Ion Vignette #12
I will admit that Malls have their uses, and I suppose I spend as much time in the places as the average adult over the age of twenty. But I truly can’t say I enjoy the experience. The convenience of being able to accomplish several errands in one stop hardly balances out the noise and the crowds.
And while it was true that I did have dry-cleaning to pick up, and while it was also true I needed a new watch battery - both things that could be accomplished with quick stops on a lunch hour, in a place that also supplied a food court - none of those things was the real reason I’d bullied Yuy into making the drive with me for lunch.
It was my partner’s first week back to work after being shot, and I wanted to see how he handled the exertion of the brisk walk without him realizing that’s what I was doing. I could have suggested a work-out or a jog after-hours, but…. He’d have known that he was being evaluated and would have toughed through anything rather than admit he wasn’t at a hundred percent.
I knew we weren’t talking a hundred percent, not even Yuy bounces back from a gut shot that fast, but I wanted some reassurance we were at least in the neighborhood of ninety.
He’d handled the pace I’d set without breaking a sweat, and seemed
to accept my ‘rush’ to get all my errands run before we ate, as
nothing out of the ordinary, so I was reasonably sure he wasn’t hiding
anything from me.
The bigger issue, I was rapidly discovering, wasn’t his physical shape but his… mental.
Heero Yuy was in a mood. The kind that makes me appreciate that we have separate offices.
I’ve known Yuy a long time. Long enough to be intimately familiar with his moods…. Some of them good. Some of them not so good.
This was the introspective one. The ‘something is bothering me but I don’t want to talk about it’ one. Or, more precisely…. The ‘something is bothering me, and I do want to talk about it, but I’m not going to make it that easy’ one.
Like pulling damn teeth, that one is. Not my favorite.
There usually isn’t much in the way of conversation while he’s in the introspective mood, because most of his mind is otherwise occupied with… whatever is bothering him. Barton calls it brooding. Calls it the ‘Gundam Pilot Brood’. But since I’m included in that group, I object to the label and prefer to think of it as introspection.
Yuy has been a lot more introspective since Maxwell came back into our lives.
He’d followed me through the mall, waited patiently while I dealt with the dry-cleaners, then followed me on. There wasn’t much talking, unless I initiated it, and even then his responses were rather monosyllabic and didn’t invite continuation. There were several heavy sighs already piling up behind my teeth by the time we got to the watch kiosk.
The perky young lady behind the counter was almost a welcome change to the brooding… uh… meditative silence of my partner. I allowed her the extra few minutes it took to install the battery for me, and was aware that my partner wandered away while she was doing it.
After my watch was returned to my wrist, money had exchanged hands, and I’d been encouraged to have a nice day, I was fairly surprised to find Heero across the hall standing in front of the pet store.
I went to join him, expecting that we would continue on to the food court as planned, but when I stepped up beside him, he continued staring at the cavorting animals behind the glass.
I opened my mouth to prod him into movement, but his profile showed me a change of expression. We weren’t in the land of introspection anymore, or…. perhaps we were, but we’d added a layer of pensive.
So what came out wasn’t the ‘let’s go’ I’d planned, but a teasing, ‘If you’re thinking about a pet, I know a cat that could use a good home.’
He came out of his head enough to snort derisively and glance my way. ‘As if,’ he muttered, then turned his gaze back toward the animals. ‘I wasn’t looking at the cats anyway. I was looking at…’ here he hesitated and gestured vaguely at a row of glass tanks, ‘those. I think.’
‘You think?’ I asked, because…. how do you not know what you are looking at?
‘If those are hamsters,’ he replied, a hint of defensiveness coming into his voice.
I tread lightly; this was the most conversation I’d gotten so far during this whole trip. ‘I think those are guinea pigs,’ I told him matter of factly, and looked past the front display, deeper into the store. ‘Over there by the book rack… I think those are hamsters.’
I thought it just a vague question. A clarification of the species in front of us, but into the store he went to go stand in front of the hamster display.
His expression had ramped up a bit past pensive toward something that wasn’t happy.
‘Do you… think they’re hard to take care of?’ he asked, and something in his tone hinted that he wasn’t sure he even wanted to know.
‘No idea,’ I had to tell him. ‘Never really had any desire to own a rodent.’
He muttered something I wasn’t supposed to hear, but the tone told me his views were fairly aligned with mine. Which begged the next question.
‘Why are you interested in hamsters?’
‘I’m not,’ he stated rather flatly, but then hesitated. ‘But… I think Duo is.’
That vaguely distressed look was back, and the comment made me look harder at the creatures in front of us. ‘I thought Maxwell wanted a cat?’
He didn’t say anything for so long, I thought he wasn’t going to. But I knew better than to poke too hard at one of his moods and waited patiently, watching tiny rodents scurry about and run on wheels. Trying to get my head around the idea of one of them as a pet.
‘He…. keeps mentioning them,’ he finally confessed, and I understood the long pause had been a hunt for proper wording. Made me wonder what had gotten edited out of that reply.
‘You aren’t thinking of buying him…’ I began, trying to imagine one of the things in one of those balls, rolling around their house, while Maxwell followed after.
‘No,’ he said shortly, his mouth opening and closing on something more that never came out.
‘It’s not really a good idea to try to pick someone else’s pet for them,’ I warned, pretty sure that wasn’t really the issue here anyway, but needing something to say to put the verbal obligation back on him.
He failed to meet it.
We continued to stare at the hamsters, and one of the things came to the front of the glass cage and looked back at us quizzically for a moment, before rolling itself over to scratch at its belly.
‘His ship sold,’ Yuy blurted suddenly, and when I glanced sharply his way, I caught a fleeting look of consternation. Like he hadn’t meant to say it, and was rather frustrated with himself that he had.
The tooth had just been pulled. Here was the thing that had been bugging him all day and I could only wonder how it all tied back to hamsters.
It was my turn to pick carefully around with words. I had known. I’d been watching the listings from the moment Maxwell had told us that he’d put it on the market. I had seen the sale registered and knew the name of the kid who had bought Maxwell’s ship and I even knew what it had been rechristened.
It hadn’t seemed a topic to bring up first. To either of them.
‘How’s he taking it?’ I finally asked and there was a sigh beside me like the kind a harried mother of twenty might emit.
‘Not well and ok all at the same time,’ he said with the strangest
bastard mix of pain and pride in his voice.
I couldn’t help the snort, because I knew the man we were talking about almost as well as Yuy did.
‘I know,’ Yuy sighed. Again there was that strange pause like he would say more, but… again… nothing came out.
I finally let go of the sigh I’d been holding in all morning. ‘Let’s go eat,’ I prodded, ‘we’re running out of lunch hour.’
He nodded shortly, seeming to visibly shake off his thoughts, but still hesitated, finally raising a hand and pressing a finger to the glass of one of the cages. The hamster on the other side stopped rooting around in the bedding and sniffed at the spot, but finding nothing of interest went back to its search.
Yuy shook his head, as though answering a question I hadn’t asked, and was suddenly moving. We were finally headed to lunch.
I thought about telling him again that Maxwell was going to be ok, but if he didn’t already believe that, my reassurances wouldn’t mean anything. I thought about telling him the sale of the ship was a good thing…. A necessary thing, but if he didn’t already know that, he wouldn’t take kindly to hearing it from me. I thought about telling him that you just didn’t present somebody with a pet, that they needed to choose for themselves, but I was pretty sure I’d already told him that, and repeating it would just be harping. I thought about telling him if he needed somebody to talk to, I was always there for him, but…. He’s my partner and if he didn’t already know that, we had bigger issues than hamsters.
It took me until we were half way up the stairs to the food court.
‘If you change your mind about a pet, I know this cat…’
‘Shut up, Chang,’ he told me blandly, not even bothering to look at me, but I could see the faint smile anyway.
‘As if,’ I replied, just as blandly. ‘Cajun or Chinese?’
The healing could truly start now, but then…. He knew that too.