Drums of Heaven

Part Twenty-Six: The Conception Of The Earth

An affectionate ear on the belly must alter
The conception of the earth pressing itself against the sky.
An elbow bent against the chest must anticipate
Early light angled over the lake.
--- Pattiann Rogers

Heero stared at the bowl of noodles and tried to marshal his thoughts in order. Duo had calmed down to an occasional quiet chuckle as they studied the menu, and the table was silent while Heero tried to think of a suitable response. It wasn't until their dinners were served that he decided to broach the topic.

"How did you know who Mike is?" Heero poked at the bean sprouts with his chopsticks.

"I make it a point to research people after I fry their hardboards," Duo cracked. The longhaired man grinned. "Sri Ra Cha, please?"

Heero handed him the red bottle with the rooster label. "So that's all you know? It sounded like... "

"What it sounded like is what it is," Duo replied quickly. "I've had a bot tracking him for the past two months now. Busy kid, isn't he. And he's got friends that are as nosy as he is."

Heero gave Duo a crooked grin.

"Never expected you to be behind it," Duo assured him. "Figured you'd do the dirty work yourself... and it wouldn't be the first time we've had a rash of hackers trying to find out anything they could about the infamous five."


Duo shrugged. "None of the rest of us changed our names or went underground, after all. Not entirely."

Heero stared at the broth in his spoon before lifting it to his lips. He wasn't sure what to say, but a glance at Duo told him the other man hadn't thought of the double meaning in his words.

"This okay?" Duo's eyebrows were raised, and he pointed at Heero's bowl with his chopsticks.

"What? Ah, it's fine," Heero replied. "So you knew what Mike was doing, but that was it?"

"Other than accidentally dismantling the track bots set up on the server relay points, the only thing Mike did was look at stuff. He didn't upload any destructive executables. I'm still not sure if he's figured out everything he got."

"He has," Heero explained. "With some help, though, if you mean the pictures to Quatre. They did figure it out. Eventually."

"Eventually!" Duo laughed. "Good to know I can still confuse the youngsters."

"So were the pictures just pictures?"

"Yes and no. If you run the images through a second set of algorithms, it reduces jpeg to grayscale. Then you can pick out the overlay that contains progress reports."

Heero whistled, long and low under his breath. Duo touched his own forehead with the end of his chopstick, as though tipping a hat, and grinned. His dark blue eyes were flashing, and Heero couldn't help but smile in return, impressed.

"So who created my history?" The Wing Zero pilot ran his hand up and down his water glass, pretending to be distracted while he waited for the answer.

"History?" A puzzled look crossed Duo's face.

"For Hito Young."

"Quatre," Duo said. "I guess."

"You're guessing?"

Duo blushed, but there was a sly look in his eyes. "Okay, I have a confession."

"This I want to hear."

"Don't rub it in." Duo pretended to scowl. "I didn't know about the track bots until I started following Mike."

"You didn't? So those weren't for you?"

"Doesn't look like it, does it." Duo shrugged, a barely perceptible movement, and stirred his soup absently.

"Let me get this straight," Heero hissed, frustration rising in his gullet as the implications dawned on him. "Quatre has been sending messages to someone else, while you were sending letters buried in pictures to him."

"That about covers it."


"I'm not really sure, but I have my suspicions." Duo glanced around the nearly empty restaurant and ducked his head over his bowl again. "Maganacs."

"Mag... " Heero's voice trailed away, and his blue eyes went wide as he started to chuckle. "You're right."

"I am?"

"That first job," Heero said. "I stuck around afterwards, and saw you escorted out of the side door by two men in suits."

"Oh, I love that trick," Duo interjected. "Wait... You thought I had to be rescued again, didn't you." His expression darkened.

"Yes," Heero admitted, but added quickly, "I know better now."

"Good," Duo muttered, then brightened. "I got the information and left it where Hilde could get it, and then let myself be caught. I was on the security systems, but if they searched me, they'd just think I was some college student acting on a dare. No evidence."

"Hn." Heero nodded. "But when I saw you get into the car, I was about to head after you... and someone hit me on the head."

Duo's eyes opened wide, and Heero bit back another laugh. "You? Someone hit you?" The Deathscythe pilot looked around the restaurant, completely askance, as if seeking out the perpetrators. "And they're still living?"

"Yes, they're still alive," Heero retorted. "They caught me off-guard. But I came to, long enough to hear them talking. Thick accents, something about... " He racked his memory, trying to remember some of the comments he'd overheard. "Something about having a major complex... "


"I think me. About being stubborn." The dark-haired man scowled and prodded his noodles a few times. "Someone else replied that they were warned. And then they said something about shooting me. I think they stuck a needle in me."

"So that's why you were so out of it when I found you in the cargo bay. And here I thought you were impervious to most drugs."

"I have no immunity to two classes of drugs. One class is a type of sedative," Heero explained. "The few surgeries I had as a kid, they needed some way to put me under."

Duo made a face. "It'd be a suicidal doctor who'd operate on you without major sedatives."

"Until now, Quatre was the only person aware of that fact."

Duo froze, noodles halfway to his mouth. "Another point in favor of it being the Maganacs."

"That, and the comment about being warned about me."

"It's been six months, seven months? I've never seen them lurking about. I certainly haven't seen any faces I recognize."

Heero shook his head. "I didn't make it a point to meet every one of them personally. And I thought there were forty or fifty of them."

"But I did meet them," Duo protested. "I got to know them when Quatre and I hid out in the desert."

"That was six years ago."

"Still... " Duo stirred his noodles and pondered the information. A thin line appeared between his brows as he stared absently into the middle distance. "Have you seen anyone that looked like a Maganac? They must've been around, enough to anticipate my tricks, if they knew to stop you from getting involved."

"I recall seeing a pair of Arab men while Hilde and I scoped the hotel. I also bumped into several on the mining asteroid." Heero sighed. "The colonies are so multi-cultural that two or three Arabs don't stand out anymore than your idiotic braid."

"What stands out now is someone who doesn't feel like they belong," Duo observed. "You don't stand out as much now, for instance."

Heero flashed him a look.

"You don't." Duo was unperturbed. "But maybe that's just part of growing up, getting used to ourselves. Getting comfy in our own skin."

"I was always comfortable in my own skin."

"I meant it as a psychological thing, not a physical thing." Duo smiled, a little hesitantly, but his eyes crinkled. It was a true smile. "Physically... you're right. You were always comfortable."

Heero blinked, then smiled crookedly before looking away. His heart was thumping again. His mind raced for a second, seeking a different topic. "Remember what you said about surprises?"

Duo frowned, trying to place the comment, then smiled. "What about them?"

"I did get several videos when I was shopping this afternoon. After dinner, you want to set the laptop up in the bedroom and watch movies?"

The other man grinned. "We'll need popcorn and beer!"


An hour later they were back at the apartment. Duo was setting up the laptop at the end of the futon while Heero struggled with the plastic wrap.

"Why do they have to wrap the cases in plastic and then put more sealing tape at all the edges?" He fussed quietly and continued trying to pry the tape off the edges. It kept sticking to his fingers.

"Want me to do it?"

"I've got it now," Heero grumbled. "Microwave just beeped. Go get the popcorn."

"Aye, aye, captain," Duo called, laughing quietly.

The laptop was now perched on the box the basketball came in, and Heero hoped the monitor was large enough to make watching movies worth the effort. He'd bought two disks: impulse buys. He wondered if Duo's comment earlier was because the other man had seen the package sitting next to his stack of paperback books.

Duo was back in a minute with a big bowl of popcorn and one of the six packs. Heero opened his drink while he waited for the movie to load.

"The Fighting Seven," Duo read out loud. "This is a remake, right?"

"Of a remake of a remake," Heero replied. "It's a really old story, but it was one of my favorites in college."

"Why'd you get it, if you've seen it before?" Duo dropped the box on the floor and began propping up the pillows against the wall. "There's not going to be any suspense for you."

"I don't watch it to see what happens," the other man said. "I just like the story."

"But if it's been redone that many times, it's a cliché."

"Not if it's retold well." Heero scrambled back up the futon. He'd just gotten his pillows formed into a suitable backrest when the opening credits started rolling. "This one was filmed on L1, too, just after Mariemaia."

Duo grinned. "Oh, only five years old. As opposed to the other versions, between fifty and two hundred years old."



"Shut up and watch the movie."


At midnight, the consensus was that The Fighting Seven wasn't too bad, in Duo's words. The longhaired man studied the second movie and shot Heero a dubious look.

"Are you sure about this? Usually you're in bed by now, I thought," Duo said. "Don't you have to be up in the morning?"

"Day off. And I am in bed, technically. Tomorrow I will be sleeping very late," Heero told him. "Are you done opening that yet? Need another beer? More popcorn?"

"No, yes, yes, in that order."

Heero returned with the second six-pack and a new bowl of popcorn. He opened a drink for each of them while Duo started the second movie, and stared at the bowl of popcorn for a second.

"Duo." Heero waited until Duo turned around, and threw a piece of popcorn at him. "Catch."

"What?" The popcorn hit Duo on the head, and Heero hid a grin. Duo looked down at the piece caught on his shirt, and frowned, baffled. "You just threw popcorn at me."

"You're supposed to catch it in your mouth."

"You do it, then." Duo picked the piece up and threw it back at Heero, who had to dodge quickly. He didn't catch it. It bounced off his nose, and Duo laughed. "You missed, too. And you had warning!"

"I almost got it. Try again." Heero threw another piece. It went straight over Duo's head.

"You are a crummy shot, oh-one," Duo intoned seriously as he scooted forward and grabbed a handful of popcorn. Behind him, the movie started rolling, lighting the darkened bedroom with a flickering blue light. Duo ate a piece of popcorn and snagged a second, tossing it to Heero with a quick flick of his wrist.

Heero caught it, and laughed softly at Duo's surprised expression. He returned fire, and Duo had to move quickly, tilting his body to the left to catch the piece.


Heero shook his head. "You missed that one by a mile."

Duo laughed and threw the piece back at Heero. "It wasn't my fault. You're supposed to aim for the mouth."

"I was." Heero munched on his second successful catch and flicked a return shot at Duo. This time Duo caught it, and grinned, displaying the popcorn trapped between his front teeth.

"You have pathetic aim," Duo repeated. Sitting up suddenly, he threw four pieces at Heero, all at the same time. "Catch!"

Heero caught one, dismayed to find another one had gone down his shirt as he leaned forward. He wasn't sure where the other two pieces went, and Duo was too busy laughing. The dark-haired man scowled and shook his shirt, letting the popcorn fall down to his waist where he could retrieve it gracefully.

"You have a piece stuck in your hair," Duo taunted, and leaned forward to pluck it from Heero's head. "See, it's supposed to go like this," he said, his tone light as he held the popcorn between his fingers and guided it towards Heero's mouth. "And then... "

Heero leaned forward, catching Duo's fingers between his lips. A swift nibble against the fingertips, and the popcorn was his, and Duo was pulling away with a laugh. Heero swallowed hard, still chewing the popcorn. His stomach was shivering at the sudden touch, and he narrowed his eyes as he reached for the popcorn bowl.

"Practice with the aim, you mean?" Heero held one piece between two fingers, balanced precariously as he leaned towards Duo. "When I throw, it should follow this arc, and end here... " Delicately, Heero placed the popcorn against Duo's softly parted lips.

Duo's eyes were lowered, watching the popcorn, but as it touched his lips, Duo looked up, straight at Heero. In the wavering colors off the laptop screen, Duo's eyes glittered like blue-purple crescents, the black pupils large in the low light. Slowly, Duo opened his mouth, but didn't otherwise move, his eyes fixed on Heero's. The photographer froze for a heartbeat, uncertain, then let his fingers move forward, guiding the popcorn into Duo's mouth.

Duo moved forward, just an inch.

A second later, Duo's lips were around Heero's fingers, and the popcorn was past Duo's teeth. Heero could feel Duo's tongue, and let the popcorn slip from his fingers into the depths of Duo's mouth. Heero's breath caught as Duo's lips came down around his fingers, sliding from the last finger joints to the tip. There was an additional touch at the same time, and Heero vaguely registered it was Duo's tongue, flickering on his fingertips.

Heero realized he'd stopped breathing, and blinked as Duo pulled away. He was crunching the popcorn noisily. Then Duo swallowed, and grinned, but his head was down, his eyes narrow and sly.

"Close," he whispered. "But I think it needs work." Duo stuck his hand into the bowl of popcorn, never taking his eyes off Heero as he plucked another piece from the bowl. "It should go like this... " His voice trailed off as he raised the piece, caught between his forefinger and middle finger. Holding it up, as though displaying the white shape, he leaned forward. Heero instinctively leaned forward as well, his mouth opening in preparation.

The popcorn landed gently against his lips, and Heero opened his mouth even wider. Impulsively he let his tongue flicker out, and pushed at the popcorn. It fell from Duo's fingertips and hit the bed, and Duo's eyes followed the movement. A second later Duo gasped faintly as Heero's lips wrapped around Duo's fingers, using his tongue and teeth to pull the fingers into his mouth.

Heero watched Duo's eyes focus on Heero's mouth, and the dark-haired man let his tongue run up and down the underside of Duo's two fingers. His lips were gentle around the fingers, but when he heard the hitch in Duo's breath, Heero added teeth. He nibbled slightly before pulling back, his mouth parted a little as he watched Duo warily.

"Oh, god," Duo breathed.

The photographer suppressed a sudden fear that he'd done something wrong, and tried to focus around the pounding in his chest and the heat gathering in his groin. You went too far, the little voice cried. He was beginning to trust. Don't ruin it now by being stupid.

The imperious voice was silenced suddenly as Heero took a deep breath, exhaling through his nose as he leaned forward, stretching out his hand as Duo shifted closer. Heero leaned into the movement, and was startled when his empty hand touched Duo's chin. The man's eyes were partly closed, and his breathing was soft and rapid as he froze against Heero's fingertips.

Heero hesitated, biting his lower lip as he watched his fingers caress Duo's jaw, under Duo's chin, and then up to run his thumb against Duo's lower lip. The pilot was leaning closer. Heero leaned in, as well, fascinated by the way Duo's lips parted. The pointed tip of Duo's tongue flickered out as if tasting the air.

"Catch what I throw," Duo whispered.

Heero closed his eyes.

Under his fingers, he could feel Duo leaning closer, and he nearly jerked backwards as his own thumb bumped against his chin. He let his hand fall, and some part of his brain quietly registered that his hand had just fallen on Duo's thigh. The awareness was swept away as Duo's lips touched his.

The touch was gentle, but not still. It wasn't anything like the five kisses Heero had before in his life. He didn't know how to catalog or qualify the sensation, and pushed away the part of his brain clamoring for analysis. He only wanted the moment, pristine. Duo's lips were pliable, pressing into his, and the dark-haired man instinctively tilted his head. Duo's tongue ran along the edges of his mouth, and Heero parted his lips, welcoming Duo.

There was a hesitation, a pause, and Duo's tongue was slipping into his mouth. Heero bit back a soft groan, letting his own tongue move forward to respond, a tentative gesture. When he heard Duo's answering moan, Heero's stomach jumped, hit against his heart, and slammed down into his groin with a resounding series of thumps. He couldn't tell whether he was the one trembling, or if that was Duo, but he wanted more.

Without breaking the kiss, Duo was moving forward again, and Heero let his hand run up Duo's thigh, along his hip, to his waist, blindly guiding Duo forward. Heero could feel a hand against his chest, and another one on his cheek that slipped around to behind his neck as the kiss went deeper, tongues swirling against each other. Heero could see the movie's shining colors dancing against his closed eyelids, or maybe that was simply the effect of kissing Duo.

Duo moved closer, and something beeped three times.

Duo and Heero both jerked backwards immediately, on alert, their eyes darting around the room. Heero was reaching for a gun that wasn't there when he heard Duo chuckle. Heero blinked, uncertain, as the chuckle grew into a laugh.

"What," Heero snapped, somewhere between fear and irritation.

"It's the laptop," Duo replied. "I think I bumped the keyboard with my foot."

Heero looked at the monitor. An error message was flashing, and he leaned forward, tapping at the touch pad twice. The message disappeared, and the movie started playing again. Beside him, Duo was still giggling nervously. Heero sighed, sitting back. Duo shifted around to sit next to him, his laughter subsiding.

"So, Heero," Duo whispered. "We could watch the movie, if you'd rather."

"Hn." Heero pretended to think, then leaned forward again and caught the laptop's lid with the tips of his fingers. One swift move, and he pulled the lid down, closing it with a solid thunk. Smirking, he turned to Duo.

"Or not," Duo said, and kissed him again.


On to Chapter twenty-seven

Back to chapter twenty-five

Fiction : GW :

This page last updated: