"Mad Season" by Matchbox 20 - lyrics in italics
fic by Aoe

Mad Season

I'm getting played again.

In the instant that I open the door on mournful violet eyes, I know exactly what he's doing to me, how he's using me, manipulating me... In that instant, I almost slam the door in his face.

I always almost slam the door in his pathetic little kicked-puppy face.

Then I sigh and let him in, because I know as soon as he flashes his tried and true wistful smile, I'll forget I'm being played. I'll just be happy he's here. Happy he knows he can come to me if he needs somewhere to go.

He's not using me. That's what friendship is all about.

Right? Right.

I feel stupid ­ but I know it won't last for long

He steps inside and drops his battered duffel on the floor in its customary spot. How many times... ? Hell, it's pointless to think about it. He obviously doesn't, or he wouldn't keep going home, which always invariably leads to him coming back. I've figured out by now that he'll never accept that it's just not ever going to work out between him and Heero.

He shakes his head and grins ruefully at me over his shoulder. "Christ, how many times have I done this to you now, Tro? I oughta buy a fucking clue and just move in, huh?"

I blink in surprise at that statement. Maybe you're not as dumb as you act, Maxwell.

I've been guessing ­ and I coulda been guessing wrong

Then he shakes his head and turns away, walking off toward the kitchen. As he goes, he remarks, "Ah, don't be scared. I know you can only put up with my shit on a temporary basis. I wouldn't ever ask you to let me move in or anything."

Then again, maybe you are that dumb.

Moron. Hasn't it ever occurred to you that you're the only one I would open my home to like this? You're the only one who wormed your way inside and refused to leave me alone. Quatre's too busy with his company now, Wufei and Heero are always busy with the Preventers... you're the only one who visits me. You're the only one I'd welcome.

You're the only one I really want here. How can you not know that?

You don't know me now
I kinda thought that you should somehow

I follow him into the kitchen, where he is slumped at the table, drinking my beer. He smiles up at me, a little sadly, but trying to be cheerful. That's Duo for you. Always trying to be cheerful. Always trying to put the best face on things.

Always letting just enough show through the mask so that I'll know he's not really happy.

Just me, or anyone? And is it done on purpose, or is he just not as good a liar as he sometimes seems?

Hell with it. I already let him in the door. I can never maintain my suspicious wariness once I let him in. There's a reason you shouldn't invite vampires across your threshold.

He lets the smile drop and stares down into the beer can with a little sigh.

Maybe it's for real this time.

"Duo? You okay?" I ask quietly, as I sit down across from him. He doesn't meet my eyes, only shrugs, turning the can slowly between his fingers.

Does that whole mad season got ya down?

I catch it ­ as I often do ­ when he glances briefly up at me, assessing my degree of interest, of concern. He can do that with just a quick flick of his eyes, can judge how deeply he's set the hook.

I'm an easy mark, I guess. He's played this game with me before, so many times, but still I come back for more. This time, I'll pick the right shell, and find the prize of Duo Maxwell's real feelings.

Right. I bet he's got a nice bridge he'd like to sell me, too, sometime.

Oh, hell, I'm doing it again. I'm dwelling on the unpleasant reality of the situation. You'd think I'd know better by now. I should just play along. It's so much more gratifying when I let myself believe in him.

I'm such a fucking cynic. Why is it so inconceivable that he really does need my companionship, my concern?


I set my doubts aside and resolve to be compassionate and understanding.

I feel stupid - but it's something that comes and goes

"I'm sorry I always do this to you, Trowa," he announces softly. "You must get pretty tired of me showing up on your doorstep all the time. I know you like your privacy... "

Idiot. I sit here alone, night after night, waiting for you to come back. Waiting for the next round in this little game you're playing. Once I liked my privacy, once I pushed you all away, but then... then you all left. You left me alone. And that's when I figured out... I didn't want to be alone anymore.

You think you've got me all figured out, Maxwell, but you don't, really. That's a point for me, whether you know it or not.

And I've been changing ­ I think it's funny how no one knows

Of course, there's no way you could know, is there? We don't talk about such things. That's not what this game is about. It's about you, not me. And it's not even about you, really. You don't tell me the whole truth. I don't know if you even tell me part of it. I think you just make up stories, most of the time. Sometimes I wonder what you tell Heero when you suddenly pack up and leave. Is he part of the game, too? Or is that a different sort of arrangement?

If you were really happy with him, you wouldn't be messing with me, though, would you? So there's something lacking there. Something that you come here looking for, maybe?

Don't be ridiculous, Trowa. You're just a safe haven. Somewhere to hide out, to plan the next stage of his assault on Heero. He's not here for you. He just plays the part so you'll keep letting him in.

And you do. Every time.

So who's the idiot?

We don't talk about
The little things that we do without
When that whole mad season comes around

He finishes his beer in silence and stands up, walking to the door. He pauses there, leaning against the frame in a position almost too casual to not be a pose.

He knows exactly how goddamn sexy he looks, slumped there so invitingly.

"Well, it's late. I should let you get to sleep. I'll just sack out on the couch," he informs me softly, watching me with falsely innocent violet eyes.

He knows just how he looks. He knows just what his pose, that heavy-lidded ingenuous glance, suggests to me.

I reassess. Perhaps he does know I'm lonely. He's certainly playing to it.

Or maybe... maybe he's just lonely himself. Maybe... he really wants my comfort. Maybe, this time, he really does... need me.

So why you gotta stand there
Looking like the answer now?

He shakes his head and sighs, dropping his gaze to the floor as he straightens from his pose. He shoves his hands in his pockets and begins to shuffle toward the living room.

He gave up too easily there. He didn't think he had the angle. He didn't think I'd take the bait.

He doesn't know.

Idiot. He's not as dumb as he acts, but he's not as smart as he thinks he is, either.

It seems to me ­ you'd come around

If I let him go, I win this round. I protect myself from his schemes. He won't get his hooks set any deeper than they already are.

But then, he doesn't really need to. Without half trying, he's already so close to winning...

I could let him walk away.

But then, even though I'd win, I'd also lose.

"Duo. You don't have to sleep on the couch... if you don't want to."

I need you now

He stops, turns, looks at me in surprise and confusion. It looks so genuine, too... maybe it is. Maybe I've been wrong all along. Maybe I've made him out to be this devious, self-centered manipulator when he was just a lonely young man looking for affection.

He eyes me warily, and the specter of Heero Yuy rises between us once again.

He loves Heero. I know that. But if Heero loved him back, gave him what he needs, he wouldn't be here.

I watch him ponder my words, watch his eyes narrow as he tries to decide if I meant what he thinks I meant. I return his gaze steadily, and a twitch of his lips, too fast to betray his feelings on the matter, lets me know he took that look as confirmation. Now I can almost see the wheels turning inside his head, behind his shadowed eyes, as he ponders the offer.

It would take this game to a whole new level. He's not sure he wants to do that.

I sit back and wait for his response. The ball's in his court, now.

Do you think you can cope?

His gaze fastens on me once again, speculative, considering. He is fitting pieces of the puzzle into place. He is compiling all the information he's collected about me over the course of his frequent visits. For two years now, we've been playing this game. I think he's been waiting for the day I really did just slam the door in his face. Waiting for me to make his decision for him.

I think it's just occurred to him that I'm not an impartial observer.

He's used me as a buffer, as space between himself and Heero. He comes to me when he starts to feel trapped, confined, unhappy. Heero excites him, he is a danger junkie after all, but Heero can't give him what he needs, what he's searching for, in a partner.

I don't know if I could, either. But I'm pretty sure that we at least need the same things. And I'm also pretty sure that he never realized that before this moment.

You figured me out ­ that I'm lost and I'm hopeless

Suddenly, I'm nervous. He's been quiet too long. If this decision was going to go in my favor, shouldn't he have made it by now? Now I've made myself vulnerable, and I'm going to get hurt. Again. I should have learned my lesson with Quatre. They're all willing to be my friend as long as I keep up the façade of control, but let them see beneath, show them that I have needs, too, that I can't just be their support, and they lose all interest.

I knew that. Damn it. I guess I'm the idiot after all.

I'm bleeding and broken ­ though I've never spoken

"Forget I said that," I mutter, dropping my gaze to the table. "You look tired. You should get some rest," I continue woodenly. I want him out of here. I don't want to see pity in his eyes, I don't want to know that he's not coming back again because now he realizes that I want something in return for my company.

I don't want to be alone. I don't want to watch him go.

He walks back into the room, stopping beside me. His fingers gently lift my chin so I'm forced to meet his eyes.

He smirks wickedly at me, violet gaze smoky and full of dark promise. "Well, I'm really not... that sleepy," he informs me meaningfully.

Then, before I know what's happening, he grins in triumph at something he sees in my eyes, and he kisses me, suddenly, unexpectedly.

I'm surprised, a little frightened, a lot excited...

He wins. But so do I.

I come undone ­ in this mad season

I answer the knock at the door, and am not surprised to find Duo on the other side. He doesn't wait for an invitation anymore. I've invited him too many times, my threshold is no longer a barrier to the vampire. We've been sleeping together on and off for three months now, ever since that first night. He still comes and goes, still lives with Heero and brings a duffel bag when he comes here.

He walks inside, not smiling this time, and I notice that he doesn't have his duffel bag with him. He turns to face me, and he still isn't smiling. His face is serious, a little cold, and I know what's coming. God, I know exactly what's coming.

And I should have been better prepared.

I feel stupid ­ but I think I been catching on

"We can't see each other anymore."

It hurts. I knew it would, but... not this much. He's never treated me as more than a casual fuckbuddy. Part of me knew he was just using me in his little game. I just wanted to believe he was playing the game with me, not with Heero. That I was the mark, not the plant.

I was wrong. And I let him use me...

It is small consolation, the way his eyes rove slowly over my body as we stand in silence, as he waits, as he has learned to, for my response. He seems to be memorizing me. I know he enjoyed our times together. I guess it's nice to know that even if I feel dirty and used right now, he's still attracted to me. It wasn't my physical appearance or prowess that displeased him.

I feel ugly ­ but I know I still turn you on

"Fine," I finally say flatly. I don't ask why. That would be pointless. He'd only give me some facile lie. He won't reveal so much of his thoughts, his feelings, the rules of his private game.

And oh yes, folks, Duo Maxwell is a liar. They always claim to be honest. And the best ones... like Duo... really believe they are. He can lie with ever fiber of his being. With his body. With his eyes. He made me believe he cared.

He nods once, sharply, an uncharacteristic motion that betrays his anger. Why is he angry? I have no idea. It may even be just another act, just another layer of protective coloring, of camouflage.

He stalks past me and slams the door so hard the frame cracks slightly.

Or maybe he really is angry about something.

Not that it should matter to me anymore.

You've grown colder now
Torn apart, angry, turned around

I've taken two steps away from the door when it is suddenly flung open again and he stands in the portal, glaring at me, furious. For a moment, I am frightened. He is more dangerous than he looks, especially when he is angry like this.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" I demand, baiting the tiger crouched before me. I expect him to attack at any moment, but something in my voice stops him, throws him off balance. He blinks at me, the anger draining away in a second, and he nearly sways on his feet as its power deserts him.

Will that whole mad season knock you down?

He continues to just stand there, staring at me, looking dazed and confused. I hover between anger of my own, and a desperate desire to reach out and pull him against me, to try to tie him to me, keep him here...

I don't want to be alone. I don't want him to leave.

I don't want him to leave me.

"Are you coming in or not?" I finally ask, my voice a little shaky.

So are you gonna stand there
Or are you gonna help me out?

He makes a small sound, almost like a groan, but the next thing I know he's wrapped around me, knocking me to the floor and practically ripping off the faded jeans, which are the only clothing I have on. I return the favor, popping buttons off his shirt with careless abandon in my haste to get my mouth and hands on his skin.

There is silent desperation underlying our passion. I think he was as afraid of leaving as I was of watching him go. Neither of us suggests getting up and moving to the bedroom. We need each other, right here and now, for whatever reasons we both have.

We need to be together now

When it's over, we lay together in a tangled pile of sweaty limbs, gasping after breath and control. I curl my longer body around his, holding him tightly in my arms, and I finally admit the truth.

"Duo... I need you. I... I think I could love you, if you'd let me. Please don't go."

I need you now

I hold my breath, waiting for a reply. He has gone still and silent in my arms, maybe a little tense.

Do you think you can cope?

Finally he turns his head to look into my eyes. His are dark and opaque. He smiles softly at me. "Trowa," he murmurs, making my name into a caress, "I know you do. I understand."

You figured me out ­ that I'm lost and I'm hopeless

Then he sighs and looks away. "But I have to go now," he concludes quietly, firmly, ripping my vulnerable heart to shreds.

I should have known better. I should have been prepared.

He pulls away from my body and dresses quickly. I watch silently, dazed by his words.

I'm bleeding and broken ­ though I've never spoken

He pauses in the doorway again, but this time only frowns down at me mournfully. "I'm sorry," he says quietly.

Then he leaves, closing the door gently behind him.

I curl on my side and stay in that spot until I begin to shiver with the cold.

I come undone ­ in this mad season

One month later and I am disgusted to find myself crying silently in my bed.

I have never been the type to get emotional. Well, that's not entirely true, I suppose. I can be just as emotional as the next person, but I learned young not to let those emotions show. Not to display my vulnerability. But hell, I've broken so many of my personal rules lately, why not a few more?

Would this make you happy, Duo? Would you be pleased to know I still cry over you when I'm alone in my bed at night? Would you feel triumph, to have cracked the shell of the stoic and reserved Trowa Barton?

Was that what it was all about in the first place?

And now I'm crying ­ isn't that what you want?

I wonder obsessively now what your game really was, you know. It keeps me up at night, and I alternate between mourning your absence and cursing your manipulations. You did this to me. You pushed and prodded until you had your way, until you got me to open myself up to you, then you drove the knife in deep and walked away without another word.

And I still fucking miss you, you bastard.

If you turned up at my door right now, I'd let you right back in.

Because I hate this. I hate being alone. I used to like it. Now it's horrible. I've tried, but I just can't seem to get used to it again.

To living without you.

And I'm trying to live my life on my own

Before I even realize I've gotten up, I find myself dressed and in my car, driving a little too fast through the late night streets to Heero and Duo's apartment.

I have no idea what I plan to do or say once I get there. I should just turn around and go home, leave them to be happy together.

Instead I park on the street and march up the stairs.

But I won't, no

Heero answers my knock after only a minute and a half, looking grumpy and sleep-mussed. His hair is even messier than usual, and his blue eyes are a bit unfocused as he blinks at me in surprise, slowly clicking the safety back on his gun and laying it down on a table beside the door.

"What do you want at this hour?" he asks irritably.

"I want to see Duo," I inform him flatly.

Damn. I didn't think I'd really have the balls to say that to his face.

At times ­ I do believe I am strong

He blinks at me some more, then repeats slowly, "Duo." I nod in acknowledgment. He frowns. "Duo moved out of here about a month ago."

So someone tell me -

Now it's my turn to blink. "You mean he broke up with you, too?" I demand incredulously.

Heero's expression twists in baffled annoyance. "Broke up with me? We were never together. We just shared the apartment," he explains.

Why, why, why...

I just stare at him in confusion. His expression twists into a frown. "Wait, are you saying he dumped you? I thought he was leaving to move in with you... after all the time he spent chasing you, why would he just... " he shakes his head in disbelief. "Maxwell no baka," he mutters, his voice irritated but betraying a familiar fondness that I had always mistaken for something deeper.

Do I, I, I...

"You were never... together," I repeat numbly. Heero shakes his head.

He never said they were, really. He never gave me details. He told me stories... stories that could be easily misinterpreted. Especially if someone were looking for certain nuances.

The best liars aren't the ones who believe they're telling the truth. They're the ones who figure out what you believe and give you just enough evidence to support your own theories.

... Feel stupid?

"Well... sorry to wake you up," I mutter distractedly, turning to leave.

"Trowa... why isn't he with you?" Heero demands from behind me, leaning out the door in nothing but his boxers.

I just shrug. I don't have an answer. I never knew why he left. I was coming here to ask. But he isn't here anymore. He's gone.

And I come undone

He left me, and he's gone. No reason, no explanation. According to Heero, he wanted me from the start. So... what did I do wrong? How did I mess it up? What did I do to make him not want me anymore? To make him run away like this?

I don't know. I sit in my car for hours, but no answers come to me.

I come undone

Another month without him, most of this one spent wondering what I did wrong. I still cry in the night, sometimes, but now it's more out of guilt over the knowledge that whatever went wrong was my doing. He didn't maliciously string me along and then drop me to return to his relationship with Heero. He never had a relationship with Heero in the first place.

It was all a scam. All a con, a game, just like I always thought.

But not for amusement. Not to make Heero jealous.

He wanted me.

Why? And why did he stop wanting me?

I need you now ­ do you think you can cope?

Was I too needy? Too demanding? I always let him come and go as he pleased, I never tried to weasel any promises or declarations out of him. I never gave him any ultimatums.

Maybe he thought I didn't care? I was too blasé?

But no, I know that's not true. I know he understood... my fears, my needs... my feelings. He understood me. I'm still sure of that.

You figured me out - that I'm lost and I'm hopeless

Maybe that was it? Maybe understanding me... really getting to know me, was too much? Maybe he didn't like what he found? Quatre didn't. Quatre couldn't deal with my problems, my moods, my shadows...

Maybe Duo didn't want that burden either.

I'm bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken ­

It's not fair. He knew enough of what he was getting into that if he couldn't deal with it, he never should have started digging. Never should have tried to get under my skin. He's more jaded and experienced than the others seem to realize. He knew enough to make guesses.

Damn you, Duo, why did you leave? Why did you let me start to need you and then just...

Well I need you now ­ do you think you can cope?

"I know you do. I understand."

Then why? Why do this to me? If you really understood, you knew how much this would hurt. And if you didn't, why did you say you did? You're not a liar, no matter what I wanted to believe of you. You're a thief and a con artist, and a self-centered, ruthless bastard, but... you're not a liar.

I needed you. I could have... I did love you.

I do love you.

You figured me out ­ I'm a child and I'm hopeless

But you're not a liar.

Is it that simple?

This hurts so bad.

I'm bleeding and broken - though I've never spoken

You're not a liar. So you couldn't say you loved me.

I'm sitting on my couch, where you used to sleep sometimes when you got too "frustrated" with Heero to stay with him. When you had a fight with him. When you just needed to get away.

When you wanted to be with me. Because I didn't make too many demands. I didn't try to tie you down.

I'm crying again, but that's okay, I guess. There's no one here to see.

Because you're not a liar.

I come, oh I come undone

Sooner or later, I know, I'll get myself together. I'll push this all to the back of my mind and force myself not to think about it anymore.

I'm good at that.

Maybe, when I've forgotten, somehow he'll know, and he'll come back, and we can be friends again.

In this mad season

There's a knock on the door and I wipe my face a bit before getting up to answer it.

I open the door on hesitant violet eyes.

And somehow, I'm not really surprised.

In this mad season

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

It's been a mad season

"... Eh. Why the hell not?"

It's been a mad season

~ end

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