Disclaimer: See all the others; status unchanged.

Pairings: 1+2+1, 3+4, 5+H
Contents/Warnings: Shounen Ai/Yaoi, Alternate Universe, fluff, mild angst, language

AN: Written for the gwyaoi.org 2005 novella challenge. Did not place. My thanks to merith for the arduous beta work.

On Track And Off Again
Part 2
by kebzero

The first achievement of Monday mornings - barring waking up in the first place - was to conquer the last hilltop before Stillwater Station, pass the Johnson's and make a spectacle of the trip down slope, partly attributed to the rust-red bike with loose wheels and looser chain, and partly to driver of said vehicle; grin and braid on display, bag clinging to his shoulders for dear life.

Yet, Duo's usual enthusiasm was dampened somewhat this morning. For one, there was his new schedule. The kids, as much as he liked them, were not the best little people to be around during bedtime or the morning ruckus. Now he was in a position to help out both during supper and breakfast, to Sister Helen's relief.

It started to dawn on Duo that his new schedule was perhaps a mixed blessing after all.

The other thing to subdue his good mood was the sight that greeted him as he reached the crest of the hill. As per usual, the train was already coming to a halt, and he was pressed for time. However, it was not the usual, sleek Inter-City Express shuttle; in its place was a relic of a train set with brick-red cars, easily half again his age old - if not more. With grin turned groan, he accepted this undesirable turn of events. He'd traveled with those old train sets before - but vastly preferred not to. Lexington Southern had replaced them on all but four departures - unfortunately, his new morning train appeared to be one of these four. Muttering some choice words about the railroad company, he swerved to avoid a perilously parked car.

Then there was the all-new crowd of commuters. It seemed a crowd now, mostly suits or suit-wannabes. Nearly the entire group busy boarding appeared to be office rats of one sort or another. Duo reached the bike rack, sought out a free space - which were still plentiful, as opposed to spots at the parking lot - locked his bike and ran towards the nearest open door.

That too had changed; there were far more of them, two doors to each car. The train itself was longer, five or six cars as opposed to the three or four of an ICE, according to his at-a-glance observation. As he got aboard and the train started moving, he made his next; the train wasn't interlocked in the same way. Crossing between cars was possible, but the doors looked heavy to push, and he wasn't sure where to push in the first place. He glanced at the flimsy swing door to the interior of the car, sighed and shrugged as he noted this car was marked as a quiet zone. Through the glass, he saw most passengers beyond the door were sleeping, or at the very least snoozing. He noted the cell phone ban too, but that hardly bothered him - as he didn't have one. A phone subscription was a luxury he could not afford, at present - or rather, he chose not to. The money was better spent earning interest, or invested in the occasional surprise for the kids at the orphanage.

Duo stepped inside and tried finding a spare seat. All the window seats were unfortunately taken. He passed the entire length of the car before reaching that conclusion. Resigned, he searched out the nearest available seat rather than head for another car.

That seat was one in a group of four at the very end of the car, the two seats by the window already taken. After quietly asking if the seat by the entrance was taken, just in case - and getting a no - he sat down. There weren't any tables in the couch groups of the older train sets, much less leg room. Duo stuffed his bag under his seat rather than risk putting it on the flimsy luggage rack above.

The eerie silence in the car, despite all the people in it, unnerved him. The car itself made plenty of noise, its old wheels and tired metal groaning and wailing with subdued agony at each mile traveled. Barring one or two mild cases of snoring and an unenlightened person rifling through a morning paper, the crowd within was almost soundless. From his aisle seat at the end, he could see down the entire car - yet another thing he found lacking; the ICE cars had at least been compartmentalized with fancy sliding glass doors. He looked at the window, saw the draw-down top of it and added air-conditioning to the list of things missing. At least it was late summer now, so that wouldn't be much of a problem. Winter might turn chilly, though... Duo sighed again, gave himself a fatigued smile and leant back, burying the back of his head in the soft cushion.

Okay, so the old train set at least got one thing right...


Heero's morning had transpired like every other. Barring the expected mild variations due to mostly human variables - none of them his own - he was on schedule.

Though he normally chose to ride in one of the cars at the far rear of the train, he'd shut off his cell phone and opted for the quiet zone today. He usually kept on call and preferred a place where he could use his laptop without being frowned upon. Despite being fond of the expression himself, he didn't like it returned to him. He avoided mirrors.

The last car of the train served his purposes of technophilia, given how it tended to be the absolute last car to fill up. However, it always did, both with people and their noise. This morning, Heero had wanted some tranquility within which to meditate. Granted, the murmurs of the car and its living contents still left much to be desired, but for a light case of meditation it would suffice.

Heero would never admit to anyone that it could be considered a nap. Certainly, he was beyond such trivialities.

The train decelerated as they pulled into the next station, cutting speed rather quickly at the end. The brakes screamed and the car shuddered to a stop. Heero frowned, glanced over the passenger beside him and out through the gritty old sunshade curtain to confirm that it was one of the 'nowhere' stops - Stillwater Station. He left a little spiteful thought for the engineer as well. The trip so far had been marked by this pattern of rapid acceleration and equally quick halts. Kangaroo driving was not limited merely to cars; apparently some drivers could do the trick with far bigger vehicles as well.

New passengers boarded. Heero sighed to himself at passing steps, closed his eyes and tried to relax again. He wished the train didn't stop in places like this - but he had to admit the number of passengers was reason enough for the railroad company to cater to. How this to all appearances quite rural area could spawn that many passengers was a mystery to him.

The car jolted as the train started moving, once more disturbing his fragile peace of mind. Heero opened his eyes again and glared down the aisle, as if attempting to stare holes in the small swing door at the end would help alleviate his temper.

There was another soft patter of shoes - most likely sneakers of some sort - coming down the aisle from somewhere behind him. Someone who barely made it aboard, he assumed. Said passenger passed him, and Heero found himself throwing a second glance.

Mainly because of the long pigtail. The young woman had a braid that reached all the way down to her waist, if not a little beyond. Out of its woven pattern, it had to be even longer. It certainly caught the eye. The beaten bag he almost missed. The way the tip of the pigtail danced at the brim of decency with the slight sway of hips, he did not. Yet, there was something amiss here...

Then the girl sat down, and he realized just what. She was clearly not a girl. Immediately he looked another way, hoping he hadn't been caught ogling- He shook his head, trying to clear those thoughts out. He'd made a mistake; a sizable blunder - but he didn't have to let anyone know that; nobody had noticed - he hoped. Most of all, he hoped the young man hadn't noticed, that he hadn't-

From the corner of his eye, he thought he saw guy with the braid smiling in his direction. Heartbeat up a notch, Heero wondered if he had been seen, and if-

And what did it really matter? He frowned to himself and glanced at the young man again. Indeed, Heero had to agree the man - no, he looked almost too boyish for that; boy it was - was handsome - both speaking in general terms, and in his own opinion. Certainly, there was nothing to being able to admit that, was there? He considered Wufei to be handsome, too. Then again, he couldn't remember a single occasion he'd stared at Wufei's-

Again, he shook his head, if only mentally. It was a mistake; he hadn't known better - now he did.

Yet, the braided hair was pretty.

And the boy was handsome.

Heero was caught in similar thoughts, both deep and shallow, right up to the point where the train reached its final destination. Soon enough, the boy was out of sight, lost in the teeming masses of commuters scattering into Lexington. Out of mind stalked after.

By the time Heero stepped off the subway at Grenside Station, he'd put the incident behind him.


It didn't last. The very next day, he was reminded of it again. The boy with the long braid was apparently not a one-time passenger. This time, Heero caught glimpse of the transit pass as it was flashed to the conductor. That pretty much pegged the guy as a commuter, like himself. Still, Heero couldn't remember having seen the boy before - and he was fairly sure he'd recall this guy, given his rather unique hair style. Part of Heero's job was to detect oddities and abnormalities - the braid certainly qualified for that.

But it was still nice to look at.

The braid... Heero mulled on it. What could possibly make someone want go to such lengths in saving up hair? Granted, it was eye-catching, and oddly attractive. Heero had the quaintest desire to reach out and touch the coarse rope, but knew much better than to follow through. He satisfied himself with studying it as intently as inconspicuous glances could allow.

Which wasn't much.

His eyes drifted to the boy's face, the eyes of the other fortunately closed. Heero did not want to get caught; he was still uncertain whether or not he had been seen yesterday. - As there had been no immediate backlash, he didn't think so. Wrapped up in thoughts, Heero didn't notice when the train stopped in Vernon Falls, and was jolted as a short businessman asked if he could take the available seat next to him. After hurriedly nodding and waiting for the other man to sit, Heero returned to his studies, bordering on daydreaming.

He wondered what the guy with the braid was thinking, if not dreaming - there was the quirkiest smile on the boy's face, bordering on a grin. Worse, it was unsettling. Few morning commuters, especially in this car, looked anywhere near conscious - much less happy. For example, his new neighbor was already slumbering, eyes closed, mouth open. Beyond verifying that, Heero didn't offer the businessman a second glance; those were reserved for another.

On the homeward bound stretch, things would be different - then there was often an exhausted form of happiness in pure relief - but even then, true smiling faces were few and far between.

The boy tilted his head back a bit, which pushed the shade of his baseball cap further down over his eyes, reaching for the tip of his nose. Heero quickly looked another way, assuming the other was awake, or at least waking up. Minutes past, but the other didn't stir further. Tentatively, Heero resumed his observations, doing his best to act casual about it.

His gaze drifted to the bag tucked halfway in under the seat. It was a battered, tubular fabric bag, zipper along the side, filled to moderation. While the contents could be anything, the size and shape of the bag limited the selection. It might be big enough for a book or two, but something as big as his own laptop could never fit inside. Yet, the depth of the other boy's bag was greater than his own, almost bordering on a duffel bag. It looked soft and floppy - perhaps it contained clothes? Then again, why would a commuter carry a spare set of clothes - other than in a full suitcase during long-distance, long-term meetings and conferences?

Heero made several theories before they reached the end of the line - all of which he ruled implausible.

To his surprise, he saw the young man with the braid again on the trip home. However, this time the other seated himself by the window in a two-seater a few rows ahead - which made observations harder. Still, watching merely the back top of his head was enough to get the thoughts spawned earlier surface again. The entire trip home was spent brooding - but no conclusions were reached but one.

He wanted to know.

Three days of furtive glances later, he wanted to know even more.


Duo made a point to take a different subway train than Trowa back to town, preferring to wait the extra fifteen minutes than to spend the same period of time aboard the same train - and likely in the same car, if not even seat - as Trowa. He got enough of Trowa at work. Sure, Trowa wasn't a bad guy, per se - but Duo felt slightly uncomfortable with Trowa around when there wasn't some sort of chaperone present to keep him on a short leash. Supposedly, and fully according to his own testament, Trowa had changed since the incident.

Duo shook his head, not wanting to remember. He wasn't quite ready to believe Trowa had changed, and thus preferred a separate train, to save them both - but mostly himself - a carload of embarrassment.

It had happened before.

He didn't want to let it happen again.

Of course, that was the excuse, not the main reason. In truth, Duo opted for the later train due to something else entirely after that first day. At first, he'd wondered if he'd picked up a stalker. It took him those first two days to piece together that it wasn't a stalker, but merely someone who shared most of his commute.

Granted, there were many who did that, if you considered the train. A few, even if you considered the eastbound Green line - but there was only one who threw badly concealed glances in Duo's direction.

Duo hadn't really taken notice of it until the subway trip home that Monday. He remembered having seen the stern-faced Asian-looking man somewhere before, but it took him the trip to recall where, namely by following the other man to their platform. Duo prided himself not to get noticed in return; he'd picked up a trick or two of moving stealthily through a crowd during a less glorious period of his life - a thing of the past now.


He didn't make more of it than a coincidence that day. On Wednesday, when he again caught a glimpse of deep blue eyes targeting his general vicinity, he ruled coincidence out. He grinned to himself again. In truth, he felt a bit flattered by the attention. There wasn't anything creepy about the way the young Asian man sneaked peeks at him. If anything, the other seemed almost ashamed of it, and was definitely bothered, if not outright embarrassed by his own behavior.

Duo wasn't. It amused him; attention like this always did. As did what he suspected were mild cases of blushing on the stranger's faintly bronzed skin. Of course, there was the wrong kind and the right kind of attention. Duo's instincts, which were influenced by the primordial, suggested this was the right kind. His intellect, which was a tad more refined, recommended caution. He'd been burned by instinct in the past, something intellect kept reminding him.

Intellect got an even easier time reminding him once he showed up at the new site.

"Hey, Duo!"

He took a deep, calming breath. "Hello, Trowa..."

"About time you showed up - it's almost-"

"Hey, I still have five minutes on the clock. Don't sweat it. I'll just go change, and-" He glared at Trowa's amused expression. "Don't even think about it."

Trowa's mirthful voice bordered on a laugh. "About what?"

Duo opened his mouth to answer, but decided to drop the matter. With a quick roll of his eyes, he stomped over to the sole barracks and entered. He locked the door behind him and changed, this time into a yellow-and-orange loose one-piece jumpsuit, similar to what Trowa reluctantly wore. His colleague was decidedly uncomfortable in construction jumpsuits. Perhaps they reminded him too much of organization, Duo speculated. At any rate, the jumpsuits served today's task better than jeans overalls. They weren't carpenters today. As Duo stepped out again, Trowa shoved a hard hat into his stomach.

"Here. We'll check out the warehouses today."

Duo nodded his assent, and donned the helmet. He didn't like it. The hard hat had a nasty tendency to slip just beyond the perimeter of his skull, so that the brim fell a bit too much over his forehead. At least this was one of the smaller helmets; some of the larger ones left him almost entirely without a field of vision.

Together, they began an assessment of what was left. Some of the building materials, mainly metals, could be cut away and sold as scrap. Most of the bricks and concrete would become landfill. A few forgotten artifacts had limited second-hand or recycling value. The refrigerator and desk left in the foreman's office they might fetch a small penny for. The same was the case with the couches in the canteen - but the benches outside would do little more good than firewood, if even that.

In a far corner of a large, mostly empty warehouse, Trowa found a small crate. He kicked at it. "What do you think, Duo? Think there's something of value inside?"

After waiting five seconds for an answer that never came, he turned to check, only to find Duo studying the flaky paint on the wall. At least that's what it looked like to Trowa at first glance.

Trowa put on a sly smile, crept up behind Duo and slammed his hands down on Duo's shoulders as he shouted "Duo!"

Startled, Duo took a deep breath to calm himself. "Geez, you scared me, you bastard!"

Trowa started chuckling. "I know - hey, what were you so busy thinking about, huh? Isn't all that often I see you so focused."

Duo glared at him, but to little effect. Finally, he mumbled "It was nothing..."

Trowa didn't believe that for an instant. "Like hell it was nothing - your mind was miles and miles away. Now, spill it, my friend."

He gave a quick snort. "You're not my friend."

Trowa gave his head a faint tilt as he put his arms akimbo, still smiling.

Duo's stern face broke out a slight grin of its own. "Okay, so you are... kinda."

Trowa nodded towards a bench and started walking over there. "So, going to tell me?" He sat down and waited for Duo to follow.

Duo shrugged and took a step forward, and another. "It's just... Well, it's just a stupid thought." With a sigh, he sat down next to Trowa. "It's probably nothing."

With a flicker of eyebrows, Trowa urged him on. "So?"

Duo put his hands behind his head and leaned back, staring into the ceiling. The corrugated iron above had big holes scattered about. He gritted his teeth. "Can't believe I'm telling you this... Look, I know it'll sound paranoid, but I think I've got a stalker."

Trowa's brows raised another notch in surprise - but that was replaced by curiosity soon enough. Duo seemed to know what Trowa was about to ask, and to Trowa's satisfaction he pressed on.

"It's a guy on the train. I swear, he keeps looking at me. Tries really hard not to be obvious about it." He grinned and threw Trowa a glance. "Guess I've learned how to notice when someone's ogling me by now."

Trowa snorted at that, but kept on smiling. "I never ogled you, not once. Though... You could say I was admiring your pretty little a-"

Duo chuckled, and the sound resonated throughout the empty warehouse. "Well, then this guy is practically worshiping it."


He nodded. "Okay, so I haven't caught him looking there, specifically - but I think he's interested. Tell you the truth, so am I. He's not bad looking, that's for sure. It's only been a few days, though. At least, I think it's only been a few days." Duo sighed. "I dunno..."

Trowa clapped his palm on Duo's shoulder. "Then go for it. A few days already, and you haven't done anything about it?"

Duo pushed the hand away. "Not everyone's like you, Trowa."

Trowa chuckled. "And for that, I'm glad. All the prey in the world can support only so many predators."

Quickly shooting a glare at his friend, Duo didn't even try to hide the annoyance in his voice. "I really wish you'd stop thinking of people like that..."

Trowa shrugged it all off. "I might. So, what are you going to do about your secret admirer?"

"I suppose... I'll have to test the waters. Toss something in, and see what bites."

"Think he will?"

"Think he will what?"

Trowa's brows gave a swift, suggestive wiggle. "Bite?"

Duo mulled on it for a few seconds. He knew Trowa well enough to figure out what was going through his mind. "Oh, that's way ahead of time, Trowa. Heck, I'll be glad if he joins me for a cup of coffee."

Trowa shook his head in resignation. "You're thinking too slow, Duo... You'll never get to the fun stuff at that rate."

It was Duo's turn to snicker. "Well, sometimes, the journey is more important than reaching your destination." He slapped his knees. "Okay, let's get back to work, Trowa - I think I saw a stack of old pallets over there somewhere..."


Heero had kept an eye out for a certain braid and the guy it was stuck on, but did not see him. He'd waited at the platform, planning to sit at a seat proper for more of his clandestine observations. At seven minutes to departure, there was no sign of his subject of study. Heero frowned, and boarded on his lonesome. Granted, he wanted to get another look - but he also wanted a comfortable window seat, preferably one at an end section somewhere, so that he'd have his back against a wall. For several reasons, he preferred not to have someone behind him take notice of him - or whatever he was doing. He eyed his carry bag. There were at least a dozen reports waiting to be typed up, and various small projects to be processed. His recent hobby of braid-watching hadn't been good for his usually productive commute.

He found the seat he wanted and set up his computer. He put his ticket where the conductor would be sure to see and inspect it without bothering him and delved into his work. With no braid in sight, he figured he might as well focus on something useful. He'd certainly ignored the smaller tasks for most of the past week, and had thus left himself quite a bit to catch up on.

It was with merely a face-forward frown and a grunt he answered when he heard the all-familiar question. "Is this seat taken?"

And so, it immediately was.


Duo glanced at the computer screen. The Asian-looking man was so focused on his work, Duo couldn't help but wonder what it was. Half a dull memo on safety procedures during fires later, Duo sighed. He even dared a peek at the other's pretty blue eyes - but they looked cold now, and were overly focused at the screen. It didn't even look like the guy's peripheral vision took notice of him, and being ignored like that after having been watched so intently by the same guy felt somewhat frustrating.

Duo considered making a slight spectacle; anything to gain a second of attention, so he could either verify or denounce his theories on the last few days. Finally, he opted against it. He did not wish to make a fool of himself. Besides, it was the other who'd taken an initiative, of sorts. Doing something trivial like starting a conversation was also inconceivable; his handsome would-be-admirer didn't appear to know he even existed, let alone sat beside him. Plus, what was he supposed to say? 'Nice laptop?' Possibly followed by a 'Can I sit there?' No, that certainly didn't feel right. Better to wait and see if the guy would do something, or say something, anything to follow up those suddenly vexing glances.

Thus, Duo decided to wait it out - and wait, he did.


The speaker system of the train car crackled to life. "Next stop, Stillwater."

Duo glanced to the man at his side. For the last hour, the clicking of keys had driven him nuts. Not once had the other guy as much as even moved - other than his hands, that is. After several days of stolen glances, there was now nothing, nothing at all. Duo started to wonder if it really had all been in his head. Could he have imagined that the gorgeous guy had been looking at him? He frowned, almost scowled into the collapsible tray table mounted on the back of the chair before him. He didn't like the thought of being ignored. The idea he'd deluded himself into believing some stranger was interested in him was he liked even less. Least of all, he liked the tempered rapping of keys. For a split second, he was tempted to just yank the computer away from the man beside him, for no other reason than to gain his attention.

Of course that would probably be the wrong kind of attention, so he promptly scrapped the plan. Even if he had wanted to go through with it, there was no time left. The train slowed down. As it was about to grind to a complete halt Duo got up, took his bag and walked through the compartment to the nearest door. He could hardly wait to get out. This day more than most, he needed the fresh air outside - and if he got to a place solitary enough, he considered screaming.

Yet, he didn't want to give up hope. He'd try again tomorrow; he was certain the Asian-looking man had stared at him earlier, and he was determined to find out why. If it wasn't some sort of desire, perhaps it was curiosity about his braid. Duo had gotten enough stares to know there were some who liked what they saw, and some who saw nothing but a freak.

Both were hard to ignore.


As the train door hissed open in the distance, Heero let his fingers rest, hands hovering half an inch off the keyboard. As they came up, his clammy wrists clung to the laptop. His fingers hurt. He cracked his knuckles, and stretched his digits as best he could to avoid cramping. The wrists got a rub, too.

After slight hesitation he dared look out the window, only to see the back of the guy with the braid. He was struggling with a bicycle lock, from the looks of things. Oh, Heero had definitely noticed his fellow passenger - granted, not until the conductor came by to inspect their tickets. That slight disturbance made Heero look away from the screen, and he'd seen the handsome man sitting next to him. Then, he had panicked. He'd wanted a meeting of some sort, wanted to get an occasion to talk to the guy, and now that it had finally come - he'd fumbled it away. Fear had paralyzed him to the point where he'd gone right back to working on the reports, a desperate cover to avoid saying or doing something wrong - albeit this also prevented saying or doing something right - which he only now had time to realize.

And now it was too late.

And he had a sudden craving for ice cream.


That the first thing he did upon returning to his big, empty house - other than yet again ignoring Fluffy the Fourth's plea for water - was to get a big plastic can of vanilla ice cream from the freezer and retrieve a large spoon from the top drawer. He sat down on his couch, turned the television on and paid a shred of attention to the mechanical laughter of a sitcom studio audience while digging in. The taste soon became bland, and he fetched a bottle of chocolate sauce and a small can of multicolored cake sprinkles to aid the flavor. He grabbed some napkins too; he had a feeling this would get messy.

It did.

Especially after the doorbell rang.

The first three times, he simply ignored it. The fourth, too - only this time he heard a key being inserted, followed by the click of the lock. Heero fought back the groan. When he'd given that one spare key away, he had suspected he'd live to regret it. Of course, he hadn't gambled on it being this soon...

He reached for the remote and switched the TV off - but it was already too late; the other had honed in on the sound.

"Heero? Are you in here?"

Heero gave a resigned sigh. "Here..."

"Oh - Hi, Heero."

Heero glanced in his guest's direction. "Hi, Quatre..." If anything, the blond boy's smile made him feel worse. How could someone look that chipper, and still get so incredibly devilish when it was something he wanted? If it wasn't for a slight gender mismatch, Heero would have guessed it was Quatre Elvis had sung about. Devil in disguise, indeed...

At least the smile lifted into surprise. "Ice cream?"

Slowly, Heero nodded. "Felt like it, that's all. Want some?"

Quatre shook his head. "Oh, no thanks, I was just-"

"Sit, Quatre."

He did, at the vacant end of the couch.

"What do you want?"

Quatre hesitated for a few seconds, not sure how to approach the matter on his mind. "Well, I did come over to ask about your plans for the weekend, and remind you about that cactus-"


He nodded. "As you wish - remind you that Fluffy could use some water, but then I found your door locked. When you didn't answer... Well, I got worried. You're always home at this hour, and I thought-" He bit his lip. "Oh, it doesn't matter."

With a bothered grunt, Heero put the half-empty box of ice cream on the table to melt, turned the TV back on and flipped through the channels to a news network. He wanted background noise and some form of distraction to prevent further questions from Quatre.

Even after they had sat in silence for nearly fifteen minutes, watching the news, it was clear it didn't work. "So... Who are you thinking about?"

Heero was caught by surprise. He'd expected the question, but with 'what' much rather than 'who'.

The blond imp had the nerve to smile. "It's obvious something is distracting you, Heero - and that something is often a someone." He nodded toward the box of near-liquid ice-cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles, "Especially when there's ice cream involved." He paused for a moment. "Is it?"

In his search for another focal point, Heero glared at the primly dressed news anchor. At length, he gave a reluctant nod.

Quatre sat up a little straighter, folded one leg up on the couch and turned towards Heero. "Okay, tell me. I want all the details. I can't even remember the last time you had any form of love sickness." He gave it a brief second thought. "Except that girl at your office some time ago - the one with the pink-"

"Fine," Heero snapped. "I'll talk, just don't remind me of her... She's coming back, you know."

"She is? Really? I thought-" He gave his head a swift, clearing headshake. "Never mind. Tell me about 'someone'."

And Heero did; as best he could, anyway. He told of how he'd seen the braid, and then the braid's owner. How he'd felt attracted to this stranger, attracted despite him being another guy. How he'd studied the man's handsome features through many a stolen glance - and how he'd messed up so greatly only a few hours prior, when he'd lost his chance to actually talk to the guy. By the end, he kept his face hidden in his palms, elbows resting on knees. "And it's all your fault to begin with," he muttered through his wrists.

"My fault?"

Heero made a slight smirk. "Your bad influence."

Quatre grinned at that. "Maybe. I was wondering if I could ever get you to join me on the 'dark side'."

He snorted. "You can't." Pause. "This guy might." Heero shrugged dejectedly. "If he is on the so-called dark side. Maybe I'm the only one of us that has crossed the line."

"If he's still in the light, it's a pity. If he's not, he'd be stupid not to want you." Quatre chuckled softly. "It's kind of cute, though. Here you are, having shunned relationships for as long as I can remember - except that brunette in Junior High. You dated for a while, didn't you?"

Heero nodded. "She got fed up with me pretty quick."

"Perhaps... Well, there you are, alone for so long - and now you have a crush the size of a truck on someone you haven't even talked to yet?"

"He talked to me," Heero stated in his defense.

Quatre chortled. "You mean him asking for a seat? That's not the same, Heero - and you know it."

Heero huffed at that. Of course, Quatre was right. He was always right - especially in the things Heero wanted him to be wrong in. Still... "And not a truck."


"Try a small country, or something."

Again, the blond grinned.

Heero gritted his teeth and sighed again. "I can't believe I blew it like that..."

Quatre scooted closer, wrapped his arms around Heero and rested the tired man's head to his chest. "Oh, don't worry," he practically whispered, while rubbing sooth-circles on Heero's back. "You could just try again."

"No... Wouldn't know how to come back from... well, that. Especially if it wasn't coincidental that he sat down next to me. If he's really interested, I blew it by ignoring him. If he's not interested, I'll blow it by asking him. Better to stay low and keep observing."

"Looking from a distance, and stalk him?"

Producing half a smile, Heero snorted. "Maybe..."

"You really feel like giving up? Like you said, he could be interested."

"He could be psychotic."

Quatre chuckled. "Then he'd be your perfect match." Heero prodded Quatre's side with his fist, but joined Quatre in snickers. As tranquility returned, Quatre pushed on. "You should give the guy a chance, Heero - give yourself a chance, for that matter. Strike up a conversation and ask his name. Invite him out for coffee or something. There's no harm in doing that, even if he does turn out to be as straight as an arrow."

Heero left Quatre's embrace and straightened up. He could only take so much cuddling at once - he still had trouble admitting he liked it, only now there was someone other than Quatre he- He shook his head. "I don't think I could do that. What if-"

"What if you crash and burn miserably? Well, maybe you'd end up with a black eye courtesy of a someone 'twisted' in hairstyle only..."

Heero snorted.

"But at least you'd know then - and if things go bad, at least you'd be able to get over the crush, rather than linger on."

"And if I got rejected and couldn't get over it?"

Quatre grinned. "Then, my friend, you really are doomed - and this guy would probably dominate the back of your mind for the rest of your life. You don't warm up to people easily, Heero - and you certainly don't offer yourself to others in the way you seem to want to with this guy."

He grunted in acknowledgment.

"And who knows - what if he's open to suggestions? I mean, isn't it hard to believe him sitting down next to you was a complete coincidence?"

Heero shrugged. "Not really. There aren't that many seats in the train, and-"

Quatre sighed. "Fine, be that way, always depressing and pessimistic."


"That's a load of hooey, and you know it. Admit it, Heero."

Heero declined to answer. Instead, he reached for the melted box of ice cream and the spoon, and scooped some the goo into his mouth.

Quatre just smiled and let Heero stuff himself. "So... About why I came here in the first place... If you're not doing anything special this weekend, want to come over to my place? Got a few new DVDs I think you might like."

"Sure," Heero casually replied between mouthfuls. He would not let the ice cream go to waste.

After waiting a moment to see if there was more than the distant acceptance, Quatre got to his feet. "See you Saturday, then. Seven okay?"

Heero nodded curtly.

"Okay - bye, Heero - and I hope you're going to follow up on that guy. Not every day your best friend finds someone he fancies, and tells you he's-"

Heero figured out where that was going, and intercepted it. "I didn't say that."

"Oh, sure. You just happen to stalk another guy, but you're not-"

"I did not-"

Quatre grinned wide. "You will. You have it bad, Heero. Don't brood on it, act on it. Trust me, nothing good will come of waiting this out. I've got experience on that, and you damn well know it. I say go for it. Or him, rather."

Heero refused to answer, and focused on his ice cream. In the neglect, Quatre finally left, dropping a cautious reminder about Fluffy the Fourth on the way out; something about not wanting to attend another unceremonious cactus funeral at the compost heap.

Not that Heero paid attention to this; his mind was otherwise preoccupied. Specifically, his thoughts centered on the mental image of the dangling tip of a braid, swinging back and forth like a pendulum on an increasingly attractive backdrop.

Quatre was absolutely right - he had it bad.

on to part 3

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