WARNINGS: Yaoi, language and ANGST! ANGST!! ANGST!!! Pissed-off nasty Duo ahead! Warning! Warning!
authors: Mel & Christy

Key:
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, someone waking up from a dream, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *
flashback starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
thoughts: *Tadah!*
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>

Reunion + Part 5

Well, here I am again, Father... right back where I started. One more piece of trash on L2's dirty streets.

Yeah, yeah, I know; you didn't want me to end up this way. You and Sister Helen wanted something better for me, and I nearly had it for a while. But I screwed up. Don't I always?

It wasn't his fault. I shouldn't'a kissed him. I knew he wasn't...

He cut himself off, swallowing; there was a pause, then he went on.

I guess I screwed up with the others, too. Damned if I know how, though. Maybe I just wasn't good enough to fit into their perfect little post-war world.

Another pause.

Well, you don't need me bitching about my problems. I figure you know all about it, anyway... You and Sister Helen should keep an eye out for Wufei, okay, Father? He needs a little heavenly help. Nudge him at the right girl or something.

I'll be seeing you.

Duo crossed himself and slowly stood, holding onto a fallen stone block for support as his head spun; then he carefully picked his way across to the gate, wincing at a stab of pain from his ribs. Damn muggers. You'd think they'd have something better to do than pick on an ex-Gundam pilot... especially a broke one. He paused, looking around, as a familiar feeling prickled the hair on the back of his neck. Someone's watching me... too many places they could be hiding. Let's move along and see what happens.

Not that I really care.

As he made his way back to the building he'd selected, more as a relatively safe place to dump his stuff than because it appealed to him, most of his attention was focused behind him; but he never caught a glimpse of who was following him. Which means they're staying a long way back, but keeping in touch. They're good.

There aren't very many people who are that good at physically tailing someone. Most people rely on bugs and cameras. So...

...I think I know who it is.

Briefly, Duo considered doing something -- trying to ditch his pursuers, turning back and confronting them, something -- but the momentary impulse passed.

Screw it. If they wanna follow me all the way, let 'em. If they wanna talk, I'll see what they have to say. If not... fuck them.

Fuck them anyway.

----------

"What the fuck do you want?"

There was silence for a few seconds; then the raspy, hoarse voice spoke again. "Come on! Tell me! You must want something, if you finally noticed I wasn't around."

Heero stepped forward, reaching for Duo's arm. "Duo, we were worried about you--" His hand closed over the trenchcoat sleeve for an instant before Duo spun around, jerking his arm free and staggering back against the wall.

"Oh, so it's a guilt trip, is it? Feeling sorry for the poor little street rat?" Duo's face was invisible in the dimness, but his cracked voice dripped contempt and bitterness.

Heero gaped in shock, hand still outstretched, horrified by what he'd felt. He's so thin -- his arm felt so fragile, like I could snap it with a finger... Licking suddenly dry lips, he spoke hesitantly. "Duo... why didn't you call me? I thought... we..."

"We what? We cared about each other? I thought so, too, but I guess I was wrong. You changed all your fucking phone numbers, Heero! Your e-mail addresses, your message service-- I went away for a month to get my head straight and you just couldn't wait to block me out!"

"B-but--"

Quatre stepped forward, one hand pressed to his chest. "But, Duo--"

"Oh, Quatre, Trowa... did you have fun hopping from colony to colony? You were moving so fast for a while there, I had a hard time finding you... much good it did me, though. You have such efficient secretaries. 'Oh, I'm afraid Master Quatre is in a meeting right now, so sorry, but if you leave your name and number I'll make sure he gets the message...' I must've left a dozen messages with six different people. I even checked into a hotel for a week so I'd have a stable number you could call me on. I guess street trash like me isn't high enough on your priorities though."

He pushed away from the wall and took a few steps forward. "And Relena! I'd say you got your secretary from the same place Quatre and Trowa get theirs, only their secretaries were at least polite. The last time I tried calling yours, she told me 'Miss Relena doesn't associate with worthless bums,' and
hung up."

One final step brought Duo into the slowly brightening fan of light from the grimy window; Quatre and Relena gasped. His face was painfully thin, sharp cheekbones protruding above hollow cheeks; a livid purple bruise was swelling one side of his jaw, and there were dark rings under his eyes. He glared at them all, feverish eyes staring into each face in turn... except Wufei's. His eyes flicked quickly away, running over Heero and Trowa.

"Ooh, uniforms. Nice. Does this mean you want me for a mission?" He laughed, a dry, humourless sound. "Sorry, I don't do that any more. I don't have anything left to give. So why don't you all just turn around and go back to your nice little happy lives, and leave me to rest in peace? Haven't I earned that, at least?"

Heero found his voice again, after hearing that. "Peace? You call this peace?! Come on, Duo--" He reached out for Duo's arm again, but he wrenched away; the violent movement made him lose his balance and stagger sideways into the wall. Leaning against it for support, he drew in breath to reply, then lost it in a series of rattling coughs that doubled him over, clutching at his ribs.

"Don't-- fuckin' touch me-- Yui," he managed to gasp out between spasms; then he straightened slowly, wiping at his mouth. "Don't any of you touch me. Just piss off and leave me alone!"

"No," Quatre insisted desperately. "You can come and stay with Trowa and me. You need time to get better--"

"Yeah, right, like I want to play 'three's a crowd' in your little love nest. I don't need the pity."

"Duo, you're coming back with us if I have to knock you out and drag you back to the shuttle by your damn braid!" Relena clenched her fists, trembling.

He snorted, turning away. "Go home, Relena."

"He's coming home with me," Wufei said harshly.

Unseen by anyone, Duo's eyes widened.

----------

Shit. He sounds pissed. I guess he really didn't want to come, and the others dragged him... I just keep screwing up, don't I?

The least I can do is not give him any more grief.

----------

Duo shrugged and slumped, all the resistance draining out of his posture. "Whatever," he said tiredly.

Wufei stepped forward and reached out tentatively, ready to pull back if Duo yanked away; to his surprise, there was no reaction as he touched Duo's shoulder. He slid his hand down to tug at Duo's elbow, gently steering him towards the door. "We'll just wait out in the hall, okay?" he said in a quieter voice. "The others will get your stuff."

Duo nodded almost imperceptibly, pulling his thin coat around him as he moved. Seeing that, Heero shrugged out of his uniform's overcoat and tried to put it around Duo's shoulders as he passed, but the braided boy just twisted out from under it and let it fall to the floor.

Wufei stopped and picked it up, settling it carefully around him. "It's cold. You need the extra layer. Leave it, okay?"

Duo didn't respond... but he didn't drop the coat, either.

As Wufei pulled the door closed behind them, Quatre stopped fighting to stay upright and slumped against Trowa, tears in his eyes. "Oh... oh, it hurts..."

"Quatre?!" Trowa grabbed at him, supporting him as he sagged, clutching at his chest.

"He... he was closed off when we came in, I couldn't feel him, but... when he started talking... He's hurt, and afraid, and angry, and he feels betrayed... Trowa, he's starting to hate us! But at the same time he's so lonely... and then when Wufei spoke, it was guilt and grief and... love."

Heero winced and closed his eyes, swallowing painfully. "I told Wufei to go back to Earth and leave Duo alone... and it turns out he's the only one of us Duo doesn't flinch away from. Oh God... the phone numbers. I never even thought of that. That reporter got hold of all my contact details and was after me for an 'exclusive interview' on my relationship with Relena. Then he sold them, and it was a dozen reporters... oh, hell. When I changed them all, I never even considered that Duo might..." He broke off and turned away, rubbing at his face.

"What's he afraid of?" Relena whispered; Quatre shook his head.

"I don't know. I just feel the emotion, not the why of it."

"Maybe..." Trowa said softly, "if he feels we betrayed him, and now here we are... he's afraid we'll do it again?"

Heero jerked into motion, stalking off towards another door. "Get his stuff and we'll get out of here," he said hoarsely.

Relena nodded. "I'll check the kitchen," she said. "You stay here and catch your breath, all right?"

"We can help--" Quatre protested.

"You're the colour of skim milk, Quatre," she said bluntly, "and I really don't think Duo has enough belongings that all four of us are needed to pack for him."

In the other room, Heero took a deep breath and scrubbed his palm over his eyes; then he lowered his hand and looked around, blinking quickly. It looked like this was where Duo had slept; there was a dirty-looking blanket on the floor in one corner, next to a nearly empty duffel bag and a battered shoebox with his baseball cap sitting on top of it. Scooping up the duffel bag, Heero took a quick look inside.

It was immediately obvious that Duo was wearing all his warmest clothes. The only things in the bag were a couple of ragged T-shirts, a ripped pair of jeans, a change of underwear and a sliver of soap in a plastic bag.

He had his CDs and a portable player... his laptop... what happened to them? Did he sell them? Give them away? If he still has them, I don't want to leave them behind. Glancing around for any sign of them, his eye fell on the shoebox; when he picked it up it seemed too light, but he pulled off the rubber band holding the lid down anyway.

----------

Relena walked out of the tiny kitchen, suspiciously red-eyed but holding onto her composure. "There's nothing in there except a plastic bottle of water," she reported. "Did Heero get his clothes?"

Quatre blinked up at her from his seat on the windowsill, Trowa leaning against the wall next to him. "He hasn't come out yet... Heero?" he called.

No answer.

"Heero?" Relena called softly, pushing open the door.

He was standing silently in the centre of the room, facing away, looking down at something in his hands.

"Heero... what's wrong?" Quatre and Trowa followed Relena in, concerned.

"He kept these," Heero whispered. "He doesn't have anything
else, but he kept these..."

He turned around, green and black fabric trailing from his hands; his foot knocked against the shoebox and it tipped over, darker green and light blue cloth tumbling onto the floor.

"Trowa's turtleneck," he choked out. "One of Quatre's dress shirts. My tank top. Wufei's sash... and photos..." He thrust out his hands, shaking, and the black fabric slipped from his fingers, silk whispering to the floor with sections of an embroidered dragon showing in the folds. It left behind a slim sheaf of photographs; Quatre took them and numbly leafed through them, stopping at one he remembered Relena taking at his party. All five pilots, happy together...

----------

[cont]