1+2, humour, Christmas romance

Duo stood on the bus, his arm gripping on to the overhead strap, his body lurching from side to side with every twist and turn of the city road. The people around him did the same: they were crushed up against him, their bodies moving as one, now bearing to the left, now taking a sharp right.

Someone coughed in Duo’s ear, a hacking influenza-fuelled sound. A couple of shopping bags toppled over and a dozen satsumas rolled all over the floor, scattering and squelching under people’s helpless feet. A baby started to wail from a seat near the back of the bus. The bus made a sudden sharp climb up towards the mall and a group of kids lost their footing again, stumbling against Duo. They had glitter in their hair and tinsel garlands around their necks: they were laughing loudly and incidentally stabbing him in the back with a school bag full of books.

“Just tell me why,” Duo muttered through gritted teeth. “Tell me why, every damned year, they cut the bus services in the week before Christmas. Don’t they know the traffic’s going to be worse than ever? Shoppers; extra staff; poor bastards like us who just want to get to and from work without losing a kidney.”

His companion was pressed up to him, almost nose to nose. Heero blew out gently, dislodging a stray hair from Duo’s braid that had tangled around his chin. “I think there’s been an accident at the bus garage – the bad weather caused a burst pipe or something. Several routes had to be closed down temporarily while they repair damaged vehicles.”

Duo grunted. “Tell me why that catches people unawares every damned Christmas. The cold weather comes; the snow falls. It’s Christmas. Duh. But everyone still calls ‘shock!horror, my car won’t start; my drive is blocked; my bus won’t run. I need a plumber for my frozen pipes; I need a new coat and they’ve sold out in my size; I need to stock up my house with three hundred tins of soup in case this isn’t Christmas at all, it’s Armageddon.”

Heero smiled. Someone nudged past him to get off at the next stop and he was pushed up tight against his colleague and neighbour. His nose was briefly buried in Duo’s coat and he smelled a mixture of coffee and damp rainfall and the fresh citrus sharpness of Duo’s soap. “It’s a good thing, the change of seasons. Makes life interesting. Refreshing. And don’t say there’s never been a time that you weren’t caught unprepared. I remember when you left your boots out on your front porch and they filled up with snow overnight.”

Duo smiled back, but grudgingly. The bus spun around the junction just a little too fast and the passenger mass swerved with it. Duo got an umbrella in his shins this time. He peered out of the window between three other upstretched arms, as the mall sped past. In the background was the sound of Christmas carols, sung out of tune. Hordes of shoppers were outside, passing the window like blurred, scurrying, parcel-laden ants. “Tell me why they have to leave all their shopping until the last week,” he grumbled. “The damned shops have been full of the Christmas stuff and nonsense since October. Why do the masses have to come out in full force, blocking the streets and trebling the queues at the coffee shops, all day long?”

“You mean, specifically, when Duo Maxwell wants to get home after a bad day at work,” murmured Heero. He was smiling gently. When the bus shrieked to a sudden stop, the shoppers spilling out haphazardly on to the crossing on front of it, Heero had to grasp Duo’s arm to steady himself. He continued to hold it when the bus started up again. “Some of these people don’t work easy shifts, don’t have the internet – they have to shop when they get a free hour. We’ll be home in another twenty minutes, then you can tell me all about your own Christmas shopping plans. Some people make it a social event, you know. It’s fun to be out among the decorations and the lights and the music.”

Duo groaned. “Tell me I don’t have to listen to the carols as well, it’s bad enough trying to find my usual items in shops that are full of inflatable Santas and winking plastic reindeer. God, this happens every year. Enforced jollity; rampant commercialism; discomfort and bad humour all around. Tell me something new, Heero.”

The bus slid to a relatively sedate stop at a traffic light. Heero took a deep breath.

“I love you and I want to spend Christmas with you,” he said, clearly and steadily.

Someone behind Duo gasped; the school children giggled. The strains of ‘Winter Wonderland’ floated through the bus from a nearby shop, heavily distorted from speakers that were at top volume. The brakes of the bus hissed and squealed as it prepared to pull away again.

Duo stared at him.

Heero stared back. “I’ve thought it for a long time, but never told you before,” he said, mildly. “That’s something new, isn’t it?”

Duo continued to stare. He was blushing. His hand had moved up to hold Heero’s elbow and he seemed perfectly comfortable with it.

“Lost your tongue?” murmured Heero. “It’s our stop next. What are you doing for this season of peace and goodwill to all men, Duo? Bearing in mind the enforced jollity and the rampant commercialism - oh, and the squashed satsuma that’s sticking to your boot?”

“I’m coming back to yours,” said Duo, a little weakly. “I’d rather like to spend Christmas with you, too.”

Heero smiled again. He was glad he’d bought a new copy of Phil Spector’s Christmas Hits to play over supper. If there was going to be any more discomfort or bad humour, he knew no-one else he’d rather share it with.