3-18-2003

Title: #54 Of Cats and Rabbits
Arc: Life With Heero
Author: Calic0cat
Story Completed: Mar. 17, 2003
Genre: Shonen Ai/Yaoi, Sap, Friendship
Pairing: None yet
Rated: G
Warnings: AU, OOC
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. Duo POV in this story.

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

Author's Notes: See earlier fics for notes on the arc as a whole. Feedback is appreciated.

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Duo glanced at the calendar, a slow smile spreading across his face. One year. It had been one whole year since he met Heero at the shuttleport and brought him home. 'A year and yet in some ways it seems like he's always been here. That we've been sharing a house and our lives for far longer than that.' He shook his head slightly and turned his attention back to his current task of fixing supper.

He had debated whether to make a special day out of today or not and had finally decided not to. There were painful memories attached to that time for Heero, despite the fact that Heero coming here had turned out to be a good thing for both of them. Duo knew that he would have never made it through the past couple of months, through revisiting all his old memories, as easily without Heero's support. Knew that he was happier and more content now than he had been a year ago. And Heero had grown so much over the past year, socially and emotionally. Had learned how to make friends and how to lead a "normal" life.

Remembering his own thoughts early in Heero's stay, his half-joking idea that Heero needed to learn how to go grocery shopping and chat with neighbours and mow the lawn for the little old lady down the street, Duo had to grin. Heero might not mow the lawn for that little old lady - she paid the teenage girl next door to do that - but, like the rest of the block, he did take his turn checking up on her, keeping an eye out for her safety and well-being.

Duo checked the time, then tossed the spaghetti noodles in to cook. He'd go call Heero in from the garage and by the time Heero washed up, supper would be ready and on the table.

Walking through the living room, Duo stopped in his tracks. Something was out of place. He looked around and realized that the Japanese screen had been moved aside from the TV. And the TV was on, though muted. It only took a moment to recognize the movie playing. '_Alice in Wonderland_? Okay, Heero, what are you up to...'

That movie had turned into a running joke with the two of them. Heero had even accidentally called Relena "Alice" while talking to her on the vidphone one day and had been left floundering for an explanation for a good few minutes before Duo finally stepped in and confessed where the name came from. Relena had turned bright red and Duo had been afraid she was seriously pissed off. Until she exploded in laughter and ended up with the hiccups. She had insisted on a full explanation of the whole thing. Now Relena had taken to calling a couple of the diplomats she regularly tore her hair out over "Tweedledee and Tweedledum". Duo just hoped she didn't make Heero's mistake and do so to their faces some day.

Looking around the room, Duo spotted a playing card laying in the hall. A quick glance through the door confirmed that the card was only the beginning of a trail. He shook his head with a grin and went back to the kitchen to take the boiling pot off the stove before following it. The trail led him upstairs to the spare room where he found a very nice chess set sitting on the bed. Duo fingered one piece and smiled. A chess set with carved wooden pieces and an inlaid wood board. Far nicer than the cheap plastic set with several broken and patched pieces that he and Heero used occasionally.

Carrying the set with him, Duo went back downstairs, intending to leave the set in the living room so that they could have a game after supper. When he walked through the living room door, he found another surprise, one that hadn't been there when he'd passed through the room just a few minutes ago. Two large plush stuffed animals sat on the couch. Ones modelled after the animated characters in a certain movie.

Duo set the chess set down and picked up the Cheshire Cat, grinning almost as wide as it was. He wondered how long it had taken Heero to find these. Setting the Cat back down again, he picked up the White Rabbit and noticed that it had a note tucked in its watch pocket. Pulling out the note, he sat down on the couch before unfolding it.

'Duo, I just wanted to find a little something to show you just how much I appreciate everything you've done for me over the past year. All the support and caring you've shown. All the good times we've had together.

'And I wanted to let you know that I'm *glad* Relena slapped me that night. Glad that I packed my things and headed straight to my best friend. Because before that, I was just existing. Marking time. It took a nasty little scene to set things in motion, but once I came to live with you, that changed. You coaxed and prodded until you got me out of the rut I'd fallen into and then you taught me to *live*.

'Thank you, Duo. I'm looking forward to seeing what lessons the next year will bring... Heero'

Duo smiled and carefully folded up the note, tucking it back into the Rabbit's pocket. He thought that was a good place for it.

"The White Rabbit was fairly easy to find," Heero said from the kitchen doorway. "The Cheshire Cat, on the other hand, was backordered beyond belief and I thought I'd never find one. Relena finally managed to locate one and express-couriered it in order to get it here for today. After all, what good's the White Rabbit without the Cheshire Cat around to keep him from getting all mission-obsessed and boring?"

Duo laughed and set the Rabbit back down on the couch. "And what good would the Cheshire Cat be without the White Rabbit around to keep him from getting too obnoxious and annoying?" he responded.

Rising, he met Heero partway across the room and hugged him. "You know Heero, I'm just as grateful that you're here. I don't know how I'd have ever got through the past couple of months without you."

"You'd have managed somehow," Heero answered, returning the hug. "You always do. But I'm glad you didn't have to."

They stood there for a few minutes, arms wrapped around each other, before Duo reluctantly said, "Guess I'd better go put the noodles back on so that we can have supper."

"I put the pot back on just before I came in here," Heero said, "so they'll be ready in a few minutes."

Duo tightened the hug for a moment before stepping back and saying brightly, "So, how about a game of chess with that nice new set after supper?"

Heero smiled and answered, "Just what I had in mind," before starting towards the kitchen.

As he followed Heero out of the room, Duo wondered what the next year *would* bring. Their relationship had changed so much already; had deepened and strengthened beyond anything he'd ever dared hope for from his friendship with Heero. Had become the steadfast anchor in his life. Where *would* the next year lead them?

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- tbc -