see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimers
Sleeps + Chapter 12
"We... I..." Cathy takes a
fortifying breath and begins anew. "How are you Trowa?"
Noting her struggle with words, Trowa responds carefully, "I'm fine."
He pauses a moment, examining her image in the vid screen. "Are you sleeping?"
She forces a smile ands shrugs. "Don't worry about me. I'm fine. I just
picked up a book and couldn't put it down last night."
"Hm," he replies to her casual lie.
"How's Duo?" she returns quickly, eager to redirect the conversation.
"All right," Trowa responds honestly. There's been a noticeable change
in Duo's demeanor since that moment on the street two days ago. He's calmed,
settled, and started to smile at his own inner musings again. Trowa has
missed those silent, mysterious grins.
"I'm glad," Cathy tells him genuinely. "There's not much new happening
here. The manager's still grumping about how you're never going to have
enough time to learn the new routines, the lions are moping, and the mechanics
are threatening to quit now that you aren't there to give them a hand.
You know, the usual." 
The corner of Trowa's mouth twitches. "Yeah," he agrees.
"Well, I'd better go. Thanks for calling, Trowa. It was nice to hear from
"Sure," he says. "Bye, Cathy."
The screen goes blank but not before he sees the sheen of tears in her
eyes. He remains standing there in the vidphone booth, wondering what
could bring the strong, opinionated, independent Catherine Bloom to near
tears. The last time he'd seen her cry had been years ago when he'd tried
to kill himself. 
Trowa leans back against the wall and crosses his arms over the ache in
his chest. He feels torn. He left her to find Duo because he believed
he had been needed. And he had been. But what had he left behind? Cathy
had taken his decision to leave with difficulty. Only now does he really
being to wonder why.
Perhaps he never should have left.
But no. As soon as that thought crosses his mind, he knows he doesn't
regret setting on his quest to find Duo. Knows he wouldn't have made that
decision any differently. He's glad he'd come to this colony.
Not only had he found Duo, but he'd found a friend, someone who challenges
him, who effortlessly halves his pain, who makes him smile more than is
his habit. And he believes he's had a similar effect on Duo in return.
His lips part as he draws in his next breath. The soft friction of the
air reminds him of that kiss on the street. Even now, the power of that
moment makes him close his eyes. In all of his life he'd never felt that
sense of homecoming, of comfort, of acceptance. He wonders how a moment
that had begun for the purpose of reassuring Duo has managed to have such
a profound effect on him as well.
Trowa's throat aches with the certain knowledge that he'd liked kissing
Duo. He'd liked holding onto him and being held onto in return. It had
been a shock to realize he'd like to lean on Duo indefinitely. And immediately
following that thought, he experiences another: he wonders if it would
be possible to stay with Duo, to turn this brief sojourn into something
The soft sound of someone tapping on the booth's door tugs Trowa from
his moment of introspection. Somewhat reluctantly, he straightens away
from the wall and takes a slow breath in preparation for vacating the
cubby he's spent the last half-hour within. He opens the door and shifts
to slide past the next person in line for the phone but a pair of dark
eyes and a mischievous grin stop him.
"Duo," he says, startled that Duo has followed him here.
"Heya, Tro" is the reply. With an easy grin, Duo holds out a familiar
"What's this?" Trowa asks as he slowly accepts his own luggage.
Duo arcs a brow at him. "Your shit, dude." One side of Duo's mouth twitches
upward, "Like hell I'm carrying it all the way across the colony. There
wasn't anything in the bet about that."
Trowa settles the weight of the shoulder strap and a tightness releases
around his heart. He'd completely forgotten about the bet. When he'd seen
Duo standing there with his things he'd thought... something else.
"An oversight on my part," Trowa replies, trying to forget that moment
of silent dismay.
"You all right, man? For a minute there you looked like your favorite
critter had just died."
"I'm fine, Duo," he tells him with a snort.
"Hm," Duo says neutrally. "C'mon, man," he invites with a gesture. "Places
to go and all that."
Trowa follows Duo out of the shopping center and asks, "Where would that
Duo sends him a sidelong glance, telling him without words that he won't
reveal his plans so willingly. "To take care of that bet" is all he says.
"That's not a destination," Trowa points out blandly as he matches Duo's
Duo grins with considerable enthusiasm. "Oh, it will be. Trust me."
Noting the somewhat sadistic glee expressed in the young man's features,
Trowa deadpans, "Unfortunately, I already do."
Duo laughs. "Said like a man about to face a firing squad. Shall I offer
you a blindfold and a cigarette?"
"If you actually have those on you, I'd prefer not to know about it."
"Where's your sense of adventure, Tro?"
"With all those poisonous reptiles I'd be missing if I worked in a pet
"You know, there's a clinical name for people like you."
"That's not a clinical name," Trowa tells him, feeling his mouth begin
to stretch into a smile.
"Sure it is. My therapist calls me that all the time."
"You don't have a therapist."
"If I didn't have you, I would."
"That doesn't count," Trowa says in a voice that's thicker than usual.
"Sure it does."
"Then it's a good thing we keep separate scoreboards."
"Am I winning most of the time on yours, too?"
Trowa's mouth twitches. "Much to my dismay," he intones drolly.
"Yeah, you sound really broken up by it," Duo observes.
Duo laughs. "Of that I have absolutely no doubt, man."
Trowa folds his hands into his pockets and concedes the battle of wits.
He contents himself with walking in silence for a fair distance simply
soaking up Duo's presence beside him. He doesn't bother to ask about their
destination again, doesn't bother to try to remember what lies in the
direction Duo is taking him. With an effort, Trowa puts aside his need
for control and docilely trails along.
A considerable amount of time passes before Duo finally steps off of the
sidewalk and approaches a residence. Trowa pauses at the edge of the path
to take in their destination. The neo-Victorian home sprawls across the
lush lawn. Vines strain up the archway that leads to the garden around
the back. The hand-painted sign in front of the veranda reads: The
Waterlot Inn and Restaurant. 
With one foot on the first step, Duo pauses and turns back to the young
man still hesitating at the gate. "Yes, Tro?"
Trowa looks away from those sparkling eyes and concentrates on the elegant
architecture of the almost-mansion. He searches his mind for the words
to express the thoughts he can barely register. He says, "You'd spring
for this but you wouldn't carry my bag?"
Duo laughs. He hadn't expected that. "Hey, I've gotta prioritize."
Still, Trowa doesn't approach the inn. Duo is about to point out that
no one ever got a hot shower while standing out on a sidewalk when Trowa
Very softly, he says, "You can't afford this."
Duo's smile widens. "Already bought and paid for, Tro. You're not going
to suggest we head over to one of those economy hotels, are you?" he asks
with a single brow raised.
Trowa says nothing. Just turns to reabsorb the delicate landscaping, the
softly glowing stained and leaded glass windows. Why would Duo spend the
money for a place like this when there are many other adequate and less
expensive places on the colony? Trowa glances at Duo again and notes the
lingering presence of that soft, mysterious look in his eyes. And although
Trowa's customary fašade of indifference remains firmly in place, he has
the distinct impression that Duo is taking this moment to look past it.
His fingers tighten around the straps of his duffle bag. His wrists tingle
with the whisper of adrenalin. The muscles over his heart tense.
He quietly asks, "What other surprises do you have planned, Duo?"
Still smiling, Duo tells him, "Only good ones."
Trowa has no reply to that.
Then Duo gestures grandly to the front door. With a slight bow and smirk,
he invites, "After you."
"I think I underestimated you," Trowa says into the mild evening provided
by the colony's weather control geeks.
Walking up beside him, Duo grins. "Yeah, a lot of people have that same
problem. I hear there's even a support group for it now."
He watches as Duo plugs in the hair dryer provided by the inn and snags
his brush from the somewhat rumpled surface of the featherbed.
"Not only did you leave me some hot water, you even tested out the bed.
You'd better be careful there, Tro. You're spoiling me."
"It's all part of my master plan," he assures Duo before turning back
to the view of the colony at night.
"Oh? Today Duo Maxwell, tomorrow the world? That sort of thing?"
Trowa chuckles softly. "I'll be happy with just Duo Maxwell," he replies
Duo pauses in the act of reaching for the power button on the blow dryer
and glances over his shoulder at Trowa. Realizing what he'd just said,
Trowa's fingers tighten their grip on the window molding. A moment passes
before he can feel the radiance of Duo's smile against his back.
"Well, if that's the case," Duo returns, "I don't think you'll encounter
Trowa blinks once as those words hit him. Behind him, the blow dryer clicks
on and begins to hum. He transfers his gaze to the young man half dressed,
seated on the edge of the over-priced bed he'd bought for the night and
For a moment, he watches Duo artfully wrestle with the brush and blow
dryer before walking over to him and mutely holding out his hand.
"Resistance is futile," Trowa agrees, waiting for a response to his offer.
Duo, unable to miss the open palm held beneath his nose, reluctantly releases
his hair brush to Trowa. The bed dips behind him as Trowa climbs up to
join him. And then when the hand appears a second time, Duo relinquishes
the dryer as well.
"Resistance may be futile," Duo grumbles over the rumbling of the dryer,
"but if you frizz my hair out, I'll hurt you."
Trowa begins to comb through the damp strands. "Promises, promises."
Duo had listened to Trowa's protests; there hadn't been anything in the
bet about buying dinner. But Duo had ignored him.
"It's all part of the package," he'd replied lightly.
"Christmas in February?" Trowa had responded scanning the inn's menu by
the soft candlelight adorning their table for two.
That increasingly familiar mysterious grin had reappeared for a brief
instant. "Maybe," Duo had told him.
And now, as Duo holds open the front door for Trowa, he inhales the early
night air deeply. "Oh, man," he sighs, "I think I've just been ruined
for peanut butter sandwiches."
Trowa looks pointedly from the open doorway to Duo. "What's this?" he
inquires mildly but with no shortage of curiosity.
Duo shrugs. "The night is young, man. Did you really just want to go back
up stairs and watch each other breathe for the next three hours?" Duo
doesn't wait for a reply. "Me neither. So, c'mon."
With a resigned sigh that does nothing to eliminate the pleasant buzz
of anticipation in Trowa's pulse points, he silently crosses the threshold
and jogs down the stairs.
Noting the absence of any comments or questions in response to his declaration,
Duo grins. Hands in his pockets, he begins strolling down the walk beside
his roommate. "You know, I'm really enjoying this more agreeable side
of you, Tro."
"I'm generally disagreeable?" Trowa replies, brows rising.
With a soft chuckle, Duo tells him, "Let's just say you prefer to have
equal say in what happens to your person."
Trowa makes a soft noise in the back of his throat.
"Is it so hard trusting me?" Duo asks after a few more paces in silence.
Trowa glances at Duo, telling him, "It's hard trusting in general." Returning
his gaze to the path before him, he continues, "But no, it's not hard
Duo grins. "Thanks, man. Even if it's a lie, it's a nice one."
"I won't lie to you, Duo," Trowa promises softly.
His companion shakes his head. "Don't say that. You have before. You might
need to again. So don't promise me, okay?"
Trowa slows to a stop on the sidewalk. "It's not okay, Duo." He seeks
out Duo's gaze in the darkness and meets it with his own. "No more lies."
Dredging up a half smile, Duo persists, "That one of those future facts?"
Trowa shakes his head. "It's been a fact for a while."
"Hm," Duo murmurs, accepting this for the moment. Instead, he steers Trowa
past a large sign announcing the presence of one of L2's few liberal arts
colleges. With a slight frown, Trowa glances in Duo's direction but the
young man's face gives nothing away.
Swallowing back another sigh, Trowa wonders what he'll have to say or
do in order to convince Duo that he's sincere about his promise not to
lie to him. Wonders if not being up-front with Duo about why he ran into
him at the convenience store had been a bad decision. But at the time,
he hadn't believed Duo would accept his offer of friendship. What would
he have told him in the first place? Duo, I had this dream about you
and in the dream I was in love with you and you needed help but I didn't
know what to do for you so when I woke up I decided to hunt you down because
I needed to know you were all right... Yeah, that would have gone
over real well.
Yet another door opens before him and with a small start, Trowa glances
up to see Duo motioning him into the fine arts building.
"You didn't sign me up for a pottery class, did you?" Trowa jokes as he
steps into the cavernous lobby.
"Naw. Not enough sharp objects," Duo tells him. "And all their sculpture
courses were full."
"Damn," Trowa intones. His gaze sweeps more leisurely over the lobby,
taking in the sight of several student works displayed on the walls and
near the plain, serviceable benches. One particular painting catches his
attention and he wanders closer to it. For a long moment, he studies it
beneath the soft white noise generated by the overhead lights. Feeling
Duo's approach beside him, Trowa tears his gaze away from the abstract
"What are we doing here?" he asks curiously.
Duo grins and takes a breath to speak. But it's a moment longer before
any words come out. During Duo's hesitation, the first strains of music
spill into the lobby from a nearby rehearsal room. They both pause and
listen as what sounds like a full orchestra is put through its warm-up
paces. When the students are allowed a brief pause before beginning an
etude, Duo finally replies on a whisper, "Listening." He gestures to the
artworks scattered throughout the room. "Looking." Turning back to Trowa,
he asks, "What's your pleasure?"
As Duo's plans for the evening finally make sense, Trowa finds himself
smiling. With a shake of his head at Duo's uncanny ability to surprise
him, Trowa settles on a nearby bench. He leaves plenty of room for Duo
to join him which he does. Leaning back against the cold wall of the classroom
behind them, shoulders touching, they close their eyes and listen to the
melodic merging of dozens of individuals in the room just around the corner.
For the better part of an hour, they sit almost leaning on each other
and allowing the music to chase all thoughts from their minds. During
a particularly intense, soaring piece, Duo feels Trowa shiver beside him.
Opening his eyes, Duo watches a subtle shudder affect the flesh beneath
Trowa's long-sleeved shirt. He can only imagine it's gooseflesh. The thought
makes him smile.
When the song ends, the sounds from within the room change. Seats are
being moved, instruments set down carefully. Although reluctant to disturb
Trowa's peaceful figure, Duo nudges him.
"C'mon, Tro," he says, standing. "They're taking a break. In about two
minutes this lobby's going to be packed with music students."
With a perfectly silent sigh, Trowa unfolds himself from his seat and
follows Duo down a small hallway. They wander past the empty classrooms
spying half-finished canvas paintings and easels, worktables and printing
presses. In between the doors, bulletin boards are crammed with sketches
and prints and photographs. As they meander deeper down the small, secondary
hall, a different kind of music entirely slowly increases in volume. Rounding
a corner, they see a gray metal door with a sign reading "Darkroom" standing
open in the hall.
Movement from within the room snags their attention. They watch as a dark-haired
young woman works at a large sink, completely focused on her task even
when a lithe girl with her blonde hair cut in a short, pixie style embraces
her from behind.
"Please? Just one dance?" the blond woman cajoles softly.
There's a short, indecisive pause from the woman working at the sink.
"I know you love this song..."
The blond woman reaches past her companion's shoulder and slowly adjusts
the volume on the portable radio.
As the music begins to take over the small room a sigh of acquiescence
escapes the figure at the sink. "Okay," the second woman concedes. She
dries her hands on a yellowed towel and turns to her lover. "Just don't
even think about dipping me."
"You're no fun," the first young woman says affectionately.
Remaining in the shadows of the barely-lit hall, Trowa watches the two
of them move in perfect time to the music. But he only allows himself
a moment. Slowly, so as not to announce his presence to the pair in the
room just a few feet away, Trowa moves to head back to the lobby. He takes
only a few steps before noticing the fact that Duo is no longer at his
Duo stands just inside the shadows opposite the open door, listening to
the music with his arms crossed over his chest as if holding back a great
ache. It's then that the words begin to register in Trowa's mind.
//"I have the bravest heart that you've ever seen and you've never met
anyone who is as positive as I am sometimes..."//
The refrain builds, remaining soft but the melody expands to fill every
void in the tune.
//"You see everything... you see every part...//
//"You see all my light... and you love my dark...//
//"You dig everything of which I'm ashamed...//
//"There's not anything to which you can't relate...//
//"And you're still here..."// 
With those words, Duo lifts his gaze to meet Trowa's. The lyrics vibrate
in the air between them as they both remember Trowa's promise to stay
and Duo's disbelief that he would want to.
A shudder travels the length of Duo's body and the motion draws Trowa
closer until Duo's shoulder is pressed against the other man's sternum.
A slender, calloused hand gently grips Duo's opposite shoulder and Trowa
stills, then. He inhales the scent of cheap 2-in- 1 shampoo from Duo's
braid and listens to the song.
It's uncanny how perfectly the lyrics match their situation. For it is
true that everything Duo has shown him, Trowa has understood, appreciated,
Trowa closes his eyes as Duo leans back against him just a bit. He savors
the warmth of the contact and the trust in that gesture.
He loves Duo.
The revelation is quickly accepted. There are no fireworks of epiphany,
no tensing of his body, no skipping of heartbeats nor holding of breath.
Trowa is unsurprised by his emotions. But he remembers that strange dream
which had driven him to find Duo and wonders: had the dream fulfilled
itself in that Trowa had grown to love him or had he always loved him
and the dream had merely made him realize it?
But in this moment, the how, when, and whys of Trowa's emotions do not
matter. What matters is that he's found Duo and that Duo wants him to
The song dies away and, with a shaky smile, Duo leads Trowa back to the
foyer. The orchestra members had already resumed their seats and soft,
melodic chords are spilling from beyond the closed doors.
As Duo turns to resume his seat on the bench, his fingertips find and
trail down Trowa's arm, guiding him down beside him. A moment later Trowa
finds himself with Duo's arm draped warmly over his shoulders and his
back pressed to Duo's chest. When he attempts to shift his weight off
of Duo, the arm around him tightens and the young man merely shakes his
"Stay," he breathes softly so as not to break the beauty of the music.
Trowa settles back against the offered embrace and closes his eyes. He
understands that Duo is attempting to return some of the warmth and support
Trowa has shown him. He realizes that Duo is sharing with him what it
feels like to lean on someone trusted. He experiences what it is like
to know he is cared for.
So this is what Duo feels when Trowa is with him stealing away the nightmares?
Trowa can understand why all of Duo's attempts to assure Trowa that he
doesn't have to stay with him have been so half- hearted. Trowa isn't
even undergoing a significant amount of distress and he'd rather die than
move from Duo's solidity and heat.
Slowly, Trowa's eyes open. Perhaps it's the perfection of the moment that
alerts him to the significance of what he's done in offering Duo whatever
he is capable of giving. Perhaps it's the suspicion that, if he and Duo's
lives had been reversed, Trowa would never have the strength to let go
of him. But Trowa suddenly sees the flaw in his willingness to offer Duo
whatever it is he needs.
Because Trowa realizes that what Duo needs is absolution and that is not
something Trowa can, with his presence alone, provide for him.
Nestled behind him, Duo opens his eyes as well when he senses the gradual
tensing of Trowa's shoulders. "What is it?" he asks softly.
Forcing himself to relax again, Trowa shakes his head. "Not tonight,"
he responds just as quietly.
Knowing that Trowa doesn't want to darken their evening with his thoughts,
Duo concedes the conversation and just enjoys the moment, not suspecting
that Trowa has just realized that in order for Duo to truly be happy again
Trowa must let him go.
 During the series, Trowa has an affinity for the lions at the circus
and vice versa. Also, the circus manager is always stomping around calling
Trowa a lazy punk or some such nonsense.
 During the series, Trowa tries to self-destruct in his Gundam when
the circus is performing at an Oz base.
 The Waterlot is a gourmet Bed and Breakfast in Stratford, Ontario,
Canada. I have yet to eat a meal that tops theirs.
 The song quoted is "Everything" by Alanis Morissette from her 2004
album: "So-Called Chaos."
[chap. 11] [chap. 13] [back to The Manwell's fic]