Stuck With You... + Part 2 (cont)

Trowa stood up from his seat and strode purposefully over to Duo's desk, ignoring Heero's glare and Wufei's speculative frown. Quatre glanced at him in annoyance when Duo greeted him with a smile, turning away from the blond.

"Duo... welcome back," Trowa managed hesitantly. He tried for a smile.

Duo's smile widened in return, and Trowa was momentarily dazzled. He was definitely fond of this new haircut.

"Thanks, Tro," Duo said cheerfully. "What've you been up to while I was away? Still wanted for public lewdness?"

Trowa blinked in surprise at the odd question. "No... uh, I mean, I... " He frowned as Duo laughed delightedly at having caught him with the old joke.

"Well, I guess I should be getting back to work," Quatre declared pointedly, shooting Trowa a look to make sure he got the message that he was the one who really ought to be getting back to work. Trowa frowned at the blond.

"Okay, talk to you later, Q," Duo agreed brightly, waving at the Arabian in dismissal. "Now, you," Duo continued, turning to Trowa, "help me fix my desk. Some loser messed up all my toys," he complained, shooting a pointed glance in the "loser's" direction. Heero frowned darkly in reply. Duo flipped him the bird.

Trowa blinked in surprise at the exchange, then found himself being loaded down with small stuffed animals and dolls and picture frames as Duo dug his desk paraphernalia out of his bottom drawer.

"Cute... cute... tacky but I love it... ooh, I missed this one!... gah, I still have this?" Duo straightened from his excavation, scowling at a small stuffed teddy bear. It was blue and held a little heart-shaped pillow in its hands. With a small noise of disgust, Duo set it on the far edge of his desk and proceeded to ignore it, turning and starting to grab knick-knacks from Trowa's arms.

Trowa, stuck holding Duo's tacky desk ornaments, took the opportunity to observe Heero's expression.

Heero continued to scowl, although the focus of his dark look now seemed to be the discarded bear. Trowa quite clearly remembered the bear. Heero had bought it on his lunch break one day when Duo had ingenuously asked what Heero had gotten him for their anniversary. Trowa remembered it because after Heero had given Duo the bear, Duo had blushed and admitted that it had just been a joke. It wasn't their anniversary at all. Everybody had laughed, except Heero, who had just scowled at the American, irritated to have wasted his time for no reason. Then they'd all gone back to their desks, and only Trowa had lingered long enough to hear Duo murmur to himself, "Well, at least he cared enough to go buy a present. Even if he doesn't really know or care when our anniversary is. He bought me a present. That's something, right?"

The little blue bear had always had a prominent place in Duo's ever-changing desk habitat. Trowa stared at it curiously as Duo went about rearranging his belongings, ignoring the bear completely.

Finally, when all the pictures were arranged in some private hierarchy of affection, and all the action figures were indecently groping one another with kung fu grips, Duo sat back with satisfaction.

Then he picked up the bear and turned to the trashcan.

And hesitated.

Trowa glanced around the room. Heero was staring intently at Duo and the bear. Wufei was slowly squeezing his exerciser, watching from the corner of his eyes. Quatre was pretending to be looking over Duo's head at the case board on the far wall. A few other agents with nothing better to do were looking on with varying levels of discretion and interest.

Duo rubbed the little bear's head gently with one index finger.

Suddenly, the American spun his chair around and held the bear out to Trowa with a wide smile. "Here, Trowa! Have a beary nice day!" Duo ordered him cheerfully.

Trowa stared at the bear with a sort of horrified fascination.

It's entirely possible that Heero will actually shoot me if I touch it, he thought to himself. But there was something about the way Duo was looking at him... exasperated and nervous... it reminded Trowa of the last time he'd seen the other man...

He took the bear. Duo flashed him a relieved grin as he nestled it in the crook of his arm. "I'll take good care of him," he promised solemnly. Duo laughed at that, and some of the tension drained from his shoulders. He looked up at Trowa, violet eyes bright and warm in his tanned face, white teeth flashing in a dazzling smile...

Trowa couldn't think of a damned thing to say.

"Uh... well. I should... get back to work," he finally muttered, kicking himself mentally.

Duo just shrugged and spun away from him, booting up his computer. "You gotta do what you gotta do," Duo remarked placidly.

"Right," Trowa agreed superfluously, watching as Duo's wallpaper appeared on the screen. "So I'll just be going then," he added. Duo glanced over his shoulder, smiling slightly.

"Free for lunch?" the American asked after a moment of silent staring.

"Uh... yes," Trowa replied.

"Pizza?"

"Sounds great," Trowa managed to agree.

Duo nodded in acknowledgment. "Cool. I'll stop by your place," he declared, with a jerk of his head in the direction of Trowa's desk.

Taking that as a dismissal, Trowa turned and walked back to his area. He sat down at his desk, and then realized that Heero was attempting to fry him with a glare. It took him a moment to remember the stuffed bear cradled in his arms.

Oh, shit. Thanks a lot, Duo, he thought, but even in his mind the complaint was half-hearted. With a resigned sigh, he set the bear carefully beside his monitor, between his two pictures. One was of Catherine and the lions, one was of himself and the other four pilots just after their victory in the Mariemaya incident. Heero had been woozy enough that even he was smiling.

Duo's smile looked slightly strained. Trowa remembered that day, and the "fight" Heero and Duo had had up on the colony. In Heero's unique way, Trowa supposed the Japanese boy was being sweet, trying to protect Duo. But Trowa remembered the look on Duo's face when Heero's fist hit. Duo, despite his blustering, had pulled his punch. Heero, quite obviously, had not.

He didn't have to hit Duo that hard. Duo always had a glass gut. I saw that bruise...

Trowa frowned, shaking his head to dislodge the memories and the strange, bitter anger they evoked. He hadn't thought about that incident in years. Why should it bother him now?

Maybe because Heero was obviously considering beating on Trowa next. And he didn't look in the mood to pull his punches now either.

Trowa sighed and opened his word file.

Duo gave me Heero's bear.

All right, so technically it's Duo's bear, since Heero gave it to him. But it's weird, to be given something I know was a gift from somebody else.

So why did he give it to me?

I thought he was going to pitch it. But then he got all wistful... I guess he couldn't just throw it away. But why did he have to give it to me? Is it just because I was there? Would he have given it to Quatre if he hadn't left?

Why do I want the answer to that to be no?

And am I going to have to eat anchovy pizza for lunch?

Do I care as long as I get to watch Duo eat anchovy pizza?

Aargh! Why am I acting like a horny teenager all of a sudden? Sure, Duo's hot, but Duo's always been hot, and I never cared before. He's my friend. JUST my friend. I've already done the dating-other-pilots thing, and it sucked. I don't need that again. All our relationships are too tangled up for any of us to try to have anything private.

Damn it.

God, I can't believe I just typed all of that. Hormones must be frying my brain cells. Or maybe it's Heero's dirty look.

I didn't ask for the damn bear, Yuy!

Jerk.

Somehow I don't think any of us are going to get a lot of work done today.

"I'm really sorry."

Trowa sighed wearily at the apology and carefully peeled another anchovy slice off his pizza. "I told you, it's fine. See? I can pull them right off."

Duo frowned in disbelief. "Yeah, but you shouldn't have to... Why didn't you just tell me you didn't want anchovies?"

Trowa shrugged, frowning slightly in concentration as he peeled nasty brown fish slices off the melted cheese. If you pulled very carefully, you could get them off in one piece. If they fell apart, you ended up poking at your pizza for half an hour to get it all off. "It's your welcome back lunch. You should get what you want," Trowa murmured distractedly, intent on the anchovies.

"I got that when you agreed to come with me," Duo said. Trowa glanced up in surprise to find the American watching him with his chin in one hand and a whimsical grin on his face.

"Why wouldn't I have?" Trowa asked in confusion.

Duo shrugged and reached over to snag the pile of removed anchovies from Trowa's plate. "I don't know. I wasn't sure what you guys thought of me these days," he remarked lightly, his eyes fixed on his pizza as he arranged the extra anchovies with very un-Duo-like care.

Trowa dropped the last anchovy on Duo's plate. The American looked up at him, and he met the nervous violet eyes with a placid emerald gaze. "Sometimes you think silly things," he informed Duo calmly. Duo blinked at him in surprise, then grinned again.

"Yeah," he agreed, lifting his pizza and taking a big bite. Trowa's lips quirked slightly as he picked up his own slice and took a more conservative bite. Duo chewed the pizza like a man tasting ambrosia for the first time. But he still managed to swallow before Trowa.

Duo flashed his widest grin at his lunch companion. Trowa, still chewing, raised a wary eyebrow. When Duo wore that grin it generally meant some sort of trouble for somebody...

"So... shall we discuss my ulterior motive for asking you to lunch?" Duo asked.

Trowa frowned slightly, but nodded, swallowing his pizza so he wouldn't face the indignity of spitting it out when he found out what Duo wanted.

"Okay," Duo said briskly. "So, well, the thing is, I'm kind of out of cash. At least, cash that Une knows about, and I'd rather not tip her off on my... private accounts just for a few nights in a hotel. But I really don't want to stay with Heero, Quatre's a pain to live with, and Wufei is... just weird. So... could I... stay with you? Just for a little while?" Duo smiled hopefully and stared at Trowa with puppy dog eyes to put Quatre to shame.

"Uh... well...I... " Trowa attempted to answer, trying to force the word "no" out of his mouth. He liked his privacy. He needed his privacy.

But... the mental image of Duo sprawled on his couch... sipping coffee at his kitchen table... naked in his shower...

"It would only be for a little while. Just until I can find a place of my own. Just a few days," Duo pressed desperately. "I know I'm a pain in the ass, but I really need your help, man... "

"Just a few days?" Trowa asked, attempting to look stern.

Duo nodded vigorously. "I promise! And you know I never lie!"

Trowa pretended to ponder the question a moment longer, although the thought of a soapy naked Duo in his apartment had decided the issue immediately.

"Well... all right. I guess we can try it," Trowa agreed.

"Yes! You are the best!" Duo crowed happily. He slumped back in his seat, grinning. "Man, what a relief. I gotta tell you, I was kind of freakin' about where I could stay. If you turned me down, I don't know who I could have hit up... "

"You really wouldn't stay with Quatre or Wufei?" Trowa asked curiously.

Duo shot him an unreadable look, his smile fading. After a moment, the American replied simply, "No."

Trowa raised a curious eyebrow, but Duo said no more, instead picking up his pizza and focusing his attention on cheese and anchovies. There was definitely something going on behind the violet eyes, though. Trowa wondered what it was. And what it had to do with Quatre and Wufei.

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