Author: pyrzm
Summary: 04+02 Quatre gets his horizons expanded.

Lost Souls + Chapter 7
Down Time

Duo Maxwell was very easy to like. Perhaps it was because he'd treated Quatre like they were friends right from the start, like it was just assumed. Whatever the case, the weeks following the Siberia debacle were surprisingly good ones. Quatre would look back on those days as an island of peace in an otherwise dark year.

They stayed at the desert base and after a few days of obviously feeling very out of place, Duo announced that he liked the "rich life" and that Quatre would have to get Rashid to throw him out if he ever wanted him to leave. Rashid probably would have been happy with such an order. From the start, Quatre could tell that the big captain disapproved of his new friend, but some wicked little part of Quatre liked that, too. He'd always been a good boy, done exactly what had been expected of him, and put up with being an outcast and an oddball among other kids. Duo liked him just fine the way he was and made sure Quatre knew it. Rashid thought Duo was a bad influence. Duo was, and Quatre liked that, too.

Duo was funny and smart, he talked more than anyone Quatre had ever met, put his feet on the furniture, burped and scratched whenever he felt like it, talked with his mouth full, swore a lot, and was completely irreverent about everything. He called Quatre nicknames like "Kat" and "Q-ball," something no one had ever done before. In short, Duo Maxwell was a breath of fresh air in Quatre's proper, duty-bound world.

Duo was also incredibly affectionate. He hugged Quatre a lot, and kissed him impulsively on the cheek or the top of the head at least twice a day. When they watched television or vids, he liked to sit close on the couch. Sometimes he'd drape an arm around Quatre, or stick his feet in Quatre's lap. That had been a bit of a problem at first, since Duo's personal hygiene habits were atrocious. Quatre had managed to tactfully coax him into bathing more often, introduced him to the use of toothbrushes and clean underwear, and talked him into "borrowing" some extra clothes so his own could be washed more often. Quatre also got him to replace his old black boots, which were beyond hope of repair or cleaning. Duo didn't take offense, and after some joking and grumbling, had actually taken to daily showers. He especially liked the shampoo and hair conditioner his bathroom was stocked with; that long braid held some special significance for him that Quatre couldn't quite divine, and now that he was taking care of it, it really was quite pretty. It suited him, somehow. Duo should have looked girlish, with his long hair and amazing looks, but Duo was all guy and proud of it. Duo was Quatre's second real friend, and a good one. Quatre was no expert on friendship with guys his own age, but he was very perceptive when it came to feelings and what Duo felt for him was quite different from what he'd felt from Trowa. There were similarities; both were brave and smart, both of them accepted him like he wasn't odd at all, and both of them carried deep secret sorrows, something that had attracted Quatre to both of them almost immediately. Both of them respected him as a suit pilot, too but felt protective toward him, too, much the way Rashid and his men did. Quatre was resigned to that. One look in the mirror was enough to remind him of why he evoked that kind of feeling in so many people. He prayed he'd outgrow his babyish looks soon.

All the same, he sort of liked the way Duo cuddled and teased him. It felt nice, and there was just the slightest hint of sexuality behind it, too. That was another way Duo was like Trowa; both of them were very sexual people. Innocent as Quatre was, he recognized that feeling in them. The difference there was that Duo wasn't attracted to him the way that Trowa clearly had been. Duo openly admitted to being gay. Trowa had never spoken of it, but the way he'd kissed Quatre had to mean that he liked boys, too, right? Thinking about that now, he wondered sadly if Trowa thought about him?

Quatre was shocked at first at Duo's openness about his preferences, but secretly admired him, and envied him a little, too. He'd never even thought of having such feelings himself, not until that first time he'd kissed Trowa. It was wrong, of course, very wicked, but as much as he'd tried to tell himself otherwise all these weeks, being around Duo had made him take an honest look at himself. He'd kissed Trowa, not the other way around, and even with the guilt and shock, he'd been thrilled when Trowa kissed him back. Being kissed and hugged by Duo was great, but in a different way.

As funny and goofy as Duo tried to act, he was very perceptive, too, and had a knack for getting Quatre to talk about things. They'd only known each other a few days before he'd told him about Trowa, and he soon found himself talking about being an empath, too. Duo was a good listener, and a sympathetic one.

One night as they sat by the oasis pool, enjoying the evening breeze, he haltingly told him about what it had been like at school.

"Those people who picked on you? I know that type, the mean fuckers!" Duo scoffed. "They're just low ballers, knuckle draggers. That type can't handle anyone who'd a little different, not even in a good way like you. You're a sweetheart, Kat. Don't let anyone ever tell you different."

Touched, Quatre hugged his knees and mumbled, "So are you."

"Me? Sweet?" Duo looked insulted. Then he'd tackled Quatre, hauled his shirt up, pressed his face to Quatre's bare stomach and blown hard, making an awful farty sound that tickled outrageously. Quatre let out a shocked screech and tried to curl up in ball, but Duo held him down did it again. "Who's sweet now, huh?"

Recovering a little, Quatre faked an asthma attack, then pinned Duo and carried out a sloppy counter attack on the other boy's side.

Duo howled with outraged laughter. "Oh, you are a dead man!"

They wrestled around on the grass and found out, to Duo's surprise, that they were evenly matched. Quatre was a lot stronger than he looked. He was still smaller, though, and Duo ended the match by tossing him in the water, then jumping in after him for a swim.

The war seemed very far away and long ago that afternoon.

+

Duo, a self avowed street rat, quickly grew bored with the sheltered existence at the base. They kept up practice on the base firing range, worked out with weights to keep their strength up for piloting the big suits, and worked on their Gundams together. They even sparred a bit in them, testing each other's strengths. Quatre was a good strategist, but Duo had him beat with pure aggression and power. He was Shinigami, the God of Death, behind those controls, and Quatre sensed a very different person then than the grinning smart ass who liked to snuggle on the couch. It was like the difference between a tiger and a housecat, but Duo was both.

At night Duo insisted on playing all the games Quatre knew, and teaching him how to cheat at them. He lured some of the younger Maguanacs into poker games and took all their money, then laughingly gave it back. Quatre wouldn't have thought it possible to cheat at chess, but Duo could. He taught him to pick locks, too, and showed him a few computer hacking tricks. When it came to things like that, Duo was a proud master. Quatre found himself wondering how the other boy had lived, before the war.

Quatre tried to interest Duo in his music, even offered to teach him the violin, but Duo wasn't musically inclined. He was impressed by Quatre's playing, but he didn't have any feel for it, the way Trowa had.

Instead, he taught Quatre to dance. Quatre had attended a few school functions, before he went home for good, but those had been excruciating experiences. No one had wanted to dance with him, much less show him how.

Duo perused Quatre's recording collection on hot afternoon, shook his head at all the classical music there, then at last settled on a middle eastern fusion piece. It was sensuous and lively, with lots of horns and bells. He listened for a few minutes, nodding approvingly, and then Quatre saw his body begin to respond. One foot tapped to the beat, then his hips began to sway, and then his whole body. Grinning, eyes half closed, Duo went into what clearly was meant to be a humorous belly dance, but he was incredibly graceful. Mesmerized, Quatre stared at him in amazement, trying to equate this sexy, grinning dancing boy with the pilot of Deathscythe.

"It's fun!" Duo said, making fancy gestures with his hands. He really had nice hands, Quatre noted, even if his nails were still a bit stained. He was barefoot, wearing a pair of Quatre's shorts today, which were a little small on him, and a tee shirt. Quatre couldn't help noting that he had nice legs, too. They were really long and slim, almost hairless, and well muscled. And those shorts really were very tight! Duo's backside was small, but round . . .

Duo caught him staring and laughed. "Come on! Don't make me do this all by myself here."

Quatre swallowed hard and took refuge behind the piano, blushing furiously. "Oh, uh, no. I can't dance!"

Duo raised his arms and swiveled his hips. "Are you kidding me? No one as musically gifted as you can't dance. I bet you never even tried!"

"No, really!"

But Duo Maxwell wasn't taking no for an answer. Grinning wickedly, he gyrated over to where Quatre was cowering. There was a fancy fringed silk shawl draped over the piano. Duo snagged it on his way by and used it to capture Quatre around the waist. "C'mon, Kat, shake that cute little butt!" he ordered, holding the shawl by two corners and using it to twist Quatre this way and that.

For an instant Quatre flashed back to all the times he'd been teased and ridiculed by other boys, but Duo's smile and the genuine warmth in those amazing violet blue eyes wiped the memories away. He opened himself just a little to Duo's mind and was reassured by what he found there. Duo was just happy and bored and enjoying Quatre's confusion, but in a friendly way. Apparently this was something friends did. He also wanted to help Quatre, and he really wanted to dance with him.

Quatre found that his feet were moving, and that his hips, guided by the shawl, were beginning to find the beat.

"There you go!" Duo exclaimed happily. "Now move those arms. You can't just let 'em hang here. Yeah, shake it, baby!" Laughing, Duo tied the shawl around his hips, and then shook his hair loose and started whirling like a demented dervish. It was an amazing sight and Quatre found himself staring again. Sunlight was streaming in through the skylight overhead, and all that chestnut hair caught the light, shot through with hints of gold. Quatre had never seen such pretty hair.

"Oh, no you don't!" Duo said, seeing that Quatre had come to a halt again. Taking him by the hands, he guided him into an easy rhythmic set of steps. "See, I told ya you're a natural! Just wait 'til you meet up with that one-eyed wonder again. You'll blow his doors off!"

Quatre imagined dancing like this with Trowa Barton and felt his face go hot again.

"Yeah, you like that thought!" Duo chortled. "Dancing is good. With the right partner, dancing is sex in public with your clothes still on."

"You've really had sex?" Quatre asked.

Duo's grin faltered a little and Quatre froze, clutching his chest as a sudden stab of pain lanced through his heart.

It passed quickly, but not before he'd scared poor Duo to death. The next thing he knew he was on floor practically in Duo's lap, looking up into those panicked violet eyes.

"Jesus fuck, Quatre, did I do that to you? It's that empath thing, right? I'm so sorry!"

"No, my fault!" Quatre managed. Something in Duo's sad past had something to do with sex, although he had no idea why it made him feel so bad.

"No, it's not," Duo insisted. "I've just had a few losers, y'know? That's all. Nothing for you to worry about."

"So that's a yes?" Quatre whispered.

Duo shrugged, that fake grin firmly in place. "Depends on what you call sex, I guess. I've messed around some. It's fun, mostly. It's--uh, well it can be nice, y'know?"

Quatre leaned forward and hugged him, still picking up residual sorrow despite Duo's off hand manner.

Duo chuckled and hugged him back. "Sort of like this, only maybe this is better, huh? Damn, Kat, you're like a human teddy bear or something, you know that?"

Quatre blushed again, but he didn't let go. "I'm glad you ended up here, Duo. I guess I've been lonely."

Duo ruffled Quatre's hair. "Yeah, I could tell. You've never had a gang to hang with."

"I have the Maguanacs."

"Sure, and they're great guys, but they're all older that you, and treat you like their master. It's different, when you're all the same. My gang, back on L-2?" Duo sat back and rubbed at his eyes. "Damn war! Anyway, they're all gone and I've been kinda lonely, too, I guess." He wiped at his eyes again and plastered on that fake smile. He got up, pulling Quatre with him. "So you need more dance lessons before Trowa shows up again, but next time we use better tunes. I'll bring in my collection from Deathscythe and we'll stomp some serious panic."

"What?"

"Club talk. Bet you've never been to one of those, either, huh? Of course not. Damn, what kind of education are they giving you, anyway?"

+

Duo had a sizable collection of very noisy, raucous music and he insisted on educating Quatre about all of it, together with almost daily "lessons." Duo loved to dance, loved to be in motion, and Quatre sensed how he could lose himself in it. In the end Quatre had to admit that Duo was right, too: it was fun and he was a natural, once he overcame his shyness. Most of it involved a lot of stomping and gyrating and jumping around.

"I gotta get you to a low-G club sometime," Duo panted, sweating through a fast shuffle. "It's easier to move there, and you can jump all the way to the ceiling. It's like flying! And the slow ones? Ohhhhh baby!"

He showed Quatre how to slow dance, too, but that felt a bit awkward. Perhaps it was what Duo had said about it being like sex, but Quatre felt embarassed at the way his body felt, pressed up to Duo's.

"I think we better stick to the fast ones," Duo said, picking up on his discomfort. "I bet that other guy will be more than happy to teach you this stuff, right?"

Quatre shrugged sadly. "I'll probably never see him again, the way things are going."

Duo patted his shoulder. "Then you'll meet someone else. Seriously, Kat, if I took you to some of the clubs I know, you'd have 'em lined up around the block. You're really something special."

"But not your type. What is your type, anyway, Duo?"

Duo shrugged and stuck his hands in his pockets. "Guys I can't have, mostly. You know what they say: 'Lucky at cards, unlucky at love.'"

"You cheat at cards," Quatre reminded him.

"Yeah. Well, you can't cheat at love, believe me." He smiled up at Quatre. "That's why you're going to be so damn good at it. Everything you are, it's right there in those big blue eyes of yours. You're going to make someone really happy someday. I'd kinda like to see that."

The way Duo looked at him then made Quatre wish more than ever that he was Duo's type, and vice versa. But he was still dreaming about sad green eyes at night.

+

They didn't spend every minute together. Some days Duo would disappear, either outside for long solitary hikes, or shutting himself in his room. He would show up later quieter than usual, and oddly calm.

Quatre discovered the reason for this by accident one evening. Thinking Duo had gone out for a walk, he went into his room to find a book he'd left there. The lights were out, but the balcony door was open, and a strange smell hung on the air.

"Hello?" Duo called from outside. His voice sounded funny and Quatre heard the unmistakable sound of a gun safety being taken off.

"It's just me!" Quatre called back.

"Oh. 'K. Out here."

Quatre found Duo sitting cross-legged in a shadowed corner of the balcony, smoking an odd smelling cigarette. His pistol lay on the ground next to his knee. He was wearing a pair of borrowed sweatpants and nothing else, and his hair was loose around his shoulders.

"I didn't know you smoked."

Duo giggled, and Quatre saw that his eyes were a little unfocused. "Just taking the edge off." He took a drag and held the smoke for a moment, then exhaled it with another laugh.

"That isn't tobacco, is it?"

"Naw. That stuff'll kill ya."

"But this is a drug!" Quatre was shocked.

Duo took another drag on the joint, then stared at it. "This? Naw, Kat. Just weed. Where I'm from, this is the closest most kids get to green vegetables in their diet. Want a toke?"

Quatre sat down beside him. "No! My religion doesn't allow that."

"Oh yeah. No drugs. No booze. No kissing boys. Fuck, glad I'm not a Muslim! Can't do anything fun!"

"That's not true!" Quatre said at once, but inside that same part of him that liked the way Duo shocked Rashid was taking notice and nodding agreement. "Is it really safe?"

"Well, for down time, yeah," Duo said, still with that different, half sleepy tone to his voice. "Never use it during a mission. Kick your ass if I ever caught you toking on a mission!"

"I don't 'toke' at all, Duo."

"Yeah. Right."

They sat there for a while, Duo smoking, Quatre wrestling with newfound thoughts. At last he said shyly, "Can I try some?"

Duo grinned and held out the stub. Quatre pinched it between his thumb and forefinger and took a cautious puff, the coughed at the acrid flavor. "That's awful!"

"You're doing it all wrong, Q. Suck it down and hold it."

Quatre tried, and coughed again. Duo reclaimed the joint and finished it off. "I'm bad guy, Q. Should be giving you that, little boy."

Quatre bristled at that. "Don't call me little! I hate that!"

Duo slung an arm around his shoulders and pulled him close. "Sorry. But I still shouldn't. You're a nice kid, Quatre. You're--pure. Yeah, that's it." He was rambling a little now, but he sounded serious. "You're pure and I'm all dirty inside. Shouldn't be messing you up the way I do. That Rashid, he's right about me, ya know. I'm bad news."

"No you're not. You're good, too. I can feel that, here." Quatre tapped his chest over his heart. "I know you, Duo Maxwell. You're a good guy, too."

Duo looked at him, and Quatre was amazed to see tears in his eyes, glittering in the moonlight. "You really think so?"

"Of course I do! You are good. You're the best friend I've ever had." A pang of guilt there; but damn it, he'd known Duo a lot longer than Trowa at this point. Who know if he even remembered Quatre at this point, except as a momentary weakness.

"Hey, you're crying!" Duo leaned forward and wiped a tear from Quatre's cheek.

Quatre wiped a hand across his face. "Am not! You got any more of that stuff?"

Duo looked into Quatre's eyes very intently for a moment, then sighed and pulled another joint and a lighter from his pocket. "Why not. It's just weed."

[ch. 6] [ch. 8] [back to Pyrzm's fic]