("A Stroke of Luck" by Garbage)
fic by Aoe


Time is moving slowly today.

I am practicing alone, swinging high above the packed dirt of the center ring on a trapeze. The wind of my passage blows my hair back from my face, yet I feel as if I am drifting slowly... like I am floating through the void of outer space again...

I release my hold on the wooden bar, flying through the air until my hands impact with practiced ease on it's still companion several meters distant.

I am flying alone, without a catcher.

Without a net.

It seems appropriate.

I swing languidly, arching and bending my body to increase my momentum, trying to shake that remembered feeling of frozen solitude. It has been too much on my mind lately. Ever since...

Ever since 'the announcement.'

I frown, and neatly flip myself up and over the trapeze, momentarily in touch with the true flow of time, the heat of the air trapped here at the top of the tent, the thick wooden bar gripped in my resined hands the only thing holding me from a long and painful fall. No, I am not drifting through the weightless void. One little slip could easily bring me crashing to the Earth.

One little slip...

Hanging by threads of palest silver

I fly through the air, cast loose again, and just barely grasp the far trapeze, which is swinging with it's own momentum. Must remember to calculate for that independent movement, avoid the dangerous assumption that the bar will stay where I expect it to be.

Where I want it to be.

Where I need it to be.

Up and over again, turn myself around to face the other trapeze. Observe it's swing through the hot, stale air. An object in motion tends to stay in motion.

Just one little slip... One slight miscalculation...

I never meant to fall in love with him. I still don't really understand how it could have happened at all.

An object at rest tends to stay at rest.

I could have stayed that way forever

Why did I carry his body away from the battlefield? I don't really know. Some impulse ingrained from my upbringing by the mercenaries, not to leave a comrade behind on the field.

At any rate, I did it. And then I watched over him until he woke, and he gave me the most honestly useful advice I have ever received.

Always follow your emotions.

Perhaps I ought to have taken it.

But at that time, I was still too wrapped up in myself, spiteful and petulant towards a world that had forced me into manhood while still a child, never realizing that my very attitude gave the lie to that conviction. Only the very young can so firmly believe that they have the right to be bitter for their suffering, for only at that age are we so convinced that no one has ever known the pain we feel. No one else has ever suffered as we have.

Bad blood and ghosts wrapped tight around me

At first, I resented him for his own obvious ingrained misery.

He was better at it than I was.

I competed with him, at first, to see which of us could remain the most remote. I was sure I had the edge. How could he hope to compare with my lonely misery? My very name was stolen from another man.

Nothing could ever seem to touch me

It's almost amusing to me now, to realize how much a child I really was, then. So melodramatically withdrawn, a figure of tragic solitude.


Well, I had my reasons.

Still, I can admit that I was somewhat in love with the image I'd built up of myself.

It was an empty façade, though. Like the half-mask I wear in the circus, the persona I'd developed was incomplete. Just the still, cold surface veneer.

I fly through the heavy air again, kicking my legs up at the last second to boost me towards the trapeze. It slaps solidly against my hands and I swing, loose, relaxed.

He was frozen and impassive on the surface as well. But underneath was a roiling storm of emotion. It wasn't until I met him that I realized what it was I lacked.

I lose what I love most

Before him, I had no direction, no initiative. I followed my orders as they came, and when they stopped, I did nothing.

An object at rest tends to stay at rest. He gathered no moss.

He was a bright and fiery comet blazing across the sky, hurrying with grim determination towards his own destruction.

In retrospect, he was not the best choice to learn emotional expression from. It's almost funny: one piece of excellent advice, and neither of us truly equipped to make any use of it.

I had suppressed my feelings for too long.

He had only the most fragile control over his own. They tormented him.

Still, I followed him on his journey of self-flagellation. It was better than drifting aimlessly.

Did you know I was lost until you found me?


Catalyst of my determination, guide on my search for a purpose.

Like any catalyst, his presence changed me, although he seemed unaffected.

My guide, who led me away from what I had been, from who I had been... Who led me astray?

He forced me to do more than merely exist.

I still haven't entirely made up my mind whether he did me any favor in that respect.

Stroke of luck or a gift from God
Hand of Fate or Devil's claws
From below or saints above
You came to me...

I fly through the air, almost missing the trapeze. I hang limply from it a moment, catching my breath as the momentary flash of instinctive adrenaline sends my heart thumping in my chest. I need calm, control...

I was always better at that than Heero in the final analysis. He had a reckless side. Too aggressive. Too wild.

We parted ways. And I was alone again...

Alone. I shiver slightly in the thick, sluggish air, sweat chilling on my flesh as I feel the empty void surrounding me once more.

I am alone.

Here comes the cold again
I feel it closing in
It's falling down and all around me, falling...

I shake off the feeling and kick my legs, beginning to swing in a wide arc. Motion, speed, heart pumping, muscles straining... Endorphins kick in and I can't keep the small grin off my face.

And I think of him.


We were all a little bit in love with Duo, I think. One would have to be thoroughly suicidal not to be. He may call himself Death, and at times he can be equally grim, but I have never known anyone as alive as Duo Maxwell.

I blew up his Gundam. His Deathscythe.

I am still occasionally surprised that he forgave me for such a transgression.

Duo was a street brat. He did not own many things. The clothes on his back, his ridiculous, beautiful braid... his Gundam. When your possessions are so few, you are all the more protective of them.

But then, we were "his", as well.

His friends, his comrades, his allies... He had a certain casually possessive attitude towards all of us, even Wufei. He wanted our trust, wanted us to return his easy affection.

You say that you'll be there to catch me

Why were we so reluctant to take what he was offering?

Well... I don't know what it was for the others. For me...

There is always a shadow at the back of his eyes, if you catch them just right. Sometimes that shadow overtakes the slightly manic glint, when he is serious, when he is dangerous. Then he will have one of his strange quicksilver mood swings, and you wonder if you only imagined the darkness.

But you didn't.

So I suppose I was always wary of trusting him too much. Of relying on his kindness and affection.

I could never be certain if it would still be there the next time I looked at him, or if his blue-violet eyes would instead reflect the empty void back at me, leaving me adrift, bereft... Or suck me in, down and under, like a black hole.

Possession. Duo needs to know what, and who, belongs to him.

Or will you only try to trap me?

I grunt softly as my hands slap with stinging force against the trapeze, nearly losing my grip. I clutch the bar tightly, visualizing a pair of contented blue-violet eyes watching Heero walk away. After lunch, two days ago. Quatre and Wufei are still... adjusting. I am the accepting one.

There is no mistaking the obvious fact that Duo does consider Heero very much his now.

But it is not a stifling sort of possessiveness. More a sense of responsibility. He watches Heero cross the street, eyes narrowing slightly as he scans the road for speeding cars. Heero crosses the street safely, and Duo turns back to me, smiling easily, his eyes warm.

He knows, of course.

Once upon a time, I had the chance to be the one he would watch cross the street like a nervous mother. But I was too wary of attachment, of allowing another that much influence and control over me. I didn't understand that it went both ways, that in holding out his hand he was not only asking for mine, but offering me his.

And so I set my barriers. And he smiled and accepted that.

These are the rules I make

Foolish child. I had learned from Heero that one could have emotions and not lose all control, but it took me longer to learn from Duo that recognizing the existence of my emotions was a far cry from actually experiencing them. He has been a patient and constant friend, slowly wearing down my walls over the years. So now I smirk and chuckle where once I would have sat silent and blank-faced.

There is still a lot of chameleon in me, and often I find I am simply imitating him, hiding my true colors within. But that's all right. I am learning.

Now, though...

I was getting so close to breaking free of my self-imposed confinement. I see him now, and he is more genuine than he has ever been. The smiles are real, now, the laughs lacking any edge of bitterness.

He has broken the bindings of his heart at last. Myself...

Our chains were meant to break

I was getting there. So close... If only he could have waited for me.

Or perhaps...

I don't know. I don't know if I ever could have become the person he wanted me to be. I think maybe I am what I am, and that's all I can or want to be.

But then, it's entirely possible he might have been perfectly happy with that.

Useless to think of that now. I kick my legs and soar in a wide arc through the still air, sweat trickling in a tickling line down my cheek.

I am an object at rest. I am inertia.

You'll never change me

I want him, I fear him. I shy away, and he lets me go, wary of the chill of the void he can sense within me.

I am losing his warmth.

Here comes the cold again
I feel it closing in
You're falling down and all around me, falling...

The irresistible force meets the immovable object. Can any good ever come of such a meeting?

I don't know. I am drawn to his light, but unwilling to take the initiative to reach out. He is fascinated by my imperturbable stoicism, but leery of tying himself to someone so apparently immutable.

Attraction and repulsion.

A stroke of luck or a gift from God
Hand of Fate or Devil's claws
From below or saints above
You come to me now...

I twist and fly through the air, pushing my body to it's limits as I spin through space, reaching for the bar...

I never meant to love either of them.

From the very beginning, I have piled mistake upon mistake. What drew me to them so strongly? And why have I always turned away at the last second, after coming so close?

It would have taken so little effort on my part, and I could have had either one. Heero's muted, stormy passion, Duo's aggressive, enveloping warmth...

Instead I have only the void, and memories of darkness and solitude that trouble my sleep in a cold bed.

I wonder at my own foolish obstinacy sometimes.

Don't ask me why...

If I had only once dared to hold out a hand, or at the very least to take one offered to me, I might have something to fill the chilling emptiness.

If only I had ever dared.

But I never do, do I?

Don't even try...

I am swinging hard and fast now, sweat rolling down my forehead, stinging my eyes and blurring my vision. I hurtle through the air, trusting my instincts to tell me where the trapeze will be. I reach my hands out into space, trusting, hoping, that there is something there for them to grasp hold of.

Smack of the bar against sore, stinging fingers. I grip it.

It was there. It was there, where I needed it to be.

I can trust a damn piece of wood.

Stroke of luck or a gift from God

But then, a piece of wood is predictable. It is not fickle, it does not play games. It does not have it's own agenda and priorities. It is not capricious, or demanding.

Hand of Fate or Devil's claws

It is... just a piece of wood.

Inert. Like me.

Duo is entropy, chaos, forever bringing about change and forever changing.

Heero is a catalyst, altering everything he touches merely by his presence.

They move around me, through my life, and I never know the paths of their orbits.

From below or saints above

I am inertia. I am an object at rest.

Their paths have brought them close to me... but not close enough. They were not sucked into my heavy emptiness, but hurtled away through the void.

Comets, blazing brightly against the darkness... just passing by.

You came to me

And I am alone once more in the void.

Here comes the cold again...

This time, they will not be back. I can no longer delude myself into thinking either of them, my bright and wild visitors, will come to warm me in my solitude.

I feel it closing in...

I cannot feel the hot and heavy air around me as I let loose the trapeze and fly. I feel only the bitter chill of the empty void, closing in around me.

It's falling down and all around me, falling...

I see the other trapeze. It's close, so close, at the apex of it's swing.


All I have to do is reach out and grab it.


Follow my familiar routine.


Stay in my safe little rut.


I am flying.


I soar through the void, feel the wind in my face.


I am an object in motion.


Time is moving slowly today.





[back to Aoe's fic]