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

Lost Souls + Chapter 45

April 29, 196 AC
L-2 Colony


Duo was waiting for Trowa in the shuttle arrivals lounge that morning, dressed in what appeared to be his usual jeans and worn leather jacket. He practically leapt into Trowa's arms and hugged the breath out of him.

"Holy shit, am I glad to see you!" he exclaimed with almost childlike excitement.

"Ciao, bello!" Trowa laughed, hugging him back.

A few people were staring, and a few were pointing the inevitable cameras their way, but Duo was oblivious. Throwing an arm around Trowa's shoulders, he all but dragged him out of the terminal, talking a blue streak. Even for Duo, it was a lot. Any lingering doubts Trowa had about Duo's relationship with Quatre were quickly laid to rest; it was very clear that they were good friends, but only friends.

"I guess you've seen some of the pictures of us out clubbing," Duo said as they headed outside.

"Yes. It looked like you were having a good time."

"Would have been better with you there," Duo said, tightening his arm around Trowa's waist.

"Don't start, Duo."

"Yeah, yeah."

As they passed a small knot of young men near the bus station one of them snickered and muttered, "Faggots!"

Duo stopped dead, then whirled around in full Shinigami mode. "You wanna say that to my face, shit for brains?"

A blond guy with black streaks in his hair smirked at him. "I said, 'Look, there's a couple of fag--'"

Before he could even finish or Trowa could react, Duo swung at him, catching the guy square in the face with his fist. He followed that with a blow to the stomach that doubled the guy over, then kneed him in the jaw. The guy was a head taller than Duo, but Duo had the element of surprise and he was quick and deadly when he wanted to be.

When the guy was bleeding on the ground, Duo flipped open a switchblade that had somehow appeared in his hand and faced down the others. "Anyone else got something to say?"

"No, man!" one of them exclaimed as they all backed away.

"So fuck off!"

And they did, at a run, yelling "Faggot!" and "Psycho!" over their shoulder.

"Happen a lot?" Trowa asked as they continued on to the bus station.

"Now and then," Duo said with a shrug, snapping the knife shut and hiding it back up his sleeve.

"There were seven of them, you know."

Duo opened his coat and showed Trowa the Glock in the shoulder holster under his left arm. Trowa's heart missed a beat. Duo had been in five point restraints on suicide watch not too long ago. Now he had a gun? "Where'd you get that?"

"It's L-2, Tro," Duo said with a grin. "You can find just about anything here."

+

Duo lived over Grumman's Garage where he was working now. Trowa noted the address as Duo led him up an outside stair to the apartment; he'd need it for later.

Duo had described the place as a shithole, and it was. The front door opened into a small room that was half kitchenette, half living room, not even as large as Trowa's trailer space. There was only one small, grimy window next to the door, framed with faded sun-rotted curtains, and the walls were painted a dingy green that made the room seem darker and smaller than it actually was. The place had come furnished, but not well. Everything looked like it had come from some crummy second hand shop. One leg of the metal kitchen table was shimmed with a wooden wedge and the tiny refrigerator was humming loudly, like it was on its last legs. Several empty pizza boxes were stacked on the small stove. The ugly blue couch sagged on one end, and the coffee table in front of it was missing some of its veneer. A new laptop sat on it, cover closed. A small television sat on a stand beyond that. There were no books in evidence, no pictures on the walls. The floor was cheap tile of indeterminate color and some were missing. There seemed to be a uniform layer of dust and grime over everything and the smell of the garage came up through the floor. It was entirely cheerless.

The bedroom wasn't much better, just a single bed with a metal headboard and a stained yellow bedspread, a cheap dresser, and a few cardboard boxes bulging with what looked like very good clothes, with some nice shoes and boots lined up under a tiny window that looked out over an alley and a dumpster. The clothing was more of Quatre's doing, no doubt.

The bathroom was next to the bedroom, the door opening into the kitchen; stained toilet, rusty shower stall, holes in the wall where a towel bar used to be, and even smaller window covered with heavy wire mesh.

"Pretty awful, huh?" Duo said, pulling a couple of cold beers from the fridge for them when the brief tour was over.

There was no use lying. "Yeah, it sure is."

"Well, the price is right, anyway: free! Between the pension money and my pay, I'll be able to get a better place soon." Duo was fiddling with his braid again. Trowa had never seen him do that during the war, or at least not this much. And his manner was still noticeably restless and overly bright. Trowa wondered if the meds were helping much.

"Duo, come back to L-3 with me. I can get you a good job with the circus."

"Doing what? Cleaning up after the elephants?"

"I can find you something better than that, I promise. And you can live with me."

Duo flopped down on the sagging couch and took a drink. "I appreciate the offer, Tro, but I'm fine here. L-2 is my home, what I fought for, you know? This is where I belong. And it's not as bad as people make it out to be."

Trowa sat down beside him. "With homophobes on every corner?"

Duo laughed. "They're not, believe me. I mean, we've got our share, but there's plenty of gays here, too, and plenty of bars and clubs. And we've got civil unions, which is more than a lot of places can say, right?"

"I suppose. But you deserve better than this after all you did for this colony, and for the Earth. This is just wrong."

"I get the same pension as the rest of you," Duo pointed out, starting to sound defensive. "And the rest of you have jobs. What's the difference?"

"Yes, but you've been through a rough patch--"

"I'm fine, Tro."

There was definite edge to Duo's tone now, and Trowa backed off. "Wufei came to see me last week."

Duo brightened up. "Yeah, he emailed me the other day. He's working with Sally now. Sounds pretty jazzed about it."

"I think he's glad to be away from Relena."

"What's wrong with Relena?"

"She's a bit--" Trowa searched for a tactful word. "She's a bit clingy. Wufei and Heero weren't very comfortable with that."

"Think that's why Heero left?" asked Duo. "No, wait. He has that mission."

"Wufei is pretty sure there is no mission, Duo."

"Then what does that message mean?"

"I think he's on a mission of his own. Wufie says Heero is sick. PTSD sick." He told Duo what Wufei had told him, except about the picture Heero had drawn of Duo, dead. He didn't need to hear that. And who knew what it meant, with Heero emailing Duo, hoping he was well?

"And I can't find him to help him." The light went out of Duo's eyes as quickly as it had come. "Fuck, Trowa. I've tried a million times to hack his email address, but I can't get anywhere with it."

"Well, you're better at it than I am. I think if he doesn't surface by the end of the month, we should try and track him down."

"How?" asked Duo.

"Hack his bank accounts. See where he's spending money."

"Yeah. He won't be too happy with us, though."

Trowa shrugged. "So we don't tell him. But if he's really sick, then we need to do something." He stood up and stretched. "Well, you asked me here to help you fix the place up. I've only got three days, so we better get started."

+

They started with cleaning that afternoon, and worked until almost midnight. It was still a rat hole, but it looked a little better, and certainly smelled better.

Exhausted, they both used the now spotless shower and got ready for bed.

When Trowa emerged from the bathroom he found Duo sitting on the couch with his lap top open on his knees. He hit the send key on some email and closed the lid. "This couch isn't very comfortable for sitting. It's gonna suck for sleeping. My bed isn't all that big but it's a helluva lot better than this. What do you say?"

Trowa studied Duo's face for a moment, trying to figure out exactly what was being offered. Just a place to sleep, it seemed, and that was a relief, for some reason. Sexy as Duo was--and he was--sex with Duo, even the meaningless kind, just didn't seem right. And even if it had, they were both too tired.

"OK," he said. "But I should warn you, when Wufei stayed at my place he tried to wake me up from a bad dream and I attacked him."

"No shit?"

"No shit."

Duo grinned. "Well, I'll risk it."

The bed was small, and Trowa ended up spooning in behind Duo, one arm around his friend's small waist.

Duo settled down with a happy sigh. "You OK with this?"

"Yes." It felt good in a comfortable, nonsexual way. Trowa had already taken care of that in the shower.

"Me, too. After sleeping with Kat all that time, I kinda got used to having someone in bed with me."

"You--slept with Quatre?"

Duo turned to look at him. "Just slept, Tro. Nothing else. We got a rule, him and me: Love your friends. Fuck strangers."

Trowa chuckled, relieved. "That's a very good rule, dolcezza." Then the realization hit. "Quatre is--fucking other guys?"

"Yeah. Aren't you?"

"Yes, but--" Quatre had been so innocent. So pure! 'But not so pure when I was done with him,' Trowa thought, dejected. Of course Quatre was having sex with other people, but it still was like a punch in the stomach.

"I'm sorry, Tro. I didn't mean to tell you that way," Duo said, turning over all the way to hug him.

"It's OK," Trowa whispered, blinking against the sudden burning behind his eyelids. "He's as free as the rest of us."

"He's not free," Duo said quietly, rubbing Trowa's arm. "Down deep, he's miserable without you."

"Then why doesn't he tell me that?"

"Because he can't walk away from his fucking family. He's all wrapped up in his duty to them. And I think he's scared to death of coming out, too. It's different for him than it was for us. Practically everyone he knows would hate him or something if they found out."

"So he's sneaking around?"

"Yeah." Duo paused a moment. "That's the problem with you guys, isn't it?"

"Yes."

"So if he came out, would you still want him?"

"God, yes!" Trowa groaned.

"And he knows this?"

"I hurt him too badly, Duo. He doesn't want me now."

"You're wrong, Trowa. Dead wrong. If you both weren't so fucking stubborn you could be together tomorrow."

"If you loved someone, would you sneak around, hiding, so they could pretend to the world that they were straight?"

Duo thought for a moment, chewing at his lower lip. "No. I couldn't do that."

"Neither can I. It would poison any relationship we tried to establish. I don't want to put either of us through that."

Duo sighed deeply but said nothing more, just turned over and settled back against Trowa again. The warmth and feeling of another body against his own was good, but it was some time before he could sleep. When he did, though, there were no dreams to torment him, even though he'd forgotten his pill.

+

The next day they fixed every loose, missing, or broken thing they could find, painted every wall beige, and re-enameled the shower stall. While everything was drying, they went out and bought vinyl flooring and brown carpet remnants Duo found cheap at a local shop--Duo seemed to know every place to get a bargain, and the locals were happy to cut him a deal.

Duo had always been a hard worker, but now he seemed to have a feverish energy, and needed to be busy every minute. He wore Trowa out. He put away a lot of beer over the course of the day, too, though he never looked drunk. He didn't eat breakfast, or very much of the take out Chinese they bought, either. The small, now spotless fridge was crammed with leftovers from other take out meals. No milk or fresh fruit or vegetables, Trowa noted with concern. Lots of beer, though.

They were about to go out for dinner that evening when a delivery truck pulled up in front of the garage. The driver climbed out and waved to Duo.

"Hey, Maxwell! Got a delivery for you." He went to the back of the truck and heaved the door up, then pulled down a ramp.

"For me? What the hell?" Duo muttered. "It better not be from Quatre. He's already gone overboard."

"No, this one is from me," Trowa told him.

"Oh, man, you didn't have to do anything! I told you, I'm fine--" Duo stopped abruptly when he saw what the delivery man was wheeling down the ramp. It was Duo's motorcycle, rescued by Trowa, repaired, and repainted a shiny black.

"You bought me a bike?" Duo asked, incredulous and maybe building up to a refusal.

"No, it's your bike. I know how much work you put into it, and how much it means to you. I couldn't just leave it lying there in Hilde's yard. She'd have scrapped it."

Duo was already going over the bike, touching it as if he didn't quite believe it was real. "But--but all the work! She looks great."

"It's a gift, Duo. And you need transportation of your own. All you have to do is say thank you."

Duo looked up at him, and there were tears in his eyes. "Thank you, Tro! I thought she was gone for good."

"Here you go!" The delivery man tossed him the keys and drove off.

"Want to take her for a spin?" Trowa asked, knowing Duo must be itching to do just that.

Dinner forgotten, they rode for a couple of hours, and ended up at a gay friendly road house where they ate dinner. Duo ate more than Trowa had seen him take in the whole time he'd been there. He seemed a lot more relaxed and less manic today, too. That was a relief. They danced and had a few more beers and didn't have to pay for a thing; Duo was local hero here, and so was Trowa.

They both found a fuck buddy, too, and spent some time with them in a back room cubicle before heading home.

Trowa's partner was a raven-haired Asian beauty who reminded him a little of Wufei. Smiling to himself, Trowa allowed himself a little fantasy as the kid blew him, then let Trowa fuck him against the wall while Trowa stroked his cock. The guy was on the small side and his ass was a tight fit; there were traces of blood on the condom when Trowa pulled out, but the kid never complained, and even tried to kiss him when they were done. Guilty at having hurt him, Trowa allowed a brief brush of lips.

+

Duo couldn't help looking for looking for Mikey when he went out. Not that it would have been a good idea to hook up with him again, really--he didn't want to give the kid any more false hope--but he had liked him and he was a fantastic fuck. But maybe Mikey had given up the bar scene, or was still not healed up yet. Duo didn't like thinking about that. He took his mind off it by picking up a sweet little red head who looked nothing like anyone Duo knew and fucking him sweet and slow until they both came. Afterwards the guy slipped Duo his phone number and email. As soon as he was gone Duo crumpled it up and left it on the floor among the condom wrappers and sticky spots.

+

Trowa the first back at the booth they'd shared, and accepted another beer as he waited for Duo to come back. When he did he was smiling and had a healthy just-got-lucky glow.

They headed home, showered off the traces of their adventures, and climbed into bed together, tired and sated. Instead of spooning, Duo stretched out beside him with his head on Trowa's shoulder and an arm wrapped around Trowa's waist.

Trowa gave his friend's braid a playful tug. "I could get used to this, you know. Come see me soon, mon ami. I have a big bed."

Duo chuckled sleepily. "We don't take up that much room like this."

"I guess not. But seriously. I want to show you the circus, and the kind of work I do. And--" He sighed. "And I miss being around the rest of you guys. It's just not the same with other people."

"I know." Duo hugged him. "I will. I promise."

On Trowa's last day he tried to buy Duo a new couch as a housewarming gift but Duo dug in his heels. "You already gave me one, buddy; my bike." So they found one he could afford and carried the other to the curb.

+

Saying good-bye was hard. Trowa was heading out on tour soon and who knew when they'd see each other again? Duo clung to him a moment in the departures lounge. It was different than saying good-bye to Wufei, who'd simply smiled and bowed and walked away. Duo gave him one last hug and pressed a kiss to Trowa's cheek before he let go.

"I love you, buddy," he whispered.

Trowa stroked his cheek. "Love you, too, mi amigo encantador."

Duo gave him a sad smile. "I never know what you're saying, but it sure sounds nice. Hope you're not calling me a shit head or something."

"'My lovely friend.'" Trowa translated.

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