fic by Aoe
song ("With You") by Linkin Park

italics = lyrics
// blah // = thoughts

With You

The smell of coffee and frying eggs wakes me up slowly. A pale shaft of early morning sunlight is drifting in through the curtains, and my alarm clock informs me it's only 6:18. I still have a good twenty minutes to just lay in bed if I want, but the coffee is calling to me, and the sound of Duo singing softly to himself in the kitchen is soothing and familiar, much more pleasant to wake up to than the jarring alarm.

I think to myself that I will definitely remember to thank him for getting up early to make me breakfast today. I always mean to, but I usually forget. For some reason, it seems very important to me to remember today.

He's still singing, but I can't make out the words. It's beginning to bug me. I want to know what the song is, but there's some kind of soft buzzing interfering with the mellow sound of his voice.

I decide that I'll be able to hear him better from the shower, and so I swing my legs over the side of the bed into the brightening sunlight --

And the shock of my feet hitting the cold, shadowed floor snaps me out of the dream.

The buzzing noise is louder now that I'm awake, and proves itself to be the television, which I guess I finally fell asleep watching. Apparently this channel doesn't have an annoying morning show. Blinking in the darkness, I squint at the glowing red numbers of my alarm clock.

5:37 a.m.


I don't need to be up for an hour, but the chill running up my spine from my bare feet, the unaccustomed feeling of solitude in the darkened bedroom, the coldness of the sheets in the bed I'm sharing only with myself... All of these things make me doubt I'll be getting any more rest. Annoyed with myself, I turn off the TV and my alarm.

I woke up in a dream today
To the cold of the static
And put my cold feet on the floor

For a minute, I actually wonder why the bed is cold and empty, wonder if Duo wandered downstairs and fell asleep on the couch, as he sometimes will if he has bad dreams.

The alarm clock flickers to 5:38, and I remember.

Last week. Dinner with the guys, same as always. Duo cooking for all of us, same as always. Me being a little pissy, because I had a shitty day at work, same as always.

Why do I always take it out on him? He's the best thing in my life, and I always dump all my frustration and anger on him, just because he'll smile and take it...

Why didn't it ever occur to me that there might be a limit to how much of my misplaced obnoxiousness he'd take?

I push the thought aside, just like I have all week, just like I always have...and there's another thought I can't let myself think.

I'm doing my best to act like nothing has changed. Like everything is the same as it always was.

I think I'm hoping that if I pretend long enough that everything is all right, it somehow will be again.

Forgot all about yesterday
Remembering I'm pretending
To be where I'm not anymore

I flick on the light and glare at myself in the mirror over the immaculate dresser.

Pretending isn't going to help anything, especially since Duo isn't choosing to go along with my little fantasy anymore. He's tired of playing house with me, tired of putting up with my stupid crap all the time...

I can't really blame him.

Maybe a week is my time limit for self-delusion, but for some reason I can't drive the memories of that night out of my head this morning like I have for the past several days.

I can't blame him at all. It's my fault.

All he tried to do was make me happy. Be what I wanted. It's not his fault that I couldn't figure out what I wanted, that I took out my own frustrations on him, that I pushed him in too many different directions all at once...

It's really amazing he put up with it, with me, for as long as he did.

He was right. He was completely right. When I was pissy about my job, I'd bitch at him because he didn't have one. Whenever he'd talk about working, I'd get jealous at the idea of not having my own personal Duo at my beck and call and bitch about him not wanting to be with me.

I was an asshole.

And... it's been a fucking week. And I haven't even apologized, because I haven't even let myself think about it until now...

It's 5:42, a week after my life disintegrated in the middle of a damn dinner party, and now I find myself with lacerated knuckles from shattering the bedroom mirror with my fist?

My reaction time has gone downhill fast since I took this desk job.

A little taste of hypocrisy
And I'm left in the wake
Of the mistake, slow to react

I can't deal with the mirror right now. I go to the bathroom and wash my bleeding hand, opening the medicine cabinet to look for a roll of gauze with my undamaged hand.

It's neat and orderly in there. I don't have to look hard at all.

Why is it, now that it's far too late, I can see these little signs that something was wrong all along?

Our medicine cabinet is neat and orderly. We have decorative hand towels on the rack next to the sink. Everything in this house is meticulous and precise and even downright demure.

It is so completely not Duo.

How long has he been trying so hard to be someone else? How long did he let me push him into being something he's not because it was what he thought I wanted?

Was it what I wanted?

I stare at the decorative hand towels for a moment. They have little blue butterflies on them.

I never wanted little blue butterflies. I wanted Shinigami.

Why didn't he know that?

Why didn't I tell him?

I walk slowly back to the bedroom, wrapping gauze around my hand as I go and looking around as if for the first time. The hallway is painted a pale blue, with small, tasteful framed prints of impressionist reproductions spaced evenly along its length.

Duo picked out every picture, and hung them all himself. Duo picked out the paint, and painted the walls. I am surrounded by two years' worth of Duo's work, time and effort here. Duo shaped every inch of this house, every detail was carefully selected by him.

And there is absolutely nothing of the Duo Maxwell I fell in love with in any of those thousand little touches.

Even though you're so close to me
You're still so distant
And I can't bring you back

Back in the bedroom, I throw myself down on the rumpled sheets again, not caring how much time is passing. I got up plenty early, and if I'm late to work, who cares? They can fire me. It doesn't matter now. The life I thought I was building, the whole reason I ever bothered to get a real job, just fell out from under me anyway.

I stare at a picture on his nightstand. He didn't take much with him when he left, and he hasn't come back for more of his belongings yet, even though we all know he's living just across town.

I wish he'd taken the picture. It hurts badly that he didn't, because the picture is not from now, it's from then. Back during the first war. Back when I first fell for him, even if I never told him until much, much later. But we were friends, then.

Are we not even that much now?

I stare at his smiling face. Even though it's just a piece of paper, I imagine I can see his eyes sparkling, alive and full of mischief and wickedness and promise...

Maybe it's just the glossy finish.

Or... maybe it's just all the time I used to spend, staring at his face, trying to look into his eyes without him noticing my stare. I know every curve, every angle... every eyelash. I know that his nose is just slightly crooked, from being broken a long time ago. No one else ever noticed that, but I did. I know he has a nasty scar that starts just below his hairline above his left eye and runs up onto his scalp for a good three inches. His bangs cover it unless you get to run your hands through his hair.

But even before I knew all those intimate little details, long before I engraved his face, his body, his laugh, his voice, into my mind... I knew I would fall for him. I knew the moment I saw him, even though he was shooting at me at the time.

I remember, looking up into his shadowed face with that devilish grin and flashing eyes, and thinking, // This guy is going to break my heart. //

// But I'll never forget him. //

It's true the way I feel
Was promised by your face
The sound of your voice
Painted on my memories
Even if you're not with me
I'm with you

// I'll never forget him. //

Good one, Yuy. Not much of a prophet, am I? I've spent the last two years, not only forgetting Duo, but actively encouraging him to cease to exist.

I never wanted him to change. Why did I act like I did? Why did I tell him I did?

Why the hell did he go along with it for so long?

All right, Yuy, don't act like you don't know.

He loved me.

Stupid, insecure, thoughtless bastard that I was, and am, he loved me. He wanted to make me happy. And I made him believe that to make me happy, he had to turn himself into someone completely different from the person I fell in love with in the first place.

I don't know which of us was stupider, me for making him think that, or him for actually trying to do it, but I know the result.

Duo Maxwell doesn't lie. He could only fool himself for so long. Sooner or later, all the emotions, the desires, the life he was suppressing, to try and fit into the role I pushed on him, just had to come bursting out.

You -- now I see -- keeping everything inside

He had to get free. And now that he's stopped trying to be everything I told him I wanted...

Now he is everything I want. Just like he always was.

With you

My fist clenches unconsciously, and it hurts. I shut my eyes against the momentary pain, but the picture of Duo, young and proud and wild, is etched into my brain anyway. I can still see him, laughing at me, from a million years and miles away.

You -- now I see -- even when I close my eyes

A little melodrama there. He's only a week and 3.4 miles away. Why do I know the distance from our house to his? Because I am obsessive.

I roll onto my back and reflect on the few visits I've paid him in his new place. Trying to convince him to come back and take some more of my shit.

Our... conversations haven't been pretty. It's like now that he finally told me off, the floodgates have opened. Most of our conversations have ended with him cussing me out for stuff I did months ago, or don't even remember. He's got a mental list of grievances a mile long, and I think he's determined to air them all.

Not that I've been overly conciliatory. I've never dealt well with criticism, at least not when I haven't already concluded I'm in the wrong, and I only just admitted that to myself this morning. So I've given nearly as good as I've gotten this past week.

Nearly. Duo when he's truly pissed is way better at verbal aggression than I am. Some of his remarks have even penetrated my shield of idiocy far enough to knock the wind out of me.

And whoever 'wins,' somehow I feel so drained after we've fought. Years of tension are working their way free in just days, and it just knocks me off my feet.

I hit you and you hit me back
We fall to the floor
The rest of the day stands still

Duo has always been passionate. It was one of the first things I came to love about him.

That passion extends to everything he does. Fighting with him is just as exhausting as having sex with him, though nowhere near as enjoyable.

Yet, in a strange way, the rush of adrenaline is very similar.

Some of our best moments were before we ever acknowledged the mutual attraction between us. When he would tease me and I would strain the limits of my self-control pretending to ignore him, or when I'd deadpan double entendres and leave him guessing if I meant what it sounded like... That element of challenge, almost aggression, was the spark between us, that would not be smothered under any amount of rational thinking or self-restraint or denial.

And that spark is still there, despite how hard I tried over the past two years to drown every bit of fire and life in him. That spark still unites us, still flares to fiery life whenever we're in the same room. It's just that now, that heat comes from anger instead of desire.

It's just as hot. And sometimes I can almost convince myself that we're back at the beginning, and one day all that rage will turn to a different kind of passion...

A fine line between this and that
When things go wrong
I pretend that the past isn't real

But of course that isn't going to happen. That's not even a remote possibility, after the way I treated him.

I had something so wonderful, and I twisted it and abused it, until I finally destroyed it.

I look at the clock again. Only 5:49. I still don't even need to be awake, but I'm not even tired now. I half wonder if I'll ever sleep again, with these thoughts spinning in my head.

Everything was so perfect, once. And now... I don't even know how things could have gotten so twisted around. Did I really do this to us?

It's too late now, I can see that. There's no way... I've let a week go by, and I've continued to be a total jerk... he wouldn't even believe an apology now.

I've been so determinedly living in the past that I've screwed any chance I had at a future.

I'm trapped in this memory
And I'm left in the wake
Of the mistake, slow to react

How can I live without him? He's my heart, my soul... I never told him, but shouldn't he have known? Shouldn't he have been able to tell?

Yeah, that's right, how dare he not be a telepath? It's all his fault!

I roll onto my stomach, pressing my face into the pillow. His pillow. He didn't even take his fucking pillow --

God, it still smells like him. His shampoo, and a trace of aftershave and a little sweat... I breathe it in and it almost feels like he must be lying here next to me, just out of reach. So close...

I want to touch him, so I wrap my arms around myself and hold tight, because if there's anything of Duo Maxwell inside this stupid showroom of a house, it's inside of me, the only thing here he ever really touched.

So even though you're close to me
You're still so distant
And I can't bring you back

I can see him so clearly in my mind, smiling, frowning, laughing, screaming... His face was never still. He was never still. Sometimes it was like there were really three or four people living inside of him, and they all wanted to go in different directions all the time...

But he could be calm, too. If he wanted. The first time I noticed he was being quiet for me, just to be with me, I found myself staring at him in amazement, unable to look away.

He gave me this nervous little smile and kept glancing at me then away, quick flickerings of his eyes, and he muttered, "What?"

That was when I realized he had to love me back. Because Duo Maxwell was never nervous about anything.

I can see it so clearly... I want that moment back. I want to see him look at me, then away, and hear that note of diffident annoyance in his voice, and understand for the first time that I'm not alone anymore, that I never will be again...

Even though he's not here in body anymore, he will always be here.

It's true the way I feel
Was promised by your face
The sound of your voice
Painted on my memories
Even if you're not with me
I'm with you

The memory melts away, replaced by a confused collage of later events. All the mistakes I made, carefully catalogued by my anal subconscious for regretful perusal. Looking back now, it's so clear. I can see it all. I can see him withdrawing more and more, becoming less and less himself, and turning into this cardboard cutout candidate for Wife of the Year.

I can see myself gouging away at him, more and more frustrated by the direction my life was taking, unhappy and wanting to share it. Wanting him to feel how miserable it was to try and fit into a niche you were never designed for.

I can see the pressure building behind his eyes, a million little warnings I never noticed.

You -- now I see -- keeping everything inside

Stupid. Stupid and blind.

He was all I ever wanted. Why did I try to change him?

With you

I try to drive the haunting memories away, but they won't leave me alone. His face flashes behind my eyelids, growing ever colder and more detached. The warm smile becomes fake and plastic, and I wonder how I missed that change. I loved his smile. It made me feel alive.

And I killed it.

You -- now I see -- even when I close my eyes

It's almost enough to make me want to cry.

Hell, it is enough -- but I can't. I just don't have it in me. Not even for something as painful as the realization that I've lost Duo.

With you

Idiots, the both of us. Neither one of us can or will cry, no matter how bad we're hurting.

So how is anyone else supposed to know we're in pain?

You -- now I see -- keeping everything inside

If I'd known... if I'd only realized sooner...

With you

He stares reproachfully from my memories. Accusingly.

// You wouldn't have done shit, Yuy, even if you knew. You can't ever admit when you're wrong. //

No, Duo... I think, if I'd known the price, I would have done anything I could to change how things have turned out between us.

You -- now I see -- even when I close my eyes

In my head, he seems to consider this. He seems willing to listen to me.

I imagine... apologizing.

I'm sorry. I was stupid. I asked you to be someone you're not, and that was doubly idiotic of me, because you already were exactly who I wanted.

Please. One more chance.

No, no matter how far we've come
I can't wait to see tomorrow

In my mind... he agrees.

No matter how far we've come, I
I can't wait to see tomorrow
With you

I look over at the alarm clock.


I must have fallen back to sleep. I am way late to work.

Fuck it. They can fire me. I don't care. The only thing that really matters...

Is still gone.

Maybe... maybe I should actually try this apology idea in reality.

You -- now I see -- keeping everything inside
With you

I step out of the house into a drizzly rain, but I don't care. The car won't start, so I walk. It's only 3.4 miles. I've walked farther for less reason.

He fills my thoughts with every step I take.

You -- now I see -- even when I close my eyes
With you

I'm standing in front of his new house before I know it, having zoned out during my walk. I stare up at the narrow front of the townhouse.

There's a light on in the kitchen.

All I have to do is knock on the door.

And open up my soul to him.

And hope he's willing to do the same.

You -- now I see -- keeping everything inside
With you

Will this work? Will he give me another chance?

I don't know.

But I can't even contemplate failure. I can't afford to even acknowledge the possibility.

I look at my watch, brushing away raindrops.

It's 8:19 a.m.

And my future is on the other side of that door.

You -- now I see -- even when I close my eyes

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