Warnings: Trowa being broody, Duo being a wise guys, and Heero being confused. A bit of sap. Also, Catherine. I love Catherine in this story ;)
by: Shoori

I Know Who I Want... + Part 16

"Thanks. I'll see you back at home." He's bent over, his hands braced on the car door, looking in the open window at me. He forces a smile as he speaks, but his voice is still flat and expressionless.

"Wait a minute!" I protest. "How are you going to get back if we have the car?"

He straightens up, backing away from the car window. "I'll get a ride from Catherine. Don't worry about it," he replies briefly, turning around and walking toward the row of tiny trailers.

I scowl at the long, lithe shape of my lover walking away from us. His posture is as straight and sure as always - looks from the back like he hasn't got a care in the world.

I'm struck with a sudden desire to shake the unflappable facade.

"Use a net!" I scream, sticking my head out the window.

His shoulders twitch, the only sign that he heard me at all.

Yeah, Mr. Imperturbable. Of course, once we left Wufei and Quatre's after hours and hours of strategizing, he said nothing to us except to request - i.e., demand - that we bring him to the circus so that he can practice his routine.

If he needs to spend hours at the circus every time he's unhappy, the next few weeks are going to be quite a strain. He's never going to get any sleep, between trials and trapezes.

Heero shifts in the seat beside me. "Are we going?" he asks uncertainly.

I sigh. "Catherine doesn't own a car," I inform him casually.

"How will he get back, then?" Heero demands, sitting up straighter.

I sigh. "If I know Trowa, he'll probably walk."

"It's... ten miles!" Heero protests.

I roll my eyes at him scornfully. "Like any of us couldn't walk ten miles," I remind him witheringly. "Besides, it's ten miles by roads - probably only six or seven if he cuts through town."

"So you want to let him walk?"

Heero sounds unsure. He sounds that way a lot lately. He needs to knock it off.

"We probably should... " I muse, almost to myself. But Trowa, in a pissy mood, cutting through the rougher parts of the Sanc capital... Now would probably not be the best time for Trowa to be charged with assault or murder, even if it were in self-defense.

At that moment, heavy raindrops splatter across the windshield.

"Ok, I get the point," I mutter, scowling at the sky. I maneuver the car into a parking spot and turn off the ignition.

"We'll wait until we see him go into one of the tents," I tell Heero. "Then we'll go see Cathy or something while we wait for him."

Heero makes a small sound of acquiescence and settles back.

We're silent for a moment.

"So, what do you think?" I ask, abruptly breaking the silence.

He looks at me, his dark blue eyes almost as expressionless at Trowa at his best. "About what?" he asks guardedly.

"The price of beans in Mexico," I snap. "About all this." I wave my arm expressively.

Heero sighs. "I think it sucks," he says simply.

"What precisely sucks?" I demand.

"That you are all dragged into it," he reveals unhappily. "I wish... "

"I wish you'd stop fucking apologizing for it," I interrupt him sharply.

His head jerks around, and he stares at me, surprised.

"It's not your god-damned fault," I remind him, for about the seven thousandth time. "It's her fucking fault. You can't control it. You didn't ask for it. Why the hell are you so sorry about it?"

I... " he begins.

"What's the real problem anyway?" I demand, not letting him speak. "You don't want to talk about us in front of people? Why not? Are you ashamed of us? Ashamed of being in such a bizarre little love triangle?"

Now, I'm fully aware that I'm being a huge jerk. I know it. I wouldn't say it's my goal, but I'm not really sorry about it. We've been in Sanc for three fucking days, and everything that we worked for for over a year is slipping away. Trowa's sleeping on the other side of the bed, and leaning against walls, and wearing his fucking 03 face. Heero is stammering, and apologizing and tripping over himself in his desire to please everyone and flagellate himself. And it's all starting to really frustrate me. I don't like it at all. And I don't think that it's going to stop if I'm all nicey-nicey, how can I help you help you' too. Hence Bad Duo mode. Or, as I prefer to call it, Tough Love Duo. Sounds like an action figure.

Heero's face, which had been abnormally pale all day, flushes with anger. "How in the hell can you ask me that?" he shouts angrily.

Good reaction. "What am I supposed to think?" I demand. "You keep talking about how you want to keep us away, and how you're sorry we're involved, and how this really would be much better if you could deal with it on your own in your own way... "

"I'm trying to protect you both, you idiot," he grinds out between clenched teeth.

Ooh, an insult. Doing good.

"Whatever," I snap, waving my hand dismissively.

"Aren't you embarrassed at the thought of the entire world hearing about... "

"About what?" I interrupt, turning to face him. I feel my face begin to redden as well. "That I'm with you and Trowa? That I sleep with two of the most amazing men in the world, and they sleep with me? That doesn't embarrass me, Heero. I'm damn proud of that. I could stand on the roof of the Sanc Palace and shout out that I fuck both of you and it wouldn't embarrass me."

"Duo... "

"I don't see why we should be ashamed of people knowing that we're together," I insist.

"You didn't seem too keen on telling Dufasion about it this morning," he retorts defensively.

My eyes narrow as I glare at him. "Well, I had you and Trowa - the Tragedy Twins - glaring at me from the other side of the table, oozing pissed-offedness," I half-shout back. "Excuse me if that made me a little wary of my word choice."

"Just because I don't want my sex life smeared over the front page of every paper in the world doesn't mean I'm ashamed of you!" he shouts back.

"Well, you're damn well acting like it!" I inform him heatedly.

"You're overreacting!" he accuses me.

I snarl at him. "That's fine then. I'll just sit back and wallow in misery with the two of you and agree that we're all dirty and shameful and bad and quaver at the thought of people finding out about all the nasty things we do together."

Heero groans loudly. "What do you want, Duo?" he prompts in exasperation. "You don't want me to be sorry I'm dragging you through this, you don't want me to be embarrassed because my most private life is about to become public domain - what exactly do you want me to do?"

"Buck up," I advise sharply. "Roll with the punches, man. Trowa's always been a brooder, but I can't pull him out of it if you're down there with him, agreeing that yes, everything is sucky and awful." I sigh, much of the anger draining out of me. "You can't make it not happen, Hee-chan," I remind him. "So why make it worse?"

He groans in frustration, rubbing his hands over his face. "Fine. You win. I'll try," he says, his voice muffled by his hands.

"Good!" I encourage him, opening the car door. "I saw Tro go into the tent a minute ago. Let's go see Cathy."

Heero silently opens his door, and follows me as I make my way quickly through the rain among the rows of trailers. I know he hasn't exactly decided that all is well and he should make the most of every moment, but at least maybe now he'll be able to put things a little more into perspective. This is not precisely ideal, but it's certainly not the worst thing that could have happened to any of us.

As I wander through the rows of trailers, I wonder absently why the circus performers continue to live in these little mobile houses. The circus has a permanent location now, so they could all get bigger lodgings - apartments or houses even - here at Sanc, rather than living in these tiny, crowded homes.

Maybe they aren't quite as content with their sedentary life as you might think. They're wanderers, after all - it must be kind of weird, to say nothing about difficult, to be suddenly expected to put down roots.

I stop at Cathy's little blue and white trailer, and knock on the door.

After a moment the door opens, and an almost comical look of surprise crosses her face when she sees us.

"Duo! Heero!" she says, obviously too bowled over by our good looks to say anything else.

"Hey, Cathy," I grin. "Wanna let us in? It's raining like Hell out here."

"Come in!" she invites, stepping back. We push into the tiny room, pull our shoes off so as not to get mud on the clean floor, and I cross the small area to the room's only armchair, and settle myself in it, heedless of my damp state. I smile widely at Cathy as she glares at me.

Heero, who's a little better trained than I am, moves to stand quietly by my chair.

"So, to what do I owe this... pleasure?" Cathy asks, her tone sharpening only a little on the last word.

She loves me. She just doesn't want to admit it.

"Can't I just come visit my favorite sister-in-law?" I ask artlessly.

She snorts, and seats herself on the sofa, pushing aside the book she was reading. "I thought you were headed back to your place... "

"... leaving poor, long-suffering Trowa to walk miles and miles back home through the rain?" I finish for her, still grinning. "I bet you were sitting there just now thinking about how thoughtless and selfish I am," I accuse her, with a sigh of mock sorrow.

An unwilling smile crosses her face. "Just when I'm positive you're a complete ass, you perform your annual act of consideration and throw me off," she admits with affected weariness.

I lean back and smile at her. "Missed you, Cathy," I tell her. "Everyone else is too nice to me. I'm in danger of forgetting about my faults when you aren't around."

"How can you forget about anything so obvious?" she retorts, grinning. Her eyes move to Heero. "You can sit down, Heero," she invites him. "Don't worry about the wet. It'll dry."

He smiles slowly at her. "It's good to see you again, Catherine," he tells her, somewhat awkwardly, as he lowers himself to the carpet.

She smiles at him. "You too," she says simply.

"So, Cathy," I remark casually, lolling back in the chair, "what's your take on the little menage we've got going here? Afraid I've corrupted baby brother?"

She rolls her eyes. "You're the soul of tact, you know that?" she demands. She sighs. "The first day he came back, I thought it was great. He looked... happier than I've ever seen him. But yesterday and today... " She shakes her head. "What have you two been doing to him?"

One thing I love about Cathy. She doesn't waste time being subtle.

"We haven't really done anything, Cath," I tell her. "It's Her Revered Majesty, the Queen of Sanc. Has he told you what's going on with that?"

"Just that the divorce is looking to be nasty," she says slowly. "What's going on?"

In as few sentences as I can manage, I fill her in on the progress of the Divorce of the Century.

"Poor Trowa," she breathes when I've finished, her blue-violet eyes troubled. "Poor all of you. How uncomfortable."

I sigh loudly. "You sound like the rest of them," I complain acerbically. "It doesn't look like it'll be much fun, but it's hardly the end of the world. Trowa and Heero here have been moping around like someone stole their dog or something."

"Just because you're a born exhibitionist doesn't mean that everyone else is the same way," she bristles, immediately flaring up in defense of baby brother.

"Exhibitionist? What are you talking about?" I appeal, wounded.

She snorts. "You'd do it in the center ring in the middle of a show," she accuses rudely.

I can't help but grin at the picture. "Only if it were an adults-only show," I qualify mildly. "I couldn't deal with kids watching. That's just wrong."

She rolls her eyes again. "See what I mean?" she exhorts rhetorically. "You don't care what anyone knows about you. How could they resist the impulse to discover everything there is to know about the Great Duo Maxwell anyway?"

"Nice to see you have such a high opinion of me, Cathy." I leer at her. "I'm taken, though. But don't worry. I won't tell your brother that you tried to pick me up... "

"You're such a jerk!" she sputters, reddening. "I... "

"Calm down, Cathy," I soothe. "I'm only kidding." I sigh. "You're probably right," I concede. That's a dangerous thing to admit to Cathy, but hey, I'm feeling mellow. "It's not as big a deal to me as it is to Trowa, or to Heero. I don't see why anyone would be embarrassed to let the world know they love somebody, and that that person loves them."

I shrug, looking at the floor. I feel a little sappy and silly. Wufei would probably say that I sound like a woman.

I look up after a moment, to see Cathy staring at me thoughtfully, an expression in her eyes I don't recognize. It's not amusement, scorn or anger, and that's about all I ever see out of Cathy, so I'm out of my depth here. I glance at Heero, and he's smiling at me. I flush and look away again.

It must be Quatre. You get within three feet of the man, and you can't help but be infected by sweetness and light.

"Have you phrased it like that before?" Cathy asks softly.

I look up, frowning. "Huh?" is my brilliant response.

"Have you said it to Trowa, or Heero, like that?" she repeats, her eyes flickering from me to Heero.

"No, he hasn't," Heero tells her, smiling slowly at me.

"I think you'll find that actually saying it might put it in perspective," Cathy tells me thoughtfully.

"Maybe," Heero agrees, abruptly standing up. He reaches down and pulls me to my feet. "We need to go find Trowa."

"He's in the big tent," Cathy tells us, not rising from the couch. "Don't let him know you're there until he's done. You'll distract him."

I nod at the familiar instructions, and, on impulse, bend down to kiss her on the cheek. "I really am glad to see you, Cathy," I tell her softly.

She smiles at me. "Likewise," she says. "I'm glad you worked it out. Now, get out of my house," she says, her tone shifting abruptly. "Go help my brother feel better. He's freaking out."

"Of course he is," I reply airily, pulling my shoes on. "It's a day that ends in a Y.'"

Cackling fiendishly, I slam the door on her outraged protests. It's mostly stopped raining, and as I make my way through the light drizzle still permeating the gray twilight, I feel better. We just have to talk - really talk, not talk about talking.

I slip my hand into Heero's and pull him along beside me as I wend my away around trailers, children's toys, hoses and wires to the big tent.

We're almost there when the quiet of the evening is broken by a loud, panicked shout.

My blood runs cold at the sound, and I'm paralyzed when I recognize the source.

It's Trowa's voice.

[part 15] [part 17] [back to Shoori's fic]