"Don't give him that."
Heero froze, a little alarmed at the sharp warning, and yet equally relieved to hear the other man's voice. Twisting on his heel, he turned to face his decidedly irritated-looking guest. "I didn't hear you come in."
Chang Wufei had never bothered to let little things like age and maturity take much of an edge off of the arrogance he'd worn like a second skin since childhood. Heero noted the sour expression and scornful twist of the lips with a flicker of dry amusement that he kept carefully to himself. Almost five years since the war, and it seemed that some things didn't change, after all.
Strange how that was such a comfort to him.
"I didn't believe it when I heard," Wufei was saying, coming into the room to prop himself against a nearby wall where he could better watch and judge. He crossed his arms over his chest, eyebrows up somewhere near his hairline. "I was sure Maxwell was just pulling my leg."
"Duo doesn't lie," Heero reminded him automatically, returning his frustrated attention to his current dillema. "But I was expecting him. I didn't think you knew anything about... things like this."
"It's called a child, Yuy," Wufei said, the thread of sardonic amusment in his voice nearly hidden by the exasperated scorn.
The small boy in question sat quietly on the floor before Heero, wide eyes going curiously from one man to the other, a tiny fist stuffed in his mouth. Drool was making its way around the wet appendage and onto his lap, but he didn't seem to notice.
"I know that." Heero scowled at his friend briefly, lifting the plastic cup for inspection. "I still don't understand why I can't give him something to drink."
Wufei's eyes drifted meaningfully towards the empty can on the nearby coffee table. "Since I have never seen you drink a soda in your life, I'm assuming that's what you've poured."
"Yuy. He can't be more than three years old. You do not give soda to toddlers."
Heero was beginning to get irritated. "Why not?"
"Two words: sugar high."
Heero stared at him, uncomprehending.
Wufei strode over and plucked the cup from his hands smoothly. "Give me that. Jesus, Yuy, a cup? Do you hate your carpet that much?"
Heero glared, defensive and confused.
Wufei put the cup safely out of reach, eyeing the toddler a bit warily. "All right," he said suddenly, obviously unable to hold back his curiosity any longer. "Explain it to me, because I am at a complete loss. What in the hell are you doing with a kid, Yuy?"
"It's not mine."
"Really," Wufei drawled.
Heero scowled again. "This is not funny," he insisted, irritated at the other man's barely-veiled humor. It was only slightly less insulting than Duo's outright hysterics. He gestured helplessly at the child. "It's Relena's nephew. She's supposed to be taking care of him for the week, but something came up, and she's going to be out of town overnight. She asked me to watch him."
"Nephew?" Wufei repeated, looking at the toddler sharply. "This is Milliardo's?"
"Relena's showed enough pictures of him," Heero reminded him. "She brags about him all the time."
Wufei just gazed at him steadily as if to say 'What makes you think I pay attention to that woman?'
"Does he have a name, at least?" the man finally asked grudgingly.
"Roku," Heero responded, trying unsuccessfully to tug the boy's fist out of his mouth.
"Of course it is."
Heero sent him a brief frown. "What are you doing here, Chang?" he demanded bluntly.
Wufei snorted, coming closer and dropping into a squat where he could better study the child, who stared curiously back. "You're backsliding, Yuy. I thought Maxwell finally had you trained to act a bit more human. Speaking of Maxwell, he can't come. He called me and asked me to check on you to make sure nothing unfortunate happened to you or your... 'charge' here. He wasn't too clear on the details, but he seemed to be afraid you would put the diaper over the baby's head or let it play with your guns."
Heero glared back, affronted. "I don't know anything about children," he admitted testily, "but I know better than THAT."
"Mm. Where's his bag?"
Wufei wrinkled his nose at his partner in impatience. "You're telling me Relena handed the little grub over to you and didn't leave you with a duffel bag of supplies and a three-page essay on instructions and emergency numbers?"
Heero got up and hurried from the room. When he returned, diaper bag in tow, it was to find Wufei seated quite calmly on the couch, Roku seated happily on his knee. Wufei held out his free hand commandingly, his other one placed against the child's back for support. "There should be a cup with a lid on it. Probably already filled with juice, if I know women. Give it here."
Heero rummaged through the supplies until he found the brightly colored sippy cup. He shook it, listening for the slosh of liquid, then handed it over. Wufei held it in front of Roku's face.
Pop! Roku drew his wet little fist out of his mouth, seized the cup with both hands, and began to suckle at it enthusiastically, staring at Heero the whole time with wide eyes.
Heero watched, a bit impressed despite himself. He flicked his friend a strange glance as he set the bag aside. "You are the last person I expected to know anything about children," he admitted bluntly. "How do you know all this?"
"Some of it is common sense," Wufei drawled, mouth quirking in the beginnings of a mocking smile. "And I had a frightening amount of younger cousins."
Heero stopped in the act of clearing a spot for himself on the couch, gaze darting towards Wufei before he could catch himself. As far as skeletons in the closet went, in five years, admissions had been made, things had been alluded to-- sometimes whole paragraphs even slipped out between the five ex-pilots. Heero knew more about Duo's childhood than he'd ever wanted to know; he knew Wufei had been engaged and Quatre had twenty-nine sisters. Trowa had mentioned growing up amid a band of mercenaries. But if there was one thing Wufei never ever talked about, it was his murdered family. No one ever pressed him for information, assuming there was either nothing to tell, or that it would simply be impolite to ask.
If Wufei noticed Heero's mental stumble, he did a good job at hiding it. He jostled his knee slightly, almost as an afterthought. Roku made a little gurgling humming noise that Heero assumed meant he found the motion fun.
Heero seated himself on the couch, eyeing the toddler a trifle warily. Wufei seemed to know exactly how to take care of the strange little person that had suddenly invaded Heero's home, which gave him a fleeting moment of desperate hope. This was the simple stuff. What was he supposed to do if the baby cried? What did babies eat? Was it all right to put it in his own bed? And then there was the terrifying threat of diaper-changing.
He struggled with his pride and his private unease, trying to find a casual way to beg-- ASK, he corrected himself fiercely --Wufei to stay for a couple of hours.
Wufei was watching him out of the corner of his eye, mouth twitching in the beginnings of a smirk. Eventually he took pity on his uptight friend. "I suppose I'd better stick around-- at least until this one is asleep. I don't think Relena would look too kindly on either of us if her nephew were covered in food, excrements, and blood in the morning."
Heero glared at him, annoyed at the dig at his incompetence, but unwilling to say anything that would make the other man leave. "Stay if you want," he said, trying to make it come across as careless.
"Hm." Wufei lifted Roku suddenly, depositing him in his startled friend's lap.
Heero's hands clamped automatically around the tiny body. "Wait--" he blurted, hating the faint edge of panic to his voice. Suddenly the bag full of bottles, jars, diapers, clothing, and instructions seemed like a mission statement from hell, and the thought of taking care of such a small person all by himself loomed before him like a horrible cloud.
Wufei stopped halfway to the kitchen, turning to throw his companion a small taunting grin. "Relax, Yuy. I'm going to see if you have anything edible. I was about to start dinner when Maxwell called begging me to check on you."
Heero relaxed and tried to look as if he had never been tense in the first place. "Oh. I think there's still some frozen pizza in the freezer."
"Frozen pizza, soda, AND babysitting? Good lord, Yuy, it's like I don't know you anymore."
Heero chose to ignore that. "I'll make it up to you," he promised.
"Good. You can buy me a drink tomorrow night." Wufei disappeared into the kitchen.
Heero frowned to himself. There was a bar just down the street, but he'd never known Wufei to be one to indulge. Still, it was a small price to pay for--
"And dinner," Wufei added, voice floating from the kitchen.
Yes, dinner seemed more appropriate. Though it seemed strange that Wufei mention that; more often than not, he usually ended up eating dinner at Heero's place while they went over paperwork and--
Wait. 'And', as in 'and buy'?
"I don't think they serve dinner at the bar," Heero pointed out. He tapped his foot experimentally to jostle his leg as Wufei had done, which bounced Roku a bit on his knee. The baby stared up at him, but didn't giggle. Heero stared back belligerently. Did all children stare so much?
"No, idiot. You will take me to dinner. I don't care where, but I am tired of your pitiful idea of what food is. If I see one more box of noodles or anything that even resembles an MRE, I am going to heave your fridge out of the window."
Fair enough. Picky bastard.
"Fine. A drink and dinner." Which sounded suspiciously like a--
No. No, he'd been hanging around Duo too much lately. This was simply payback, a get-together between friends.
Wufei wasn't suggesting a-- well, a--
Heero abruptly became aware of a very prominent odor that-- he was fairly certain --was not the smell of pizza in the oven. He was on his feet, an oblivious Roku held at arm's length, in a matter of moments. "Chang." He managed to keep his voice very calm. He gave himself a mental pat on the back.
"What?" Wufei appeared int he doorway, got one whiff, and wrinkled his nose. "Lovely. I don't do diapers, Yuy. I promise they're easier to figure out than most weapons systems."
"Me??" Heero stared at him in disbelief. "But I'm buying you dinner," he blurted.
Wufei arched a brow at him. "That does not cover changing filthy diapers."
Wufei hesitated, smug grin faltering. "...Dessert, maybe."
Dessert? That was it? "Done," he said quickly.
Wufei blinked slowly, then shifted his expression into its normal arrogant lines. "A deal's a deal," he reminded the other man, coming over to take Roku from him. "Don't try to back out of it later."
"I won't," Heero insisted, gratefully releasing his charge. So he'd buy the man a piece of chocolate cake and be done with it. What was the big deal?
Then Wufei's eyes flashed up briefly, catching his, and something about that calm gaze said very clearly that chocolate was nowhere on tomorrow night's menu.
Heero was unreasonably and annoyingly flustered around the other man for the rest of the night, despite a certain toddler's presence.
Roku ended up being less of a hassle than he'd thought; with Wufei there to help, very little was required on Heero's end except to keep an eye on him, pry non-edible objects out of his mouth and fists, and snatch him out of harm's way when he went running full-tilt at walls, desks, or other such skull-bashing things. Wufei was perfectly normal, acting no different around Heero than he ever had, and at six thirty sharp, he popped Roku into the makeshift crib-- a laundry basket with pillow and blanekt --and heartlessly ignored the ensuing wails that went on for the next hour before exhaustion cut off that nonsense.
Heero formally thanked Wufei for his help, saw him out, and immediately went to bed.
"Thank you so much, Heero," Relena said warmly as she gathered her nephew into her arms. He giggled and squirmed, playing with a fistful of her flaxen hair. "I hope he wasn't too much trouble." She discreetly did a quick check of both toddler and apartment, as if expecting massive injuries or burn marks.
"Chang helped," Heero admitted, distracted as he stuffed the child's belongings in the diaper bag and handed it over.
"Oh." Relena blinked. "I, uh... I didn't know he knew anything about children. Actually, he kind of strikes me as the kind who doesn't even like children."
Heero grunted, mind obviously elsewhere.
"I owe you one," Relena pointed out as she shifted the toddler to her hip and headed for the door. "Just let me know if I can do anything for you, all right?"
Heero nodded tensely, a frown tugging at his mouth.
She was actually closing the door behind her when Heero's fingers clamped around the door's edge, holding it open. His lips were pressed tightly together as if he was dealing with some internal conflict.
"Heero?" Relena hesitated, concerned. "Is there something wrong? Do you need my help with something?"
Relena gazed at him, trying to hide her surprise. She had never seen her friend so obviously uncomfortable and nervous. "What is it? Come on, you can tell me. I owe you one, remember?"
Heero nodded, gazing at a spot on the wall for a long instant.
"How does one--" Heero stopped the words that tumbled out, frowned, met her gaze, and scowled as if awaiting a fit of laughter. "How does one normally dress for a... a date?"
This was done per request of lil_ali on LJ.