1-1-2003

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Title: #3 Clearing the Air
Arc: Life With Heero
Author: Calic0cat <calic0cat@fastmail.fm>
Story Completed: Jan. 1, 2003
Genre: Angst, Friendship
Pairing: None yet
Rated: PG-13
Warnings: AU, OOC, Swearing
Archives: At Mediaminer.org under Calic0cat. Anyone with archive permission for my other fics can help themselves; anyone else, please ask.
Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This story is. Nuff said.

Notes: The arc begins between one and two years after Endless Waltz. Duo POV in this story.

'Thinking'
"Speaking"
************ Time passing or scene change

Author's Notes: This is the third in an arc of stories. I don't know for sure how many stories there will be or how often I'll be posting them. The length of each story in the arc will vary, anywhere from ficlet to multi-part. Warnings will vary from story to story as well, as will the genre. Pairings will probably eventually make their way in, but it will be quite a while since the first half dozen or so stories are drafted out and there's no real indication of pairings in them as of yet. Feedback is appreciated.

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Waking slowly, warm and comfortable, Duo realized that positions had changed as they slept. Heero was now curled up against his back, with one arm wrapped around his waist. Lifting his wrist to check his watch, he realized with some surprise that they had slept right through the remainder of the afternoon and on through the night. Rolling onto his back without disturbing the arm around his waist too much, Duo looked Heero over carefully. Deciding that his face looked less pinched with stress, he gently brushed his fingers against Heero's cheek. Softly, he said, "Wake up, Heero. It's morning, buddy. Time to get up and have some breakfast."

Cobalt eyes blinked sleepily. "Breakfast?"

"Yep, time for breakfast. What would you like? Cereal, pancakes, fruit? Or I have rice and I think I have the ingredients for miso soup if you'd prefer that..."

A startled but pleased look crossed Heero's face. "Really? The cook at R... I haven't had the chance to have that in a long time..."

"Traditional Japanese breakfast it is, then," Duo said decisively, deciding that if he was missing anything, he'd just call the small grocery store up the street and have whatever it was delivered immediately. The small store was more expensive than where he usually shopped and delivery would cost extra, but the look on Heero's face at the mere suggestion of breakfast fixed just for him was more than worth it.

Sliding out of bed, he gathered up the untouched tray and told Heero, "Feel free to raid my closet or drawers if you need anything. And go ahead and use my computer or just hook your laptop up to the net connection if you wanna while I get breakfast started."

Downstairs, Duo discovered that he was missing both scallions and wakame, so he called in his order, adding cleaned and ready-to-cook fresh fish to it as an afterthought. 'Okay, get the rice ready to steam so I don't have to use instant - I know Heero claims it's not the same as "real rice". Get the water ready to heat for the soup, but I won't put it on yet since I'll need to grill the fish too...' By the time the table was set, his delivery was at the door, and within another twenty minutes, he had breakfast ready and on the table.

"Heero, breakfast's ready!" he called up the stairs.

The quickly-suppressed flash of delight on Heero's face when he came into the kitchen and saw the meal laid out on the table was well worth having blown his grocery budget for the week. 'Oh well, I'll just skip the junk food when I go shopping for next week's supplies. Have to do a little juggling of some other supplies too... Less red meat, more fish; less soda, more juice...'

Having enjoyed breakfast in companionable silence, Duo matter-of-factly held out the dishcloth in one hand, drying towel in the other and asked, "Wash or dry?" He wouldn't have minded handling the job by himself, but knew Heero would start feeling uncomfortable if he didn't take a share of the chores.

"You prefer drying, so I'll wash," Heero answered, taking the cloth from his hand.

'Yes! A complete sentence!' Duo cheered silently.

***

Having chattered amiably throughout the dish-washing chore, Duo firmly steered Heero into the living room once the chore was complete. "Okay, now I know you probably still don't wanna talk about this, but I think maybe it'd be better to clear the air. So, I'll tell you what I know, then if you're ready to talk, you can, otherwise, we'll let it go for now and you can tell me your side of things whenever you're ready.

"As I'm sure you've guessed, I got a panicky call from a very upset, very remorseful young lady in the middle of the night. She told me what happened," Duo leaned forward and gently touched the faint handprint on Heero's cheek, "and admitted she'd lost her temper and said a lot of stuff she didn't mean. She also said that no matter whether you ever were interested in a relationship with her or not, she still considered you a friend." Heero's eyes closed and a pained look crossed his face. "Listen buddy, you don't have to make any big decisions right now. Whether you choose to forgive her or not is strictly up to you. Hilde and I went through a pretty rough patch after she forced our little 'sorry, you're like a sister to me' confrontation, but we eventually smoothed things over and we're good friends again now. Hell, she's even asked me to give her away at her wedding. Whether you and 'Lena can ever get back to that point again is something I can't tell you. If you do, it won't be easy gettin' there. But it's worth it. Good friends are something you just can't replace.

"'Lena knows she screwed up. She also knows I'm pretty pissed at her for hurting my best friend. But she knows that she's still my friend too and eventually I'll forgive her. Eventually. She's already paying the price, though. I made her call Wufei and tell him what she did." Heero's eyes flew open in surprise. Duo nodded in confirmation, "Yeah, I did. I couldn't quite bring myself to chew her out when she was already crying, so I figured I'd let Wu-man do it for both of us. Think that qualifies as 'cruel and unusual punishment'?"

"Maybe," Heero admitted, his voice very hesitant. "Or maybe not," he added, bringing his fingers up to touch his marked cheek. "I knew what she wanted, but I thought she understood I only thought of her as a friend. I never thought she'd get so mad because I couldn't give her what she wanted," he said, voice so soft Duo had to strain to hear him. "And to go against everything she claims to believe in and hit me... I know it was just a slap and it may not seem like much but..."

"It's okay, Heero, I understand exactly what you mean," Duo assured him. "A slap from Relena is equivalent to a severe beating from somebody else, just 'cause she never does that kind of thing."

"Hai," Heero breathed, sounding relieved. "When she said to get out of her sight, that she never wanted to see me again, I didn't know what to do or where to go at first. Then, when I was packing my things, I saw the photo of all of us, and I knew - I hoped..."

"You knew I'd want you to come to me," Duo said firmly. An instant later, he was having his ribs crushed again as Heero hurled himself out of his chair and clung to him. "Easy, buddy," Duo soothed, "not so tight, I'm not goin' anywhere."

"Gomen nasai," Heero apologized, dropping his arms and starting to back away.

Reaching out, Duo grabbed Heero's hands and wrapped Heero's arms back around him again. "I like hugs, remember? Just not quite so tight," he instructed. Feeling no responsive tightening in the arms he was holding in place, Duo urged, "Go ahead. Just a little tighter at a time. I'll tell you when to stop, then you'll know for next time." That worked. Heero gradually tightened his hold until Duo told him, "Whoa. Right there. Tight enough to feel secure but not too tight. Perfect, buddy." Wrapping his own arms around Heero now that he didn't have to hold Heero's arms in place, Duo laid his head against Heero's shoulder and sighed. That had gone better than he'd thought it would. He hadn't expected Heero to be ready to talk about his side of things at all yet. The fact that Heero had been willing to open up that much meant a lot to him. It also told him that Heero would come through this okay, he hadn't had his faith in all of his friends shaken by the actions of just one, something Duo had been a bit concerned about. But Relena'd have to cool her heels for a while; Heero was obviously a long way from ready to deal with her, apology or not.

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