by Aoe

Stuck With You... + Part 10

12/22/204

Well, I've been trying to follow Wufei's advice. For the past few days, I've been Duo's friend. I have learned that really applying oneself to this activity can be very tiring. We've gone to the movies, we've gone shopping, we've gone out to dinner, we've even gone ice-skating, for God's sake. We've had snowball fights, pillow fights, and one very memorable food fight, which I inadvertently started by remarking on the lumps in the mashed potatoes he'd made. We've sat around my apartment, talking, playing board games and cards, watching the vid, and just staring at the Christmas lights in companionable silence.

I am exhausted.

Not that I haven't had fun. It's been a great few days, and I really ought to thank Wufei for knocking some verbal sense into me. I mean, what else can I do but be here for Duo? I can't make his decisions for him. Neither of us would like that very much. I'm sure he's had enough of being told what to do, and I'm not exactly unbiased on the matter in question.

There's another thing I ought to thank Wufei for, pointing out to me what I was denying to myself. I don't want to be just friends with Duo. I don't want him to get back together with Heero, or find someone new to be happy with, I want him to be with me.

But I'm not sure where that came from. I mean, we were always friends, but we were never the closest of the group. Frankly, I thought he was closer to Wufei than to me. But when things started falling apart for him...

I guess in a way I understood, better than anyone else could, what it would mean for him to have his relationship with Heero end. We all knew they were having problems, but I don't think Wufei or Quatre ever really understood why it hit Duo so hard.

They grew up with homes, families, people who cared for them and took care of them. They never went to sleep at night, as children, on cold ground without a blanket, their bellies aching with hunger, not knowing if they'd live to see the next evening or not. Yes, they had their share of hardships in the war, but we all went through the same crap then. Wufei lost his colony, his home and family, and that has affected him greatly, but he was older when he experienced that loss. He's been able to deal with it, to accept and grieve and move on. It's not the same as never having a real home, never knowing where you came from in the first place. Duo and I... we both briefly found places to belong, when we were little, people who cared... but we lost them. It hurt, and at that age, it scarred. And, I think, we both blame ourselves for our own losses.

So here we are, grown men, hung up on childish fears that anyone we get close to will disappear if we turn our backs for a moment, and it will probably be our fault that they do.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

Maybe that was part of my problem with Quatre. Deep down, I never really trusted his commitment, because there was no way he could possibly understand what it meant for me to be with him. I could never entirely trust him, because he didn't UNDERSTAND, he didn't KNOW... And I guess I just got tired, eventually. Tired of having to go out of my way to express my feelings, having to make a big production, when just the fact that I stayed should have told him...

I'm not sure what he and Wufei would be like as a couple. I keep thinking about Wufei's explanation of his choice, and it just seems so... unromantic? Odd, for that to bother me. I've never been much for romance. But to sit there and say you've decided to start up a relationship with someone because their kindness intrigues you, and they've always been nice?

Obviously, I don't know what the hell I want. I just got done thinking about how Quatre shouldn't have needed anything more than my presence to know I cared, and now I'm complaining that Wufei wants to bang him because he's nice.

But maybe... Hmm, this is an interesting thought.

Maybe I knew it wasn't... the real thing... with Quatre.

I mean, as relationships go, it wasn't much. He was fascinated by how utterly unimpressed I was with his wealth and power, and I was amazed that someone who had a choice would pick me for a companion. We just kind of fell into having sex because, well, it was the middle of a war, adrenaline and knowledge of your own mortality and so forth... Probably a lot of the same reasons Duo and Heero hooked up. And then, when the war ended, we just... didn't. The bond was there, and it was real, but... Maybe I... maybe Duo and I both... clung to the only point of stability we had? Maybe we only thought we were in love because we weren't alone anymore.

So I guess that's why I've stayed alone since Quatre and I broke up. I didn't want to be with someone just so I wasn't alone. There's nothing wrong with being alone. But maybe I don't want to be anymore. So why was I so firmly convinced that I couldn't get involved with Duo? As he said, there's nothing wrong with a little casual sex.

But casual sex doesn't interest me anymore. I had it for several years. Now I want something deeper. More real.

So I guess that's why Wufei's rationale for wanting Quatre bothers me. Does he only intend a casual fling? Or does he think they can build a relationship on the basis of Quatre's kindness?

Is that so inconceivable?

I guess somehow I've developed this very romanticized notion of what true love should be. I suppose because I know that I didn't have it with Quatre. But... maybe it isn't really about thunderbolts and showers of cherry blossoms, either. Maybe it doesn't hit you like a tidal wave, sweeping you along against your will. Maybe its just being friends long enough to realize that you want to be closer to a gentleness you've always admired, want to take that friendship to a new level of intimacy.

Maybe it's being able to share a one-person bathroom without killing each other.

Maybe it's when you look up from your desk and meet a certain pair of eyes, just for a moment, see that familiar smile, and you feel a fuzzy warmth inside, and you don't want to analyze it anymore.

So I love him.

Wow.

Does this realization make my situation better or worse? I guess it really doesn't change anything. He still has his own problems to work out, and whatever my personal thoughts on his relationship with Heero, it is his relationship, and his choice what to do to resolve it.

I guess this just means I'll be more tense about the outcome.

Maybe I shouldn't thank Wufei. Maybe I should deck him.

Have to go now, it's time to start setting up for the office Christmas party. Whoopee.

Maybe I can manage to corner Duo under the mistletoe in the break room.

Trowa walked up behind Duo, who was leaning over the buffet table, ladling himself a cup of punch. There were two punchbowls on the table, each with a little paper sign taped to them. One sign read "Spiked," the other read "Unspiked." Trowa frowned as Duo filled his cup from the bowl marked "Spiked."

"What are you doing?" Trowa asked worriedly.

Duo smirked at him over his shoulder. "Silly Trowa," the American chided. "I switched the signs an hour ago."

Trowa blinked in surprise, then gazed thoughtfully at his own half-full cup.

"No wonder I've started to feel fuzzy," he remarked. Duo giggled, sipping at his punch as he turned back to face the room.

The overhead lights were off, the office lit only by the soft glow of the colored lights strung from the ceiling. Since the office decorations had long been Duo's responsibility, there was plenty of light to see by. Preventers were milling around, sipping punch, talking, eating, sitting on desks and chairs, leaning against the occasional large support beams spaced throughout the open room. Near Duo's desk, Trowa could see a game of Nerf basketball was in progress around the hoop the American had installed just days ago.

"And you've hardly drunk any," Duo pointed out. It took Trowa a moment to recall the statement Duo was replying to. "I wonder how much Ken put in?" he wondered aloud.

Trowa frowned. "It's supposed to be rum punch," he said. "I think there's about a cup of rum in it."

"Well, yeah, a cup of the rum," Duo agreed distractedly, "but I mean how much vodka did Ken add to it?"

Trowa's eyes widened. "Ken spiked the spiked punch?" he demanded.

Duo grinned at him. "Well, it was my idea," he admitted modestly. Trowa rolled his eyes.

Wufei walked up to them, raised an eyebrow at Duo's wide grin, and stepped up to the buffet table. He hesitated a moment, then dipped punch from the "spiked" bowl. He turned back and smirked at Duo. Duo stuck his tongue out at Wufei.

"So predictable, Maxwell," Wufei said mournfully, shaking his head.

"Oh, you're no fun," Duo groused. Then he brightened. "Heero and Quatre, on the other hand... " he drawled triumphantly.

Trowa surreptitiously set his cup down on a nearby desk, resolving to drink water for the rest of the evening.

"Quatre doesn't surprise me, but Heero?" Wufei was asking interestedly.

Duo rolled his eyes. "Soooooo fucking literal-minded," he explained. "It says unspiked, it must be unspiked. You'd think the perfect soldier would be a little more aware of that kind of thing, wouldn't you?"

Wufei smirked again. "Maybe he is aware," he suggested. "Maybe he plans to take advantage of his inebriated state to make an ass of himself in an excusable manner. After all, "I was drunk" is always a great excuse," he pointed out.

Duo's eyes widened in apprehension. "Damn, Wupert, you might have something there," he muttered.

"Wupert?" Wufei sputtered, face reddening.

Duo grinned at him, his worry momentarily forgotten. "Oh, you like that one, Wupert?" he asked brightly.

"You realize that one day there will be a reckoning for all the injustices you have visited upon me," Wufei announced flatly.

"Whatever you say, Wupert!" Duo replied cheerfully. Wufei shot him a simmering glower and sipped slowly at his punch.

"Oh, look, karaoke," Trowa pointed out desperately, hoping to distract the two before Duo pushed Wufei to violence. It wouldn't be the first time, and Une would not be pleased if they trashed the office.

Duo immediately lost interest in baiting Wufei at Trowa's pronouncement. "Cool! I can't believe Ken got one!" he declared happily. "I was sure they'd all be rented by now, I mean, everybody's having their Christmas parties this week!"

"Maybe everyone else has taste and common sense," Wufei remarked, still sounding a bit annoyed over the Wupert thing. Duo was beyond that now, though, and too excited by the new topic to be bothered by Wufei's irritation.

"Oh, don't be such a wet blanket!" Duo scolded cheerfully. "It's fun! And I love watching people get up and make fools of themselves!" He chuckled gleefully at the thought. "I wonder if the office security cameras are running," he mused to himself, glancing up at the ceiling, where small red lights indicated that yes, anyone who found the nerve in the "unspiked" punch bowl to serenade their coworkers was going to be immortalized on film.

It was only minutes before Quatre came running up, face flushed pink and eyes sparkling dangerously. Or drunkenly. As far as Trowa was concerned, a drunk Quatre was a dangerous Quatre.

He was proven correct in this assessment when Quatre demanded, "Trowa! Sing with me!"

Trowa said firmly, "No."

Quatre's smile dissolved in an almost comic expression of dismay. Tears shimmered in his wide sea-blue eyes. "But Trooooo~waaaaaaa," he whined.

"No," Trowa repeated. "I'm not drunk enough to sing karaoke, Quatre."

Quatre pouted. "I'm not drunk either," he protested, entirely untruthfully, from what Trowa could tell.

"Oh, I'm afraid you are, Q," Duo informed him gently.

Quatre frowned. "But I've only been drinking the unspiked punch," he protested.

"Well, actually, I think somebody switched the signs," Duo told him confidentially.

Quatre's eyes went wide in shock. "Really? But who would do such a thing?" the Arabian demanded.

Duo shook his head. "I don't know, Quatre," he said.

"Obviously some depraved moron," Wufei observed, earning an enthusiastic nod of agreement from Quatre and a smirk from Duo.

"Trowa won't sing with me," Quatre complained, abruptly returning to the previous subject, the tears reappearing in his eyes. "I just want somebody to sing with me," he whimpered, looking utterly forlorn. He turned shimmering puppy dog eyes on Trowa, but Trowa was unmoved. He was as immune to Quatre's tears as Duo was to Heero's glares.

Duo was another story. He'd always been something of a pushover for Quatre. "I'll sing with you, Quatre," he offered.

"No, I will," Wufei cut in sharply.

Duo frowned at him. "What happened to taste and common sense?"

"They take a back seat to my hormones," Wufei muttered to Duo while Quatre trotted over for another fortifying cup of punch.

"You can both sing with me!" Quatre declared happily. "There's three parts!"

Wufei looked suddenly nervous. Hormones only took a man so far, Trowa supposed.

"Uh... what song did you have in mind, Quatre?" Duo asked, grinning at Wufei's expression.

"Love Shack," Quatre responded happily.

Duo burst out laughing. Wufei looked confused. "Do I know that song?" he asked.

Duo nodded, still laughing. "You should, Wu-chan. It's one of the ones you were always yelling at me to turn down."

Now Wufei looked really nervous. Duo and Quatre each grabbed one of his arms and dragged him off toward Ken's desk, where the machine was being set up. A few minutes later, Trowa watched in bemusement as all three clambered up on top of the desk, holding microphones. A loud cheer went up from the rest of crowd. Duo and Quatre waved cheerfully. Wufei tried to hide behind Quatre, without looking like he was hiding.

The music started up, and Duo started singing, "If you see a faded sign at the side of the road that says fifteen miles to the "

"LOVE SHACK!" Quatre screeched happily, causing Wufei to wince. "Love shack, yeah yeah... "

Trowa leaned against a desk and crossed his arms over his chest, smiling at the spectacle of his friends making idiots of themselves. He was glad he wasn't up there, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Quatre loved being the center of attention, and Duo was a born exhibitionist. Even Wufei, driven perhaps by the challenge to please Quatre, was getting into the act, although he had to watch the prompter pretty closely. Quatre and Duo apparently knew the song by heart. Not surprising, really. They'd all been forcibly exposed to Duo's vast repertoire of American pop music from the 1980's Before Colony. He had to admit, there was something catchy about the sound, which seemed to keep it popular even so long after the songs were first written.

Trowa was jarred from his ruminations by Quatre screaming, "TIIIIIIIIN ROOF! Rusted." He shook his head, smiling at Duo and Quatre hamming it up as the song wound down. Their audience applauded loudly as they clambered down to the floor, and some other hapless idiot took their place, perhaps inspired by their performance.

As he watched the little group making their way back towards his position, Trowa suddenly became aware that Heero was standing next to him.

"Heero... great party, huh?" Trowa asked awkwardly. Heero wore his typical scowl, and didn't even look at Trowa when he spoke. The Japanese man just swallowed his remaining half cup of punch, then turned and stalked over to the buffet table. Trowa watched him rather unsteadily ladle out a cup of the "unspiked" punch, spilling much of it over his hand and staining his sleeve. He didn't seem to notice, or care, which was unlike Heero.

"Uh, Heero... you know, I think those signs are wrong," Trowa advised hesitantly. Heero shot him a vicious glare. Trowa raised his hands in a placating gesture and turned away from the Japanese man.

When Duo and the others finally made it back, laughing and patting each other on the back, Trowa looked over to the table again, but Heero was gone.

Then Duo latched onto his arm and began babbling about the experience, with frequent interruptions from Quatre and snide remarks from Wufei, who was doing his best not to grin. Trowa was distracted from worrying about Heero... until Duo suddenly went very still beside him. Trowa looked down at his houseguest, to see Duo staring in wide-eyed trepidation in the general direction of Ken's desk.

Trowa looked over, and saw Heero standing on the desk, microphone in hand, swaying slightly.

"Whoa, he is trashed," Duo murmured to himself. "What's he gonna... " Duo's voice trailed off as music started playing. His eyes went even wider. "Oh... my... God," he said slowly. "I know that song... "

Trowa didn't know the song, but it was obvious from Duo's expression that whatever it was, it wasn't good. The intro music was slow, almost mournful...

Then Heero began singing.

Off key.

In very heavily accented English.

"I hear you're taking the town again
Having a good time
With all your good time friends
I don't think that you think of me
You're on your own now
| And I'm alone and free
I know that I should get on with my life
But a life lived without you could never be right
As long as the stars shine down from the heavens
As long as the rivers run to the sea
I'll never get over you getting over me... "

Quatre looked like he was going to cry. "That's so sad," he murmured, glancing not-so-covertly at Trowa. Wufei was gleefully snickering beside him. Duo looked like he couldn't decide whether to be amused or horrified.

"I can't believe he's doing this," Duo murmured. "I can't believe I'm watching... It's like watching a mime get beaten to death. Horrifying yet strangely fascinating... and in some very sick way, kind of funny... "

Trowa frowned dubiously at that comment, then found his own eyes drawn back to the spectacle of Heero passionately belting out lovesick pop lyrics.

"I try to smile so the hurt won't show
I tell everybody
I was glad to see you go
But the tears just won't go away
Loneliness found me
Looks like it's here to stay
I know that I ought to find someone new
But all I've found is myself always thinking of you
As long as the stars shine down from the heavens
As long as the rivers run to the sea
I'll never get over you getting over me
Oh, no matter what I do
Each night's a lifetime to live through
I can't go on like this
I need your touch
You're the only one I've ever loved... "

Duo had his hands over his face now, but was peeking out between his fingers. "Oh, just stop," he murmured pleadingly, his voice muffled by his hands. Wufei was shaking his head in amazement, smirking. Quatre was crying softly.

Trowa was disgusted.

"As long as the stars shine down from the heavens
As long as the rivers run to the sea
I'll never get over you getting over
Never get over you getting over...
I'll never get over you getting over me... "

His song completed, Heero dropped the microphone to the desk, causing a loud squeal of feedback. Everyone exclaimed at the noise, glad of the distraction from Heero's spectacle. The whole room began noisily talking at once, ignoring the lone figure still swaying on Ken's desk. Only the Gundam contingent watched as Heero jumped to the floor, just barely keeping his balance, and staggered out of the room.

"Oh... hell," Duo muttered irritably. "So much for enjoying the party." Tossing his head in a gesture that would have made his braid flop over his shoulder if it were still there, he stalked off in the direction Heero had taken.

Trowa watched him go with an unhappy little frown, noted by Wufei. The Chinese man raised an eyebrow at him, but Trowa didn't know what Wufei was asking with the gesture, so instead he patted Quatre's shoulder as the blond rubbed at his wet cheeks.

"Poor Heero," Quatre murmured sadly. "I know just how he feels," he added, casting a significant glance at Trowa.

Oh, hell, Trowa thought miserably. I'm not in the mood for this...

Wufei sighed at Quatre's words, then shrugged philosophically and wandered off.

Thanks, Wu, Trowa thought bitterly, watching his one hope desert him. He met Quatre's watery gaze, and wished he'd had more punch.

I hate my life.

[cont]