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Candy Cane Methodology

Lys ap Adin

*Yeah, I know it has *three* parts, but I wanted it here, so there!*

Quatre stepped into the kitchen, the snow on his coat and stuck in his hair immediately beginning to melt before the onslaught of furnace-hot air. He had hardly closed the door behind him before a certain overly-enthusiastic pilot accosted him. "Oi, Quatre, didja get them?" Duo demanded excitedly.

Quatre smiled; it never failed to impress him that the violet-eyed pilot could work himself into a frenzy over such a small thing. Not that he minded; Duo's joy in living helped keep things in perspective--a difficult thing to accomplish during a war. "I got them, Duo." Duo whooped for joy and snatched the bag out of the blond boy's hands.

"Man, it just wouldn't have be Christmas without these," he exulted, rifling through the paper sack. He found the box he was searching for and held it aloft triumphantly. "Candy canes!"

"Is giving Maxwell sugar a bad idea, or is it just me?" Wufei asked as Duo danced out of the kitchen, clutching his prize.

Quatre picked up the abandoned bag, grateful that none of the glass bottles within had shattered when Duo had tossed it aside. "Let him have his fun, Wufei," he said, setting the bag on the table next to the Chinese boy's tea.

"I wonder if you'll still be saying that when he's bouncing off the walls on a sugar high," Wufei muttered. Still, he couldn't quite hide the indulgent smile in his dark eyes.



In the other room, Duo had ripped into the box and was busily festooning their tiny tree with the precious candy canes. "Much better," he decided, stepping back to study the effect.

The "tree" was a purloined shrubbery from a suburban yard, and it was decorated with a string of liberated outdoor lights. Duo had scrounged ornaments wherever and however he could find (or make) them, and had even contrived a star of aluminum foil, but the Christmas tree had needed... something. Hence pestering Quatre to go out and purchase the candy canes on the very snowy last day before Christmas. "Ne, Trowa, how does it look?"

The other pilot's eye flicked up briefly from whatever it was he was studying--probably old mission reports. "..." He went back to his reading.

"Merry Christmas to you, too," Duo sighed. Then he brightened. "Wonder what else Quatre got while he was out?" Duo bounded out of the room, and Trowa shook his head.



"Hey, Heero, dinner's ready--ya gonna eat with us or stare at that laptop all night?" Duo asked, leaning casually in the doorway and watching his partner.

The spandex-shorted one snorted. "Are you going to leave me alone if I say no?"

"Hell, no. It's Christmas Eve, man, you can't spend it holed up in our room," Duo scoffed. "Besides, Quatre fixed a real spread and has some fun stuff to drink. You don't want to miss out on that, do you?" Heero considered arguing the point, but decided that it wasn't worth it.

Duo had been in an aggressively festive mood lately, and he'd probably persist in the invitation to dinner. Better to give in than suffer through a determined onslaught. Heero shut off the laptop and stood, working out the kinks earned by sitting still for too long.

Duo grinned, pleased by his acquiescence. Usually getting Heero to be sociable took a lot more wheedling. Heero followed the braided baka into the kitchen, from which certain very appetizing odors were wafting...



"...and then he said, 'But sir, we don't stock them in plaid!'" Duo said, finishing a long, convoluted, and ultimately confusing joke. Vastly amused at his own capacity for comedy, he laughed uproariously, nearly falling over and spilling the remains of his drink.

Quatre had indeed brought some fun stuff home. Now he lauged too, not because Duo's joke had been particularly funny, but because his laughter was contagious.

"Wait, wait, I got 'nother one," Duo said, recovering his equilibrium--well, sort of.

"Baka. Shut up," Heero told him. If the alcohol had had any effect on him at all, it had yet to surface.

Duo made a horrendous face at his partner. "Jeez, even when you're drunk, you're no fun. Even *Trowa's* relaxed tonight." He pointed unsteadily at the pilot of Heavyarms, who had his arm wrapped around Quatre and was sort of even smiling. "An man was Wufei fun! before he passed out, that is."

Quatre laughed some more, remembering how Duo had taunted Wufei into dancing for them. If he survived his hangover, Wufei would probably kill Duo. That thought made Quatre laugh even harder.

"Hn." Heero didn't seem too impressed by Duo's speech.

"All right, no more jokes..." Duo had another thought. "I know!" He stood and left the room.

"Now what?" Trowa wondered.

Duo returned quickly, bearing... presents. "I shoulda waited till tomorrow," he said, "but I can't. Merry Christmas, guys." He handed a small, flat rectangle to Quatre; a larger, thicker, and heavier package to Trowa, and an even larger box to Heero. He hesitated, then shook Wufei awake. "Hey, Wu-chan, wake up so you can open your Christmas present."

"Don' call me that," Wufei mumbled, reluctantly sitting up. Duo thrust a small box into his hands.

"You got us Christmas presents, Duo?" Quatre asked, turning his gift over in his hands.

"Yeah, well, they aren't much, but what's Christmas without presents?" Duo coughed, and looked embarrassed. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, open them."

Quatre carefully tore open the clumsy wrapping job, slipping it off and placing it to the side. "A... CD?"

"It's violin music, by some famous dead guy. I figured you'd appreciate it more than I do," Duo explained.

"I--arigato, Duo." Quatre held the case carefully, knowing that there wasn't any music in his collection that Duo didn't appreciate to the fullest.

It was Trowa's turn. Ripping the wrapping paper off, he found some battered books. "More entertaining than rereading old mission reports, ne?" Duo announced.

"Thanks, Duo," Trowa said, surprised that anyone would have thought to give him a Christmas present.

Wufei was already through the wrapping paper and lifting the lid of his box. Nestled inside was a proud Chinese dragon. "I just saw that one day and thought of you, don't know why."

Wufei lifted the statuette out of the box, marveling at the details. How had Maxwell been able to find such a perfect gift? "Thank you."

And that left only Heero to stare at the gift wrapped present on his lap. Conscious of everyone's eyes on him, he slowly tugged the paper off.

Opening the box, he found a deep blue, long-sleeved shirt. "I know cold weather doesn't bother perfect soldiers all that much, but I figured that the tank top could use a break."

Heero said nothing, just staring at the shirt. After a long moment, Duo cleared his throat and snagged a handful of candy canes off the tree.

He tossed them to his fellow pilots. "Merry Christmas."

Heero automatically caught the projectile and unwrapped the plastic. He was busily crunching the candy when Duo wailed a protest. "Ack, Heero, you don't eat a candy cane like that!"

"It's efficient," Heero pointed out.

"God, don't you ever give it a rest?" Duo sighed, exasperated. "You have to make it last. They're once-a-year deals, y'see? You do it like this."

He meticulously peeled the wrapping off his candy cane and gave the peppermint stick a slow, experimental lick. "Mmmm... Damn, I love these things."

Heero watched impassively as Duo licked the candy cane again, closing his eyes in obvious bliss. Holding the cane by its curved neck, he pushed it slowly into his mouth, and then dragged it even more slowly out, lips wrapped tightly around the cylinder. Duo licked his lips, and then dragged the candy cane down his extended tongue. He opened his eyes and grinned at Heero. "*That's* how you eat a candy cane."

Heero blinked. "Whatever." He stood and left the room, taking the ruins of his own candy cane (and his gift) with him.

"I think Yuy has the right idea," Wufei announced, also standing. "I'm going to bed." He wobbled out of the room, carrying his dragon with him.

"Are you staying up?" Quatre asked Duo.

"Hm? Oh, yeah." Duo grinned from around his candy. "G'night, you two... Don't do anything I wouldn't."

Quatre flushed a little as Trowa helped him out of the room.

Once everyone had gone, Duo relaxed his smile and leaned back against the couch, sucking thoughtfully on his treat. "Damn. He didn't even say thank you."

*What did you expect, baka? This is Heero we're talking about here. Words of gratitude probably aren't even his vocabulary.*

Duo sighed. At least the others had like their gifts. No one had expected the gesture--after all, they were only working together for the sake of the war. Developing relationships and a rapport with one another wasn't the wisest thing they could be doing.

Not that that had stopped anyone... especially Trowa and Quatre. Or him, for that matter.

Ch. He envied Quatre. At least *his* emotionally closed-off partner had loosened up. It was just Duo's luck that he had fallen (and how!) for a guy with a heart made out of gundamium.

Duo freshened his nearly-forgotten drink and reflected upon his Christmas tree. Not a bad effort for a guy who'd never had the chance to celebrate the holiday before. It had been fun to ponder what gifts were appropriate for his fellow pilots. The real fun, though, had been in keeping the secret.

If only Heero had shown *some* appreciation for the gift Duo had agonized over!

He took a big gulp of his drink. He was going to have a hell of a hangover in the morning. Oh well. So what if was going to be Christmas? He'd already gotten all the important stuff taken care of.



It was the night before Christmas, and Heero couldn't sleep. It wasn't that he waiting for Santa Claus, because the jolly fat guy would have taken one look at the thoughts running through Spandex Boy's head and booted him to the very bottom of the Naughty list. No, Heero couldn't sleep, because every time he closed his eyes, he saw Duo doing seductive things to a candy cane.

Just the thought of the ecstatic sounds Duo had been making was enough to make Heero break out into a cold sweat.

God, the effect the braided pilot had on him!

Giving up on sleep, Heero sat up and stared across the room at Duo's empty bed. How could he, the perfect soldier, have broken out of his conditioning so badly as to have fallen in l--

No. He mustn't even think it. He couldn't admit to such vulnerability.

There was a war going on, and there was no space in his life for anything personal. But maybe, if he actually lived through the war...



Part Two

Quatre paused at the doorway of the living room, torn between laughter and tears. Duo was curled up in front of his Christmas tree, a mostly-gone candy cane in one hand and an empty bottle of Scotch in the other. His thick braid lay across one pale cheek, and his face was relaxed in repose--neither grinning maniacally nor smirking. In his rumpled priest's garb, he was a study of contrasts: light and darkness, childhood and adulthood, innocence and corruption.

Trowa came up behind Quatre and slipped his arms around his lover from behind. "I feel terrible," Quatre whispered. "I didn't even think to get anyone Christmas presents."

"Nobody but Duo did," Trowa comforted him.

"I wonder why he slept out here."

Trowa made a noncommittal sound. "Maybe you could ask Heero."

Quatre winced. "Aa." He sighed and turned away from the tableau in the living room. *Poor Duo.*



"*Why* did I drink so much last night?" Wufei moaned, cradling his aching head in his hands.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Duo, equally miserable, replied.

"There is no justice," Wufei growled, glaring at Quatre and Trowa, who had not indulged as much.

Quatre just smiled sweetly and handed them the industrial-strength Tylenol.

And then someone began pounding on the kitchen door. A familiar cry could be heard, even over the thunderous noise. "Heeeeerrrroooooo!"

"Oh, God," Duo moaned pitifully. "Please, not her."

"No justice," Wufei repeated, dropping his head to rest on the table.

Quatre opened the door. "Relena-sama, what a pleasant surprise," he said politely. "Please, won't you come in?"

"Yes, yes." Relena brushed past Quatre and looked around imperiously.

"Where is Heero? I must speak with him."

"Excuse me," Duo muttered, bolting past Relena out the door.

Trowa and Quatre exchanged looks. "I'll go see if Heero is awake yet,"

Quatre said. "I'll be right back, Relena-sama."

He hurried to the bedroom Duo and Heero shared. Knocking, he said, "Uh, Heero? Relena's here to see you."

There was no response. Quatre knocked again, a bit more loudly. "Heero? Are you awake?"

Still no response. Quatre cautiously opened the door. "Heero?" The other pilot sat in front of his laptop, motionless and staring fixedly at the glowing screen. "Are you all right?"

"They've signed a peace treaty." The comment was delivered in the same monotone in which Heero might have made a statement about the weather.

"What?" Quatre couldn't quite believe what he had heard.

Heero turned to look at him. "Peace. No more war." His dark blue eyes seemed slightly wild.

Quatre closed his own eyes, hardly daring to hope. "For real?"


"Thank God," Quatre murmured fervently. "Oh, thank God."

Heero stood slowly. "What does *she* want?"

"To talk to you, what else" Quatre smiled brightly, his eyes shining suspiciously. He left the room, mumbling to himself, "Peace... finally, peace..."

Heero flipped the power switch of the laptop, trying to prepare himself for another confrontation with Relena.



Quatre practically floated back into the kitchen and into Trowa's arms, utterly ignoring Relena. "Trowa," he sighed rapturously, "Heero says they've declared peace!"

Trowa's eye widened, and he looked at Relena questioningly. She recovered from her surprise at the sight of the two boys embracing unashamedly and nodded. "Yes, it's true," she said, smiling happily.

Wufei lifted his head. "Merry Christmas," he mumbled. "Too bad we drank everything last night. We could have been this miserable again tomorrow."

"What is it?" Heero asked, finally arriving.

Relena's entire bearing radiated joy at seeing her beloved. "Oh, Heero, Merry Christmas!"

He simply stared at her. "Was that all?"

She floundered. "You're supposed to say something similar back to me," she pointed out.


"To, uh, show that you reciprocate the same good wishes," Relena stammered.

"But I don't." There was a muffled chuckle from Wufei's general area.

"Don't you have somewhere else to be?" Heero asked pointedly.

Relena didn't care for the fact that she had an audience for this (although that braided partner of his wasn't around--he gave her a funny feeling), but made up her mind to carry through with her mission. "Heero, now that the war is over, we can be together."

Again came the blunt question. "Why?"

"Because... we love each other." Relena looked at him with wide, earnest eyes.

Wufei snickered. "Oh, please, woman, wake up!"

Heero stared at Relena flatly. "No, we don't."

Relena laughed a little nervously. "Of course we do. Why else do you keep saving me?"

"Because my mission was to restore peace, and you were the best chance we had to do it," Heero told her. "If it weren't for that, I would have killed you a very long time ago."

"You don't mean that," Relena whispered.

"Of course I meant it. Go away, and leave me alone." Heero turned on his heel and left.

"But--" Relena was flabbergasted.

"Relena-sama, perhaps it would be best--" Quatre began, trying to salvage the situation.

"He never cared--at all?" Relena turned pleading eyes on the small pilot.

"I'm sorry, Relena-sama." Quatre looked at her sympathetically. "I don't think it was meant to be."

Relena struggled between grief and pride--and pride won out. "I see." She lifted her head. "I'll be going now."

"Goodbye, Relena-sama." Quatre held the door for her.

When he had shut it, Wufei lifted his head. "It's about time something penetrated her thick skull."



A quick jaunt outdoors through the cold air and snow, plus the double dose of painkillers, did wonders to ease Duo's throbbing headache. His heartache, on the other hand, was a different matter.

So Relena had come to visit Heero on Christmas. Doubtless he would thank *her* for whatever gaudy, expensive gift she handed him. Why shouldn't he? She was Relena Peacecraft, rich, beautiful, powerful... and the proper gender. And Duo was just a street kid from L2... Nobody special. Nobody important.

Relena left pretty quickly, he noted. Well, thank God for small mercies.

Feeling a little better, he pasted Shinigami's normal smile on his face and headed back inside. "Oi, guys, what's up?" he asked, bouncing into the kitchen--very carefully, though. His head still felt a little delicate.

Quatre smiled at him radiantly. "Duo, they've declared peace!"

Duo gaped. "Ch! You're joking, right?"

Quatre shook his head. "Never about this."

Duo was stunned. *Oh, God. No more excuses to hang around Heero.* Then he dismissed the painful thought. His face split in a huge, unforced grin. "Peace!" He grabbed Quatre's hands and danced him around the kitchen while Trowa watched, smiling.




It was ironic. Just the night before, he had used it as an excuse to put off dealing with the Duo issue. Now it had arrived, no longer an abstraction, but a reality.

Peace. It had really arrived. There was no more need for him to be a perfect soldier. No more need to hide behind an emotionless facade.

What a Christmas present.

Heero glanced at Duo's gift to him, where it lay in its box. The blue shirt offered a new mission... if he wanted to accept it. Heero's lips twitched into what might have been a smile.

*Ninmu ryoukai.*



Part Three

Duo sat in front of his Christmas tree, yet again, savoring another candy cane. Peace. It was almost too large a concept to grasp. Somehow, he had never really expected to see it. Not in his lifetime.

"Why do you like candy canes so much?"

The sudden question startled Duo out of his thoughts, and he turned to look at Heero, who stood in the doorway. For a moment, Duo was too mesmerized to answer. Heero was wearing his new shirt, and a pair of faded jeans his partner hadn't even known existed. Duo finally found his voice as Heero walked over and sat on the floor next to him. "It's kind of a long story."

Heero waited silently, as if to say, "When has *that* every stopped you?"

Duo meditatively sucked on his current candy cane. "When I was still just a street brat living on L2, one Christmas I ran into a guy handing out candy canes on the street. In honor of the season, he said. He gave me a couple--guess he felt sorry for me--and they were the best things I ever tasted in my life. That's why I try to make them last forever."

Heero glanced at Duo's subdued eyes and gained a sudden insight into the other boy's recent behavior. "This was your first Christmas?"

"Yeah. Never had anyone to celebrate with, before... and I kind of figured that with the war, I might never get another chance." Duo grinned suddenly. "I guess I was wrong."

"Thank you for the shirt," Heero said suddenly.

Duo blinked. "You're welcome. I thought that maybe you could use it." He licked his candy cane some more.

Heero watched him, utterly fascinated by the movement of Duo's mouth on the slender piece of solidified sugar.

"Oi, something wrong, Heero?" Duo asked, a little unnerved by the intent stare. "What, do I have something on my face?"

Heero's lips curled up slightly in a --Duo's candy cane hung loosely from his lips, forgotten-- smile. Heero was smiling. At him.

Maybe there was a God, and He had actually listened to a certain braided baka's earnest prayers.

"Yes, you do," Heero whispered, leaning forward and swiping his tongue across Duo's lower lip, tasting the peppermint there.

The candy cane dropped, unnoticed, into Duo's lap. He stared at Heero, violet eyes wide and shocked. "Heero, wha--mmmph." Heero leaned forward again, this time to really kiss Duo's sticky mouth.

Duo's eyes drifted shut as he allowed Heero to explore the innermost recesses of his mouth. *Good dream. Goooooood dream. Not gonna wake up. Nope nope nope...*

Peppermint. Duo tasted like peppermint. Heero decided that candy canes were now one of his favorite foods.

When he broke away to gasp for air, Duo clutched as his arm. "Oh, God, please don't stop," he begged.

Heero laughed softly. *Stop? When I haven't even started?* "Baka." He leaned in again, this time hungrily. Duo moaned into his mouth, relieved, and slipped his arm around Heero's back. Heero took Duo's lower lip in his teeth, nibbling gently. Almost without his thinking about it, he picked up the thick length of Duo's braid, clutching at it like a lifeline--

"Oh, for God's sake, get a room." Wufei shook his head as the two broke apart guiltily. "The rest of us have to use this room, too, y'know." Heero Glared at Wufei, murder in his eyes. Duo was not a bit happier.

"Wufei, you *really* know how to ruin a mood," he groaned.

Wufei just rolled his eyes.

Heero made his decision. He pulled himself to his feet, seized Duo's braid (forcing the other pilot to stand), and dragged him out of the room.

Wufei snorted and shook his head, and remembered his original purpose for coming into the living room. He grabbed one of the few remaining candy canes off the tree and then retreated to the part of the house most distant from Heero and Duo's room.



*I am going to get Wufei later,* Duo promised himself as Heero shut the bedroom door firmly behind them. "Damn interruptions," he muttered.

"Um, Heero..."

The other pilot grabbed both of Duo's shoulders firmly. "Shut up, Duo."

Hungry cobalt eyes stared into bemused violet orbs.

"Ok--mmmph." Heero's mouth cut his reply off again. As Heero probed Duo's mouth, Duo slid his arms around Heero.

Heero ran his tongue over Duo's lips again, licking away that last sugary traces of Duo's candy canes. Then he began exploring Duo's face with his lips, brushing them against a closed pair of eyes, across his cheeks, on the tip of Duo's nose... Nuzzling his cheek against Duo's, Heero nibbled at Duo's earlobe.

Duo mumbled something indistinct but happy as Heero's hands got into the act, tugging at Duo's shirt. Under their insistence, the layers of cloth got peeled away and discarded, leaving Duo bare-chested. Heero smiled again and trailed a line of kisses down the column of Duo's throat. For a moment, he rested with his face nestled against Duo's wiry shoulder, inhaling the unique scent that was Duo. Sliding his hands up Duo's bare sides, he slid them around to knead the muscles of his back.

Duo whispered Heero's name, mostly to reassure himself that it was all real. Heero nipped at the sensitive juncture of shoulder and neck in response, eliciting a moan from Duo. Desiring greater leverage for dealing with his partner, he pushed Duo backwards until the half-naked boy's legs collided with a bed. Pushing Duo down, Heero stretched out next to him and trailed one palm down his bare chest. Tracing the outline of one sensitive nipple with a finger, he lowered his head to work it with both lips and tongue.

Duo moaned his name again as Heero tormented first one nipple and then the other. Heero smirked, his hands already working at Duo's pants. He pulled them off--and took a moment to stare and Duo's boxers.

"Big red hearts?"

"They were on sale," Duo gasped. Then he groaned as Heero hooked a finger in the elastic waistband and dragged them off.

Heero reached up and kissed Duo again, and then trailed his moist lips down Duo's neck and torso and along the length of his erection. Duo moaned at the sensation, and cried out Heero's name as he took the erection in his mouth.

Heero moved slowly on Duo, enjoying the choked cries that his touch was causing. The moans and gasps became more urgent, and Duo's entire body shook and he came, crying his lover's name in a ragged voice. Heero swallowed and stretched out along the length of his partner's body.

Sliding his arms possessively around Duo, he murmured, "Merry Christmas, Duo... Aishiteru."

"What?" Duo couldn't comprehend what he had just heard.

"Baka. I just told you that I loved you." Heero replied patiently.

Duo sniffled and buried his face in Heero's shoulder. "Please be real," he whispered. "Please, don't be a dream... please."

"Sh. Does this feel like a dream to you?" Heero lifted Duo's chin and pressed his lips against the other's mouth.

"Mmmm... no..." Duo began to smile. "Aishiteru, Heero." He paused, brow wrinkling. "Now how come you're still dressed?" Heero leaned back and let Duo attack the buttons on his new shirt.

*Ninmu kanryou.*




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