Duo shut the fridge door behind him with a hitch of his hip, clutching the two cold beers in one hand. He held one out to Heero.


“Getting drunk’s not the answer,” snapped the dark-haired man.


Duo rolled his eyes.  “Yeah, whatever.  Of course not.  But I need a cold drink and it looks like you could do with something to relax you.”


Heero frowned at him, but he took the bottle with a curt nod of thanks.  Duo sat on the stool next to him at the kitchen counter and took a swig from his own drink.  “So…”


Heero snorted under his breath.  “So what?”


Duo bit his lower lip and swung around on the stool so that his legs fell either side of Heero’s thigh.  “So…you wanna talk about it?”


Heero took a sideways glance at him, then looked back down at the bottle.  “No.”


“Of course not.” Duo nodded, unfazed. “You gonna let me, then?”


Heero looked around properly, his expression bemused.


Duo smiled back at him.  He took another swig, then put the bottle back down on the counter.  A small bead of condensation ran down the side, cutting a zig-zag path through the frosting.  “You should never have taken the contract.  It was never going to be enough of a challenge for you, and you never really trusted the guy to come through with the money.”




“It was always going to be trouble, right from day one.  Crap systems in place, no visible tech support, a deadline that’d moved three times even before the project started.  Likely no one could have met the specification, not even…”


“Now, look...”


“…not even Heero Yuy,” Duo finished, cheerfully.  He lifted the bottle for another drink, his eyes twinkling over the glass rim.  “Right?”


Heero watched the movement of Duo’s hand, up to his mouth then down again.  And then he smiled.  “That sounds familiar.”


Duo grinned.  “Yeah.  They’re your words, Yuy, when you were angsting over signing up for the damned job in the first place.  Well, I paraphrased, but the gist of it was the same.  I agreed with you, too. Told you not to bother.  That there’d be other jobs.  That we weren’t out of beer and ramen just yet.”


Heero’s cheeks developed a slight flush.  “I wanted…I mean, the money would have been useful.  While you wait for another gig.”


Duo bit his lip again.  “I’m writing plenty new songs in the meantime. It’ll happen.  And I’ll keep tending bar until it does.”


Heero nodded.  He curled one hand around his beer but didn’t lift it.  He dropped his free hand down by his side.  It brushed against Duo’s denim-clad thigh.  “Love to watch you play, you know that.”


Duo smiled again, this time smoother and slower and more tender.


“But I’m not going to work for the man again.”


Duo nodded.  “I know.  No problem.  We’ll find you something freelance.  You can do it all.  Anything.  Whatever.”


Heero twisted around on his own stool to face Duo, so their knees nudged together.  “I wanted to get you a guitar for your birthday.”


Duo felt something clench up in his chest.  “I’ve got one, man.”


Heero shook his head.  “A better one.  That one in the store you go drooling over each Saturday in town.”


Now it was Duo’s turn to flush.  “Didn’t think you noticed.”


And Heero’s turn to roll his eyes.  “As if I were an inanimate object beside you.”


Duo leaned over and squeezed Heero’s thigh.  “Never that.  Maybe not as lively, you know?  But you have your moments…”


Heero punched his shoulder but in a way that didn’t break any bones, so Duo knew he was amused, not angry.  And the fire in those dark eyes was worth the bruising, right?  He leaned over and clinked his beer bottle against Heero’s.  “Thanks.”


Heero frowned.  “For what?  No gift, and another dinner of cheap beer and packet goods.  You deserve so much better, Duo.”


“Yeah?”  Duo paused, his gaze meeting Heero’s.  “Tell me.”


Heero flushed more deeply.  “You deserve an audience for your music: fans for your talent.  You deserve an apartment that’s better than this rabbit hutch we rent, fine wine and food that you can savor…”


“I like ramen,” Duo murmured quietly.  “But go on.”


“You deserve…” Heero paused, too.  “The very best.”


Duo waited a moment, then pushed the bottle away from him on the counter.  He shifted to get closer to Heero, sliding his leg in between Heero’s open knees and placing his hands on Heero’s waist.  “I got it.”


“For heaven’s sake…” Heero snorted.


“No,” Duo said, firmly.  “We’ve been here only a couple of months.  These things take time.  And look, we got a place that’s near the stores and the trains, and no one in the building has a screaming baby, a dangerous dog or a drug running business.”


“Yet,” scowled Heero.


Duo laughed.  “We get by.  We like it here.  We laughed when the oven door fell off, we’ve got used to the way the TV sometimes turns itself off.  We argue over who does the laundry, we share the grocery shopping and we go to the movies whenever there’s something decent on.  All the right stuff.”


Heero sighed and nodded.  His beer seemed to be forgotten, too, as his body arched very gently into Duo’s touch.  “I’ll start looking for another job tomorrow.”


“Whatever.”  Duo sighed, too.  Making sure that Heero was watching, he licked over his lips, wetting them with more than beer.  With promise.


“But I still think you deserve a birthday gift.” 


Yeah, Heero was still disturbed.  Duo was a perceptive guy that way, right? The eyes were still dark and fiery, the shoulders still tight with tension.  He didn’t take well to being fired: he didn’t take well to being less than a provider for them both.


“You know what I think I deserve?” Duo murmured.


Heero’s eyes widened.  Guess he had to know that tone by now.  Duo had practiced it as often as they had time, energy or clean bedding.  Sometimes even despite that.  He reached over even further and brushed Heero’s lips with his own.  So good.  “I’ve got everything I need,” he whispered.  He felt Heero start to relax under his touch: his tongue slide into Duo’s mouth in eager response.


“I’ve got a coupon for cheap pizza,” Heero gasped.  “I can run out for it.”


“No. You can get those damned clothes off and run right over here,” Duo retorted.  “Didn’t I say I liked ramen?”


“Yes,” Heero smiled broadly as Duo’s hand slid inside the front of his jeans.  “That sounds familiar, too.”