I Know Who I Want... + Part 24 (cont)

I'm signaling the driver to close the door, when someone shoves past the half-open barrier and plops down next to me.

Duo.

Heero follows an instant later, and settles next to Wufei.

Wonderful.

Trowa immediately reaches for the handle on the door he's pressed up against, and has it half-way pulled before Duo lunges over me and grabs a handful of Trowa's shirt, dragging him backwards.

"I don't think that's a good plan, Tro," he says tightly, still holding onto his shirt.

"Let me go," Trowa snarls through his teeth, trying to pull away.

"For Allah's sake," I huff, exasperated beyond all patience. With one arm I shove Duo away, while I grip Trowa's knee firmly with my other hand.

"Have the other car meet us at home, and shut the door, please, Hasim," I call through the open portal. The driver, bless him, is blocking the door, but if it hangs open any longer the press will figure out something strange is going on.

That's pretty much a given with this case, though, I guess.

I sigh in relief as the door closes. At least someone listens to me. The feeling is short-lived, though.

"Quatre, please let go of my... "

"Trowa, you can't jump out of the car here," I interrupt him firmly, actually tightening my grip on his knee. "It's a zoo out there. They'll get hold of you and never let go."

"I'm not driving all the way back to the mansion with... "

"It's all of ten miles, Trowa," Wufei inserts calmly.

"It won't be long," I add reassuringly.

The car begins to move, and Duo leans back comfortably, a smug smile on his face. "Yeah, and it's rush hour in the capital," he says with satisfaction. "Plenty of time to chat."

I turn my head and regard him through narrowed eyes. He looks perfectly relaxed, slightly resigned, almost amused even, but I feel the tension and worry radiating off him in waves.

The same feelings, compounded with anger and frustration, assail me from the other side. I start to feel a little queasy, and glance at the seats across from us, looking for a little balance.

Wufei is staring at Duo with an expression of irritated distaste in his dark eyes. Wufei likes Duo, loves him as we all love each other, yet Duo completely bewilders him. He just can't understand why Duo, who has proven himself so intelligent and capable, so frequently acts in a manner that seems to Wufei to be purely lunatic.

Just looking at Wufei calms me, steadies me, as it always does. Most of the time, when dealing with other's emotions at least, Wufei's reactions are so familiar and predictable they reassure me, help me deal with whatever I'm sensing off of other people.

Heero's just watching, his dispassionate gaze slowly moving from Duo, to me, to Trowa and back again. He doesn't look confused or upset like he did before. Now he seems to be... waiting. He looks like he did when we were younger, when he was reading mission orders, or waiting for some charges we'd set to go off, or standing motionless along the wall of some corridor while groups of OZ soldiers passed by not three feet from us.

The car moves smoothly along for a few minutes, and then, as Duo predicted, slows to a stop. I glance over Trowa out the heavily tinted window, and see cars lined up beside us.

Gridlock. In a car full of angry ex-Gundam pilots. I'm so lucky.

Duo breaks the silence. "I might as well start it," he says abruptly. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you before. It didn't seem like a good idea at the time, and later... "

His voice trails off into nothingness. Later everything was going fine and what's done is done so why bother dragging it up and it didn't mean anything anyway... Duo has stopped speaking, but his reasons are there in the charged air between us all as palpably as though he had said them aloud.

Trowa says nothing. He doesn't move from his position sitting beside me, one leg crossed over the other, arms tightly crossed over his chest, staring out the window.

Duo gazes at him hopefully, his shoulders sagging slightly when he realizes that Trowa's not going to reply.

"Trowa, I'm sorry you're upset, really am I, but... "

Trowa reacts to this with a snort of disbelief. He still doesn't turn or move to look at Duo.

Duo opens his mouth again, but this time I interrupt him. "I understand why you might not have wanted to bring this up," I begin, unable to help the sarcasm that creeps into my tone, "but don't you think you should have discussed this with the lawyers, at least? So we weren't all blindsided by it in court?"

"What did you tell them when the subject came up, Maxwell?" Wufei demands in a hard voice. "I thought it was your policy never to lie outright." Implying that, though seemingly honest, Duo has no problem lying indirectly or by omission. Wufei's directness still takes me off guard, sometimes.

Duo's violet eyes flash, and he glares angrily at Wufei. "I don't lie," he grinds out. "And it didn't come up."

"Oh, come on, Duo," I protest. "I know they... "

He shakes his head vehemently. "They asked me if me and Heero had done it about a million times. But they never asked me if there was anyone else. And I'd... " he reddens, and reaches around behind him to grab his braid and fidgets with the unbound end. "Well, I'd forgotten it," he admits, frustrated.

This time Wufei snorts in disbelief. "If that's true, you're even more dishonorable," he tells Duo flatly.

Duo flushes angrily and he glares again at Wufei. "You know, you're always awful quick to pass judgement on me, but... "

"How could you not remember, Duo?" I interrupt, trying to forestall a fight between Duo and Wufei. That's all we need. "It seems like something that would linger... "

Duo grimaces. "It was so long ago," he excuses himself. "Tro and I had hardly been together at all, and I was with Hilde before, so it just sort of merged into my ‘before Trowa' memories and... "

This exceedingly lame set of excuses galvanizes Trowa into movement. He turns around so quickly I'm surprised he doesn't get whiplash. "What a bunch of bullshit," he says flatly.

Duo bristles, but I see the faint gleam of relief in his eyes. Duo hates the silent treatment more than anything else. He'd rather have people yell at him, insult him, call him names... anything but ignore him.

"It's true," he insists. "She... "

"You and she broke up, what, nine months before the first time we were together? I can't see how memories of being with her blur into each other when they occurred a year apart."

"Eleven months," Duo corrects swiftly, and Trowa's fists clench.

"Getting mad at each other isn't helping," Heero says quietly. "Can't we discuss this like... "

Heero obviously bided his time carefully, trying not to enter the conversation until he could hopefully help the others see reason. He gets the fate reserved for most peacemakers - everyone gets mad at him.

"Hee-chan, I'm trying but... " Duo begins hotly.

"We only discuss matters that are to Duo's liking," Trowa breaks in coldly. "I doubt this is one topic he'll want to talk about."

Duo turns his glare back on Trowa. "Trowa, it was years ago. She called me and asked me to come see her. I went, because it sounded like she needed help and because she's still my friend. You know, like you and Q here are still friends? Even though you're not going out any more?" he presses, looking hopefully at Trowa.

Trowa stares at him unspeaking, and Duo continues, a little less surely. "I went there and she was upset. She was still having a hard time moving on and... stuff. So we talked for awhile, and she asked me if I... ," he pauses, trying to think of an uninflammatory way of phrasing it, can't, and decides to gloss over it. "... if I would one more time, just for... for closure, you know?" he entreats, leaning over me to stare earnestly at Trowa.

Trowa stares back. "Whatever," he says coldly, after a moment.

Duo throws himself back against the seat with a groan.

"It was nothing," he insists. "It wasn't going to lead to anything. She knew it and I knew it. That was well established before we even did anything. It was just... closure," he repeats with relish. He must like that word. "Tying up loose ends."

"Tying up loose ends," Trowa repeats tonelessly.

"Yes!" Duo nods furiously. "Just to... end it solidly. You and I had only been together two months, but I knew we... "

"So, since we'd only been together two months it was ok to fuck your ex-girlfriend?" Trowa asks, still in the same flat tone. I blink - the forceful words uttered in the bland tone are rather startling.

Duo makes a sound of frustration.

"Just what length of time does a relationship have to have been established for before it's not ok to cheat?" Trowa asks, his voice gaining some heat. "Obviously two months wasn't long enough... neither is three years... Is it a decade? Someone has to reach retirement? After you celebrate your golden anniversary?"

"Trowa, it's not... "

"How many other people have you slept with since we have been together?" Trowa demands in a hard voice.

"None! Trowa, I just... "

"I'm serious," Trowa interrupts. "I want to know. I'm sick of this. I thought walking in on the middle was bad enough, but I've got to say that finding out in front of a hundred or so people didn't really excite me either... "

"Trust me, you would have known if you'd walked in on the middle of it," Duo snaps, then instantly looks regretful. "Shit, Tro, I didn't mean... "

But Trowa's already gone pale. "Thank you for that clarification," he says distantly, turning toward the window again.

Duo swears under his breath and reaches over me to grab Trowa's shirt, tugging on it until Trowa turns his head to look at him.

I'm starting to get a little tired of getting crushed against the seat while Duo reaches over me to tug on Trowa. Placing myself between these two was not my most strategic move ever.

"There's been noone else, Trowa," Duo says clearly, staring directly into the green eyes. "I swear," he vows firmly.

Trowa stares back at him, and I see the doubt and indecision showing through the anger in his gaze.

"It... I never told you because there didn't seem to be any point in telling you," Duo tells him honestly. "I knew you would be upset and wouldn't understand that it doesn't mean what you would think it had to mean. Heero was different," he admits. "Then... with him... I cheated on you. But Hilde... Well, I guess technically I cheated on you, but it wasn't the same."

Trowa sighs loudly at this last, and turns away again.

"It wasn't!" Duo half-shouts.

"Fine," Trowa says shortly, rubbing a hand over suddenly tired eyes.

"Trowa." Duo's voice is gentler. "I know you're upset. I'm sorry that you're hurt, I really am, and... "

"I'm sure you are," Trowa interrupts, and his voice is suddenly angrier than ever. We all look at him, startled. "You're always sorry I'm upset. You're always sorry I'm hurt... ,"

"I am," Duo protests.

"I know," Trowa barks, his eyes flashing green fire. "I believe you. I'm sure you're genuinely sorry that I'm upset. But you know what?" he demands. "You're never sorry for what you did. You're not ever in the wrong, you're just stuck with someone who's unreasonably possessive." Trowa blows out his breath angrily, his lip raised in a sneer. "It's nice that you're sorry that I'm displeased when you sleep with anyone you feel like despite the fact that you're supposed to be with me. But it would be even nicer if you'd admit that that is something you shouldn't have done in the first place."

"That's not the way it is," Duo objects. "I... "

"That is the way it is," Trowa interrupts. He shakes his head. "We've been together for four years, Duo, and aside from Heero, in all that time, I have never once been with... " he stops, the anger suddenly disappearing from his eyes as a look of raw, naked pain flashes over his face and lingers there for a moment before he rallies himself enough to hide it again. "... I was never voluntarily with anyone but you," he amends, swallowing hard. He shakes his head again. "And even if I had wanted to, I wouldn't have, Duo, because it would have been wrong."

He glances up at Heero. "In the last year, it's just been you and Heero for me. Before that, it was just you. I could never decide to go sleep with someone else. For any reason. It would not be right," Trowa emphasizes heavily, his frustration and, finally, his hurt apparent in his voice.

Duo looks down, not meeting anyone's eyes. "Trowa, I never wanted to hurt... "

"I know you didn't," Trowa interrupts. "That's not the point, Duo. You did, and you knew you would, and it wasn't enough to stop you from doing it. Twice. It didn't matter. And... " he adds, "you aren't even sorry now that you did it."

There's a moment of silence. Trowa's accusation is so heavy, his tone so final, noone can think of quite what to say. In the pause, I realize that we're no longer moving, and the car has stopped. We must be back at the mansion.

Trowa realizes it too, and quickly opens the door beside him and steps out. He moves to slam the door, then stops himself and glances in.

"I'm going to stay here tonight," he says, addressing his remarks to Heero. "I... I don't want to go home right now," he adds softly, and then slams the door, separating himself from us all.

The four of us just sit in the car for another moment. The silence is thick, and pretty uncomfortable.

Duo's staring at the floor, and Heero, Wufei and I are staring at him.

After a moment he looks up, and, when he sees us staring at him, tries to smile at us. At best, it's a rather sickly version of his usual grin.

"Well... " he says with a failed attempt at heartiness. "I'm an ass."

"That's not what he was saying," Wufei snaps. Wufei is always very impatient with Duo's self-deprecating comments. He thinks they're an attempt to vie for sympathy, a device that Duo uses to regain control of a situation. In a way, he's right. But Duo isn't quite the self-assured, completely confident person he wants everyone to believe that he is. His self-doubt runs very deep, and when he says these things about himself, there is a definite part of him that believes it.

"You're not an ass," I break in, my voice much gentler than Wufei's. "But maybe you have some thinking to do."

Duo nods slowly, looking up at me. I try to put as much support and caring as I can into my return gaze. He must see it, for he smiles at me again, and this time his smile is more like his normal one.

"Thanks, Q-man," he says quietly. He looks over at Heero. "Are you going to come with me?" he asks hesitantly.

Heero nods at once, and the quiet sureness in the movement seems to reassure Duo.

"You can just take the other car," I tell them. "You can leave your other one at the garage for the weekend. It'll be fine."

Heero looks like he's going to object, but Duo nods his thanks before he can say anything. "Thanks," he tells me again, opening the door and climbing out. Heero climbs out after him, and Duo peers back in the doors.

"I'm really sorry for causing all this trouble," he says quietly. "I... I won't hide anything from any of you again," he promises.

He slams the door, and I look at Wufei. He opens his mouth to speak.

Suddenly the door opens again, and Duo reappears in the opening. "Not anything," Duo repeats firmly. "I slept with your sister. Nadine. After that party celebrating the end of the Eve Wars. And Celeste too," he adds. "At your eighteenth birthday party. In the garden during the fireworks. Sorry."

Before I can say anything he's gone. I stare at Wufei, my mouth hanging open in chagrin. I feel my face turning red, but I'm powerless to move. I can't think of anything I can possible say about that.

Then a thought strikes me, an extremely pointless, irrelevant thought, but it enrages me.

"We were all in the garden during the fireworks!" I announce in a strangled shout. "The fireworks were in the garden! Where did they... "

Unexpectedly, Wufei begins to chuckle, and in a moment he is laughing outright, holding his sides as he rocks back against the upholstered seats.

"I'm glad you think that's funny," I snap, irritated. "I can't believe he... "

"I can't believe he only slept with two of them," Wufei chortles.

I glare at him. "Shut up," I mutter. "I can't believe it. He... "

"Forget it," Wufei advises, still grinning. "I doubt they were too hard to persuade."

My eyes narrow. "Are you accusing my sisters of... "

"I'm saying that Nadine and Celeste were probably only too eager to get a piece of Maxwell," Wufei interrupts.

A piece of Maxwell? Did Wufei just say he believes that my sisters wanted a piece of Maxwell?

"Come on," Wufei urges me, opening the door and pulling on my hand. "Trowa's probably going to want some time to himself. If we hurry, I can get a piece of you before he comes inside."

He's definitely been around Duo too long.

I think I like it.

[part 23] [back] [part 25] [back to Shoori's fic]