"Bent" by Matchbox 20 - lyrics in italics
fic by Aoe

Bent

I could feel his eyes on my back as I left for the second time that day, shutting the door quietly behind me instead of slamming it again. My rage was long gone, burned out in the flames of our passion, leaving behind only ashes of regret.

I headed slowly for the street, wondering if I was making the right decision.

I had to be. It was for the best, for both of us... mostly for him.

I guess some people might find that surprising, coming from me. I can be a bit of a selfish ass from time to time, as Heero will frequently point out. Particularly when I've eaten his lunch or something like that. But I am capable of thinking of other people's feelings, other people's needs and wants.

If I couldn't do that, I'd have still been naked on the floor with Trowa.

God, I came so close that time. I've done some nasty things in my time, some real twisted shit, but that could have really topped them all. And I almost went through with it.

I almost stayed with him. I almost let him love me.

I hurt him by leaving, I know that. I understand that I did leave some damage behind me, but that's par for the course, really. He should be grateful I didn't stick around. He doesn't know what I would have done to him.

I've always known I was a leech. I can't help it really, it seems to be my nature. I live my life in search of a crutch, and when I find one, I lean on it until it breaks. Then I go look for another. Solo. Sister Helen, Father Maxwell. Hilde. They all supported me, and I took everything they had to give. At least Hilde made it out alive, although that was close. I don't mean to be that way, to take so much without giving, but... I'm a survivor, it's what I do. I learned it young, and it's never left me.

I've always got an eye out for an easy mark, to carry my dead weight.

If I fall along the way
Pick me up and dust me off
If I get too tired to make it
Be my breath so I can walk

I moved in with Heero after all the wars and crap were over because he was the person I judged least likely to get sucked in by my usual scam. And I was right. Our friendship could never have survived this long if he wasn't completely impervious to my charm and utterly opposed to taking responsibility for me. He's always told me I'm not a kid anymore, I have to be responsible for myself. And with no other alternative, I was starting to learn how to do that.

And then I noticed Trowa.

He was perfect. He was lonely and unwilling to admit it, incapable of even recognizing it. He would be so easy to manipulate into needing me, and he was strong enough for me to lean on indefinitely. I was willing to bet he could support me for the rest of my life. Which was pretty much my idea of the perfect partner.

It was so easy to set up. Everybody believed me and Heero were getting it on. He never noticed that anyone thought that, and I just subtly encouraged the misconception in case it might come in handy some day.

Boy, did it ever. The first time I showed up on Trowa's doorstep, I just had to look mournful and mutter something vague about a fight with "Hee-chan," and I was pulled inside and fed and tucked in on the couch.

Score.

After that, I just kept going back, and it didn't take much effort or time before I got him to start noticing me physically. I have no illusions about my physical appearance. I'm hot as hell, thank you very much, and at the same time I have an air of fragility that a certain type of personality finds very appealing. The type that likes to think of themselves as strong and silent. If Heero weren't completely asexual, I'd have bagged him years ago.

But Trowa was interested, I knew that much. I also knew I'd have to tread carefully. He keeps his secrets close, but I've seen enough to recognize the fears that he refuses to acknowledge anymore lurking behind his eyes. I knew I couldn't make the first move. I'd just have to look receptive and hope he went for it.

Which he did.

Boy, did he ever.

If I need some other love, then
Give me more than I can stand

Oddly enough, I felt bad about that.

I mean, I wanted him. I really did. Aside from being the perfect type to shoulder my burdens in addition to his own, the guy is drop dead gorgeous. And flexible, too... acrobats. Yum.

But I did feel bad. Because, well... it was Trowa. My friend. Not that I've never conned a friend before, but... well, usually the con came first, the friendship later. So I felt a little bad about taking advantage of them, but it was like I gave them my friendship to make up for it.

Trowa already had my friendship. So what could I give him to make up for what I had done?

And how could I have set out to manipulate and use somebody I actually cared about like that?

I almost called it off before it even got started. I really almost did.

Almost.

But, well... I needed him. Well, let's be honest. I needed somebody. He took the bait.

I did drag it out, a lot longer than I had originally planned. I tried to talk myself into accepting what he offered. I tried to convince myself it would be okay to do that.

Basically, I tried to be who and what I have always been. But the smiles weren't coming as easily.

If my smile gets old and faded
Wait around I'll smile again

I got some funny looks from Heero when I'd come back from my little visits and shut myself up in my room for hours. Sometimes he'd stick his head in while I was lying on my bed, staring at my ceiling, and ask me what was wrong. I'd tell him nothing, and he'd shrug, and leave.

One day I told him I was trying to figure out what my next move should be with Trowa.

He frowned a little more at that, but then he said maybe I was trying too hard. Maybe I was trying to play a role when I should just be myself and let things happen without planning.

Well, you can imagine the look I gave him for that piece of advice. I asked him who he was and what he'd done with Heero Yuy, control freak extraordinaire.

He called me a baka and left.

But I thought about what he said.

And so the next time I went over to Trowa's, I didn't try to seduce him, or get him to seduce me. I just... was there. With him.

And he took me to bed and made love to me. And he held me all night long.

Shouldn't be so complicated

Just hold me and then
Just hold me again

And that's when I knew we were both in trouble.

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together
You're breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me bent

I laid there in his arms wide-awake all night, trying to figure out what I should do, how I could fix things. How things had gotten so out of control.

He was supposed to like me, to care, but I never wanted to make him love me. I never wanted to take that much from him. That was beyond selfish, that was cruel.

Because I could never love him back.

Could I?

No, it just wasn't possible. I'd cared about people in my life, a very few people, I'd been devoted and loyal and kind and compassionate when the situation demanded it, but... to love someone? To give up so much of myself? It wasn't the way I operated. It never had been. I'd never trusted anyone enough to...

Did I trust Trowa that much?

I stared at his face, relaxed and smiling slightly in sleep, and... I thought, maybe. Maybe I could. Maybe I did.

And that kept me awake for many more nights.

If I couldn't sleep could you sleep?

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept waiting for him to reveal that he knew what I was doing, that he was being used and manipulated, and it wasn't going to work anymore. I kept waiting for him to break it off, to throw me out.

I eventually began to realize that he wouldn't.

And it wasn't because he trusted me.

I figured that out one night, when he thought I was asleep. The shadows in the room let me watch him through slitted eyes, while he looked down on me. He looked at me with such longing, such sadness and resignation...

I knew then that he knew. Had always known, maybe. And still he opened himself to me. Still he invited me in, and allowed himself to care...

Why?

I watched him a little longer, until I saw my answer. Something I never expected to see in the depths of Trowa Barton's cool, jaded, cynical eyes.

Hope.

He had hope that he was wrong. Hope that I was a better person than his instincts warned.

He was wrong, of course, but... he could see the possibility in me.

Could you paint me better off?

I started to ask more of him. I got a little demanding. He didn't even seem to notice. He bent over backwards for me, gave me everything I asked.

Because he loved me. Every time I dared to look in his eyes, I could see it more clearly.

The game was over, by then. I'd already won. He was mine.

He was the perfect choice. He was the only one who could ever understand some of the things I'd seen and done and had done to me. I'd chosen well, and I'd played him perfectly. He was mine. He didn't just care, he loved me.

Even knowing what a complete and total bastard I was. Even knowing... I had conned him into this relationship, somehow. He justified it. He accepted it. He was willing to accept me, for what I was. He was willing to take my shit and believe me when I told him it didn't stink.

Because he understood my need for that kind of acceptance.

Because he needed the same thing from me.

Could you sympathize with my needs?
I know you think I need a lot

That one had me brooding at home again. Heero came and sat on my bed and demanded to know what my intentions were toward Trowa.

It made me cry.

It made me cry, that question, and I almost ripped his fucking throat out for that, perfect soldier or not. He pinned me in the end and frowned at me, ignoring the bruises on both of us, and declared that he supposed that answered his question pretty well.

And then he informed me in no uncertain terms exactly how much of a completely heartless bastard I was.

Then he went away for a while.

When he came back, I asked him if I hadn't always been like that.

He said no.

He said it was his fault. That he should have told me what he had planned, at the end of the Barton rebellion, instead of just knocking me out without warning. He said I had trusted him before that, had trusted all of them. Just barely, but enough. Enough to risk caring about someone other than me. But when he hadn't trusted me, he had broken something. And I had started to build these walls, to protect myself. Started reducing people, even my friends, to marks, to objects, things to be manipulated.

Because that way they couldn't hurt me.

I asked him when he'd gotten his psychology degree.

He told me to shut the fuck up. Then he told me that if I wanted to punish him for what he'd done to me, that was fine, but that I shouldn't punish Trowa, too. Then he left again to let me think.

But I knew something he didn't.

When I made it to the shuttle, and Trowa was there, I thanked him for waiting for me. Heero had punched me out and abandoned me, but Trowa had waited for me.

He said he hadn't.

Flat, cold and simple. I wasn't waiting for you.

And for that...

I wasn't always like this. I had been a less ruthless person, once. Heero said so. And if even Heero could tell the difference, there must be a substantial one.

I started out clean but I'm jaded
Just phoning it in
Just breaking the skin

I tried. I really tried to change, but it wasn't working. Part of me was still so detached, still calculating the benefits of my actions, whatever I did. Every time I saw Trowa, it became more apparent to me that he was opening himself up more and more, and I...

I betrayed that trust with every word I spoke to him, every look I gave him, every touch...

I started avoiding mirrors.

And at the same time as I was condemning myself for using him, for being such a bastard and manipulating him, I couldn't just walk away. I couldn't break it off. I needed him, because part of him knew what I was doing. Part of him understood it, understood me, and I didn't want to lose that.

But I didn't want to hurt him. And I knew, sooner or later, I was going to.

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together
Keep breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me bent

Then one day... I just couldn't do it anymore. I woke up knowing that I had to stop, had to let him go. It was just wrong.

So I went over, and I told him we couldn't see each other anymore.

And he said fine.

I thought I would kill him on the spot.

Instead I left, slamming the door behind me. But I only made it to the end of the hall before I went right back. I couldn't leave it like that. I was too angry, too... hurt?

I flung the door back open, and he was still standing there. He asked me what the hell was wrong with me.

And I could hear the slightest shading of pain in his voice.

It stopped me cold. I could only stare at him, dazed. Even though I'd rationally understood his feelings for me, I hadn't really understood... no matter what I did, I would hurt him. Staying would hurt him. Leaving would hurt him. It was just a question of magnitude.

I knew, in the end, staying would hurt him more.

But I couldn't make myself leave.

He asked me if I was coming in or not.

And I jumped him.

I just let myself go, the way I had that first night I realized we'd both gotten in a little too deep.

He told me he needed me. That he thought he could love me.

I told him I knew. And then I left.

I went back to Heero's place and packed up my stuff, told him I was moving out. He smiled at me, apparently thinking I'd come to my senses and realized I should take what Trowa was offering, and give him whatever I had in return.

I wanted to.

That, more than anything else, more than the pain and longing in Trowa's eyes, the kindness and concern in Heero's, the emptiness in my own reflected in a mirror, was what drove me away.

I wanted to love him.

But if I stayed, I would just continue to use him.

So I went away. I wandered and traveled, and I thought about things. About my life, and Trowa's life, and how frightened we both were to open up.

And how he'd learned to do it anyway. How he'd thought there was something in me that was worth that kind of risk.

And I remembered Solo, and Sister Helen, and Father Maxwell... And Hilde, and Heero, Quatre and Wufei... And I tried to remember how to care. I knew now I had done it. I just couldn't remember how.

But eventually, I did.

Because eventually, I stopped trying not to think about Trowa.

Start bending me
It's never enough
Till I feel all your pieces
Start bending me
Keep bending me
Until I'm completely broken in

So I came back.

I wasn't sure he'd be happy to see me. I wouldn't have been thrilled with me. But luckily for me, Trowa is more forgiving of other's faults than I am. If he weren't, the whole situation never would have evolved into the mess it did.

But anyway, I'm here now. I knock on the door.

He opens it. He's been crying.

I am such an ass.

"Um... hi, Tro. Can I come in?" I ask hesitantly.

He stares at me for a moment, blankly, looking mildly confused. Finally, he mutters grudgingly, "... Eh. Why the hell not?"

I walk in and he closes the door behind me, leaning against it.

"You were never involved with Heero," he says quietly behind me, not an accusation, merely a statement of fact.

"No," I agree, "I wasn't. I... wasn't capable of really being with anybody then."

He doesn't ask when. He doesn't ask why.

He does ask, "And now?"

I swallow past a nervous lump in my throat. I've always had the gift of gab. Why is my silver tongue failing me now, when I really need it?

"Now... I... I love you," I blurt out, with no build up, no preamble. It sounds so weak, so phony, just laid out like that. I backpedal like crazy. "I mean, I know that sounds lame and I know you have no reason to believe me and I know I was a jerk... I was playing you, which I'm sure you knew, but I didn't really want to, I just did it, and then you really cared about me, and I didn't want to hurt you and Heero reminded me that I wasn't always such a putz and so I went away because I had to figure out how to be like I used to be, and I did, I guess, because I figured out that I do love you, I really do, but you deserve a lot better so you should probably just throw me the hell out and I'm sorry about all of this and I hope you can forgive me and we can still be friends at least... "

Eventually even I run out of breath.

"You love me," he says in the sudden silence. I guess I babbled too fast for him. Damn . Now I'll have to repeat myself, and I really don't want to say all of that again... It was one of the more painful confessions I've been through, and that includes the time I peeped on Sister Helen in the shower.

I take a deep breath, though, because I owe him a lot more than that. "Yes, but "

"Okay," he interrupts softly.

I stutter to a halt. "What?" I ask warily. I turn to frown at him in disbelief. I don't recall saying anything that would merit a response of that degree of mildness.

He shrugs and smiles at me. "You love me. Okay. I believe you." He shrugs again. "The rest doesn't matter, really."

Doesn't matter. Of course not. How could any of it matter, after the way I treated him? I've made my confession, now I should leave. He obviously doesn't want anything further to do with me, and I can hardly blame him

"I love you, too," he announces.

I blink at him in baffled amazement. He smirks at me. Trowa fucking Barton smirks at me. "I had some time to think about it after you left," he explains. "I decided I could. And did. And do."

"Oh," is my dazzlingly eloquent response. "I... have no idea what to do now," I admit. "This is not what I was expecting."

"Not part of your plan?" he asks, with an edge of malicious humor. I wince, but nod. "Good," he declares, then steps toward me.

Part of me is still expecting a beating or something, so I stiffen, but don't move away. I came here prepared to face my punishment, after all.

He kisses me.

"Shouldn't you... at least yell at me, or something?" I demand a bit breathlessly when he releases me.

He rolls his eyes. "Why do you have to make things so difficult?" he mutters. Then he kisses me again.

Screw it. Go with the flow, Maxwell.

Shouldn't be so complicated
Just touch me and then
Just touch me again

He laughs when we break apart again, smiling a little as he drags me toward the bedroom.

"Look, Trowa, were you listening to me? About how I was using you and manipulating you and all?" I ask, even as he begins to undress me. It only seems polite to return the favor, though, while he considers the question.

"Of course I heard you," he replies quietly, calmly. "I knew what you were doing. Sometimes it made me really angry, too. But most of the time I was willing to ignore it so you would stay with me."

"Trowa," I murmur, moaning slightly as he nibbles at my earlobe. "You know then... that I'm... that you could... do better... "

"Shut up, Maxwell," he mutters, turning his attention to removing my pants. "Yeah, you're fucked in the head. Guess what? So am I. So are practically all the people we know. Maybe I could do better. But I don't want to. I want you."

"Yeah, but Tro-oh shit!" I groan as he goes down on his knees and takes me in his mouth, effectively ending the conversation. His mouth is full, and I am rendered incoherent.

Screw it. If he wants me, who am I to argue.

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together
Keep breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me landing
Without understanding
Hell I go there again -

A few sweaty, marvelous hours later, we're lying in bed, staring at the ceiling.

"Did you miss me?" I ask quietly.

He punches me in the arm. "Don't be an ass."

"I'm trying, but it's not as easy as it sounds," I grumble, rubbing my sore arm irritably. He is still a little annoyed with me after all.

"Well, practice makes perfect," he informs me.

I sigh slightly, pressing closer against his side.

"What?" he asks in concern, having detected the note of sadness in the small sound. I love how he can hear things like that.

"I don't know... I don't think I'll ever be perfect, Tro. No matter how long and hard I practice. There will always be a part of me that's gonna look out for number one first and foremost. And I've got other hang-ups you haven't even encountered yet... "

"Well, so do I," he assures me calmly. "I'm not perfect, either, Duo. No one is. We all have our little quirks. But if we're both willing to try and deal with them... together... " He trails off, waiting for a reply.

"I am," I answer after a moment's consideration. I'm not playing him now. I can't just give the answer he wants. I have to be sure I mean it. "I'm willing to try."

"Then so am I," he says softly. "Because I love you, you rotten manipulative bastard."

I can hear the smile in his voice, so I chuckle at the joke, and reply, "I love you, too, you crazy introverted hermit."

"Well, that's good," he murmurs, dropping off to sleep. "It's a dirty, thankless job, but somebody's got to do it."

I smile, snuggling closer against him. "That goes double for me, pal," I whisper, kissing his shoulder gently before I join him in sleep.

Can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
Get put back together
Yeah you're breaking me in
And this is how we will end
With you and me bent

~ end

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