Habitat for Redemption (part 5)
The crash of shattering glass exploded across the room, startling Relena into looking up at her visitor. She raised one eyebrow elegantly as Duo glanced down at the mess of water, blood, and glass shards littering her office floor with surprise and a little embarrassment.
“Feel better?” she inquired.
“No. Not really. My hand hurts,” was Duo´s clipped, and pouty reply.
Relena sighed as she grabbed a silk hankie from her desk and rose to join Duo where he stood across the room. Carefully avoiding the mess on the floor, she steered him over to a couch and sat him down. With lips pursed in concern, and a faint air of disapproval, she wrapped his lacerated hand in the silk hankie, and then leaned close to give the frustrated ex-pilot a hug.
“I´m sorry, Duo. I never thought he could be this…”
“Stubborn? Stupid? Good at hiding?” Duo supplied.
“Yes. I suppose that´s it.”
“Damnit! I´M the one who´s s´posed to run and hide! RAARRRRGH!” he yelled, venting his frustrations in a primal scream.
“Feel better?” Relena repeated.
“No,” Duo pouted.
“We will find him, Duo. Just give it time.”
“You´ve been saying that for the last three years! THREE YEARS! I´m going insane here!”
Relena leaned forward again and wrapped Duo into her arms.
Duo shoved her away roughly.
“Bah. Leave off… You´re too clingy. I need-“ Duo broke off as he surged to his feet and started to pace.
“Duo? You need a holiday,” Relena said decisively.
He spun around and pinned her with an incredulous glare.
“You heard me. A holiday. A vacation. A day off. You need to take some time off of this search before it drives you to do something rash. You´re frustrated, intractable, violent… In short, you´re a six-day spring wound up eight days tight. If you don´t do something to relax soon, you´re going to snap.”
Duo blinked at her several times, his face shocked and perplexed.
“A six-day spring…. Wound up… eight days tight…. Umm… Relena? Did you just use a colloquialism?”
“Duo? Did you just use the word ‘colloquialism´ in a sentence?” she replied with a friendly grin.
Her easy humor caught him off guard, forcing a chuckle from him. The last three years of building stress crashed down on him then, and his chuckle gave way to true laughter, which Relena joined in on. It definitely crossed the line of hysteria, and then some, but neither one of them cared. After a few minutes, they slowly started to calm down, and wipe the tears from their eyes… That is, until they looked at each other.
Duo took one look at the puffy, red-rimmed eyes, and the flushed, freckled cheeks of the most influential person in the world, and snickered at her discomfort. Relena looked up at the snicker, and saw Duo trying, in vain, to compose himself. With a terribly uncharacteristic snort, she was off laughing again.
They collapsed into each other´s arms and laughed themselves into hiccups, giggling like idiots for several very long minutes. Finally, when they could almost no longer breath, and their frustration and desperation was pretty much spent, they started to calm down again and relax. Relena extricated herself from Duo´s grasp and poured them each another glass of water.
“See >hic< what I mean?” Se asked.
Duo snickered one last time as he accepted the glass from her, and sighed in defeat.
“Yah. I guess. >hic< Okay, ‘Miss Relena´,” he said, imitating the whining tone of Relena´s old group of school girl groupies, “Where should I go >hic< then, on my ‘holiday´?”
“Oh no. >hic< You pick that. If I set >hic< you up someplace, then if you hate it, I´ll >hic< never hear the end of it! You can´t set me >hic< up THAT easy, Duo!”
“Relena? I´m madly in love with you. Marry me,” Duo deadpanned.
“WHAT?!?” Relena gasped, more shocked in that moment than she´d ever been in the entirety of her life.
Duo´s face broke into an infectious, maniacal grin.
“DUO! What were you thinking?!”
“Are your hiccups gone?” he asked archly.
She paused a minute to ponder that.
“Yeeeessss….” Came the wary reply.
“There ya go, then!” he answered, bouncing to his feet and pulling her along.
“You are a terrible, terrible man, Duo Maxwell.”
He grinned at her, tossing a wink at her as he danced her across the room to her desk.
“Yah. So I´ve been told. Cha… Okay, Ojosan. You have work to do, I have stress to relieve. You can´t do yours while I´m bouncing around here like a… what was that? A six-day spring wound up eight days tight? Hah. Anyway. I´ll take my vacation and get out of your hair… You get your work done.”
“I´ll believe that when I see it.”
“You. Taking a vacation. I´m doubting you,” she said, crossing her arms as she took her seat at her desk again.
Duo´s hand flew to his chest, dramatically clutching at his heart as he gasped at her.
“Why, Ojosan! How could you?! I´m cut to the quick!”
“Bastardizing Shakespeare won´t distract me, Duo. Are you taking your laptop with you on this ‘vacation´?”
“Well, duh! ‘Course I´m taking my laptop! How else could I get my e-mail?”
“Point. Set. Match. The only e-mail you get is replies on your network searches.”
Duo hung his head in mock shame.
“Okay. I promise I´ll only check it once every couple of days… all right?” He asked.
“Since I suppose that is the best I´m going to be getting from you, I suppose that will have to do,” she answered with a sigh.
“Sugoi! How long is this prescribed vacation supposed to last?”
“If I see you back at your search in anything under three weeks, I´ll call Quatre and have him set the entire Maganac corps on you. Hmm… On second thought, I´ll just call Hilde and tell her that you are desperately in love with her, but to shy to tell her yourself. And then I´ll give her your whereabouts,” she said with a wicked smile.
“Damn! You are one sadistic woman! Okay, okay, okay! Three weeks at least! Fine!” he cried, throwing up his hands in defeat.
“Very well then. Have a nice holiday, Duo.”
Duo shook his head, muttering to himself as he stalked to the door.
“Remind me never to piss you off, Relena. I don´t think I could handle your idea of revenge.”
Her only answer was a secretive little smile.
“Thanks, Ojosan. Yer the best.”
“Be safe, Duo. Relax. Have some fun. We WILL find him. I promise.”
Duo nodded and slipped out the door. After a moment, he poked his head back in.
“Hey, Ojosan? When do YOU get to relax?” he asked with an impish grin and vanished.
“Relena, you´d kill me if you knew where I was right now,” Duo said to himself as he peered up the hill.
“I´m pretty sure that this isn´t what you meant by taking a vacation.”
Duo parked the jeep and slipped out to stare at the quaint little cabin he´d picked to stay in. Even after four years of disuse and abandonment, it still looked the same as that first night he and Heero had found it after a rough mission. The first night that Duo thought he caught a glimpse of something almost human deep within the “Perfect Soldier”. The first night that Heero had let Duo kiss him.
With a dejected sigh, Duo grabbed his duffle and trudged up to the door.
“Sorry, ‘Lena. I know I´m ‘sposed to be relaxing right now… But I just can´t get him out of my head.”
At least he could be here and remember how happy they had been that week. Nothing beyond the kiss had happened; Heero had seen to that. But he also hadn´t killed Duo for the transgression, and had been almost… Almost friendly.
Duo took a deep gulp of air, and pushed open the door with the air of a man who is hoping against hope for an impossible dream. As sunlight flooded the trash-strewn floor, he let out his breath explosively.
“Yup. Too much to ask. I knew you wouldn´t be here. Damn. This place is a mess! I´m gonna hafta clean it before I can even unpack!” he growled in dismay.
“Well, no help for it. Better get started.”
He dropped his duffle outside on the porch beside the door, and went about opening all the windows to try to dispel the stuffy air. With a good-natured grumble, he ferreted out the cleaning supplies and got to work.
Long after the sun had set, he´d only managed to get the main living room clean enough to inhabit. After the long flight and drive to get there, and then the frenzy of cleaning, he was bushed! Literally throwing in the towel for the night, he grabbed a blanket from his duffle, tucked it around his shoulders, and collapsed on the couch.
It took him all of the next day, and half of the following to clean up and repair the damage four years of emptiness had caused the cozy little cabin. Of course, then he had to spend the rest of that third day driving back into town to get all the food and other supplies he was going to need for the next month. By the time he was back, he was tired of his vacation already, and in need of a good, brainless night of vegetating in front of the TV.
Duo fixed up a huge bowl of popcorn, utterly drenched in butter and salt, kicked off his shoes, flipped on the TV, and threw himself into the couch´s embrace with careless abandon.
After a few minutes of flicking through the channels, he sat up and scowled.
“Amazing. You´d think in this day and age, with over 500 channels to choose from, there would be SOMETHING brainless and worthwhile to watch!”
He continued his quest to find something entertaining, only to fail half an hour later. When he started MST3King douche commercials, he knew it was time to switch off the TV. He flipped a piece of popcorn into the air and tried to catch it, snorting at himself when it bounced off of his nose and landed between a couple of couch cushions.
“Nice reflexes, Maxwell,” he muttered to himself as he fished in the couch for the errant kernel.
The crinkle of paper caught him off guard.
“Hello. What do we have here?”
He drew out the much-folded slip of notepad and blinked at it. A meaningless jumble of letters and numbers was scrawled across the paper in Heero´s handwriting.
With shaking fingers, Duo flipped off the TV and settled back on the couch to stare at the note. He had no idea what code it was written in, but it was his only real, tangible link to the object of his heart´s desire now. He clutched it to his chest and allowed himself a few tears.
“Damnit, Heero. Where are you? Don´t you know how much I need you? Don´t you understand how much I love you? Do you even care? DAMNIT!
“Three years, you asshole! I´ve been looking for you this whole time. Why´d you have to hide so good? It´s like you vanished offa the face of existence. I can´t find ANYTHING connected to you! No addresses, no vehicles, no flights, no bank accounts, no-“
A thought brought Duo´s rant to a crashing halt. He blinked and stared at the note in his hand.
“Bank accounts… Could this be… Could it be one of your old bank accounts?”
Duo flew out of the couch, spilling his bowl of popcorn in his haste, but not even sparing it a glance as he fled to his laptop.
“I know I promised, Ojosan, but this is important!” he crowed as he booted up the computer.
His fingers flew over the keys as he initiated the search. His brow furrowed with concentration as the query slipped along the electronic highways. He worried the end of his braid as he waited for the replies. When the computer beeped to signal the response, he scanned the screen avidly.
And then let out a Comanche war whoop.
“GOTCHA! Relena, yer a fucking GENIUS for makin´ me take this vacation! A fucking GENIUS I tell ya!”
Duo scanned the results of the search, grinning like a fool as he recognized the familiar codes and aliases embedded into the account. He even now remembered watching over Heero´s shoulder as the Japanese pilot hacked into this bank to set up the account in the first place; Heero had needed somewhere to stash all of the capital he'd hacked from Romefeller.
Duo sprang from his chair and started dancing around the room like a fool.
“Gotcha now, koibito! Three years it took, but I´ve gotcha now! A day or two at the most, and I´ll have tracked you down for good! Better look out, Koibito! I´m on my way!”
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