Gundam Wing Fan Fiction ❯ Holiday Arc part 1 - Christmas ❯ Holiday Arc part 1 - Christmas ( One-Shot )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

Disclaimer: I do not own the G-Boys they belong to some other very lucky people, I do however like to play with them and I do promise to put them back when I am done. Not for profit, just for fun.


Started December 2nd 2015 Completed December 22nd 2015

Title: The Holiday Arc part 1 - Christmas

Author: Vega-Lume

Warnings for the entire Arc: Yaoi, OOC-nes, sap, a smidge of angst and mention of citrus (if you look really, really hard)

Beta: Shenlong (thank you!)

Pairing: 1+2x1 (or however you want to put it)


For Shenlong (Deb) - I wasn't going to write it until you told me you would read it if I did.

Heero, no longer able to cope with a stressful job suddenly quits Preventer. Duo is angry and they fight, damaging their friendship and causing Heero to move away. After a while Duo goes in search of his friend and is surprised by what he finds.



By Vel


Duo looked at the address on his phone then looked at the house again. It wasn't what he expected, not by a long shot but it was the address Quatre had given him.  The house was small and in very old, pre-colony style. It was red brick, single story with a large picture window just to the left of the driveway. It looked pretty much the same as all the other houses around it but unlike the neighboring houses it didn't have any holiday decorations.

Getting out of his rental car, he checked that the door was locked then he stepped onto the sidewalk.

Taking a deep breath he walked up the drive. As he passed a silver four-door parked in front of the closed garage door a movement in the window near the door caught his eye and he smiled at the golden brown dog who had pushed the curtain aside to look out; it didn't bark at him but the way the pup was wiggling it was clearly wagging its tail.

The dog's eyes followed him as he got closer to the door, then just as Duo rang the bell the dog vanished and the scrabbling of claws on hardwood could be heard as the dog ran to the door barking its head off.

“I know I heard it,” a voice said from inside and the dog quieted, and then the door opened “Duo?”

“Hi Heero,” Duo said then he noticed Heero was fully dressed in a tan uniform, complete with sturdy shoes, looking as if he was just getting ready to leave. “I'm sorry, you're busy. I'll come back later.”

“No, I just got home,” Heero explained quickly, “please, come in and watch out for the cat, she likes to trip people.”

Duo stepped into the warm house and gave his light jacket to Heero when the other man offered to hang it up. The dog, which looked to be a mixed breed, of golden retriever and something else, was wagging furiously waiting for someone to notice him.

Heero chuckled, “Go ahead.”

The dog yipped happily and was at Duo's side an instant later just begging to be scratched and patted.

“What a lovely dog Heero, what's his name?” Duo asked as he followed his friend to the lounge and then sat on the sofa when Heero offered him a seat.

“Her name is Bear,” Heero replied.

“Bear?” Duo laughed as the dog climbed onto the sofa with him and rolled on her back, her tongue lolling as she panted happily. “She seems more like a Sweetie to me.”

“When I adopted her I legally changed her name to Honey, which I thought was more fitting but she won't answer to anything but Bear,” Heero said then turned to the kitchen. “Coffee? Tea?”

“Whatever you're having is fine with me,” Duo replied.

Heero returned a few minutes later and set two tea cups on the coffee table, “I'm happy to see you Duo, but I'm sure you came here for a reason. If it's to ask me to come back to Preventer the answer is still no.”

“It's nothing like that,” Duo hurried to assure him, “I quit too, about a year ago. I've been living on L2 working with Hilde and her husband.”

 Heero's eyebrows shot up in surprise. When he had decided to quit Preventer over two years ago Duo had been so angry with him, Duo had spent days telling him he was crazy even going so far as to tell him that Preventer was all he was good for. They fought, it was ugly and that fight ultimately was what made him decide to move away.

“Why?” Heero asked in confusion.

“It took about a year but I finally understood why you hated it so much. I was always able to look past the blood and the violence but after a while I realized I couldn't do it anymore.”

Heero smiled sadly, “Why are you here?”

“Talking to Hilde helped me realize something, something I didn't understand at the time,” Duo paused and took a deep breath, “It wasn't the job I was trying to hold onto, it was you.”

Heero frowned slightly and Duo's heart dropped into his stomach.

“So the arguing and the fighting, trying to make me stay in a job that I couldn't cope with knowing that it was stressing me out and triggering nightmares, all the emails yelling at me to come back, it was your subconscious way to keep from losing me?” Heero asked.

“It sounds so stupid, I know. I thought Hilde was crazy when she brought it to my attention, but the more I thought about it the more I knew she was right. I'm hoping that maybe I haven't screwed everything between us all to hell because I've really missed my best friend.”

Heero smiled, “I've missed you too.”

The phone rang then and before Heero could reach for it Bear was up, running in a circle and barking.

“I know, I can hear it too,” Heero said to her and picked up the handheld for the vid phone “Yuy,” he answered. He listened for several moments then said “I'm on my way.” He turned to Duo “I'm sorry, there's been an emergency and I need to go back to work. You're welcome to stay here if you want, I have a guest room.”

“I'd like that, thanks. I left my plans kind of open; I was going to check into a hotel after I spoke with you so my stuff is still in the rental car.”

“Okay, the room is down here,” Heero said, showing Duo a comfortable looking guest room with a full bed, dressed in shades of grey and blue. “Bathroom is across the hall. Feel free to eat whatever you want in the kitchen, the TV is in my room and don't forget to watch out for the cat. I'll be back later.” Then he was gone, out the door jacket in hand heading back to work.

Following him to the door, Duo couldn't help but smile as Bear stuck her head under the curtain as she watched Heero get into his car and drive away. Grabbing his keys Duo ran out to his car, pulling his bag from the passenger seat. He then locked the door and went back into the house where Bear greeted him as if he had been gone of days.

It was just 6 in the evening and he had been going for the better part of two days. With a jaw popping yawn and a grumbling stomach he wandered into the kitchen and rummaged around a bit. Settling on a cheese sandwich, he ate it over the sink then went back to the living room to finish his tea.

There was nothing of real interest in the living room, no TV or books, no photos or decorations, just the sofa, a single chair, and a potted tree that looked like it was half dead.

After rinsing the tea cups he poked around a bit, Heero's home was tidy, but not immaculately so, and felt warm and quite lived in. The main color was blue, accented with shades of yellow, grey, green and white.

Heero's room was the most lived in of all with its unmade bed and comfortable reading corner complete with overflowing bookshelves. There was a deep red, overstuffed arm chair set in the corner just to the right of a large gas fireplace; next to the chair was a tall reading lamp and a small side table. Across from it was a small table with a paper thin TV on a rotating base so it could be seen from both the chair and the bed.

The walls were a warm cream color and the drapes and throw rugs were in the same shade of red as the chair.

The full size bed was directly in front of the fire place dressed in pale gold sheets and a royal blue, satin down comforter. On the same wall with the door was a large standing wardrobe, none of the furniture matched but they somehow went together well. Bear had followed him to Heero's room and had made herself quite comfortable on Heero's bed, watching him intently.

“Are you supposed to be up there?” Duo asked her and she smiled a doggy smile, her tail wagging furiously, “Guess so.” He shrugged and went to sit the chair in the reading corner.

The remote for the vidscreen sat on the small table along with two books, one of which was marked with a gold, tasseled bookmark and to his surprise a pair of silver, wire framed reading glasses sat beside them.

He switched the vid on and surfed a bit, but fell asleep before he settled on anything; he came out of his doze around midnight with crick in his neck and Bear's cold nose nudging his hand.

Sighing he turned off the vid, “You need to go out, Sweetie?” She barked happily and ran towards the kitchen. It was overcast and the grass in the yard looked damp, Bear tore across the yard circling it twice and nosed around before getting down to business, so to speak.

Duo stepped aside to let her in then locked the door and Bear whined at him softly, but Duo wasn't sure what she wanted. Her food and water dishes were there just next to the back door and both had a little something in them.

“Sorry girl, I don't know what you want.”

She stopped whining and wagged her tail again before trotting off to Heero's bedroom. Deciding to change for bed Duo went to the guest room where he had left his bag and changed into a pair of pajama pants. He sat on the bed to change his shirt but fell asleep again and didn't move until morning.

Rolling to his side he studied the clock with bleary eyes. It was almost 7 am, his head hurt and his mouth tasted awful. He had slept through the night without brushing his teeth or changing out of his sweaty t-shirt.

Yawing again he rubbed his tired eyes, he didn't know if Heero was home yet; after falling asleep he hadn't heard anything at all. Climbing out of the warm, comfortable bed he shuffled across the hall to Heero's room, the door was open and to his relief the other man was curled under the covers sleeping soundly. Bear was beside him, she lifted her head when she saw Duo; thumping the mattress with her tail a few times then she lay her head down again.

Smiling to himself Duo went back to his room to get a change of clothes then went to the bathroom to take a shower and brush his teeth. The bathroom was so cold that his teeth chattered while he peed, so after he had relived himself and washed his hands he switched on the heater then sat on the closed toilet lid to wait for the room to warm up.

A small sound drew his attention and he looked up. There sitting on the counter directly in front of him was Heero's cat; she was gorgeous, pure white with a perfect little pink nose and was studying him with crystal blue eyes.

“Hello there, kitty, kitty,” Duo said softy, the next thing he knew the cat was on his lap digging her claws into the skin of his thigh “Ow, fucking hell!”

She clung to his leg as he stood, trying to shake her off, then Heero was there carefully extracting claws that were dangerously close to his tender areas.

“Akuma, shame on you,” Heero scolded, though he sounded amused as he stroked the cat's glossy fur. She began purring loud enough for Duo to hear across the room.

“That cat is psycho,” Duo said as he looked at the tiny spots of blood seeping through the fabric of his flannel pajama bottoms.

“I did warn you to watch out for her,” Heero reminded him.

“You told me she tripped people, you didn't say anything about her wanting to make me a eunuch.”

 “Be glad you were dressed, the first time she got me I was just getting into the shower and she thought climbing up my body would be a good idea,” Heero said and Duo winced in sympathy. “Just make sure she isn't in here when you need the bathroom and shut the door and you'll be okay.”

“Thanks,” Duo said sarcastically. “Any other advice?”

“Watch where you step and check that she isn't on the fridge. I haven't been pounced on in months, soon she'll lose interest and she'll stop,” with that he left the bathroom, the cat still in his arms. Taking Heero's advice, Duo shut the door.

Body and teeth clean, Duo ventured out of the bathroom and was greeted with the smell of fresh coffee. Taking a deep, appreciating sniff he stopped at the guest room to dump his laundry and toiletries before making his way to the kitchen where he found Heero.

The other man was sitting at the dining table; he was still dressed in his pajamas and was reading something on a tablet, Akuma was on his lap watching Duo with an evil gleam in her blue eyes.

There was a coffee pot and carton of orange juice sitting in the center of the table, along with empty cups, probably for Duo and a half a cup of black coffee right in front of Heero.

“Morning,” Heero greeted, setting the tablet aside. “How's your leg?”

“Not as bad as I feared, it felt like that cat's nails were made out of fish hooks.”

Heero chuckled warmly. “As the saying goes `she's not so bad once you get to know her.' Well in her case she just needs to get to know you, give her a day or two and things will be fine.”

Duo smiled, it really sounded like Heero wanted him to stay for a while.

“I don't have much in the way of breakfast,” Heero said, setting his cat on the floor and going to the fridge. “Cereal and toast?” he said almost to himself then said, “Never mind, you hate soy milk.”

“That's fine” Duo said and Heero looked over his shoulder asking. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I don't mind, really.”

Heero shrugged, he didn't look entirely convinced but put the soy milk on the table anyway before going to the cupboard to get the bowls and cereal.

“Lucky Charms?” Duo asked with a knowing grin, it was his favorite and he had suspected that Heero had snuck some of it from time to time back when they were sharing the apartment.

“Yes, I eat cereal with marshmallows in it and yes I blame you,” Heero said as he set the bowls and spoons down.

Duo laughed and at Heero's invitation, poured his bowl first while Heero toasted the bread, a few minutes later a plate of toast was set before him.

“So, where were you last night?” Duo asked after Heero joined him at the table.

“I work for the county's public safety department in animal control, Heero replied as he sat and poured himself a bowl. “There's a lady who lives on the other side of town that owns a pet goat. Sometimes it gets loose; apparently the goat likes me so I'm usually the one they send out to catch it. Personally I think the woman does it on purpose because she has a crush on me.”

Duo nearly snorted his coffee “I don't believe it,” he laughed. “You went from Special Agent First class in the Preventers to Heero Yuy Goat Wrangler; you should have your own TV show.”

Heero grinned. “Maybe I should.”

“Anything exciting on your schedule today?” Duo asked then ate the last bite of his toast.

“No, they gave me the day off when I told them I had company from out of town,” Heero explained. “I do have some paperwork I need to finish about the goat, and then buy some groceries.”

“Can I come with you?” Duo asked hopefully.

“Of course…” Heero started to say but frowned when he saw what Duo was wearing “do you have anything warmer to wear?”

“No, why?” Duo asked.

“Go look outside,” Heero replied with a smirk then took another sip of his coffee.

Confused Duo set down his coffee and went to the living room to look out of the picture window “Holy shit!” he exclaimed, he couldn't even see his black rental car under the inches of snow Mother Nature had dumped sometime last night.

It must have started early or Heero had only been home for a short while because Heero's car didn't have near as much snow on it.

“I can loan you my coat and I'll wear my work jacket,” Heero said, joining him at the window. “But you may want to park your car in the driveway or garage before they plow the road, especially since it's a rental. Those plows will bury it or scratch the paint; I even lost a side mirror once. Or you can just take it back and borrow my car if you need one.”

Duo smiled again, it really did sound as if Heero expected him to stay for some time.

“I think I'll take it back,” Duo replied. “Save myself the cost since I won't be using it much.”

“Did you rent from the airport?” Heero asked as he turned away from the window heading back to the kitchen to clean up the breakfast dishes.

“Yes,” Duo replied, following him. “I almost took a cab but you know...”

“Did you think I was going to throw you out on your ass?”

Duo's face heated, “Pretty much.”

Heero laughed warmly and Duo's heart fluttered.

“Let's go to the animal center first, you can follow me in your car,” Heero said as he put the cereal bowls in the sink. “After that we can drive out to the airport and drop off your car then stop at the mall for lunch. You can pick up a coat and some boots while we're there.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Duo replied as he collected up the dirty cups, passing them to Heero so they could be washed as well.

When he had left L2 a few days ago he fully expected Heero to slam the door in his face, but instead he was welcomed warmly and he had asked for absolutely nothing in return. Duo was starting to feel like he needed to pay Heero back in some way but he had no idea what to offer.

After the dishes were washed and dried with a hand towel, Heero popped Bear in the back yard for a few minutes while he went to get dressed, having showered off the goat smell when he got home earlier that morning he didn't need to shower now.

Duo stood looking out of the kitchen window, watching the dog jumping through the snow. She barked a few times then bit at the snow, her tail a blur. She saw Duo watching her and ran in a circle a few times barking all the while as if she were inviting him to come out to play.

Heero joined him a few minutes later, pulling a grubby green towel from a hook.

“That is one silly dog you have there,” Duo commented as he watched Bear walk through the snow with her head buried beneath it.

Heero opened the back door and Bear's head popped up, she shook her body flinging snow all around, the tags on her collar tinkling loudly, then she came bounding back into the house and right into the green towel.

Heero rubbed her dry then hung the towel back on its hook beside the back door. Then went to the cabinet next to the fridge and pulled out a small box of dry cat food carrying it to the laundry room, and pouring a small amount into the bowl sitting on the dryer.

“Ready to go?” Heero asked as he put the cat food away.

“Yup, just need a coat,” Duo replied and followed Heero to the living room. Heero opened a small closet near the door and pulled out a heavy, dark brown winter coat with a faux-fur trimmed hood.

“It may be a little small on you,” Heero said as he passed him the garment, “your arms are longer.”

Duo pulled it on and zipped it up, it was a little tight across the back and a good two inches short in the sleeves, but he was warm. “It fits fine, thank you.”

Heero plucked his tan work coat with the animal control patch on the arm from the coat tree and slipped into it, and then the pair stepped outside. The cold hit Duo in the face like a truck, though Heero didn't seem at all phased. He locked his door then went to his car. “It should take about ten minutes to get to work, just follow along behind me.”

Duo nodded and hurried to his car. A few minutes later they were out on the road and in a surprisingly short time they were pulling into parking lot for the animal control office and shelter.

Heero pulled alongside Duo and rolled down his window, Duo did the same and Heero called out “my spot is in the employee parking around back, just wait here and I'll be back in a few minutes.”

“Okay,” Duo agreed then rolled his window back up.

 The silver car disappeared around the side of the building, but after several minutes Heero didn't show.

Suddenly there was a knock on his window and he wiped the fog from the glass so he could see out. There was a young blond woman there smiling at him, she was wearing the same jacket as Heero and was beckoning him to get out and follow her.

Duo rolled the window down a bit. “Can I help you?”

“Duo Maxwell?” She asked and he nodded. “Hi,” she greeted, “my name is Lindy, I work with Heero. He had a quick meeting with the manager, when he told me you were out here waiting I thought that maybe you would want to wait inside.”

“You know how long he'll be?”

“About twenty minutes,” she guessed, “maybe a half an hour.”

“Okay, I'll come in,” he agreed, climbing out and locking the door. He really didn't want to sit out in the parking lot for a half an hour.

Lindy smiled and walked Duo up to the building, “You'll have to wait up front,” she explained, “Or you can go into the shelter and look at the animals, we'll have you paged when Heero's ready to go.”

“Thanks Lindy, I'd like to wait in the shelter,” Duo said and they both entered the shelter side of the building. She waved him off and vanished through a door marked `Authorized Personnel'. There was another young woman at the counter speaking in low tones to a man with a leashed dog at his side; there was no one else in the lobby area.

The animal control building was actually a complex of several buildings, including the animal control offices, an animal shelter and a veterinarian clinic.

He looked around the lobby of the animal shelter building and found a door labeled `Dogs' and a large glass wall to his back. He wandered over to the glass wall and looked inside. It was a small playroom of sorts filled with adult cats of all shapes and sizes, most were lounging about in carpet covered cat trees and none of them seemed to notice Duo looking in at them.

Losing interest in the cats, especially after what Heero's cat had done that morning, Duo glanced around looking for something else to keep busy until Heero was free.

There was another window to his left so he went to peek inside, this room was full of small cages, there was a worker inside with a clipboard who smiled and made a `come in' motion with his hand, so Duo went around the corner where the door was.

“Interested in adopting a small pet?” the man asked.

“Not really,” Duo replied “I'm waiting for Heero.”

The man smiled, “Look all you like. If you want to see the dogs, let me know and I'll take you back there.”

“Thanks,” Duo replied but the man just smiled and left the room, heading for the front counter.

Duo took his time looking at all the little animals in the tanks and cages; there were rats, mice, hamsters and gerbils. A few rabbits and Guinea pigs, there was even a few birds of varying types. If they had any reptiles there didn't keep them in this room. Rodents in general didn't interest him either, not after his childhood, but he did admit the rabbits were kind of cute and the birds were fascinating.

Duo managed to kill about twenty minutes just looking at the animals; he decided not to go in the back to look at the dogs but went to look at the different care books and magazines that lined the walls by the counter instead.

He was thumbing through a book about cats with behavior problems when the man he had spoken with in the small animal room walked up to him. “Heero's ready to go, he said he'll meet you in the parking lot.”

“Thanks…” Duo paused to read the man's name-tag “Travis.”

“No problem,” the man replied then hurried back to the counter when the phone started ringing.

Zipping the coat back up to his neck, he stuffed his hands in the pockets and hurried back to the car. He was just unlocking the door when Heero pulled up in his car.

“Sorry about that,” Heero said through the open window “I didn't think I would be here so long, and I would have called you but I don't have your cell number.”

“It's okay,” Duo replied as he got the door open and climbed inside “I figured it was something like that when that blond girl came out to get me.”

They exchanged phone numbers quickly, and then were back on the road a few minutes later. The drive to the airport normally took fifteen minutes, but the messy streets, an accident somewhere ahead of them and the holiday travelers also going their way delayed them by over an hour.

“I'm glad that's done,” Duo said as he climbed into Heero's car “I'm starving.” Returning his rental had taken another half an hour because the automated return was down and he had to wait in line, though the man at the counter had seemed happy to see him. There were a lot more cars going out than there were cars coming in.

“Let's get you fed then,” Heero replied, turning his car towards the mall. “Hopefully it won't be too crowded.”

Duo nodded in agreement, he knew Heero hated the mall, even more so when it was crowded. It was less than a week until Christmas but it was also early on a work day so with luck most of the shoppers would still be at work.

The underground parking was warm and dry and they easily found a parking spot near the stairs that took them up to the lower shopping level of the enclosed mall. As they stepped through the doors Duo was shocked by the press of bodies rushing about, he never would have guessed the mall would be so crowded when the parking area was so empty.

He could see Heero grit his teeth and sort of brace himself before nodding to Duo and making a bee-line to the escalator and the food court on the third level.

“You seem to know your way around here,” Duo commented as they waited in line for their lunch. “It's kind of surprising, considering how much you hate these places.”

“I've been sent here several times to check out the pet store on the second level,” Heero explained, “they are only allowed to adopt out dogs and cats from shelters. All other animals, fish, rodents, birds, etcetera, must come from licensed and certified breeders, as an animal control officer its part of my job to make sure they aren't selling any illegally acquired animals.”

Duo hummed in understanding, then tuned to the counter to order their meal. Finding a quiet place to eat was difficult, even finding a place to sit while they ate was proving to be a challenge, but just as they were about to give up and go back to the car to eat, a small corner table came free and they snapped it up.

“Geeze,” Duo said as he slid into his chair, “I was beginning to think we would just have to take this home and eat it later.”

Heero poked his sandwich. “I might still take it home,” he replied, “at least I could warm it up again.”

Duo took a bite of his meal and made a face, “You're right, this is ice cold.”

“Take it home?” Heero asked as he rolled his paper bag closed, sandwich safely inside and tucked it in his coat pocket.

Duo nodded, and tossed it back in his bag, after taking a few swallows of his drink he rose and copied Heero's actions, tucking his sandwich away as well.

“The store where you can find boots and a good coat is right down here,” Heero said as they left the food court and entered the crowd of people that very much resembled a river full of salmon during spawning season, and they were swimming against the flow.

By the time they reached the sporting goods store, a feat that on a normal day would have taken a minute or two, today took over twenty minutes, Duo could clearly understand why Heero disliked shopping so much. 

Even when they lived together Heero tended to order most of what he needed online and had it delivered to the apartment. Again Duo felt a twinge of guilt; here Heero was, putting himself in a place that he truly disliked, just so Duo would be comfortable.

The sporting goods store was blissfully less crowded than the rest of the mall and played modern rock music, not the 12 days of Christmas on repeat, so they took their time wandering around while Duo picked out a coat and boots and at Heero's suggestion he also picked out a few sets of thermal under clothes and a dozen pairs of thick socks.

By the time they made it back to the car and were on their way home, their un-eaten lunch had to be thrown away and dinner picked up via drive through. It was nearly dark as Heero's car pulled into the driveway.

“Well that was a long, semi-unproductive day,” Duo groaned, his eyes closed. Heero laughed and Duo turned to him and smiled “I love your laugh.”

“Come on; let's go in before Bear digs up the floor to get out to us.”

“She wouldn't,” Duo stated as he got out of the car and shut the door.

“She has,” Heero replied with a grin as he popped the trunk. “Right after I adopted her. The living room used to have carpet but she kept digging it up when I was at work. Eventually it got so bad that I had to rip it all out, fortunately the floors underneath were nice and just needed a little cleaning.”

Duo laughed as he went around taking his bags from the trunk, just as he pulled the bag with the new boots out, Heero's neighbor to the left stepped out and turned on their Christmas lights.

“Evening Heero,” The man called with a wave of his hand.

“Good evening Mr. Burgess.”

“You going to the tree lighting tomorrow?” Mr. Burgess asked as he checked his mailbox, and then sifted through the stack of envelopes he found there.

“I hadn't planned on it,” Heero confessed, “but I might, it depends on how work goes.”

His neighbor nodded in understanding. “See you later then,” the elderly man called out and waved again before going back into his house.

“Friendly with the neighbors?” Duo asked in surprise as Heero unlocked the door and they stepped inside. Bear was whining softly and dancing around them.

“They had a raccoon in their attic; I had to put in a trap for them,” Heero explained as he switched on the light then carried their dinner through to the table in the kitchen.

“Why don't you have lights up like everyone else?” Duo asked after dumping his bags on the sofa to join Heero in the kitchen, he was starving; it had been a long time since breakfast. “You seemed to enjoy the lights and stuff I put up in the old apartment.”

“I just really haven't had the time,” Heero confessed as he set out paper plates and small containers of mashed potatoes and coleslaw, “I've been taking some extra shifts so my co-workers can have more time with their families.”

“That's really nice of you,” Duo said and Heero shrugged.

“I didn't have anyone at home waiting for me,” Heero replied quietly, “well except Bear and Akuma.”

Duo suddenly felt very sad, even after Heero moved away he still had friends around, someone to spend time with, even more so when he moved in with Hilde and her husband Eric. Heero didn't have anyone, his co-workers seemed to like him but they didn't really come off as friends.

“You okay?” Heero asked, “You look sad.”

“Oh, it's nothing,” Duo tried to assure him. “I was just remembering how much of jerk I was. I really do feel bad about the way I treated you when you decided to quit.”

“Come, have your dinner,” Heero motioned for him to sit down, “we still need to go back out and get groceries.”

Duo nodded and took a bite of his fried chicken and tried to ignore what he saw just inside his peripheral vision, the imploring brown puppy eyes Bear was giving him as she lay on the floor, trying to inch closer, silently begging.


Duo lay in his bed that night and stared at the ceiling. The grocery shopping went well and Heero had insisted that Duo pick out as much as he wanted of things that he liked. Heero was making it quite clear that he expected Duo to stay for a while. The more he thought about it, the more Duo liked the idea. 

He loved Hilde like a sister and Eric was an okay guy, but he didn't really want to live on L2 forever or work in the scrap yard for that matter.

Heero was alone he but he didn't seem lonely. He liked his job, his home, this town, and his kooky pets. He had all the things that Duo had wanted for himself; had thought he had two years ago before Heero told him he was going to quit.

Duo had known Heero was unhappy at the time, had known it for a while, he had probably figured it out before Heero had; hell he would have been blind to miss how much the job was wearing on him, especially after the case six months prior. It had been a long, unbelievably hard assignment that basically went all to hell in the end.  After five years of peace, Heero had enough of the constant reminders of how horrible people could be to each other. Though Heero's current job would still expose him to those horrors, it wasn't a constant, unrelenting reminder that made him question daily why he had fought so hard during the war to save them. But it still gave him a chance to use his skills and gave him a feeling of purpose.

Rolling to his side he looked at the clock and mentally calculated the time difference and 

figured it was just about lunch time on L2.

Picking up his cell he called Hilde.

“Hey, little brother,” Hilde greeted. “How are things there, have you seen him yet?”

“Yeah,” Duo replied and Hilde immediately knew something was up.

“What's wrong, did he turn you away?”

“No, he practically welcomed me with open arms.”

“That's wonderful,” she gushed, “I'm so happy for you.”

“Yeah,” Duo said again sounding dejected.

“I thought you would be happy,” Hilde said, confused. “Isn't this what you wanted?”

“He's happy, Hilde. Happy here without me,” he said.

“But you said he welcomed you, he must want you there,” she pointed out.

Duo thought about that for a moment, “I'm starting to feel guilty, after the way I treated him before, he has been so forgiving. I don't know how to replay him.”

“Just be there for him,” she said “talk to him, watch TV with him, make him dinner, if his laundry builds up, wash it, you see where I'm going?”

“Yes,” Duo confirmed.

“And if he has a long day at work, rub his feet or his shoulders, something to make him feel better.”

“Thanks Hilde,” Duo said sincerely.

“I have to get back to work; I love you, little brother.”

“Love you too, bye,” he turned off the phone and rolled over, a short while later he was asleep.

Heero was up and out early the next morning, long before Duo stirred.

He woke to find Bear beside the bed watching him intently, she began wagging when she realized he was awake, with a happy bark she ran from the room, barked a few times then ran back when he didn't follow.

“You want to go out and play in the snow?” Duo asked as he climbed from the bed and followed her to the kitchen. She ran in a circle barking happily then bolted out the door the moment it was open.

Duo left the dog to play in the yard while he poured himself a cup of coffee and checked the news on Heero's tablet.

It was quiet here; Heero didn't seem to mind that. Duo, however was used to city sounds, liked to have music or the TV playing for background noise when he was home. Heero's TV was way in the back of the house in Heero's bedroom; he would have to turn it all the way up in order to hear it in the kitchen.

Setting the tablet down he let Bear back in, drying her off with her towel, then grabbed a box of cereal and turned to the fridge to get his milk out for breakfast. Just as he opened the door Akuma jumped down from above him, landing on his shoulder, her claws digging into his shoulder and back in an effort to hold on.

Bear danced around him, barking as Duo jumped away from the fridge knocking the box of cereal off the counter.

“Fucking shit,” Duo shouted as he reached up to support the cat's weight, “get off of me you evil thing.” Pinching the skin on the back of her neck he pulled her up and she released him, hanging limply in his grasp like a kitten in its mother's mouth. She gave him a look that reminded him of Bear's puppy eyes and he took on a scolding tone. “Don't look and me like that you little beast, you're the one that just punched me full of holes.”

She mewed pitifully.

“Ah, hell,” he said, his resolve crumbling, he dropped her gently on the floor. “Go on you, and if you jump on me again you're going out in the yard, you hear me?”

She gave him a look of triumph and slinked away. Humans were funny.

With a sigh he went back to making his breakfast only to find Bear happily vacuuming up spilled cereal, Duo bent to pick up the box and was relieved to find it was still mostly full. Setting it back on the counter he went back to the fridge, and though he knew Akuma had left the room, still he checked the top before opening the door to get the milk.

Relaying his tale over dinner that night had left Heero chuckling and though Duo had fully expected Heero to say `I warned you', he never did, he simply offered to take a look a Duo's back and shoulder and clean up the scratches he couldn't reach.

“Would you like to go to the Christmas tree lighting?” Heero asked as he gently cleaned a scratch on Duo back. “There's a parade too.”

Their eyes met in the bathroom mirror and Duo smiled.  “That sounds like fun.”

Dropping the ointment and tape back in the first aid box Heero said, “Everyone sort of dresses up for it, so I'm going to go change. It starts at seven so if we hurry we should make it in time to get a good place to watch.”

“Okay,” Duo replied and watched as Heero went across the hall to his room. Dressy, he could do dressy. Going to his own room Duo slipped out of his jeans and pulled on a pair of slacks that for some reason Hilde had packed in his bag. A deep purple t-shirt and his new coat and boots completed the outfit. It wasn't fabulous but the pleased look on Heero's face made Duo's body warm.

“You look great,” Heero said, picking a stray hair from Duo's shirt.

Heero looked wonderful too, dressed in a navy blue uniform bearing a patch saying “Roseland County Department of Safety.”

“There's no parking in town tonight because of the parade,” Heero explained, “so we have to walk. Fortunately it isn't too far and the weather report shows that the next snow fall isn't expected until around 3am.”

Duo slipped into his new black coat and rolled his shoulders to settle it while Heero dug through the coat closet and pulled out a navy coat that matched his uniform.

After locking the door they set off down the street and Duo couldn't help but notice the lack of lights on Heero's house again. The whole neighborhood was lit up tonight but Heero's house stood out like a bulb that had burned out on a string of lights.

The walk was pleasant, it was cold and wet but the cold wasn't as shocking as it had been the day before. Duo was still glad that Heero insisted that he get a warmer coat, he could tell that in a few hours when the sun fully set the temperature was going to drop quickly.

They walked the length of Main Street, about 6 city blocks, so Duo could enjoy the lights and decorations in the shop windows then staked out a spot near the edge of the park where the town tree sat tall and dark, waiting to be lit after the parade.

“Would you like something hot to drink?” Heero asked, nodding towards the small coffee shop across the street.

“You wait here, I'll get it,” Duo said, maneuvering them so Heero was sitting on the park bench. “You worked all day.”

Heero gave him and funny, pleased sort of look then nodded and Duo smiled, walking off to get them both something warm to drink.

“Hey Heero,” a feminine voice said behind him and he turned to see Lindy standing in the grass. She had dressed in a uniform similar to Heero's only she had on a uniform skirt and thick tan tights, her blond hair twisted up in a bun, “I didn't think you would come, you worked almost twelve hours today.”

“I thought Duo would enjoy it, after all, he spent all day at the house with nothing to do today.”

“And he survived your cat? It's a miracle!” she cried.

“She's not that bad,” Heero protested.

“She had trained animal control officers wishing for a crucifix and Holy water, Heero. I don't understand how you've managed to keep her for so long.”

“She just needed time,” Heero replied, turning away from her to look for Duo, “something her past owners never gave her.”

“I'm just teasing you, I'm sure she's perfectly wonderful now that she has a stable, loving home,” Lindy replied as she came around and sat beside him on the bench. They sat together quietly until Duo stepped out of the coffee shop with a steaming cup in each hand. A smile spread across her face. “See you at work tomorrow,” she said suddenly and was gone, leaving Heero alone on the bench.

“Was someone sitting with you?” Duo asked as he passed Heero his cup, “I thought I saw someone.”

“It was a co-worker, marveling that you survived a day alone with my cat.”

Duo laughed loudly, as he sat beside his friend, “I take it they were familiar with your cat.”

“Yes, and of the opinion that she needs an exorcism,” Heero replied dryly. 

“I'm inclined to agree with them,” Duo replied then blew gently across his cup.

“Akuma kept getting returned to the shelter for behavior problems,” Heero explained, “She was food aggressive and couldn't be kept with the other cats. She would attack anyone who tried to open her kennel. We're a no-kill shelter so she had to be fostered and trained, I drew the short straw, so to speak and was the one assigned to foster her and test her behavior. After a week or so she got used to me and stopped attacking.” He took a sip of his coffee, “when the foster period was up I decided to adopt her.”

“Is that how you got Bear too?”

“No, Bear was one of my first rescues, her owners had abandoned her. They were renting a house and one month they didn't pay rent. The landlord went to check and found out his tenants had moved out leaving the dog behind, it was estimated that she was alone for about three weeks.”

“That's awful,” Duo said sadly.

“I agree but it could have been worse. Bear was lucky that she was locked inside and they left her food behind; she managed to get into her food bin and find water in the bathroom. She only spent one night in the clinic then a week in rehab before the mandatory two weeks in the shelter while we tried to find anyone in the owner's family so they could be charged with abandonment. As her rescuer I was able to visit and adopted her as soon as I was able.”

“Have there ever been any other animals you wanted to adopt?” Duo asked.

“Oh yes,” Heero replied, “but I can't adopt them all, no matter how much I would like too. I just don't have the room or the time to properly care for more than the ones I already have.”

Duo nodded in understanding.

They sat quietly together as the other members of the town began to gather in around them, then down at the far end of the street the High School marching band began to play and the crowd cheered.

The parade was short and included all three towns of Roseland County; there were floats by the schools, businesses and clubs, bands from all the schools, a performance of Christmas carols by the county choir and the crowning of the Miss Roseland County Christmas Queen, who, along with the town Mayor got the honor of lighting the tree.

After the last float turned the corner and vanished behind the park the Mayor and the Christmas Queen took their places on the small stage in front of the tree.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the Mayor began, “it gives me great joy to see you all here at this, the most joyous time of year. “ He paused as the choir returned and gathered near the tree. “Main Street, if you would be so kind?”

A moment later the lights on Main began to go out one by one, leaving the street and the park in darkness, a flashlight clicked on to spotlight the Mayor and the Christmas Queen, the young lady held the switch for the tree in her gloved hand.

“Merry Christmas please, on the count of three,” the Mayor instructed. “1, 2, 3!”

“Merry Christmas!” the crowd yelled and the Queen flipped the switch, the flashlight went out and a moment later the tree lit up.

The white, LED lights started at the base, spiraling up the tree until it met the star at the top which seemed to explode, raining twinkling color over the rest of the tree. The crowd cheered and the choir began singing again.

They sang a few more songs and the Main Street lights came back on, then the crowd began to thin.

“Are you ready to go home?” Heero asked as he took Duo's empty cup, tossing it in a trashcan.

“This was wonderful, thank you Heero,” Duo smiled, “and to answer your question, yes I'm ready to go.”

They walked back down Main Street enjoying each other's company and arrived home a short while later. Home, that's truly what it felt like to Duo now, though he had only been there for a few days. The more time he spent with Heero the more he felt like he belonged.


It was still dark out when Duo woke the next morning, the clock showing it was almost 5:30, he hurried out of bed, hoping Heero was still home.

“Hey, you're up early,” Heero said as he set his coffee on the table “I didn't wake you did I?”

“No,” Duo assured him “I wanted to see you before you left today. I was wondering if I could borrow your car while you were at work.”

“Sure,” Heero replied, “but I have to get going soon.”

“Great, thanks,” Duo replied and hurried back to his room to get dressed. It didn't take long for Duo to dress and Heero was still eating his cereal when he came back to the kitchen.

Heero didn't ask him what he wanted the car for, he simply finished his breakfast then gave Duo the car keys on his way out.

I was snowing lightly and still dark out as Duo drove the ten minute drive to the County animal complex.

“I'm scheduled until 5 but I may be later if I have a call out, I'll call you to let you know.”

“Okay,” Duo replied then on an impulse he leaned over and kissed Heero's lips gently, “Have a good day.”

Heero didn't say anything in return but his smile was goofy happy as he climbed out of the car and walked to the building.

It was still too early to do what he had planned to do so Duo took the car back home and did a few chores. He took a shower and changed his clothes then did a load of laundry, swept and mopped the kitchen and played with Bear.

 Akuma seemed to be avoiding him for now and hadn't `surprised' him since the dive bomb off the top of the refrigerator, but despite his current dislike of the cat he went in search of a litter box and to Duo's immense relief, Heero had a self-cleaning litter box in the laundry room for the little beast that used reusable granules and water to keep the cat box clean all the time. Not having to scoop out cat turds was a Christmas present all in itself.

Duo ran out of busy things to do hours before he could put his other plans in motion so he dug out his lap top and did a little research. At 10 am he was back in the car and driving to his first destination of the day.

By 2pm he had returned home, exhausted but pleased that he was able to do and get everything he had planned to, though it had taken longer than he expected as the main stores in town didn't have all he was looking for and he was dammed if he was going back to the hell that was the mall, so he went out of his way to go to the nearest city over an hour away.

The back seat and trunk were filled with his purchases but the cost didn't matter, he had some money saved as Hilde paid him well and didn't charge him for his room in her house or most of his meals, so for the past year he had had very little in the way of expenses.

He unlocked the front door then returned to the car, popping the trunk he pulled out several full bags and carried them to the door. Bear was whining and dancing, and thankfully staying out of his way.

“Sorry sweetie,” Duo said as he dumped his first load on the couch. “I didn't buy you anything.” She smiled, her tongue lolling as she panted happily.

 He patted her head then went back to the car to bring in the rest of the purchases. He took several trips and was down to the second to the last, a large, heavy brown box and a few smaller bags. He stepped through the door when he felt something hit his ankle, there was a horrifying screech and Akuma went rocketing through the house, disappearing near the back, and most likely hiding under Heero's bed.

“Son of a Bitch,” he cursed, barely able to keep on his feet as he juggled his load, he was able to hold onto most of what he carried only losing a small box as it slipped from the top of one of the bags, falling to the floor with a crash, bits of glass glittering around the fallen box.

“Perfect,” he grumbled as he set down his load. “Just perfect, stupid cat.”

He fetched the last load, making sure the cat was nowhere in sight. By the time everything was brought in, Heero's living room was filled with packages.

Bear watched him curiously and he smiled. “I think I should start outside first,” he told her as he sorted through the items, sorting them into separate piles. She wagged in reply and followed so she could watch from the window.

Taking an arm full of stuff back outside he looked around and realized he had a small problem, he needed a ladder. Heero didn't own one; he didn't even have a step stool.

“Hello,” a voice suddenly called, “how are you this fine day?”

It took Duo a moment to realize that he recognized the voice and that the owner was talking to him, he turned and smiled at the neighbor he had seen the evening before the tree lighting.

“Hello,” Duo replied with a smile as he walked across the driveway to greet the man properly “I'm Duo Maxwell.”

“Stanley Burgess,” the older man greeted.

“Do you happen to own a ladder?” Duo questioned “I want to hang some lights on Heero's house before he gets home from work.”

“I sure do,” the man replied. “You're more than welcome to it.”

“Thank you, you're a life saver.”

The man smiled again. “You ever hang lights outside?”

“Um, no,” Duo replied honestly.

“I thought so, let me get my gloves and I'll give you a hand,” the man said then he turned and went back in his house without waiting for Duo to reply.

He returned several moments later wearing a pair of work gloves, carrying a work bag and an aluminum ladder.

“Here, take this lad,” Stanley said passing Duo the ladder so he could close his door then the pair walked back over to Heero's house.

Stanley showed Duo how to test the lights to make sure they were all working then hang them safely so they would stand up to the weather. It took the pair a good two hours but when they were done, Heero's house looked like a showcase and rivaled the lights of the neighboring houses.

“Thank you Stanley,” Duo said sincerely as they stood back to admire the lights.

“No thanks necessary,” Stanley replied and shouldered his work bag, the ladder already back at his house. “If you need help taking them down, let me know.” He turned and walked home.

Hurrying back into the house, Duo tore into the large brown box and pulled out the pieces for the 7 foot artificial Christmas tree. He had planned on getting a real tree but after he got to the city he realized that he had no way to get it home, the artificial one fit right in the trunk.

It took him about twenty minutes to sort out the pieces and assemble the tree.

He placed it near the picture window in the living room then started decorating it. He had the lights and garland on and was just adding the ornaments when the ringing of the vid phone and Bear's sudden barking startled him. Glancing at his watch he was shocked to see that it was ten minutes to 5.

“I know I hear it,” he said to her as he scrambled through the mess, yanking off the hand set, he hit the connect button.

“Hello?” he said a little breathlessly.

“Duo?” A female voice asked, she didn't sound familiar.

“Yes?” he replied.

“This is Lindy,”

“Oh, yes,” Duo replied when the name clicked, “Heero isn't home.”

“I would hope not, especially since I just saw him go into the break room,” the girl laughed, “unless there's a tele-porter in there that I don't know about.”

Duo laughed. “What can I do for you?”

“We're having a Christmas party tomorrow,” she explained, “it's for everyone that works in the complex and their families. We have invited Heero every year but he hasn't come, I was hoping you could talk him into coming this year. Tell him I'll even buy lactose free Egg Nog.”

“I could try,” Duo began tentatively then he noticed the mess in the lounge again, “Hey Lindy, do you think you could keep Heero at work for another hour or so? I made a bit of a mess in his living room and I don't have time to finish what I'm working on before I have to pick him up.”

She chuckled. “I'll see what I can do,” she assured him, “at the very least I'll drive him home for you but make him wait a bit before I leave. That should give you a good half an hour.”

Duo thanked her and they said their goodbyes then, turning back to living room Duo tackled the mess. He started with the tree and quickly put on the rest of the ornaments, only three had broken when Akuma made him drop the box.

He had only been working about ten minutes when his cell rang.

“Hello,” he said as he continued to place decorations on the tree.

“Hi, Duo,” Heero said and Duo smiled brightly, “A co-worker needs my help picking up some things that were ordered for the office Christmas party. I'll get a ride home after but I may be an hour or so later than planned so I'll pick up dinner on the way.”

If hadn't taken long for Duo to figure out that Heero rarely ate at home, except for the toast and cereal bit. He almost always ate out for lunch and dinner, at least during the holidays when he worked such long hours.

“Okay, thanks for letting me know. I'll see you in a little while.”

“Bye,” Heero replied and hung up.

Duo grinned and put the phone back in his pocket then turned back to the tree.

After the tree was done he carefully pushed it right up to the window then spread the skirt out under it. He plugged in the lights and gave a sigh of relief when they all came on. He clicked them off then went around gathering up all the empty boxes and bags, stuffing them into the large box the tree came in so the lights and such could go back in them when it was time to take everything down.

He had just finished sweeping up the plastic pine needles, and other bits of stuff that fell from the garland and whatnot when he heard a car door slam shut out front. Bear barked once then ran to the window and stuck her head under the curtain her body wiggling as she squirmed excitedly.

Duo peeked out too, pleased that it was quite dark out so he turned off the lights and waited.

“Duo?” Heero called out after he opened the door. Duo stayed quiet but carefully stepped on the switch under the tree and the lights flashed on, illuminating the room.

“Oh,” Heero said in quiet surprise as he moved deeper in the room.

“There's more,” Duo said taking Heero's hand and guiding him back outside. Moments later the house was aglow.

“Merry Christmas,” Duo said gently. “I hope you like it.”

“Of course I do,” Heero replied honestly, his eyes focused on the house. He turned to Duo and gave him a peck on the cheek. “I've missed this, thank you.”

“You're welcome,” Duo replied.

Venturing back in the house he moved closer to Heero, wrapping an arm around his waist. They stood together in the dark room watching the sparkling lights for several long minutes before the grumbling of Duo's stomach made them part so they could have dinner.

 “Lindy invited me to go to the Christmas party, but I would rather go with you,” Duo said around a bite full of food.

Heero looked up from his meal in surprise, “She did what?” he asked, not sure that he had heard him correctly.

Duo chuckled “Lindy called and said your office was having a Christmas party, she thought I might enjoy it but said that you never go.”

“If you want to go, then we can go.”

Duo beamed. “Thank you,” he took another bite of his meal. That was easier than he thought it would be.

By the time the meal was done, both men were tired and decided to call it an early night. They worked together to take care of the animals and lock up for the night.

The morning of Christmas Eve dawned with another sky dump from Mother Nature and Duo got his first real taste of shoveling snow and putting down salt. It was not an experience he enjoyed nor wished to repeat, but was a necessary part of living where they did.

Heero had his regular 8 hour work day and would be home with more than enough time to have dinner and get ready for the party. Duo had asked him that morning if he really minded going to the party and Heero told him that he was fine with it which made Duo feel better about agreeing to help Lindy get Heero to go.

“Lindy guaranteed that the party was very casual so jeans a t-shirt will probably be fine,” Heero said from Duo's bedroom doorway as the other man dithered over the contents of his meager bag of clothing.

“I'll just wear what I wore to the tree lighting,” Duo said as he pulled the black slacks from the bag, glad that he had washed them the day before.

Heero nodded, secretly pleased. He thought Duo looked wonderful in that outfit. He was already dressed in a pair of nice jeans and a white button down shirt. He wore it untucked and the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Duo thought he looked wonderful too.

The party was in full swing when they arrived and they found that Lindy was true to her word and a small carton of Soy-Nog with a post-it note addressed to Heero sat in a small bowl of ice on the long buffet table along with all the other snacks and treats laid out for the party.

They danced together, making no effort to hide that they liked each other. Every one Heero worked with had already figured it out anyway the day Heero had taken the day off then brought Duo to the office.

No one worked on Christmas day so they enjoyed the music and each other for the entire evening, knowing neither of them had to get up early.

The next morning, Heero brought out the vid screen, setting the station to some classic Christmas movie; they sat together in their pajamas on the living room floor and ate their breakfast. Bear lay near them chewing on the new squeak toy Duo had bought for her the day before.

Taking the bowls into the kitchen Heero returned with something hidden behind his back, he brought it out for Duo to see as he joined him on the floor again.

Duo grinned and accepted the large, gold foil wrapped box and pulled the large sticky back green bow off the front, sticking it on Bear's head right between her ears. She bit down on her toy making it squeak again.

Ripping the foil away, Duo's eyes opened in surprise as he uncovered an expensive grooming kit with sandalwood scented bath products. It was the exact same set that Quatre had gifted him for Christmas four year ago. Duo had loved the way the shampoo and conditioner had left his hair. He had loved it so much that he had managed to make the bottles last almost eight months. He never replaced it because the cost was too extravagant.

“I remembered you liked this so ordered it online I'm sorry it isn't more,” Heero said. “I wasn't sure what to get you and I didn't have any time to shop.”

“It's been so long since I've last used this shampoo that I had forgotten about it. How did you remember?”

“The smell, sandalwood reminds me of you,” Heero said, “it reminds me of when you were happy.”

With a watery smile Duo set the box aside and reached into the pocket of his lounge pants and pulled out his gift for Heero. Heero took the small box wrapped in white paper with funny cartoon reindeer all over.

“With the lights and everything, you didn't have to give me a gift,” Heero said holding the box in his lap.

 “But I wanted to give you this,” Duo whispered.

“You already gave me what I wanted,” Heero responded softly, smiling at the confused look on the other man's face. He set the box aside, unopened and leaned forward to kiss Duo's mouth gently then whispered, “You gave me you.”

Duo's smile was brighter than the lights on the tree, “I wanted you too, guess we both got what we wanted,” he confirmed then kissed Heero again.

Heero eventually did open his gift, and when he saw what was inside, he said “Yes.”

Bear, lying near them with the green bow still stuck to her head, smiled her doggy smile, tail swishing happily. It was about time.


Owari and Merry Christmas