Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

A note on Daniels. Some of his motivations will be slightly clearer in the coming chapters, though I don't dwell much more on the slug and good riddance. There are some Daniels out there in RL, they just don't tend to be quite so upfront in what they want, though I have heard the phrase 'yeah, she'd be fun but I wouldn't be seen with her' used in a real conversation. Oh, and before you ask...it IS, strangely enough, completely illegal to beat them to a pulp. They tend to grow out of this 'the universe is my commodity' attitude - Daniels is only 20 - so there's hope for humanity...


//THIS// is Heero's entries on his laptop.

Trial and Error + Chapter 11

Heero closed the door quietly behind him. He didn't want to run into any of the others, particularly not Quatre. He'd probably give the empath an aneurysm in his present mood.

His emotions were hammering against the walls of his control, and he didn't dare to let them out. Or he might just run back outside, before Daniels had a chance to start his car, and-...

Wufei, face a bit grim, came out of the dining room carrying dirty plates as Heero walked past.

"Ah, Yuy." The Chinese Preventer immediately started to look uncomfortable. "You're, erm...finished. I mean, back."

Heero tried to pass him and found his way blocked by dirty plates.

"Heero, maybe, if you have a moment, I need to talk to you. About something."

"What?" Heero asked, brain still on automatic.

"You honored me greatly when you asked me to guard Relena with you, Heero. I...can't tell you how much your trust meant to me, after...after Mariameia."

Heero focused on Wufei. That was a name that had hardly ever been mentioned between them in the past two years. He was surprised to hear it now, he thought Wufei and he were well past that misunderstanding.

"I take my duties very seriously. You know that."

"Of course, Wufei."

"Now that you have Daniels, though, I mean, Hugh, I...the job, you see, I'm not sure I can still...I'm not saying this right, I have to start from the beginning. Can - can we sit down?"

Oh god. He thinks Daniels can replace him. Heero had often wondered how the warrior that was Wufei could get used to the fairly mundane task of guarding Relena, and had worried that one day his friend would have one fight too many with her and want to leave. He'd not leave Heero in a lurch- echoes of Daniels' words made him cringe - but of course now he thought there was someone Heero relied on who could take his place...

"Can we talk about this tomorrow, Wufei? After the party?" Heero could tell him then that, far from Daniels replacing Wufei, it would be the other way around, he'd need Chang more than ever. But not tonight. He didn't think he could say the man's name without starting to talk like the war-time Heero Yuy, and his friends didn't deserve the reappearance of that particular character.

Wufei was looking at him intently. "Heero...are you alright?" He asked softly.

"Fine." Heero was abrupt as he pushed past him, nearly upsetting the plates. "I'm tired. I'll see you tomorrow."

"...right." He heard the clink of cutlery heading towards the kitchen behind him.

Heero walked in total silence down the hall and turned towards the old servant's stairwell instead of taking the main staircase. He didn't want to see anybody else. He walked through the dark house like a ghost, trying to erase himself from this whole situation. The feel of Daniels' breath on his lips kept coming back to him, making shudders run down a back which was very much not used to them. It seemed insane, incomprehensible that Daniels had been attracted to him - forgetting all he'd said about Duo. Heero was trying very hard to forget what the man had said about Duo. Very hard. He would probably run into Daniels tomorrow, and he didn't think his friends would be happy to have to bail him out of jail on the day of their collective birthday party. So, forgetting what Daniels had said about Duo...forgetting that...forgetting what the bastard had said about Duo, why had Daniels been attracted to Heero? It had just...just never occurred to Heero that anyone could feel about him like that. Well, okay, a maggot like Daniels probably didn't qualify as something he should flatter himself about, but...why? Maybe the idiot had mistaken Heero's soldier's mask as the same calculating ambition Daniels had shown, something they might have in common. Was that why he'd assumed Heero would gladly lose a friend that could possibly stain his career? The possibility that Heero would rather lose all his limbs had apparently not even occurred to the man at the time...Heero shook his head abruptly. Ever since the war - no, ever since his friends had come to live with him and shown him slowly how to socialize and get along in a peaceful world - ever since then Heero had wanted to understand how 'normal' people thought and functioned. For the first time in two years he wasn't sure he wanted to know, if Daniels was any example. Warm breath on his lips - Ugh.

An unexpected sound from the lounge opposite the small back-staircase made him pause. For a completely illogical second he thought it was Daniels come back to press his case further and Heero realized he'd drawn his gun before he'd even turned towards the door. He was definitely going to have to calm down before the birthday party tomorrow. Daniels would not be able to get through security, so it must be one of his housemates in the lounge. He paused in the darkness of the hall and glanced cautiously through the partially open door, wondering if he could get past it without being seen and questioned.

The scene imprinted in every detail into his mind, but refused to make sense. Trowa was sitting on the couch. Duo was sitting next to him, his feet on the cushions so that his back would have been turned to Trowa if he hadn't been twisted around and buried in the taller man's arms.

Heero felt the numbness invade him again, the cold of shock. Duo had his face buried against Trowa's shoulder, his arms around his neck and waist. Trowa was rubbing his back, smoothing the braid against his spine, his other hand around Duo's shoulder.

The scene looked intimate, but Heero could feel it. There was only one emotion in the air. Misery. He knew that slump in Duo's shoulders, though he'd hardly ever seen it; he recognized the gentle, neutral look on Trowa's face...

Duo muttered something against Trowa's jumper. Heero thought he heard the words Why and Daniels.

"I know." Trowa murmured. The sound was a caress in the darkened lounge.

Heero was implacable to his enemies, but this was nothing to how he treated himself. He didn't try to hide from this. He watched his best friend suffer and dissected his share of blame down to the last fiber.

The date Duo and Daniels had been talking about...It must have been about Daniels inviting him, Heero, to the party. Presumably that invitation would have followed the kissing - Heero felt a shudder climb his spine again, a distant distraction. So he'd misunderstood that conversation. But he had not misunderstood Duo's interest in Daniels. None of the pilots ever paid much attention to people outside their circle and Duo had been talking about little other than Daniels for the past two days. Had Duo actually fallen in love with-....they'd only met once! But how long did love take? He'd heard of love at first sight...no. No no no. But there was Duo...Why else would he be so upset? What had Daniels said to him? How had they ended up talking about Daniels dating Heero? Had Duo asked the man out first? (No no no no-) Had- had Daniels actually said any of that hateful stuff to Duo's face? Duo had always been arrogantly proud of his background, his resilience, his willpower, his survival in the face of all odds, but how would he handle it coming at him from that angle, from someone whom he- no no no no. But the denial was a flash, a twinge, a reflex. Heero continued to examine the extent of his failure in the coldest, hardest way he could.

"I'm better." The grumble was a parody of Duo's usual indomitable tones. "You can stop coddling me now." He made a move away. Heero caught sight of a pale, set face and eyes burning with self-directed annoyance. Then Trowa's muscles tightened and forced Duo back into his chest.

"Hey!"

"You're not going anywhere, Maxwell."

"But-"

"But nothing. Shut up and take it like a man."

Duo's back stiffened, then he sighed, and slumped further into Trowa's arms.

"Well if you insist..."

"I do."

"If it makes you feel better..."

"It will."

"...did I ever tell you what a good friend you are, Tro?"

"Not recently. You owe me."

"...that I do. Thanks."

"Anytime."

Heero wondered if he dare feel some hope. This was looking like the plot of several of Relena's book. Okay, a teenage ex-terrorist like Duo was as far from an Innocent Young Heroine as you could get, but love was love. Yes, this was familiar. The Innocent Young Heroine falling for The Cad. Loads of Drama. Betrayal and Broken Hearts. And then she falls back into the arms of the Faithful Friend and they realize that they had been in love from the start. Heero had thought it extremely messy thinking on everyone's part, except, perhaps, The Cad, and since something awful invariably happened to him anyway, it wasn't much of a success story for him either...Could these stupid books be relied on? Well, they could be relied on more than a certain pilot 01 of course, but could a happy ending still be dragged from this mess, for not one but two of his friends?

A clink of china sent him ghosting into the shadows of the small stairwell automatically. He'd really slipped back into his wartime persona, but the seriousness of the situation justified it in his eyes.

Quatre came out of the kitchen carrying a tray with three cups and a pot, headed towards the lounge. Heero wanted to interfere, stop the blonde somehow, leave Duo and Trowa alone, but he didn't think he could speak in his present state. It was all he could do to bury his emotions, mask his presence from the most sensitive of his friends. Quatre swung the door fully open with his hip and hesitated on the threshold.

"Want some tea?" He asked softly.

Duo snorted against Trowa's shoulder.

"Tea, cocoa...what's with you guys, never heard of liquor being the liquid of comfort?"

"Now Duo-"

"At least make it coffee, man. Tea is for sissies."

"You don't need caffeine, Duo. This is herbal infusions."

"...not like you to kick a man when he's down, Q."

Trowa chuckled softly. Heero nodded. Duo still sounded pretty down, but not out, not by a long shot. It would take more than a piece of shit like Daniels to defeat Shinigami. Heero wanted to march in there and say that, but he didn't deserve to talk to Duo at this point. He would be better off never showing his face to his best friend again.

[chap. 10] [chap. 12] [back to Maldoror's fic]