Title: Christmas Giving
Rating: PG/PG-13 (for language and shounen-ai)
Pairing: Heero/Duo (heavily implied Trowa/Quatre)
Summary: Heero finds what may be the perfect gift to show Duo what he feels.
Show: Gundam Wing
Date of publication: Dec. 24th, 2004
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing and its characters belong to Bandai and Sunrise. No infringement of that copyright is intended by this fic (only homage *g*).
Feedback address: bardd.tales(at)gmail.com
Advertisement: Part of the Slash Advent Calendar of 2004 at http://www.kardasi.com/Advent/2004/SAC-2004.htm.
Notes: 1) Companion to "Christmas Gifts" (Dec. 3rd). What's Heero's side of the story? 2) Again, the mulled cider is the non-alcoholic kind of cider... 3) Brigus is a real town on the east coast of Newfoundland. 4) (Forgot this on the last story): Canadian spelling.
August 14, AC 197;
Alajuela, Costa Rica
Heero was wandering aimlessly through Alajuela when he suddenly stopped short, his attention captured by a gleam of light in a store window. Curious, he moved closer, and found himself staring at a small suncatcher of stained-glass.
He instantly knew why it had captured his attention: the scene it depicted – a sheltered beach at night – immediately made him think of Duo and his rescue from the Alliance hospital. Not that his thoughts were ever far from Duo at the best – or even the worst – of times; but this brought the memory of that particular moment – the first time anyone had ever called themselves his 'friend' – rushing back to him as though he were re-experiencing it. Perhaps it was the peculiar juxtaposition of the nighttime scene in something meant to catch sunlight, or simply the actual scene itself. Either way, Heero knew that he had to buy it.
Had to get it for Duo.
Heero had little doubt that it would affect Duo as powerfully as it had him; and given that, perhaps – just perhaps – he'd finally succeed in getting Duo to understand what he felt for him. Words didn't work; Heero had never been that good at expressing himself verbally when it came to emotions – he was no Quatre. (Not that Quatre was the best at that either, considering the way he and Trowa were dancing around each other... but he was certainly the best at it out of the pilots.) And while Heero had been trying to express – at the very least – that he felt closer to Duo than anyone, including the other pilots, by visiting each time he made it to Brussels, Duo had shown no signs of understanding those actions either. But this... this would be a symbol that would definitely remind Duo of their friendship, and would hopefully indicate more as well.
Fifteen minutes later, Heero walked out of the small store with the suncatcher carefully wrapped in a box in his pocket, and a silent determination to do more than his best for the client whose job had brought him here. After all, if he'd never been offered the job, he would never have found this perfect gift.
December 9, AC 197;
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
"But Heero, you can't!" Quatre protested, the pitch of his voice rising until the last word was almost a whine.
Heero blinked in confusion. This was not the reaction he'd expected when he'd called Quatre to let him know about the training session Une requested he handle on L1.
"You can't!" Quatre repeated. "You'll miss Christmas!"
Now Heero was even more confused. It was true that with the training session ending on the morning of the 24th, he wouldn't get back to Earth until late morning on the 25th at the earliest; but he'd still be present for most of Christmas Day. Though why Quatre hadn't realized this.... With a mental shrug, Heero decided it would be wise to point it out. "My shuttle will be landing at the Brussels port at eleven-hundred local time," he said calmly. "That leaves thirteen hours of Christmas."
"But... but... you'll miss brunch!"
Quatre looked uncommonly flustered, Heero noted. "Brunch?" he asked.
"The Gundam Pilots' Christmas Brunch!"
Quatre sighed, looking as though he was finally starting to calm down. "I've been planning to invite everyone over for a Christmas brunch, just the five of us," he said, looking rather disappointed. "I was thinking we could start a Christmas tradition for us to share. Something other than saving the world," he added, a touch sardonically.
At least that explained why Quatre was upset about this. It was a good idea – something aside from helping the Preventers that would let them keep ties with each other. Unfortunately.... "I already informed Lady Une that I would do it," Heero said. "I think it sounds good, however, Quatre." He then thought for a moment, working out plans. The others would all agree to go, of course: Duo enjoyed getting together with the rest of them; Trowa would never refuse Quatre anything (though Quatre still hadn't picked up on that little fact); and Wufei would be pleased at the chance to relax that having only the rest of them there would give him.
"I'll do my best to make it," Heero said a minute later, after a quick mental juggling of shuttle schedules. "Depending on the quality of the new recruits, I may even be able to finish the training sessions early."
That managed to get Quatre brightened up again. "Oh, good," he declared, smiling. "I'll certainly hope for that."
December 25, AC 197;
1100 hrs. CET – Brussels, Belgium
Heero disembarked from the Preventers' shuttle, grateful that his use of the official transportation meant he wouldn't have to deal with any of the hassles he'd encountered on his arrival on L1 by commercial flight two weeks ago. The customs guards had been annoyingly sceptical that a seventeen-year-old could be a full Preventer agent, and they'd kept him for almost two and a half hours – without calling in to verify his identity – while they tried to make him admit to falsifying his Preventer's ID in order to smuggle weapons on board the colony. Never mind the fact that he'd actually told them he was carrying at gun, or that if he'd wanted to smuggle weapons in, nothing they had would have detected them....
As it was, it was only a call on his mobile phone from an irate Lady Une, wanting to know why he hadn't yet reported in at the training facility, that had finally convinced them he was telling the truth.
And unfortunately, things had only gotten worse from there.
The new trainees hadn't been any more impressed than the customs officials when faced with an adolescent trainer, and hadn't hesitated to act in a fashion that made that clear. It had taken three days to cut them all down to size; and even then, Heero had had to ride herd on them constantly to ensure they obeyed him.
At least it was over now, and he'd informed Lady Une – quite emphatically – that if he ended up having to train any more groups like this one, he would quit.
His size and agility allowed Heero to slip easily through the crowds in the 'Arrivals' area, and he was in the long-term parking lot within five minutes. Securing his bag on the back of his motorcycle, he put on his helmet, settled himself astride, and rode out.
It would take him approximately twelve minutes to reach the local apartment he maintained for when business (whether the Preventers or his consulting) brought him into the city, and then another thirty to reach Quatre's house after he retrieved the presents he'd bought for the other pilots. He couldn't wait.
Parking the motorcycle in Quatre's driveway, Heero noticed that the only other vehicle there – aside from the Winner Industries limo – was Wufei's car. Duo and Trowa must have either taken cabs or got rides, he thought absently as he got off and unsecured the bag containing Wufei, Quatre, and Trowa's gifts. Duo's was kept safe in the inside pocket of his jacket.
Rashid opened the door for him with a warm smile. "Good afternoon, Master Heero."
"Good afternoon, Rashid," Heero replied evenly. "I hope all of you are having a good holiday season."
"We are indeed," the leader of the Maguanacs replied. "And may I say thank you for the thoughtful gift? The villagers – the children especially – are quite grateful."
"They are more than welcome," Heero said, feeling a slight flush of embarrassment cross his face. "Where are the others?"
"In the main room," Rashid answered, waving one had in the appropriate direction. "They will be pleased to see that you were able to make it."
"Thank you," Heero replied, and headed in the indicated direction.
Walking in from the hall, he noticed the fire burning in the hearth, the evergreen wreath over the mantle... and the presence of only three of the other four pilots. Where's Duo?
"Merry Christmas," he said out loud, scanning the room for any signs of his best friend's presence. Nothing – not even a scrap of wrapping paper lying carelessly on the floor. Where is he?
"Heero!" Quatre exclaimed, sounding delighted as he bounced up from the couch and spun around. "You made it!"
"I told you I'd do my best," Heero replied, nodding to Trowa and Wufei as they both stood up from their chairs by the fireplace and moved around to join them. "Where's Duo?"
"He had other friends he promised he would visit today," Quatre explained. "Then he's having dinner at St. Mary's Orphanage – and most likely playing Kris Kringle for the children afterwards."
Heero managed to stifle the flicker of disappointment he felt at that. Things could still work out; he'd spend a few hours with the others, and then he'd see about making rearrangements to the plans for Christmas dinner. Duo wouldn't eat much at the orphanage – he never did, not wanting to deprive the children of any food they could possibly use – so he'd most likely still be hungry when he arrived home....
Trowa was giving him a knowing look, Heero realized, as he declared that he would catch up with Duo later. Rather than ignore it the way he usually did, Heero responded this time by letting his eyes flicker over to Quatre for a second, and then back to Trowa in a pointed query. Trowa flushed slightly, and backed down. To help make sure that the others were distracted, Heero held up the bag he'd carried in. "Time for gifts?" he inquired.
Quatre grinned and looked almost as though he were about to start bouncing again, leaving Heero to wonder – not for the first time – at how the other pilot could appear so innocent, despite the fact that he had as much blood on his hands as the rest of them. "Presents?" the CEO of Winner Industries asked. "Heero, you didn't have to...." Then he grinned. "But since you did anyway, hand 'em over!"
Putting the bag down on the couch, Heero opened it, pulled out the gifts, and obediently distributed them.
Quatre was the first to open his, and his eyes widened as he pulled out rosin, wood oil, and labeled packages of coiled violin strings. He looked up at Heero, stunned, from his seat on the edge of the couch. "How— I mean, I was fairly sure you knew I played the piano, but...."
Heero's lips quirked in a small, pleased smile at Quatre's reaction. "A little bird told me," he replied. He couldn't help but wonder whether Quatre would think it was one of the Maguanacs who had spilled the fact that the violin was Quatre's favourite instrument, or whether the blond would correctly guess that it had been Trowa.
Who was the next to open his present. And he looked as pleased in his own way as Quatre had, to Heero's satisfaction, at the set of wood-carving tools and the flute-cleaning kit he took out of his own box.
And Wufei was clearly delighted by his own gift: sword-oil, a whetstone, and a display pedestal designed specifically for the Chang Clan Sword – Heero had taken careful note of its dimensions on the last Preventers mission he'd shared with Wufei and Sally.
Heero really was pleased by their reactions. Much as with Duo's gift, he'd chosen the ones for the other pilots very carefully. They were all peacetime gifts – even Wufei's, really; gifts that fit with their personal hobbies. Gifts that were meaningful and special because of that, and because Heero had clearly taken the time to research what interested them. Gifts that were meant for friends... and Heero knew that the others would recognize that as well. It was the closest he could come – at the moment, at least – to a declaration of how he felt about them....
Heero put the packages he was carrying down on the floor of the entrance to Duo's apartment building, and proceeded to key in the security code he was fairly sure Duo didn't know he had. He'd caught a glimpse of it the last time Duo had helped him out with a mission for the Preventers and been injured, and had made a point of memorizing it. After all, one never knew when that sort of information would be useful....
Picking the packages back up, Heero slipped in and headed over to the door to the stairs. Four floors was nothing, even carrying the somewhat awkward parcels he held.
Once he'd reached Duo's apartment, Heero reached into his pocket and pulled out his lock pick. While he knew the security codes for Duo's building, he had no idea what his current apartment security codes were.
It took almost fifteen minutes to fully disarm the system so that it would accept the copy he had of Duo's key, but Heero wasn't concerned about that. It was Christmas Day – everyone was busy celebrating, and it was highly unlikely that anyone would show up in the hallway leading to Duo's apartment. And even if they did... well, he was still carrying his Preventer ID.
Opening the door, he switched on the lights and looked around carefully.
There was a small artificial Christmas tree, sparsely decorated, on a side table just inside the main room, and hanging across the room was a white cord, holding up a group of Christmas cards. Heero recognized the one he'd sent Duo at the beginning of the month from the town of Brigus in Newfoundland.
Other than that, however, the apartment seemed to be quite empty. The far wall, which Heero remembered had displayed a collection of Hallowe'en masks the last time he'd been here, was now absolutely bare, and there was no sign of any other Christmas decorations.
Well, that can be taken care of quite easily, Heero thought in satisfaction, as he put two of the packages he'd carried up down on the couch, and brought the other three into the kitchen.
Pulling out a large carafe, he placed it on the stove, filled it from the jug of store-bought cider he'd picked up before leaving for L1, and put in the cloth-covered ball of mulling spices.
Last year, Heero had originally been looking forward to spending his first real Christmas with Duo, never having had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas before – at least, not that he remembered. (Dr. J had never shown any inclination to give his 'weapon' a day off training, and before J, Odin Lowe had never been interested in the celebrations, except as a way to potentially get closer to a target.) Then Barton's people had kidnapped Relena, which had put paid to that idea.
While Duo had been piloting their shuttle to L3X-18999, he'd suddenly – for some reason – started talking about his experiences with previous Christmases. Heero had found himself listening gratefully, because Duo's chatter managed to distract him from the nightmarish memory of the mission that had killed the little girl and her puppy, and the re-training that had resulted from his display of grief. One of the things Duo had mentioned was that during the one Christmas he'd had at the Maxwell Orphanage, they'd had a treat of mulled cider on Christmas Day, and that ever since then, the smell of hot mulled cider had meant 'Christmas' to him.
As a result, when Heero had started planning this back in August, one of the first things he'd done was learn how to mull cider properly. He wanted to make this the best possible Christmas for Duo, and that would be the first step.
While the cider was heating up and beginning to mull, Heero put the mince tarts in the oven and set it to start warming them at 1800 hrs., then slipped the brandy butter into the fridge and got the turkey sandwiches put out on a tray and covered with food wrap to keep them fresh until Duo returned.
Then, with the food preparations done for the moment, he walked back into the main room, opened the two packages he'd left there, and began putting up more decorations to make the apartment look more in tune with the season.
Once he finished that, he found an interesting book on one of Duo's shelves, and settled down to read.
Four hours after he arrived, Heero poured himself a mug of the mulled cider – which (he'd discovered while learning to make it) had a rather pleasant taste – took the tray of sandwiches out and put it on the table, and lit the candles he'd scattered around the main room. Duo should be back soon, and he wanted to be ready. Besides, he thought, turning off the light and looking around at the Christmas lights and candles, I like the way this looks. (He'd experimented a few times in his apartment earlier in the month in order to work out the optimal placement of candles with respect to the lights.)
He had just sat back down on the couch when he heard the elevator stop on this floor, and a moment later, the familiar sound of Duo whistling drifted in through the door; it was a Christmas tune... "Sleigh Ride" or "Jingle Bells", Heero thought the song was called.
Here was the moment of truth – how would Duo react?
Once Duo had got over his surprise, dinner went quite well, and Heero found himself very relaxed as he enjoyed discussing non-essential things with his best friend after they'd finished eating.
"You know," Duo commented, casually putting his feet up on the table as they realized they'd pretty much exhausted the topic of Wufei and Sally, "I really wish Trowa would finally get around to making a move and ask Quatre out, 'cause Quat sure as hell isn't going to do anything about the situation – he's too nervous that he's projecting his own feelings onto Tro."
Heero nodded in agreement – this afternoon it had been almost painful watching the constant dance around each other – when he suddenly remembered his own plans. He'd almost forgotten them in the enjoyment of Duo's presence....
"What is it?" Duo demanded, and Heero realized he'd already stood up.
"I almost forgot..." he said over his shoulder, as he hurried over to his coat and pulled out the box containing Duo's present out of the inside pocket. He felt a grin of anticipation tugging at his mouth as he turned around and extended the box toward Duo; he was sure that Duo would at least understand that it was a symbol of the importance of their friendship, after the discussion they'd had over dessert. "Here – your Christmas present."
Duo blinked, his expression somewhere between stunned and dumbfounded, and Heero fought to keep his amusement from showing. Yes, he was definitely more relaxed than he was accustomed to being....
"Heero, you didn't need to—" Duo began, but Heero interrupted him before he could finish.
"I wanted to," he said firmly, handing the present over. Duo must have recognized that he wasn't going to accept any arguments, because he just nodded and accepted it.
Heero paused for a moment, watching Duo examine the wrapped box, and then added – carefully – "When I saw it, I immediately thought of you." And maybe those words would help Duo figure out what else the present represented....
I can hope, at least, Heero thought, as he watched Duo unwrap it.
He kept his eyes fixed on his friend, not wanting to miss even the subtlest changes in Duo's expression, as the other pilot opened the box and moved the top layer of tissue paper to one side, and felt a touch of relief as Duo looked... awed. And he could almost see the memory of that scene on the beach playing out in front of Duo's eyes....
"It was the first time anyone ever suggested that they might be my friend," Heero offered quietly. Duo knew that he'd never had anything resembling a normal life before the end of the First Eve War, but it still felt uncomfortably like exposing himself to actually say it.
Duo's voice was even quieter than his, but Heero still heard him clearly. "It's beautiful, Heero. Exquisite."
"Good," Heero replied. He could feel a peculiar tension in the air, but wasn't sure what was causing it – or whether it was good or not. He thought it was good, but....
Duo carefully put the box down on the table, and looked up at him. Heero looked back, not sure exactly what Duo was thinking....
And then he abruptly leaned forward and kissed Heero on the lips.
"Thank you," Duo said as he pulled away, but Heero was only distantly aware that Duo had spoken. He was still too stunned by what had just happened.
He kissed me.... Duo actually kissed me.... "Duo..." he murmured out loud, reaching one hand up to touch his mouth in an unconscious attempt to tell whether it had been a dream, or reality. He kissed me!
He looked straight at Duo, and for once, was able to read his friend perfectly. Duo really had kissed him – and meant it.
Heero didn't even try to hide the delighted smile that crossed his face just before he leaned forward and reciprocated the kiss. He'd been right, he realized, as he was pulled down – the suncatcher had been the perfect gift to show Duo how he felt. And his first real Christmas was turning into a perfect one.
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Last modified December 24th, 2004.