Where I Started From... + Part 9 (cont)

+

Trowa's eyes flew open with a silent curse as he heard a loud crash and Duo frantically yelling Heero's name.

Either Heero had finally snapped and was trying to kill Duo, or Duo had lashed out a bit more violently than he'd meant to.

"Oh God, Trowa, help! He's not moving!" Duo wailed, from what seemed like very far away. Or perhaps...

Trowa walked into the kitchen, the stiffness nearly gone from his wounded leg, and immediately noted the dark rectangle in the wall next to the stairs. His second theory had been correct. Duo was not far away, but underground. Trowa sighed. So the cabin had a root cellar.

"Trowa!" Duo yelled again, sounding more unhinged by the moment. Trowa frowned slightly. He was not thrilled with Duo at the moment, but he supposed it was possible that Heero had been badly injured. He walked over to the dark portal in the wall, studying the mangled latch briefly.

"Trowa! Help me... I can't fucking see anything, and he's not moving... I didn't mean to hit him that hard, Trowa, I swear... God... everything's wet, he's dripping, I don't know... " Duo was barely coherent, his words interrupted by harsh gasps of air and choked sobs. Trowa sighed slightly, examining the wall beside him until he located a light switch. He flipped it on.

He immediately wished he hadn't.

Duo's horrified gasp and deranged keening wail accompanied the strangely calm thought, Déjà vu, which wandered through Trowa's mind at the sight of Heero sprawled in a slowly spreading pool of red.

It only took Trowa a moment to reassess the view rationally, though.

Something Duo didn't seem to be doing.

Trowa carefully descended the steps, avoiding one that Heero had smashed in half on the way down, and knelt beside the Japanese boy, fastidiously avoiding the red pool on the dirty stone floor. Duo was still wailing in despair. Trowa wondered if he was going to have to slap the distraught American.

It didn't sound like a bad idea, actually.

The force of his blow snapped Duo's head to the side, his shrieking cut off abruptly. Wide violet eyes, welling with tears of guilt, grief and confusion turned back towards Trowa after a moment. Then Duo glanced down at Heero and Trowa thought he might get the chance to smack the other boy again.

"Oh God, Trowa," Duo moaned miserably, his hands twitching towards Heero but not quite touching him. "Oh my God, what did I do? Jesus, there's so much blood... Is he gonna die? He can't! Trowa, I ­ "

"Duo," Trowa said firmly, grabbing the pointed chin and forcing Duo to meet his steady gaze. "He's not going to die," Trowa continued flatly, in a tone that brooked no argument.

"But... there's so much blood," Duo argued weakly, obviously wanting to believe Trowa's reassurance.

Trowa sighed wearily. "It's not blood, Duo. It's wine."

Duo blinked rapidly in surprise and confusion. "But... he fell... he hit... wine?" Duo finally managed weakly, sounding baffled by the concept.

Trowa nodded slowly. "Look around you," he added as he bent over to check Heero for any real damage. As expected, there were bumps and bruises and cuts, but it took a lot more than a spill down the stairs and a collision with an ancient wine rack to seriously damage Heero Yuy.

Duo, meanwhile, was finally looking around the cellar. "Wow," he murmured in astonished awe.

Sitting back from his examination of Heero, Trowa had to admit it was a rather impressive sight. "I think we know why the Winners bought this place," he observed wryly.

Duo could only nod in agreement, his eyes wide as saucers. A big, dopey grin slowly spread itself across his face. Trowa frowned, not trusting that expression in the slightest.

"Duo?" he asked warily.

Duo ignored him as he stood, looking around in an apparently happy daze, and wandered slowly away.

Trowa merely raised an eyebrow in dubious consideration as Duo began exploring the many aisles of packed and dusty wine racks, pulling out random bottles to examine their labels. Heero moaned softly on the floor. Trowa shook his head at the semi-conscious boy. "It might be smarter to stay unconscious," he advised.

Duo giggled softly, somewhere in the gloom. Trowa sighed. He had a bad feeling about this.

+

Heero frowned at the doorway to the wine cellar, still hanging open a few hours later. This was partially because Heero's earlier passage through the concealed door had very nearly destroyed the latch mechanism, but also because Duo was down there.

The American had only left the cellar to grudgingly help Trowa drag Heero back upstairs to clean up his minor wounds, then had immediately scampered back below, where he had remained for the past three hours.

Heero was burning with curiosity as to what Duo could be doing down there for all this time.

Trowa didn't seem interested.

"What is he doing down there?" Heero asked again anyway, because after the events of the past few weeks, he found himself increasingly nervous whenever Duo was out of his direct line of sight.

Trowa, as he had the last five times Heero had asked this question, shrugged and replied flatly, "Not bothering us."

Heero scowled at the tall boy. He wasn't sure exactly what was going on with Trowa. He'd seen him kissing Duo on the porch, and couldn't quite understand how even Trowa, renowned for his reserve, could now be ignoring Duo and acting, if anything, mildly annoyed by the American.

Heero hadn't kissed Duo for over a week, and he could barely restrain himself from pelting down to the basement every time he heard a distant tinkle of broken glass or a deranged giggle.

Was it... somehow... possible that Trowa hadn't enjoyed kissing Duo?

Recalling his own experience, Heero couldn't understand how this could be the case, but Trowa certainly didn't seem anxious for Duo to rejoin them. In fact, the taller pilot kept shooting irritated glances at the cellar doorway.

Heero's scowl deepened. He was getting very tired of all this... emotional messiness he was constantly floundering around in these days. He hadn't been trained for this sort of thing. Socialization had not been high on his superiors' list of priorities for their perfect soldier.

Heero had never been long on patience, and he was rapidly reaching the end of his limited supply.

"Why are you mad at Duo?" Heero demanded of Trowa.

The taller pilot looked up from the book he'd been reading, a ratty old romance novel someone had left behind in the cabin, and stared impassively at Heero for a moment. Finally, he shrugged and returned his attention to his book, muttering offhandedly, "He was being an ass."

Heero crossed his bruised and bandaged arms over his chest pensively. Trowa and Duo had kissed. Now Trowa was mad at Duo. Trowa said this was because Duo was being an ass. He considered this information for a while, trying to formulate some scenario to make sense of what he knew, but finally gave up with an irritated grunt. Insufficient data to complete analysis.

"I thought I was the ass," Heero pressed, hoping for clarification.

Trowa glanced up at him again, and Heero got the impression from the narrowing of the green eyes that Trowa was rapidly reaching the end of his patience as well.

"You don't hold the monopoly," Trowa informed him shortly.

"Why is Duo an ass?" Heero asked bluntly, abandoning his attempt at subtlety.

Trowa heaved an exasperated sigh and very pointedly laid his book down on the table, leaving it open to the page he'd been reading. He stared flatly at Heero. "Because he did something thoughtless for a very petty reason," Trowa explained slowly, as though speaking to an especially dimwitted child. "It seems to be the thing to do lately," he continued, his eyes narrowing.

Heero's brows drew down menacingly over his eyes. "I wasn't being petty," he denied irritably. "I had a very good reason -- "

"My, my, my, you two sure are chatty today, aren'tcha?" Duo asked in an obnoxiously cheerful voice.

Heero's head snapped around to the cellar door, to see the American leaning against the frame, grinning with psychotic glee and clutching several dark, dusty bottles in his arms. He had dust all over his black clothes, and cobwebs in his hair, but he didn't seem to mind. The wide grin was accompanied by a pair of wickedly sparkling violet eyes and brightly flushed cheeks.

"S'like a reg'lar... coffee clatch," Duo continued. Then he giggled at his own remark, which had left both Trowa and Heero mildly confused.

The giggle tugged at Heero's memory, and he shut his eyes with a groan.

Duo was drunk.

Duo giggled again, for some reason known only to him, and Heero opened his eyes warily to watch him walk unsteadily into the kitchen, finally depositing his load of bottles on the table between Heero and Trowa.

Trowa sighed heavily and pushed his unfinished book away, looking up at Duo with wary impatience. Duo glanced back and forth between them, then began making faces that Heero supposed were meant to be Duo's impression of the looks they were giving him. He didn't think either of them had their eyes bugged out or their mouths turned down in a comically exaggerated frown, though. Duo looked more like a fish than he did either of his companions.

When his imitation failed to get a response, Duo sighed exaggeratedly and shook his head. "You don't have to be quiet on my account," he informed them sincerely. "I don't like to be quiet."

"I know," Heero couldn't restrain himself from muttering. He immediately cringed inwardly as Duo's rather bleary violet gaze locked onto his own, expecting another sudden burst of anger such as he had suffered for days whenever he dared to speak to Duo.

But instead, Duo smiled happily at him and cheerfully agreed, "Yeah, you oughta know!" Then the American's face fell, though, and he declared mournfully, "You like me to be quiet, though... No noise, no noise, shhh... " Duo raised his finger in front of his mouth, nearly sticking it up his nose in the process, and shushed Heero and Trowa insistently, his eyes so wide they were nearly round.

Trowa was eyeing Duo warily, and Heero found himself at a loss for a reply. He wasn't quite sure what the situation was here. Had Duo forgiven Heero? Had his plan worked after all, and knocking him down the stairs had released the tension between them? Or was Duo just too drunk to remember he was angry at Heero? Or was he just pretending not to be angry, to lull Heero into a false sense of security...

Heero decided he would never be able to reason out Duo's motivation. It was a fairly useless thing to attempt when the American was sober, and when he was drunk, Heero had never had any luck predicting what he would do or say next.

He decided to fall back on his usual strategy for dealing with Duo in this condition: Don't piss him off. It was harder than it sounded, but Heero had had plenty of practice.

So he didn't argue, merely picked up a bottle and accepted the corkscrew Duo had found somewhere when the American abruptly demanded, "Drink with me!" Trowa looked decidedly less than thrilled at the idea, but Heero shot him a very pointed glance, and with another long-suffering sigh, he acquiesced, grabbing a bottle as well. Duo beamed at them both and staggered off toward the couch in the small sitting room area which had been Heero's bedroom for a week.

Heero followed quickly, and attempted to sit on the lumpy couch beside Duo. Duo had thrown himself down on it sideways, his legs stretched across the middle cushion, and when Heero attempted to sit, he very firmly planted one dirty bare foot on Heero's behind and shoved. "No! You cannot sit by me!" Duo declared loudly.

Heero frowned at the American, but some of Duo's good humor seemed to have evaporated, and there was a decidedly irritable gleam in his eyes as he stared at Heero. Much as he would have liked to protest, as there was plenty of room on the couch and Trowa had already settled into the room's only other chair, Heero knew better, especially after the last several days, than to tempt Duo's ire. With a sigh, he settled on the floor in front of the couch. He glanced back to see if he was allowed to lean against it, but Duo's satisfied smirk seemed to indicate he felt his victory was complete.

Heero scowled and took a hearty swig from his bottle.

Alcohol, and indeed any mind-altering substance, was another thing declared off limits to him by his trainers. Dr. J had lectured him many times about how drinking could affect judgment and lower inhibitions. This was a battle Heero had lost long ago, though. Duo had worn him down very quickly after just a few nights of beer swilling in their dorm room. One night the braided boy had brought all his considerable powers of persuasion to bear on an already curious Heero, and he had giving in to temptation, allowing Duo's arguments that they were alone in the room so he couldn't betray the mission to sway him into accepting a can.

It had tasted horrible, but Duo had assured him the first always did, but after a few you stopped noticing it so much. Heero hadn't believed him, and Duo had challenged Heero to test the theory. A few hours later, Heero had rather groggily acknowledged Duo to be correct. Then he had passed out.

It was always easier, though, to break the rules the second time... precisely why Heero had tried to ensure Duo would never offer to sleep with him again after their first time. He knew he wouldn't have had the strength to refuse now that he knew exactly what it was he had wanted for so long from the American...

Heero scowled at the thought. Not only did he lack the strength to refuse, he had actually been so weak as to seek Duo out and proposition him instead... Heero took another long sip from his bottle.

Wine was better than beer, he decided. It still tasted weird, but he guessed the same rule would hold true, and he wouldn't notice after a while. Glancing again at Duo who was watching him through narrowed eyes, as though expecting him to make another attempt on the couch, Heero decided to test the theory.

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