Try It Just This Once by Sol 1056
[Reviews - 23]

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Author's Chapter Notes:
warnings: mid-Otakon insanity ahead

Written for Sharon with appreciation & (admittedly uncharacteristic) friendliness from this anti-social bastard, and dedicated to The Duo, who is a rare soul to make me really laugh while surrounded by a thousand people, and who undoubtedly could use a foot massage right about now. Also thanks to Emily Ravenwood whose lengthy analysis of the characters in PoT was the source for much of the character names and commentary. Whew.

Blame also to DC Logan, Jana, Christine, Casey, and Zania for egging me on.
"The anime convention's in two months," Duo said, apropos of nothing. "I need to come up with something to wear."

Heero took a moment to register that Duo had spoken, made a noncommittal sound, and flipped to the third page in the newspaper to continue reading an article on downtown subway development issues. Duo continued discussing the convention, and Heero responded appropriately every now and then, his brain pleasantly on autopilot in the secure safety that Duo wouldn't take advantage of his not-yet-awake state. Ten minutes after arriving at work, and his pleasant assumption was being destroyed, by the last thing he'd expected Duo to suggest.

"Great! So we'll cosplay together."

Heero had to rewind rapidly, trying to figure out how he'd managed to arrive at that point in the conversation. Duo had walked in. Duo had dropped into the chair opposite Heero's desk. Duo's opening volley was something about how he needed something to wear.

"What's wrong with what you wore last year?" Heero turned the page, not looking up. He knew Duo was probably staring up at the ceiling while he thought. Heero's ceiling got a lot of exposure from Duo.

"That was last year. I want to do something new." Duo brightened, sitting up straight. "You gonna come back with me again?"

"Those were some scary people."

"Words of wisdom, Heero: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Heero paused, glanced at Duo, and shook his head. "That makes no sense, Duo."

"Sure it does. Those people are less scary if you're willing to see things from their point of view." Duo shrugged.

"I don't want to be a scary person, too." Heero blinked, considered his words, and tried again. "I mean, I don't want to be an amateurish scary person."

"Didn't I see that on your last review?" Duo pretended to look pensive. "For my next annual goal, I'd like to break three minutes on the one-mile, do all my paperwork in a single bound, and be the best professional scary person in the department."

Heero reached for his gun.

Duo crossed his arms and looked bored. "Oh, don't even. Yuy, you've been pulling your gun on me for seven years now. You haven't shot me once."

"I went with you last year," Heero ground out, but put his hand back on the newspaper, lifting it up so he didn't have to see Duo's face. "You told me if I went once, and didn't like it, I never had to go again."

"You liked it."

"Did not."

"You spent three hundred dollars in the dealer room and that piece of art didn't show up on the wall by itself."

Heero decided there was no advantage in continuing the argument. He flipped another page, and started reading a second article about pork barrel issues in the bridge being built near their home.

"No, I think joining 'em is probably a good thing," Duo said. His voice faded into the background, then came back with a vengeance for the statement that still had Heero trying to figure out the leap required to reach the conclusion. "Great! So we'll cosplay together."

"I'm not dressing up like an idiot," Heero murmured. He scanned the article, grimaced at the politician's illogical statements, and reached for his coffee. His mug wasn't where he'd left it, and he absently patted at the desk a few times before waking enough to turn and look. Duo was holding the mug out of Heero's reach, looking annoyed. Heero blinked. "What? I didn't mean you do. You're very non-idiot-like..." But still crazy, Heero thought, but didn't add it. "...when you do that whole costume...thing."

"Cosplay." Duo moved the mug farther away.

Heero sighed. "I don't see why I need to dress like a..." Duo's eyes narrowed, and Heero's response changed mid-stream. "...Dress up in funny clothes."

"You wear a uniform every day to work."

"A uniform does not constitute funny clothes."

"Depends on who's wearing it."

"Give. Me. My. Coffee."

Duo scowled and set the coffee down, pushing it across the desk to Heero. Duo leaned back, huffing, before he picked up his sketchbook and began doodling out something. Heero didn't look to see. The conversation appeared to be over, and he was hoping so was Duo's hopefully temporary madness.


.............................................



"I've decided who we're going to dress as." Duo waved the sketchpad at Heero, and dropped into the empty chair in Heero's office.

Heero glared at his screen for a half-second, took a deep breath, and braced himself. "There will be no dresses. I am not wearing a dress."

"No dress!" Duo grinned, and slouched with the sketchpad on his knee. He glanced at Heero, then at the sketch, and his smile got toothier.

"And nothing that requires face paint." Heero paused, realized he'd just typed 'body painted' into his case notes, and backspaced several times. He typed 'body located' carefully. "And no body paint, either," he added, just to be on the safe side about loopholes.

"Check!" Duo scribbled for several minutes. The grin wasn't fading. It seemed to be getting even wider.

Heero ran through the list in his head. "No large unwieldy outfits that involve dressing like swiss cheese, candy boxes, pickles, insane trained fighting creatures, or large dinosaurs." Heero stared at his case notes. He'd typed 'psychotic furries' instead of 'potential jurists.' He scowled, and shut down the email under the conversation was over. "And nothing that has ears or a tail."

"No ears, no tail, no food products, no dinosaurs, and Pokemon aren't insane, they're just misunderstood." Duo rattled off the list without hesitating. "Is that all?"

"I won't carry a sign, or dress like a chicken." Heero racked his brains for some of the worst things he'd seen at the last few conventions he'd attended with Duo. "And no makeup."

"You covered that with face and body paint."

Just making sure, Heero's look said.

"Relax, Heero, I'm not going to make you dress like..." Duo cocked his head, and chewed on the end of his pencil thoughtfully. "Though I do think you'd look good as one of those..." He waved the pencil in a vague motion. "...Chobits, that's it."

"The girls with the little dresses and droopy ears," Heero growled.

"Yeah!" Duo beamed. "You've got the figure for a corset."

Something crunched under Heero's fingers. It might have been the edge of the desk.

"I don't see why you don't like that anime," Duo continued, seemingly oblivious. "I mean, it's mechanical, and I know you like that. There's computers, and they're like machines, and one of them is even a killing-"

"I. Am. Not. Dressing. As. A. GIRL."

Dou looked momentarily cowed, but just as quickly he straightened up with a lazy laugh. "You sure? 'Cause I bet if you were the pink-" He saw Heero's hand reaching for the stapler, and held up his hands, warding off Heero's furious glare. "Those are your only stipulations?"

"Did I miss something?" Heero pursed his lips, trying to remember what else had made him want to recoil in horror. Paint, fluffy dresses, furry animals...

"We're going as two characters from Prince of Tennis," Duo announced.

Heero blinked.

Duo looked pleased.

Heero blinked again, then reached up and very carefully stuck a finger in his ear, twisting a bit before dropping his hand. "You just said, Prince of Tennis," he answered, enunciating carefully.

"Yep."

"Prince...of Tennis."

Duo rolled his eyes. "Your hearing's not that bad."

"One word, Duo: Tennis."

"Aww, come'on, Heero, it'll be-"

"Let me try again. Six words, this time, Duo: Get. Out. Of. My. Office."

Duo rose, unperturbed. "That's five words, Heero."

Heero paused, counted, and threw out his arm, pointing dramatically at his office door. "NOW!"

"Okay, that's six words," Duo replied, strolling out, sketchpad in hand.


.............................................



"The thing is, it's Sharon's favorite two characters from the series."

"Sharon is..." Heero frowned, trying to remember.

Duo sighed melodramatically. "The A.D. from the Forensics Department."

"Oh, right, the one who looks at dead things." Heero nodded, closing the file on the Mitchell case. The Preventers prosecutor had everything in line, but Heero still had to be in court the next day to testify.

"No, you're thinking of Logan," Duo replied, rolling his eyes. "Sharon's admin. No immediate contact with dead things."

Heero shrugged. "So that's your criteria for picking these two characters? Your friend likes them?"

"It's a good series, too. It's got a lot of competition, and there's character development, and a lot of fun filler episodes." Duo threw his arms over his head and stretched expansively. "There's no mecha, y'know, but it's okay despite that."

"No mecha?" Heero looked disgusted. How boring.

"And no car chases, but there's been one episode with a shoot-out." Duo brought an anime magazine and flipped quickly through the pages. "So I found this picture of the two of them. The costumes are really easy. That's Ohtori," and he pointed at a white-haired kid on a spread about the story. "That's Shishido," he added, pointing at a second kid wearing a blue baseball cap turned backwards.

"Which one did you say I had to be?"

"Ohtori." Duo grinned, and nodded, hopeful.

"I don't have white hair," Heero reminded him. "I'm not bleaching my hair for your friend, either, and I don't care how many times she saved your ass on the Tate and Arizona cases." Heero stared at Duo, and Duo's expression faded into something slightly more wicked. It took Heero a second, then he blinked and pushed his chair back from his desk. "A wig. A wig? I'm not wearing a wig!"

"It's just a short white wig," Duo replied. "You've got to, though. No one will realize you're supposed to be Ohtori if you don't have short white hair."

Heero leaned over, grabbed the magazine, and glanced over the picture of the two characters. "He's wearing a hat," he said, stabbing with his finger at one of the characters.

"That's Shishido," Duo explained, prying the magazine out from under Heero's accusatory finger. "And I've got to be him. The hat's the only way I have a place to hide my hair."

Heero snorted, and without looking, reached into his desk's top drawer. He found the object by feel and dropped it on the magazine in front of Duo.

Duo stared down at the pair of scissors, and his fingers tightened around the magazine.

"A wig," Duo hissed, "is nothing compared to cat ears, a corset, a fluffy skirt, and a tail, all at the same time. But then, I guess I'm not surprised." His tone turned pensive, and a bit on the nonchalant side. "You'd never be able to handle going in costume. Infiltration's never been your strong point. Oh, well, I'll just have to cosplay on my own again this year. It's cool, if you can't handle it, I'll deal. Sharon'll be disappointed, too, but I warned her you probably wouldn't be up for it."

Guilt, and a dare, at the same time: an impossible combination to beat. Heero put the scissors back in the drawer, and resigned himself to wearing a wig.


.............................................



"I feel like an idiot." Heero crossed his arms and grumbled at his reflection. Duo tugged on the wig, humming happily, and Heero swatted Duo's hand away. "Stop that. You're making it crooked." He straightened the wig, and Duo went right back to messing up the wig in an artful fashion.

Heero closed his eyes, counted to ten, and made a heartfelt wish someone would threaten to shoot Relena, and thus get him out of the day's hell by virtue of having to rescue her. He waited. The phone didn't ring, and he wished again, this time that someone would threaten to shoot Une. Or Wufei. Or Trowa.

When lightening still didn't strike, Heero wished someone would come shoot him.

"See, it's a lot more fun when there's two people cosplaying together," Duo whispered, and Heero opened his eyes to see Duo was holding a picture of the two characters. Heero glanced past the picture to the mirror, and Duo set down the picture to point at their costumes. "See, easy. White tennis shirt, blue sleeves, blue shorts, and I even had Hilde do the school names!" Duo poked Heero's chest, and grinned when Heero squirmed away. "Be a man, Heero. It's just for one day, and you just might like it."

"You said the same thing about brussel sprouts."

"And you don't hate them anymore." Duo patted Heero on the shoulder. He turned around, digging through the various clothes and lying across the bed, bits and parts from his large collection of costumes. "You had them last week."

"You told me they were really tiny cabbages!" Heero wondered what Duo was looking for, but decided against asking. The next thing he knew, Duo had stood back up, and placed a tennis racket in Heero's hand. Heero stared at it, aghast. "What the hell is this?"

"It's a tennis racket, my friend who obviously doesn't get out much," Duo intoned. He pulled off his shirt and grabbed the second tennis shirt, yanking it over his head with a quick motion.

"I have to carry this, too?" Heero pointed at the emblem on his chest. "It says 'tennis' right there! Isn't that enough to..." He stopped, and gave the tennis racket a contemplative look, then took a few experimental swings.

Duo caught the edge of the racket, and shook his head at Heero. "There will be no hitting anyone with your costume accessories."

Heero stared at Duo, mildly disappointed.

"Especially me," Duo added, and let go of the racket. "Buck up, we've got to leave now or we'll never find a parking space."

"Fine." Heero twirled the racket once or twice, but stopped at a reproving look from Duo. "Anything else?"

"Nope. Got your ID, money, keys?" Duo's sneakers thumped as he bounded down the stairs, his braid flying out behind him when he jumped the last three steps. The picture rattled on the wall with Duo's landing. "Let's go. Oh, and we have to stop for gas on the way. I'm almost out."

"I'm not going in to pay," Heero muttered. "You can pay from the pump."

"You're going to a convention with twenty-five thousand people," Duo said. "And you're cranky about being seen by the guy at the local filling station. Your priorities are out of whack."

"Something's out of whack, but it's not me," Heero replied, but obediently followed Duo to the car.


.............................................



"Okay!" Duo locked the car, hefted his own racket, and led the way from the parking garage. "Now, remember, the people who scream and demand your picture are just in the spirit of the whole thing. Not saying you have smile about it, but do your best and don't cold-cock anyone who tries to hug you."

Heero made a face.

"And no glaring, either. This is supposed to be fun, Heero."

"I'm sure it's fun for someone," Heero muttered. Yeah. The things I do for the people who matter to me, Heero thought, and sighed.

Duo patted him on the shoulder, then squeezed Heero's shoulder in a quick gesture of gratitude. "If you really hate it that much, you never have to do it again. But I like that you're willing to try it just this once."

That helped, a little. Heero stared at the tennis racket. Okay, maybe Duo's words still weren't enough. He sighed, and tried to pretend like he was on a mission.

It didn't work, especially when a car slowed down, and someone yelled out the anime character names. Duo grinned and gave the passenger a thumb's up.

"What was that about?"

"We just got complimented," Duo said.

"On what?"

"Our outfits." Duo tugged on Heero's wig. Heero retaliated by twisting the brim of Duo's baseball cap to over Duo's ear. "Hey!" Duo tucked his racket under his arm, and carefully straightened the cap.

Heero smirked.


.............................................



"Duo," Heero said, coming up close behind Duo and whispering in his ear. They were waiting in line, about to step up to collect their registration badges and packets of information. Heero glanced over at the end, where about ten men and women were also dressed in tennis uniforms. "There are other tennis players."

Duo looked over his shoulder, grinned, and waved at the tennis players. Several waved back, and Duo gave Heero an excited look. "That's Otohori, there, and that's Hiyoshi, and there's even two Sengoku. I bet Sharon's around here somewhere."

"She's not a tennis player?" Heero frowned, looking around at the crowd. The line snaked through the massive convention center, filled with normal-looking people and the odd brightly colored cosplayer.

"Of course not," Duo said, somewhat exasperated. "She's a fan."

How come I have to dress up, and she doesn't? Heero considered saying it, but decided against it when he noticed Duo's pleased smiles to several other people in line. Duo was enjoying himself, so Heero bit back his complaint while he studied the tennis players waiting in the area by the registration line.

"Who's the guy looking irritated?" Heero raised his eyebrows at the cosplayer who was glaring at one of the others, while six or seven people took pictures of the group.

"Oh, that's probably Fuji," Duo said, shrugging. "He doesn't really get along with any but a few people."

"He gets to glare?" Heero frowned, and absently followed Duo to the registration table. His gaze stayed on the other cosplayers eighty feet away. "How come he gets to glare?"

"It's his character," Duo said, handing Heero his badge. When Heero didn't notice, Duo rolled his eyes and dropped the badge around Heero's neck. "Wear that. And stop glaring."

"I'm not glaring," Heero replied, and glowered at the Fuji-player.

"Right," Duo said.


.............................................



"Can I take your picture?"

Heero looked up from the CD collections, glanced over the girl, and shook his head. "No," he said, and started to walk off.

"No, really," she called, hurrying to catch up with him. "Ohtori's just the cutest thing, and I'd really love-"

"I don't like pictures," Heero replied, and quickened his pace, only to be brought up short by Duo.

The girl squealed at the sight of Duo, and Heero quickly assessed self-protective measures. He decided on ducking under the table, rolling out the other side, and making a run for it. He didn’t get far, though; Duo's hand was firmly attached to the back of Heero's shirt.

"No problem," Duo was saying, pulling backwards. "Don't mind Ohtori, he's kinda camera-shy. Let's get out of the way of the traffic pattern. Here's good?"

"Oh, that's so awesome," the girl said, her voice going up to a register that Heero had previously been convinced could only occur in dolphins. "Oh, hold on, it's cycling." She stared at her digital camera screen, and Duo draped his arm over Heero's shoulder, the tennis racket on his other shoulder. The girl made a little hopping motion. "All right, I think I've..."

The camera flashed, right as someone walked in the way. Heero glared at the guy. The girl apologized profusely, and asked to take another one. Heero glared at her, too. Then Duo laughed and told her it wasn't a problem. Heero gritted his teeth, attempted to look bored - which wasn't hard - until he realized three more people had lined up with cameras. The impassive expression tightened, and Duo poked him in the ribs.

"It's just fun," Duo whispered. "Ya gotta get in character."

"I'd like to get in the car and go home," Heero whispered back.

"Only today, and then you never have to again, if you really, truly hate it," Duo promised.

"You said the same thing about the brussel sprouts."

Heero hefted the tennis racket, and considered throwing it at the five people now taking pictures of them. He belatedly realized two more tennis cosplayers had joined them. The girl dressed like Hiyoshi - Heero thought that might be the right name - was pressed up against Heero's other side. Heero shifted away, stepping on Duo's foot, and Duo yelped.

"Oh," one of the photographers said. "Sorry, Fuji's eyes were closed. Hold on, let me do it again."

"There's not going to be any stuff left by the time we're done," Heero growled in an aside to Duo, watching his coveted import CD get sold to some girl dressed in a fluffy pink confection of a dress.

Her wig matched her dress, and Heero considered for a second that dressing in shorts and a tennis shirt wasn't quite as bad as it could've been. That corset didn't look comfortable, but the girl had a matching purse in which she could tuck her microphone. Heero twisted the tennis racket against his leg and enviously wished his cosplaying accessory came with a carrying strap. Carrying it around had passed annoying and entered the realm of aggravating. Plus, the CD's spot on the dealer's table was now empty. The entire stack was gone.

Heero gave Duo an upset look. "That was the last copy of that soundtrack, Duo, I know it was!"

"It's just a few more pictures," Duo assured him.

Seventeen pictures later, the photographing fans dispersed, and Heero made a beeline for the dealer's table while Duo chatted with the other cosplayers. Halfway to the next booth, Heero was stopped again with a request, but before he could evade, Duo and the Fuji cosplayer were at his side. Heero kept his eyes open wide, his lips pressed together in a thin line, and crossed his fingers that one picture would get the shot the person wanted, and he could get the manga he wanted before someone else did.

"Could you move in closer?" The girl waved her hands at them, and held the digital camera up, peering at the small image. Fuji laughed and stepped away, out of the shot. The girl smiled, and hopped up on her toes. "Yeah, like that, but closer?"

Heero made a face. "We move any closer, Duo, one of us is going to be standing on the other one."

"Oh! Ohtori and Shishido! My favorite!"

"Ohmigod, your outfits are so cute!"

The shrieks made Heero wince and instinctively reach for a gun that wasn't there. Duo's arm tightened around his neck, and Heero remained perfectly still...but he was thinking really hard about what he'd rather be doing concerning the four girls jumping up and down a few feet away.

"Can you hug?" One of the girls, dressed in a girl's sailor uniform, was wide-eyed and hopeful. "I just adore Ohtori and Shishido together. They're so perfect. One of my friends like Fuji, but..." She made a long-suffering face, and with the bright blue pigtails sticking out of the back of her head, Heero thought she looked a little like an alien schoolgirl.

"We are hugging," Heero pointed out to Duo, who shrugged.

"Ohmigod," a fifth girl said. The bouncing, shrieking group seemed to be growing. Heero backed up, brought up short by Duo's arm around his neck, and Duo's chest against his back. "Ohmigod," the new girl cried, "I have to get a picture!"

"Relax, Heero, and smile," Duo coaxed. "It's all part of the experience."

"I am never doing this agai-"

"Can we get a kiss?"

Heero blinked, forgetting for a second what he'd been planning to say.

Duo waved his hand at the girl, and just kept smiling.

"Duo," Heero whispered.

"Unh-hunh?"

"Did she just say-"

"Yep. Just smile, let them take the picture-"

"Oh, come on!" The girl lowered her camera, and gave them an encouraging smile. "Ohtori and Shishido are just..." She sighed in a dreamy manner.

"Duo," Heero growled. "You are my best friend and mean more to me than life itself but if I have to kiss anyone in public, including you, I am going to shoot someone. Right now, you're at the top of the list for the tennis racket alone."

"Ooh, scary." Duo grinned, unrepentant, and squeezed in a little closer. Three of the girls started jumping up and down, and Duo dropped his tennis racket and wrapped both arms around Heero's neck, draped halfway behind Heero. "I think I'm developing a theory that you're not only not capable of shooting me, but that even if you tried, you'd only be shooting blanks."

Heero choked.

"Kiss! Kiss!" Three of the girls were starting to chant.

Heero turned his glare on full power.

The chants died suddenly. It was a subdued group of fangirls who took the rest of the pictures, thanked Heero and Duo profusely - while mostly avoiding Heero's eyes - and hustled off to harass some other cosplayers.

Five minutes later, Heero was in the middle of paying for five manga, two doujin and seven DVDs of new anime when that phrase filtered into his annoyed awareness. It was coming from somewhere behind him, and he tensed. They were words that were fast joining the list of top hated phrases of all time, somewhere between Une's 'it's a simple mission' and Duo's 'it's good for you.'

"Can I get a picture of you?"


.............................................



"You're having fun," Duo teased, as they left the video screening room. In the dark, no one had known they were dressed like tennis players, and Heero had relaxed for the first time all day. But back in the brightly lit hallway, people with little digital cameras again accosted them.

"I was," Heero admitted. "And then we had to leave the nice dark, room."

"It's all in the spirit of a 'con," Duo replied, unruffled as he posed again for two more photographs. "Look, there's no point in dressing up if you're then going to tell people they can't take pictures of you. Or even look at you!"

"I wouldn't exactly call myself a willing victim, here."

They made it another ten feet, and were stopped. This time the girl wanted to hug both of them. Heero sidestepped her, and let Duo do the honors a second time.

"You let a complete stranger hug you," Heero complained.

"She was cute," Duo said, shrugging. "And she asked nicely. It's not like when someone runs up and hugs you without warning."

Heero shuddered.


.............................................



"So in episode ninety-seven, they did the Western theme-"

Heero tried to concentrate, but his mind kept wandering back to the sole disturbing fact that had been bouncing in his head ever since the group sat down for dinner at the hotel's restaurant: I am discussing a tennis anime with a bunch of people carrying tennis rackets. He suspected that wasn’t nearly as bad as the realization that onlookers seemed to assume he was one of the show's fans, too, by dint of the damn tennis racket that Duo kept handing him every time Heero attempted to 'accidentally' leave it behind somewhere.

"No, that was the second half of the match between Fuji and Niou." The girl playing Hiyoshi helped herself to several fries from Heero's plate. He responded by stealing the tomato slice from her hamburger. "You're thinking of episode one hundred fourteen."

"See, I don't think Yagyuu is all bad," the guy playing Fuji interruped. "Really," he said, trying again to explain the mystery that was the show to Heero. "Anyway, Yagyuu and Otoshi-" He nodded at the Otoshi, sitting across from Heero. "-are in this match, and no matter what Otoshi does, he's no match for Yagyuu-"

"What about the chibi episodes?" One of the girl tennis players squealed. Heero bit down on his fork in surprise, and Duo nudged him under the table. "When Gaishi was chibified, I just about-"

"-People seem to think Fuji's some kinda evil guy with no feelings, but if you watch episode forty-two, you can tell-"

"-I just don't get why Kuwamara always has to play backseat to Fuji's tricks on the court-"

"-Hiyoshi, in that match? No way, I still say that was rigged-"

"-Downloaded one hundred sixty-three, and when Sengoku said-"

Heero was about to tell Duo he wanted a translation, when he realized Duo's voice was as much a part of the burble as everyone else's. Heero gave up, ate his food, nodded politely at the appropriate points, and found his eyes kept wandering over to the tables near them. Three guys and a bunch of women were sitting around one table, laughing loudly while discussing some war-based anime between random comments on the cosplayers they'd seen. Heero snorted. That group was clearly more fans of the caliber of Duo's friends - just taking things a bit too seriously on analyzing characters that didn't exist outside of celluloid. Plus two of the guys looked a little wierd, but given what else he'd seen at the con, he figured it was just from hanging out with fangirls. Heero had another bite of his burger, his gaze wandering to the other table near his group.

Five young men and two women were eating, discussing a different anime in quieter tones that seemed just as emphatic. They, however, were all wearing dark blue uniforms with gold trim and smart, shiny buttons. Heero narrowed his eyes, taking in the quieter discussion of their common interest. The tennis players were getting more active, as they debated the various merits and drawbacks of the characters' abilities, and Heero pondered the wisdom of selecting an anime with slightly more mature characters.

And better costumes, he decided, taking in the way the jackets were tailored, and the military-style cavalry skirts on the pants. He realized Duo had nudged him several times.

"Heero?" Duo looked worried. "You're zoning. Tired?"

"A little," Heero confessed. "Hey...what anime are those folks with?"

"Dunno. Anyone else-"

"Fullmetal Alchemist," the Fuji said, shrugging. "Something with magic, and a really big suit of armor. No good pairings, really. Well, one, maybe."

"Yeah, see, in Prince of Tennis, you can have all these pairings because you have all these characters-"

"Oh, man, when Hiyoshi-"

"That's an okay anime, I guess," the Hiyoshi girl told Heero. "But there's no tennis."

Heero was liking the anime already.


.............................................



Duo collapsed into the passenger seat, and toed off his sneakers. "Thanks for driving back, man. I'm beat."

"Of course." Heero smirked at the multiple levels in his response, and backed out of the parking space. He paid at the turnstile, pulled out onto the street, and turned Duo's car towards home. "You can sleep, if you want. I'll keep the music down."

"I'm glad you came, and for once, you cosplayed. See! It's really a lot of fun. You just have to get into the mood."

"I was told Ohtori's a cheerful kind of person." Heero's fingers drummed on the steering wheel.

"Mostly," Duo said, and he sounded like he was hedging. "You can be. When you want to."

"I was surrounded by twenty-five thousand people. That's hardly going to make me cheerful."

"You weren't surrounded by them all at the same time," Duo replied, unperturbed. "The dealer room had a max capacity of about a thousand people."

Heero growled. "That's supposed to make me feel better? We couldn't even eat dinner without people asking to take our pictures. And now there are sixty-three people with pictures of us."

"What bothers you more?" Duo turned to stare out the window at the passing city, and they exited the ramp onto the highway. "The fact that there were so many people, or the fact that the pictures have you holding a tennis racket?"

Heero considered that. "The tennis racket," he finally decided. "And the costumes were boring."

"Boring." Duo's tone was expectant, but hushed.

"Yeah. It's just shirts and shorts," Heero explained. "There's no real art in that. It's just...like tennis. It's tennis. Why couldn't we do something more impressive?"

"Like...?"

"Those guys in the blue uniforms," Heero mused. "They looked cool. And I heard one of the characters can snap his fingers and create flame."

Duo made a choking sound. "In the anime, yeah. But you're not going to be allowed to have a major flammable accessory in the close confines of a large convention."

"How about a minor flammable accessory?" Heero shifted into fifth gear, and settled into the middle lane, cruising with the traffic. Duo gave Heero a look, but Heero forged ahead. "And since you have this thing about doing a pair of characters, I heard the major character in the anime..." He chanced a look at Duo, who was giving him a look somewhere between shocked and confused. "...has a braid," Heero concluded.

"A braid?" Duo's face went from confused to thoughtful in two point five seconds. "Really? If we did that, I wouldn’t have to shove my hair in a hat or down my shirt..."

"And the costumes are cooler," Heero added.

"You are not going to hook up a flame-thrower."

"Only a very small one."

"Heero," Duo said, in that I'm-warning-you-tone, then sighed. "Well, I did hear that most of the people doing that character weren't doing the armor on the arm..." His voice faded in and out, as he drifted at the edge of sleep. "And leather pants...haven't done that yet...could get Hilde to do the uniform for you, and we'd need some dress boots for you...the gloves would be simple..."

Heero smirked. He still wasn't crazy about the idea of dressing up and gracefully allowing complete strangers to take his picture - let alone try to hug him without provocation or warning - but he'd finally realized the flaw in his previous plan of non-involvement. Letting Duo have his way and protesting too much might mean he'd get dared and prodded into something even worse than tennis. He thought of the Chobits cosplayers he'd seen and suppressed a shudder. Duo was fast asleep but still murmuring about costume designs, and Heero smiled to himself, reviewing the blue military uniforms in his head. Hilde could probably knock one out in a few days, and that would give Heero plenty of time to research the rest and make absolutely sure he was picking a character that would be allowed to glare at people.

The flame-throwing element might be cool, but he could live without it. He smiled at Duo's exhausted snore, and decided the day hadn't been that bad, all told. He could handle joining Duo in the cosplaying world with at least a moderate amount of enthusiasm, he told himself - as long as he never had to carry another tennis racket again.


.............................................



EPILOGUE, A YEAR LATER...

"Heero!" Duo shook his head at Heero, and stepped forward to tug on Heero's blue jacket. "The undershirt is supposed to be a white button-up shirt, not a black shirt. We went over all the pictures."

"I know." Heero shrugged, and continued buttoning up the double-breasted blue military uniform. He looked over Duo's metal arm, and nodded, pleased. "That did come out really well."

"Yeah." Duo flexed his arm, and the jointed metal bent at the elbow and knuckles. "And by the way, you'll be wearing these gloves." He stuck the pair in Heero's jacket.

"What about my gloves? I've been working on those for months---"

"I don't want us thrown out because your butane line backfired and your glove caught someone on fire." Duo frowned, and tugged at Heero's jacket. "There's something on your undershirt. Heero...what the hell are you wearing?"

Heero gave Duo a wry look, and slowly unbuttoned the military jacket. Step by step, the jacket was pulled away to reveal white letters, in bold, all capitals, emblazoned across his chest.

GLOMP ME AND DIE.

Duo shook his head. "Only you, Heero."

Heero smirked.
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