Parameters: AU/Comedy/Drama. 1+/x2 and the same reversed, 5+2 (friendship), 4xOFC (Permanent?), 3+4 (unrequited?). All else subject to the whim of the muses. Language, juvenile delinquency, minor angst, fluff, citrus.
Disclaimer: I do not meddle in the affairs of Gundam Wing, for I am penniless and own no copyrights.
Summary: "Embrace nothing. If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha. If you meet your father, kill your father. Free of everything, you are bound by nothing."

Author's Notes: This chapter was... interesting. There's a lull in the action here for a bit, so the boys have some time to chill and bond and not be terribly concerned with the world in general. Which is nice, but several things happened that I didn't expect. This is what I get for letting fics develop organically. Ah, well. Enjoy!

This chapter dedicated by proxy to the Thief, because I missed her. *huggles* Thanks to Maldoror for the beta-read, and to everyone still encouraging and demanding more. ^_^

Great America: 8
As We Lie Beneath the Endless Sky

Orion was a deep glint on the horizon. Trowa's eyes traveled across the imaginary lines connecting the stars, moving on to Ursa Major, tracing the dipper shape before finding the zigzag of Cassiopeia, the smaller arc of Ursa Minor...

"You're going to sleep outside?" the voice across the fire pit asked.

Trowa didn't move his head where it lay on his folded arms, keeping his gaze focused on the smooth canopy of the sky above him. "I like being able to see the stars."

"That's why you travel, then," the voice commented, almost to itself, accompanied by a soft thrum of guitar strings. "Freedom for the sake of freedom."

"I'm afraid it isn't that simple." Trowa shifted, uncrossing his ankles and reversing them.

Light laughter rose from the other side of the fire, the kind of laughter that spoke of snowed-over taverns in mining towns and warm afternoons in Saguenay with a French tea service. Sometimes Trowa thought he could hear an accent, but it always vanished before he was sure.

"But you're the only one of us who isn't running," Quatre said, and all the humor vanished.

Trowa found Virgo and traced the outline twice before answering. "There's nothing wrong with running, in and of itself. It's your reasons for doing so that implicate a problem."

The space on the other side of the fire pit that Quatre occupied fell silent for a moment. Then, even without looking up, Trowa could feel a cool blue gaze boring into the side of his face. "You're not just a biker, are you?"

"Man cannot live on biking alone, alas for me." Trowa's lips curled into a small, amused smile. "That was a question. I thought those were against the rules."

Quatre made a noise that was ultimately intended to be a word, but cut himself off abruptly. "What was that?"

"Another question."

"Seriously, Trowa. Did you hear that?"

He had heard it, of course, and preferred to simply dismiss it, but the sound repeated itself, louder. The biker let out a breath, blowing it upwards to ruffle the long bangs away from his face. "Well, they certainly move quickly."

Out of the corner of his eye Trowa saw Quatre's eyebrows raise comically, almost merging with his hairline, eyes wide and mouth slightly agape. Just as quickly as the expression made itself known it had vanished, replaced by cool, neutral features. "Well, I'm not about to get in their way, so..."

"Me neither. I have a feeling there might be bloodshed if anyone did, and I'd just as soon avoid that." Trowa's statement was punctuated by another moan from the room at the end of the trailer. He wrinkled his nose. "Nevertheless, might I just say... good god Duo's loud."

Across the flicker of flame Quatre snickered, and Trowa experienced a sudden nostalgia, as though he were a schoolboy again, jeering with one friend while another friend tried unsuccessfully to woo the prettiest girl in class. The feeling was so sudden and overwhelming that he found himself laughing before he could repress the action.

Somehow, he told himself, it was all Quatre's fault. Quatre and the way he laughed. Or perhaps just Quatre's voice in general.

"Actually, I think that's Heero," the blond declared between chuckles.

"No, it's too high-pitched. Heero's voice is deeper."

"How long do you suppose they're gonna keep this up? I would like to sleep at some point."

Trowa pondered for a moment. "How old are they again?"

Quatre blinked.

"Still young, let's say, then. It could continue for quite a while." Trowa uncrossed and re-crossed his legs again and cast his eyes over the strewn diamonds of stars above him, looking for Sirius. Or perhaps Jupiter, he could find that on occasion, as well.

The fireside fell silent for several long, stretching moments. Trowa caught himself falling into a doze, and allowed his eyes to drop closed, breath evening out, ears still alert to any sound from the individual he was indirectly observing. He tuned out the muffled sounds from the trailer, little more than white noise in the background.

Quatre always moved deliberately --- in a calculated way, as though conserving his own kinetic energy. The shifting rustle of fabric was the decisive resettling of limbs to bring the guitar in his lap to a more comfortable position. The slip of skin against metal was the skilled, minute tuning of the strings. The tiny strumming of the strings themselves were almost inaudible under the crackle of the fire, fainter even than the sound of Quatre's hair brushing across his forehead as his head dipped further over the guitar. The image was almost perfect in Trowa's mind, as though it were emblazoned across the inside of his eyelids. Every detail was rendered with perfect precision, right down to the curve of Quatre's eyelashes and the tiny freckle on the right side of his nose.

A slight breeze ruffled over Trowa's prone form, causing a lock of his bangs to slide across his cheek, sending a disproportionate shockwave through his body. He licked his lips and fell, allowing whatever illusion that had been created around him to suck him under.

Then the music started. The sort of sound that literally danced along air currents and wrapped itself around you, raising the goose bumps on your skin and sending innumerable chills down your spine. Trowa shivered, feeling each separate note like a fingertip teasing his skin. The vision behind his closed eyes was still present, intensifying by chord changes, the colors of the mental illusion over-saturating. The contrast threw Quatre into high relief, something ethereal surrounding his very presence. He was the music, the embodiment of sound, and in his vision Trowa raised his arm and laid the back of his hand against Quatre's cream-pale cheek. I am silence, he said for some sort of explanation, and wonder of wonders, Quatre turned his face just enough to fix his gaze on Trowa, the clear blue-green of glacial ice. He let his lips rest against Trowa's skin, the faint touch flaring through the biker's veins like wildfire---

A single, long note overwhelmed everything else, jerking Trowa out of his tranquil hallucination all the way into a sitting position. The screen door on the trailer slammed closed and a pair of feet stomped down the porch steps. The sound was still there, though, a long, mournful howl carried by the wind to surround them on all sides. Quatre had stopped playing and was looking around slowly, scanning the infinite blackness outside the ring of the fire pit as though he could pinpoint the source of the noise.

Trowa blinked, looking at the young man --- not a glowing, otherworldly being, but just a young man in a t-shirt and jeans, puzzled and distracted by a wolf's howl.

That was one hell of a weird dream, Trowa decided.

"S'just a wolf," a slurred voice mumbled, and Wufei stumbled into the firelight wrapped in an old, ratty afghan. He took two steps towards Quatre and then sort of... fell, in an oddly controlled collapse, his head landing precisely in a comfortable position against Quatre's knee. Wufei yawned, curled up a little tighter, and promptly fell asleep.

The musician's expression was priceless. Quatre had lifted his guitar up and out of the way as soon as Wufei had begun falling, and his hands remained raised on either side of his head as though in surrender as he stared incredulously down at the boy sleeping on his knee.

Trowa laughed.

He laughed until a stitch formed in his side and tears leaked out of his eyes. Quatre's gaze narrowed dangerously, his hands still comically hovering in the air. "He could have landed on you, you know, Trowa."

The biker caught his breath and resumed his previous position, on his back with his arms folded behind his head. "Yes, but that wouldn't have been nearly as amusing."

Quatre rolled his eyes and resettled the guitar in his lap, gently avoiding Wufei's head, Trowa noted, and snickered again. Quatre just shook his head and started playing again, as though the entire event had never happened.

The dream sequence didn't return with the music, but Trowa smiled to himself and the stars above him anyway. Polaris winked back.

"Now I've been happy lately, thinking about the good things to come... and I believe it could be, something good has begun..."

Quatre's voice was warm in his ears, creeping through the inner crevices of his head and down into his chest cavity, forming a little glowing ball of heat there. How long had it been since the last time someone had planted a similar seed? Trowa gave up trying to remember quickly, lifting a hand to trace Orion again with one finger, singing along almost sub-vocally.

"Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train... oh peace train take this country, come take me home again..."

%%%%

Heero woke up in increments, every cell of his body slowly becoming aware of itself and its place in the larger scheme of things. A bar of sunlight was warming the quilt that covered his feet, which were tangled with other feet that didn't belong to him. His knees had a thigh squeezed between them, his groin resting comfortably against a hip, his arms wrapped loosely around a thin body, pressed tight to his chest, the fingers of one hand trapped in what felt like hair, the fingers of the opposite hand trapped among other fingers. It was all a mess, his brain decided, especially since every body part mentioned was completely bare of clothing. Heero shifted his head against the pillow, trying to remember if it was worthwhile to move.

He did remember several interesting things. Hours spent slowly tasting every inch of Duo until the boy practically screamed for fulfillment. Being subjected himself to the torture of Duo's mouth. Hands. Skin. Simple explorations, discovering where and how to touch Duo to best draw a long, shuddering orgasm out of his slight body.

He didn't remember falling asleep.

Heero pried his eyes open and grunted at the light angling through the one window that lacked a covering. Duo sighed a bit in his sleep in response, but didn't stir or wake. Through half-lidded eyes Heero found himself staring at the back of Duo's head, threads of chestnut escaping the braid in every direction. He visually traced the hair wrap tangled up with the rest of Duo's hair, getting a close-up examination of the thing for the first time. The section he could see clearly had a pattern of turquoise and black beads, a small eagle feather affixed tightly to the wrap in three places. And further down, barely visible, a lock of black hair peeked out from among the hemp and leather wrappings.

The scent of incense still hung thick around Duo's hair, and Heero leaned in for a moment to inhale it and bask in the warmth of Duo's body. He planted a kiss near the nape of the boy's neck and slowly began extracting himself from the tangle of limbs, reluctant to leave the position, but unfortunately nature was screaming his name.

Duo whimpered in protest and rolled over in his sleep to wrap his arms around Heero's abandoned pillow. By the time he found his boxers and got to the bathroom and back, the boy was curled protectively around the pillow, and taking up most of the limited space on the tiny bed. Heero stood for a moment looking down at him, a small smile on his face, and absently wondered what time it was.

The sound of a screen door thumping against the trailer's siding drew him to the window he had examined the night before, drawing the thin fabric aside to look out over the back lot of Duo's property. Wufei stepped into view, clad only in a pair of faded cutoff jeans, a silver bucket in one hand and a fishing pole in the other. He picked his way barefoot to a narrow, dusty trail between the crushed and sun-browned stalks of grass, and began following it on a slight, downhill slope towards the line of cottonwood trees winding across the prairie, not more than a hundred yards from the trailer.

"Hopa," Duo's groggy voice faded in and out behind him, accompanied by the shifting of bedcovers and a few protesting springs. Heero turned to see a pair of bleary purple eyes gazing at him, one hand weakly rubbing the sleep away from the corners. "Whacha doin'?"

"Thought I'd go for a walk." Heero circled the bed again and sat down, burying his fingers in Duo's bangs and massaging his scalp gently. The Indian practically purred, turning into the touch, eyes slipping closed again.

"Mmm, Fei goin' fishin'?" Duo mumbled, turning enough to kiss Heero's palm. "S'nice down there. Y'oughta go with." He yawned like a puppy and curled tighter around his pillow.

"I will. You go back to sleep." Heero kept massaging, his thumb stroking over Duo's temple, until he was sure Duo had drifted back off, then stood and searched the floor for his clothing. After a moment of debate, considering the heat of the sunlight coming in the windows and Wufei's attire, he discarded his white tank and rolled the cuffs of his jeans up to his knees, stroking one finger over Duo's cheek one last time before slipping out of the room, barefoot, following Wufei's path to the creek.

%%%%

Wufei chuckled to himself and turned the page, resettling his arm behind his head and shifting his shoulders against the grass poking him in the back. He was lounging in the shade on the banks of White Clay Creek; a fishing pole held firmly in his crossed knees, a bottle of cool well-water at his side and an extremely well used paperback in his hand. It was the only thing he owned that he didn't carry around in the pockets of his windbreaker.

The term "owned" was arbitrary as well, since he'd swiped it from a public school library somewhere in Nebraska. He didn't figure anyone at that particular school was intelligent enough to appreciate it, anyway. Never mind that he didn't remember which school it was.

He had just lit a cigarette and turned to page ten when he heard the taller grass behind him rustling to admit another body. Wufei didn't offer Heero any acknowledgement when the young man sat down beside him, settling knees on elbows to peer out across the bubbling creek.

"Good fishing here?"

"Not really."

Wufei flicked the ash off the tip of his cigarette and was glad Heero didn't press the question any further. Not everyone understood that the act of fishing had nothing to do with actually catching fish. He turned his attention back to the book, still self-consciously aware of Heero's presence beside him.

"Good book?"

"Yeah."

"What's it about?"

"Tralfamadore."

Heero's puzzled expression was almost comical. Wufei caught it out of the corner of his eyes and chuckled under his breath. "What's with the small talk, anyway? Shouldn't you be making morning-after nice with my brother?"

Wufei made it a point to refer to Duo as such whenever possible, especially to Heero. Just as a reminder.

Don't think I won't still kick your ass, Yuy, he thought, and hoped that Heero picked up on the subliminal context.

Unfortunately the man was completely unfazed. Heero leaned back and crossed his arms behind his head, obviously intending to impose on Wufei for as long as he pleased. "I thought it would be kinder to let him sleep, if you must know."

"All right, then." Wufei stamped out the glowing cigarette in the dust and debated whether or not to even try reading his novel as long as Heero remained present. "That still doesn't explain why you're out here bothering me."

"I'm cloud-watching," Heero declared, staring up through the boughs of the overhanging cottonwood trees as though to prove it.

The Chinese boy narrowed his eyes and followed the gaze, still feeling the weight of the sun on his shoulders, even in the shade. "There isn't a cloud for miles, Yuy."

"Sky-watching, then."

Wufei slammed his book to the ground and sat up abruptly. "Don't be fucking ridiculous. Is this some sick idea of a game, or are you finally gonna give me orders to back off? Maybe convince me that Duo no longer has any need for an overprotective pseudo-sibling? If that's what you want, just do it and fucking well get it over with. I've heard it all before, and I'm damn well sick of it!"

Heero didn't move from his position on the ground, but his eyes tracked Wufei perfectly, blue and reflective behind his bed-tousled bangs. "Maybe I wanted to hang out with you."

"You---" He managed to catch himself and consider whatever it was he intended to say. He was distinctly aware of every nervous twitch under his skin and the slow loosening of his hair tie around his ponytail. He thought he could hear the world breathing.

Heero sat up reluctantly, resuming his earlier position, elbows on knees, and stared at the grass under his feet for a full minute. "I'm not going to take him away from you. That's not what I want, for any of the three of us."

Wufei wasn't sure what sort of face he was wearing, or whether the clenched fists in his lap wanted to relocate themselves forcefully. He was remembering watching Duo watching Heero --- remembering when he first felt the bizarre mixture of heady, envious rivalry and Duo's contagious infatuation. He wondered when it had taken root somewhere in his stomach.

This whole business with love, he decided, was far too complicated to be taken seriously. Thus, feeling as though he might be more than a bit touched, Wufei started laughing.

Heero regarded him with a dubious look for a moment, then smiled slightly and shook his head. "So long as we have an understanding..."

"I don't think that's possible, but there's something, yes." Wufei settled back on his elbows and considered the powder-blue expanse of sky peeking between the leaves of the trees. He reached down and lifted his book out of the grass, turning again to the first page. "I take it you never read this."

"I'm not familiar with... er... Trelf---"

"Tralfamadore."

"Yeah. That." Heero lay back down, crossing his legs, one arm flung up to shield his eyes.

Wufei fished another cigarette out of his pockets and shuffled over to lean back against a tree. He didn't announce anything, but started immediately at the first paragraph.

"All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true..."

%%%%

Duo stretched, arms and legs out straight, toes and fingers wriggling in the air. He remained like that, flat on his back and spread-eagled on the twin bed, for about five minutes before he convinced himself to open his eyes.

Something inside him always tickled when he woke up at home. It was like Christmas, that little shiver of childish excitement at the base of his spine at the very prospect of waking up to a warm fire and a hot breakfast with cocoa and a stocking full of treats.

Yeah, something like that.

Except this time his bed smelled of sex and Heero. He smiled to himself, the slow, true smile he usually reserved for those most worthy of seeing it. He rolled onto his side, grabbing the pillow and burying his face in it to inhale the sweet, musky scent of his...

...what, boyfriend? Lover, maybe? Tehila. He rolled back onto his back and stared up at the empty light fixture, still hugging the pillow to his chest. The label didn't matter, he decided, and laughed at the ceiling. "He's my beautiful one. Tunkasila, hemaca tiyatani. I've brought someone this time. Other than Fei, I mean. You would have liked him, I think." He swallowed and fingered the fabric casing of the pillow. "He likes stories. You would have liked him a lot."

You would have scolded me for lacking any proper sense of morals, then smiled, blessed us both and stuffed Heero full of all the fry-bread he could eat.

The corners of Duo's mouth quavered, and he curled around himself, hiding his face in the folds of the pillow before anyone, real or ghostly, could see any further expression.

%%%%

"I'm telling you, it's the manifold."

"Intake valve."

"Manifold."

"Intake valve."

"You're impossible."

Quatre was as dirty as Trowa had ever seen him. The sleeves of his t-shirt were rolled up to his armpits; arms, face and shirt alike smudged with grease and black car-dirt. A blue bandanna held his bangs and beads of sweat away from his face, and he leaned over the chassis of the rusting Ford pickup like he owned the thing, blue eyes icy and challenging, cigarette dangling idly from his lips.

"You don't know your cars from your crotch rockets, Barton."

"And you don't know an engine from a guitar string, Winner."

Quatre opened his mouth to protest, flicking the cigarette between two fingers, and froze, eyes suddenly glistening as he stared at Trowa in disbelief.

It took the biker a few moments to register what he had done to cause such a reaction.

"I never told you my last name," Quatre whispered, and if Trowa hadn't known better he would have sworn that the hand holding the cigarette was trembling slightly. "I never told any of you my last name."

Trowa sighed and dropped his gaze, taking a step back from the open hood of the truck. "Look, forget it. It doesn't matter; I'm not here in interest of you. Well, not in that particular interest, anyway."

Quatre's head was tilted to keep his eyes locked on Trowa; his voice just controlled enough to sound threatening around the edges. "How the fuck do you know my name?" The biker was reminded of a glacier yet again, arctic winds, frozen earth---

Trowa shoved his hands in his pockets and bowed his head, attempting to make himself look as small as possible. Like an animal trying to convince the pack's alpha that he was helpless. "I work for newspapers sometimes, that's all."

The ice in Quatre's eyes turned to appraisal, his lips curling against his teeth. For a moment something completely wild and feral took over the space that separated them, coiling through the silence that Trowa felt he could reach out and grab, wrap around himself like a shawl. The biker cocked his head to look back toward the fire pit, and felt Quatre's eyes follow the motion. Trowa focused on the guitar case, propped carefully against the picnic table.

A gust of wind feathered through his bangs, enough so to convince him to meet Quatre's stare again.

"You swear it?" The voice was nearly toneless, demanding. "You have no interest in me? I can discover your secrets just as easily as you discovered mine."

"I find secrets unnecessary," Trowa replied in a murmur. "And my only interest in you is as a person."

The screen door banging open broke the tension in the front yard, and the adjustment was more than welcome. Trowa still couldn't shake Quatre's icy gaze, but turned anyway to see Duo step off the porch, one hand scrubbing sleepily at his bangs. The boy was dressed in a pair of old gray track shorts and what looked like Heero's white tank. Trowa smiled to himself.

"You can settle a bet, Duo," Quatre said suddenly, just as the boy drew level with him and yawned. The blond's eyes were still on Trowa. "Which is wrong with the truck? The exhaust manifold or the intake valve?"

Trowa accepted the peace offering without comment.

Duo blinked and yawned again. "Actually, it needs a new carburetor. And spark plugs. Fan belt, too, if I remember right." He leaned back against the front grille of the truck and reached back to rub his neck.

Quatre's challenging expression melted into slight concern as he looked Duo over. "Did you just wake up?"

"Hoye."

Quatre checked his watch. "Christ, what did he do to you?"

"You want details?" Duo wiggled his eyebrows and gave the blond a saucy grin.

"Spare me."

"Maybe later," Trowa commented, and for some reason Duo nearly fell over laughing.

++

Lakota 101:

Hopa: beautiful
Tehila: lover
Tunkasila: grandfather
Hemaca tiyatani: (I think that's in the right order) I'm home.
Hoye: Yes, agreed.

Music: Peace Train by Cat Stevens
The book Wufei was reading: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

[part 7] [part 9] [back to Singles a - k]