Some years later, I was sitting in a midtown bar, and all this shit came back to me. It wasn't like I'd forgotten, but it wasn't something I remembered every day either. So there I was on some barstool, waiting on Quatre, remembering it all, and checking things out. The place was a new one for us, but at one time or another in the past we could have been there. Hell, nothing stayed the same for more than ten minutes in this place, let alone a bar or restaurant.
This tiny thing was belting out some bluesy song, and giving it all she had. Not too bad, and her back-up ensemble really moved it along nicely. Most of the customers were about my age and generally in pairs. A quartet of ladies sat at a corner table, and I could tell one was giving me the eye. What surprised me most was how young the wait staff seemed to be.
But by then, I'd been here sucking on a beer for over an hour and feeling pretty old. My knee was aching in such a way I knew I'd be laying on ice packs later. Heero'd cluck and chuckle and call me the old man. Bastard. He'd been doing that to me ever since he found out I was two fucking months older than he was. My ortho doc has been saying for the past couple of years that I'd probably need a replacement again. Every time he heard it, Heero would laugh and tell me one of these days my parts will be replaced and I'd be his new boyfriend.
And yeah, Heero and I have been together pretty much all this time. From the get-go, we'd become an instant couple, which sort of freaked me out a few weeks later when it actually hit me just what the fuck we were doing. Oh, there was this one time when we didn't speak for about six weeks or so. It was over something not worthy if looked at in the right perspective, but at the same time, to me it was the most sane option I had available. Heero had asked me to move in with him.
Giving it thought later, I realized I was already living with him. The majority of my clothes were in his closet and his dresser. My travel kit had a place in his hall closet. Everyone knew where to find me. Hell, I stopped buying milk because the stuff would become solid between visits home. All my plants had died too. So, I wasn't sure why I thought giving up my place was that big a deal. But I had. And shut Heero out as a result.
Heero, though, had only given me one of those looks he saved for special meanings, watched me pack and told me to give him a call when I found out what I wanted. It took me almost a month to stop heading to his place after work. I missed him like crazy, but refused to give in. Of course, by that time, he'd become a friend to my friends and I took to avoiding everyone because I didn't want to hear any lectures.
I finally called a couple of months after moving out. The Giants had just lost a night game, and the team, the fans and the coaching staff had taken it hard - mostly because it was a game we should have won. I needed someone to talk to, someone I didn't have to be strong for and Heero was that person for me. He had driven to the stadium to pick me up and we took a ride down the coast. I think we wound up in Monterey or Carmel Ů one of those places like that. We parked in some vista lookout and watched the waves break against the rocks as the sun came up. Not as great as watching the sun go down, but it was something.
Later, after we returned to San Francisco, we got together quite a bit, more or less dating and just hanging out. It was like he'd said from the beginning - we had this connection, and there wasn't anything we couldn't work through. I moved in four months after he asked the first time, and sublet my place until the lease was up.
When the courthouse rush of oh-four happened, we were in line. I think we were the seventy-eighth couple, but I don't really remember. Quatre and Trowa were behind us in line, and we sort of stood up for one another - best men, witnesses and all. There are no words to describe having been a part of it all. It was great and the whole town partied for a week. Who the fuck cared if this free government was so closed minded it revoked all licenses issued for same sex marriages. We who went through with it knew. We stood up and put our names down and committed before God and everyone who we loved and were damned proud of it.
Beer almost gone, I ordered another with a water chaser. There wasn't much movement in the club, most folks seemed content to sit and drink, listen to music and speak in low voices. Me, I was eyeing a booth. Funny how a stool became damn uncomfortable after a short time. Sitting here was killing my lower back and wasn't helping my knee any either. But I had a clear shot at the door, and didn't want to miss Quatre's entrance.
Heero finally gave up on the old man who had raised him. This guy was his grandfather of sorts - the man who raised Heero's father. The old man wanted Heero to be an engineer and from the moment he got off the plane from Japan, the rest of Heero's life had been planned out for him. The need to question trained out of him early, it wasn't until he was in college and away from daily influence that Heero altered the plans. He became the engineer the old man wanted; he felt he owed him that much. But Heero also gained his art degree, and used money provided from his mother's family to open the gallery. The old man eventually gave in and let Heero be who Heero was. It made sense, since he was going to anyway.
A longhaired blonde at the end of the bar caught my eye and I was sharply reminded of Zechs. Different sex of course, but the hair was the same. After they met, Heero took to Noin and the two had a fantastic rapport. But for whatever reason, Zechs and him developed an almost adversarial attitude towards one another. Oh nothing anyone except those who knew them well would notice, and I had to admit, it was entertaining watching them play games. They tackled the challenge as though matching wit, skills and sometimes strengths would determine a life or death outcome.
My friends married the year I moved in with Heero, and had a little boy. Every once in awhile, I've been allowed to play uncle and tote the kid around with me. Heero said he wouldn't have anything to do with the Ždevil spawn', but every time I brought the boy home with me, he'd be there and play games with us. Heero even joined us on a trip to the zoo, bought the kid a stuffed penguin even; I let him pretend.
I eventually met Doctor Chang. I started seeing him professionally, but not for sexual issues - Heero takes care of those. Turns out the guy wasn't just a sex specialist, he was a damn good psychologist, too. It took awhile though, to finally get around to telling him what'd been bugging me for a long time. Not that there was anything wrong with Chang, but I wouldn't have done with him what I did with Heero. I wouldn't have lasted a round in the coffee shop with him, let alone had dinner. As for letting him fuck me, well, that would have never happened, and had been a different story. Lets just say that Chang Wufei helped me with a couple problems I had besides sex and leave it at that.
Though Quatre won't let me forget otherwise.
And just how the fuck was I supposed to know that a sex therapist did not have sex with you to cure your problems? The way Quatre had made it sound that's exactly what a therapist did - like they were some diplomaed hooker. Okay, so I lived through that little embarrassment. And it worked to make Quatre laugh whenever he'd see Heero and me do more than stand six feet from each other. Bastard.
Introducing Heero to my two best friends had been one of the strangest things I'd ever done, and one of the hardest. It felt too much like bringing the proverbial girl home to meet Mom, and at the same time, I was almost giddy with wanting it all to work out. Of course I shouldn't have worried. Quatre made a friend out of most everyone, and didn't have to make an effort where Heero was concerned. As for Trowa, he and Heero had a good laugh. Turned out, Heero was the guy Trowa had been trying to set me up with. The bastard.
Call it fate or destiny or just fucking Murphy's luck, but I had to say, something or someone had at least wanted me to meet this man. Remember Heero mentioned some girl back in college? It seemed she lived out of the country, but called him out of the blue one day to ask him to escort her to her brother's wedding. Yeah, how fucking scary was that. Zechs' little sister and my guy had had a thing in college.
With all that stacked against me, there was no way I couldn't take the hint.
Though, a side effect developed from all this - I can't watch Heero eat Greek pastries. I'd say it'd be a sexual hang-up, but one I lived with most happily. There'd be nights I'd come home, smell the feta, and know what Heero had planned for us.
"Sorry I'm late," Quatre announced sliding onto the stool next to mine. The bartender was prompt and Quatre ordered. "I was waiting for a special delivery." He smiled one of those smiles that told me I might not like what he's about to say or do, but I'd laugh about it later.
I only grunted and stood up. "Let's grab a booth. My back's killing me." I left him paying for his drink as I tried to not hobble. The booth was farther away from the crooner than the barstool, but at least we had some privacy and I would be able to stretch my leg out.
"Were you trying to outrun the boys again, old man?" Quatre mused, tossing a brown envelope on the table. "Got you something that might take the sting out of your age." I glared at him, ignoring the gift.
"You're as old as I am, asshole."
"But I'm not the one who acts like he can still do the things he did at twenty. And rues the action later." Quatre sipped at his drink, gave it an appreciative look and took another sip. "Mixes a great cocktail."
"It's part of my job," I mumbled somewhere in there. A few years back, I'd switched to drinking the occasional beer and hadn't missed the stronger stuff.
Quatre only stared at me with this twisted lip thing that meant he knew but wasn't going to say anything more. After nearly twenty years of knowing a guy, you had to pick up on something. He knew nothing he said would make me not do what I thought necessary to do my job.
"You make Heero worry." Except that.
"Ah, Quatre," I touched his package. "So what is this?" It felt like a stack of papers.
He shook his head with another one of those patented smiles of his; he hadn't fallen for my dodge, but was going to give in for the moment. "Open it. It's what I was waiting on."
After pulling it from the envelope, I left it lying on the table just staring. I didn't know what to say, if I should say anything. Part of me felt like laughing instead and I caught Quatre's eye.
"Looks like your friend Greg's been a busy boy," was all he said, and took another drink.
All be fucked to hell and back, but damn, when I promised the man my first interview, I never expected it to grace the cover of SI. Getting over my picture being splashed on an international magazine was going to be hard. I flipped to the interview page and closed my eyes at the title. "He has a sense of humor," was the only thing I could force out.
"I thought it particularly apt," Quatre tossed out, all kinds of amused. "The write-up is good. I read it on the ride over." His hand touched mine and I looked at him. "He doesn't say it but he doesn't deny either. It's quite good, and you couldn't have asked for better. Since it is the first, it'll be hard for the others to follow."
I nodded and looked down at the headline again. Fucking Greg. Yeah, the two of us kept in contact over the years and his move from paper to paper. When he got a hold of me just after the press release at the end of last season, I gave him his interview. Heero knew all about the man, and in some ways found it funny as shit. Then again, I think he was just cocky enough to be proud of the fact he fucked me where Greg couldn't. But they got along. Hell, Heero got along better with Greg than I did, and I thought we were good friends.
Finishing off the last of my beer, I gave into the laughter. What better way to give tribute to Murphy than laugh at those things which can't be helped? Greg's headline was humorous. And Quatre was right - so apt. But even though less than a handful of people would know the meaning, who the hell wanted the world to know you as - The man who couldn't be topped.
I was fucked.
Find more of Merith at her journal.