The Professional and the Amateur Part 7
It didn't take long for Duo and Heero to come upon the mall entrance, excitement already thrumming through the braided American's veins at even the thought of stepping into a mall after so long. He'd never had the chance before; either he was broke or too busy working to even think about a mall. Yet this mall...
This mall was huge. Over three layers of stores upon stores, some big enough to own sections on all three layers. Already ahead they could see Solo dragging Hilde into this humongous toy store to just 'look around'. Hilde let herself be dragged with a content little smile on her face, though a warning in her tone when she reminded her son they couldn't afford the whole store.
Aunt Helen stood off to the side, though she wasn't looking at the mother and son almost speeding toward the toy store. In the center of the mall, a large ice rink filled with figure skaters of all kinds drew her attention away from her daughter and grandson. She watched wistfully as a girl in a tight fitted, glittering outfit twirled on the ice, faster and faster until she broke off with a graceful twirl and leap.
"Coz used to skate in that rink for fun before she got sick," Duo told Heero quietly, watching his aunt silently. "I knew she missed skating a lot. You think she'd be okay if we managed to drag her out there?"
Heero suddenly grinned. "I'm sure she'll be fine. And happy," he admitted, and turned his Prussian blue eyes on the shorter, amethyst-eyed boy in amused wonder. "But can you skate?"
Duo did not like the smugness beneath those warm orbs. Huffing, he crossed his arms and held his nose high in the air. "It's roller skating on ice. How hard can it be?"
"C'mon, then," Heero invited teasingly. "Let's see if you can handle it, Duo-chan." He was already walking toward Helen, who was still staring fondly out into the rink, and he prepared to convince the older woman to join them.
Meanwhile, Duo's jaw dropped open incredulously./He just didn't.../ "'Chan'? You did not just call me Duo-chan!" He ran to catch up. "Heeeero! That's how girls address other girls!"
"Really?" Heero stopped in his tracks, turning to face Duo and give him a mock surprised expression of wonderment. "I never knew... Guess I'll have to brush up on my Japanese, won't I, Duo-chan?" Laughing, he whirled back around to jog the rest of the distance, Duo hot on his heels and ready to beat the snot out of him as he so colorfully explained.
Before either boy knew it, they had Helen professionally lacing up her ice skates while Duo frowned down at his worn out ones. Heero slowly took his time, trying his best to disengage the shoelaces the previous user so generously tangled for him.
"Two of the hook things are missing on one side," Duo complained finally, dropping his laces and crossing his arms with a pouty expression. Helen laughed gently while Heero affectionately called him a whiny baby, teasing him further as Helen kneeled down to fix the problem Duo was having.
"There," she exclaimed finally, standing up straight and brushing her knees off. "All better. Now let's see if your aunty Helen can still do this..." She walked on the protected floor, reaching the doorway to the rink and pausing. "Are you boys coming?"
Heero turned toward Duo and smirked. "After you."
Grumbling, the braided American slowly stood up in his skates and took a step forward. Frowning and nervously gulping, he flinched before meeting Heero's gaze. "I think I'll stay out here," he mumbled, feeling red spots of embarrassment flooding his pale cheeks. He knew how to roller skate decently; he could do so well enough that he was able to skate around and not fall flat on his face. But the ice skates he was wearing at that moment was telling him an entirely different story.
With a fond smile Heero stood up, towering over the braided American before taking the other boy by the braid and walking in the direction of the rink.
"Hey! Hey, hey, ow!" Duo complained as he felt himself tripping over his skates. Catching himself, he came to the point where he had enough slack in his braid to turn toward Heero and give him a glare worth Death itself. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Yuy!" A few people turned their heads to stare at the boy's outburst, and Duo ducked his head in chagrin.
"I'm going to teach you how to ice skate," he said simply, stepping out into the rink and gently tugging on Duo's braid so the other would follow. With a grunt Duo took a step inside, feeling the bottom of his first foot hit the icy rink before taking another step and gliding toward the direction Heero was pulling him...
... before he promptly fell on his ass. "Ouch..."
Heero chuckled and let go of the braid, helping the other boy up and sweeping his hand across the boy's buttocks as a way of brushing the ice crystals away from the black material.
Duo almost glared, though when he realized he enjoyed the attention, he didn't. Instead he calmly stated, "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Teasing you or teasing you?"
"Both," Duo replied, understanding and agreeing with the double meaning. He watch a slow grin curl the corners of the Japanese boy's mouth before setting off to teach the American how to skate again.
After two long, gruesome hours of constant falling and butt-brushing, Duo wearily took a step onto land that didn't melt, kneeled down, and kissed the floor. He thought he'd never be so glad as to kiss a dirty floor where millions had tread daily, but he was perfectly content with his lips connected to the ground. Heero laughed at the spectacle the American was making of himself, but the braided one didn't care. He was finally on solid, wonderful land.
"I'm never ice skating again," he vowed later as he turned in the dreadful, sweaty skates. "In fact, I'm never going skating again, period. This is all your fault, Yuy!"
Heero grinned handsomely and turned in his own pair of skates. "I know." For some explainable reason only known to the Japanese man, he strangely felt no guilt at all over the mock anger Duo was showing him. They had both had plenty of fun trying to trip each other on the ice, and a few times Duo had succeeded.
Little did the American know that the only reason he did succeed was so Heero could feel the American's hand run down his tight buttocks in order to clear away all of the ice crystals not yet melted.
"Did you two have fun?" Helen asked innocently, almost grinning from ear to ear as she shifted Solo from one hip to the other. The older woman had stayed for quite awhile before tiring and retreating into the safety of the booth, turning in her skates and joining her daughter in the sport of watching the two discreetly flirt with each other in the rink.
Duo blushed crimson when he realized just what that smile meant. "I've vowed never to skate again," he answered honestly, grinning up at Heero and blowing the taller boy a raspberry.
"And I've vowed never to try to teach you again," Heero answered swiftly, returning the raspberry a little too close and hitting his mark. As soon as his tongue took its sweet time caressing Duo's for a millisecond, both retracted into the insides of their mouths, Duo staring in wonder and Heero smirking in satisfaction.
"So where to?" Helen asked brightly, trying to drawn out Hilde's muffled attempts at covering her cackles and failing miserably.
"Well." Heero looked at the wide-eyed Solo with a twinkle in his Prussian blue eyes, saying matter-of-factly, "I already promised each of you a gift of your choice. Why don't you go pick out something you want? It's on me."
"We couldn't possibly--"
"You don't have to do--"
"Yay!" Solo took no time bothering to hide his happiness as he quickly wiggled out of his grandmother's grasp and sped toward the toy store. "Momma! I want the DeathScythe action figure! Pleeease?"
"Why don't you go ahead and get the whole set?" Heero called out guilelessly. "They all come in a set, don't they?"
Hilde sighed and pinched Heero's arm. "You're encouraging him!"
"A kid deserves to be encouraged," Heero defended honestly, biting back a grin before fixing his Prussian blue eyes on the purple-haired girl. "C'mon, let Solo-kun indulge. Duo has already promised to try and pay me back," he added, putting an emphasis on 'try'.
"You conceited, no good, rotten..." With a small, delicate kiss Heero broke off Duo in his tirade, bringing the braided American out of his mock anger and putting him into an even more emotionally involved daze. With a small, sincere smile he wrapped one muscled arm around Duo's waist and pulled him closer.
Helen and Hilde got the drift and made their way toward the toy store Solo disappeared into, Hilde giggling madly at the obvious show of affection and Helen discreetly hiding a grin behind a hand.
"I'm not being con... Okay, so maybe I am being conceited," he gave in, his smile growing larger. "But I also don't want you trying to pay me back left and right. If everyone tried to pay me back for all of the money or things I've given away, I'd probably be three times richer than I already am." Brushing Duo's backside 'accidentally' as he retracted his arm, the Japanese youth took great delight in seeing Duo jerk to attention and blush beet red. "Don't worry about it and have fun. You don't seem to have enough of that."
"I have plenty of..." Heero cut Duo off, taking his other arm and looping it around Duo to clasp his hand in the back. Duo found himself placing his small, slim fingered hands grabbing both sides of the Japanese boy's head and going with it, this time following up on Heero's slow but thorough kiss. Snapping out of his daze once Heero moved away--or his lips moved away, as the case may be--, Duo said softly, "I never expected to be making out with a guy in the middle of a mall. What would that old woman sitting on the bench gawking at us tell her friends in the bridge club?"
"Truthfully? She'd probably tell everyone she knows that she saw actor Heero Yuy kissing another guy in the mall, and homosexuality will increase by eleven percent."
Duo laughed lightly, smacking Heero's enclosed arms around him and wiggling out of the actor's grip. "All right, hot stuff, let's go help Hilde with Solo before he decides to ask if he can have the whole store. And damn it, you'd give it to him and he knows it!"
"That was totally unnecessary."
Heero paused in his humming, corking an innocent eyebrow and turning his head toward the suddenly quiet cousin. "Nani ka?"
"Letting us buy stuff with your money," she explained. "You didn't really have to do it." Somehow she managed to ignore the splash signaling that Duo and Solo had just rough played their way into the fountain. Heero, however, couldn't ignore something as funny and turned his attention to the laughing young man and the giggling child.
"It's okay," he said after a second. "I like spending money. I have too much of it."
"Is that why you have thirty-two cars at your disposal?" Hilde asked wryly, snorting a laugh.
"Seventy-five," he corrected artlessly, "including the absence of the one I gave to Duo."
"That you also paid that gang to watch over," she added for him.
"That was 100 percent Trowa Barton," he grinned. "But I do have to pay him back and forward money to that gang every week."
"They won't like it when the money stops after we move, huh?"
Heero blinked at the older woman beside him. She knew?
"I'm not totally clueless, Heero," Hilde grinned. "You have this all planned out. Duo gets the money from making and decides he can do good by moving all of us into a safer neighborhood. Hopefully he'll give you a choice in houses, but you won't be satisfied with his quaint, homey houses because a) it won't be close enough to you, and b) you'd rather it be closer to you. So you'll end up talking him into something bigger and closer to your home. That way you'll be within some sort of jogging distance, and you'll get to see him every day. Correct?"
Heero shook his head and smiled thoughtfully. "That last part is an idea I could be considering..."
"My cousin is a wonderful guy," Hilde told him, watching the two wet boys wrestle their way into the higher water fountain, seemingly ignorant of all the strange looks they were earning, "But his head is like a nonstick frying pan." At her analogy, Heero frowned in confusion. "The post-it notes could be flying at him with super glue pasted to their backsides and a lot of them still won't comprehend with him," she explained. "Some of your actions he's understanding perfectly. You want him. He wants you. He doesn't know why you want him, and he doesn't know why he wants you. He doesn't see the adoration that's clearly becoming more than that, he doesn't notice those strange smiles are usually meant and showed to him only. You need to make it clearer to him."
"Make what clear?" But he already knew the answer. He just wasn't sure he was ready for what it was.
"Whether you just want a good time or his love," she retorted with a roll of her eyes. "What else? He can't be sure, and I rather you tell him you plan to stick by before you decide to take him to bed. He doesn't exactly sleep around, you know."
That's to-the-point. "You make it a habit to know his sleeping habits?"
"Enough to know that, should you get your way, you'll be his first." That was getting a bit personal, Heero reflected. But somehow he was both excited and giddy at the thought of... of...
"You'll hear a lot of stuff about Mark and Duo," Hilde whispered lowly, catching the other boy from his musing. Mark... Heero had heard that name before, coming from Duo's lips when he was talking to Khushrenada. He had disregarded the comments about 'better company', but now that Hilde had brought it up...
"And Mark is?" he prompted.
"A total sleaze," Hilde scowled. "He didn't have his way. Sometimes I hear about him from Carla. He pops up at the store from time to time to bug the hell out of Duo. It seems Mark didn't take kindly to Duo breaking up with him, and he does all he can to bug Duo to the point of harassment. Sometimes Duo just breaks up and talks to me, but rarely and never in detail. Always 'Mark just bugged me today' or 'I wish Mark would just leave me alone'. Carla fills in the gaps.
"Apparently, Mark," she spat his name with vehemence he'd rarely seen or heard coming from the frail girl before him, "has a habit of 'just browsing' in the same isle Duo would be in. He'd mutter obscene ideas, sometimes to where customers could hear. He'd call Duo poor trash, or he'd lie about 'nights spent screwing each other's brains out'. Duo would never tell me what brought Mark's anger on, other than the fact he refused to go on a date with him or something. I have a feeling it's a lot more than just that."
Duo? Someone was harassing his Duo? With slow, cautious breaths he mentally did his multiplication tables inside his head to calm himself enough to ask, "Why doesn't he..." He choked off the rest of his sentence. Press charges. Duo couldn't afford to do something like that.
"I'm sure you guessed one of the reasons," Hilde drawled. "Here's a few more. According to Carla, Mark's daddy is a lawyer, and a damn good one. His uncle is a DA, his aunt is a judge, and he has a cousin on the police force. And they're all made of old and new money. Mark was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and he's not afraid to flaunt that."
Heero tried to bite off a rather vile, nasty curse at that. He didn't succeed. Mission failure.
"Duo won't appreciate you getting into his affairs," Hilde cut in his almost-cursing tirade. "I just warned you because there would be no doubt that if you ask the folks around here, they'd all tell you that Duo was a good two-bit whore because of the words of a few big liars and a couple of well-placed bills. I'd like to tell you that if you even think of doubting his innocence to that sort of life, I'll have to castrate your ass. You got me, Yuy?"
With a slow, steady breath the Japanese boy nodded. He wouldn't get into it. He wouldn't. He would respect Duo's wishes and not interfere with matters that didn't... Well... "If I ever see this Mark and hear him say something to Duo, I won't hesitate to defend him."
Hilde grinned. "That's good to hear. That's very good to hear."
If not surpassing, Heero matched the slow grin. "Castrate my ass?" he said, placing both hands on his rump and looking mockingly worried. "But what would the world do without my ass?"
Duo took the time to finally hop out of the fountain and squeeze the water dripping from his long braid, just in time to hear the last comment coming from the bisheinen Japanese boy he found himself developing a crush on. Without missing a beat, he quipped poetically and logically, "We'd be less one asshole."
Hilde was still practically doubled over in laughter by the time Heero had picked his jaw up from the floor. With an evil grin he tackled the laughing braided baka into the fountain, thoroughly pleased at the soaked and still grinning American. Not only did Heero go home drenched, he went home extremely and utterly satisfied.
For a while, in any case...
And, of course, C&C always welcome.
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