"The Last Worthless Evening" by Don Henley
fic by: Aoe

The Last Worthless Evening

Tonight is the night.

I mean, even if it doesn't turn out like I want, how bad can that be? He's my friend, right? And not just any friend, one of those special friends.

No, not that kind of special. Well, not yet anyway.

Anyway... so he's special. He's one of us, one of the old Gundam squad. We went through Hell and back together, and that's not the sort of bond that fades with time or distance or lack of communication or the messy ends of ill-advised relationships...

Eh heh. Anyway.

Just like with me and Heero, everybody knew about the breakup approximately five minutes after it happened. I was frankly stunned. I really thought, if there was ever a pair that was going to make it, it would be Quatre and Trowa. They just seemed so comfortable and at peace together. Shows what I know, I guess.

There weren't any juicy details of nasty fights or tearful begging. No undignified displays of emotion. Maybe they were too mature for that sort of thing, or maybe they'd known it wasn't working for a while. Or maybe I'm just too tough an act to follow and they didn't want to try and top my Oscar-nominee performance. (I didn't win, poor Lucrezia beat me by a hair when Heero moved on to Zechs.)

But it was definitely over. Trowa went back to the circus, and Quatre got on with the business of being disgustingly rich and powerful, and everybody shrugged and moved on.

Only Trowa stopped calling. Stopped writing. Okay, so he'd never been the world's foremost correspondent, but he had tried to keep in touch, at least a bit, before. And then, nothing. Everybody else told me not to worry, he probably just wanted his space, he was a very private person, and Catherine would look out for him anyway.

I know you broke up with him
And your heart's been on the shelf

So imagine my surprise when I wandered down to my local watering hole one evening for a beer or six, and found a new face sitting at the bar.

At first, I thought it was a mirage or something. I mean, I live on some crappy colony out in L2 where there is about no one and nothing interesting. There's nothing here to inspire someone to move in, so new faces are few and far between. I like it because nobody much gives a shit about your past here, what side of the war you were on, what you do, who you screw, anything. After the Heero debacle, I suddenly found myself with a newborn dislike of being the center of attention. I guess you can get your fill of anything if you overindulge once too often. I'd moved out here for some privacy of my own, just for a little while, just until I got myself back in order again and figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life now that I knew Heero wasn't going to fit into it in the role I'd assigned him.

A little while turned into a year, then two... and I still hadn't figured much out, except that I didn't like being alone very much, but I didn't want to be with anyone who didn't completely understand me. Been there, done that, got the emotional scars.

It's been over two years for me
And I'm still not quite myself

So I stood in the door and watched Trowa's back for a moment, watched him drink a beer and strike up a tentative conversation with the guy next to him.

Interesting, that. Trowa attempting to be social with someone he hadn't known for half of forever. It made me study this person with keen interest.

After a while, I went over and said hello. Trowa looked somewhat surprised to see me, but not all that surprised. I guess he'd known I was on the colony (Hell, he should have, I'd been here long enough), but hadn't expected to see me right then. He was friendly, but not overly friendly, very... just... Trowa. I followed his lead, kept it casual, and left after a few hours. He stayed.

I watched for him after that, and I observed as he had a few brief flings with some of the locals. Some of them the same people I'd gotten involved with when I first arrived, a few different ones. None of them lasted, just like they hadn't with me. I watched Trowa get more and more frustrated, not that anybody could probably see that but me, and I understood. He was finding out the same thing I had. You can't just pick somebody out of the pile of humanity at random and expect them to get the things we lived with, and through. We needed somebody who understood, but our 'somebodies' hadn't needed us.

Well, that wasn't entirely true, or fair. We were all still friends. But the deeper aspect of the relationship hadn't worked out, and that was what Trowa and I were both looking for, and not being able to find in anybody that wasn't Heero or Quatre.

You can't be with someone new
And you can't go back to him

I figured out a long time ago what I needed. What I wanted. And then I figured out pretty fast that I wasn't going to get it.

Heero was out of the question. Wufei wasn't even a consideration, we'd kill each other in a week, even if the chemistry was right, which it wasn't.

Quatre and Trowa had been off the market.

So I had just adjusted myself to the idea of living without that close companionship I craved. I still had the friendships, and that would have to be enough. I would have to find the physical closeness with someone I could never share myself with fully, and the emotional closeness with people I could never give myself to completely. And I would deal. I would move on, get on with my life, survive.

And I had. I hadn't been entirely happy, but I got by okay. You have to compromise sometimes, but you just can't give up. You have to keep plugging away at life, and sooner or later you get the hang of it.

I watched Trowa getting more and more frustrated with one-night stands and relationships that went nowhere. But he stuck it out.

You're beginning to realize
That it's sink or swim

I watched him a lot, actually. Yeah, I still sought out willing companionship from time to time, but I'd pretty well worked my way through the local population by then, and the people I spent the occasional evening or night with were mostly friends who already knew we wouldn't ever be more than that.

So I watched Trowa.

We hung out sometimes, but he didn't seem to consider me on the list of possible partners, so I never pushed. We just did the friends thing, and that was cool. I'd missed everybody more than I'd realized. Letters and phone calls are nice, but they don't hold a candle to sitting in a bar chatting about sports or local news over a few beers at the end of the day.

And so I watched him.

I felt bad for him, having to learn for himself how empty life was going to be without that person you thought was always going to be there with you, for you. I wanted to protect him from that knowledge, or give him some kind of encouragement or hope. But I couldn't, because... well, it would be a lie.

I see you around sometimes
And my heart just melts

He figured it out, that he wouldn't be able to get a relationship with anybody random off the ground, a lot quicker than I had. Hell, I've always known he was smarter than me, in some ways. In others... well, maybe he just lacks experience.

Anyway, the bitter stage hit him much earlier than it had me. I guess a lot of the locals remembered when I got like that, and guessed from our obvious friendship that we might have this in common, so they left him alone when he started brooding. They were probably glad he didn't start getting plastered and picking fights in the bar. I did that for about two weeks until one of the bartenders informed me that if I ever wanted to step foot in his establishment again, I'd knock it the hell off. I did, because there's not so many bars on this colony that you can afford to get banned from any of them.

But anyway, Trowa just got quieter and more withdrawn. More like the Trowa I'd expected in the first place, really. He looked uncomfortable, more and more, like he wasn't sure what he was doing here. Like maybe he was thinking about leaving.

You're looking like if you had your wish
You'd be somewhere else

I'll admit, I kind of chickened out along with my neighbors at first. I backed off too. That's what we'd always done with Trowa. He freezes up, you step away and let him relax, let him come back to you when he's ready. Like a wounded wild animal you were trying to nurse, that you didn't want to attack you in a moment of pain.

But he wasn't an animal. He was a person. And eventually it occurred to me that maybe it was hurting him to be abandoned and ignored, just because he was in a shitty mood and feeling bad about where his life was headed. Maybe, just like everybody else in the freaking universe, he needed a friend to be there for him at a time like this.

Imagine that, Trowa Barton, being lonely just like the rest of the world...

So I tried. He was distant and withdrawn, but I made some overtures... and I could see, in his eyes, that he was lonely. That he didn't want to be alone. But he didn't know how to reach out.

Almost brought a damn tear to my cynical eye.

And it just breaks my heart
To see you here this way

I kept things light, kind of superficial... it was what he expected from me, what he knew of me. I found myself suddenly afraid of really letting my guard down around him, and I didn't know why. It wasn't like he didn't know me inside and out anyway, not like he hadn't seen the scars behind the smile, not like he hadn't bandaged my wounds as often as I had his... Well, okay, maybe we weren't all that close in the past. But there was that old bond, and the deeper understanding of two people who grew up a lot faster and a lot harder than anyone should have to.

We had a lot in common.

And eventually I did figure out why I was suddenly nervous around him, why I was clinging to my careless, happy-go-lucky act almost as hard as I had during the wars.

I was afraid.

Because it had finally occurred to me that Trowa was no longer off the market. And it had also occurred to me how incredibly perfect things would be if...

Scary as hell. I'd resigned myself to a certain degree of loneliness, of isolation, in my life, and suddenly I had this one last shot at something I'd given up hope of finding...

I didn't want to screw it up. And part of me thought that maybe it would be asking for too much from a universe that seems to be out to screw me over as hard as possible sometimes. Maybe it was better just to be friends, not to try for anything more. Not to risk what I already had.

But the more time I spent with him, the more I watched the frustration, the loneliness, and the need that matched my own building in his eyes, the more I wanted to take just one more chance.

Someday I'll get the nerve
To walk up to you and say
This is the last worthless evening
That you'll have to spend

I started dreaming of him, thinking of him, fantasizing... At first I thought maybe he was just Heero-substitute, but that idea was quickly trashed. He was nothing like Heero, really. Heero, no matter how controlled and cold he seems, is all about emotion. He's just this little tightly wound ball of violent, passionate emotion. He's the tensest guy I know, and it was kind of tiring, living with him. Being with him. He couldn't handle my laid-back approach to life, and to be honest, he drove me a bit crazy with his constant pushing. Zechs was a much better match for him, they'd give one another the competitive spark they both needed.

Trowa, on the other hand... he wasn't exactly driven. Not all that ambitious. He wanted a home. He wanted someone to be close to. He wanted simple happiness.

I could totally get into that.

And if he would let me, I knew I wanted to show him just how well we could fit together.

Just gimme a chance
To show you how to love again
This is the last worthless evening
That you'll have to spend

But I wussed out. We stayed friends. I didn't make my pitch. There was always tomorrow, and I didn't want to lose him if I made my move too soon, or if, God forbid, he wasn't interested.

But I made sure we hung out a lot. I was always there for him. I decided I'd wait until he made up his own mind about me. I hoped he'd come to the same conclusions I had.

And if he did... I'd be right here waiting.

'Cause I'll be there
When your broken heart is on the mend

So we continued in our little rut, hitting the bars in the evening, playing darts or sharing gossip or reminiscing... Turned out we actually had some good memories of the war. There had been some interesting times, and we only had each other to trade stories with here. I started to relax again, easing into the friendship. I didn't want to rush or push him, and I decided that if we never became anything more than friends, that would be okay, as long as he stayed around.

But I began to wonder if he would.

This colony is really small, and kind of sparsely populated. Once you've been here about two months, chances are you've already met everybody in the place. It's not exciting here, and although I knew he didn't crave excitement or challenge like our other former comrades, I wasn't sure how long he'd really want to hang around the same boring crowd.

Every night it's the same old crowd
In smoky rooms

And there was the other thing. He was still dating.

Not as much as in the beginning, but he hadn't settled into the companionship-with-friends-sex thing that I had. Of course, he hadn't been here as long, but still... I could see in his eyes sometimes, when he talked about a relationship that hadn't worked out, that he was still looking. That he wasn't content.

Funny, Trowa Barton, looking for love in all the wrong places. We always thought of him as the loner, but as it turned out, he didn't want to be alone, he just... wasn't really sure how to make a connection. How to reach out.

When it just never worked, he started to think there was something wrong with him. That there was something he didn't do right, that screwed things up. He said he'd gotten close sometimes, but it had never been like it was with Quatre, and he could only assume that was his fault, since other people got together and managed to find something deeper than friendship or lust.

You catch a faint glimpse of love sometimes
But it never blooms

I could've explained all my theories to him, all the stuff I'd worked out in my head over the years I'd spent here alone. But that's really the sort of thing you have to learn for yourself. Nobody can explain it to you.

I didn't want him to have to go through the soul-searching, the hurt, that I had. But I couldn't see any way to avoid it.

All I could do was assure him that it wasn't his fault things didn't work out. That some things just weren't meant to be.

And... well, I did maybe tell him that I still believed there was someone out there who would truly appreciate and love him. That he just had to have faith. That he wouldn't be alone forever.

So sue me. It was true, if he ever figured it out.

I've been around this block a time or two
And I've made some big mistakes
But I promise you, I promise you

So here we are, again at the bar, the night closing down around us. There's only a few regulars still holding on, and I can see the bartender is getting ready for last call.

I sip my beer and risk a sideways glance at Trowa. He's studying the labels of the bottles arrayed behind the bar, his green eyes intent, a slight frown twisting his lips. He's stared at those bottles for approximately five thousand hours. I can't think what he finds so fascinating about them.

Another wasted night.

He gives a little sigh and reaches up to brush some of that long hair out of his face for a moment. It falls right back immediately, but that brief view of his familiar profile does something funny to my stomach.

How many nights have we sat here like this, now? How much time has passed, thrown away on relationships that were doomed from the start, on dancing around the subject of what we both want so badly...

I feel really stupid right now. I'd decided tonight was going to be the night, and here I am, ready to give it a pass again.

"Trowa," I say quietly, and he turns to look at me. His eyes are beautiful, dark and green and warm as he gives me an inquiring look. I lick my lips, suddenly nervous, knowing what I want to say... but the words just won't come...

This is the last worthless evening
That you'll have to spend

"You ready to hit the road?" I hear myself asking, and almost wince. When did I turn into such a coward? Why can't I just make this tiny little effort? If he turns me down, he turns me down. We'll still be friends. It won't be the end of the world.

Except that I'll know for sure that I'll never find what I'm looking for. I'll always be alone. Somehow, I know that he's the one. The only one. Maybe it always should have been him.

But does he feel the same? Would he let me try?

He shrugs and finishes off his beer. "Sure. I'll see you tomorrow?" he asks casually, tossing a few credits on the bar as he pulls on his jacket.

I watch him numbly, wondering when exactly my balls shriveled up and fell off.

Just gimme a chance
To show you how to love again

I manage to nod at him, and he smiles in reply, something a little wistful in the expression as he turns to leave.

Fuck this. I'm a goddamn Gundam pilot, I'm not going to wimp out again.

I toss a few random bills down on the bar next to his and run after him, tugging on my jacket as I go. I catch up to him outside, where he's looking up at the artificial sky above.

"Hey," I say, and my glib tongue deserts me once again. What is with this? Why is it so hard for me to say what I want to say to him? It should be the easiest thing in the world... "I'll walk you home," I offer lamely, hoping maybe I can get my act together by then.

He frowns slightly. My house is in the opposite direction from his apartment, we always part at the door of the bar. But he doesn't protest, only shrugs and turns away, starting to walk towards his place. I take a few quick steps to catch up to him, and he slows his pace to match my shorter legs.

"Slow night, huh?" I ask inanely, wondering how long I'm going to be possessed by the Spirit of Lame Conversational Sallies.

He shrugs again, but then offers, "Just the usual. It's kind of... the same here, always, isn't it?"

I bite my lip, wondering how to answer. Wondering what he's really saying. Is he telling me he's bored here? That he's ready to move on?

Oh God oh God oh God... I wonder if he'd let me go with him...

This is the last worthless evening
That you'll have to spend