by Aoe

Stuck With You... + Part 11

12/23/204

Two more days until Christmas.

December has gone by so fast! I can't believe it's already the 23rd. All the lucky bastards here at Preventer Central are gone on their vacations. You have to put in your request on the first of January to get Christmas off, and then you have to hope, pray, beg, and sacrifice a chicken to the Gods of Scheduling.

We never put in for vacation. It's not like we have families we need to spend time with. Well, Quatre does, but when your family is as big as Quatre's, and includes so many older sisters who'd just love to see you settled down with a nice girl, you're more likely to be looking for excuses not to spend too much time with them. For the rest of us, we just kick back at work, not doing much. Sometimes there is some kind of emergency at Christmas, but not usually. The wars left that much of an impression on people, at least. They tend to leave Christmas alone.

So, here I am, sitting at my desk, doing my damndest not to think about last night. It's a popular activity today. Duo's been engaging in it since he woke up, and Heero seems to have taken it a step further and is pretending today isn't even happening. He's been hiding behind his computer all day, looking very industrious. Anyone foolish enough to wander up with the apparent intention of teasing him about his new singing career has been glared into retreat.

Well, except Wufei. He wandered in to work a half hour late today, looking profoundly pleased with himself, and immediately walked over to Heero's desk. He leaned over it, gave his best smarmy grin, and informed Heero "confidentially" that he knew a few people in the recording industry who might want to meet with him. Because it's not every man who can properly evoke that, I believe the phrase was, "mooncalf adolescent girl mood."

Sometimes I really wonder how Wufei has lived this long. Probably because he can run very fast. He passed my desk at about mach five, grinning like a madman.

He is absolutely intolerable when he's gotten laid.

Or maybe I'm just bitter.

So, aside from Wufei, everybody seems to be ignoring last night completely... except for one thing.

Quatre quite clearly remembers me agreeing to TALK with him. Although he claims he doesn't remember weeping over Heero's karaoke debut.

Whatever.

Young Ken seems a bit disenchanted with Master Quatre today. Poor kid. I bet he got an earful last night, from the dirty looks he's been throwing me. He doesn't look as angry as he once would have been, though. It's really almost like it's just a reflex reaction. Maybe he's finally wising up.

Like I'm one to talk about wising up.

So what the hell went wrong last night? I've been trying not to think about it, trying to just dismiss it as Duo being worked up over Heero, but...

He kissed me back. I know he did, I was there. So why the sudden coy act? Duo's many things, but "coy" has never been one of them.

Maybe I just jumped the gun a little. I mean, I KNOW he still has Heero issues. It's not like he's going anywhere, I have plenty of time to wait until he's ready...

Except that we keep getting these paychecks. And sooner or later, he'll save up enough money for a deposit on his own place, and... I don't want him to leave. I don't want to be alone again.

I mean, it's not like he's said anything about leaving. And after our conversation last night, maybe it's completely irrational of me to be afraid he will. He doesn't want to be alone. No, he CAN'T be alone. He can't stand that. So why would he move out to his own place, when I'm perfectly content to let him stay with me?

Unless I freaked him out with my advances...

No! Damn it, HE KISSED ME BACK!

We've got to be getting our signals crossed somewhere. I'm not with Quatre, and he's not with Heero, and neither of us wants to be alone, and we like spending time with each other... It just seems so obvious to me. Which I guess is why I can't figure out what's keeping him from seeing things like I

"Earth to Trowa... "

Trowa jumped in his chair and immediately closed his word file at the sound of Duo's voice beside him. He spun his chair around to blink in surprise at the shorter man.

Duo smiled back quizzically. "Whatcha working on so diligently, Tro? You didn't even hear me walk up and say hi!"

"I... uh... nothing," Trowa managed finally. He shook his head to dislodge his shock at allowing someone, even Duo, who was very good at it, to sneak up on him, and managed a smile of his own. "What can I do for you?" he asked.

Duo blushed, looking suddenly sheepish as he dropped his eyes to Trowa's desk. "Um... well... I was thinking about last night," he began hesitantly

"What about last night?" Trowa asked, impressed at how calm his own voice sounded.

Duo glanced quickly up at him, then away again. "Well, I was thinking... that I never got around to telling you what I promised Heero," he explained in a rush.

Trowa frowned. He didn't want to hear anything about Heero in relation to last night. And for Duo to have promised the Japanese man something... "What promise?" Trowa asked warily.

Duo bit his lip a moment, then ran a hand through his short hair and muttered, "Well, he was really upset by the time I got him back to his place, and then he was... sick, and... I felt bad, and I asked him why he was so freaked, and... " Duo paused and heaved a heavy sigh. "The thing is... that stupid party of Relena's is tonight. You know, the one she gives every year? And she always invites Heero... and I always go with him. I guess it occurred to him that I probably hadn't planned on accompanying him this year, and he just... totally lost it. And I can understand why. I mean, even when we were together, she was still on him like white on rice all night... He can't refuse to go, because a lot of our funding comes from the guests, and they like to have their little yearly chat with "the hero of the Gundam wars", so... " Duo shrugged helplessly.

Trowa frowned at him. "So you promised him... ?" he prompted.

"I... kind of said... I'd go with him," Duo admitted, blushing slightly.

"Okay," Trowa said flatly. "Let me see if I have this straight. You're going to a formal Christmas Party tonight, as the date of the man you were just last night telling me you don't want to get back together with."

Duo nodded wordlessly.

"The guy you're afraid you will go back to, just to be with somebody. This is the guy you're going to spend the evening defending from the advances of the very pushy woman who wants him to father her children," Trowa clarified.

"Uh... yeah," Duo agreed, sounding abashed.

"Sounds like fun," Trowa muttered.

Duo gave him a pleading look. "C'mon, Tro, don't be an ass about it... You're the one that told me I shouldn't waste time avoiding him cuz he's still my friend... "

"And you're the one that told me you had to avoid him so he would get the message that the two of you aren't a couple anymore. I'm just wondering how going on a date with him will help make that clear," Trowa wondered thoughtfully.

Duo sighed, shoulders slumping as he rolled his eyes. "Trowa," he whined, "it doesn't mean anything, it's just "

"Duo, can I ask you something?" Trowa interrupted, frowning slightly as an odd thought occurred to him.

"Sure, what?" Duo asked, apparently glad to let go of the previous topic.

"Why do you care about my reaction to this?" Trowa asked curiously. "I mean, it's not like we had plans or anything. Why are you trying to justify it to me?"

Duo frowned. "Well, I mean... after last night... uh, the stuff I said last night, I mean... I just thought you deserved an explanation. I mean, if you don't care "

"I care, I care," Trowa interjected, quick to nip that thought in the bud. "I'm just wondering... if you do."

"Huh?" Duo asked blankly.

Trowa sighed. "Maybe a better question would be... do you want me to care? Do you want it to bother me that you are, for all intents and purposes, going on a date with Heero?"

Duo frowned again. "No, I don't want it to bother it you, because it's not a date," he said firmly. "I just want to completely emphasize that very important point, here. It's not a date."

"Okay," Trowa agreed. "So that's what you wanted to tell me. You agreed to spend the evening with Heero because he's your friend and you felt bad for him, but it's not a date."

"Right," Duo said, sounding relieved. "I just wanted to make sure you knew that in no way was there anything romantic, sexual, or really even remotely interesting involved in me going to this party with Heero."

"Okay," Trowa said, nodding in acceptance. Then he grinned slightly. Duo looked nervous. "Now, back to my other question. Do you want me to care?"

"A-about what?" Duo stuttered, licking his lips.

Trowa's grin transformed into a small smirk. "Do you want me to care that you're spending time with Heero, whether or not your intentions are only friendly?"

Duo stared at him a moment, then asked quietly, "Well... do you care?"

Trowa stared back at him, dark green eyes studying the American closely. "Yes," he admitted calmly. "Yes, I care. I'd rather you stayed home with me. But I understand why you need to go with him. So I'm not upset."

"Oh," Duo said, smiling a bit uncertainly. "Well... good. Cuz I didn't want you to be... you know... upset. I just wanted to let you know where I'd be. Cuz that other time you were worried and I... didn't want to worry you," he concluded, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

"Okay. I won't worry," Trowa told him.

"Great," Duo said brightly. They stared at each other a moment, Duo wearing a slightly sickly grin, Trowa smiling placidly.

Wufei wandered past, paused, looked back and forth between the two of them, and frowned. "Oh, for the gods' sakes," he snapped, "just get on with it." Then he stomped off, muttering to himself.

Duo looked after him with a frown, then shrugged and turned back to Trowa. "Well, anyway, I gotta go home and get dressed now," he declared. "Gotta dig out the monkey suit and hope it still fits. So... I'll see you... I, uh... probably won't be back until pretty late. And if the weather's bad, I might sleep on Heero's couch," he added.

"Okay. Just give me a call if it gets real late," Trowa requested.

"Sure!" Duo promised brightly. "See you later!" And with a little wave, he left.

Trowa leaned back in his chair with a frown. Now this was an interesting development. He wasn't thrilled to discover Duo was going to spend the evening at a party as Heero's date, but... Duo certainly had been nervous about telling him his plans. And very concerned about his reaction.

Trowa's frown twisted slowly into a smile.

"Trowa?"

The smile disappeared, replaced by a blank expression with just a hint of weariness as Trowa looked at the new arrival. "Hi, Quatre. What can I do for you?" he asked, striving for graciousness.

Quatre bit his lip, looking shy and uncertain. People who hadn't known him as a child often found that look bizarre on the tall, heavily muscled man he'd grown into.

"Um, well, I couldn't help overhearing that Duo's going to be out tonight. So, I thought, maybe we could... get together? And have that... talk?" he suggested hesitantly.

Trowa steepled his fingers in front of his face and regarded Quatre thoughtfully, inwardly amused by how diffident everyone was acting around him today.

He would have liked a little more time to work himself up for this chat with Quatre, but he supposed it would be nice to finally set things straight between them, in time for Christmas. And with Duo gone, he'd have nothing to do all night except sit around and wait for the American to return...

And speculate on what Duo and Heero were actually doing, alone together...

Maybe some distracting company would be a good idea.

"All right," he agreed. Quatre smiled brightly at him, obviously surprised at his quick agreement.

"Wonderful! So... I'll come over around six, then? We can have dinner," Quatre suggested. "Ill bring take out."

"Sounds good," Trowa said, glad Quatre was willing to meet at his place. It was good to have the home field advantage. Even if it was probably only because Quatre's apartment was too messy for company. The Arabian just was not the world's greatest housekeeper. Too many years of servants. And too much stuff. Duo had a lot of stuff, but he kept it all surprisingly neat and organized. Quatre, never having known what it was like to own nothing but the shirt on his back, tended to be careless with his possessions.

"Okay, so... I'll see you tonight!" Quatre said, sounding pleased with the arrangement. Giving Trowa a nod, he returned to his own desk.

Trowa leaned back in his chair and wondered if anyone else was going to come over and run their plans for the evening by him.

Well, that was an interesting few minutes of conversation.

So, Duo's going to Relena's party with Heero. That should be an interesting evening for all involved. But maybe it's a good thing, maybe this will give the two of them the time to come to terms with each other, to learn, at least a little bit, how to relate now that they're not a couple.

What's that colorful phrase of Duo's?

"Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt."

Well, hopefully it at least won't be an unmitigated disaster.

My evening with Quatre, on the other hand...

Okay, if I'm expecting Duo to be mature, I guess I have to be also. It won't be so bad. I mean, we already went through the worst when we broke up, right? I mean, how hard can it be to sit around for an evening, listening to him tell me why I want to get back together with him?

That's what it will be, I'm sure. After what both Ken and Duo have told me, and then the way he acted last night, I guess I have to accept that for some reason, Quatre isn't over me. But being himself, he will have to twist that around and turn it into me subconsciously wanting us to get back together. Then he'll explain to me why he thinks it might not be a terrible idea, and how he has graciously decided to give me another chance. Oh, well. I'm used to him by now, I guess. You just have to be gentle but firm with Quatre. You can't get defensive or argumentative with him, or he takes it as a challenge, and he can be tenacious as all hell.

So all I have to do is sit and listen and then very kindly let him know that he's somehow misinterpreted my subconscious desires, and although I appreciate his concern for me, I feel I'm okay on my own.

This really would have frosted my ass a couple of weeks ago.

Now, though, I feel kind of sorry for him. Now that he's the one who can't let go and move on. And I mean, I was bitter, but at least I wasn't pining.

Okay, so maybe he isn't pining, but... it is nice to know you're wanted.

So I can be gracious, and let him keep his dignity, because he's my friend. And I do love him, in a way. It just isn't... the way I love Duo.

I love Duo.

I'm still getting used to that idea.

Maybe neither of us was quite ready for more than a kiss last night. Maybe Duo's smarter than I give him credit for. Maybe it would have been about Heero, or Quatre, or whatever... I want it to be just about us.

Wouldn't that be great?

[cont]