by: Aoe

Do you remember yesterday?
Do you remember what I was like down?
I feel that madness come my way
I must drink to the vicious clowns.

I don't know if they found your ears
But I used to have a lot of names.
Then one so tender pushed me here
And I watched as they fade away.

Again I wake up on the tiles
And it's like I was never gone.
Then just before the pain comes on
Remember this is where I started from...


- "Do You Remember Yesterday?" by Terry Moore

Where I Started From... + Part 1

Wufei peered disdainfully around the rat hole of an apartment.

"This place ought to be condemned," the Chinese boy muttered irritably.

"Yeah, well, sorry it's not up to your high standards, Wu, but it was the best I could manage on short notice. Now could you please get the fuck out of the way? Trowa's heavier than he looks," Duo's equally irritated voice commented from the doorway behind Wufei.

Wufei scowled at being ordered about by the American, but did remove himself from the entryway so that Heero and Duo could carry their wounded companion inside. Quatre hovered nervously behind the group, quickly closing the door and locking it once they were all inside.

"Duo, keep your voice down! What if someone had heard you and come out to see what was going on?" the Arabian admonished once the door was shut.

Duo followed Heero's lead in dropping Trowa's long body onto the dilapidated couch, then turned to roll his eyes at Quatre. "Oh please, like anybody around here is gonna stick their head out the door out of freakin' curiosity," he said sarcastically.

Quatre frowned. "Well, why shouldn't they? It's human nature," he murmured, moving past the American, who was now stretching the kinks from his body that carrying the unconscious Trowa up three flights of stairs had created. Heero was carefully checking every inch of the small apartment for signs of surveillance equipment. OZ knew they were in the area, and they were all nervous about the ease with which Duo had negotiated the apartment. It seemed like a trap. Quatre knelt beside Trowa, and began checking the taller boy's bandages.

"Trust me, they wouldn't Ah, fuck, Quatre! We just changed the dressings a few hours ago! We're gonna run out of supplies if you keep pulling them off!" Duo protested, interrupting himself. He stalked over to the couch and lightly slapped Quatre's delicate hands away from the bloody bandage wrapped around Trowa's narrow waist.

Quatre frowned up at the braided pilot. "We have to make sure his wounds don't become infected," Quatre argued sternly.

"His wounds are already infected," Wufei remarked flatly, drawing Duo and Quatre's attention to him.

"What? Where?" Quatre demanded a bit frantically, even as Duo shoved a hand into his hair and muttered, "Ah, fuckin' perfect." Quatre shot a brief glare at Duo, then turned back to Wufei, wide sea-blue eyes pleading.

Wufei obligingly lifted the bandage on Trowa's upper arm, displaying a deep puncture wound that had obviously become infected. The skin around it was red and puffy, and the wound was oozing a yellowish puss around the neat stitches. Quatre reached out and brushed his fingers against the reddened skin, pulling his hand back with a hiss at the heat.

Heero reappeared behind the couch, next to Wufei. He glanced down at the wound and pronounced, "Didn't get the wound clean enough. Or the needle or sutures were contaminated."

Duo shot him a nasty look. "Thank you, Captain Obvious," the braided boy muttered. Heero shot a frown at Duo. The American had been acting differently since they'd been forced to go to ground here in the slums. Harder, a bit meaner. Heero shrugged it off and wandered away, checking out the small kitchen and two bedrooms.

"We'll have to remove the stitches, recleanse the wound, and restitch it," Wufei added. Duo shot the Chinese boy a look that clearly said Wufei was about as helpful as Heero. Wufei sniffed in irritation and stalked away.

Quatre remained on his knees, staring in mute fascination at the septic wound. Duo looked back and forth from Trowa's arm to Quatre's face, wondering which pained him more. The arm, probably. Quatre would survive worrying. Trowa...

Duo reached out, carefully probing at the edges of the wound, assessing the heat of the inflamed skin and the puss that oozed at his touch. Quatre made soft noises of protest and disgust beside him, but Duo ignored the blond, intent on determining how far gone Trowa was.

His conclusion left him both relieved and troubled.

Heero appeared again, now at Duo's side. Duo straightened up and shared a look with the stoic boy. Heero quirked one wing-like brow in question, the flat eyes never wavering as his hand slipped suggestively towards the small of his back where his gun was concealed. Duo gave a minute shake of his head, and Heero's hand stopped, hesitated, then dropped to his side. He'd accept Duo's assessment, but the coldness in his eyes warned, "For now."

If the choice came down to Trowa's life or the survival of the rest of the rebel pilots, Heero's mission was clear.

Still, Duo thought he detected the barest glimmer of relief in those dark eyes as Heero once more drifted away.

Pushing Heero out of his mind, the braided boy stared down at Trowa's still form, chewing idly on a fingernail as he tried to figure out how to help his friend.

The plain and simple fact was, they didn't have enough medical supplies left to treat Trowa's infection, and even if they did, his other injuries still needed tending, or they could become infected as well.

"Gotta get more supplies," Duo murmured to himself.

"Now who is stating the obvious?" Wufei demanded imperiously from his position next to the small grimy kitchen window. The Chinese boy was not so foolish as to make himself visible. He stood to the side of the window, hidden in shadow as he peered down at the street. His lip lifted in a sneer at the rather ragged looking people below. It was mid-afternoon, when Duo had said they would draw the least attention moving Trowa into their new home. Indeed, the streets were rather sparsely populated. There was a bar on the corner, ancient neon less than impressive in the dreary light of day. One unfortunate drunk was evicted headfirst as Wufei watched, landing in the gutter. The man remained where he landed, either too drunk to get up, or unconscious.

Or dead. In this neighborhood...

Wufei's sneer grew as a boy who looked about their age detached himself from a group of youths hanging out on the steps of a tenement and ran over to the drunk, quickly rolling the body and running back to his gang, a wallet triumphantly clutched in his hands.

"Scum of the Earth," Wufei muttered in disgust. Duo suddenly appeared at his shoulder, also staring down into the street.

"Hey, don't be so anti-social, Wu-man. These are our new neighbors," Duo admonished. His grin was as wide as ever, but when Wufei glanced in irritation at his companion, Duo's violet eyes were intently studying the group of youths congregated on the steps. He looked like he was analyzing something.

Duo's sudden serious demeanor made Wufei uncomfortable. It broke the established pattern of behavior.

"Shouldn't you be out stealing supplies for Trowa? That is one of your few skills, isn't it?" the Chinese boy demanded haughtily.

Duo shot him a brief glare, then simply shrugged. "Can't risk it," he replied with uncharacteristic brevity.

Heero appeared before them both and with a sharp tug, caused the blinds to fall over the window with a metallic clank, dimming the small kitchen to near darkness.

"Why not?" he asked flatly, dark eyes fastened on Duo.

Duo crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the dusty yellow Formica counter. "In case you haven't noticed, this is definitely the low rent district," he drawled.

"Coming here was your idea," Wufei cut in, ignoring Heero's angry glare at having the answer to his question interrupted. Duo glanced at Wufei, a look of weary tolerance in his usually laughing eyes.

"Yes, it was," he agreed with obviously forced patience. "And I stand by that decision. Whatever it's drawbacks, a neighborhood like this is the best place to hide, because nobody around here is going to be too keen to talk to anybody who looks like Authority," he explained yet again. Duo was getting just as tired of saying this as Wufei was getting of hearing it.

"So why can't we risk stealing supplies?" Heero demanded, obviously irritated at having to repeat himself.

Duo turned back to the Japanese boy. "Because of those drawbacks I mentioned. Nobody around here expects anybody to come to their rescue, Heero. They're used to looking after themselves, and that makes them very cautious, and very protective of their property. Now, it's possible I could manage to swipe some supplies from a free clinic or something, but it's just as likely I'd get caught, and we can't risk that right now."

"What do we do, then?" Heero demanded, his hand once more twitching towards his gun. Duo let out an irritated huff of air.

"We need money," he muttered, almost to himself. "And not just for medical supplies. Trowa's hurt bad, and even if he wasn't, OZ knows we're here somewhere. It could take a while before they ease up enough for us to slip out. We're gonna have to pay rent, utilities, buy food... " he glanced at the rusty faucet in the sink and winced, "probably water, too... " The violet eyes glazed over as Duo considered the list of expenses.

"We don't have any money," Heero reminded him flatly.

"I'm aware of that," Duo muttered, grabbing his braid in one hand and dusting the loose end against his chin. "I had some cash, but most of it went for the security deposit on this hole," he added, glancing around at the dirty little apartment.

"So what do we do?" Wufei demanded.

Duo shrugged. "Well, obviously, one of us is going to have to go out and rifle up some funds," he replied.

"We can't all go out. The fewer of us that are seen, the better," Heero snapped.

Duo nodded. "I'll go," he announced quietly.

Wufei frowned. "You're the one who had your picture on all those wanted posters, Maxwell," he reminded the other boy harshly.

Duo frowned, but only shrugged again. "Maybe, but that was up on the colonies. They probably won't know about it around here."

"Until OZ starts posting them again," Heero cut in. Duo shot him an unreadable look.

"Yeah, well, until that time, I've got the best chance of fitting in out there. This is my turf, and I know how to deal with these people. You guys would just get us found that much quicker," Duo argued.

Wufei opened his mouth to protest, but then considered the scene he had just witnessed below. He stared assessingly at Duo for a moment. Maxwell was a street rat, born and bred. True, he was a colony brat, but some things ought to be universal...

"Well, I suppose you are best suited for the job," Wufei decided with a sniff.

"Thanks," Duo muttered, and Wufei wondered why the American had argued so firmly to be given this responsibility if he didn't want it.

"Medical supplies and food are our main priorities," Heero stated, as though he were listing off mission objectives. "How you obtain them, or the money to purchase them, is up to you. Just don't endanger yourself or the rest of us."

Duo smiled grimly at the pilot of Wing. "Ninmu ryoukai," he commented acerbically. Heero scowled and walked away. After a moment, Wufei followed the Japanese boy. Duo remained in the dim kitchen, staring at nothing.

+

"Hey, I need to borrow some clothes," Duo declared a few hours later. He glanced around the little group congregated in the living room. Three pairs of eyes looked back at him in surprise and confusion.

"What for?" Quatre asked warily. Duo's wide smile faltered for a second, then he shrugged.

"I don't exactly blend dressed like this," he commented, running a hand down the front of his black priest's tunic. Heero frowned.

"True, but it's never stopped you before," the Japanese boy remarked coolly.

Duo stuck his tongue out at Heero and rolled his eyes. "Just give me a pair of your shorts," the braided boy demanded. Heero's frown deepened, but he obligingly dug one hand into the duffel bag that still lay at his feet and produced a pair of spandex biker shorts, which he tossed to Duo. "Thanks ever so," the American gushed sarcastically, earning a snort from Heero.

Violet eyes scanned the room's other occupants, and Duo sighed. "Not much to choose from," he muttered. Quatre appeared embarrassed, and Wufei relieved, that they apparently didn't have any clothing suitable for Duo's foray into the streets. Duo shrugged. "Guess I'll wear my tee shirt to the thrift store," he muttered, padding back into the small bedroom he and Heero would be sharing to change his pants.

Wufei raised an eyebrow at Quatre, but the Arabian had already returned his attention to Trowa. Heero was amusing himself by disassembling and cleaning his gun, then putting it back together. He'd done it three times already. Wufei was beginning to wonder if it was some sort of compulsive behavior.

Heero's laptop sat quietly in a corner. It was plugged in, but they didn't dare try to send any messages out. The small computer was simply waiting for an incoming message from one of their superiors, letting them know it was safe to break cover.

Duo wandered back into the room, now wearing only a pair of tight spandex shorts and the short-sleeved black shirt he usually wore to bed. The shirt was old, and repeated washing or a growth spurt had left it just a bit too small for general wear.

Wufei blinked in surprise. It was not often that one saw Duo in such revealing clothing. For some reason, the American always seemed to go to great lengths to conceal his body as much as possible. Wufei knew Westerners tended to have more body modesty than Easterners, but Duo could be a bit obsessive. Wearing double shirts in the middle of summer, for example.

He'd always just sort of assumed that for some reason or another, Maxwell was ashamed of his body.

Studying the elegant lines of firmly muscled yet slender legs and torso, Wufei decided that Maxwell had nothing he could see to be ashamed of.

The Chinese pilot glanced over at Heero to see if the Japanese boy shared his assessment.

Heero appeared entranced.

"What are you going to a thrift store for?" Quatre asked as Duo knelt and began rummaging through Heero's duffel, not bothering to ask permission. Heero was now studiously ignoring the longhaired boy. Wufei wondered at the slight note of accusation in Quatre's voice, then realized what caused it. Of course. If Maxwell is going to a store, that implies he still has some money, which Winner feels could be better spent on Barton. Feeling a sharp pang of hunger, Wufei reflected that he thought any money they had could be better spent on food.

Duo paused in his digging and glanced up at Quatre, apparently also having caught the slight edge to the blond's tone. "Working clothes," he declared finally, a strange little half-smile twisting his lips.

"Oh!" Quatre said in surprise. "You... you mean you're going to... get a job?" he asked in confusion.

Duo frowned slightly, turning his full attention to the contents of Heero's bag, which he began emptying on the floor. "Yeah, something like that," he muttered. Suddenly he picked up the bag and slammed it back down on the floor, turning to glare at the Japanese pilot. "Damn it, Heero, where's my freakin' knife?" he demanded.

Heero turned his cold gaze away from his gun for a moment, staring down at the kneeling Duo, then calmly reached to the small of his back. One smooth motion and a little clicking sound, and he held a nasty looking short blade against Duo's throat.

Quatre gasped in surprise, and Wufei tensed slightly. He always wondered if Yuy might just snap someday...

Duo just smirked at the other boy. "Cute," he remarked sarcastically. "Are you done yet?" Heero held the pose for another few seconds, then shrugged and hit the button to retract the blade with another little click. He tossed it into Duo's lap and turned back to cleaning his gun as though nothing had happened.

"Headcase," Duo muttered to himself as he picked up the knife and reached with both hands to fumble with the thick braid at the base of his skull. After a moment, he drew his hands back, and the knife was gone. Wufei's eyes widened slightly. So there actually was a use for all that hair...

"Try not to get captured," Heero growled, apparently in reply to Duo's insult. Duo bounced to his feet, still wearing his familiar clunky black boots. He stretched his lean body, the tight black clothing leaving little to the imagination. Suddenly, he leaned forward, a mischievous gleam in his violet eyes, and gave Heero a small kiss on the cheek before dancing back out of range. Heero, not to be baited, simply ignored the gesture. Duo pouted dramatically, laughed at his own expense, and gave them all a brief wave before disappearing out the door.

After Duo left, Wufei watched Heero for a few minutes. Sure enough, the Japanese boy's face finally did a slow burn in reaction. Wufei smirked to himself. Maxwell had been teasing Heero for months now, and it looked like the stoic boy was finally starting to react. Where that would lead, and what Maxwell did it for, were anyone's guess.

"I wonder what kind of job Duo plans to get?" Quatre wondered aloud. Wufei frowned, but he wondered the same thing. Surely Duo wasn't planning on going job hunting now? The workday was over! Of course, he had noticed that the noise from the street below had only gotten louder over the past hour...

Perhaps Maxwell was seeking some kind of night job, where he would be less likely to be recognized and blow their cover. Wufei had to approve, if that was the American's reasoning.

Probably he just doesn't want to get up early, the Chinese boy thought to himself. Shrugging off the whole question, after all, Maxwell had volunteered for the mission, Wufei turned back to the book he was reading.

Seeing his companions' lack of interest in discussing Duo's possible plans, Quatre sighed and turned his attention back to Trowa. Everything will be all right, my friend, he promised silently, gently enfolding one cool, long-fingered hand in his own. Trowa's cheeks were taking on a noticeable flush, and Quatre hoped that Duo could get some more bandages and medication soon.

Heero methodically disassembled his gun for the fifth time, laying the parts out on the rickety coffee table in rigid order.

His hands performed the simple, routine task without the aid of his brain. Which was a good thing, because Heero Yuy was not thinking about the assembly and cleaning of his firearm at the moment.

The single thought that occupied his entire mind, and fueled the light blush across his cheeks, was: Duo Maxwell is wearing my pants.

+

Duo browsed slowly through the racks of the mostly deserted thrift store he'd located three blocks down from the apartment building. He wasn't really looking for anything specific, but people donated the weirdest shit to charity sometimes, and he was hoping to find something eye-catching. Failing that, he'd settle for something tight and a little less grungy than his sleeping tee.

He'd already plundered the 'extras' bins, which were generally filled with useless crap that nobody could quite find a place for. Duo had wondered in amusement if some local biker gang had made a charitable contribution considering all the worn, studded leather bits and pieces he'd discovered. Then he'd reminded himself of where he was, and realized that probably the stuff was looted off bodies left behind after a gang war or skirmish. This store was one of those that bought used clothing, so either the winning gang or some lucky opportunist had probably cashed in big.

Shrugging, he'd carefully selected a few belts that he could cut down to his size and two thick wristbands with heavy snaps to hold them on. The wristbands were a bit loose, but that was all to the good. He'd gone for the heavy, metal-spiked leather because he knew it would emphasize and accentuate the delicacy of his frame and features. It made a nice contrast that would make him look more like the sweet innocent he hadn't been for so very long.

But it wasn't quite enough.

Finally, in the girls' section, he found it. It was meant to be worn over a tank top, but he decided he didn't really need one. It was summer outside, and hot enough to fry an egg, even at night. Besides, the more skin he flashed, the better.

It was a purple mesh shirt, the weave wide enough to stick the end of his smallest finger through the holes. It was a bright, vivid purple, with metallic threads woven in that made it sparkle in the dim light of the store. It had long sleeves, but those could be easily cut away, and being made for a young girl, it ought to be skin tight on him.

Smiling in satisfaction, he draped the flimsy thing over his arm and headed for the bin of discarded makeup and hair accessories near the register. Just a few more things and he'd be ready... for work.

The smile slipped slightly at the thought, but he settled it firmly back in place, forcing himself to focus on his current task. Time to think about why he was doing this later. Actually, best if he never let himself think about it at all.

Just do it. Don't think about it.

Duo grinned at the bored middle-aged woman behind the counter. She snapped her gum at him and turned back to her magazine. Duo pawed through the junk bin, happily fishing out some shocking violet eyeshadow and an almost full tube of iridescent body glitter.

"Boy, I sure am lucky tonight," he muttered to himself, ignoring the clenching in the pit of his stomach as he dumped his selections on the counter.

The shopping trip was finished. Next came...

He shuddered, fishing money out of Heero's shorts as the bored woman rang up his purchases. He supposed Quatre did have a point, they could have spent the remainder of his cash on medical supplies, but...

"Sometimes you have to spend money to make money," he muttered nervously under his breath. The woman shot him a curious glance, but when he didn't say anything else, she just told him the price, and he paid.

She wished him a nice night with a strange smile on her face and he wondered if she'd heard what he'd said. He threw her a dazzling smile, at which she complacently popped her gum, then turned back to her magazine.

Duo shrugged and shuffled back out into the night, looking for someplace convenient to change. He could hardly go back to the apartment and put this get up on. Wufei would die from blood loss, Quatre from shock, and Heero... Heero would die when Duo finally killed him for never reacting to anything he did.

Smirking to himself, Duo scanned the surrounding neighborhood, searching for a condemned building. Hopefully he could find an unclaimed room and be able to stash his night clothes there during the day. They might get ripped off, but he could always buy more.

After all, he shouldn't be hard up for cash for very long.

[part 2] [back to Aoe's fic]