by Trixie

Over the weekend, Trowa cleaned his apartment. This mostly consisted of him spending fifteen minutes wiping an object clean, and then a half an hour staring at the object, as if to dare it to become dirty again. It took him six hours to wash his kitchen floor.

He didn't go into the bathroom. He never cleaned his bathroom. He had one of those things you put in the toilet tank to keep it clean, and he always wiped down the sink and tried to wipe down the bath tub, but he never actually *cleaned* in there.

He hated the bathroom, which was a large part of why he was drawn to spend so much time in there.

He tried to watch some cartoons on Sunday night to reward himself for all his work, but he couldn't focus, and ended up watching some more porn.

The only time he thought of Duo Maxwell was on Sunday afternoon, when Quatre called. He thought of telling Quatre that he had seen Duo, but as usual, he was too busy listening to really think of saying anything.

On Monday, he combed his hair slowly, becoming mesmerized by the movement of the comb through his hair, and he nearly missed the bus. He lost a form he was supposed to fill out, and it took most of his day finding a new one, and filling out the form for when you lost forms.

On Thursday, he was almost glad that he was going to therapy. For the first time, he didn't feel like he was going to go to the dentist to get his jaw removed.

At least today, when something came up that he wasn't prepared to deal with, Duo could just act slutty, and distract the doctor.

This time, when he opened the door, he found Duo sitting in the sole chair in the waiting room, wearing a loose violet shirt that was nearly black, and another pair of tight black leather pants. As Trowa closed the door behind him, he noted that when the light hit Duo's shirt just right, it was slightly transparent.

They didn't even nod at each other in greeting.

Inside the doctor's office, they sat close together on the couch, so that only a thin sliver of couch was visible between them. When Dr. Clarkson wanted to know when the last time Duo had been to church was, Duo's hand strayed over from his side of the sliver of couch to rest on Trowa's knee. When the doctor wanted to know if Trowa felt remorse for what Catherine had gone through, he appeared to take his time in answering, as he stretched out his arm to rest it behind Duo's head. Duo leaned back a little, and Trowa's thumb ran up and down the line of Duo's neck, from his collarbone to the back of his ear. He had chanced upon a sensitive spot on Duo's body, because as he did, Duo shivered, his eyes closing in pleasure.

Dr. Clarkson had forgotten his question by the time he had been brought back to his senses.

Leaving the doctor's office, Trowa had the swelling sense of success, as if they had penetrated an enemy's defenses, and were currently looting the enemy's supply cabinet for paper clips.

He was so satisfied with the session, he actually listened to Duo chat with him as the elevator slipped down, and even found himself asking Duo over for dinner as they walked to the bus.

Duo was only slightly less shocked than he was when the invitation was offered, but he accepted quickly, and with one of those smiles that Trowa hated so much. As they walked to the bus, and waited for it to come, they didn't speak, so Trowa had plenty of time to analyze the situation.

Just as they got to the stop before his, he decided that he was simply reciprocating a gesture. That thought calmed him enough to ask Duo if he wanted to pick up Thai food or Mexican.

If Duo had any reaction to the implication that Trowa had no food at home worth offering a guest, he certainly didn't betray it, although Trowa did think that he was too busy keeping his black trench closed completely over his clothes that he might be a bit distracted. They decided on Thai food.

The first thing Duo noticed about Trowa's building was the floor. The tile in the lobby, and in the halls, was an old, intricately patterned mosaic. Duo's complete delight at finding it brought a lightness to Trowa's expression. The tile had been the main reason Trowa had picked to live in this building.

They rode the elevator up, even though Trowa only lived on the third floor, because Trowa never took the stairs. He was leery of stairwells that had large openings in the middle; they were too tempting.

Once inside the apartment, Duo quietly looked around, stepping away from Trowa and helping himself to a tour of the place. Trowa slipped into the kitchen to get some plates, cutlery, and glasses. He didn't have a lot, but then, he never needed more than for himself, so he had to wash one fork before he was able to equip both of them.

When he got back out to the living room, Duo was standing in front of his wall of porn disks. Trowa silently set up the coffee table for dining, setting the small cartons of food in front of each of their dishes precisely.

"Man, Tro, you really have a lot of porn."

Trowa only looked up at Duo's back in response.

"I hope you are fully stocked in lotion, man." Duo turned to grin at Trowa, although he was clearly a little nervous.

Trowa considered what Duo said carefully, making sure he understood before speaking. "I don't ever masturbate."

Duo nearly fell over from shock. "Never? You don't mean *never* never, do you?"

Trowa merely blinked.

"Dude... I respect your restraint, then." Duo actually did look impressed. "Any reason why, or are you on some sorta spiritual quest?"

Trowa was amused by the concept of withholding for spiritual reasons. "I just find it... lacking."

Duo stared at him for what felt like ages before shrugging, and plopping down on the opposite side of the couch. "Well, then, what's the huge collection for?"

Trowa eyed his disks distrustfully. "I don't find them arousing. They're disgusting, actually."

Duo laughed quietly, shaking his head. "So, naturally, you had to collect them."

Trowa watched Duo as he smiled. It was curious how there were times when Duo would smile, and it would be so thin, it was repellent, and other times when he smiled, and it made everything seem better.

They ate in the same manner, mixing the noodles and sauce and occasionally taking a bite, but mostly shifting the contents of the plates around so they wouldn't appear conspicuous as they didn't eat.

Trowa considered asking Duo if he wanted to take his coat off, but he figured Duo was more comfortable with it on.

"So. What sort of drugs did you take?" Trowa set his plate down warily, almost as if he suspected it might try to leap up and force him to eat, so his eyes were on the plate on the table while Duo considered answering.

"Why, what d'ya got?" There was no humor in Duo's voice as he spoke, but there was a smile on his face that was entirely unfriendly.

Trowa leaned back, reasonably certain that the plate would not try to force food down his throat.

Duo sighed, and put his own plate down. "How did you try to kill yourself?"

Trowa furrowed his brow. He didn't like to play games, and he wasn't even all that interested in Duo's former drug habit. But when he expected a sharp retort to come out, he actually said, "I cut my wrists. Well," he amended, honestly, "my forearms actually."

Duo winced, and Trowa was intrigued that the other man seemed to react so viscerally. "How many attempts?"

Trowa blinked six times before replying, "Twice. The first time... it was nothing, really. I just... I'm not entirely sure what happened. I didn't even have to go to the hospital, but Catherine wouldn't let me tend to my own wounds. The second time... I almost died."

Duo nodded, his eyes wide and vulnerable.

Trowa felt a pang of conscience, and he tucked his legs underneath himself gracefully. "Actually, I tried to kill myself during the war, too, but I don't think that counts, because fighting in a war is always in some degree a form of suicide."

Duo nodded twice, his movements very deliberate, even though they appeared to be unconscious. "Can I see?"

Trowa physically reacted to the question. He never thought about hiding his scars, but at the same time, his penchant for long sleeved shirts made that a moot point. No one ever wanted to see his scars. He didn't want to think about the last time Catherine saw them.

A sense of dizzy nausea passed over him, and he wasn't even fully aware of the fact that he was pulling up his sleeves until Duo's hands touched him. Trowa watched Duo's fingers trace the white lines crisscrossing his forearms and wrists. Duo's fingers were exceptionally long and surprisingly adroit. They were rounded at the tips, and his fingernails were perfectly groomed, except for the tiniest thread of black around the nail that betrayed Duo's profession.

Duo sighed, and ran his hands up and down Trowa's forearms. "Does it ever scare you to see these?"

Trowa watched Duo carefully. It was a shock to see that Duo actually *cared* so much for him. He imagined his reaction to seeing similar scars on Duo's body. He couldn't get a solid feel for what his reaction would be. "Sometimes. And sometimes... it scares me that it doesn't *always* scare me."

Trowa frowned, bending his head down in thought. What was the good of getting out of therapy if he was going to admit things like this to Duo anyway?

"I took anything I could. I probably started out with E, and other 'party' crap, though, that point in my life... is a little foggy. I mean, it all kinda blurs together, and anyway, it wasn't all that long before I was into bigger and better things." Duo sighed, pulling his legs up so he could hide behind them. "I was on heroine for about... two years. Roughly."

Trowa wasn't sure what he was expecting, but it mustn't have been that. He didn't know exactly how to respond or react to that.

Duo leaned away from Trowa, and pretended to smile. "Well, should we play some truth or dare, or are we done with this bare-your-soul shit?"

Trowa regarded Duo. "You don't have to do that."

"What?" Duo moved nervously in place, still attempting to maintain his amused demeanor, but squinting one eye at Trowa at the same time.

"You look better when you smile for real."

Duo stilled, and watched Trowa. "I don't want to bother people with my problems."

Trowa pulled his sleeves down slowly, his eyes locked on Duo from under his hair. "Still."

Duo relaxed against the couch, his head resting against the back of the couch, wearily. "Anyway, most people don't even notice." His eyes closed, and for second it appeared as if he was about to fall asleep.

Trowa's eyes came to rest on the long rope of hair that snaked down Duo's side. At the end of the braid, there was a fat inverted teardrop of hair ends that looked like a tassel. Trowa had a clinical desire to touch it, and brush it against his skin. He had a tangible vision of what it would feel like on his arms, as if Duo had touched him with his hair instead of his hands. "People always notice you."

The very corner of Duo's lips turned up, just a little, just enough so that they weren't in a straight line. "But they only see what they want to see."

"What should they see?" Trowa noticed that the lashes that were resting against Duo's cheeks were much darker than his hair, but were not actually black. It wasn't easy to see, unless the light hit them just right, but they were a deep brown.

Duo sighed, closing his eyes tighter until he let them open again. Trowa blinked when he saw how disturbed Duo's eyes were. "Heh. Nothing, I suppose."

Trowa nodded, and looked down at his hands. He was always very aware of how large his hands were, and how long his fingers were. It made the acrobatics he and Catherine had done in the circus possible, but it had made piloting a little cumbersome at times. He had never noticed, during the war, how lithe and supple Duo's hands were, but it made sense. There were times when Trowa felt like everyone noticed how big his hands were. "I don't like truth or dare."

Duo grinned, and it looked good. "Me neither. Let's watch some porn. D'ya have any guy on guy stuff?"

Trowa stood up, rather abruptly, and went to select a disk. "Are you a homosexual?"

Duo shrugged, even though Trowa had his back to him. "I've never been attracted to a girl before. I dunno. I don't like to think about women having sex. Madonna complex."

Trowa raised an eyebrow at him, but Duo just shrugged, dismissing it.

They watched the erotic adventures of a pair of sailors in the brig. Once the captain of the ship came down to discipline them, it got really risqué.

At first, they just sat on the couch and watched, but as the movie went along, Duo started to wriggle and squirm. He kept looking at Trowa from the corner of his eye, and he was breathing heavily.

Trowa found Duo's antics more entertaining than the porn, and watched him unabashedly while still facing the screen.

"You *never* masturbate?" Duo sounded more than a little irritated.


"That's not natural, man."

Trowa considered. "No."

"...Mind if I use your bathroom?"

Trowa eyed Duo carefully. "Yes."

Duo sighed. "Then I'm gonna go home. You need to get some vanilla disks, I swear..."

Trowa got up after Duo, leaving the porn on carelessly. He almost forgot to offer Duo a cab, but Duo was so anxious to get going that he shook Trowa's halfhearted offer away cheerfully.

Afterwards, Trowa thought about what they had talked about while staring at the way the light from the tv danced over the floor in the darkened room. When the movie got to the end, he felt a strong desire to shower. As the hot water poured over his body, he tried very hard not to scrub his arms, but he couldn't pull the washcloth away. He kept his eyes closed as he washed, and he silently listed all the Preventors' employee policies one by one.

Before he left to sit in his bedroom window and watch the alley, he ran his fingers over his razor quickly.

As he stared down at the narrow alley, he remembered the pain of opening his skin, and how cold he had been when he had woken up in the hospital.

During their next therapy session, Duo slouched over the whole couch, and put his head in Trowa's lap. If he had wanted to, he wouldn't have been able to resist the urge to put his fingers in that hair, and playing with the loose ends around Duo's ears.

Dr. Clarkson's eyes were fixed on those loose trails of hair between Trowa's fingers, which ate up enough of the session to prevent Duo from having to answer Dr. Clarkson's questions about his feelings about death.

Afterwards, they went to Duo's apartment, where they ate some ramen and Duo showed Trowa how to play the latest role-playing game. After an hour, they were both so bored, they put the disk in Duo's computer, broke into the code, rewrote several characters, and spent most of the evening envisioning new and better ways to kill the bad guys and to let the good guys celebrate.

When Quatre called three days later, Trowa listened to him talk for nearly an hour. He stood next to the vidphone and picked at his nails. He thought about telling Quatre about Duo, but he never got an opportunity to speak.

He concentrated at work at spending only the necessary amount of time visualizing his boss with a gaping chest wound. It meant spending more time staring at his screen saver than he had been, but he was willing to make the sacrifice.

He took a nap over the weekend, which threw off his schedule. He had actually dreamed, and when he woke up, he wasn't sure what was real. He washed his hands in the bathroom sink for nearly an hour, scrubbing with detached panic. There was no blood on his hands before he started, but the water was so hot, and he scrubbed so hard, that he broke the skin before too long. Then he had to bandage his hands, and the effort of washing and bandaging left him too weary to do laundry. On Monday, he had to go to work in the shirt with a stain on the sleeve, which he felt was completely conspicuous. After work, he washed everything he owned twice, because when he was done, he thought he could still see the stain.

Trowa started to think about Duo at the strangest times. There was one point on Tuesday when he actually considered calling Duo. On Wednesday, he looked forward to seeing Duo again. He couldn't explain to himself why he felt that way, but he dismissed it quickly, deciding quickly that it was just because of the therapy.

That didn't fully explain why he told Duo things he tried hard not to ever think about, but he chose not to think about it.

Trowa was half way to work on the next Thursday when he realized he was wearing his best shirt and tie. He would have tried to figure out why he was dressing up for therapy, but he was fairly sure in a vague way that if he did, that would just open up a whole kettle of poisonous monkeys.

That session was the worst.

Dr. Clarkson was in a foul mood, and he kept his face down all the time, furiously scratching on his notepad in such a way that what he was writing couldn't possibly be legible. He started out by asking Trowa about his sister, which lead to questions about his childhood with the mercenaries.

That lead to questions about the war, and the people that had died, or suffered during it, and that lead, naturally, to the suffering that had lead two small boys to pilot Gundams.

And somehow, that lead back to questions about Maxwell Church.

Trowa watched Duo, fascinated by the tension that leaked out of the lithe body, almost as if Duo's flesh, partially exposed by his tight clothes, was visibly aching to be touched. It was difficult to listen to the doctor, cruelly riffling through their pasts, so instead he focused on the slim line of flesh between the back of Duo's shirt and the top of his tight jeans. The skin was pale and smooth, with ridges where Duo's spine split his back in the middle. Duo was even skinnier now than he was during the war, Trowa realized, almost sadly. He pictured Duo shooting heroine, tying a belt around his arm, and sticking a needle in his flesh.

He didn't even know that he had reached out until Duo's body shuddered from the contact of his hand on Duo's back. Duo's head turned to look at Trowa, and for a moment they just looked at each other, their eyes perfectly clear.

One corner of Duo's mouth crooked upwards.

Duo leaned into Trowa's body, so that he was resting under the shield of Trowa's arm, which was still around him. He turned his face into Trowa's shoulder, and pulled his legs up so that his knees were touching Trowa's thigh. He sighed dramatically, and spread his arm over Trowa's chest.

Dr. Clarkson stopped scratching on his notepad.

Duo pushed his face into Trowa's neck, and made a noise that was something that a moan may have produced if it had mated with a purr. Sighing, Duo scrunched his body closer to Trowa, cuddling up against the other man like he was a teddy bear.

Trowa cataloged all the sensations one by one, feeling them all very distinctly. There was the heat from Duo's body, pressed against his own, just warm enough to chase away any chills. There was the feeling of Duo's breath against his skin, like tiny tremors dancing on the surface of his body. There was the slight wetness of Duo's lips, touching his collarbone, which was neither hot nor cold. There was Duo's hand on his chest, the fingertips curled in just a little, so he could feel them individually. There was Duo's hair under his chin, ticklish and soft.

He remembered what it was like to touch and to hold someone, like someone remembers how to ride a bike after years of walking just by touching the handlebars.

Trowa's hand drifted up to Duo's chin, lifting it gently with only his crooked index finger. Trowa's face moved down to meet Duo's slowly, and Trowa's eyes were latched upon the curve of Duo's nose as he leaned closer.

When their lips touched, it was almost a shock to both of them, and the kiss that resulted was almost entirely sweet, not deep enough to leave a taste on either of their palettes, but intimate enough to make Trowa shudder a little, lowering his head so that his hair effectively hid his face entirely.

Except that Duo's face was below his, and so he could see Trowa's open eyes clearly.

Dr. Clarkson's pen hit the ground with a weak, plastic clatter.

They rode down the elevator together in silence. Duo's fingers moved over each other anxiously, and Trowa imagined the cigarette that was soon to be within their grasp, and the scent of toxic cloves filled his nostrils painfully.

They were almost at the point where they would separate to go to their respective bus stops when Duo reached out and took Trowa's wrist.


Trowa turned, looking at Duo blandly, his eyes somewhat fixated on the wisp of hair around Duo's ears.


There was no way for Trowa to know if Duo was thanking him for the kiss, or for interrupting the doctor's questions, although it seemed to be the same thing.

Trowa's face relaxed in response.

Duo grinned. "We should do that again, sometimes."

Trowa tipped his head to the side. "Same time next week, right?"

Duo smiled, and tapped his forehead with his finger in a lazy salute, his cigarette coming daringly close to his bangs.

Trowa didn't bother to watch Duo walk away, although he did feel a slight annoyance on the bus going home that he was going to be alone that night.

He pointed and clicked for more than a half an hour before he was so completely bored, he thought he might simply die of it. The thought was so appealing, he continued his work for three more hours, but he failed to expire from under stimulation.

Trowa then switched to solitaire.

He was so busy ignoring the email alerts and trying to find the ace of spades, that when Duo dropped a greasy wrench on his desk, he nearly jumped.

"So, this is where you work. Why are the walls of the cube thing covered in fabric?" Duo sat down in the visitor chair in Trowa's cube, his legs stretched out in front of his hands folded neatly at his waist.

Trowa blinked. "I think it's part of the torture."

Duo grinned slyly. "Well. Lunch?"

Trowa looked at the clock in the corner of his screen. He didn't usually take a lunch. "Sure."

Duo smiled broadly at all of Trowa's coworkers as he sauntered past, chatting Trowa up with each step. People stared, some with their mouths gaping open, but Trowa stared at the back of Duo's head, and ignored them.

Duo's braid was remarkably symmetrical, with very evenly spaced plaits all down the length of it, right down to Duo's little bum.

Duo did have a nice rear, just plump enough to really get a hold of and squeeze. Not that Trowa intended to squeeze Duo's rear, but it did look inviting. And everyone in his office was going to think that he and Duo were lovers.

That thought did not make Trowa unhappy.

They walked to a park not far from the office building where Trowa worked. The sunlight was commonly bright, and it bothered Trowa enough to wish that he had sunglasses. Duo bought two hot dogs and two cokes from a vendor, and they went to go sit on a bench in the shade.

It was a bit late in the season for eating out of doors. There was just enough chill in the air to make it crisp, and it didn't take long sitting out there for the two young men to feel the air creeping under their skin. Neither cared that much.

Duo pulled out a small, thin flask of cheap whiskey from inside his jacket. He didn't bother to offer Trowa any, but he cheerfully filled his cup after he dumped half of the coke into the grass.

Trowa turned the hot dog around several times before ascertaining that there were only the two ends, and that they were both the same. He contemplated biting it, but it felt very much like it had suffered enough.

"So, to what to I owe the pleasure?"

Duo grinned, lazily slouching in the bench. "It was just a crap day. I figured my choices were either to give my fuckin' lazy dumbass boss a piece of it, or come harass you. Lucky you, I decided it would be more fun to see the office life. How do you stand it?"

Trowa stared at the gravel between his loafers. He hated these shoes with a dull passion, but they were the cheapest shoes he could find that were 'work appropriate.' "Well," he drawled, "I suppose the tedium would make anyone want to slit their wrists, but since I want to do that anyway..."

"That isn't even remotely funny." Duo's tone was quickly serious. Trowa faced him, more than a little surprised at how vehement Duo was. After a moment of intense regard, Duo tried unsuccessfully to repress a grin. "Ok, it is a little funny, but not in a good way."

Trowa found himself grinning just a little, which made Duo laugh. It was a nice sound, low and almost quiet. Trowa watched Duo laugh closely, cataloging his movements down to the slightest detail. Duo's natural proclivity toward animation made it so that when he smiled like this, his eyes crinkled, and caught the light in ways totally unlike the way Duo's eyes looked normally.

Trowa squeezed his hot dog uselessly, then decided that he couldn't abuse it and then throw it away without taking a single bite. So, he gingerly raised the food substitute to his lips and took a small bite.

Duo cocked his head and watched Trowa eat curiously. "Do you not like hot dogs?"

Trowa shrugged, bored. "I don't care one way or the other."

Duo nodded, shoving a large bite down his throat. "I like food that's potentially carcinogenic. It adds that extra layer of fun that's sorely lacking from most eating experiences."

Trowa looked at his hot dog, suspicious of its motivations. Was it planning on growing into a tumor in his belly? He slowly raised it up to take another bite. "I like foods that I can ignore for several months, and still eat it when I find it in my cabinet."

Chuckling under his breath, Duo's eyes danced cynically. "As long as it doesn't spawn a mutant civilization of socialist mold people, I'm all for that."

"Are socialists bad?"

"Not necessarily. But they have high taxes. I hate paying taxes."

"It pays for the government."


"We killed to put this government in power," Trowa reminded gently.

Duo started, his whole body changing. His back was stiff, and his face lost all expression. For a moment, it was like he had been turned off completely.

For only a moment.

"Ah, the good old days..." Duo affected a reminiscent tone. "Back when men were cowardly backstabbers, women were persistent stalkers, and boys were warriors. Those were the days!"

Trowa looked at his hands, watching the way his fingers curled around the hot dog. His nails were badly in need of a manicure. The vein running across the top of his hand seemed to protrude a little right under his middle knuckle. He kept his eyes on the vein as he spoke. "There were some good times. That time we did that thing in that place. That was good."

Duo shook his head, trying to control a laugh. "You know Tro, if anyone ever tells you that you don't have a sense of humor, you should just look them straight in the eye with a perfectly straight face and tell them that you had it dehydrated so that you could take it with you when you travel."

Trowa blinked once. "That's what I do."

Laughing, Duo stood up, stretching out. He seemed so much like the old Duo, in his dark jumpsuit and black jacket. For a frozen moment, Trowa could almost believe that they were still fifteen.

Duo turned to look at Trowa, his hands on his hips and an amused expression on his face. "Well?"

Trowa looked up at Duo, perplexed.

"Wanna go back?"

Trowa considered. "No."

"Eh, me neither. But let's go anyway. We can annoy our coworkers better by being there than by not."

Trowa stood and sauntered with Duo back to the Preventors complex. The building he worked in was in the northeast corner, and the gate leading to the garages in the interior of the complex were on the southwest corner. Duo walked assuredly toward the northeast, apparently intent upon escorting Trowa back to his office. Trowa speculated languidly, "Everyone in my office is going to think we stole away for a quickie."

Duo smiled. "You wish."

Trowa raised an eyebrow. "Please. You would be so lucky."

"Ha. I'm way out of your league, my young friend. Sorry, but you might as well let go of these little pipe dreams of yours."

Sniffing dignifiedly, "I would never stoop as low as that. I do have standards."

Duo slapped Trowa on the shoulder amiably. "Well, enjoy a full afternoon of dreaming of my sweet little ass."

Trowa nodded. "Try not to get too distracted thinking about my impressive upper body and long, lean legs. You do work with heavy machinery, after all."

Duo winked, and started to whistle as he walked away. Trowa watched him until he couldn't follow the sway of Duo's braid any longer, and then went inside.

When he got to his desk, he saw the wrench Duo had left, still sitting there, making his useless papers grimy. Carefully placing the wrench in his top desk drawer, he thought that maybe he'd spend his afternoon playing on the 'net.

Quatre called early that night. Trowa sat on the floor next to the vidphone. He could see, in his mind, exactly how Quatre looked as he spoke, exactly how Quatre smiled, exactly how he laughed, exactly how he gestured with his hands and how he blushed and how he rolled his eyes and how he would scratch his chin...

Trowa stared at the carpeting, listening to Quatre talk, gripping the cuffs of his turtleneck tightly enough to tear the seams. When he spoke, he always had to start over again at least twice, because first he would have to interrupt Quatre's steady stream of chatter, and then Quatre would have to ask him to speak up.

Trowa didn't interrupt Quatre often. Unlike Catherine, Quatre was impossible to get rid of; Trowa had tried everything, but Quatre was determined enough to converse that nothing Trowa said or did could deter him.

It was like slicing skin open, listening to Quatre speak; the sweet, slow pain of it would just barely register with Trowa, but it would come back to him, like a cut that hadn't hurt that would twinge painfully when it was aggravated. Trowa would file away everything Quatre said, word for word, and when it was quiet, the words would echo in Trowa's head, and he would hear it all over again.

Quatre was happy. Trowa wanted Quatre to be happy. Trowa was happy for Quatre.

Dr. Clarkson lied. No matter how many times Trowa repeated it, it never sounded right.

"So, apparently, there are laws against that on L2, which is weird, because I thought everything was legal on L2. I need to get some sort of local expert, to advise me. L2 is like a whole new world; it's a colony, and part of the colony system, but their economy has been down for so long that the people have almost evolved into a completely new type of social structure..."

"You should talk to..."

"Hm? Trowa?"

"You should..."

"Speak up, please, I can't hear you. If you were in front of the unit, the amplifiers would be able to pick you up better."

"You should talk to Duo."

There was a long pause. Trowa wasn't sure what the expression on Quatre's face was; he was almost curious enough to attempt a peak.

"Duo? Duo Maxwell?"

"Who else?" Trowa's brow furrowed in annoyance. He didn't like circular conversations.

"But... Duo? I don't even... I doubt he'd know anything about L2 policies, Trowa."

Quatre was being condescending again. Trowa knew he didn't mean to be, he just honestly didn't know when he was being a little prick. It was an upbringing thing, Trowa assumed. It never bothered him, normally, but for some reason, the fact that Quatre was looking down his nose at Duo rankled a little. He didn't bother to analyze why that might be; he just chalked it up to a vague sense of class-consciousness, and ignored it.

"Besides, I don't think... well, that is, I've heard that Duo..."

"I've been seeing him. You should talk to him. I'm sure he'd like that."

Trowa knew that he was leading Quatre to believe things that weren't true, but he was also being honest, even if not rigorously so, and he was enjoying the look he imagined to be on Quatre's face too much to care.

The pause lengthened, and Trowa released his grip on his cuffs so that he could try to pull up the ugly brown carpet again.

"You've been... *seeing* *Duo*? Duo *Maxwell*?"

The sheer incredulity in Quatre's voice made Trowa smile to himself. "Sure."

Quatre sputtered. Actually sputtered. Trowa hadn't enjoyed a conversation so much in years. Years and years.

"He used to run a business in L2, with Hilde. A salvage business." What had happened with that, anyway? Why was Duo with the Preventors? Trowa frowned a little, but kept it out of his voice. He realized that he and Duo were not close, but he was surprised that he didn't know this about the other man. "He must know some things."

Quatre choked a little. "That *may* be, but I don't think he would have any contacts that WEI would be interested in." Trowa narrowed his eyes, finding his hand balled up into a fist on top of the carpet. "At any rate, he certainly doesn't have a good reputation, if you know what I mean. There are... *rumors* about how he has spent the last few years."

Trowa started gripping his cuffs again. He spoke gruffly, and far too low for Quatre to hear. "There are *rumors* about me, too... Better hope no one finds out you talk to me, either, then..."

"I'm sorry?"

"Apology accepted."


"I have to go, Quatre."

"Oh, but I haven't told you the funniest story about Abdul yet! See, he had to get..."

"I'm sorry. Bye." Trowa switched the 'phone off from the floor, and continued to sit, and let the darkness settle around him. It took a long time for him to unwind enough to let go of his cuffs. He thought about the knives in the kitchen. Then he tried to think about something else. He tried to think about putting in a disk, but the thought of watching porn made him physically ill, which made him think about going into the bathroom, which made him think about razor blades, which made him think about falling down in the bathroom in Catherine's trailer on L1, and the smell of blood, and then he thought about Catherine finding him there, and the guilt made him get up and fix himself something to eat.

He didn't bother to turn on any lights, so the only time he could really see what he was doing was when he opened the refrigerator door. He made a sandwich with ham and peanut butter. As an afterthought, he poured himself a glass of milk. He took the sandwich and the milk out to the living room, and ate in darkness on the couch.

He thought about Catherine more, which produced enough guilt for him to finish the whole sandwich and to empty his glass. She worried about him so much; she had so much reason to worry. She had been so good to him ever since he first met him, even when she never had reason to be nice. She treated him like the younger brother she had lost, and encouraged him to treat her like the older sister he had never had.

When he thought about her, and how she worried, the smell of blood was so thick, he could barely breathe.

If he called her, it would make her night. She would be so happy to see him reaching out to her like that. He should call her. Tell her he was thinking about her. He emailed her from work often, but it wasn't the same. When he couldn't hear her voice, he couldn't imagine her expression all that well. He needed to hear her voice.

He got up, and brushed the crumbs off his pants. He turned on the vidphone, and stared at the blue screen, waiting for vocal prompts.

"Find number - Maxwell, Duo."

The machine when through a search, and then produced seven results from the surrounding eight area codes, and a prompt for if the search needed to be widened. Trowa recognized Duo's address, so he selected that number, had it filed in his personal directory, and then dialed. Stepping carefully out of the line of the camera's eye, he waited.


Trowa examined his fingernails, even though it was hard to do by the light of the 'phone. "Duo."

"Trowa? Is that you?" "Yeah."

"Well, where the fuck are you?"

"I'm here."

"Well, damn it, step where I can see you, or hang up. I'm not fucking talking to your damn wall."

Trowa had to repress the desire to smirk. It was a physically involving task to move the two steps away from the wall and in front of the 'phone. He hoped Duo appreciated his effort. "Duo."

"Tro." Duo smiled, relaxing. He looked worn out, like he'd just been working out, or something. Trowa could also tell from the way Duo smiled that he had been drinking. "Well, there you are. What's up?"

"Why are you with the Preventors?"

Duo blinked. "Um, you called me up to ask me that?"


"Ah. Another exciting night at Casa de Barton, eh?"

Trowa enjoyed the way Duo's eyes crinkled when he teased. "Of course."

"Well, great. But... well, that's kind of a long, boring story."

Trowa didn't believe that for a second.

"Let me ask you something first. What happened with you and Q?"

Trowa blinked.

"You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I was just wondering."

"Nothing happened."

"It's ok. You don't have to tell me."

"I just did."

Duo cocked his head in confusion. "Huh?"

Trowa shrugged. "Nothing happened. The wars ended, we went our separate ways... He called me from time to time, but that was it... And then he got married." Trowa had a harder time shrugging this time.

"Oh." Duo sounded truly disappointed. "That's too bad. I always thought..."

"Me too." Trowa hadn't planned on saying that. He certainly didn't plan on sounding so bitter. "I thought he was going to save me." Trowa picked at his thumbnail, his whole face bent down so that all Duo could see was his hair.

Duo smiled. "Quatre in cape, to the rescue, huh? Those damn superheroes never pan out, do they?"

Trowa looked up at Duo slowly, reassured when he saw that Duo wasn't teasing.

Then, he thought about it.

"You didn't answer my question."

Duo laughed, and it was a comforting sound. "I'm slippery like that, Tro." Duo winked, and it looked a little saucy. Trowa's lips turned up just a little bit. "See you tomorrow, eh?"

Trowa shook his head, and switched off the phone. He wandered into the bedroom, and sat in the window.

He decided that he wasn't looking forward to therapy, but it wouldn't hurt to make sure his nice pants were pressed.

The woman in the cube next to his started the morning with an emotional crisis. She spent the whole morning telling her terrible story of woe to anyone unfortunate enough to cross her path, calling every friend and relative she knew, and bursting into tears a total of four times.

Trowa could feel his head throbbing with every melodramatic screech, so he took off at eleven for lunch, and didn't bother to go back before therapy.

Daytime television was like a forgotten treat. The sheer wastefulness of it all attracted Trowa, so he spent the whole time sitting on his couch, staring at his tv. He missed the bus, and spent most of the time before the next bus pondering whether he should call for a cab, call the doctor's office to say he would be late, call Duo to tell him he would be late, or just wait. When the bus came, the whole question seemed mostly moot.

For some reason, the bus was as packed as it would be at rush hour, so Trowa had to stand in the aisle. He didn't mind that, but there were a group of teenaged girls who kept pointing at him and giggling, all blushing and winking at him. He stared out the window and tried to ignore them, but they made him feel so self-conscious, he got off the bus two stops early.

All in all, the session was nearly half over before Trowa turned the brass doorknob to step in, and neither Duo nor Dr. Clarkson looked very happy. Trowa slipped in silently, but the other two men were staring at him all the same. He didn't bother to make an excuse for himself, or apologize, but he did nod slightly at Dr. Clarkson in greeting. Before he sat down, he took a moment to really look Duo over.

He was a sight to behold.

Duo's braid was pulled forward, and he was toying with the end as he glared at Trowa. He wore a black ribbed tank top that probably would have fit him perfectly when he was ten. The bottom of the shirt just barely touched the top of his faded black jeans, which were unbuttoned and folded down at the waist, and torn in the thighs and the knees. He wore sport sandals, which made the whole outfit and look so casually sexy it was nearly unbearably.

Trowa slipped right next to Duo on the couch, putting his arm around the other man and offering him a haven. Duo glared at Trowa for a moment longer before cuddling up to him, his hand snaking out to play with Trowa's tie, his braid still in his hand so that the rope of hair was draped half over Trowa's chest.

The weight of the hair was impressive, and so enticing that Trowa had to reach out and caress the plaits reverently. Duo smirked at Trowa from under his bangs, and put his head on Trowa's shoulder.

Dr. Clarkson cleared his throat, his narrowed eyes fixed on Trowa and the hand that was moving over Duo's braid. "So nice of you to join us, Mr. Barton."

Trowa smirked, running his hand down Duo's side. "I hope I haven't missed anything." If his tone of voice didn't clearly indicate what he was missing, his nose dipping into Duo's hair as he arms closed around Duo left no room for interpretation.

Dr. Clarkson's left eye twitched involuntarily. "I see you two are getting along well." It was a leading statement.

Duo grinned. "You were right, doc," Duo purred as he flung his legs over Trowa's. "Some things are more fun in pairs."

Trowa sighed silently, and brought Duo closer. Duo tilted his head to look up at him, and Trowa was suddenly awash in guilt. He and Duo were in this together, now, and he had abandoned his partner.

Trowa's lips touched Duo's neck, and he begged for forgiveness. Duo arched his neck as he accepted Trowa's supplication. Trowa slowly opened his lips, and let his tongue nip out to quickly taste Duo's skin. Duo sighed in appreciation. Trowa wasn't satisfied though. He had grievously erred. He needed to make reparations.

Trowa's nose brushed against Duo's ear lobe gently, and he breathed heavily through his nose so that Duo could feel it. His hand slipped to Duo's waist to trace the top of Duo's pants, letting his fingertips linger over the smooth, tight skin of Duo's abdomen. Duo's body thrilled at the touches, and he turned to face Trowa fully.

They looked at each other for a moment, their eyes flirting. When they moved together to kiss, Trowa felt Duo's forgiveness in the tender brush of lips, emboldening him to ask for more. Their mouths opened together, moving together, and then Trowa invaded Duo's mouth with his tongue.

The sensation of taste overwrought Trowa, and he felt his hands moving over Duo's skin only dimly. He didn't realize that his eyes had closed until he opened them again, and when he saw Duo's face, so close to his own, Duo's eyes partially closed as if he were in enthralled, Trowa felt a small fire in his belly that he had completely forgotten, so that he felt like he was discovering arousal once again.

Duo's body was liquid, molding to Trowa's as they pressed against each other. Trowa's hand was under Duo's shirt, running up and down Duo's back. Duo had one hand at the back of Trowa's neck, tugging at the short hairs at the hairline, and the other hand had unbuttoned a few of Trowa's buttons in the middle of his shirt, and was now exploring Trowa's chest. Trowa found himself heaving for air, but loath to separate from Duo.

Their noses touched, and Duo rested his forehead on Trowa's. All Trowa could see was the deep depths of Duo's eyes, which seemed both blue and violet. They had a quality that entranced, and made Trowa want to stare into Duo's eyes until his own dried up and fell out.

His hand was on Duo's thigh, and as he stared into Duo's eyes, he thought about Duo's dick. His own was hot and confined uncomfortably, but he was almost enjoying the delicate pain of being aroused in tight pants. His hand moved on Duo's thigh, inching closer and closer to his groin. Thinking about Duo's dick only led to more thought about Duo's dick, and more tightness in his pants, and more heat, which was like being set on fire after being left in the tundra for your entire life.

Trowa's hand stopped on the joint of Duo's leg and hip, his fingers splayed. He thought that his fingers were just a layer or two of fabric from Duo's dick and balls. He pulled Duo's face closer and kissed him again, sucking hard on Duo's lips.

The doctor's clipboard and papers fell to the floor, ignored by everyone in the room. Only the ting of the timer signaling the end of the session pierced the concentration of the three men.

Duo and Trowa relaxed their grips on each other, but stayed on the couch in each other's arms. Dr. Clarkson pulled his hand away from his crotch as if he might get away with it, and cleared his throat enough times to bring up a lung.

Duo sighed, and stretched his legs out lazily. "Hey, doc, before you sign our forms, would ya mind using some wet wipes? Ya know, for sanitary purposes."

Trowa chuckled silently, and leaned into Duo. The image of Duo's dick was still stuck in his head, and he was enjoying the hazy sensation of unfulfilled passion that was blearily working its way through his circulatory system. He had no desire to move anytime soon.

But Duo got up, pushing against Trowa's shoulders to leverage his way out of Trowa's lap, and then it wasn't as warm anymore. Dr. Clarkson kept his eyes down as he handed them their reviews. Trowa stood and stretched out slowly.

He was enjoying a rare good day.

Duo was waiting for him by the elevator, his trench pulled tightly around his body. They stepped into the elevator together. Trowa stepped to the side, and pushed the button for the lobby. Duo went to lean against the back wall. Duo watched Trowa pleasantly.

"The first half of that session was the worst. You do have a way of... passing the time."

Trowa didn't turn at Duo's teasing tone, but he did look over his shoulder so Duo could see his smile. "I enjoyed it."

"Mm." Duo tilted his head, and his braid slipped over his shoulder. Trowa remembered the feeling of the rope of hair over his chest, and his flesh tingled at the memory. "We should have *more* therapy."

Trowa smirked.

"My place or yours?"

There was a definite flirt in that question, but Trowa knew better than to think that Duo was offering more than dinner. They exited the building, and Trowa waited while Duo lit his cigarette. The thick, fragrant smell of it burned Trowa's nostrils in a homey way. "Yours." Trowa nodded in the direction of Duo's bus.

Duo shrugged, and they headed for the bus stop.

The bus was unusually empty, and so they were able to get a seat together. Trowa sat next to the window, and Duo pushed in so that their bodies were in contact all the way from their shoulders to their knees. It added to the easy tension that was buzzing through Trowa's body.

The ride was over disappointingly quickly. They walked from the stop to the convenience store a block away from Duo's building. They got each got a bottle of pop, and Duo picked up a frozen family sized dinner and a bottle of scotch on sale.

It was just settling into dusk as they walked from the convenience store to Duo's building. Trowa wasn't aware of the silence, as he was too aware of the presence of Duo's arm, swinging from the weight of the bag in his hand, teasingly close to his own arm. The night air was cool and there was enough wind to make a chill when they had to wait for the light. The sun below the skyline darkened everything to the point of outline, and Duo walked down the street with his eyes on the sky.

Trowa watched the road for Duo, leading him by proximity of body heat, allowing Duo to watch the last light of day letting the stars peek through.

"Do you miss the colonies?" There was so much wistfulness in Duo's tone, it didn't even break the silence as he spoke.

Trowa spared a glance heavenward. "I don't care much where I live. But I do miss Catherine."

Duo nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving the strengthening light of the stars. Trowa realized, feeling somewhat foolish when it finally came to him, that Duo was watching the patch of sky where L2 should be.

"You never did tell me why you were working for the Preventors, instead of salvage." Trowa wasn't making an accusation, and when Duo didn't respond, it didn't seem as if he were supposed to have done so. Trowa pondered as Duo paused at the entrance to his building, pulling out his keys, still watching the sky. "Did Hilde expect you to settle down with her?"

"Hilde?" Duo laughed, looking at Trowa with neutral amusement. "Naw. She never wanted me." There was something about his tone that made Trowa question Duo's perceptions of the matter. "Anyway. It's not that... Well, the Readers' Digest version is, I started drinking, and doing drugs, she kicked me out, I lost my pilot's license." He shrugged, holding open the door for Trowa. "End of story."

Trowa nodded as he walked in. Of course, he should have guessed that. It just all seemed so disconnected in his mind. His own life had a distinct lack of cohesion, so he naturally expected that other people were the same.

They walked up to Duo's apartment side by side, the stairwell only just barely large enough for them. Trowa felt a small anticipatory thrill tingle in his fingers. It felt like an accomplishment - voluntarily being social, and enjoying the experience.

Duo was so relaxed and comfortable. It was easy to fall into the pattern of being relaxed with him. And there was the taste of Duo on his lips.

Trowa bumped into Duo a little on purpose, causing Duo to smile at him.

It was strange and new, and familiar in a forgotten way, being friendly with someone.

He didn't think about the fact that it was Duo Maxwell he was being friendly with; that hardly seemed to matter any more.

Duo unlocked the door to his apartment, and immediately frowned.

The door was wide open, but Duo made no move to enter, so Trowa stayed beside him in the hallway, peering inside dubiously. The stereo was obviously on, which naturally stood out as being 'off,' but it didn't take long to see why.

Heero Yuy stood up and went to the door, leaning against the jamb with his arms crossed over his chest. He looked almost exactly as he always did, down to the loose tank top tucked into his jeans, except for now he looked like a man, instead of boy playing the part of a man.

Duo was tense, and a little angry. His knuckles were white as he clutched the handles of the bag tightly, and he stared at Heero as if he might just be a mirage that would go away if Duo concentrated on him.


"Hmph." Heero glared at Trowa in response to Duo's rather terse greeting. "What's this?"

Duo shook his head, and pushed his way into his apartment roughly. "*This* is Trowa. You remember Trowa don't you, Heero?"

Heero stood in the doorway, trying to stare Trowa down. "Barton."

Trowa didn't give an inch, but put his hand on the doorjamb possessively. "Yuy."

Duo rolled his eyes, setting the bag on the coffee table, and pulling his trench off. "Please, guys, keep the sap to a minimum. We are still men, you know."

Heero snorted, and stepped aside to let Trowa in dismissively.

Duo rolled his eyes again. "You staying for dinner?" The question sounded more like a threat than an offer.

Heero raised an eyebrow. "I guess I have to eat."

Duo pushed his breath out between his teeth. "Fine just let me get changed, and then I'll..."

Heero slapped Duo on the ass as he walked by. "No point getting undressed twice, is there? Let's just get dinner over with."

Duo's whole body went rigid. Trowa felt a wave of revulsion sweep over him. He crossed his arms over his waist, and kept his eyes on Heero.

Duo nodded uncomfortably, and headed for the kitchen.

Heero turned his gaze to Trowa.

They stood in Duo's living room, staring at each other, for a full two minutes.

"So, you're fucking him?" Heero was trying to sound casual, but his body language was more territorial.

Trowa simply inclined his head away from Heero, and narrowed his eyes.

Heero grinned. "And they say there's no such thing as a free ride. Makes sense, though. You always were sorta the watered down version of me, weren't you? So long as you don't mind if he's thinking of me when you're in him..."

Trowa sneered. "Jealous, Heero?"

"Jealous!" Heero laughed. "Does a man get jealous because the sewer takes his neighbor's shit too?"

Trowa's hands balled into tight fists, and if it were anyone else in the cosmos besides Heero Yuy, he would have knocked him flat on his ass.

"'Kay." Duo stood in the door to the kitchen, looking decidedly nervous, his arms trying to find a way to cover up his chest and waist. "Hope you guys don't mind Easy Mac and veggies."

Trowa and Heero moved like two cats heading for the same bowl, wary of the inevitable fight. Neither wanted to give the other a single advantage. They managed to edge their way to the table in the middle of the kitchen without a scratch.

Duo had made three plates of macaroni and cheese in the microwave, and sliced up a tomato and a carrot. The skin of the tomato curled away from the edges, and the slices sat in the water the tomato could no longer contain. The carrot looked defeated, lying on the plate in pieces.

Heero sat at the head of the table, pulling his chair out loudly. Trowa took the seat to Heero's left. Duo poured Trowa a glass of milk, and set a glass of water in front of Heero. He poured himself a tumbler of cheap scotch.

Heero's hand swept out to slow the flow of alcohol. "Don't get drunk. I'm going to want you functioning."

Duo glared at Heero, and poured until the glass was filled.

It was not a pleasant dinner.

Trowa pushed his macaroni around his plate despondently. He felt the need to help put the carrot out of its misery, but the tomato slices looked like too much work to bother.

Duo sat rigidly in his chair, anger rolling off of him in waves, and he stared at the table or his glass.

Heero pretended to be at ease, eating large forkfuls at a time.

Duo stabbed his plate enough times to be sick of the silence. He looked at the edge of Heero's plate disgustedly. "So. How's Relena?"

"I thought you had your shrink appointment today. What were you doing with Trowa?" Heero asked, as if he were chastising a wayward teen.

Throwing back a long pull of scotch, Duo glared at Heero. "Trowa and I are going to sessions together now." Each word felt like it had been dragged out of Duo.

"Oh yeah?" Heero turned a feral grin to Trowa. "So, what's wrong with you? Got lonely in the shadows?"

Trowa swallowed a bite of carrot, pushing down any reaction to Heero's words with it. "Necrophilia."

Duo laughed. Heero turned to watch Duo with a look that could only be interpreted as revulsion. Trowa smiled just a little, his head bent down so he could swirl his dinner around on his plate.

"It's not polite to ask people about their therapy, Heero." Duo's words were edged.

Heero picked up his and Duo's plates, even though neither were half finished. "People shouldn't be so sensitive about their derangements."

Trowa got up to clear his plate, leaving Duo alone to gulp down his scotch. Just as Trowa was getting to the garbage can, Heero turned abruptly into him, turning the plate over, hitting Trowa in the stomach.

"Trowa!" Duo leapt to his feet, grabbing the washcloth as he moved to Trowa's side. There was a large yellowish orange stain where the macaroni and cheese had hit him. Duo patiently scrapped Trowa's shirt clean, scowling. "Damn it, Heero, you are such a fucking disaster. Can't you watch where you're going?"

Heero dumped the last of Duo's glass of scotch down the sink. "I didn't see anything," he replied coolly.

"God damn mother fucking son of a..." Duo spoke under his breath, still trying to make Trowa clean with the magic of wiping.

Trowa sighed. "I'm going to wash my hands."

"I'm sure you know where the bathroom is." Heero threw the left over tomato and carrot slices away, and cleared Trowa's mostly full milk glass.

Duo hissed, but Trowa just walked away calmly.

Duo's bathroom was decorated with pale green wallpaper that had a mottled appearance. The washbasin was wide, and the towels were next to it on a silver towel rack. It was surprisingly clean, with the milk glass light fixtures all but gleaming. The mirror was not cracked, and Trowa found that that made it hard to look into it. Instead, he looked at Duo's clear plastic shower curtain, watching the way the light made prisms on the surface of it.

He could hear the sounds of dishwashing in the kitchen, and loud, angry voices. Duo sounded like he was snarling, and Heero just growled. Trowa thought about Heero hitting Duo, and he remembered when Dr. Clarkson had asked Duo something about his lover abusing him.

There was something intrinsically wrong with the idea of Duo being abused. Duo was thin, and beautiful, and he had pretty eyes that changed colors, and long hair in a heavy braid. None of that was consistent with being hit.

Trowa wasn't sure what he would do to intervene if Heero *was* hurting Duo. He let the water get hotter and hotter, and watched his hands pink under the flow, the lather from the soap long gone.

He wasn't sure that he would do anything. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.

He walked quietly back toward the kitchen, listening closely.

"...you just act like such a dick!"

"Speaking of which... I came here for a quick fuck, and so far, I've just gotten a pain in my ass."

Trowa stood next to the door of the kitchen. Duo was rinsing dishes, sticking them violently into his small dishwasher. Heero was behind Duo, his chest against Duo's back, his hand between Duo's legs.

Trowa's stomach churned. Hours ago, his hand had gently rested just on the fringe of the area Heero was roughly groping.

"God *damn* it, Heero! I have a guest! I'm sorry, but I can't drop everything for your booty calls!" Duo was scowling and screaming, but his back was pushed against Heero, his round ass moving against Heero's groin as he bent to put the dishes away.

Heero's eyes flicked to the door. "Trowa's a smart boy. He knows when it's time to leave." Heero wrapped his hand around Duo's braid, jerking Duo's head back to bite Duo's neck.

Trowa stepped forward calmly, still not sure what was right. He didn't like to see Heero using Duo's braid like that, though.

"Fuck off, Yuy!" Duo shoved his elbow into Heero's gut, using the small distraction to step away, moving toward Trowa.

"Duo..." Trowa began, though he had no idea what he could say.

"I've waited long enough." Heero glared at Trowa. "It's time I got what I came here for. Say goodbye to Trowa and let's get going."

Trowa narrowed his eyes, his hands already in fists. He took a step forward, but Duo stopped him, taking his arm and leading him to the living room.

"I'm sorry, Trowa." Duo sighed, shaking his head. "This didn't go at all as planned."

Trowa looked at Duo. The other man's chin was trembling with anger, and his eyes looked focused and small. "We can still go back to my place." It seemed like the best solution. Heero was angry, and even though Duo could handle himself, it was probably best not to push his luck.

Duo sighed. "It's ok." He led Trowa to the door, handing him his coat. "It's... complicated. It's probably best if you did leave, though. I'm sorry." Duo smiled tightly, obviously disappointed.

Trowa blinked. Heero smirked from the other side of the room. It wasn't right.

Duo opened the door, and Trowa stepped out. He stood in the hallway, his head resting near the door. He could hear inside Duo's apartment. He could hear sounds like a fight, and Duo screaming out. It was half a cry of rage, and half a cry of passion.

Trowa slipped his coat on and walked away. He walked all the way back to his apartment. He thought about Heero slapping Duo across the face. He thought about Heero pushing Duo to the ground and fucking him raw. With each step, his imagination leaped off into darker and darker realms of fantasy, and in each, he could see Duo's smooth, pale skin being bruised and beaten, and Heero's stormy eyes and muscular arms.

His legs got so tired, he could feel them burn, but it was cold outside, and he felt the cold on his skin and under his bones, so he ignored the heat, and the tingle in his lungs, and even the chill, and he just kept walking, each step taking him deeper into a fantasy of Duo being raped and murdered and raped again.

He walked past his mailbox when he entered his building, and when he got inside his apartment, he went straight to his bathroom. He didn't even take off his coat before he vomited into the toilet. When his teeth felt raw, he flushed the toilet, and closed the lip. He rinsed his mouth out with mouthwash, and sat down on the toilet seat.

He stared at the tile for ages. He thought about Duo's skin, and the way Duo had tasted, and how the taste of Duo was gone now, replaced with bile, and he opened the drawer in the bathroom cabinet quickly.

He kept a pair of scissors to cut his hair in there. They were kept in a plastic sheath, and they had black rubber coating the handles. They were well oiled, and very sharp.

He stared at the edge of the scissors, tilting them so the light caught the line where the metal cut away.

Opening the scissors, Trowa touched the middle of his fingers to the flat edge of the blade. He barely moved his hand over it, marveling at the slight sting. When he pulled the scissors away, there were tiny threads of red, which beaded tiny drops of red. Trowa watched the blood gather, pulling the edge of the blade over his skin again. The four fingers of his left hand got crisscrossed over their middle sections, the tiny threads of red forming a web.

He brought his fingers to his face, smelling the scent of Duo's hand soap and his blood mixed.

He stared at his hand until it felt cold and isolated from his body.

He played with the edge of the blade some more, until he felt tired and weak. His blood barely covered his hand, but its scent was strong, and brought back memories of sensations that left Trowa exhausted. He sat on the toilet seat, and stared at the tiles on the wall, and counted until he reached 1,268,721.

Before he left for work, he had to change his clothes, and put band aides over his fingers.

On to part three. Back to part one.