One Perfect Cup

Author: Sharon
Pairing: slight 1+2+1
Rating: G
Warnings: fluff with the slightest hint of sap
Disclaimer: The guys belong to Bandai/Sotsu/Sunrise.
Notes: inspired by Kracken, and my own personal addiction.

One Perfect Cup

Duo Maxwell was a man with a mission. This time, there were no battles to fight, no pretty girls to be rescued or evil dictators to be brought to justice. This time, the mission was personal. He was on the hunt for something that somehow managed to stay just out of his grasp. Duo Maxwell, former Gundam pilot and veteran of two wars, was searching for that one perfect cup of coffee.

His doctor had told him that he was putting himself under too much stress, and that even though Duo was only in his early thirties, it still wasn't too early for him to start watching his health. Duo had every hope of living to a ripe old age, so he took his doctor's advice to heart. He watched the foods he ate, he exercised regularly, and he didn't have more than a couple beers a week, usually on weekends. He did all that his doctor had recommended without any problem, except for one thing -- giving up coffee. His doctor had told Duo that he should avoid caffeine.

While that may have sounded easy enough for most people to do, Duo loved his coffee. He'd started drinking it even before Operation Meteor, although his first experience with the beverage was hardly a pleasant one. He'd been given bitter black coffee by the Sweepers when he was still of an age that most people considered far too young to be drinking it. The men he'd hung out with told him repeatedly it was the best way to put some hair on his youthful chest.

It hadn't been much better when he was staying on Earth with Howard. Howard might have been great at getting Duo parts for Deathscythe, but the man couldn't make a decent cup of coffee to save his life. Duo had considered giving it up, but by then it was more than just a drink to him. It was a status symbol, a sign that he wasn't just some young, hot-shot kid. He'd put up with coffee a spoon could stand up in because it proved, in his mind, that he was as much a man as anyone else on Howard's ship.

It was when Duo had been in the desert with Quatre that he'd discovered how good really well made coffee could taste, and that it wasn't just for shocking himself awake in the morning, or keeping himself up at night. Duo could still remember his first taste of the mocha coffee that Quatre favored, and the smell of the cinnamon-laced coffee that Rashid personally brewed every morning. Those coffees were dark and rich, and tasted more like desserts than some thick mud dropped into a mug. If he had nothing else to thank Quatre for, he owed him for turning him on to really good coffee.

Unfortunately, according to his doctor, Quatre had also helped addict Duo to caffeine. Not that Duo hadn't been able to control it during the war. He'd made certain that he hadn't overdone it whenever he had an important mission. He'd drink just enough coffee to be able to help his mind focus without becoming too dependent on it. One cup a day, two at most, had been enough to give him the buzz he needed without making him overly nervous. He could've even gone a few days without, provided he had something else with caffeine to satisfy him.

It was after the Mariemaia incident that Duo had really gotten hooked. It was no longer necessary for him to stay in tip-top form to pilot a Gundam. The Gundams were gone, and Duo had a regular job working behind a desk. He had been free to enjoy his habit all he wanted without any repercussions. He'd discovered that there were more varieties of coffee available than he could've ever imagined. It was the only vice he'd really indulged in, and he made sure to treat himself to as much of it as he'd wanted every day. Until he started having heart palpitations.

At first Duo had ignored them, thinking it was just indigestion or stress from his job. He was still a young man, seemingly too young to be a candidate for a heart attack. It wasn't until he'd told a couple co-workers around the water cooler one morning that he realized his problem could be more serious than he'd originally believed. He'd been relieved when his doctor told him that there was nothing seriously wrong. Duo was to avoid as much stress at work as possible. No problem. His weight, which had never really been a concern, had gone up just a bit, so his doctor had recommended going for a long walk at least three times a week. No problem. And he had to give up caffeine. Big problem.

Duo had opted to try decaf coffee at his doctor's suggestion. The results had been less than spectacular. As much as he'd tried to like it, Duo couldn't stomach the horrible aftertaste that had come from drinking even the best decaffeinated coffee. In his opinion, it would've been better to have nothing at all than to have something that was a mockery of his favorite brew. He'd dumped the drink without even bothering to finish it.

After listening to Duo grumble for the better part of that same morning, one of his co-workers had suggested that he try tea. Unfortunately, the tea had tasted way too weak to Duo, who was used to the stronger, more full-bodied flavor of coffee. When that had failed, he tried the other option one of his friends had suggested to him. He mixed half regular coffee with half decaf. It had been half drinkable.

It was while he was sitting at his desk, with his head in his hands, that Duo had come up with the solution to his problem. The doctor had told him to cut out as much caffeine as possible. He hadn't said that Duo couldn't have any. It was the amount he had to change, not the type of coffee. If Duo could make do with just one cup a day, he'd be keeping in line with the advice from his doctor. And so had begun his search for the one perfect cup of coffee.

He'd gone out the next day and bought the newest, most state-of-the-art coffeemaker money could buy. There were options on the device even Duo hadn't been able to figure out. He'd picked up a pound of his favorite brand of coffee at the small gourmet coffee stand at the local mall, along with a grinder for crushing the beans. Nothing but the freshest ingredients would do for making his one perfect cup. Duo had even bought bottled water, assuring himself that there would be no unwanted chemicals to interfere with the taste of the coffee itself.

The next morning, Duo put his plan into action. He measured the ingredients carefully, taking his time to make sure everything was right. He got his favorite mug down from the cabinet next to the stove, and washed it again to make sure there was no residue accidentally left on the ceramic from the dishwashing liquid he used. Duo watched the coffeemaker as the brown liquid slowly dripped into the carafe, feeling his breathing slow and his body tighten with anticipation.

Finally, when the brewing stopped, Duo carefully poured himself a cup, filling it not quite to the brim. He swirled the liquid around a bit, as if it were a fine wine, and then took a deep breath, savoring the heady smell. Not wanting to rush what he hoped would be a delightful experience, Duo pulled out a chair at the kitchen table and sat down to enjoy his drink in comfort.

He took a sip. Hm. He took another, slightly wrinkling his nose as he swallowed. Something wasn't right. The coffee tasted good, really good, but it still wasn't the perfect experience Duo had hoped it would be. Something was missing. Something he just couldn't quite put his finger on.

Duo was concentrating so hard on his drink that he never heard the sound of bare feet padding across the linoleum floor. It wasn't until a pair of strong arms wrapped themselves around Duo's shoulders, and a pair of moist lips kissed him on the cheek that Duo figured it all out. He knew what he was missing to make this experience perfect. It was the one thing that had made almost everything in the last six years of his life worthwhile.

"Is anything wrong, Duo?" Heero asked quietly.

"No," Duo answered with a huge grin spreading across his face, "everything is just perfect."

The End

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