The Last Worthless Evening (cont)

"Still, that's kind of nice," he continues unexpectedly. Trowa is not normally the one to carry a conversation, but I seem to have been struck dumb, in more ways than one, tonight. Nice of him to pick up my slack.

"It's taken me a long time, and I think I needed the...peacefulness of this place to do it, but... I think maybe I'm finally getting Quatre out of my system," he admits quietly.

I'm stunned. We never admit that that's what we're doing here, licking our wounds and waiting for them to scab over. Waiting for the day we can really face the universe again, and make a serious effort to move forward.

And he's ready. He's been here, what, six months, and he's ready? I've been here almost three years now, and...

And...

"You know... I think, maybe, I've actually gotten over Heero myself," I say slowly, only just then realizing that it hadn't been true before. I thought I'd let him go, but... I hadn't, really. If I had, I wouldn't still be here. But I now realize... I haven't missed him in months. I mean, I still think about him, maybe sometimes I wish things could have been different, but... I don't feel empty or alone without him beside me anymore.

Or rather, I do feel empty and alone... but it isn't Heero I want to fill that space anymore. He never fit into it properly to begin with, and I don't want to stretch myself all out of shape anymore, just to have someone with me. I want someone who fits me, who suits me... someone like...

I look up at him, and he smiles down at me, looking pleased and surprised by my words. And maybe... maybe... hopeful?

"I'm glad to hear it," he says softly. "It took you long enough."

'Cause it won't be long
'Til your little heart is on the mend

I smile back at him, and we just stand there for a moment, pondering our mutual freedom. I don't know about him, but I feel a little dizzy. Makes me wish he'd hold me, just for a little while.

Time time ticking ticking ticking away...
Time time ticking ticking ticking...

But he just stands there, and eventually sighs softly and turns away, heading up the street again.

I echo the sigh, maybe getting a bit more wistfulness into my version, and catch up to him again.

Time time ticking ticking ticking away...
Time time ticking ticking ticking...

We walk through a residential section, past little carbon-copy houses and small, squat, apartment buildings. There's no one else out on the street at this hour, although I can see the flickering blue light of vids from behind the drawn curtains and blinds in living room windows, hear the faint echo of canned laughter in the empty streets.

Places like this used to fascinate me when I was a kid, living on the streets. During the day, all the houses were open to the world, people running in and out, screaming, laughing, whatever... but at night, everyone tucked up inside their own private place, safe and secure, away from the cold and the loneliness outside. I used to dream about being on the other side of those closed curtains, inside one of those little private worlds.

People inside their houses
With the shades pulled down

Now I have a house of my own, and I can close myself up behind my own curtains at night. But I just close in my loneliness with me.

I want... I need someone to share that little private world with me.

Hell. I need more than that. I need a brand new world, someone to bring life and warmth back to this man-made hunk of space junk for me. I've been hibernating out here, and now I want to wake up. I want to stretch in the sun and run around like a crazy young fool. I want to live. I want to make some noise.

It's been a long time since I wanted any of that. So long that I guess I'm out of practice, because I just keep walking silently down the street, a little bit behind Trowa.

I'm like a run-down car battery, I guess. I need a jumpstart, just to get me going. I know I can keep my motor running just fine, if I could only get started... but it's been so long. I've gotten so cold inside, and never even noticed. I need somebody to warm me up.

But I don't know how to ask for that.

I look around this quiet, rundown place with new eyes, and I'm seeing myself in every shabby prefab house, every cracked paving stone. I feel run-down and neglected, just like this place. I could be brilliant again, if somebody would just invest a little time and effort in me.

God knows we could use some romance
In this sleepy bedroom town

Trowa stops again, and I realize we've reached his building. He turns toward me, smiling politely, but not in invitation. I abruptly realize that of course he knows why I really followed him home. He's not stupid.

And apparently, he's not ready.

Quatre out of his system or not, he's not ready to move forward with something new. He's not ready to make that move, to give me that little boost I need to get some momentum back. He's content just to rest here for now.

I can dig. I mean, look how long I've been here, how much of a giant chicken I've turned into tonight.

"Goodnight, Duo," he says, kindly, but with a hint of finality in his tone. A dismissal, not an observation. It makes me frown at him slightly, and something flickers in his eyes, a familiar fear.

The same one that's had me tongue-tied since the bar. Once bitten, twice shy. Neither one of us wants to take a chance and get burned again. Maybe he's already figured out I'm the last chance he's got, too. And he doesn't want to take the risk of screwing it up.

This makes complete and total sense to me.

I know you're still afraid to rush into anything

And it finally breaks me free of my own paralyzing fear.

What can I say, I'm a contrary little cuss. It's one thing for me not to want to take the chance, but for him to be reluctant? Oh no, we can't have that...

Without a word of warning, I reach up and pull his head down to my level, which isn't all that far below his own, thank you very much. His lips are soft, but unresponsive, and he jerks back against my grip, startled.

I run my free hand up his spine, and feel him shudder, melting against me despite himself.

Quatre will tell you anything if he's had a few too many rum-and-cokes.

Defeated, he accepts the kiss, relaxing beneath my hands and moving his lips against mine. I run the tip of my tongue along his lower lip, and he hesitates a moment, then opens for me, and he tastes like cheap beer and pretzels, but then so do I. I can feel an almost electric shock running through my veins as we taste each other with a sort of restrained desperation.

After a few moments that feel like weeks and nanoseconds at the same time, he pulls away, taking a few steps back from me and staring blankly, silently.

"I know I'm being pushy and impatient," I say quietly, my powers of reason and speech miraculously restored by the new warmth flowing through my body. "But we've both already wasted a lot of time, and life's too short as it is."

He looks like he wants to protest, but with the lives we've both lived... he knows I'm right.

But there's just so many summers, babe
And just so many springs

"So what are you saying? What do you want?" he asks warily, all his recently revealed suavity (such as it was) vanished as the Trowa I knew back in the day makes a reappearance.

I shrug, grinning a bit, feeling more like myself than I have in a long time. "I'm not asking for the moon, Tro. I'm not proposing marriage or anything. I just think... I think we'd be good together. I think you think so, too. And I think we should maybe give it a shot."

I keep the grin in place, hoping he can't tell that my stomach is tying itself in knots. I'm trying to be cool about this, and that is the one thing I am definitely not. He could shoot me down, right here and now. Down in flames.

I just hope I've been right, that he's here for the same reason I am. That he's drawn the same conclusions. That he feels the way I do.

And that he's willing to give this a try.

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

He studies me for a long, silent moment, then asks flatly, "Is this just because you think you can only be happy with one of us?" He doesn't have to explain the 'us.' We all know what we mean by that particular pronoun.

I frown, because that is part of it. How can he not think that? It's the truth. How could any of us really be happy, completely happy, with anyone who didn't know, who wasn't there?

But then, that isn't all there is to it. I like him. I really do. I like hanging out with him in the evening, I like trying to eat his horrible attempts at cooking, I like the way his hair falls in his eyes all the time. I like him. I really think... I really think I could love him.

If he'll let me.

Just gimme a chance
To show you how to love again

"No, it's not just that," I answer softly, watching him for a reaction.

He looks puzzled, and still unsure. Of me, of the situation, of his feelings on the matter, I don't know. Maybe all three. Maybe something else completely.

"Are you sure you're... ready?" he asks delicately.

I blink in surprise. Then I think about it for a moment.

Heero broke it off with me, and I screamed and ranted and cried and carried on for about two months, then I picked up and moved out here to the boonies to sulk. And I've been here ever since.

Yeah, I guess I can understand him thinking I maybe have some issues to work through.

I sigh. "Look, Tro," I say wearily, "I really... I really haven't been... I mean, I still think about him sometimes, but he was my first love, you know? I mean, you're supposed to kind of hold on to that, aren't you?"

He shrugs, but smiles just a little, and relaxes slightly. "So I'm told," he agrees.

"Before you came, I was still here because of Heero," I admit, but before his smile can fade, I add, "but now... I think now I'm really only still here because of... well, because of you."

He frowns a little skeptically at that.

I roll my eyes. "Okay, so maybe I hadn't thought it out in so many words," I mutter, "but really... I spend all my time thinking about you. About why you're here, how long you'll stay, how... great it's been, just to hang out with you."

"But... you want... more?" he presses cautiously, watching me closely, eyes narrowed.

"I want something," I snap, my patience, never legendary, running thin. "Right now, we've both got nothing, and I for one am sick of it," I announce firmly.

His lips twitch in amusement. "So you think if we put our two nothings together, we'll get something?" he asks, in a gently mocking tone.

"Worth a shot," I declare. "It's not like we can end up with less than nothing, anyway."

He actually laughs at that, and it makes me feel warm inside, like his kiss.

I want to make him laugh more often. Like all the time.

I want to make him happy.

"I suppose you have a point," he says thoughtfully, smiling slightly.

Victory never tasted so sweet.

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

"So... " I say slowly after a silent moment or two. He did concede, right? I did win?

He eyes me speculatively, and I wonder what exactly he's thinking.

Finally he says thoughtfully, "I think... maybe... that's enough, for tonight."

Huh? What the hell does that mean?

My expression must have communicated my confusion and nervousness, because he flashes that small, reassuring smile of his.

"You've made your point, Duo," he assures me solemnly. "And... well, yes, I agree, we should... give it a try. But... not tonight, okay? Not... quite yet."

I study him suspiciously, looking for signs that he plans to make a run for it as soon as my back is turned. But he doesn't really look freaked or anything. So... I guess he's just being... cautious? Reasonable?

Wow. Try to wrap your flighty little head around that one, Maxwell.

Actually, though... I can understand that. Hell, I've had almost three years to work around to this point, whether I knew I was doing it or not. I don't think about things as... consciously as Trowa does.

He needs to think about this, now. He's not the type to jump in feet first and see if he floats.

That's part of what's so great about him, really. Part of why we'd be good for each other.

We really would. And I'm not going to screw it up by being too pushy. I can wait until he's ready.

"Hey, no rush, okay?" I say warmly, smiling back at him.

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

He returns the smile, a little baffled, a little incredulous, but his eyes are warm.

"No rush," he echoes, but it sounds more like a promise than a warning.

"See you tomorrow night, then?" I ask brightly.

His smile shifts to a quizzical grin. "Same old thing?" he asks curiously.

Not a chance in Hell. It'll never be the same again, Tro, you know that. But I only waggle my eyebrows at him and agree, "Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel," knowing he won't get the joke. I suppose I can forgive him a few little flaws.

Sure enough, I get the puzzled shake of the head, but he only rolls his eyes and agrees, "Tomorrow, then."

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

I stand on the street for a while after he goes into his building, waiting until I see his apartment light come on. Then I blow a kiss toward the curtained window and turn away, whistling in the dark.

One of these days, I'm going to get inside that private little world of his.

Just gimme a chance, gimme a chance
To show you love again

I walk home slowly, contemplating the momentous events of the evening. For years, every day was the same, and suddenly, in just a few minutes, my world has been turned on its ear again.

Well, I always liked it better from that angle anyway.

The electricity of Trowa's kiss is still buzzing through my veins, running along my skin, and it makes me laugh. It makes me smile up at the far away metal-plated 'sky.' It makes me want to see the stars again.

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

They're a lot more beautiful when you have somebody to watch them with.

'Cause it won't be long
'Til your little heart is on the mend...

end

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