1-12-2003

Title: #18 Not Exactly Your Favourite Person
Arc: Life With Heero
Author: Calic0cat
Genre: Domestic, Friendship
Pairing: None yet Rated: PG-13
Warnings: AU, OOC, Swearing
Archives: Also at Mediaminer.org under Calic0cat.
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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Heero finished filling out the last line of the form and dumped it in his "Out" box with a feeling of satisfaction. That was the last of the "dangerously overdue" paperwork. It had taken him two whole weeks, but the office was now neatly organized and he could quickly find any piece of documentation necessary to fulfill a request or complete a form and all the "dangerously overdue" paperwork was now caught up. Or would be once either Duo or Hilde signed it and he had it couriered in, that is. Why the hell a highly technological society insisted on using paper forms filled out in triplicate he would never understand...

No, wait, actually, he did understand. The ease with which he and the others had hacked databases during the war, making vast quantities of money, armaments, etc. appear and disappear, was the precise reason that so many government organizations had reverted to the old tried-and-true method of documentation. It was relatively easy to erase all traces of something's existence electronically. Paperwork filed in multiple different locations was a lot harder to track down and dispose of without getting caught.

Leaning back in his chair and stretching, Heero debated whether there was enough time left in the day to bother starting something new or not. When Duo had first asked him to take this job on "as a favour", he had been highly suspicious that his best friend was inventing a job just to help him out. That notion had been dispelled the moment he took a good look at the office on his first day. It had been an absolute disaster area. A quick calculation of exactly when the previous employee had been fired explained to him why Duo hadn't kept on top of things. Duo had been too busy trying to put Heero's life back together again to worry about "minor" little details like the day-to-day running of his own business.

Heero shook his head slightly at the thought. Yet another debt he owed his best friend. Not that Duo would ever try to collect on it. Though at least taking this job and getting the mess straightened out made him feel a little less guilty about probably being a large part of the reason the mess was as bad as it was. And if Hilde had been picking up the slack in other areas - like all the out-of-town travelling to meet with buyers and to bid on contracts, something Duo certainly hadn't done since his arrival - that would explain why she hadn't taken care of this before it got so bad. And maybe why she tended to look at him like something that had just crawled out from under a rock as well.

Seeing Hilde walk by, Heero came to a decision. The tension between Hilde and himself needed to end. It wasn't fair to Duo to keep having to act as a buffer between his best friend and his business partner who also happened to be a very close friend. Scooping up the papers from his "Out" box, Heero headed off to Hilde's office.

Outside Hilde's door, Heero took a deep breath to prepare himself. He needed to stay calm but not cold. Hilde did not respond well to his "soldier" attitude. Knocking lightly on the doorframe, he said, "Hilde?" Meeting her startled look, Heero stepped into her office and held out the forms. "This is the last of the 'dangerously overdue' paperwork. If you could take a look at it and sign it, I'll get it sent out before the end of the day."

Holding out her hand, Hilde said reluctantly, "Okay, give it here. Why didn't you get Duo to do this?"

"He's still out in the yard inventorying that latest shipment of scrap," Heero answered as he handed over the pile of forms. He paused, then continued, "And I think we need to, as Duo would say, 'clear the air' anyway."

Hilde froze in the midst of looking through the papers. "Oh really? Why would you think that?"

"Because Duo is going to give himself a nervous breakdown running interference between us," Heero responded bluntly. "Look, I know I'm not exactly your favourite person. I don't expect us to suddenly become close friends. But can't we get whatever your problem with me is out in the open and at least try to deal with it?"

Rising from her desk, Hilde looked Heero straight in the face and said, "Are you sure you really want to know?"

'No,' Heero thought to himself, but answered, "Yes."

Crossing to the door, Hilde closed and locked it. "Duo will kill me if he walks in on this," she explained in response to Heero's questioning look.

"You really want to know what my problem with you is," Hilde repeated, perching on the corner of her desk.

"Yes, I do."

"Fine. Then I'll be more than happy to enlighten you." Raising her hand, Hilde counted off her points on her fingers as she spoke, "One - you're sponging off one of my closest friends, who is supposedly your best friend; two - dealing with you and your problems for the last few months has been taking most of Duo's attention away from the business and I've had to pick up the slack; three - last time you worked here, I spent a ridiculous amount of time talking employees out of quitting due to that damn 'I could do your job better than you' attitude of yours; four - I absolutely cannot understand how you can possibly be Duo's best friend when you're a walking iceberg and he's so friendly and outgoing."

Heero flinched at Hilde's first point. It was true. He was sponging off of Duo, whether Duo was willing to call it that or not. Though that would change - was already changing - now that he had a steady source of income. The second point - true again, unfortunately. He had already figured that one out for himself.

The third one - well, he hadn't been aware of that, but Duo had tried to explain "tact" to him on several occasions and he had to admit he just couldn't see the point of mincing words. And that was basically the same problem he'd had when he was working for the Preventers. When Heero saw something being done incorrectly or inefficiently, he said something about it. J had always done that with him and everyone else working for J. No one had ever protested. Not everyone seemed to appreciate it when he did it, though.

And her fourth point. Oh, that fourth point. 'I've never understood why Duo considers me his best friend, either. But he doesn't lie, so I know he means it. And I'll never let him down if I can help it.'

Drawing a deep breath to steady himself, Heero met Hilde's gaze and said calmly, "Yes, I have been sponging off of Duo. I know that and I hate it. But that's going to change. I'll be paying my fair share of the rent, utilities, and groceries now that I'm working."

"Yes, working for him," Hilde pointed out sharply.

This point, at least, Heero was sure of himself on. "Yes, but are you trying to imply that you didn't need someone for the job? That you wouldn't have hired someone anyway?"

Reluctantly, Hilde admitted, "No. We would have had to hire someone." She hesitated, then admitted even more reluctantly, "And someone else probably wouldn't have gotten things straightened out as quickly as you've been doing."

"Thank you," Heero told her sincerely. That reluctant admission meant a lot to him, in part because it was reluctant. It meant that Hilde was forced to acknowledge his abilities in spite of her dislike of him, so he knew that he genuinely was doing a good job or she wouldn't admit it at all.

"And I've realized since I started working here that Duo must have been letting me and my problems distract him from concentrating on the business," Heero told Hilde. "I'm sorry about that, but Duo wouldn't be Duo if he didn't put his friends above everything else."

"True."

"Your third point - well, I'm sorry if that was going on but I didn't realize it." Heero was distinctly uncomfortable discussing all this with Hilde, but he knew that the only chance of smoothing things over so that they were at least civil with each other was for him to try and explain himself to her. If it was just for his own sake, he wouldn't bother. But he knew how much having two friends at outs with each other bothered Duo. He still hadn't decided how to deal with Relena, though Duo was back on speaking terms with her again. So Duo already had to live with Heero not being friends with Relena. And right now, he was more willing to try settling things with Hilde than with Relena.

"It's just that, well, that's the way I was trained as I was growing up. Duo says that I wouldn't know 'tact' if it came up and bit me on the butt," Heero shrugged. "He's been trying to teach me but it just seems like a waste of time to dance around the issue instead of just coming out and saying what you mean."

Heero moved to the window and looked out at where Duo was speaking to one of the employees, arms waving as he carried on an animated conversation. "Why does he consider me his best friend? I don't know. I've never really understood that myself. Why not Quatre, whose personality is much more similar to his? Or Trowa, who is such a good listener, or Wufei, who defends all his friends so spiritedly?" Turning back to face Hilde, he finished, "Or why not you - someone he works with every day and who is almost as outgoing and friendly as he is? I can't tell you that. Only Duo knows.

"I know why he's my best friend though. Because he's loyal and affectionate and stubborn as hell. Because he never gives up on me no matter how much of an asshole I'm being at the time."

Looking Hilde straight in the eyes, Heero said, "And that's why I want to settle things between us. Because Duo is loyal to all his friends and it hurts him when they don't get along with each other. Now, are those all the reasons you have a problem with me, or are there any more?"

Hilde held his gaze for a moment, then dropped her eyes and added softly and reluctantly, "And five - he's my friend too, but he's turned down every invitation to go out for a night on the town, or dinner, or a movie, or anything with me, alone or as part of a group, ever since you got here."

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- tbc -