by Aoe

Stuck With You... + Part 8

12/16/204

I just don't know what to do about it.

I've spent the last two days thinking about Heero and Duo and this unholy mess that used to be their relationship, and...

How am I remotely qualified to give anyone else advice on their love life? I've had one stable relationship in twenty-four years, and since it ended, I haven't even thought about looking for someone else!

And MY PROBLEMS ARE NOT THE ISSUE!

I miss him.

Why do I keep whining so much lately?

Not the issue, not the issue, not the issue...

Heero's dealing with the aftermath of his confession to me in his usual fashion, which is to say, like it never happened. I think he does that because he's said it, it's out there, no reason to dwell on it. This is my theory, after years of constant exposure to the inexplicable phenomenon that is Heero Yuy. A mystery wrapped in an enigma inside a conundrum, or something like that.

Sometimes I wonder how Relena would have dealt with him, if Duo had been a little less assertive.

Of course, having written that, I am now wondering how all our lives would have been different if Duo had been a little less assertive.

But then I guess he wouldn't be our Duo.

Okay, Trowa, self-honesty time. You did not type "our" in that line the first time through.

I miss him.

The apartment seems so empty without him. I never noticed it before. It was just... my space, my refuge... now it feels like a prison, even bedecked with festive garlands and enough tacky lights to land a small plane.

"You don't HAVE to decorate... "

Right, Duo.

Sigh.

Oh, hell. I'm doing it again.

How did we ever get used to life without him around? I'm sitting in the office, under the gentle glow of symmetrically arranged twinkling lights, with friends and coworkers walking and talking around me, and everything seems so... muted. Dull.

Maybe I should stop drinking decaf.

I wonder what Duo and Quatre are doing right now.

I wonder what they've BEEN doing.

I wonder what the hell possessed Duo to ask my fucking permission to screw my ex.

But then of course my problems are NOT THE ISSUE!!

I seem to be a self-centered bastard.

I don't know what to do, though. Should I talk to Wufei about it? But it's really Heero and Duo's private business. But I already know about it. And besides, Wufei's one of us, right? So shouldn't we all know? Isn't that what's wrong with us lately, that we don't all know anymore what's going on with each other? Or is it good to have some privacy now that we're older?

I am confused.

I miss him.

Trowa woke instantly at the sound of the apartment door shutting softly. He slipped one hand to the nightstand, easily locating his gun on the uncluttered surface. Not wanting to sit up, since that would make too much noise and give away his position, he tightened his stomach muscles, rolling his upper body into a semi-upright position. Holding the crunch posture was a definite strain on his abdominal muscles, but alerting an intruder to his presence was unacceptable. He carefully sighted the gun into the lighter rectangle of the doorway into the main room, eyes alert for any shadow of movement.

No shadow entered that space, but a familiar voice crooned softly, "Honey, I'm ho~me." Trowa lowered the gun, flopping back down on the mattress. "Trowa? You up?" Duo called, still speaking softly.

"Yes," Trowa replied, setting the gun back on the nightstand. He heard a soft thud from the kitchen area, probably Duo dropping his bag, and then the shadow he'd been waiting for did appear as Duo padded into the bedroom. The mattress bounced as Trowa's erstwhile roommate threw himself down beside the taller man.

"Hiya, Tro," Duo greeted. Assured that Trowa was awake, he spoke a bit more loudly, but still nowhere near his usual volume. There was just something about a darkened room that encouraged whispering, Trowa supposed.

"It was a good thing you announced yourself, or I might have shot you," Trowa informed him softly, then winced at hearing his own comment. Welcome back, Duo. I could have killed you just now, you know. Smooth, Trowa.

But Duo only chuckled softly and replied, "I figured I'd wake you coming in, no matter how quiet I tried to be. Heero's the same way, still jumping at every random noise."

"And you sleep like the dead?" Trowa asked, mildly annoyed to find himself in any way alike to Heero in Duo's eyes.

Duo snorted. "Well, okay, so I'm a light sleeper, too. But you guys raise paranoia to an art form."

"Hn," Trowa grunted, then winced again. Now I sound like him, too. "So how did the mission go? You're back sooner than I expected," he commented.

Duo pulled the extra pillow out from under the comforter and folded it under his chin. The light from the outer room was barely enough for Trowa to make out the other man's profile. "It went good, actually. The locals were competent, for once. They found the hideout this morning, caught one of the kidnappers there, and got the other on his way back with fast food. The victim was unharmed, and returned to the bosom of his family. It was cool. It's nice when those things work out. I worked one a couple years ago that didn't, and... But that's not something to think about before going to bed," Duo interrupted himself.

Trowa blinked in the darkness, trying to focus on what Duo was saying. The American's voice had taken on that particular rambling tone that they'd all learned over the years was okay to tune out, it was just Duo talking for the sake of making noise. It was a nice noise, though, Duo's soft husky whisper, warming the darkened room, filling up the silence...

Trowa realized Duo had stopped talking and he hadn't said anything in reply. "Um... so... how was your time with Quatre?" he asked. There was silence for a moment. Then Trowa smacked himself in the head, glad for the darkness that hid his blush, and rephrased, "How was... working with Quatre?"

Duo chuckled softly. "Working with Quatre... was fine," he replied slowly, his smile evident in his voice. "Playing with Quatre, on the other hand... " he continued mischievously.

Trowa frowned, one fist tightening around the sheet. So, they did... He sighed internally. Had there really been any question? "Stuff happens... " But Duo wouldn't have asked permission if he didn't intend for stuff to happen.

"You know, Tro-chan, I don't think he's quite over you yet," Duo observed thoughtfully.

Trowa's frown deepened. This was the second time someone had told him that. Ken he might have dismissed as not knowing Quatre well enough to judge, but Duo was another story.

"Why do you say that?" Trowa asked curiously. A sudden vengeful, jealous hope flared in him that Quatre had, perhaps, called his name at that certain moment... But no, he wouldn't wish that on Duo.

Duo was shaking slightly. Trowa could feel the vibrations through the mattress.

"Duo?" he asked warily, reaching out a hand and laying it on the other man's trembling shoulders. Was Duo... crying? What the hell had Quatre done? He couldn't imagine the blond being cruel or insulting to Duo, the two had always been good friends... So why was Duo...

A muffled snort escaped the pillow.

... laughing?

"What's so funny?" Trowa asked nervously. Surely Quatre hadn't... shared any embarrassing secrets about him? Almost everything he'd ever done that was embarrassing had been Quatre's damn idea!

Duo lifted his face from the pillow and giggled inanely for a moment. He seemed to get a little control over himself and gasped out, "Oh God... Tro... I totally shouldn't tell you this, but... God, it's just too funny... No, it isn't funny, that's mean... but... oh, man... Won't poor Ken be... disappointed?" This last thought seemed to be too much for Duo, and he dissolved into laughter again, unexpectedly rolling over and pressing his face against Trowa's shoulder to muffle the noise. Trowa was too surprised by the move to take advantage of Duo's position, and then the American rolled away again.

"Why will Ken be disappointed?" Trowa asked, feeling slightly dazed.

Duo was drawing deep breaths, trying to stop his giggles. Finally, he seemed calm again, and answered, "Because... Quatre... oh, God, I really shouldn't be telling you this... but... It seems that... ever since you two broke up... Quatre has been... cut off from the skills of his nomadic heritage," Duo remarked whimsically.

Trowa frowned, utterly confused by this remark. "What?" he asked.

Duo chuckled slightly. "Well, you see," he began, beginning to snicker between words, "apparently... for some time now... he's been unable... to... raise the tent pole... " And with this said, Duo collapsed into helpless laughter once more, again seeking refuge in Trowa's shoulder. Trowa absently patted Duo's head, trying to get his tired mind to decipher the words. Tent pole? Unable to... raise... ? Oh, no. He couldn't mean...

"He's impotent?" Trowa asked incredulously.

Duo nearly choked on his laughter.

"That's not... funny," Trowa attempted to scold, but he began to sputter on the last word, and soon joined Duo in his amusement. It wasn't funny, but... it was.

By the time they both calmed down, gasping for breath and still emitting the occasional chuckle, Duo had rolled over on his back and had somehow trapped Trowa's arm beneath his head.

"We tried, we really did," Duo informed him, sounding weary but amused, "and I've had some experience trying to get a response from the unresponsive. But it was just... not happening," he concluded.

"Poor Quatre," Trowa said, smiling slightly in the dark. "That must have been pretty embarrassing."

"Yeah, not to mention frustrating," Duo added. Then he shrugged. "Oh, well. C'est la vie, I guess."

"Hmm," Trowa murmured. "Why'd you want to sleep with him, anyway?" Then he tensed in surprise, realizing he'd actually asked that question aloud.

Duo rolled to his side, facing Trowa, although they could only see each other's outlines in the darkness. "No particular reason," Duo said quietly. "It's just that... Well, like it was with Wu, I guess," he continued.

Trowa frowned in confusion. "But you said you slept with Wufei because he felt left out, because none of us had ever slept with him," Trowa argued.

"No," Duo corrected, "I said he told me that was how he felt. That wasn't why I slept with him."

"Well, then why did you?" Trowa asked, since he'd already opened the topic up for conversation.

Duo was silent for a moment, long enough that Trowa thought he wasn't going to answer. But then he said quietly, "People are more honest after sex."

"More honest?" Trowa prompted softly.

"Mm," Duo murmured. "There were things I wanted to ask them, and... Well, we're close enough that we should be able to be honest with each other without sex, but... I know I'm not, always. Not completely. And... I wanted to be sure of what they told me."

"What did you want to ask?" Trowa asked curiously, wrapping the arm Duo was lying on around the American's shoulders. Duo reflexively snuggled closer to Trowa.

"Well... I wanted to ask them... why they didn't help me," Duo said quietly.

Trowa pondered that for a moment. "You mean, when you were drinking, or in general?" he probed, gently rubbing Duo's shoulder through the thin cotton of his uniform shirt. Duo shrugged slightly beneath his touch, apparently not wanting to disturb his hand and stop the caress.

"I... both, I guess. But... neither of them seemed to get that there was anything wrong other than the drinking," he replied.

Trowa frowned. "Oh, they knew... we all knew there was something wrong between you and Heero, for a long time. But... we didn't want to step in, I guess. We felt that was a part of your lives that was separate from the rest of us."

"Hm... I guess that's what they meant then, when they said they just accepted that Heero would help me," Duo said slowly.

"Oh. Well. As to that... " Trowa murmured a bit nervously. They were starting to stray into territory he was leery of entering, but couldn't in good conscience walk away from. I just hope I don't make things worse.

"You see, we... well, obviously we all knew you were in trouble," Trowa began.

Duo snorted. "Yeah, I guess the vodka bottle in the desk was kind of a giveaway," he muttered.

Trowa hugged him slightly with the arm wrapped around his shoulders and continued. "So, eventually, we gathered our collective nerve, and we... chickened out and talked to Heero instead of you," he admitted candidly.

"To Heero?" Duo asked curiously. "He never told me that... "

"I don't imagine he did," Trowa agreed grimly. "Anyway, he told us... He told us that he would take care of the problem, take care of you, and that we shouldn't interfere." Trowa paused a moment, feeling Duo stiffen beside him. "So that's what Wufei and Quatre meant when they said they thought Heero was helping you."

"That son of a bitch," Duo muttered. "He let me think nobody even... God damn him! Jesus, that's just what pisses me off about him, he's such a goddamn control freak, always has to do everything himself, his way ­ "

"To be fair to the goddamn control freak," Trowa interrupted reluctantly, "it was pretty obvious to all of us that whatever he was doing wasn't helping. You weren't getting better, but we still didn't know what to do... I guess we were all getting caught up in this idea that we're grown up now, we're supposed to have our own lives, our privacy, not be getting in each other's space all the time... Hell, I don't know what our excuse was. Maybe we're just a bunch of assholes, and you should go out and find some new, better friends," Trowa concluded bitterly.

Duo rolled over suddenly, throwing himself half on top of Trowa's body. He leaned on Trowa's chest with one hand, bringing his face to within inches of the taller man's in the dark. "Don't say that," Duo snapped, sounding at once angry and unnerved. "Don't ever say that! You guys are my family! You're all I have! You're the only ones who've stayed with me, I don't know what I'd do... without you... " Duo's voice trailed off in a strained whisper, and Trowa could feel him shaking again, but this time it definitely wasn't from laughter.

Confused and concerned, he wrapped his arms around the body looming above him and pulled Duo down on top of him, holding him gently, stroking his back.

"I need you, Tro," Duo whispered, his face pressed against Trowa's neck. "All of you. Even the jackass. That's why I had to go. If I'd stayed any longer, I might have had to hate him, and if that happened, I don't know... I don't know what I'd do."

Trowa held Duo tighter, disturbed by the note of fear in his voice. "It's okay, Duo. It's okay. We're here, and we care about you... and Heero... he's sorry... really... he told me, he didn't mean it, he was just confused and scared and hurt... He... he still loves you... Duo," Trowa assured Duo haltingly. Some of those words hurt to let go, knowing he could never take them back, could never erase them. Duo needed to hear them. But...

He wondered if there were other words he could have said instead.

Duo was quiet and still against him now, apparently pondering the things he'd said.

"How do you know that?" Duo asked finally, his voice blandly inquisitive. "What did he tell you?"

"He told me... " Trowa considered. ‘Everything' might be a misleading answer, considering the disjointed sparseness of Heero's confession. But he didn't feel up to repeating it to Duo word for word. Although he could, if pressed. "He told me he was too hard on you. That it was his fault you started drinking. That he... was cruel to you, because he didn't know how else to reach you, and... he told me he hit you, that last night."

"He just loves to dump his guilt on you doesn't he?" Duo asked coldly.

Trowa frowned, rubbing Duo's back as he pondered this accusation.

Duo sighed, relaxing slightly. "He's such an ass," he muttered wearily. "Everything and nothing is his fault. He's completely to blame for everything bad that happens, but it's always because he doesn't know any other way to be, he doesn't know how to be human. What a load of bullshit," Duo spat. "My name's Heero Yuy and I had a crappy childhood, so I'm poorly socialized and can't relate to the rest of human society. Wah wah wah, feel sorry for me!"

"Duo," Trowa said uncertainly, surprised at this tirade.

Duo let out an exasperated huff of breath. "Sorry. I know I'm being a jerk. But... it's always the same excuse, that he doesn't understand human emotions, human interaction... I just don't buy it anymore! He's not an idiot! He's lived among humans for years now! He's interacted with many people! He's had plenty of time to learn... if he wanted to."

"If he wanted to?" Trowa repeated questioningly.

Duo sighed again. "It's easy not to change, Tro. Just to drift through life, never growing, never trying new things, never taking a chance. He was just as unhappy as I was." Duo paused a moment, his arms wrapping lightly around Trowa's chest in a hug. "We were a fine pair," Duo continued softly. "Both of us too scared to grow up... to let go."

Trowa frowned at Duo's words, feeling a chill inside at the idea. "Does growing up have to mean letting go?" he asked worriedly.

Duo was quiet a moment, then replied thoughtfully, "I thought it did. I was afraid it did. I thought that was what it meant, the way we'd all somehow lost that closeness we used to have. That we'd grown up, and we had to accept that we'd grown apart, we had to let go. But, like I said, I was scared of that, so I thought I'd just try and see... if there was anything left. With you... I was pretty sure there was. But the others... I didn't know."

"So you decided to sleep with Wufei and Quatre... to forge a new bond? A new, different relationship, to keep them close?" Trowa asked, reasoning through the idea as he spoke.

Duo seemed to ponder this for a while. "Yeah, I guess maybe I did," he said thoughtfully. "Huh. I hadn't thought about it that way, but... yeah, maybe that was what I was trying to do." He paused, then remarked, "You're a pretty smart guy, Tro!"

Trowa chuckled softly at the compliment. "We're all too smart for our own damn good. Look at the two of us, laying here overanalyzing our pathetic little lives, when we both have to be at work in four hours," he replied.

"Shit! Is it that late?" Duo asked in surprise. "I'm sorry, man! I'll go hit the couch... " he attempted to squirm out of Trowa's embrace, but the taller man didn't loosen his grip. "Tro?" Duo murmured questioningly.

"Could you just stay?" Trowa asked softly.

Duo was silent for a while, then he asked quietly, "Why?"

Trowa pulled the unresisting body closer to him, like a child's doll. "Maybe I'm scared of letting go, too," he whispered against the top of Duo's head.

Duo chuckled softly at his words, but pulled away again. Trowa reluctantly let him go. But instead of leaving, Duo lifted the covers and slipped back in beside Trowa. He settled in quickly, resting his head against Trowa's shoulder. One hand settled on Trowa's chest, and the taller man caught it in his own. Duo squeezed his fingers lightly.

"Nothing to worry about, Tro," he heard Duo whisper as he drifted back to his interrupted sleep. "I'm not going anywhere. And I'm never letting you go."

[part 7] [part 9] [back to Aoe's fic]