see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimers
Sleeps + Chapter 5
Duo slowly lowers himself onto
his sleeping bag with a groan. Man, I must be seriously out of shape...
He throws an arm over his eyes and recalls the warm welcome they'd found
at the site of Reverend Jamesson's new church in Laurel Heights. He and
Trowa had met with the reverend and the rest of the crew in the morning
and found themselves hired on the spot. That had happened shortly after
eight a.m. that morning. And they'd stayed. Until eight p.m.
On the one hand, it had been nice to keep his mind occupied with monotonous,
redundant things. Physical labor is great for that. But on the other,
his back and shoulders are sore.
Duo lifts his arm and casts a wary glare at Trowa. "Huh?"
Trowa sinks down next to the sleeping bag and gestures for Duo to turn
around. "Roll over," he repeats.
Patiently, Trowa explains, "You'll feel worse in the morning if you don't
work the tension out of your back before you go to sleep."
"That a bit of acrobat wisdom?" Duo asks, complying.
Trowa corrects him, "Clowns."
Duo snorts, hugging the pillow under his chin. His eyes drift shut as
Trowa's hands settle on his shoulders and begin the process of loosening
Duo's muscles. He lets out a long sigh as just the right amount of pressure
is applied. Damn but he's good at this.
"You ever think about becoming a professional masseuse, Tro?"
Duo almost groans as Trowa's persistence forces the muscles on either
side of Duo's spine to turn to jelly. "Why the hell not?"
Burying his face in the pillow, Duo feels his entire body shake with laughter.
"Stop that. You're undoing all my progress."
Coming up for air, Duo glances over his shoulder. Still chuckling, he
shakes his head at Trowa Barton, stoic ex-Gundam pilot... Check that.
Ex-stoic ex-Gundam pilot. Smiling, Duo lowers his cheek to the
pillow again musing over Trowa's recently liberated sense of humor.
"What's so funny?"
Duo doesn't hesitate. "You." He spares a second look at him. "I always
figured you must have been off shooting shit when they were rationing
out senses of humor."
Trowa snorts softly. "I was."
Duo arcs a brow in question.
Trowa explains the previous absence of his humor: "Layaway. Been making
With a small grin, Duo shakes his head. "You're something else, man."
And then Duo groans as Trowa's hands begin to work at the small of his
back. "Oh, dude. Masseuse or not, I am so not sharing you with anyone
"We prefer the term 'massage therapist,'" Trowa counters dryly.
Duo rolls his eyes but he's too relaxed to do much more than that. They
lapse into silence as Duo feels and Trowa works. Then, after a good many
more appreciative groans from Duo, Trowa inquires, "How does you back
Unable to work up the energy required to enunciate, Duo mutters, "Err
merm mem merrr..."
Trowa nods. "You're welcome."
Duo snorts and a smirk works its way across his mouth. He briefly considers
sitting up to untie his boots before squirming under the covers but that
just requires too much energy and he'll be damned if he's gonna move now...
A touch at his ankle makes him pause. He reluctantly turns his head and
sees Trowa kneeling at the foot of the sleeping bag. Duo watches, a little
surprised, as Trowa unlaces his shoes, gently tugs them off of Duo's feet,
and sets them aside.
Just before exhaustion drags Duo down into sleep, he has a fleeting thought.
He wonders just who this guy sharing this condemned house with him really
is, wonders about the real Trowa, wonders if he ever really knew him at
Trowa allows himself a moment to study his roommate, the young man who'd
introduced himself as Duo Franklin to the reverend today. Trowa
settles down in his sleeping bag and considers the slumbering body across
the way. He wonders if it's accurate to assume Duo had chosen a different
last name because he'd felt 'Maxwell' would draw too much attention. Would
invite all kinds of inferences and uncomfortable questions from colony
residents familiar with the old church and its tragic ending. And he wonders
if Duo had simply drawn the name 'Franklin' out of a hat, so to speak,
or if there had been a reason for why he'd chosen to use that name.
Not that he's one to judge, of course. The reverend and the rest of the
crew think his name is Trowa Bloom. But then, he hadn't wanted them to
make the connection between him and Gundam pilot 03. Trowa closes his
eyes and forces his muscles to relax. Perhaps he's just being overly suspicious.
Perhaps Duo had used a different name for the same reason Trowa had.
But still, there is the possibility that he hadn't.
Trowa tells himself to think about it later. He studies the steady rise
and fall of Duo's chest. His fingertips feel strangely warm as he remembers
the feel of Duo's taut muscles beneath them. Trowa frowns, remembering
his gesture. Duo hadn't even complained about the muscle tenderness. Trowa
had simply noticed the slight wince as Duo had laid down. So he'd offered
His frown deepens when he realizes that he's never done that before. Never
offered assistance when it hadn't been necessary or solicited. Never offered
to touch someone who hadn't been injured or ill.
Trowa recalls each moment he'd shared with Duo. And he discovers that
it had been... nice. It had felt...
Trowa's thoughts grind to a halt.
He had felt...
His jaw tenses. He's not sure if that's what he wants. He's not sure he
wants to go where this journey is leading him. But then, he's not here
for himself. He's here for Duo. To help Duo. That's why
Straddling the spine of the still skeletal roof, Duo leans away from securing
the reinforcing brackets and stretches.
He slowly grins as only the barest twinge of an ache can be felt. Trowa
had been right about taking care of his back before going to sleep. Duo
can't stop a slightly goofy grin as he recalls the massage. No one had
ever done anything like that for him before. It had been... Nice,
Duo decides. He takes a deep breath, getting ready to shimmy further down
the roof to the next intersecting beam but pauses when he feels something
slap against his shoe. Glancing down, he notices that his right boot laces
And of course, that reminds him of what had happened after the
massage. Unable to stop himself, Duo scans the site, searching for his
new housemate. He catches a glimpse of him by the circular saw, measuring
and marking off a virginal two-by-four.
He still recalls his last thought of the night. Still remembers Trowa's
firm, careful touch as he'd removed Duo's boots. Still can't believe he's
never seen this side of the guy before. After all, they'd fought in the
same war... usually on the same side...
I never had a clue.
So he'd never expected Trowa to be so... almost like...
God, but last night Duo had felt so... taken care of. He sighs.
Apparently, there are depths to Trowa and even he, Duo Maxwell, hadn't
sensed. He who prides himself on his astute judgment of character... It's
beyond strange that he'd missed it.
But then this is a strange time. The conspicuous absence of his nightmares
being among the least of...
Duo pauses in his thoughts and back tracks.
No nightmares. Not since Trowa got here.
And Duo isn't sure what to think of that. He watches his friend work,
examining his effortless grace, the shifting of his muscles beneath his
skin. He hasn't had a dream strong enough to recall since Trowa had bumped
into him at the convenience store. For a long moment, Duo tries to wrap
his mind around this. He should have dreamed that first night.
He'd been tense, expecting it. But it hadn't happened.
And because it hadn't happened, Trowa had stayed.
Duo's expression darkens as he wonders how the guy will react when the
inevitable does happen. Could Duo stand it? To see pity reflected in those
green eyes? Could he bear it if Trowa merely levels a flat stare on him
and tells him to face his demons and be done with it? Could he get through
another polite rejection?
In spite of the surprisingly warm day, Duo shivers.
His days in Trowa's company are numbered.
Just as this thought comes to him, the youth in question looks up and
meets Duo's gaze. For a moment, they simply stare at each other. Duo remembers
the evening before. The camaraderie. The caring. He remembers and he wonders
if Trowa's thoughts mirror his own.
Duo forces a smile and nods. Trowa inclines his head in return. Glancing
away first, Duo pulls his leg up onto the nearest beam and ties his shoe.
For a moment, he can still feel Trowa's piercing gaze focused on him.
And not for the first time, he wishes he could read the guy's mind. Wishes
he knew what would happen if he told him about the nightmares... about
Finally, Trowa gets back to work and Duo allows himself to watch him out
of the corner of his eye. He thinks about this quiet, young man who had
fought beside him in the war, who had done whatever the mission had required,
even if that had meant betraying his comrades. Last night, just before
sleep had claimed him, Duo had experienced an epiphany: he hadn't known
Trowa Barton very well at all. He'd trusted the guy with his life and
yet he knows almost nothing at all about him.
And now here he is: living in the same run-down house, working on the
same construction site, having chats and swapping one-liners with someone
he barely knows... but wants to.
Duo tells himself this is only going to hurt in the end. Tells himself
it's better to start distancing himself now. Heero had been right; no
one can help Duo except Duo. But he knows that when quitting time comes,
he'll be walking home with Trowa. And perhaps it's pure selfishness, pure
weakness, but Duo is utterly relieved that he won't be alone. At least
not for one more night.
"Duo? What are you doing?"
Duo grins and lifts the unopened fifth of whiskey for Trowa to clearly
see it. "What does it look like I'm doing?" he counters, attacking the
cap and twisting it off.
Trowa arcs a brow. "It looks like you're planning on drinking yourself
With chuckle, Duo sets aside the bottle and reaches for a small bag. It's
a recently acquired purchase, actually. Something he'd decided is necessary
for this evening. He lifts out a small pack of plastic cups and tosses
one at Trowa. "Well, Tro, you're half right."
Trowa looks from the cup he'd reflexively caught to Duo, to the bottle,
to the cup in his hands, and back to Duo again. "And what makes you think
I'll go along with this?"
Duo's grin gets, impossibly, wider. He pulls his second purchase out of
the bag: a deck of playing cards. "Seeing as how we're off tomorrow, I
figured we could hang out and... you know..."
Duo's laughter is a combination of snorts and chuckles. "Yeah. 'Schnockered.'
Trowa doesn't look very enthusiastic. So Duo reins in his humor and attempts
to sweeten the deal.
"Look, Tro. You don't have to drink if you don't want to. Actually, I
wasn't planning on having much myself."
Trowa sits down on his sleeping bag and wordlessly watches Duo shuffle
"I was kind of thinking that, um, we don't know each other all that well.
Especially considering we, like, fought together and all that. So, how
about a friendly game of cards? The winner gets to ask the loser anything
he wants. And the loser can either answer honestly or take a drink. What
do you say?"
A long moment passes before Trowa says, "The loser gets to deal the next
Duo nods. "Okay."
Reluctantly, Trowa reaches for the whiskey and pours a shot into his cup.
"What's the game?"
The first hand passes in a somewhat uncomfortable silence. And, much to
Trowa's surprise, he wins. He takes a moment to consider Duo as the other
youth shuffles the cards for the next hand. He hadn't expected to win.
Finally, Trowa says, "What's the story behind your name?"
Duo blinks. Obviously he'd been expecting something different. Very different.
None of the pilots had ever expressed a curiosity in Duo's debatably odd
Trowa waits and wonders if Duo's going to opt to drink rather than answer.
But Trowa's mildly surprised by Duo's reluctant decision.
"My name... Well, when I was really young, there was this older kid, named
Solo, who kinda took care of me and a few other street kids. After he
died I decided to call myself Duo. And, um, Maxwell is from the church
that took me in... for a while." 
Cheeks slightly red, Duo deals the cards.
Trowa wins again.
Duo looks decidedly nervous.
The corner of Trowa's mouth twitches and he pushes his second question
aside in favor of lightening the mood. "Have you ever cleaned gerbil cages
or vacuumed up fish turds?"
For a moment, Duo just looks at him. Then the words seem to penetrate
his brain and he snickers. "Um, no. No, I haven't."
"That's odd," Trowa observes. "You spoke with such authority on the subject."
"A vivid imagination?" Duo offers, grinning.
Trowa arcs a brow at him.
Duo slouches back a bit, relaxing into the exchange. "But, hey, if it
makes you feel better, I really can't see you working in a pet
"Too domesticated. Not enough challenge." Trowa appears unmoved by this
line of reasoning, so Duo clarifies, "Nothing poisonous."
Trowa snorts. "Yeah, that would take the fun out of things."
Duo sorts out the next hand and manages to win this one.
"I..." He trails off as a dozen questions come to him at once. He settles
on, "Why'd you leave the circus?"
And to Duo's complete astonishment, Trowa picks up his cup of whiskey.
He looks down into its depths for a long moment, debating. Duo's about
to apologize for the question when Trowa releases a breath and tells him,
"There were some things I had to do. And I couldn't do them at the circus."
Evasive? Yes. The truth? Probably. The entire story? Hardly. But Duo doesn't
persist in that line of questioning. As Trowa shuffles, Duo asks, "You
"You think you'll go back someday?"
The evening slowly deepens into night and the game continues uninterrupted.
They discuss a wide range of topics, including hobbies they've never tried
but always wanted to. Duo confesses to a fascination with surfing and
Trowa to shark diving.
"What is it with you and predators?" Duo inquires.
Trowa opens his mouth to offer something flippant, but shuts it again.
He says, "I grew up among mercenaries. My first memories were of being
a soldier. People kill for greed or ideals or power. Animals just... do
what they have to. And in killing, they uphold the balance of nature rather
than destroy it." 
Duo is silent for a long moment. "Do you ever think about the war in those
terms? That the Gundams... balanced rather than destroyed?"
For nearly a full minute, there is no response. Then Trowa looks up and
confides, "I try."
They've long since lost track of whose turn it is, but neither suggests
a diversion from their current conversation.
"Did you ever imagine we'd be seeing each other again, much less be hanging
Trowa almost smiles. "No. I didn't."
"Me either." Duo sighs. "Damn but running into you surprised me."
Trowa says nothing.
The odd silence prompts Duo to ask, "You were surprised, too, right?"
He opens his mouth to reply. To lie. But at the last possible moment remembers
the rules. Honesty or a drink. His fingers tap against the side of the
plastic vessel at his knee. Neither of them has indulged in the liquor
tonight. Neither of them has felt the need. He stares into the amber liquid
and comes to a decision.
At Trowa's silence, Duo glances up and watches with wide eyes as Trowa
lifts the cup to his lips and drains it.
 The existence of "Solo" is, I suppose, a commonly known fact among
Gundam Wing fans although I haven't read or seen anything on Solo from
official sources, myself. The Maxwell Church is, of course, from the "Episode
 Trowa's past as a mercenary is detailed in the "Episode Zero" manga.
[chap. 4] [chap. 6] [back to The Manwell's fic]