Author's Note: Okay, this part is much longer than the previous ones... and yes, it's the last! Yay! The reason this section is so long is that this last part is all one big long piece from Trowa's perspective, so there was nowhere to break it up, really. And now the embarrassing admission? This section devolves into the ever-cliche drinking game scenario. Sigh. What can I say, it's one of my earlier pieces. Oh well, hope it's somewhat entertaining, and thanks for reading!

by: Aoe

Where I Started From... + Part 10

Trowa took a small sip from his bottle to appease Duo as the American glanced briefly at him. He had no intention of getting drunk, especially not after the stunt Duo had pulled earlier. Trowa was still feeling a little off balance over the kiss on the porch.

He had been wondering, ever since it happened, why it had happened. At first, Duo's motivation had seemed simple enough, and in his flustered anger at being caught unawares and used thoughtlessly by the American Trowa had dismissed his own initial concerns about Duo seeking reassurance. But after taking some time to reflect, he'd begun to wonder if Duo's reasons had been so clear cut after all, or if there had been more going on in the boy's mind than Trowa was aware.

As he watched Duo intently watching Heero suck down his wine at a respectable rate, Trowa decided that this just might be a fine opportunity to try to lift a few of Duo's veils of self-defensive secrecy.

In vino veritas, Trowa thought to himself, concealing a small smirk behind the bottle. He would find out what was going on in Duo's head, and then he would make up his mind whether or not he could forgive the braided boy's actions.

Trowa bided his time, waiting while Heero finished his first bottle and retrieved a second for himself and another for Duo, who was already several sheets to the wind. Then he innocently suggested, "Let's play a game."

Heero immediately shot him a wary look and shook his head quellingly, but Heero seemed to have decided his new mission in life was placating Duo. Trowa couldn't blame him, Heero probably didn't want to go bouncing down any more staircases, but Trowa didn't share Heero's need to get back on Duo's good side.

"What should we play?" Duo asked eagerly, diverted from his scrutiny of Heero by this new idea. Trowa smiled slightly. Heero, he was certain, would have little or no experience with drinking games. From what he knew of the Japanese pilot, Trowa guessed that any drinking Heero had done in the past had been in the safety of a dorm room or a secluded safe house. Duo, on the other hand, was just as likely as Trowa himself to know a vast range of such games, though for somewhat different reasons.

Trowa was, above all else, a chameleon. Blending into an environment, infiltrating unobtrusively, was his specialty. This was just as true in boarding schools as it was in military organizations. Students like Heero, who were coldly antisocial, attracted a lot more notice in the end than those like Duo, who were friendly and outgoing. While Trowa was naturally somewhat withdrawn and preferred solitude to Duo's usual gang of acquaintances and admirers, he was quite capable of fitting in among such people. To that end, he maintained at least some awareness of popular culture, and also things like the sorts of party games normal high school students played.

"How about 'I Never'?" Trowa suggested casually.

Duo blinked at him in surprise for a moment, then smiled in understanding, apparently reasoning out quickly why Trowa would know such a game. Trowa noted that the American was apparently not yet drunk enough to have slowed his faculties sufficiently for a blunt attack. He would have to bide his time.

Heero just regarded Trowa blankly with a slightly sulky pout for having his silent warning ignored. It was an unusual expression to see on the usually stoic pilot's face, and Trowa took it as an indication that Heero was already a bit tipsy.

"Great idea, Tro!" Duo declared enthusiastically, and Heero rolled his eyes wearily. Duo kicked him in the head, but not hard. Heero scowled at the braided boy. "It's easy, Heero," Duo told him, his tone grudgingly soothing. "Even you can manage it. You just say 'I never... ' and then... you know, something that you never do... or that you did do, it doesn't matter, but everybody who has done whatever you say has to drink," Duo explained. Trowa wondered if he was being deliberately confusing.

Not wanting to waste time on explanations, Trowa cut in. "For example, Heero, if I said I never failed a history test, then anyone in the room who ever did fail a history test would have to drink," Trowa explained, smirking slightly as Duo shot him a dirty look and drank from his bottle.

"Low blow, you know I had a mission the night before," Duo muttered, but he was grinning as he said it.

Trowa's smirk widened slightly in reply. "And anyone who never failed a history test doesn't have to drink," Trowa finished.

Heero frowned. "What's the point?" he asked flatly.

Duo kicked him gently in the head again, rolling his eyes. "What's the point of any drinking game, stupid? To get drunker quicker, and to get your friends drunker than you! You try to come up with stuff that won't make you have to drink, but will make the other people. Like Trowa just did to me," Duo elaborated impatiently. Heero, from his scowl, still didn't see much point to the game, but Duo enthusiastically continued, "Me next! Okay, gotta think of a good one... " Duo studied Trowa through narrowed eyes for a moment, then his gaze shifted to Heero. Trowa felt a small surge of triumph. Duo could have gone for the easy revenge and said something about performing in a circus, but instead seemed more interested in getting Heero drunk. That was a good sign. Finally, Duo continued, "I never spent more than four hours straight working on a stupid laptop!" He smiled triumphantly at Heero, who glowered back but obediently drank.

"Your turn, Heero," Trowa prompted. Here was another potential problem. If Heero displayed once again the astonishing lack of compassion and tact that had become his calling card lately, this game could rapidly turn into yet another unproductive fight. Trowa was quite interested in drawing information out of Duo, but not until the braided boy was drunk enough to be less touchy and liable to attack or bolt.

But as Trowa had thought earlier, Heero was more eager to get back into Duo's good graces than to get revenge for his earlier fall down the stairs. The Japanese boy solemnly considered his situation for a moment, then stated firmly, "I never sing in the shower."

Duo let out a burst of laughter that sounded slightly nervous before taking a long drink from his bottle. Trowa discreetly sipped at his own, considering the apparent fact that Duo had been worried Heero would take a cheap shot. Duo was edgy, then. Better to let him get comfortable for a while. Trowa racked his brain for an innocuous statement.

After about half an hour, they were all running out of innocuous suggestions and Trowa found that he'd drunk a little more than he intended, and was beginning to feel a bit woozy himself. Duo's head was lolling on his shoulders, a wide grin permanently stretching his mouth, and Heero kept trying to ease himself onto the couch, only to be shoved off by Duo's vigilant feet.

It was Duo's turn, and he'd been pondering for a few minutes. Finally he shook his head and sighed, though the grin remained in place. "Oh well, I can't come up with anything else generic," he declared, though he didn't sound terribly disappointed in himself. The grin twisted into a devilish smirk. "I never found another Gundam pilot attractive," Duo declared firmly, and immediately took a long drink from his bottle.

Heero blinked in drunken confusion for a minute until Duo's foot hit his head, making him sway alarmingly. He pouted up at Duo, who glowered back at him. "Weren't you ever attracted to another Gundam pilot, Heero?" he demanded sharply. Heero jumped slightly and quickly took a healthy swig from his bottle. Duo subsided, smiling in satisfaction.

Trowa, meanwhile, found himself with a dilemma. Had Duo gone for the level of crudity he'd expected, and made the comment about sexual thoughts or fantasies, there would have been no question of him drinking. A tiny part of his conscience might have brought forth evidence of half-remembered dreams, but dreams didn't count in Trowa's opinion.

But finding another pilot attractive...

It was really another topic altogether. After all, you could find someone attractive without... being attracted to them... or wanting...

Trowa frowned, but in the end there was nothing else for it. He took a drink.

He lowered the bottle to find the other two staring at him in open-mouthed astonishment. Heero he could understand, the Japanese pilot was generally oblivious to such things, even when Heero was the one experiencing them. But Duo... of course Duo was shocked because of what Trowa had said to him earlier on the porch...

Trowa saw the calculating gleam enter Duo's eyes, burning off a bit of the alcohol haze, and knew he was in for a few uncomfortable questions. He shouldn't have taken the drink, but he was buzzed enough to have gotten caught up in the game and been unintentionally honest. He would have to try harder to maintain his focus in the future.

For now, it was his turn, and he decided he would help this little fiasco along to it's inevitable conclusion as quickly as possible. "I never was attracted to Quatre," he said firmly, his bottle remaining comfortably nestled in his lap. Duo snorted slightly and rolled his eyes. Heero took advantage of the momentary distraction to slide his arms onto the couch and lean back on them.

The Japanese boy then pretended to be pondering his own statement, and let his head fall backward to roll on the couch cushion, staring up at the ceiling. Duo watched him with a knowing grin, but refrained from kicking him off again. Finally, Heero announced, "I never was attracted to Wufei."

The Japanese pilot goggled in amazement as Duo shrugged and took a drink. Trowa blinked in surprise. Duo grinned at them both.

"What can I say?" he asked innocently. "Asian guys really do it for me." He paused to chuckle, and Heero scooted his upper body a little higher on the couch. "That being said," Duo continued, still ignoring Heero's progress, "I never was attracted to Heero." He took a much longer drink from his bottle, allowing a gleeful Heero to slide himself fully onto the couch. When Duo finally lowered his bottle, he gave Heero a flat, unfriendly stare, but made no attempt to boot him off, since he was huddled carefully beyond Duo's reach.

Trowa watched this byplay thoughtfully as he considered the statement of the moment. Heero. He studied the Japanese boy, noting the lean, sharply defined muscles, the smooth golden skin, the almost delicate features so at odds with the deadly soldier within...

Yes, there was something... Trowa drank quickly. Heero missed it, being too focused on not being kicked off the couch, but Duo noticed, his eyes narrowing in consideration. Trowa inwardly cursed himself again. He must be drunker than he'd thought. The last thing he needed was for Duo to decide he was a rival for Heero...

Duo watched Trowa closely as he said quietly, "I never was attracted to Duo."

Heero, not needing prompting, chugged the remainder of his bottle, then stared at Duo in drunken fascination. Duo was not taking his eyes off Trowa. Trowa debated his course of action for a while, but finally decided there was really no other way to go. Honesty seemed to be the theme of the evening, and if he wanted Duo to be open with him, he supposed he might have to take the first step in trust.

He drank from the bottle.

When he lowered it, Duo looked both confused and satisfied, and Heero...

Heero was glaring furiously at Trowa. "You can't have him," he growled, his hands clenching into fists, the empty bottle falling unnoticed to the floor. "He's mine!"

And with that, Heero launched himself up the length of the couch, landing sprawled on top of a very annoyed Duo. "What the hell do you mean, I'm yours! You son of a bitch! Fucking bastard -- " Duo was floundering around under Heero, who remained draped over the smaller boy, glaring at Trowa. Finally, Duo grabbed Heero's face in his hands and forced the Japanese boy to look at him. "Heero. Get. Off," Duo said flatly.

Heero pouted again. "I'm trying to," he replied plaintively.

Duo stared at him in amazement for a moment, then muttered, "I can't believe you just said that."

Heero just sighed and wriggled his head out of Duo's grasp, then determinedly nuzzled in against the American's neck, hiding his face. Slightly muffled, but still quite distinct, the words, "I'm sorry," emerged from that general area.

Duo paused in his efforts to push Heero off of him, his eyes wide as he stared up at the ceiling. "Sorry for what?" he murmured quietly.

The creaking of tree branches outside could be heard during the long, silent pause until Heero answered, just as quietly, "For everything."

Duo's eyes slid shut, and Trowa watched as the American bit his lip, his features twisting in what looked as much like pain as relief. Duo's grip on Heero shifted, and he suddenly hugged the Japanese boy tightly against him.

Then, with an exhalation so sharp it was almost a sob, Duo abruptly pushed Heero away, though not roughly, and then sat up himself, curling into an upright ball, his legs clutched to his chest, chin resting on his knees. His wide violet eyes were dry, but staring blankly at the old carpet on the floor. Heero sat beside him, not quite daring to touch him again, obviously not sure what Duo's reaction to his apology meant. His hands fluttered uncertainly for a moment before settling into his lap as he watched Duo intently.

After a moment, Duo drew a deep breath, and it was only then that Trowa realized how still the American had been holding himself. Into the uneasy silence, Duo said quietly, "Let's play a different game."

Trowa stared hard at the braided boy, taking a sip of his wine as he pondered this latest occurrence. It looked like Heero might benefit from this evening's activities, but Trowa had not yet gotten what he wanted. Duo had probably been able to figure out why Heero had done what he did, and now he had his apology. Trowa already had his apology from Duo, but he still wanted an explanation.

He didn't think waiting would improve his odds. He lowered the bottle and suggested softly, "How about Truth or Dare?"

Heero was too busy staring at Duo to even acknowledge Trowa's suggestion. Duo continued to stare at the carpet, but murmured, "S'not really a drinking game."

Trowa nodded in agreement, not really caring that no one was watching him to see it, but argued, "I think we're all doing just fine on the drinking anyway."

Duo shrugged and raised his gaze from the floor. The violet eyes were dark and distant, and Trowa wondered where Duo's mind was. "Who starts?" Duo asked calmly.

Trowa considered this for a moment. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. "I will," he decided. "I'll take... truth," he offered warily. He wasn't thrilled about this, but found the prospect of what Duo might dare him to do even more daunting than revealing a secret.

Duo's eyes narrowed as his attention returned fully to the present. "Okay," he said, "so why were you so mad at me for kissing you before?"

Heero blinked in surprise at this question, looking back and forth between Duo and Trowa with an astonished expression that clearly read 'Duo kissed you and you were mad about it?' Trowa frowned at the American. He had been expecting something along those lines.

Trowa finally dropped his gaze to his lap, staring at his hands as he answered thoughtfully, "It's... a matter of trust, Duo. I can only allow myself to be as close to all of you as I am because... I trust you to let me keep my distance." He looked up at the braided boy, expecting a protest and a demand for a clearer answer, but Duo was staring back with understanding and remorse shadowing his violet gaze.

"I really am sorry," Duo said sincerely. Trowa considered this for a moment, then nodded in acceptance. Suddenly, he felt much better about the whole episode. For a moment he even considered letting Duo off the hook.

But then he reasoned that finding out what was going on in Duo's head was as much for the American's benefit as to satisfy his own curiosity. Purpose reaffirmed, he looked expectantly at Heero.

Heero either was more familiar with this game than the last, or wasn't so drunk as to have completely lost the capacity to reason.

"I'll take dare," he declared firmly.

Duo's eyes glinted evilly, but before the braided boy could get a word in, Trowa called out, "I dare you to trade pants with Duo."

Duo shot him an incredulous look. "Trowa!" He protested. "It's not my turn! How come I have to -- "

"Because that's my dare," Trowa interrupted firmly. Duo rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath, but he stood up and shimmied out of his dusty jodhpurs, throwing them over Heero's head and grabbing the spandex shorts the other boy held out.

Duo pulled the shorts on quickly, but Heero struggled briefly with the jodhpurs, not used to so much fabric. When he finally got them pulled up, Duo had to help with the button and zipper, and was less than thrilled to find the waistband looser on Heero than on himself. Trowa smirked quietly at the glower Duo gave Heero for daring to have a narrower waist than he did. Not that Duo was fat, but the two had different builds. After a moment, Duo huffily curled up in the corner of the couch, while Heero carefully sat out of range of the American's fists or feet, nervously picking at the loose material of the strange pants.

"Well, Duo? Truth or dare?" Trowa asked calmly, pretending not to have noticed the American's fit of wounded vanity.

Duo glowered suspiciously at Trowa. He'd asked the tall pilot a fairly personal question, and probably expected similar treatment if he chose truth. But he hadn't much enjoyed Trowa's last dare either. Still, there was a chance that Heero would think of something before Trowa did...

Trowa could read Duo's train of reason quite clearly from the braided boy's face. He repressed a smirk. Duo, of course, wouldn't realize that Trowa had been biding his time all evening, planning his attack carefully...

"Dare," Duo said flatly. He looked expectantly at Heero, but the Japanese boy just blinked at him in confusion.

"I dare you to put on the shirt Heero gave you earlier," Trowa said quietly.

Duo's head whipped around so fast his braid flew out and smacked Heero in the head. His violet eyes were wide, his face pale with shock. For a moment, he just stared blankly at Trowa. Then, very quietly, he asked, "Why?"

Trowa felt a twinge of guilt at the expression on Duo's face. He'd known this would upset the American, but... well, it was the best way he could think of to get what he wanted from the boy. Trowa steeled his resolve and shook his head slowly. "The rules don't require me to give a reason," he pointed out. Duo stared at him for a while longer, and Trowa wondered if the braided boy would simply refuse. But finally, Duo stood up and walked into the kitchen, quickly stripping off his tee shirt and pulling on the clingy purple mesh top. He walked back into the living room and resumed his seat, face blank of expression. His violet stare was fastened firmly on Trowa.

Trowa stared back for a moment, then opened himself up to attack. "Dare," he said quietly.

Duo smiled nastily. "I dare you to kiss Heero," he said immediately. Now it was Heero's head that snapped around, and the Japanese pilot stared incredulously at Duo.

"But... Duo... " he protested.

"Shut up," Duo snarled, turning to scowl at his erstwhile lover. Heero wisely shut up. Duo looked ready to spit nails.

Trowa sighed and rose slowly to his feet. He'd expected Duo to do something like this in retaliation. As soon as he'd given his earlier answer, he knew Duo had filed away the information under 'potential weaknesses to exploit.' Hopefully it would be worth it in the end.

Heero regarded him dubiously as he knelt before the couch. "I'm not very good at this," the Japanese boy informed him warily.

Trowa smiled slightly. "That's all right, I'm probably a bit rusty myself," he assured Heero, and then without further preamble simply grabbed the back of the shorter pilot's neck and pulled his head down, pressing their lips together.

It was a brief kiss, and Trowa made no effort to deepen it, pulling away quickly. Heero's lips had been slightly parted, and had left a wet smear across his own mouth. Trowa fastidiously wiped his mouth on his sleeve as he returned to his seat.

Duo was frowning at Trowa, obviously irritated that his ploy hadn't caused the tall pilot much discomfort. Heero just shook his head, shrugged, and said firmly, "Truth."

Trowa kept his mouth shut. He'd already gotten everything he needed from Heero, and Duo might relax a bit if he got to torment the Japanese boy.

Duo stared thoughtfully at Heero for quite some time before finally asking quietly, "Why'd you pay me?"

Heero scowled darkly, buying time and perhaps steeling his nerves by retrieving a new bottle of wine from the kitchen and chugging half of it. Finally, he gave a sigh of defeat and met Duo's intent violet stare.

"I was never supposed to... do what we did that night. With anyone. Ever. That was part of my training. But I was weak, and I couldn't stop myself... " Heero shook his head, frowning. Trowa had expected Duo to be red-faced and shrieking by now, but the American was just watching Heero closely, sipping his wine. Finally, Heero continued. "It happened, and there was nothing I could do to change that. I mean, I didn't want to change it, but... I knew I could never let it happen again. It was a danger --"

"How was it a danger?" Duo interrupted softly. Heero frowned at him. Trowa elected not to point out that the Japanese boy was under no obligation to answer the question. He wanted to see if Heero had the logic worked out any better now than he had the morning after.

"It was... you would be... a distraction," Heero attempted to explain. "When I needed to be focused on my mission, as long as I had no ties, no connections, there was nothing to clutter up my mind. But if you were in my mind... " Heero shrugged, not able to explain himself any further, it seemed.

Duo frowned and cocked his head inquisitively. "So you paid me so you wouldn't think about me?" Duo pressed, the anger and hurt he'd displayed so frequently since the incident strangely absent. "If you paid me, that made it something trivial, just a physical release?"

Heero was shaking his head vehemently, "No, that's not it," he protested. "Paying you... it was just... I was trying to tell you it could never happen again. That's all."

Duo was chewing thoughtfully on his lip, mulling over Heero's words. But apparently, he still wasn't quite clear on what Heero was saying. "But why did you choose... that to tell me?" Duo asked, confusion in his voice. "Why not just say it to my face? You had to know it was... kind of insulting to pay me," Duo pointed out.

Heero was playing with Duo's pants again, staring intently at a tiny hole on his right thigh. A long, silent moment passed before the Japanese boy answered. "I... couldn't say it to your face. It was all I could do to get out of bed. I had to... I knew it would make you angry. And if you were angry, then you wouldn't want me... so... "

"You chickenshit," Duo muttered, but there was no anger in his tone, only weariness and grudging affection. Heero looked up in surprise, obviously not expecting Duo to speak to him in that tone of voice. "You deliberately pissed me off because you were too... smitten to turn me down to my face." Duo shook his head, chuckling ruefully.

"I didn't mean to make you that mad," Heero told him, drunk enough that his face had assumed an unaccustomed sincere expression.

[cont]