Rattlesnakes + Part 2 (cont)

That didn't fully explain why he told Duo things he tried hard not to ever think about, but he chose not to think about it.

Trowa was half way to work on the next Thursday when he realized he was wearing his best shirt and tie. He would have tried to figure out why he was dressing up for therapy, but he was fairly sure in a vague way that if he did, that would just open up a whole kettle of poisonous monkeys.

That session was the worst.

Dr. Clarkson was in a foul mood, and he kept his face down all the time, furiously scratching on his notepad in such a way that what he was writing couldn't possibly be legible. He started out by asking Trowa about his sister, which lead to questions about his childhood with the mercenaries.

That lead to questions about the war, and the people that had died, or suffered during it, and that lead, naturally, to the suffering that had lead two small boys to pilot Gundams.

And somehow, that lead back to questions about Maxwell Church.

Trowa watched Duo, fascinated by the tension that leaked out of the lithe body, almost as if Duo's flesh, partially exposed by his tight clothes, was visibly aching to be touched. It was difficult to listen to the doctor, cruelly riffling through their pasts, so instead he focused on the slim line of flesh between the back of Duo's shirt and the top of his tight jeans. The skin was pale and smooth, with ridges where Duo's spine split his back in the middle. Duo was even skinnier now than he was during the war, Trowa realized, almost sadly. He pictured Duo shooting heroine, tying a belt around his arm, and sticking a needle in his flesh.

He didn't even know that he had reached out until Duo's body shuddered from the contact of his hand on Duo's back. Duo's head turned to look at Trowa, and for a moment they just looked at each other, their eyes perfectly clear.

One corner of Duo's mouth crooked upwards.

Duo leaned into Trowa's body, so that he was resting under the shield of Trowa's arm, which was still around him. He turned his face into Trowa's shoulder, and pulled his legs up so that his knees were touching Trowa's thigh. He sighed dramatically, and spread his arm over Trowa's chest.

Dr. Clarkson stopped scratching on his notepad.

Duo pushed his face into Trowa's neck, and made a noise that was something that a moan may have produced if it had mated with a purr. Sighing, Duo scrunched his body closer to Trowa, cuddling up against the other man like he was a teddy bear.

Trowa cataloged all the sensations one by one, feeling them all very distinctly. There was the heat from Duo's body, pressed against his own, just warm enough to chase away any chills. There was the feeling of Duo's breath against his skin, like tiny tremors dancing on the surface of his body. There was the slight wetness of Duo's lips, touching his collarbone, which was neither hot nor cold. There was Duo's hand on his chest, the fingertips curled in just a little, so he could feel them individually. There was Duo's hair under his chin, ticklish and soft.

He remembered what it was like to touch and to hold someone, like someone remembers how to ride a bike after years of walking just by touching the handlebars.

Trowa's hand drifted up to Duo's chin, lifting it gently with only his crooked index finger. Trowa's face moved down to meet Duo's slowly, and Trowa's eyes were latched upon the curve of Duo's nose as he leaned closer.

When their lips touched, it was almost a shock to both of them, and the kiss that resulted was almost entirely sweet, not deep enough to leave a taste on either of their palettes, but intimate enough to make Trowa shudder a little, lowering his head so that his hair effectively hid his face entirely.

Except that Duo's face was below his, and so he could see Trowa's open eyes clearly.

Dr. Clarkson's pen hit the ground with a weak, plastic clatter.

They rode down the elevator together in silence. Duo's fingers moved over each other anxiously, and Trowa imagined the cigarette that was soon to be within their grasp, and the scent of toxic cloves filled his nostrils painfully.

They were almost at the point where they would separate to go to their respective bus stops when Duo reached out and took Trowa's wrist.


Trowa turned, looking at Duo blandly, his eyes somewhat fixated on the wisp of hair around Duo's ears.


There was no way for Trowa to know if Duo was thanking him for the kiss, or for interrupting the doctor's questions, although it seemed to be the same thing.

Trowa's face relaxed in response.

Duo grinned. "We should do that again, sometimes."

Trowa tipped his head to the side. "Same time next week, right?"

Duo smiled, and tapped his forehead with his finger in a lazy salute, his cigarette coming daringly close to his bangs.

Trowa didn't bother to watch Duo walk away, although he did feel a slight annoyance on the bus going home that he was going to be alone that night.


He pointed and clicked for more than a half an hour before he was so completely bored, he thought he might simply die of it. The thought was so appealing, he continued his work for three more hours, but he failed to expire from under stimulation.

Trowa then switched to solitaire.

He was so busy ignoring the email alerts and trying to find the ace of spades, that when Duo dropped a greasy wrench on his desk, he nearly jumped.

"So, this is where you work. Why are the walls of the cube thing covered in fabric?" Duo sat down in the visitor chair in Trowa's cube, his legs stretched out in front of his hands folded neatly at his waist.

Trowa blinked. "I think it's part of the torture."

Duo grinned slyly. "Well. Lunch?"

Trowa looked at the clock in the corner of his screen. He didn't usually take a lunch. "Sure."

Duo smiled broadly at all of Trowa's coworkers as he sauntered past, chatting Trowa up with each step. People stared, some with their mouths gaping open, but Trowa stared at the back of Duo's head, and ignored them.

Duo's braid was remarkably symmetrical, with very evenly spaced plaits all down the length of it, right down to Duo's little bum.

Duo did have a nice rear, just plump enough to really get a hold of and squeeze. Not that Trowa intended to squeeze Duo's rear, but it did look inviting. And everyone in his office was going to think that he and Duo were lovers.

That thought did not make Trowa unhappy.

They walked to a park not far from the office building where Trowa worked. The sunlight was commonly bright, and it bothered Trowa enough to wish that he had sunglasses. Duo bought two hot dogs and two cokes from a vendor, and they went to go sit on a bench in the shade.

It was a bit late in the season for eating out of doors. There was just enough chill in the air to make it crisp, and it didn't take long sitting out there for the two young men to feel the air creeping under their skin. Neither cared that much.

Duo pulled out a small, thin flask of cheap whiskey from inside his jacket. He didn't bother to offer Trowa any, but he cheerfully filled his cup after he dumped half of the coke into the grass.

Trowa turned the hot dog around several times before ascertaining that there were only the two ends, and that they were both the same. He contemplated biting it, but it felt very much like it had suffered enough.

"So, to what to I owe the pleasure?"

Duo grinned, lazily slouching in the bench. "It was just a crap day. I figured my choices were either to give my fuckin' lazy dumbass boss a piece of it, or come harass you. Lucky you, I decided it would be more fun to see the office life. How do you stand it?"

Trowa stared at the gravel between his loafers. He hated these shoes with a dull passion, but they were the cheapest shoes he could find that were 'work appropriate.' "Well," he drawled, "I suppose the tedium would make anyone want to slit their wrists, but since I want to do that anyway..."

"That isn't even remotely funny." Duo's tone was quickly serious. Trowa faced him, more than a little surprised at how vehement Duo was. After a moment of intense regard, Duo tried unsuccessfully to repress a grin. "Ok, it is a little funny, but not in a good way."

Trowa found himself grinning just a little, which made Duo laugh. It was a nice sound, low and almost quiet. Trowa watched Duo laugh closely, cataloging his movements down to the slightest detail. Duo's natural proclivity toward animation made it so that when he smiled like this, his eyes crinkled, and caught the light in ways totally unlike the way Duo's eyes looked normally.

Trowa squeezed his hot dog uselessly, then decided that he couldn't abuse it and then throw it away without taking a single bite. So, he gingerly raised the food substitute to his lips and took a small bite.

Duo cocked his head and watched Trowa eat curiously. "Do you not like hot dogs?"

Trowa shrugged, bored. "I don't care one way or the other."

Duo nodded, shoving a large bite down his throat. "I like food that's potentially carcinogenic. It adds that extra layer of fun that's sorely lacking from most eating experiences."

Trowa looked at his hot dog, suspicious of its motivations. Was it planning on growing into a tumor in his belly? He slowly raised it up to take another bite. "I like foods that I can ignore for several months, and still eat it when I find it in my cabinet."

Chuckling under his breath, Duo's eyes danced cynically. "As long as it doesn't spawn a mutant civilization of socialist mold people, I'm all for that."

"Are socialists bad?"

"Not necessarily. But they have high taxes. I hate paying taxes."

"It pays for the government."


"We killed to put this government in power," Trowa reminded gently.

Duo started, his whole body changing. His back was stiff, and his face lost all expression. For a moment, it was like he had been turned off completely.

For only a moment.

"Ah, the good old days..." Duo affected a reminiscent tone. "Back when men were cowardly backstabbers, women were persistent stalkers, and boys were warriors. Those were the days!"

Trowa looked at his hands, watching the way his fingers curled around the hot dog. His nails were badly in need of a manicure. The vein running across the top of his hand seemed to protrude a little right under his middle knuckle. He kept his eyes on the vein as he spoke. "There were some good times. That time we did that thing in that place. That was good."

Duo shook his head, trying to control a laugh. "You know Tro, if anyone ever tells you that you don't have a sense of humor, you should just look them straight in the eye with a perfectly straight face and tell them that you had it dehydrated so that you could take it with you when you travel."

Trowa blinked once. "That's what I do."

Laughing, Duo stood up, stretching out. He seemed so much like the old Duo, in his dark jumpsuit and black jacket. For a frozen moment, Trowa could almost believe that they were still fifteen.

Duo turned to look at Trowa, his hands on his hips and an amused expression on his face. "Well?"

Trowa looked up at Duo, perplexed.

"Wanna go back?"

Trowa considered. "No."

"Eh, me neither. But let's go anyway. We can annoy our coworkers better by being there than by not."

Trowa stood and sauntered with Duo back to the Preventors complex. The building he worked in was in the northeast corner, and the gate leading to the garages in the interior of the complex were on the southwest corner. Duo walked assuredly toward the northeast, apparently intent upon escorting Trowa back to his office. Trowa speculated languidly, "Everyone in my office is going to think we stole away for a quickie."

Duo smiled. "You wish."

Trowa raised an eyebrow. "Please. You would be so lucky."

"Ha. I'm way out of your league, my young friend. Sorry, but you might as well let go of these little pipe dreams of yours."

Sniffing dignifiedly, "I would never stoop as low as that. I do have standards."

Duo slapped Trowa on the shoulder amiably. "Well, enjoy a full afternoon of dreaming of my sweet little ass."

Trowa nodded. "Try not to get too distracted thinking about my impressive upper body and long, lean legs. You do work with heavy machinery, after all."

Duo winked, and started to whistle as he walked away. Trowa watched him until he couldn't follow the sway of Duo's braid any longer, and then went inside.

When he got to his desk, he saw the wrench Duo had left, still sitting there, making his useless papers grimy. Carefully placing the wrench in his top desk drawer, he thought that maybe he'd spend his afternoon playing on the 'net.


Quatre called early that night. Trowa sat on the floor next to the vidphone. He could see, in his mind, exactly how Quatre looked as he spoke, exactly how Quatre smiled, exactly how he laughed, exactly how he gestured with his hands and how he blushed and how he rolled his eyes and how he would scratch his chin...

Trowa stared at the carpeting, listening to Quatre talk, gripping the cuffs of his turtleneck tightly enough to tear the seams. When he spoke, he always had to start over again at least twice, because first he would have to interrupt Quatre's steady stream of chatter, and then Quatre would have to ask him to speak up.

Trowa didn't interrupt Quatre often. Unlike Catherine, Quatre was impossible to get rid of; Trowa had tried everything, but Quatre was determined enough to converse that nothing Trowa said or did could deter him.

It was like slicing skin open, listening to Quatre speak; the sweet, slow pain of it would just barely register with Trowa, but it would come back to him, like a cut that hadn't hurt that would twinge painfully when it was aggravated. Trowa would file away everything Quatre said, word for word, and when it was quiet, the words would echo in Trowa's head, and he would hear it all over again.

Quatre was happy. Trowa wanted Quatre to be happy. Trowa was happy for Quatre.

Dr. Clarkson lied. No matter how many times Trowa repeated it, it never sounded right.

"So, apparently, there are laws against that on L2, which is weird, because I thought everything was legal on L2. I need to get some sort of local expert, to advise me. L2 is like a whole new world; it's a colony, and part of the colony system, but their economy has been down for so long that the people have almost evolved into a completely new type of social structure..."

"You should talk to..."

"Hm? Trowa?"

"You should..."

"Speak up, please, I can't hear you. If you were in front of the unit, the amplifiers would be able to pick you up better."

"You should talk to Duo."

[back] [cont]