author: trixie
see part 1 for notes, disclaimers, etc.

Rattlesnakes + Part 2

Over the weekend, Trowa cleaned his apartment. This mostly consisted of him spending fifteen minutes wiping an object clean, and then a half an hour staring at the object, as if to dare it to become dirty again. It took him six hours to wash his kitchen floor.

He didn't go into the bathroom. He never cleaned his bathroom. He had one of those things you put in the toilet tank to keep it clean, and he always wiped down the sink and tried to wipe down the bath tub, but he never actually *cleaned* in there.

He hated the bathroom, which was a large part of why he was drawn to spend so much time in there.

He tried to watch some cartoons on Sunday night to reward himself for all his work, but he couldn't focus, and ended up watching some more porn.

The only time he thought of Duo Maxwell was on Sunday afternoon, when Quatre called. He thought of telling Quatre that he had seen Duo, but as usual, he was too busy listening to really think of saying anything.

On Monday, he combed his hair slowly, becoming mesmerized by the movement of the comb through his hair, and he nearly missed the bus. He lost a form he was supposed to fill out, and it took most of his day finding a new one, and filling out the form for when you lost forms.

On Thursday, he was almost glad that he was going to therapy. For the first time, he didn't feel like he was going to go to the dentist to get his jaw removed.

At least today, when something came up that he wasn't prepared to deal with, Duo could just act slutty, and distract the doctor.

This time, when he opened the door, he found Duo sitting in the sole chair in the waiting room, wearing a loose violet shirt that was nearly black, and another pair of tight black leather pants. As Trowa closed the door behind him, he noted that when the light hit Duo's shirt just right, it was slightly transparent.

They didn't even nod at each other in greeting.

Inside the doctor's office, they sat close together on the couch, so that only a thin sliver of couch was visible between them. When Dr. Clarkson wanted to know when the last time Duo had been to church was, Duo's hand strayed over from his side of the sliver of couch to rest on Trowa's knee. When the doctor wanted to know if Trowa felt remorse for what Catherine had gone through, he appeared to take his time in answering, as he stretched out his arm to rest it behind Duo's head. Duo leaned back a little, and Trowa's thumb ran up and down the line of Duo's neck, from his collarbone to the back of his ear. He had chanced upon a sensitive spot on Duo's body, because as he did, Duo shivered, his eyes closing in pleasure.

Dr. Clarkson had forgotten his question by the time he had been brought back to his senses.

Leaving the doctor's office, Trowa had the swelling sense of success, as if they had penetrated an enemy's defenses, and were currently looting the enemy's supply cabinet for paper clips.

He was so satisfied with the session, he actually listened to Duo chat with him as the elevator slipped down, and even found himself asking Duo over for dinner as they walked to the bus.

Duo was only slightly less shocked than he was when the invitation was offered, but he accepted quickly, and with one of those smiles that Trowa hated so much. As they walked to the bus, and waited for it to come, they didn't speak, so Trowa had plenty of time to analyze the situation.

Just as they got to the stop before his, he decided that he was simply reciprocating a gesture. That thought calmed him enough to ask Duo if he wanted to pick up Thai food or Mexican.

If Duo had any reaction to the implication that Trowa had no food at home worth offering a guest, he certainly didn't betray it, although Trowa did think that he was too busy keeping his black trench closed completely over his clothes that he might be a bit distracted. They decided on Thai food.

The first thing Duo noticed about Trowa's building was the floor. The tile in the lobby, and in the halls, was an old, intricately patterned mosaic. Duo's complete delight at finding it brought a lightness to Trowa's expression. The tile had been the main reason Trowa had picked to live in this building.

They rode the elevator up, even though Trowa only lived on the third floor, because Trowa never took the stairs. He was leery of stairwells that had large openings in the middle; they were too tempting.

Once inside the apartment, Duo quietly looked around, stepping away from Trowa and helping himself to a tour of the place. Trowa slipped into the kitchen to get some plates, cutlery, and glasses. He didn't have a lot, but then, he never needed more than for himself, so he had to wash one fork before he was able to equip both of them.

When he got back out to the living room, Duo was standing in front of his wall of porn disks. Trowa silently set up the coffee table for dining, setting the small cartons of food in front of each of their dishes precisely.

"Man, Tro, you really have a lot of porn."

Trowa only looked up at Duo's back in response.

"I hope you are fully stocked in lotion, man." Duo turned to grin at Trowa, although he was clearly a little nervous.

Trowa considered what Duo said carefully, making sure he understood before speaking. "I don't ever masturbate."

Duo nearly fell over from shock. "Never? You don't mean *never* never, do you?"

Trowa merely blinked.

"Dude... I respect your restraint, then." Duo actually did look impressed. "Any reason why, or are you on some sorta spiritual quest?"

Trowa was amused by the concept of withholding for spiritual reasons. "I just find it... lacking."

Duo stared at him for what felt like ages before shrugging, and plopping down on the opposite side of the couch. "Well, then, what's the huge collection for?"

Trowa eyed his disks distrustfully. "I don't find them arousing. They're disgusting, actually."

Duo laughed quietly, shaking his head. "So, naturally, you had to collect them."

Trowa watched Duo as he smiled. It was curious how there were times when Duo would smile, and it would be so thin, it was repellent, and other times when he smiled, and it made everything seem better.

They ate in the same manner, mixing the noodles and sauce and occasionally taking a bite, but mostly shifting the contents of the plates around so they wouldn't appear conspicuous as they didn't eat.

Trowa considered asking Duo if he wanted to take his coat off, but he figured Duo was more comfortable with it on.

"So. What sort of drugs did you take?" Trowa set his plate down warily, almost as if he suspected it might try to leap up and force him to eat, so his eyes were on the plate on the table while Duo considered answering.

"Why, what d'ya got?" There was no humor in Duo's voice as he spoke, but there was a smile on his face that was entirely unfriendly.

Trowa leaned back, reasonably certain that the plate would not try to force food down his throat.

Duo sighed, and put his own plate down. "How did you try to kill yourself?"

Trowa furrowed his brow. He didn't like to play games, and he wasn't even all that interested in Duo's former drug habit. But when he expected a sharp retort to come out, he actually said, "I cut my wrists. Well," he amended, honestly, "my forearms actually."

Duo winced, and Trowa was intrigued that the other man seemed to react so viscerally. "How many attempts?"

Trowa blinked six times before replying, "Twice. The first time... it was nothing, really. I just... I'm not entirely sure what happened. I didn't even have to go to the hospital, but Catherine wouldn't let me tend to my own wounds. The second time... I almost died."

Duo nodded, his eyes wide and vulnerable.

Trowa felt a pang of conscience, and he tucked his legs underneath himself gracefully. "Actually, I tried to kill myself during the war, too, but I don't think that counts, because fighting in a war is always in some degree a form of suicide."

Duo nodded twice, his movements very deliberate, even though they appeared to be unconscious. "Can I see?"

Trowa physically reacted to the question. He never thought about hiding his scars, but at the same time, his penchant for long sleeved shirts made that a moot point. No one ever wanted to see his scars. He didn't want to think about the last time Catherine saw them.

A sense of dizzy nausea passed over him, and he wasn't even fully aware of the fact that he was pulling up his sleeves until Duo's hands touched him. Trowa watched Duo's fingers trace the white lines crisscrossing his forearms and wrists. Duo's fingers were exceptionally long and surprisingly adroit. They were rounded at the tips, and his fingernails were perfectly groomed, except for the tiniest thread of black around the nail that betrayed Duo's profession.

Duo sighed, and ran his hands up and down Trowa's forearms. "Does it ever scare you to see these?"

Trowa watched Duo carefully. It was a shock to see that Duo actually *cared* so much for him. He imagined his reaction to seeing similar scars on Duo's body. He couldn't get a solid feel for what his reaction would be. "Sometimes. And sometimes... it scares me that it doesn't *always* scare me."

Trowa frowned, bending his head down in thought. What was the good of getting out of therapy if he was going to admit things like this to Duo anyway?

"I took anything I could. I probably started out with E, and other 'party' crap, though, that point in my life... is a little foggy. I mean, it all kinda blurs together, and anyway, it wasn't all that long before I was into bigger and better things." Duo sighed, pulling his legs up so he could hide behind them. "I was on heroine for about... two years. Roughly."

Trowa wasn't sure what he was expecting, but it mustn't have been that. He didn't know exactly how to respond or react to that.

Duo leaned away from Trowa, and pretended to smile. "Well, should we play some truth or dare, or are we done with this bare-your-soul shit?"

Trowa regarded Duo. "You don't have to do that."

"What?" Duo moved nervously in place, still attempting to maintain his amused demeanor, but squinting one eye at Trowa at the same time.

"You look better when you smile for real."

Duo stilled, and watched Trowa. "I don't want to bother people with my problems."

Trowa pulled his sleeves down slowly, his eyes locked on Duo from under his hair. "Still."

Duo relaxed against the couch, his head resting against the back of the couch, wearily. "Anyway, most people don't even notice." His eyes closed, and for second it appeared as if he was about to fall asleep.

Trowa's eyes came to rest on the long rope of hair that snaked down Duo's side. At the end of the braid, there was a fat inverted teardrop of hair ends that looked like a tassel. Trowa had a clinical desire to touch it, and brush it against his skin. He had a tangible vision of what it would feel like on his arms, as if Duo had touched him with his hair instead of his hands. "People always notice you."

The very corner of Duo's lips turned up, just a little, just enough so that they weren't in a straight line. "But they only see what they want to see."

"What should they see?" Trowa noticed that the lashes that were resting against Duo's cheeks were much darker than his hair, but were not actually black. It wasn't easy to see, unless the light hit them just right, but they were a deep brown.

Duo sighed, closing his eyes tighter until he let them open again. Trowa blinked when he saw how disturbed Duo's eyes were. "Heh. Nothing, I suppose."

Trowa nodded, and looked down at his hands. He was always very aware of how large his hands were, and how long his fingers were. It made the acrobatics he and Catherine had done in the circus possible, but it had made piloting a little cumbersome at times. He had never noticed, during the war, how lithe and supple Duo's hands were, but it made sense. There were times when Trowa felt like everyone noticed how big his hands were. "I don't like truth or dare."

Duo grinned, and it looked good. "Me neither. Let's watch some porn. D'ya have any guy on guy stuff?"

Trowa stood up, rather abruptly, and went to select a disk. "Are you a homosexual?"

Duo shrugged, even though Trowa had his back to him. "I've never been attracted to a girl before. I dunno. I don't like to think about women having sex. Madonna complex."

Trowa raised an eyebrow at him, but Duo just shrugged, dismissing it.

They watched the erotic adventures of a pair of sailors in the brig. Once the captain of the ship came down to discipline them, it got really risqué.

At first, they just sat on the couch and watched, but as the movie went along, Duo started to wriggle and squirm. He kept looking at Trowa from the corner of his eye, and he was breathing heavily.

Trowa found Duo's antics more entertaining than the porn, and watched him unabashedly while still facing the screen.

"You *never* masturbate?" Duo sounded more than a little irritated.

"No."

"That's not natural, man."

Trowa considered. "No."

"...Mind if I use your bathroom?"

Trowa eyed Duo carefully. "Yes."

Duo sighed. "Then I'm gonna go home. You need to get some vanilla disks, I swear..."

Trowa got up after Duo, leaving the porn on carelessly. He almost forgot to offer Duo a cab, but Duo was so anxious to get going that he shook Trowa's halfhearted offer away cheerfully.

Afterwards, Trowa thought about what they had talked about while staring at the way the light from the tv danced over the floor in the darkened room. When the movie got to the end, he felt a strong desire to shower. As the hot water poured over his body, he tried very hard not to scrub his arms, but he couldn't pull the washcloth away. He kept his eyes closed as he washed, and he silently listed all the Preventors' employee policies one by one.

Before he left to sit in his bedroom window and watch the alley, he ran his fingers over his razor quickly.

As he stared down at the narrow alley, he remembered the pain of opening his skin, and how cold he had been when he had woken up in the hospital.

~*~

During their next therapy session, Duo slouched over the whole couch, and put his head in Trowa's lap. If he had wanted to, he wouldn't have been able to resist the urge to put his fingers in that hair, and playing with the loose ends around Duo's ears.

Dr. Clarkson's eyes were fixed on those loose trails of hair between Trowa's fingers, which ate up enough of the session to prevent Duo from having to answer Dr. Clarkson's questions about his feelings about death.

Afterwards, they went to Duo's apartment, where they ate some ramen and Duo showed Trowa how to play the latest role-playing game. After an hour, they were both so bored, they put the disk in Duo's computer, broke into the code, rewrote several characters, and spent most of the evening envisioning new and better ways to kill the bad guys and to let the good guys celebrate.

When Quatre called three days later, Trowa listened to him talk for nearly an hour. He stood next to the vidphone and picked at his nails. He thought about telling Quatre about Duo, but he never got an opportunity to speak.

He concentrated at work at spending only the necessary amount of time visualizing his boss with a gaping chest wound. It meant spending more time staring at his screen saver than he had been, but he was willing to make the sacrifice.

He took a nap over the weekend, which threw off his schedule. He had actually dreamed, and when he woke up, he wasn't sure what was real. He washed his hands in the bathroom sink for nearly an hour, scrubbing with detached panic. There was no blood on his hands before he started, but the water was so hot, and he scrubbed so hard, that he broke the skin before too long. Then he had to bandage his hands, and the effort of washing and bandaging left him too weary to do laundry. On Monday, he had to go to work in the shirt with a stain on the sleeve, which he felt was completely conspicuous. After work, he washed everything he owned twice, because when he was done, he thought he could still see the stain.

Trowa started to think about Duo at the strangest times. There was one point on Tuesday when he actually considered calling Duo. On Wednesday, he looked forward to seeing Duo again. He couldn't explain to himself why he felt that way, but he dismissed it quickly, deciding quickly that it was just because of the therapy.

[cont]