" Quatre asked.
They talked it over and decided to do the miniature show first, the railway museum second and finish up with the book barn before they went in search of yet another lobster dinner.
Duo showed his friends around the miniatures' vendor tables and was gratified by their enthusiastic and interested responses.
Quatre said he had not known that such a thing existed and bought several doll house for his nieces to be shipped in time for the holidays. He could not resist buying a perfect, albeit tiny replica of a lobster dinner on a tiny plate. He also bought a few more items that interested him along with something called a "shadow box" wherein he could display his miniscule purchases.
Trowa was fascinated by the model trains and wound up buying a train set with the additional pieces of circus cars that fit perfectly.
Heero just looked around. What interested him most was Duo. He walked about looking at things that interested him with a kind of boyish innocence that left him feeling wistful.
When Duo stopped at a booth that had many objects representative of Maine, Heero watched as Duo picked out miniature lobsters, buoys, other types of local marine life, tiny ice cream shoppe things and some miniature books. The eclectic selections aroused his curiosity. "What will you do with those," he wondered.
"Um-I am going to make a room box of our trip to Maine."
"Ah." Now the items he picked made sense. Except for the books. "What do the books represent?"
Duo smiled sheepishly. "We're going to your book barn later, so..."
"Do you always make a room box when you go on vacation?"
"I haven't been on many vacations but I have one for every good thing that has happened to me since after the wars and Mariemaia."
"You do? " Heero asked in amazement.
"Yep. Wanna see pictures?"
Heero nodded enthusiastically.
Duo pulled his wallet from his back pocket and slid a wafer thin vid clip from the inner folds. He pushed a button and a holographic photo was projected before them. In the clip Heero saw a room box with tiny people and balloons and a podium with what looked like a diminutive Relena Peacecraft standing on a podium delivering her now famous peace speech. Duo clicked again and now an image of their office at Preventer popped up, with a scale model of Heero at his desk typing at a wee laptop, and Duo sitting at his desk with his feet up and arms folded casually behind his head. There was even a small braid, just like his real one. That picture was titled FIRST DAY. The third clip showed a pair of miniature friends-Duo and Hilde at a wine shop looking at dozens of scale-sized wine bottles. Heero especially liked the little wooden barrels of wine. "That was your wine country vacation?"
"Duo, where did you find such amazing likenesses of us?"
By this time Quatre and Trowa had returned from their explorations and were looking at the holographs. "Wow," Trowa said lowly.
In answer to Heero's question Duo said, "I made them myself from a modeling compound called Fimo."
"That is truly impressive Duo."
Heero shook his head in amusement. Who knew that the so-called "braided menace" was a talented sculptor?
During the drive to the railway museum Duo reflected on his part of the day. Rather than tease him his friends enjoyed the activity and participated. That was one of the reasons he felt as if the other pilots were like family, actually better than family because even though they sometimes ribbed each other and teased, he knew sure as the sun rose above the earth that he could count on each of them; they had his back.
Heero surprised him by telling him that he was very talented and that pretty much had made Duo's day, hell his night and the rest of the millennium, too.
Duo had always looked up to Heero-that is after he shot him and after Heero stole parts from his Gundam. Although Heero's personality was somewhat abrasive and downright antisocial at times, the end of the wars and the pilots' admission to the peace-keeping force the Preventers changed the taciturn pilot. Being an agent for peace did a lot for Heero's self-esteem and helped him develop a far more amenable attitude and world view.
And the friendship that Duo had hoped for blossomed.
And unexpectedly, so did Duo's infatuation.
He was physically attracted, after all Heero was an attractive young man. But Duo's interest was deeper than lusting after Heero's trim but muscular physique, lustrous brown hair and piercing cerulean gaze.
Duo admired Heero's strength of character, his courage, his desire to do what was right, his resilience.
The train museum was interesting and fun and it gave Trowa a child-like thrill to ride on an honest to goodness steam engine, although Quatre found the whistle a little too shrill. Even more fascinating was the indoor displays of vintage cars and accoutrements. There was even a small scale model of an old local train station, much to Duo's delight. As did the odd collection in one of the out buildings of weird and decorative salt and pepper shakers. "Look at this one guys-it's a cow and a pig!"
"Duo-you really have to stop watching the farm report," Heero said, rolling his eyes.
The book barn that Heero wanted to go to proved interesting. Duo had rarely ever seen actual books: the kinds that were bound with paper and hard covers, or even well preserved paperbacks. E readers were used in this day and age. The barn had rows upon rows of shelves and bookcases crammed with all sorts of books and magazines neatly and well organized.
Quatre sneezed for what had to be the tenth time. He snorted nasally, "as much as I enjoy antiquities, aachoo! I think I'll take a walk around the...choo! Grounds."
Duo watched his friend's quickly retreating back. "What's wrong with him?"
"Quatre is allergic to something in this barn," Trowa said quietly. He swiped a finger along a shelf and grimaced a little at the dust that coated it. "I think I'll join Quatre on that walk."
"So it's a little musty," Duo said.
Heero came over to him with his arms full of books. Duo grinned as he noted the titles: most of the books Before Colony history. "A little light reading, buddy?"
Heero grinned in return. "This place is a treasure trove," he answered with no little excitement. Duo offered to carry some of the books as they headed toward the cash register.
Dinner that evening was spent over, you guessed it, another lobster dinner. The four vacationing young men were at ease and jovial, sharing a pitcher of creamy dark ale and reviewing the events of the day.
Much of the conversation centered upon Duo's hobby; a surprise discovery for all of them. They had many questions concerning construction, execution of dioramas and where Duo got his ideas from.
"I did not have anything, growing up on the streets like I did," he shrugged. "Professor G changed my life-the wars gave me a purpose, although at first it was revenge. I know now that hate doesn't do any good to anyone or anything."
Quatre nodded in agreement. "You are right, Duo."
Duo smiled. "Anyway, once we all got involved with Preventer and our lives stabilized I started thinking about how much better my life was. I saw an ad for these miniature houses-I remember thinking how one of them reminded me so much of Maxwell Church, so I ordered one."
Everyone at the table knew of the ill-fated church/orphanage that had given Duo temporary succor and a respectful silence took over the table.
Duo, sensing that the conversation had become too solemn gave a little laugh, "after I built my little church I started recreating other stuff-the good stuff, like Howard's ship, and the vineyard Hilde and I visited, like I showed you vid pics of. It's fun recreating those moments, ya know? Like a 3D snapshot. And it does take a certain amount of craftsmanship."
"You are very skilled," Heero agreed.
That made Duo blush and he was grateful for the darkened atmosphere of the restaurant.
"Where do you put them all," Trowa wanted to know.
Duo shrugged, "I've got them crowding my guest bedroom. On shelves. I have a work table for construction, but I'm running out of space. I kind of don't want my models taking over my apartment."
The restaurant, Love of Lobster, was situated at the end of one of the long piers in town. Quatre and Trowa decided to take another "walk" to enjoy the romantic evening.
Duo and Heero strolled along the pier until they reached a quiet spot, just like the previous evening. The moon was full and Duo had his head tilted back to see it. "I'll never get tired of seeing the moon from earth."
Heero was staring at Duo, at the way the moonlight gave him an ethereal glow. Perhaps it was the night or the moon or even just being relaxed on vacation, but Duo seemed impossibly beautiful to him at that moment.
"Duo," Heero said.
Duo's eyes were closed and his head was still tilted up as if he were basking in the moonlight, a contented smile stretching delectable lips. Lips that suddenly Heero was overwhelmed with the urge to kiss. "Duo," he repeated, wanting the other man's attention. Duo looked at him, still smiling. "Yes, Heero?"
Heero melted under the force of that smile. "I-um, that is, I had a nice day."
Duo nodded. "So did I." He inhaled the night air and exhaled with a whoosh of breath. The lovely smile returned. He noted with some amusement that Heero seemed nervous and a bit awkward. "The train museum was fun," he offered trying to help Heero feel more comfortable, though truth be told Heero's intense stare was giving him butterflies in his stomach.
"Yes. All of our activities today were stimulating and enjoyable. But, my favorite was with you-at the hobby show."
Duo's smile widened. "Yeah?"
Heero nodded. He wanted to tell Duo how he felt, he had so much that he wanted to tell the long-haired man, but he was finding it impossible to know where to start. He suddenly remembered what he had in his pocket. He removed the small book and handed it to Duo.
Duo examined the little book with surprise. "Heero? This is a photo guide to Boothbay Harbor."
"I thought you might like it for reference, if you were planning on a scale model diorama of our trip," he said uncertainly.
"This is great! Thanks, Heero," and Duo leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek.
Heero was on sensory overload. The kiss was given so spontaneously that he could not help himself when he leaned forward and kissed Duo in return on the lips.
Both young men regarded each other with wide-eyed wonder.
Heero tried a tentative smile and Duo's eyes widened more, unsure that he could trust what Heero seemed to be telling him without words. Swallowing thickly he leaned forward and his eyes closed in pleasure as Heero met him in a much more confident kiss.
Moaning softly he pressed against Heero and slipped his arms around his neck. Duo could not believe this was happening, reluctantly he opened his eyes hoping desperately that this was not a very vivid dream, as Heero pulled back, panting.
"Your eyes are so beautiful," Heero blurted out.
Duo smiled as he answered, "hey, Yuy, I am not a girl, ya know?"
Heero laughed. "I know-but you still have pretty eyes, and I really want to kiss you again."
Duo indulged him for a couple of minutes.
When he pulled back he said, "I think we need to go to our room."
In the low lamp glow of the small room two bodies writhed together, taking great pleasure in the sensation of skin upon skin. The comforter on the bed was skewed haphazardly on the side, and a pillow hit the floor when a very enthusiastic Heero rolled over Duo, kissing him passionately.
Duo stopped Heero for a moment, noting the other man's flushed, breathless state. "Need to breathe a minute, Heero," he panted softly.
Heero looked down into Duo's eyes and smiled. He would never tire of looking into those eyes: intelligent and kind and so violet it defied explanation. "Sorry-I can't seem to get enough of kissing you."
Duo grinned. "Oh yeah?"
Heero blushed. All of a sudden Duo had the ability to get him to admit all sorts of things.
Duo ran long slim fingers into Heero's hair, enjoying how soft and silky it was. "Don't apologize-I'm having the same problem," he said, kissing Heero and arching his hips up into him. "Oh, god," he moaned. "Why don't we have any lube?"
Heero colored again at the idea that Duo seemed willing to go that far with him. He angled his hips so that his manhood lined up with Duo's and they both moaned.
Duo moved against him enjoying the friction. "This works for me, huh, 'Ro?"
"Mmm," was Heero's response.
They continued rubbing up against one another until the tension was nearly unbearable; Duo was quite vocal.
Heero worried that Quatre and Trowa were going to hear them through the flimsy wall that separated their rooms.
After a while Heero's fear abated, he was certain that they would not be heard over the creaks and moans coming through the wall.
Duo flashed him a wide grin. "Looks like we're not the only ones enjoying vacation."
Breakfast the next day was delicious, made even more so by the shared happiness of both new couples. It was also filled with a little regret and sadness that their vacation was nearly at an end. They had two more days of lounging about and soaking in the local color.
When it was time to go there was still the long ride back to reminisce and joke around and just have fun being together.
It must be said however that Quatre did not find a blond-wigged lobster, dressed like him (however did Duo accomplish these things?), the least bit amusing.
6) After Trip
The four pilots settled back into their work routines relaxed and with a lot less stress. Their jobs would always be a source of tension but now that they had each found their mates that tension could be alleviated rather thoroughly.
Une was quite satisfied. She knew her idea had been a good one: even Maxwell seemed a bit less...manic at work.
As per the agreement made on the ride back to Island New York from Maine, the four friends got together every Friday evening for dinner. The only stipulation was no seafood; Quatre's cholesterol had shot way up during their vacation, so no more lobster for the Arab for a long, long time.
They sat around the dinner table at a very fine Italian restaurant enjoying coffee after a very fine meal of pasta, salad, chicken and some of the best bread Heero had ever eaten.
Duo was practically squirming in his seat with excitement. Heero knew the reason why: he had finished his vacation projects. Heero was brimming with curiosity; Duo had refused to let him see any of it yet. He had tried to argue that their new intimate relationship entitled him to a first peek, but Duo wasn't buying it.
"So guys," he started, "I finally finished the projects!"
They knew that he had been working on miniature tributes to their trip for the last month and a half and they were eager to see the finished product.
Duo fished the vid clip out of his inner jacket pocket and held it out with a flourish. "Voilá," he said grinning. Clicking it on he placed it in the middle of their table. A holo image appeared of a small village complete with the colorful lobster markers, nets and clapboard siding the houses along the bay sported. The detail was impressive: the tiny buoys painted yellow, some had red and white stripes, and the irises and black-eyed Susans and other foliage gave it a realistic touch.
"Fantastic," Quatre said, enrapt.
Next there was a short but detailed diorama of a pier, surely a composite of the ones they had seen in Boothbay Harbor. There were seagulls perched along the handrails and a few fimo models of people walking along. "How did you get the water effect?" asked Trowa.
"I used a kind of resin that I swirled dyes in to make it look more like sea water."
Heero smiled, inordinately proud of his lover.
The third image that came up made Quatre, Trowa and Heero gasp: A small roombox showing a tiny Quatre chasing a large lobster with a knife and fork, while Trowa observed the scene from a small steam engine train.
"What the hell? Duo!" Quatre tried to scold Duo but could not help laughing at the ridiculous scene.
"Aw, c'mon Quat-it's all in good fun."
The final image was that of a partial scene in a barn with Heero holding a pile of books in his arms. He had somehow managed to capture Heero's ecstatic look in the modeling compound. "That one is my favorite," Duo sighed.
Heero put his arm around him and gave him a brief squeeze. "Mine too."
"It was a good trip," Trowa said smiling.