Author: The Manwell
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimers
Sleeps + Chapter 14
"Good morning, Duo," she replies with a smile.
Sliding into the seat opposite her, Duo blows softly on the surface of
his cup of coffee. He looks up at her through his lashes and notes her
overly pale complexion, the slump of her shoulders, and the dark shadows
beneath her usually vibrant eyes. For the past six days, Duo has stood
aside and simply observed Trowa and Cathy, hoping that they might resolve
their tension themselves. With a small sigh, Duo accepts the fact that
he can't hold back his desire to partially return the favor of friendship
Trowa had offered him.
He clears his throat and glances around the mess hall. He nods to a few
fellow mechanics before returning his gaze to the young woman opposite
him. "So where's Tro?"
"He's already started going through his routines."
"This early?" Duo replies, brows rising. After a moment, he shakes his
head and takes a sip from his mug. "I didn't even hear him leave."
"You say that like it's unusual," she replies with a small laugh.
Duo grins back and shrugs. "It is. But since we got here, he's gotten
really good at sneaking out of the trailer before I wake up."
"Sounds like he's avoiding both of us," Cathy observes, offering Duo a
"Um... Yeah," Duo agrees uneasily. "Look, about that, Cath..."
He hesitates for a moment longer, giving himself one last chance to back
off. But he doesn't. "What's the deal between you and Tro? I can tell
Cathy wraps an arm around her stomach almost pulling herself into a protective
position. For some reason, the posture strikes a chord in Duo and his
mind supplies a possibility he doesn't want to consider.
"It's... it's not... is it, uh, a romantic problem?" he carefully ventures.
Cathy's gaze snaps up to Duo's in surprise. "What?" she chokes out.
Duo finds himself incapable of doing much more than looking uncomfortable.
The image he presents is obviously too funny for words. In short order,
Cathy is laughing so hard, tears of hysteric mirth are streaming down
her face. Heads turn at nearby tables and Duo casts about for something
Gasping for breath, Cathy manages, "Spoken like someone in love."
Duo's jaw drops. "What? No! I mean, I... I just... um..."
Cradling her jaw in one palm, Cathy tells him softly, "It's okay, Duo.
What's between Trowa and I isn't romantic. He might love me, but he's
in love with you."
Taking a moment to absorb that, he takes another drink. He's not sure
what to make of Cathy's assurances. He's not entirely sure he wants to
think about them at the moment. He focuses on keeping the conversation
on track. "So what's the problem, then?"
She cocks her head to the side and looks inquisitive.
"Don't sit there and tell me the two of you are just peachy, because you're
not," he dares. Cathy wilts a little in her seat and Duo continues gently,
"What happened, Cath?"
"Why are you asking, Duo?" she replies, looking wounded.
Her pain catches him off-guard. He draws a deep breath and tells her,
"I'm sorry. It's just... Trowa knows something's wrong and I think it's
hurting him that you won't tell him. He's my friend... the best friend
I've had in a really long time. I can't just watch both of you continue
hurting like this, you know?"
Cathy sighs and crosses her arms against her stomach. Leaning closer,
she demands, "You won't say anything to him, will you?"
Duo sighs. "I won't," he promises, "but you'd better."
One corner of her mouth twitches. "Maybe you can help me figure out how
to tell him?"
"Yeah," he agrees with a grin, "I think I might be able to do that."
A moment of understanding holds them close before Cathy tells him, "Thanks."
Duo arcs a brow at her. "Maybe you should tell me what it is before you
"Oh, I suppose." The light, playful air between them vanishes as she begins
to speak softly, afraid of being overheard. "I was in the communications
trailer the other day, looking for some old contracts. We've begun booking
our performances and the mayor of Luxembourg threw a fit when he found
out we were planning to be in outer space for the first week of August.
Apparently, we have a standing agreement with his city to be there for
the fifth." Cathy waves her hand, dismissing the details. "Anyway, the
manager asked me to dig up the paperwork, if we had it.
"So I was going through these boxes and I found an old photo album. I
wasn't going to look through it. Why bother, right? But the stack I set
it on fell over and some of the photos came loose. I was putting it back
together when I found a picture of my parents. And me. And my little brother."
She pauses then, remembering.
"You have a brother?" Duo presses.
"I had a brother," she tells him. "He and my parents were killed
during a rebel attack when I was just a little girl."
"I'm sorry, Cathy. Ió"
She holds up a hand to stall him. "But when I saw those pictures again,
details that I suppose I'd forgotten came back. I remembered that Dad
had this soft, golden brown hair that fell over his brow all the time
and these gentle green eyes. I remembered the explosion and the fire that
had killed them and I remembered the burn scars on Trowa's back. He's
the right age, too..." 
"Hold up," Duo interrupts. "You think Trowa might be your little brother?"
Cathy leans over the table and confides, "Yes." She shifts in her seat
and tells him the rest of her story, "Several weeks ago, Trowa and I were
practicing this new knife-throwing act and I..." She blushes. "I nicked
him on purpose. Just on the arm," Cathy hurries to assure him. "I used
a clean handkerchief to wipe away the blood and I took it to a local clinic
to be tested.
"Duo," she confesses, tears glittering on her lashes, "they did a blood
test. Trowa and I share a little over thirty-one per cent of our DNA.
That's a match. We are related. He is my brother, Triton."
Duo leans back, both hands still wrapped around his cooling mug. "Jesus,"
he mutters. "How long have you known?"
Looking a little embarrassed, Cathy replies honestly, "I got the results
the day before he left to look for you. I... I tried to stop him from
going. I'm sorry, Duo. I was just... I was afraid that fate would take
him away again and Ió"
"I understand, Cathy," Duo consoles, reaching across the table to touch
her hand. "It's okay. He helped me and made it back here safe."
"You'll keep an eye on him for me, won't you?"
"Whenever I can," he promises with a sad smile.
Catching that bittersweet _expression, Cathy blinks. "What? What are you
talking about?" She gasps. "You're not thinking of leaving are you?"
Withdrawing his hand again, Duo sighs. "He's going to get tired of looking
after me, eventually. I've got a lot of... issues, Cathy. I'm real messed
up. I can't hang around being a pain in the ass forever."
"But you're not. Trowa doesn't think of you like that, heó"
"Has he told you this himself?" Duo inquires quickly before she can succeed
in breathing hope back into his beaten-up soul.
She hesitates. "Well, no. But I can see it," Cathy assures him with all
sincerity. At his questioning look, she continues, "It's the way he looks
at you, the way he doesn't hesitate to touch you." She pauses, suddenly
thoughtful. "Do you think Trowa knows you're planning on leaving?"
Duo shrugs. "Maybe. I've made it clear I don't expect him to babysit me
"Well," she tells him in her best older-sister tone, "if he knows you
aren't committed to staying with him that would explain his recent avoidance."
Duo winces. "You make it sound like we're heading for... well, something
we aren't. I'm not... I just can't..." He sighs for what feels like the
hundredth time in the last hour. "Trowa deserves better."
Cathy levels a finger in front of his nose. "Shut up, Duo Maxwell. I'm
not going to sit here and listen to that crap. Trowa wants you in his
life and if you hurt him, I'll break your legs."
Duo blinks. "And here I thought we were finally getting along..."
She smiles. "But we are. And we will, just as long as you understand where
I'm coming from here."
"Uhm... yeah," Duo responds, hiding behind a sip of lukewarm coffee.
"You know, I was never really mad at you, Duo, for finding Trowa
after he'd lost his memory," she says somewhat suddenly.
"Really?" Duo replies with no small amount of disbelief.
"Yes, really," Cathy assures him. "I was angry with the war, with what
Trowa had already sacrificed for it. I just wanted to give him the fresh
start he deserved. But... but you were right. You all were." She smiles
apologetically. "I couldn't stop the past from catching up to him. At
least with his memories, he was prepared to deal with it."
Duo shakes his head. "Trowa's lucky to have a sister like you, Cath. Really,
She attempts to smile at that, but it's a bit wobbly. "Thank you, Duo."
Drawing in a cleansing breath, Cathy broaches the original subject again,
"So what am I going to tell him?"
Duo shrugs. "I don't see anything wrong with the way you told me..." He
pauses as a part of her story comes back to him. "But, depending on how
close the resemblance is in those pictures, you might want to show him
those when you tell him."
She nods, accepting the advice. Then a conspiratorial light enters her
eyes. "You want to see them?"
"Yeah. Sure." He nods to his coffee. "Just let me dump this out."
Cathy nods and Duo pushes himself away from the table. During the short
trip to the sink, Duo's mind begins to process what Cathy has just told
Jesus. Trowa has a sister. Irrationally, Duo is immediately jealous.
How is it that Trowa had gone through the war blowing up everything in
sight but had somehow managed not to destroy his family? How is it Cathy
had survived but Kurt had not?
With shaking hands, Duo dumps the contents of the mug down the drain and
washes up his cup.
It's now very clear to Duo that he doesn't belong here. Once Trowa finds
out that he has a sister, Duo's welcome will be officially worn out. But
he finds he can't really get angry about this. After all, why wouldn't
he give them the space they need to reaffirm their bonds? Why wouldn't
he be happy for Trowa? Or, Triton, rather. That had been the name Cathy
had used, hadn't it?
Duo decides to be happy about this. Later, if he needs to mourn for his
own loses, he will. Just not now. Not now.
He turns and approaches Cathy with a grin. "Okay, Cath. Where's this work
She smiles. "Right this way..."
He follows her out of the mess hall and along the grassy path to the communications
trailer. They don't say much as they walk and when they arrive at their
destination, Cathy knocks on the door to be sure the room isn't occupied
before ushering him inside. Duo plops down in the chair behind the blank
vid screen and watches Cathy unbury the box containing the photo album.
"Have you thought of putting those photos on a data disk for safe keeping?"
She grins at him as she leans over the carton, lid in hand. "What do you
think I've been doing with myself when I haven't been able to sleep?"
"Grooming the elephants? Talking to the lions?"
She rolls her eyes. "Even they get tired of me after a few hours."
"No! Really? I don't believe it."
She snorts. "Jerk."
Cathy lifts out the heavy tome and offers it to her new friend with both
hands. Gingerly, Duo accepts it and places it on the desk. "This looks
like it's about ready to fall apart," he mutters, almost afraid to touch
She reaches past his shoulder and opens the album. "Just don't breathe
hard," she advises.
"Or what? It'll turn to dust?"
Cathy smiles and continues flipping carefully through the yellowed pages
until: "Here." Duo turns his attention to the page she's pointing to and
has his first look at Trowa's family.
"Is this you?" he asks indicating a little girl posing in a pink tutu.
"You were cute," he tells her.
Her eyebrows arc. "I was cute?"
Duo grins unrepentantly up at her. "Yeah. What happened, Cath?"
"I met you," she tells him with a huff.
He snorts and turns back to the pictures. "These your parents?"
"Yeah," she tells him, her voice softening.
Duo studies the people in the photograph carefully. "You weren't imagining
it," he says. "There is a really strong resemblance between Trowa and
Her gaze follows Duo's finger to the face in the picture. "That's my mom,"
Cathy corrects and Duo sniggers. "Can you be serious about anything?"
"Sorry," Duo replies, contrite. "It's just kind of weird knowing Tro and
I don't have the whole family-less thing in common anymore."
A hand settles on his shoulder. "I know, Duo. I'm not sure I'll ever get
used to it, either."
"Well, you'd better," Duo replies. "Because if you hurt him I'll break
"We'll tell him," Duo promises her after a moment. "I'll help you."
Her _expression softens. "Thanks, Duo."
"You're welcome, Cathy."
She nods. "Well... I... thank you for listening, Duo. I feel much better
now that I'm not the only one who knows."
"Yeah," Duo says, voice gruff. "I know what that's like."
A small instant of silence settles between them before Cathy thinks to
offer to put the album away.
"Actually, do you mind if I look through it for a while?"
"Not at all." She gives Duo's shoulder a small squeeze before maneuvering
past him to the open doorway. "I'll see you later, Duo," she calls back.
Only after she's disappeared down the path does Duo allow himself to look
at the pictures of Trowa and his family again. It's in this moment that
his mind decides now is later and the churning emotions he'd pushed aside
in the mess hall crash into him. On either side of the open volume, his
hands fist. He stares at the faces smiling up at him until his vision
blurs. Perhaps it's the contrast between having spent so much time, day
and night, with Trowa and now suddenly realizing that Trowa doesn't need
him anymore, understanding that Trowa has a family, knowing that Trowa
isn't alone... but Duo is feeling more lost than he can ever recall.
His first instinct is to leave, but he can't. He'd promised to help Cathy
tell Trowa. And he will. With a deep breath, Duo closes his eyes and resigns
himself to staying on at the circus for a bit longer. One thing's for
sure: he absolutely cannot think about this anymore for a while. Time
to get to work. Maybe the mechanics have something for him to work on.
Or perhaps he can break something in order to fix it.
Deciding on that plan, Duo collects the album and carefully packs it back
into its box. He's just settled the lid in place when the vid phone beeps,
alerting him to an in-coming call.
With a faint frown, he settles back in the chair and activates the viewer.
As it warms up, he turns on the audio.
There's a slight hesitation. "Hello. Is... Trowa Barton there?"
"Yeah," Duo says, squinting at the screen as it finally reveals a dim
ghost of a face. "Can you hold on for a few minutes? Or I can have him
call you back if... you... want..."
The screen now fully illuminated and the ancient camera now transmitting
his own image to the caller, Duo stares into a face so familiar it rips
a hole in his heart. The light brown hair and trimmed mustache, the hazel
eyes... Oh, yes, Duo knows this face. Has memorized it, tortured himself
with the recollection of it. Speaking becomes impossible. All he is capable
of is gazing at the face on the screen.
Equally stunned, the man stares at the young man with dark blue eyes,
uncomprehending. Finally, he gathers his voice enough to enunciate, "Jesse?"
Duo feels his eyes begin to fill with hot tears. His body begins to tremble
so badly his breath shudders out of him. And with it, a single word, "D-dad?"
As soon as Cathy enters the tent, Trowa knows he won't be able to continue
his practice. One glance at her tells him this much. Her shoulders are
stiff and her arms are crossed tightly over her chest. He can easily imagine
her narrowed eyes.
He sighs. It seems she's determined to give him a good talking-to. Knowing
he'll be able to get back to work sooner if he just lets her vent, Trowa
descends the trapeze ladder. He gracefully leaps the last few rungs and
gives her his undivided attention.
"Trowa Barton," she addresses him and Trowa figures he's about to get
smacked. He doesn't say anything. He doesn't have to. Cathy's already
getting right to the point. "What have you done to Duo?"
He frowns. This is unexpected.
"Do you know that he's thinking about leaving already?"
Trowa feels a small tingling of panic at her words. Duo can't leave. Not
yet. He has no where to go...
"But really, why wouldn't he?" she continues. "If you've been avoiding
him like you've been avoiding me it's no wonder. He probably thinks you're
tired of him hanging around. That you're just feeling sorry for him or
"That's not it, Cathy," Trowa attempts to interject on his own behalf.
"Oh, well that's a relief to hear. Too bad you're telling that to the
He blinks at her, stunned by her vehemence.
"Argh!" she huffs, throwing up her hands. "Men! I give up. I. Just. Give.
Trowa remains right where he's standing for a long moment, frowning after
her. It had been a long, long time since he'd seen her get this worked
up about something. Are things really as bad as she says? Is Duo packing
his things at this very moment?
That last thought spurs him into action.
Abandoning his morning exercises, Trowa strides outside and heads straight
for the trailer he's been sharing with Duo. As he traverses the grounds,
he attempts to generate a logical reason for Duo to stay at the circus
a little longer. At least until Trowa has fulfilled his promise.
He doubts Duo is honestly going to believe Trowa's excuses for avoiding
him. Trowa knows he's going to have to stop trying to distance himself
from Duo. Actions do speak louder than words, after all. But that isn't
going to change the fact that Duo will leave. Chest aching in anticipation
of the inevitable separation, Trowa accepts the fact that this is simply
going to hurt like hell. There is no way to avoid it. Especially since
emotionally distancing himself is no longer an option.
Trowa cuts across the lawn behind the utility trailer and ducks beneath
the uniformly stretched laundry lines weighted down with linens waving
in the slight breeze and jogs up to the door of his objective. He knocks
once before opening the door. Blinking to encourage his eyes to adjust
to the shadows within, he calls, "Duo?"
There is no reply.
His grip around the door latch tightens until he notes the location of
Duo's pack. It's still stowed under the bunk and mostly deflated.
Trowa leans against the doorframe and breathes deeply in relief. Okay,
so Duo hasn't packed... yet. But perhaps...
With an irritated growl, Trowa retreats into the bright morning once and
takes off again. As he strides towards his new destination, Trowa realizes
that Duo probably won't go anywhere until he has a means of leaving. His
gaze seeks out each truck and notes its location. All are accounted for
and none are currently being given a thorough inspection by Duo. He leans
into the mess hall doorway and scans the kitchen and pantry areas. But
there is no figure with a long braid tucking rations into his pockets.
Without a word to the few lingering occupants, Trowa backs out into the
sunlight and continues his search. Another possibility, he knows, is that
Duo has just wandered off for a little time to plan out his next step.
Trowa realizes that he may have to resign himself to waiting for him back
at the trailer. But before he does that, he'll check one more place...
He blinks when he turns the corner and realizes that the door of the communications
trailer is standing open and Duo is leaning over the desk to answer a
Trowa moves out of the immediate line of sight and pauses to think. He
can't just rush in there and tell Duo that Cathy had told Trowa he'd been
talking about leaving... can he? Trowa rethinks his strategy. Why can't
he simply tell Duo that much of the truth? Still... how to explain his
Trowa is still mulling this over when he hears an unfamiliar voice echo
over the vid link, saying his name. For the briefest instant, he wonders
who could possibly be calling for him. But then the answer hits him like
a physical blow.
He reaches for the doorway just as Duo's reply trails off. Knowing that
the circus's ancient vid screen has finally warmed up, he tries to prepare
himself for the worst.
Trowa winces at the hopeful desperation in the man's voice. Shit.
The breathless ache behind Duo's stutter is the only warning Trowa has
before he steps through the doorway. And with a glance, he realizes that
the situation is much, much worse than he'd anticipated.
Immediately, he goes to Duo and gathers his shuddering body into his arms.
With a quick glance at the screen, Trowa reaches around Duo's body long
enough to disconnect the call without a word to the man still gaping on
the screen. He doesn't even briefly consider guiding Duo, as he is, across
the grounds to their trailer. Trowa kicks the door shut behind him and
tightens his embrace around Duo.
"It's okay, Duo," he murmurs. "I'm here now. I'm right here..."
Still stiff and shaking, Duo whispers fiercely, "It is not okay!
I just... I just saw my... my... He's alive?" Head bowed, forehead pressing
against Trowa's sternum, Duo shakes his head. "No. No. He's dead. I...
Shinigami killed him."
"Duo," Trowa beckons, attempting to get his attention.
"And what the fuck was he doing calling you?" Duo fairly
shouts finally leaning back far enough to glare into Trowa's mellow, concerned
"That's some sense of timing you've got there, man." Duo's eyes narrow
further. "You've been avoiding me like I'm the fucking plague all week
and now you show up? What the hell?"
Trowa sighs and looks squarely back at Duo. Hands fisted at his sides
and breath coming hard, the former Deathsycthe pilot is a formidable sight.
So much so that Trowa resigns himself to having this conversation whether
either of them is really ready for it or not.
[chap. 13] [chap. 15] [back to The Manwell's fic]