Driving home after a very long, exhausting, *frustrating* mission, all Heero could think about was eating a nice, quiet dinner then crawling into his nice, warm bed in his nice, quiet, peaceful house. Maybe he would even start to feel vaguely human again once he had some sleep. If only the damn traffic would move a little bit faster... 'Wait a minute. Why the *hell* is there so bloody damn much traffic in our neighbourhood?' Rounding the curve, his house came into sight. Or at least he *thought* it was his house. The street he was on was his street. And the house number was his. But what the hell was a six-foot-tall illuminated inflatable snowman doing on his front lawn?! Not to mention the red-&-white plastic candy canes along the side of the driveway and sidewalk... or the life-size animatronic reindeer, Santa, and Mrs. Claus sitting *in* the driveway, right where he *should* have been able to park his car...
Parking his car in a neighbour's driveway, Heero climbed out and walked back to his house, his frustration growing with every step. There were people walking around all over his yard. His house was covered in brightly coloured Christmas lights. There was bright, cheerful, *loud* Christmas music playing from - from speakers in the bushes?! What the hell was going on here?!
Entering the house, he found more of the same. Christmas decorations everywhere, strangers walking around admiring them while sipping hot cocoa or hot apple cider, Christmas music playing in the background... His head pounding and with only the thought of all the paperwork it would involve restraining him from pulling out his gun and demanding that everyone get out *NOW* , he stalked from room to room looking for the one who just *had* to be responsible for this... this... *FIASCO*. 'Ah ha! Gotcha!'
People took one look and scattered as Heero stalked, glaring furiously, towards the one who just had to be responsible for ruining his plans for a nice quiet dinner followed by a good night's sleep. "*DUO*," he growled dangerously, advancing on the red-and-green clad, long-braided elf handing out candy canes.
The elf jumped and spun around. "Oh! Heero, you're back early!" he beamed delightedly. As Heero grabbed him by the elbow and dragged him out of the room, Duo got a good look at his face and started babbling, "Uh, I can explain all this, really I can. See, I..."
Opening the bedroom door and shoving Duo inside, Heero slammed the door shut again behind them. Absently, a small corner of his mind noted that Duo must still have at least *some* instinct for self-preservation left as there was not so much as a sprig of holly in the closed-up room. "What the *HELL* were you thinking?" he demanded furiously. Cutting Duo off before he could string so much as two words together, Heero said cuttingly, "No, don't bother answering that. You *weren't* thinking. As usual."
Face falling, Duo attempted, "But Heero, I really can explain. I..."
"Save it for someone who cares," snapped Heero. "I haven't slept in three days. Une wants me in to do the paperwork before noon tomorrow. I am going to bed and to sleep now, and by the time I get up to go, I want *all* of this gone. *ALL* of it, do you understand me?"
Defensively, Duo protested, "No! It's my home too..."
Sharply, Heero cut him off, "Whose name is on the lease?"
Duo's breath caught painfully. He tried once more, "But Heero..."
"No buts, Duo. When I wake up, I want this to be nothing more than a bad dream, understood?"
Duo nodded dejectedly, turning and slipping out of the room. Moving through the crowd, he started thanking people for coming and apologizing for the early closing. Once the last visitor was gone, he locked the door, switched off the exterior lights, and moved to the phone.
"Hi, it's Duo calling. I'm really sorry, but my lo... my *housemate* came back early and doesn't want to do this. I didn't ask him before volunteering, and since this *is* his place, I really can't do it without his permission... At least we got a few good evenings in... When can you pick it up?... That long? Can't you get it sooner?... Okay, well, if you can't get it before then, that'll have to do... Sorry... Bye..."
Muttering softly to himself, Duo said, "Well, I guess if I take my car out of the garage, I can fit part of the stuff in its space... Put the rest in my work area in the shed... It'll be tight, but I guess I can get it all out of Heero's sight..."
Sighing, he picked up the phone and started making calls.
"Fei? Hate to bother you, but I need a really big favour..."
"Q? I'm sorry but I need to ask you & Tro for a kinda big favour..."
"Hey, 'Lena? Sorry to bother you, but..."
"Hi, Dot? I hate to be a nuisance but..."
Emerging from his room in a slightly better mood than before, Heero was pleasantly surprised to find that every last trace of Christmas was gone. Not a sprig of mistletoe, a branch of evergreen, a brightly coloured bulb, or a candy cane remained, inside or out. Feeling faintly guilty for a moment, he thought, 'He must have stayed up all night to get that all cleared away. Wonder what he did with it all. Wonder where he's at, come to think of it. He was supposed to be off right through Christmas...'
A note on the kitchen table answered his question. 'Emergency assignment. Don't know how long. D.M.'
'Not a typical Duo-note. Guess he's still upset. Oh well, he'll get over it. What the hell *was* he thinking?'
Exiting the house to go retrieve his car from the neighbour's driveway, Heero noticed something very peculiar. Duo's pride and joy, a restored classic convertible, was sitting at the curb with only a tarp to protect it. A quick look in the garage told him why - its space was occupied by the sleigh and other decorations. And he didn't need to go get his car, as it was parked in its own spot.
Arriving at Preventer HQ, Heero was surprised to be greeted with a glare by Wufei, who snarled at him, "You are one sorry piece of work, Yuy."
His confusion continued to grow as he drew a sad headshake and sigh from Quatre, a particularly stony silence from Trowa, and a puzzling "I'm very disappointed in you, Heero" from Relena. But the real icing on the cake came when Dorothy Catalonia stalked up to him, slapped his face, and hissed, "You self-centred *asshole*!" before leaving without any explanation.
"Would someone please tell me what the *hell* is going on around here?!"
Une motioned Heero into her office, taking the paperwork from him and tossing it onto her desk. "What exactly do you want to know?" she inquired.
"How about starting with why everyone seems to be mad at me?"
"Ah. That would be because they just stayed up half the night helping Duo take back *down* all the decorations that they spent all day putting up earlier this week," Une told him calmly.
"What the hell were they thinking to help him put them up in the first place?! That was the tackiest, gaudiest, most overblown, ridiculous bunch of Christmas nonsense that I've ever seen!"
"Oh, probably they were thinking that it was very nice of him to volunteer to host one of the "Christmas Lights & Decorating Tour" fund raising sites for the War Orphan Foundation when the elderly woman who was supposed to have it fell and broke her hip the day before it was due to open."
Heero froze, speechless. All Duo's attempts to explain. The increasingly crestfallen look on Duo's face as he refused to listen. The dejected slump of Duo's shoulders as he walked out of the room. Duo taking an assignment when he was supposed to be on vacation.
"Yes, that pretty much describes your current situation. You are indeed in very, very deep shit," the Preventer Chief told him.
"How the hell am I going to fix this?!" Heero moaned, nightmare visions of Duo packing up and moving out dancing through his head.
"You might want to start by asking," Quatre suggested from the office doorway, the others crowding in behind him.
"Then continue on to begging," added Trowa.
Wufei suggested, "And pleading."
"And perhaps just a touch of grovelling," Dorothy contributed with a malicious smirk.
"Then we just might agree to come help you get the decorations back up and the fund raising site open before Duo gets back," Relena finished.
"And since you're going to need more hands to get that all done by tonight, I guess you'd better start calling in some favours," Une told him. "Starting with Sally and me."
Taking a cab home after a very boring stakeout that left him way too much time to think, all Duo could think about was grabbing a quick bite of dinner then crawling into bed to get some sleep. Alone. 'Heero might have been tired and cranky, but that didn't give him the right to treat me like that. He wouldn't listen to a thing I said and he was pretty damn nasty to boot. He owes me one helluva big apology.' Now if only the damn traffic would move a little bit faster... 'Wait a minute. Why the hell *is* there so much traffic in our neighbourhood?' Rounding the curve, his - no, he corrected himself, not his, Heero's - house came into sight. 'Oh fuck, I must've fell asleep at that stakeout and I'm dreaming all this. 'Cause otherwise, there wouldn't be a six-foot-tall illuminated inflatable snowman on the front lawn. Or red-&-white plastic candy canes along the side of the driveway and sidewalk... or life-size animatronic reindeer, Santa, and Mrs. Claus sitting *in* the driveway...'
As he climbed out of the cab and paid the driver, Duo realized that his "baby" was no longer sitting by the curb. A quick check of the garage confirmed that she was back where she belonged. Suddenly starting to feel much better - still tired, but less like he'd had his emotions run over by all Santa's reindeer - Duo headed into the house, eagerly moving from room to room looking for the person who had to be responsible for all this. Spotting a very familiar elf costume, his eyes went wide in disbelief. "*HEERO?!*" he exclaimed.
Handing a candy cane to another youngster, the red-and-green clad Heero turned and gave Duo a nervous smile. "I'm sorry?" he offered apologetically. An instant later, candy canes went flying everywhere as Duo glomped him enthusiastically, the passionate kiss being pressed to his lips a clear indication that his apology had been accepted.