11-16-2000

As Imperceptibly as Grief
By: Kyuketsuki
Standard disclaimers apply.

I was wrong. Some of the things in this place have changed. Some of the stores have left, some have come. The Livery is still here, which is relieving only because that’s where I was heading. I want to know if they still serve the soup I used to crave as a child.

The decor has changed a bit, and the high school girls who always waited tables have been replaced by a new generation, but it still has the same smell of home cooked food wafting from the kitchen.

I forget sometimes that I’ve only been gone a few years. That’s hardly a lifetime, even though it once was.

Two of the waitresses are talking near the kitchen, and one of them catches sight of me as I pass through the door. She waves for me to sit wherever I want, says one last thing to her friend, then wanders over, tugging on her skirt and setting it at a not so dangerous height on her thighs. She smiles winningly through her lip gloss and blinks her painted eyes at me. “What do you want to drink,” she asks, handing me a worn menu.

“Coffee.”

She nods and scribbles it down on the pad of paper in her too-lotioned hands. “Decaf?”

“No.” The girl smiles at me as if considering my rebel appeal. I wonder what she would say if she knew I preferred people with a higher testosterone level. But she doesn’t know, and begins to wander away, then stops.

“Are you new here?” I glance at her nametag which declares her a “Valerie” of God knows what heritage.

“No.”

“Oh.” She smiles. “So you’re a native?”

I nod. If you aren’t new then you were born here, because as far as everyone is concerned, no one would dare to visit this place.

“Wouldn’t think it. You’ve got an urban air about you.” I actually look at her now. She has small green eyes that she must consider her best feature, because she accentuates them as much as possible. Her naturally dark hair is cut into a short bob that is probably the hottest item in this ancient place. She smiles wistfully and returns to her friend, who has been watching the proceeding with a close eye.

They still have the soup and when I order it she grins again. “It’s really not that good; to thin. Get the chili. We’ve got great chili.”

And all I can do in retaliation is stare up at her as she writes down the order I didn’t ask for and wanders away to retrieve it. A moment later she returns with the thick concoction. I stare down at the stuff for a moment. Maybe there was a purpose to it. Maybe there was a reason she had brought me chili instead of the soup that I wanted. But if there was, I didn’t see it.

I drop a ten on the sticky table and leave.

The street is cold. It’s September and soon enough snow will be falling here. It was always so cold here growing up, though now I realize that the city is colder. I used to slip into my two hundred dollar coat and wait patiently for Relena to do the same once arriving at her house. Everyone walked to school, and some days I would go out of my way to walk with him, leaving twenty minutes early so I could surprise him when he emerged from his apartment building. He was always so happy to see me, even when it was obvious he was miserable. It had been one of those miserable days that I finally broke down.

~~*~~

I had been waiting outside for nearly five minutes when he emerged though the battered door, struggling with his book bag. I snagged it, pulling it off of his shoulders and throwing it over my own.

“Heero!” He grinned at me. “What are you doing here?”

I steered him from the path and into the surrounding woods.

“What are you doing?”

“We’re not going to school.”

He stopped, grabbing the sides of my coat. “We’re not?”

I smiled at him. “No.”

He nodded. “Yes we are. You have a test in AP chemistry.” He hooked an arm around my shoulder and guided me back to the path. I swung him around to face me.

“No, we’re not.” I leaned forward until my face was inches from his. “We’re going back to my house in,” I glanced at my watch then, “ten minutes and staying all day. We can leave now and miss my father.”

He took his bag skillfully from me, sliding it over his shoulders. “Relena’s been worrying over the test for a week now, which means it’s important.” He grabbed my arm and tried to pull me once again onto the trail.

I wrapped said arm around his shoulders, pulling him into a loose embrace which I think must have been a bit more than just friendly. “Duo . . .”

“I know you know that stuff backwards and forwards but you really should go to school. You know, they say the most looked at think by employers is--”

“Duo.” I pulled him closer so that our chests were pressed together. “Come on.” He just sighed and let himself be led off of the worn path, my arm still encircling his slender shoulders.

He leaned hastily into me, knocking me off balance. “You just remember that it was my idea to go to school.”

I nodded and slid my arm into place once again. I was willing to state my reasoning as to the cold, but he didn’t say anything, just kept walking at the same leisurely pace that always fascinated me. Watching Duo Maxwell walk was like a religious experience, and though I probably never would have admitted it to him then, he was the closest thing to divinity I had ever known.

~~*~~

*I doubt that any of you were wondering, but I just wanted to let you know that this title is actually the first line from an Emily Dickinson poem. So if it seems a bit odd of long, then just remember who came up with it. Oh sure, I named my fic that, but it was Emily's idea! Well, technically she's dead, but...