Heero stayed downstairs and elaborated for the storeowner. "We're just dropping off our stuff. He's going to use the bathroom, and then we're heading back to campus. Lecture series tonight."
Howard sat up straight from where he'd been doing the books and stretched. It was good to be off his feet and let the hired part-time help take care of things in the front once in a while, but his neck took the ache in the place of his feet. "Sure, no prob," he confirmed.
"Everything okay, Howard?"
"Yeah." His neck cracked. "Just getting old."
"Since when have you been such a worrywart?" Wait. Since always, if he listened to Duo's tales.
Heero smiled briefly, but the look of concern did not pass from his face. "Since always, depending on whom you ask."
Maybe Duo hadn't been exaggerating too much. "Don't worry, kiddo. 'Less you know something I don't."
"No. Do -you- know something I don't?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Heero glanced toward the stairs for a moment before returning his focus to the man in front of him. "You've seemed... kind of twitchy to me lately, Howard. Like you're expecting something bad to happen. And you don't want Duo to know." Howard's expression closed up, confirming his suspicions, but the older man didn't say anything. "Whatever it is probably isn't my business. Unless, of course, it's going to affect Duo."
Why did that somehow sound like a threat? Howard decided that just meant Heero took his self-assigned duties very seriously. As such, he needed to consider his next words very carefully. He wasn't sure Elizabeth would come back, but he wouldn't bet that she wouldn't either. And of course, for all he knew, everything was going to turn out peachy. Also something he wouldn't bet on. "If something happens... you'll take care of him, won't you?"
Heero's eyes widened fractionally. "Howard... are you...?" He blinked hard and regrouped. "What are you trying to say?"
Howard tried to shrug it off, unwilling to be specific. He didn't want to alarm anyone, but even if he did want to let Heero in on what was bugging him, if things did turn out the way he expected them to, then he knew Heero was safer not knowing. Duo would only get pissed if he knew in advance. "Nothing. Just... if something happens. Life stuff. Normal stuff."
"If something happens? Howard, if you're..." His brow knit in thought. "Are you planning on being somewhere else?"
"Who, me? Of course not. Nah, I'll always be here for the kid, except, you know, when I'm not. I just want to make sure I have a backup." Only if he wasn't already sure of it, he would never have opened the door to that lady. But sure as he was, it was nice to make sure that Heero knew it, too.
"Howard..." Heero looked a little more disturbed with each passing moment. He glanced toward the stairs again before speaking quickly in a hushed tone. "Howard, if there's something wrong, I think you should tell Duo. I think he'd want to know."
Huh, there was that Yuy intensity Duo talked about sometimes. It was kind of unnerving being subjected to that level of scrutiny. He wasn't sure what the kid saw in it. And did the matter really warrant it? He laughed suddenly. "Shit, I suddenly realize that I make it sound like I'm dying or something."
The tension almost instantly drained from Heero's face, to be replaced with strained relief beneath a stern glare. "Yes. Yes, you do. So if that's not it, then what the hell else are you talking about?"
He heard Duo's footsteps heading toward the stairs and decided to cut this completely awkward exchange short with another laugh. "Don't worry, Heero." Howard slapped him on the shoulder good-naturedly. "Nothing to worry about. You'll do fine. Just fine."
A retort was ready on Heero's lips, but Duo's entrance distracted him. Howard cheerfully shooed them out of the store with a hidden sigh of relief.
last modified : 2/24/2008 00:53:33 PST