see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Lost Souls + Chapter 38
Trowa said good bye to Wufei and Duo early the next morning. Quatre had stayed away, as he'd expected. Wufei had gone to check on him and came back with word that he was resting in his room at the hotel across the street. That was a good thing. Duo was exhausting to be around for anyone, and worse for an empath. Trowa did his best not to think of the look on Quatre's face, standing there in the doorway last night. It hurt too much.
Fortunately, Duo was more than enough to distract him. Mood swings certainly described Duo's current state. He was sad and weepy much of the time, fretting about all that had happened and whether he should call Hilde. Trowa and Wufei managed to talk him out of doing that; taking a break in the commissary downstairs, Trowa had caught Hilde on the news, taking a baseball bat to Duo's motorcycle as a small crowd looked on and cheered. 'White trash,' Trowa thought, disgusted. He knew Duo came out of poverty, but never imagined it was this bad. Duo might be rough around the edges, but he wasn't trash.
Duo had bouts of restlessness and irritability, too, and tried several times to get out of bed, even though he was still too weak to stand up by himself. The doctor was surprised at how quickly he was bouncing back; he didn't know much about Duo Maxwell, or Gundam pilots in general.
When dawn came and it was finally time to go, Duo clung to his hand. "Can't you stay a little longer, Tro?"
"Quatre will want to come see you soon. It's better if I'm not here."
Duo's grip on his hand tightened. "He loves you, Trowa. I know he does! I don't know what happened to bust you two up, but it's fucked up! Please, can't you just go back to how it was?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Trowa saw Wufei quietly leave the room. Trowa sat down on the bed beside Duo. "Things aren't right between Quatre and me right now, Duo. He knows what the problem is. It's in his hands to fix it." He kissed Duo on the cheek. "I have to go now, ojos tristes. I'll call you tonight, before you go to sleep, OK?"
Duo wrapped his thin arms around him and for a moment Trowa thought he wasn't going to let go, but he did, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand. "I love you, man. I really do."
"I love you, too, bello."
It was an easy matter to slip out of the hospital down a series of back stairways and out through the kitchen loading dock. With his coat collar pulled up and a black baseball cap pulled down over his eyes, he blended into the morning crowd unnoticed and set off for Hilde's scrap yard, not relishing the task ahead. At least there weren't any reporters around now.
It was a depressing place. The better parts of L-2 were landscaped with soil and plants, but here the tenements and trailer parks sat on bare metal. The scrap yard was in a fenced lot. The trailer he'd seen on the news sat at the back corner, beside a low shed. And there was Duo's bike, lying on its side, headlight smashed and hanging by a wire, gas tank and muffler dented in, seat looking like she'd taken a knife to it. Even in this condition, Trowa could see the work that must have gone into rebuiding it. Duo had talked a lot about it. He really loved it.
Chunks of metal lay around in piles of all sizes, some of them still distinguishable as pieces of fighter suits or ships. Trowa shook his head as he stood there at the gate, taking it in. For Duo, it must have been like working in a graveyard.
He walked to the trailer door and knocked. No one answered. "Miss Schbeiker? It's Trowa Barton."
"What the fuck do you want?" an angry female voice demanded from inside.
"I need to speak with you. May I come in, please?"
There was another long pause, and he heard several people muttering, then the door swung open. A young blond in a tight pink top glared up at him. "Hilde says what do you want?"
"I'd prefer to speak with her directly."
The blond looked back over her shoulder, then stood aside and scowled at Trowa as he stepped past her.
Dressed in shorts and a low cut black top, Hilde was seated on a sagging couch in a tiny living room crowded with stuffed animals and cheap figurines. A red head and an old woman sat with her. Clearly Hilde had her own support group. He wondered if it had helped; Hilde's eyes were red and she looked like she'd just as soon take a swing at him as speak to him. She had a drink in her hand, too. They all did, and he could smell the cheap scotch from here.
"Well?" she demanded.
"Could we speak alone, please?"
She glared at him a moment, then nodded to her friends.
"We'll be right outside, baby," the red head told her.
The old lady paused as she passed Trowa and squinted up at him. After a moment she shook a finger at him and whispered, "Be nice, young man. It was a terrible shock."
"So?" Hilde demanded again when the women were gone. "What do you want?"
"I've come for Duo's things."
"They're in the dumpster behind the shed. Take whatever you want."
"I will. Look, I know you don't want to hear this, but Duo feels terrible--"
"Good! I hope he does! Do you know what I spent yesterday doing? Being asked by a bunch of strangers on the goddamn news why my boyfriend was screwing around behind my back with another guy, and scrubbing his goddamn blood off my bathroom floor! You tell that gutless son of a bitch all he had to do was tell me! All he had to do was leave!" She was crying now, and furious. "You tell him that for me!"
"I understand. That must have been awful for you. All I can say is that Duo is sick. He's been sick for a long time, but no one picked up on it. Not even you."
"Don't you try to blame me for this!"
"I'm not, Miss Schbeiker, believe me." That wasn't completely true, he realized. How did you live with someone for months in this tiny little tin can, sleep with them, have sex with them, and not know something was wrong? "But he is sick. Mentally ill."
"Yeah, right. He used me, Trowa. I was just a meal ticket to him. You know what he had after you guys were done with him? Nothing! No one! I took him in, gave him a job, somewhere to live. I cared about him! Where the fuck were you, huh? Or that rich Winner kid he claims is such a great friend? What about Heero? You know Duo talks about him in his sleep? Did he screw Duo?"
Trowa did his best to ignore that last comment. "Duo didn't ask for help. He said he wanted to be with you."
"Yeah, right." She took another drink.
'You were the rebound,' Trowa thought. It wasn't her that Duo had dreamed of being with after the war. God damn Yuy, and now he'd taken off.
"So, did you fuck him, too? Is that why you're here, cleaning up after him?" she asked, getting nastier by the minute.
"No. I'm just a friend."
"Yeah? I thought I was his friend, too. See where that got me?" she said bitterly. Her speech was a little slurred now. "Fucking faggot liar."
Trowa decided he didn't like Hilde Schbeiker very much. "A real friend would have some compassion."
"Get out! Just--go get Duo's shit if you want it and go away!" As Trowa turned to go, she yelled, "And tell that little faggot for me that he was a shitty lay anyway! Couldn't even go down on me! Bet he did for Mikey!"
Trowa had never hit a woman, but he was sorely tempted now. Instead, he kept going, out of that awful trailer away from that awful girl. He ran the gauntlet of Hilde's friends and found the dumpster behind the shed. The lid was open, and one of Duo's old boots lay on the ground beside it, next to a wad of bloody paper towel. Inside, he found bits and pieces of cheap clothing mixed with more bloody paper towel, rags, and garbage. Holding his breath against the smell, he began picking out what he could. He found Duo's black priest's clothing covered in cold lo mein, and the medal Relena had presented him with, still in its box. There was one pair of jeans, torn and grease stained, and most of the shirts had blood or food on them. Trowa left them there; Quatre would see to it that Duo had decent clothing. Digging further, he found Duo's pink plastic comb and a copy of the group photo Relena had sent to all of them, or rather, the pieces of it. Hilde had torn it up. He was about to give up when he caught sight of a book under a pile of old motorcycle magazines. It was the T.S. Eliot collection Trowa had given to Duo. He added that to the pile. And that was it. Looking down at the pitiful little collection, Trowa realized he was shaking.
He strode back to the trailer and walked in without knocking. The women had settled back in with Hilde in the living room.
"What the hell?" Hilde shouted at him.
"I need a fucking bag!" Trowa snarled, and was gratified to see the sudden fear in their eyes.
"Under the sink," the red head told him.
Trowa stalked into the hideous green and orange kitchenette and found a bunch of wrinkled plastic grocery bags in the cabinet under the stained sink, along with a couple of dead cockroaches. The more he saw of the place, the more he hated the idea of Duo living here.
'He can come live with me. He'll like the circus. Anything this better than this shithole!'
"Wait!" Hilde snapped as he passed through the living room on his way out. She pulled a small metal strongbox from between the sofa cushions and threw it at him. Trowa caught it deftly and felt something rattle inside.
"Asshole thought I didn't know about it. I could have given it to the cops," she told him. She was still angry and defiant, but her lower lip was trembling. "I could have, but I didn't! Tell him that, too."
Trowa left without a word. He stuffed the box and the rest of Duo's meager possessions into two grocery bags and took them back to the hospital. Slipping in through the kitchen loading dock again, he called the room and was relieved when Wufei answered.
"I have Duo's things from Hilde's. I'm leaving them here in the kitchen."
"Wait. I'll be right down."
While he waited Trowa found a quiet corner away from the curious looks of the kitchen crew and took out the lock pick set he was never without. Old habits died hard. The lock on the box was a simple one. Inside he found a bag of weed and some rolling papers, and two small, unlabeled brown glass bottles fitted with eyedropper tops. He threw the pot in the trash, then emptied the THC down the nearest sink, rinsed the bottles, wiped them free of Duo's prints, and pocketed them for disposal somewhere safe. So far no formal drug charges had been brought against Duo. Trowa wondered if there was any other evidence.
Wufei came in and Trowa gave him the bags. Wufei grimaced at the smell.
"I know," said Trowa. "Maybe you could get the clothes cleaned before you give them back to him."
"I'll see to it. Thank you for doing this, Barton."
"De nada." He couldn't imagine Wufei or Quatre dealing with Hilde. "Just make sure that woman doesn't get anywhere near Duo."
"She seemed very bitter on the news."
Trowa let out a humorless laugh. "Yes, you could say that. Well, I'd better go."
As they shook hands Wufei looked like he had something else to say, but he just bid him good bye and walked away with the bags.
Trowa longed to follow him, to sit with Duo and hold him just a little while longer, but he knew Quatre was there now.
He threw the THC bottles away in two different trashcans on the way to the shuttle port. Later, as he sat staring out the shuttle window at the cold stars with nothing else to distract him, his thoughts turned inexorably not to Duo but to Quatre, and the way he'd looked, framed in that hospital doorway. The wrinkled suit pants and blood spotted shirt, haggard face, and pain-filled eyes. And more than pain. Trowa shifted uneasily in his seat as worry crept in through his own pain.
'Oh meli, why are we so far apart?'
[ch. 37] [ch. 39] [back to Pyrzm's fic]