Stuck With You... + Part 10 (cont)

Why did I let him take my car?

I'm glad I'm not stuck on the graveyard shift tonight. That would suck, to have your whole day of work ahead of you after the Christmas party. They probably have it a little better than the folks stuck with straightening up, though. It's damn depressing to be on the clean up crew for a party. Of course, I'm not with that bunch either, but I am stuck sitting here, waiting for Duo to return with my car, so I get to share in the weary, reflective state of my few remaining coworkers.

None of them are people I know very well, but it doesn't really matter. We're not talking. A couple of people are picking up stray cups and napkins, another is packing up the karaoke machine, and a few more are finishing the job started by the rest of the partygoers by completely tearing down the festive streamers.

Not the tinsel. No one would dare touch Duo's precious tinsel. But the red and green paper streamers have been shredded.

I don't know why people always do that to paper streamers. It's not like the party ever got that wild. Probably the high point was Duo, Quatre and Wufei singing "Love Shack." It kind of went downhill from there, what with Heero's little performance...

If he throws up in my car, I'll kill him. I don't care how unresolved Duo is about him.

Not that I don't feel some sympathy for my housemate. This seems to have been the night for dealing with overly emotional ex-boyfriends.

You know, I would have thought having relationships with men would let a person avoid all these tears and irrationality... Guess not. Maybe that was chauvinistic. Maybe I'm turning into Wufei.

Maybe I SHOULD turn into Wufei. He went home an hour ago with the slutty blond chick from accounting. His philosophy, apparently, is that he's not involved with Quatre yet, so he's not counting his chickens... or wasting time sitting on eggs.

At least I managed to avoid a weepy, drunken confession of devotion from everybody's favorite former billionaire. I really thought I was trapped, but then Ken wandered up, and Lo! I was Saved! I managed to foist Quatre off on the poor deluded boy. I think he ended up driving Quatre home not long after.

I hope he wasn't expecting to get lucky. A drunken Quatre swiftly turns into an unconscious Quatre, in my experience. Usually as soon as he's horizontal. So unless Ken's a bit more desperate than I think...

Eew. That was an unpleasant visual.

Okay, so I managed to escape a discussion about our relationship tonight, but I didn't completely evade him. Before he'd let me slip away, I was forced to promise we WOULD get together some time, just the two of us, to TALK.

Is there any more unsettling word in any language to hear from one's ex?

So, anyway... I got stuck with this unspecified chat date with Quatre, and Duo, looking frazzled, came asking for my keys a few minutes later. Oh yeah, now I remember why he wanted my car. Apparently Heero's car is a stick shift, and Duo can't drive it.

Actually, I'm not sure I buy that. I don't think there are many vehicles in existence Duo couldn't drive if he wanted. Well, I'm sure I can drag an explanation out of him when he gets back.

Which should be any time now...

The clean-up crew is leaving. The place is still a semi-wreck, but they're tired. The unlucky folks stuck on graveyard shift have asked them to leave the fluorescents off, though, so the room is still lit only by the soft red glow of the Christmas lights.

And Duo just walked in the door.

Duo strolled down the aisle between desks, grabbing the chair from the desk across from Trowa's and dragging it over next to the taller man's desk. He dropped into the chair, propping one elbow on the desk and his chin in his hand, sighing heavily and rolling his eyes.

Trowa leaned back in his chair, raising an eyebrow in silent question.

"He decorated," Duo informed Trowa lightly.

Trowa frowned, trying to picture that.

Duo snorted at his expression. "It looks very... precise," he said with a smirk.

"I can only imagine," Trowa replied flatly, smirking back at Duo.

Duo dragged himself to his feet with a grunt. "Let's get out of here," he muttered, carelessly shoving his borrowed chair back towards it's desk. Trowa rose and pushed the chair back under the desk, then followed Duo to the door.

"It's snowing," Duo remarked quietly as they walked down the deserted corridors to the garage.

"Roads slippery?" Trowa asked.

"Nah, they're not bad. I didn't have any trouble," Duo replied. They walked in silence for a while, finally emerging into the nearly empty garage.

"You want to drive?" Duo asked, fishing Trowa's keys out of his pocket. Trowa shrugged disinterestedly. "Okay, I will then," Duo said, walking to the driver's side of Trowa's car. He unlocked the doors and they climbed in, putting on seatbelts and waiting a moment for the defroster to kick in and unfog the windshield.

"Can't drive a stick shift, huh?" Trowa asked while they waited.

Duo shot him a funny look, then grinned in understanding. "Oh, that. Well... I guess I could, but... I just didn't want to take his car, and I didn't want to get into a big explanation about why at the time... "

"You didn't have to explain," Trowa told him. "I wasn't going to argue with you about it."

"Oh," Duo said, sounding surprised. He grinned sheepishly. "Heh. Sorry, I don't know why I thought... but anyway. Thanks for the loaner."

"Sure," Trowa said, fiddling with a loose button on his coat as Duo shifted into reverse and backed the car out of it's spot. As they pulled out of the garage onto the street amidst gently falling snow, Trowa asked, "So why didn't you want to take his car?"

Duo sighed, concentrating on the road as he drove. "Well... I'm occasionally susceptible to logic," he admitted.

"What?" Trowa asked in confusion.

Duo shot him a quick smirk as they stopped at an intersection. "It's late, it's snowing, you had your own car... If I'd taken him home in his car, it would have made more sense for me to spend the night there. And I didn't want to do that," he explained.

Trowa frowned out the windshield. "Why are you so afraid of being alone with him?" he asked. When Duo didn't answer for a moment, Trowa looked over to see the American staring at the road with a grim expression. "You told me, that time at my apartment, that if you were alone, you would have gone home with him," he continued, when Duo didn't say anything. "Is that still true?"

Duo sighed, obviously not pleased with this line of discussion. "Maybe," he admitted quietly.

"Aa," Trowa murmured in acknowledgement.

Duo looked over at him, frowning. "Aa? What the hell does that mean?" he snapped.

Trowa shrugged. "It means, I heard what you said," he replied calmly.

"Well, what do you think of it?" Duo demanded.

"Of what?" Trowa asked warily.

"Of what I said," Duo said tightly.

Trowa shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "What do you think of it?"

Duo swore under his breath.

"Duo... " Trowa said placatingly, "I don't know what you're getting upset about here. I just asked a question."

"Why did you ask?" Duo shot back.

"Because... I wanted to know," Trowa replied, frowning slightly.

Duo took a deep breath and let it out in a huff, relaxing a bit. "Why did you want to know?" he asked calmly.

Trowa leaned his head back against the seat and pondered that question for a moment. "Because you're my friend," he said slowly. "Because I care about you, and that means I worry about you... And you've been acting kind of... weird... about Heero since you got back."

"What do you mean, weird?" Duo asked.

Trowa sighed. "Well, you've been avoiding him as much as possible. And when it isn't possible, you're snippy with him. And whenever he comes up in conversation, you make some snide remark about him," he explained.

Duo took one hand off the wheel to fumble on the seat beside him near his hips. Looking for the braid again. I wonder what he did with it when he cut it off? Did he keep it?

"We broke up," Duo muttered. "And it wasn't a nice break-up. You know that. You're saying I should just forget it and be all buddy-buddy with him?"

"I'm not saying anything about how you should act with him," Trowa said calmly. "It's not my place to tell you how to treat him. I'm just... I wish I hadn't wasted so much time being angry at Quatre," Trowa admitted. "I wasn't happy about the way our relationship ended, and because of that, I missed out on a year of friendship with him because I was too busy being bitter. That's a year I'll never have back. I just don't want you to regret wasting time like I did."

"Well, I won't," Duo snapped. "I won't regret it, because I'm not wasting it. You guys don't know Heero the way I do. He doesn't always get stuff that isn't what he thinks it should be. You have to whack him over the head with reality for a while before it sinks in sometimes."

"Oh. Well, okay. I guess you know better than I do how to deal with him," Trowa said.

"You don't sound convinced," Duo accused.

Trowa shrugged.

"Oh, not this again!" Duo yelled, sliding into a parking spot near Trowa's building. He slammed the car into park and practically ripped the keys out of the ignition. Then he turned in his seat to scowl at Trowa, flinging the seatbelt off his shoulder. "If you've got something to say, just say it!" he demanded.

Trowa sighed, also taking off his seatbelt and turning to face Duo. He considered for a moment, then asked flatly, "If you're so certain you don't want to be with him, why do you need to avoid him so much?"

Duo blinked at him in surprise. "I... " He stopped and bit his lip, looking down at the bench seat between them. "Why did you move to this place?" he asked abruptly. "After you and Quatre broke up, you never wanted to hang out with the rest of us. Why did you want to avoid him?"

Trowa frowned. "That was... it wasn't really about Quatre. I mean, partly it was, because I was angry at him. But moving here, not spending time with the rest of you... I guess... I didn't want to be with somebody just so I wasn't by myself," Trowa admitted, recalling what he'd written earlier in his journal. "I never used to mind being alone, and I thought it would be... nice... for a while. But in the end, I really started to miss all of you. I was lonely... I just didn't know it." Until you came back, he added silently. Until you moved into my tiny little apartment and filled it up with life and warmth...

"Oh," Duo said thoughtfully. He continued to stare at the seat, that questing hand finally giving up it's futile search and reaching to tug at his bangs instead. "Well, I guess... I guess I'm not as strong as you, Tro," he admitted bitterly.

Trowa frowned. "What do you mean, strong?"

Duo sighed. "I do want to be with someone... so I'm not by myself. I hate being alone. I can't stand it. That's why it got so bad for me, with Heero. Toward the end, he just started to shut me out, to ignore me, more and more. He couldn't deal with my moods, my emotions, my demands on him, so he just... tuned me out. And I couldn't stand that. I don't want to go back to that. But... at least I wasn't really alone, when I was with him. At least there was somebody there. Another body in bed with me. I really hate sleeping alone. So I guess... I guess I would go back with him, even knowing it wouldn't work out, even knowing I'd end up miserable again, because at least I know he wants me. He may not love me... not the way I want him to... but he wants me."

Trowa closed his eyes, pondering Duo's words. Fear of being alone? Yes, he supposed he could see that in Duo. Tough and self-sufficient as the American could be, he was by nature a social creature. He liked to be surrounded by friends, talking, laughing, touching... never alone.

No, he couldn't picture Duo being happy alone.

"But he's not your only choice for companionship," Trowa argued softly, his eyes sliding open again. He watched Duo thoughtfully as the shorter man just kept staring at the car seat. "You have friends... lots of them, but particularly Wufei and Quatre and... me," he pointed out.

Duo sighed heavily. "Yeah, I get what you're saying, Tro, but... Well, I'm not really looking for... just... friendship, if you know what I mean," he said dryly. "But I don't just want sex, either. Towards the end, that was about all I had with Heero. That last night... I think I could have been a blow-up doll and he would have had about the same experience. Trowa, I want... What I mean is... " Duo trailed off, sighing again. "Forget it," he muttered, abruptly opening the door and climbing out of the car. Trowa frowned, following quickly.

"What do you mean? What do you want?" he asked, a bit breathlessly, when he caught up to Duo at the apartment door. Duo could climb the creaky old stairs of Trowa's building in a hurry when he wanted. Trowa watched as Duo fumbled with the keys, trying to open the door. He reached out and curled his hand over Duo's, feeling the cold fingers tremble against his palm. Gently, he took the keys and opened the door, motioning Duo inside. Duo stepped into the apartment, arms wrapped around his own torso. Trowa followed him in and shut the door, reaching for the light switch.

Before his fingers could find it in the dark, though, Duo's arms wrapped around his waist in a tight embrace, and Trowa felt the shorter man's face pressed to his chest. Duo wasn't crying, but he was trembling slightly, all over. Trowa forgot about the light switch and wrapped his arms around Duo instead.

"I just want to be happy," Duo whispered in the darkness. "Is that... so much to want?"

Trowa gently stroked the back of Duo's head for a moment. "It's not much at all," he replied quietly.

He loosened his embrace, pulling away slightly. He felt Duo raise his head in surprise at the movement. Trowa's eyes began to adjust to the darkness, letting him find Duo's face, looking up at him. Duo had always had good night vision.

Trowa cupped one of Duo's smooth cheeks in his hand. His other hand slipped down to the small of Duo's back, pressing their lower bodies together.

"Not much at all," he repeated softly as he bent down, his lips brushing against Duo's as he spoke.

And then Trowa closed that last distance between them.

Duo didn't seem particularly surprised by the kiss. In fact, he participated enthusiastically, opening immediately to the gentle pressure of Trowa's tongue on his lips. Trowa had intended to keep the kiss light, but Duo's surrender sent a wave of warmth rushing through him, and he found himself thrusting hungrily into Duo's warm mouth. Duo returned the kiss with equal passion, moaning softly into Trowa's mouth.

But then suddenly, the shorter man broke away, pulling out of Trowa's embrace.

Trowa could hear Duo gasping softly after his breath, but he could barely see the other man's outline in the darkened apartment. He couldn't see Duo's face, his eyes, anything that might give him a clue what he had done wrong.

"Oh... God... no... I can't," Duo gasped, backing further into the apartment. Trowa held his ground, not wanting to upset his friend further. "I'm sorry, Tro, I'm... really sorry... " Duo apologized miserably.

"What are you apologizing for? I kissed you," Trowa pointed out. He winced, hearing the snappish tone of his voice.

"I know, but... but this... it wouldn't be... " Trowa heard the creak of the bathroom door as Duo reached that dubious sanctuary. A moment later, he heard the door shut. He flicked on the overhead light, and saw no sign of Duo.

He sighed and walked over to lean on the bathroom door. "Duo?" he asked worriedly.

"Please, Tro... If we did this now... it would be about him. I don't want to do that to you," Duo said quietly, his voice muffled by the wood.

Trowa sighed again, feeling a sort of déjà vu in the situation. Duo, hiding in the bathroom because of Heero. Yes, they had played this scene before. "Duo, please come out," he requested gently.

"I don't think so," Duo replied warily. "Just go to bed. I'll be okay. I just... need to think, okay?"

Trowa frowned, but he really couldn't argue with that. Duo did need to think, that much was obvious from their conversation in the car. "All right," he said reluctantly. "But I'm here if you need me. And Duo... "

"What?" Duo asked after a moment of silence.

Trowa pushed away from the door, walking a few steps before pausing to look back at it. "You... don't have to sleep alone, if you don't want to. Just to sleep. I wouldn't mind." He waited a moment, until Duo's soft, "Thanks," indicated he had been heard. Then he turned and went into his room, leaving the door open behind him.

He waited for hours, long after he heard the bathroom door open and the couch springs squeak, but Duo never came in.

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