Stuck With You... + Part 12 (cont)

And he turned and smiled hesitantly at Trowa, grabbing the taller man's hand as he walked out the door. Trowa had no choice but to follow, closing the door as Heero turned his back and walked off into his apartment.

What a bizarre evening this has been. And I have a feeling it's not over yet.

Duo is hiding in the bathroom again. He claims he just wants to take a bath, but I know he's sitting in there trying to figure out everything that happened in the past twenty-four hours. That's okay. I'm sitting on my bed, typing on my laptop, trying to do the same thing.

I can't believe Heero read my journal! If anyone so much as looks at his computer for too long he pulls a gun on them, but apparently it's perfectly all right for him to hack into other people's private accounts...

Anyway, I'm feeling a little guilty, because as I recall, there's some rather unflattering observations on Heero in my journal. I hope he didn't get his little feelings hurt while he was FLAGRANTLY INVADING MY PRIVACY!

Well, actually, I do hope he wasn't hurt. He seems to have taken what I wrote to heart, considering what he did tonight, so I hope he doesn't think I don't like him or something. I mean, he can be a jerk, but... he's one of us. And where would any of us be without each other?

So Duo came home with me. There's a lot left unsaid between us still, but... he came home with me. I already know how I feel. The big question is, was Heero right about Duo's feelings? Or was Duo just too stunned at his presumption to say anything?

But then why come home with me?

How long does it take him to take a bath anyway?

Ah, I hear the door opening now.

Once more into the breach.

Trowa shut his laptop and set it on the floor as Duo entered the bedroom. Dressed only in a towel tucked around his hips, the American leaned against the doorframe, smiling almost shyly.

Trowa smiled back and took the offered opportunity to enjoy the view.

He'd seen Duo mostly unclothed many times before, but this was the first time he'd really been in a frame of mind to fully appreciate the experience.

Like his hands, Duo's shoulders were a bit oversized for his frame, just a shade too broad for his height. Their breadth had been less noticeable before, when he hadn't been as muscular. Duo had always been wiry and tough, and he hadn't really gotten much beefier. He just looked a bit older now, more filled out. Drops of water trickled down his tapered torso from his hair, which was wet. He'd slicked his long bangs back, for once completely baring his face and forehead. It made his eyes look bigger and paler. Or maybe they changed color with his mood. Trowa hadn't spent enough time staring into them yet to be sure.

"So," Duo said slowly, "what now?"

Trowa raised an eyebrow at him.

Duo shoved a hand into his hair, scratching his scalp. "Well, I mean, here we are... and I thought maybe... I mean, do you wanna?" he rambled.

Trowa decided to be obtuse. "Want to what?" he asked.

Duo gave him an incredulous look. "Jeez, Tro, I'm not dressed to go clubbing here," he declared, waving a hand at his towel-wrapped body.

"I should hope not," Trowa drawled, giving Duo an obvious perusal with his eyes. Amusingly enough, Duo blushed from the chest up. "Come here," Trowa said, lifting a hand in invitation.

Duo pushed himself off the doorframe and walked across the room, sitting down on the bed beside Trowa. Trowa was seated against the headboard, long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. When Duo sat down and looked at him expectantly, Trowa smiled softly and reached out to run a hand through Duo's wet hair. Duo's eyes slid shut at Trowa's touch and he leaned into the pressure of the taller man's hand. Trowa slid his hand to the back of Duo's head, cupping it gently in his palm, and pulled the American forward into a kiss.

Duo responded instantly to the light brush of Trowa's lips, pressing closer and sliding his tongue into Trowa's mouth. Trowa met Duo's fervor with equal passion, both of them tasting and exploring one another for a long, blissful moment.

The kiss ended gently, with a mutual need for breath. Trowa let his hand slip to Duo's shoulders and pulled the unresisting man down to lean against him, Duo's damp head resting on Trowa's chest. Duo drew his legs up onto the bed, curling up and shivering slightly in his towel. Trowa grabbed the comforter and pulled it over both of them. Duo hugged the blanket around his shoulders with a contented little sigh, snuggling determinedly against Trowa's warm body. Trowa smiled down at the top of Duo's head.

"Why didn't you get dressed if you were cold?" Trowa asked.

Duo twisted his head to look up at Trowa curiously. "Well, I thought it might be a waste of time," he said slowly.

Trowa frowned slightly in thought, letting his eyes roam over the familiar sharp planes of Duo's face. "You know, I think... we should probably wait a bit before we take things to that level," Trowa murmured hesitantly.

Duo frowned back at him. "Don't you... want me?" he asked nervously.

Trowa smiled reassuringly at him. "More than anything," he said firmly. Duo smiled back contentedly. "But I'm in no hurry," he added placidly.

"O... kay," Duo said hesitantly. "But... well, what do you want to do, then?"

"I don't know, talk?" Trowa suggested.

"We've been talking. For weeks now," Duo informed him, sounding just slightly exasperated.

Trowa sighed. "Well, yes, we have... But there's still plenty we haven't talked about, and I'd just like to make sure, before we... get into this... that we both know what's going on."

"What is going on?" Duo asked flatly.

Trowa frowned at the ceiling, then replied cautiously, "Well, according to Heero, we're in love with each other. But I'm pretty sure we've never discussed anything of the sort."

"You want me to say it?" Duo asked, sounding a bit nervous.

"Well... not if you... don't want to," Trowa said slowly, feeling a moment's panic. Then he reminded himself that Duo had a history of commitment issues. Still...

Duo sighed. "It's not that I... don't want to," Duo assured him. "It's just that... well, it scares me."

"Why?" Trowa asked carefully.

Duo sighed again, snuggling closer beneath the blanket. "Just does," he muttered.

Trowa frowned down at Duo's head, then decided not to push the issue for the moment. "So where were you for the last six months?" he asked, changing the topic completely.

"South," Duo replied.

"That's specific," Trowa muttered.

Duo laughed softly. "Well, that's about as specific as I was about my destination. I went chasing after summer until I finally caught it. I just kept going until I got to somewhere that it stayed warm."

"Must have been a shock to your system to come back to December up here," Trowa observed.

"Yeah, it was," Duo agreed ruefully. "I thought I was gonna freeze my ass right off that first day back."

"I'm sure," Trowa murmured, smiling. "And what were you doing, in the South?"

Duo was silent so long Trowa began to think he wasn't going to answer, but finally he said quietly, "I was learning to like myself again."

Trowa smile twisted into a frown and he hugged Duo gently.

"By the time I left here," Duo continued after a moment, "I was pretty much at the end of my rope. Maybe for a long time before that... After you told Une about my problem, I didn't have much choice about staying sober at work, but as soon as I got home I'd start drinking. And Heero... nothing else he tried had worked, so by then he was just constantly telling me how weak and disgusting I was... which really helped a lot. I didn't even speak to him, most days. I'd just sit there and listen and silently agree with him. But I couldn't make myself stop. Not when all I had in my life was his coldness. Wufei and Quatre didn't even seem to give a shit what I was doing to myself. I mean, I know that's not true, now, but at the time... I just couldn't see that I had that much to lose. But... there was you."

"Me?" Trowa asked curiously.

Duo nodded against Trowa's chest. "You were the only one who didn't just ignore me or give up on me," he said quietly. "Every day with that damn balloon... I hated you for it at first, but... there was this little smile you'd give me, when the test came up negative. It was... like the one bright thing left... I wanted to see it more often. So... I started going to AA."

"I didn't know you were in AA," Trowa remarked in surprise.

"Yeah, well, I wasn't for long," Duo said flatly. "There's such an emphasis on spirituality, it just... wasn't working for me. I mean, I haven't held any faith in getting help from a higher power since I was eight, I wasn't about to start at twenty-four. But it at least got me started, and I figured I could make it on my own from there. Only Heero didn't agree."

"Heero?" Trowa asked warily.

"Somehow he'd figured out where I was going nights," Duo explained. "He probably tailed me or something. So he'd been quiet for a while. Not supportive or anything, just quiet. Watchful. I did my best to ignore him most of the time. But then he figured out that I'd stopped going to meetings. Oh, did he rip me a new one. And I was feeling a bit on edge myself. We got into a real knock-down, drag-out shouting match, that ended up with him just about putting his fist through my stomach. I don't know why he always goes for the gut shot. Most people would aim for the face when they were that pissed off, but not Heero. Anyway.

"So after I got done gasping and writhing on the floor, he dragged me off to bed and screwed me silly with about as much emotion as you'd show with a two dollar whore. I didn't sleep that night. I just laid there thinking I gotta get out of here. I can't stay here anymore. Of course, by morning, I'd worked myself around to where would I go, and what good would leaving do? But then when he started in on me again at work, it was just... totally the last straw. So I just went and told Une that I had to go away for a while, or... I didn't know what I'd do. She gave me that look of hers, but I was determined. She asked me if I wanted an escort out of the building, and I almost said no, but then... I thought it would be nice if I could... just see you smile at me. One last time. So I asked for you, and she called you, and you walked me out.

"And I just started driving, no plans, no itinerary. When the car finally died, I bought the motorcycle. When my clothes got too dirty, I threw them out and bought new stuff. Mostly I just... thought about things. I don't do that much, if I can avoid it, but I figured I'd been letting things slide for too long. So I thought. I thought about Heero, and Quatre, and Wufei, and work, and the war, and Sister Helen and Father Maxwell and Solo... but mostly I thought about you. And your smile. And I tried to remember what it was like to smile like that, a real smile, because you care about somebody. And then, one day, I realized that I was smiling like that. So I came home."

When Duo finished talking they were both silent for a while, Trowa gently stroking the shorter man's rapidly drying hair.

"Too much information?" Duo asked after several minutes, sounding slightly strained.

"No," Trowa assured him. "I was just... absorbing, I guess. Thank you... for telling me all that."

"Yeah, well, I don't know if you really wanted to hear it, but... I guess I needed to say it. So thanks for listening," Duo replied.

"Anytime," Trowa promised.

Duo yawned loudly. "Damn, I think I wore myself out whining about my miserable little life," he murmured in dismay. "Not to mention completely killing any possible romantic mood... Sorry, Tro... "

"That's okay," Trowa replied, smiling softly at the ceiling. "There's plenty of time for romance."

Duo snorted. "Yeah, whatever. Don't get your hopes up, Barton. ‘Do you wanna scrump?' is about as romantic as I get," he confided.

"Good enough for me," Trowa assured him with a chuckle.

"Hmm... that's good," Duo muttered, settling himself more comfortably against Trowa. After a moment, Trowa got the hint and turned off the lamp, squirming down until he was lying half beside, half beneath Duo.

"Hey, Tro... C'n I ask ya somethin'?" Duo muttered sleepily.

"Sure," Trowa replied, slowly stroking the smooth skin of Duo's bare back.

"While I was gone... who pulled th' pages offa my cal'ndar?"

"Well... I did," Trowa admitted.

"How come?" Duo asked.

Trowa took a moment to consider the question. Then he replied, "I... partly so that, when you came back, you would know we hadn't just forgotten about you. And also, I guess, it was a way for me... to keep you close, somehow. To think about you every day, without having to acknowledge that that was what I was doing. Every day, I'd pull off the page and read the quote, and if it made me think of you... if I could see you in my head, smiling or laughing at it, then... I'd put it in your drawer. I told myself it was so you could read the ones I thought you would like when you got back. But I think it was also just because I wanted to save them, because they made me think of you."

"Oh," Duo said, sounding surprised and pleased. "That's... really nice, Tro. Thank you."

"You're welcome," Trowa said softly.

Duo fell silent for another several minutes, and Trowa was sure the American had fallen asleep. Just as Trowa was about to drop off himself, though, he heard Duo say quietly, "I do, you know."

Trowa smiled softly in the dark, knowing Duo would recognize the expression easily if he saw it. "I know," he murmured. "I love you, too."

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