Pairing: 6x2, 3x4, 1xR, 1+2, hints of 5x2.
Warnings: Sap, UST, Possible OoC Wufei.
A/N: Beta-ed by the fabulous marasmine but all errors are my own. GW doesn't
belong to me and it makes me so very sad.
Entropy of Memory +
Unfortunately, Trowa wasn't
alone; that would have been too easy. A tall, blond, blue-eyed,
Viking god accompanied him; Zechs. Duo tried not to sigh at this unexpected,
unwelcome, development. He should have known a peaceful, uncomplicated
lunch was too much to hope for. To say Zechs aroused conflicting emotions
was an understatement; and he made Duo think about things he really didn't
want to contemplate. Things like need and want, pain and guilt.
Duo didn't have to turn and watch as Zechs moved towards their table;
every eye in the place was on him, male and female. He could look at the
faces around him and gage Zechs' progress through the room. Zechs was
handsome, drop dead gorgeous in fact, but it wasn't just his looks that
commanded attention. It was the force of his personality; charisma, charm,
whatever you called it, he had it; people paid attention, people had been
willing to die for him in the war.
And, no matter what Quatre thought, Zechs wasn't interested in him, that
was in the past, and it was over. They were partners now and had learned
to work together. Duo was learning to deal with having Zechs in his life.
He had been utterly stunned when Lady Une presented Zechs as his new partner.
He'd never thought to see him again.
He didn't think he'd ever forget that moment in Lady Une's office. Chatting
with Wufei, walking towards Une's office, he'd been totally unprepared
for how his life was about to change. He'd been practically speechless
when he'd stepped inside and found Zechs sitting by her desk, waiting
for him. Lady Une, on the other hand, had had lots to say.
"I know you can both put any past differences, any history, behind
you and work together." It had taken Duo a moment before he figured out
she'd meant their having been on opposite sides of the war. At least he'd
hoped that was all she meant; underestimating Une was always a mistake,
and she had been at the wedding. He'd looked at Une very carefully
but got no hint that she meant anything but the war with the phrase ‘past
differences' and 'history.' Zechs expression gave away nothing.
So he'd taken a deep breath, looked Zechs in the eye, and said, "Yes,
everything in the past is just that, the past. We won't ever mention it
again. Clean slate and all that." He'd tried to smile but hadn't been
very successful. Zechs face had stayed strangely blank. Lady Une had been
pleased; a pleased Une always made him feel wary.
What he should have done was walk away but he'd already done that once.
He'd been hurt and alone, bruised and damaged. He'd wanted something of
his own and had used Zechs to ease his pain. Then he'd run from what he'd
done without a word of explaination or apology. He'd done the very things
he'd expected from Zechs. He hadn't believed Zechs offer, no matter that
he'd wanted to, and now he'd never know if Zechs had meant it. His little
speech in Une's office wasn't enough but it was all he had to offer.
Trowa and Zechs were almost at the table, Quatre gave him one more small,
Tall, blond, and deadly slid into the chair next to Duo with a smile;
close enough Duo could feel the heat of his body. Duo smiled a greeting
at Trowa and then nodded at Zechs. Zechs' presence seemed to fill up all
the available space, suck the air out of the room. It was a strange feeling
to sit peacefully, pretending everything was fine, next to someone who
aroused so many complex, conflicting emotions. Work was easier than this,
social situations were…complicated, harder.
"Duo. Quatre." Zechs greeted them with that devastating smile and a friendly
nod, first in Quatre's direction, and then with his eyes fixed on Duo
until he'd responded with a subdued ‘hello.' Almost as verbal as Heero,
he laughed inwardly at the thought, and smiled to himself as he realized
that peace made stranger bedfellows than politics. And smiled a bit more
as he realized that thinking about Heero hadn't hurt. When had that happened?
"I hope you don't mind if I join you?" Zechs went on politely in his deep,
cultured voice which ran all over Duo's already jangled nerve endings.
Zechs was unfailingly polite. With no effort at all Duo could hear Zechs
whispering hoarsely, "please" and "let me" making sure Duo
wanted what he offered as their bodies moved together. And Duo had, very
"Duo?" Hearing his name jerked Duo's thoughts back to the present to find
Zechs looking at him with a curious expression.
"Sure, good to see you." Was the best Duo could manage.
Duo thought about his partner and wondered when Zechs had stopped calling
him Maxwell and started using his first name again. When had he started
to think of Zechs' smile as devastating and started smiling back. Partners
didn't have to be friends; they just had to trust that the other would
do his job. Trust was good, friendship acceptable, and anything more than
that was dangerous; at least that's what Duo kept telling himself, even
as he considered where this line of thought was taking him.
Unfortunately self didn't seem to be listening; it was too busy thinking
about the warm body sitting next to him. And noticing how good Zechs smelled,
and reminding him of that night. Self was happily suggesting that common
sense take a hike and that climbing onto Zechs lap and kissing him was
a wonderful idea. Duo thought maybe if he smashed his head on the table
he could stop thinking about it. But Quatre might be upset, couldn't have
that. He tried deep breathing.
Quatre smiled, said hello to Zechs, and then raised his face to greet
Trowa with a kiss. Duo looked at the lovers and saw two good friends.
He didn't know how Zechs saw them or what Zechs saw when he looked at
Duo. Self-doubt was still his companion, doubt and guilt.
Duo watched Zechs out of the corner of his eye as he gazed openly at the
pair across the table. Zechs' lips were curved in a small, slightly wicked
smile, like he knew Duo was watching him, like he knew what Duo was thinking.
Duo didn't think he could do this; he couldn't do this, couldn't sit here
next to Zechs; almost touching him, not able to touch him. Maybe he could
pretend to get an emergency need-you-at-the-office kind of phone call?
He couldn't think of any excuse that wouldn't entail an explanation; he
Duo wordlessly passed his menu to Zechs, pointedly not looking
at him, resisting the urge to smack him with it; for being there, for
tempting him, for making him want; then avoided watching him while
he scanned through it. Quatre and Trowa still hadn't come up for air.
Oh, they'd stopped kissing but they were still doing that ‘thing' couples
in love do, just looking at each other, wordless communication.
Duo thought that the world just disappeared for those two sometimes. He
was happy for his friends but it made him feel empty; lost; wanting. No,he
wasn't empty, wasn't lost. No, he was going insane.
Duo thought about his partner while he studied the tabletop. Lady Une
put them together; ordered them to work it out. He hadn't said a word
about Heero's wedding; Zechs hadn't either. They seemed to have reached
an unspoken agreement to never speak of the whole affair. Fine with him,
Duo had thought, that way he'd be able to forget… but forgetting hadn't
It was like he'd told Zechs, it was just sex. It didn't mean anything.
Obviously Zechs had forgotten all about it, so it couldn't have meant
much to him. Bastard.
Duo couldn't forget, even though he wanted to. Duo could never forget.
Couldn't forget how he'd felt, that he'd really wanted to believe Zechs'
offer. But he couldn't forget who or what he was, or where he came from,
or how different they were.
Zechs was rich, educated, and very smooth. Duo was self-taught, rough
around the edges, and not entirely comfortable with peace. And of course
his best friend had married Zechs' sister. Giving them some sort of strange
connection, a connection neither of them wanted.
Heero and Relena; the wedding; both things they didn't speak of, things
they didn't acknowledge, well things that Duo didn't acknowledge and Zechs
seemed to accept that. They worked together, respected each others abilities,
and that was enough. It was enough, it would be enough, it had to be
enough; it was all there could be. Sometimes he wished it could be
different, even though he knew it couldn't, and could never have worked
Trowa finished saying hello to Quatre, which had involved a bit more tongue
than most of the room was probably comfortable with but that didn't seem
to bother Quatre at all. Their table provided some privacy but they were
still visible. Quatre looked a bit flushed, laughing at something Trowa
whispered to him. Quatre would, in a moment, remember Zechs' and Duo's
presence but for a short time only Trowa had existed for him. Love is
a wonderful thing when it's shared, Duo thought, but he was still on the
outside looking in, and it felt pretty lonely.
Zechs put the menu down and glanced over at Duo; his eyes held a hint
of amusement and maybe a touch of something else. The something else made
Duo more uncomfortable than the amusement, it was a very knowing look.
Zechs shifted beside him making Duo wonder if he was uncomfortable with
the public display, but he didn't really think that, Zechs hadn't minded
being seen with him. They sat almost shoulder to shoulder at the small
table; Zechs was tall and muscular, and seemed to take up more than his
share of space. Duo could almost feel the length of Zechs' thigh against
his own; close enough that he was aware of every small movement Zechs
Duo knew Zechs was a very tactile person but since he'd becoming Duo's
partner he'd carefully avoided touching Duo, kept out of his personal
space. Today he seemed to have forgotten that consideration. Duo felt
Zechs shift again, his shoulder brushing Duo's and his knee sliding down
the length of Duo's thigh. Zechs had apparently changed the rules. Duo
resisted the urge to jerk away or look at Zechs, no way he'd react to
his touch. He willed himself to not respond.
Zechs and Quatre made small talk while Duo carefully focused on the tabletop,
the other people in the dining room, anything but Zechs, trying to ignore
the heat of Zechs leg against his. Trowa smiled fondly at Quatre. Zechs
talked about the case and why the defendant had pled guilty, abruptly
ending the trial, Trowa grinned and added a few descriptive words to Zechs'
explanation of events. Zechs laughed easily and Duo felt strangely warmed
by the sound.
Duo found himself watching them talk and laugh but not really hearing
the words. He couldn't seem to focus or maybe he was too focused. Zechs
was relaxed, although he still held himself like a soldier, straight and
proud. He occasionally gestured gracefully with his hands and Duo noticed,
not for the first time, how different they were from Heero's hands, from
Zechs' skin was milky pale, almost creamy, the blue veins faintly visible
beneath it; his hands were large, long fingered, elegant. Heero's hands
were golden skinned, broad and strong; capable working hands; soldier's
hands. Duo had once imagined how Heero's hands would look against his
skin; hard fingers splayed over bare flesh, griping tight enough to leave
Duo blinked and brought himself back from unwanted thoughts, he watched
Zechs' aristocratic hands moving through the air as they gracefully illustrated
his conversation. He remembered quite vividly exactly how those hands
had looked and felt sliding over his body. He tried to think about something
else but the movement of Zechs' hands as he spoke was hypnotic, he couldn't
Although Duo knew it wasn't true, Zechs' pale, smooth hands looked as
if they'd never done anything more demanding than holding leather bound
books, delicate crystal glasses, or an elegant fencing foil. Duo looked
at his own hands; rough, calloused, scarred; working hands that were made
to hold a wrench or a gun, deft fingers that could pick a pocket or wield
a knife. They were opposites. Everything about Zechs was aristocratic,
elegant, exquisite; everything about Duo was...not; he didn't belong in
the same place.
Zechs' white blond hair was pulled back into a tail for work; too-long
bangs fell over his pale eyebrows, and threatened to obscure icy-blue
eyes. He was a very attractive man, Duo thought yet again. When Zechs
turned in his direction Duo realized he'd been staring and blinked in
embarrassment. There was a question in Zechs' eyes that he didn't understand
but Duo risked a small smile at Zechs' before he looked away. It wasn't
a happy smile, the comparisons he'd drawn showed him how right he'd been
to stay away from Zechs.
Duo wasn't going to look back at him. He wouldn't think twice if the person
sitting so close to him, touching him, smiling at him, had been Quatre,
or even Trowa, they were his friends. Duo didn't like the direction his
thoughts were taking and blamed Quatre for all of it. Duo aimed a glare
in Quatre's direction but he seemed completely oblivious.
Partners shouldn't be bothered by accidental contact; they spent too much
time in all kinds of situations to let that get to them. Duo took a deep
breath and tried to focus on the conversation; he wouldn't let himself
be distracted because his friends were comfortable with PDA's and he was
sitting close to an attractive, sexy man who smelled wonderful. Duo was
annoyed with himself for even thinking that. He attempted to put the thought
out of his mind and wondered who'd let his hormones out and why he couldn't
reign them in. His libido had got him into trouble before, it wouldn't
happen again. Duo looked up in time to see Trowa watching with an odd
look on his face before his eyes slid back to Quatre.
The waiter came to take their orders and when he left Quatre remarked
casually, "Duo and I were just discussing going to the mountains for a
long weekend. I've decided to take a few days off. We'll celebrate Trowa's
case being finished up. We'd love for you to join us, Zechs. Wouldn't
Quatre wore his most guileless look and an innocent smile. Duo's eyes
flicked from Quatre to Zechs and back again. Quatre had blindsided him
again, he'd have to be more careful. Zechs wanted to laugh at Duo's expression
of surprise but bit back even a smile.
Duo hoped his mouth wasn't hanging open because he didn't remember any
such conversation. Quatre was looking at him and smiling. Duo didn't want
to contradict him because maybe he had been talking about it. All
he had to do was say 'no'.
Quatre's expression said ‘nod and make agreeing sounds.' Duo wondered
why Zechs needed his second to accept an invitation from Quatre. Duo didn't
know where to look, wouldn't look at Zechs, and kept his eyes on the table;
the vase of flowers was fascinating.
"I'm sure Zechs already has plans, Quatre." Duo said, showing Quatre a
smile that was really more a baring of teeth. He feverently hoped Zechs
already had plans.
Quatre's smile was sweet and just as fierce as he asked, "Do you have
plans, Zechs?" Duo suspected Quatre already knew the answer.
"No, I don't but if you'd rather I didn't come, Duo." Zechs said.
Ah, yeah, make me the bad guy, Duo thought. "Quatre will be disappointed
if you don't." Duo heard himself say. He was going to kill Quatre. He'd
meant to say no, really he had.
Zechs smiled as if Duo's endorsement had been as gracious as Quatre's
invitation, tried to catch Duo's eye and failed, but accepted in a pleased
tone. "I look forward to it. Thank you."
Duo was confused, Zechs wasn't supposed to say yes. Duo had no idea if
he'd agreed to a trip earlier or if Quatre had just come up with the idea
as some sort of payback for not paying attention. His muscles tensed as
he envisioned a weekend of meeting the latest of Quatre's finds, and trying
to avoid them. Duo suppressed a wince, thinking of Zechs there. He could
avoid Zechs, really he could, it was a big place. Lots of rooms.
Quatre noticed the expression on Duo's face.
"Duo, are you all right? I thought you were looking forward to getting
away from everything?" Quatre's expression was still one of complete innocence
overlaid with real concern.
Duo suspected Quatre knew exactly what he was thinking. He would love
to get away from ‘everything' and that included meddling friends and partners
that were handsome and smelled good and that he desperately wanted, needed
to avoid. His control was just about shot and Quatre was not helping.
Quatre had perfected the art of feigned innocence and manipulation, of
Duo along with most of the known world. Quatre's motive was a simple desire
to help his friends, to see them happy, a rather benign reason but God
help them all if Quatre Raberba Winner ever decided on world domination.
He was relentless.
"A nice, quiet weekend would be good." Duo ventured and didn't know how
to add ‘as long as you don't try to fix me up' without sounding pathetic,
ungrateful, and completely embarrassing himself. So he settled for looking
at Quatre in what he hoped was a meaningful manner. Zechs and Trowa watched
and waited, Zechs with a sly expression replacing his smile. Trowa stepped
into the breach.
"I think Duo is wondering if you've invited a lot of people." Trowa said
in his oddly tactful way.
"Oh, just us, no one you don't know." Quatre waved the question away and
then started telling Zechs about the ‘cabin.' Only Quatre, well maybe
Zechs, would consider calling the Winner mountain home a cabin.
Zechs had accepted the invitation and Duo wondered how strange the whole
weekend would be. They never willingly socialized outside of work, although
sometimes it happened; it had been part of their unwritten, unspoken agreement
to keep things strictly on a professional level. Duo reminded himself
that there would be plenty of things to do. He could catch up on his reading,
take naps, maybe Rashid would let him fix a car or he could rework the
security system. Okay, he knew that was a little desperate.
Duo allowed myself a moment of relief at the thought that there would
be no strangers invited when it suddenly hit him that Heero and Relena
might be there. He tried to decide how upset Quatre would be if he just
didn't show up when Duo heard him say to Zechs.
"I invited Relena but she's preparing for a trip to L4 and of course,
Heero is in charge of security." Duo felt a surge of relief and hoped
that everyone at the table didn't notice the tension leaving his body.
A weekend with Relena and Heero wouldn't be…relaxing, he simply wasn't
ready to deal with Heero yet but he would, he owed Heero an explaination,
maybe an apology.
"Duo, are you all right?" Zechs leaned closer, twisting his upper body
to place as arm on the back of Duo's chair, head tilted down to look at
Duo, his voice low and concerned. Duo froze. Zechs eyes were inches away
and locked onto his. Duo found he couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't
breathe. Zechs pulled back a little and Duo was on his feet.
"Um….I'm fine, just a headache. Excuse me." It was true, Duo's head hurt.
"I'm going to find some aspirin."
Safely in the men's room Duo located and swallowed some aspirin, then
took the extra time to wash his face and take a few deep, calming breaths.
Gave himself a little pep talk, too, in front of the mirror about partners
and acting like an idiot. Duo stared at his too-pale face, deeply shadowed
eyes that looked bruised, and knew if he stayed longer one of them would
come looking for him.
Maybe a weekend away would be good but at that moment Duo couldn't think
of anything that sounded less appealing. A weekend with Zechs, especially
the Zechs that leaned in, looked concerned, sounded caring, was a horrifying
prospect. Could it get any worse?
No, he didn't think so. Okay, a weekend with Heero and Relena would be
worse, much worse. Duo still didn't want to go. He couldn't wait for lunch
and the whole day to be over. He inhaled and exhaled deeply, fixed a smile
on his face, and went back out to finalize plans with Quatre.
The three of them were deep in conversation when Duo got back to the table,
it was telling that they all looked up, smiled, and that the conversation
stopped completely. Was it paranoid to think they were talking about him?
It probably was, even if was true. Trowa spoke first, they'd been making
plans, and evidently sorting out Duo's schedule was part of that.
"Quatre and I are driving up this afternoon; Zechs said the two of you
probably can't get away until later?" Duo wouldn't, couldn't, look in
Zechs direction; ‘the two of us?' Oh, no, that wasn't going to happen.
"I don't know Q, I have a lot of work to catch up on," Duo hedged, trying
to leave himself an out.
Duo suddenly saw an opportunity to avoid the whole thing. Quatre and Trowa
would leave before he could get away from work, he'd have the perfect
chance to send his regrets, after they were out of town. Later,
Duo would have to face Quatre's disappointed expression, and probably
an inquisition from Trowa, or a pep talk from Quatre about ‘moving on'
with his life and not avoiding his friends. But he wouldn't have to spend
time with Zechs, which seemed a very good idea.
Duo thought that things had shifted in his favour when Zechs announced
in Quatre's direction, with a firm, ‘don't argue' tone, "We'll be finished
up tomorrow or the reports can wait. Duo can ride up with me after work,
there's no sense in both of us driving up separately."
Duo could tell by the way Quatre looked at him and the way Trowa didn't,
that they'd already discussed this and it was part of the plan. Quatre's
way of making sure that Duo showed up and that it would not be easy for
him to leave early. Duo noticed that no one asked what he wanted, typical
Quatre, and he'd roped Zechs into it.
Duo made a final bid for escape as he smiled and said. "Thanks, but I'm
taking my bike up. I haven't had a chance to ride in weeks." It was true,
and was another good excuse for not driving up right after work and for
leaving early. Quatre gave Duo one of those smiles that looked sweet,
if you didn't know him.
"I hate it when you take that thing up into the mountains; the roads are
dangerous enough and worse on a bike." Trowa did his best not to roll
his eyes at Quatre. They'd been soldiers and Gundam pilots, and everyone
but Quatre was a Preventer agent. Riding a motorcycle in the mountains
was one of the least dangerous things any of them did. Somehow, Duo thought,
he was going to break Quatre of this need to fix his life.
"Quatre," Duo protested. "I haven't had an accident in over a year and
it wasn't my fault, anyway. Haven't had a ticket either."
Trowa offered, in an absolutely deadpan voice. "Duo drives too fast."
This was directed at Zechs. Quatre looked smug and Duo knew he'd put Trowa
up to it. He added Trowa to his list of people he was out of sorts with,
below Heero, Quatre, and yes, Zechs… but above Lady Une's name and the
cleaner who'd lost his second best jacket.
Duo opened his mouth to argue but Zechs stepped right into the opening
and cut him off. "I've never been to Quatre's place; you can show me the
way. You wouldn't want to worry Quatre, would you?"
Zechs smiled as he spoke but his eyes dared Duo to argue; Duo closed his
mouth. Trowa looked over and gave him a slow wink that said he knew that
Duo was completely aware of Quatre's machinations. Duo surrendered with
an internal sigh and didn't suggest that a map was a viable alternative,
or that Zechs Merquise needing help to find anything was ludicrous.
So Duo gave in and said," Sure, that would be great." Check and mate.
Quatre looked smug, Zechs looked pleased, and Trowa was amused. Duo knew
he looked resigned or worse, sulky. He refused to pout, even if he hadn't
given in with good grace.
He'd be having a vacation whether he wanted it or not. Duo wondered how
Zechs got roped into being his minder and thought that they'd have something
to talk about on the ride to Quatre's. As his partner, shouldn't Zechs
be protecting him from the evil Winner/Barton Olympic class meddling team
rather than aiding and abetting them? And when had Trowa started encouraging
Quatre's matchmaking? Maybe suggesting that Une pair Trowa and Zechs up
had been a bad idea. If Trowa taking Zechs side was the result it had
definitely been a mistake.
Lunch was probably wonderful but Duo didn't remember what he ordered or
if he even ate. Trowa and Zechs discussed the case they'd just finished
up and Quatre told Zechs about the activities he'd planned for the weekend.
They compared travel notes and talked about their favourite restaurants
around the world. Duo noticed all over again how different he and Zechs
were. Trowa asked about Duo's new bike and then told a funny story about
Cathy and the circus. Duo smiled and laughed while he asked himself. 'How
did I let myself get roped into this and when did I lose all control over
Except for the peculiar way Zechs was behaving and the fact that he really
didn't want to spend any time with the man no matter what his inner voice
was saying, Duo thought he should be grateful to Zechs after he realized
how things might have been. He could be doing that odd dance that happened
whenever he was alone with Quatre and Trowa. Duo tried not to intrude
on their time together and they tried to include him in everything, well
almost. Duo wanted to avoid even thinking about that. Spending time with
them reminded him of the way he once thought his life would be, part of
Quatre was right about one thing. Duo needed to stop dwelling on the past,
thinking about what might have been, what he'd wanted. But the prospect
of the future didn't seem much better. And now he had the weekend from
Hell to look forward to. It was enough to make a grown man weep. At least
lunch was over.
[ch. 2] [ch. 4] [back
to BleedToBlues' fic]