1-7-2003

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Title: #14 Lunch at Mama's
Arc: Life With Heero
Author: Calic0cat <calic0cat@fastmail.fm>
Story Completed: Jan. 6, 2003
Genre: Domestic, 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. Heero POV in this story.

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

Author's Notes: This is part of 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 eventually make their way in. Feedback is appreciated.

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"Hey Heero, wanna go play a little one-on-one after I get home tonight?" Duo called over his shoulder as he went into the kitchen.

"Sure," Heero answered, coming down the stairs. "I'll set an alarm so I come in from the garage early enough to be ready when you get home."

Entering the kitchen behind Duo, Heero was surprised to see his friend open the fridge door then slap his forehead. "Urk, guess we can't - we're gonna have to go get groceries tonight," Duo said apologetically. "I could just pick up a few things to tide us over, but it'd make more sense to just get it over with."

Filling his coffee cup, Heero took his seat at the table. As he ate breakfast, he thought about what Duo had said. It seemed sort of silly to waste an entire evening going after groceries. The market was a lot busier at night than it had been the one time they'd gone on a weekday morning. Maybe...

"See ya tonight, Heero," Duo called as he started towards the door.

Jumping to his feet, Heero hurried after him. "Umm, Duo, would it be okay if I dropped you off and kept the car today?"

Duo looked a bit startled, but answered, "Sure, no problem."

Heero caught the keys tossed towards him and followed Duo out the door. It was no wonder Duo had been startled by the request. He hadn't gone out on his own at all since he'd got there. Which was pretty pitiful, when he really thought about it. Maybe it was time to stop feeling sorry for himself and start doing something.

***

Sitting in the market parking lot, Heero forced himself to release his white-knuckled grasp of the steering wheel. It was a lot easier to do this with Duo than by himself. He hadn't told Duo he intended to get the groceries on his own because he hadn't been entirely certain he could go through with it. But none of the vendors they regularly dealt with acted as if they thought he was some sort of threat anymore. They might not greet him as enthusiastically as they did Duo, but they were perfectly polite to him. And Mama Lucia always greeted them both as if they were long-lost family members. He doubted she would act any differently if he was on his own. Taking a deep breath, Heero gathered up the backpack and canvas tote that he had brought to carry everything in the hopes of avoiding extra trips to the car. 'Just remember not to glare at any small children and you'll be fine, Yuy,' he told himself firmly as he left the parking lot behind and entered the marketplace.

'Oh shit,' was Heero's first thought as he realized that there must not be any school today, judging by the number of children and parents swarming around. He flinched as an overladen woman bumped into him. Even as he automatically acknowledged her harried apology, Heero fought to ignore the training that was insisting this was a dangerous situation, that there were too many people here, impeding his ability to move quickly and freely. The constant press of bodies around him was making it difficult for him to ignore that deeply-ingrained training. Touch meant danger and danger meant pain and pain meant failure. Blocking that insistent refrain as much as possible, Heero firmed his jaw in determination. He was not going to let himself back down. And tempting though it was to tell himself that this was a mission and let the training work for him instead of against him, let his focus narrow down and block out irrelevancies like the crowd, he knew that he could not rely on that crutch. That was where a lot of his problems dealing with people stemmed from. In "mission mode", his intense focus made him stick out, intimidating and different. He had figured that out during his trips here with Duo. If he simply followed Duo's lead, everything went smoothly. If he tensed up and started treating it as a mission, people started getting nervous and Duo had to start running interference. Duo wasn't with him today. Therefore, he would have to try to stay as relaxed as possible.

Threading his way through the crowd, Heero slowly made his way towards the first stop on his list. Leaving the stall a few minutes later, fruit safely tucked into the backpack, he let the satisfaction of having marked several items off the list calm him in preparation for the next stop. 'Oh shit. The meat vendor. Duo always dickers the price down. What the hell is the vendor's name...'

Emerging from the meat stall a while later, Heero felt a small smile tug at the corner of his mouth. 'Now I understand why Duo always insists on going to that particular meat vendor when he could pay virtually the same price without the haggling at the one next door. The process is rather... satisfying? exhilarating even?' Feeling much more confident now, Heero continued on down his list, finally arriving at Mama Lucia's just before lunch time.

"Heero! Did that naughty Duo make you come and carry all those heavy groceries all by yourself?! Come, come, sit! Rest! Mama will give you a nice hearty lunch to make up for all that hard work!" Hurrying around the counter, Mama Lucia gave Heero a big hug and swept him off into her café.

Offering Mama a small smile, Heero told her, "No, I thought I would surprise Duo by getting the groceries so we could do something else this evening. But I didn't expect such a large crowd..."

Mama put her hands on her hips and shook her head in disapproval. "These schools nowadays... A day off for this and a day off for that..." Throwing her hands in the air, she demanded, "When are the children supposed to actually learn anything!" Not even pausing for a response, she asked, "Now, which will you have today, the spaghetti or the eggplant parmesan?"

"I'll have the eggplant parmesan," Heero told her. Watching as the motherly woman hurried off to get his lunch, Heero remembered the first time she had dragged Duo and him into the café. It had taken several more trips, with meals freely given on at least half of them, but he had finally figured out what Duo had been trying to tell him that day. Mama Lucia mothered everyone. And she had decided that he and Duo were far too thin and obviously did not feed themselves properly, so it was obviously up to her to rectify the situation. It was rare that they escaped her stall without a free meal or at the very least an extra portion of pasta or a loaf of fresh-baked bread added to their purchases. He had only made the mistake of trying to pay for his meal once. Duo had laughed all the way to the car at his disbelief that the matronly woman had actually slapped his fingers then stuffed the money back into his pocket herself, scolding him the entire time and completely ignoring his glare at her impertinent behaviour.

Finishing his meal, Heero rose and gathered his backpack and tote up. After purchasing the bread and spaghetti that he had originally came in for, he hesitated for a moment. Should he? Duo always did... Mama Lucia gave him an expectant look and tilted her head a bit to one side. Leaning over the counter, Heero dropped a kiss on the offered cheek and told her, "Thank you, Mama."

Beaming, she told him, "You're welcome, Heero." Switching to a mock-scowl, she waved her hands at him in a shooing motion, "Now, go! Get along with you! I have other customers waiting!"

Grinning slightly, Heero did as he was told.

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