Rattlesnakes + Part 2 (cont)

Duo shrugged, and they headed for the bus stop.

The bus was unusually empty, and so they were able to get a seat together. Trowa sat next to the window, and Duo pushed in so that their bodies were in contact all the way from their shoulders to their knees. It added to the easy tension that was buzzing through Trowa's body.

The ride was over disappointingly quickly. They walked from the stop to the convenience store a block away from Duo's building. They got each got a bottle of pop, and Duo picked up a frozen family sized dinner and a bottle of scotch on sale.

It was just settling into dusk as they walked from the convenience store to Duo's building. Trowa wasn't aware of the silence, as he was too aware of the presence of Duo's arm, swinging from the weight of the bag in his hand, teasingly close to his own arm. The night air was cool and there was enough wind to make a chill when they had to wait for the light. The sun below the skyline darkened everything to the point of outline, and Duo walked down the street with his eyes on the sky.

Trowa watched the road for Duo, leading him by proximity of body heat, allowing Duo to watch the last light of day letting the stars peek through.

"Do you miss the colonies?" There was so much wistfulness in Duo's tone, it didn't even break the silence as he spoke.

Trowa spared a glance heavenward. "I don't care much where I live. But I do miss Catherine."

Duo nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving the strengthening light of the stars. Trowa realized, feeling somewhat foolish when it finally came to him, that Duo was watching the patch of sky where L2 should be.

"You never did tell me why you were working for the Preventors, instead of salvage." Trowa wasn't making an accusation, and when Duo didn't respond, it didn't seem as if he were supposed to have done so. Trowa pondered as Duo paused at the entrance to his building, pulling out his keys, still watching the sky. "Did Hilde expect you to settle down with her?"

"Hilde?" Duo laughed, looking at Trowa with neutral amusement. "Naw. She never wanted me." There was something about his tone that made Trowa question Duo's perceptions of the matter. "Anyway. It's not that... Well, the Readers' Digest version is, I started drinking, and doing drugs, she kicked me out, I lost my pilot's license." He shrugged, holding open the door for Trowa. "End of story."

Trowa nodded as he walked in. Of course, he should have guessed that. It just all seemed so disconnected in his mind. His own life had a distinct lack of cohesion, so he naturally expected that other people were the same.

They walked up to Duo's apartment side by side, the stairwell only just barely large enough for them. Trowa felt a small anticipatory thrill tingle in his fingers. It felt like an accomplishment - voluntarily being social, and enjoying the experience.

Duo was so relaxed and comfortable. It was easy to fall into the pattern of being relaxed with him. And there was the taste of Duo on his lips.

Trowa bumped into Duo a little on purpose, causing Duo to smile at him.

It was strange and new, and familiar in a forgotten way, being friendly with someone.

He didn't think about the fact that it was Duo Maxwell he was being friendly with; that hardly seemed to matter any more.

Duo unlocked the door to his apartment, and immediately frowned.

The door was wide open, but Duo made no move to enter, so Trowa stayed beside him in the hallway, peering inside dubiously. The stereo was obviously on, which naturally stood out as being 'off,' but it didn't take long to see why.

Heero Yuy stood up and went to the door, leaning against the jamb with his arms crossed over his chest. He looked almost exactly as he always did, down to the loose tank top tucked into his jeans, except for now he looked like a man, instead of boy playing the part of a man.

Duo was tense, and a little angry. His knuckles were white as he clutched the handles of the bag tightly, and he stared at Heero as if he might just be a mirage that would go away if Duo concentrated on him.

"Heero."

"Hmph." Heero glared at Trowa in response to Duo's rather terse greeting. "What's this?"

Duo shook his head, and pushed his way into his apartment roughly. "*This* is Trowa. You remember Trowa don't you, Heero?"

Heero stood in the doorway, trying to stare Trowa down. "Barton."

Trowa didn't give an inch, but put his hand on the doorjamb possessively. "Yuy."

Duo rolled his eyes, setting the bag on the coffee table, and pulling his trench off. "Please, guys, keep the sap to a minimum. We are still men, you know."

Heero snorted, and stepped aside to let Trowa in dismissively.

Duo rolled his eyes again. "You staying for dinner?" The question sounded more like a threat than an offer.

Heero raised an eyebrow. "I guess I have to eat."

Duo pushed his breath out between his teeth. "Fine just let me get changed, and then I'll..."

Heero slapped Duo on the ass as he walked by. "No point getting undressed twice, is there? Let's just get dinner over with."

Duo's whole body went rigid. Trowa felt a wave of revulsion sweep over him. He crossed his arms over his waist, and kept his eyes on Heero.

Duo nodded uncomfortably, and headed for the kitchen.

Heero turned his gaze to Trowa.

They stood in Duo's living room, staring at each other, for a full two minutes.

"So, you're fucking him?" Heero was trying to sound casual, but his body language was more territorial.

Trowa simply inclined his head away from Heero, and narrowed his eyes.

Heero grinned. "And they say there's no such thing as a free ride. Makes sense, though. You always were sorta the watered down version of me, weren't you? So long as you don't mind if he's thinking of me when you're in him..."

Trowa sneered. "Jealous, Heero?"

"Jealous!" Heero laughed. "Does a man get jealous because the sewer takes his neighbor's shit too?"

Trowa's hands balled into tight fists, and if it were anyone else in the cosmos besides Heero Yuy, he would have knocked him flat on his ass.

"'Kay." Duo stood in the door to the kitchen, looking decidedly nervous, his arms trying to find a way to cover up his chest and waist. "Hope you guys don't mind Easy Mac and veggies."

Trowa and Heero moved like two cats heading for the same bowl, wary of the inevitable fight. Neither wanted to give the other a single advantage. They managed to edge their way to the table in the middle of the kitchen without a scratch.

Duo had made three plates of macaroni and cheese in the microwave, and sliced up a tomato and a carrot. The skin of the tomato curled away from the edges, and the slices sat in the water the tomato could no longer contain. The carrot looked defeated, lying on the plate in pieces.

Heero sat at the head of the table, pulling his chair out loudly. Trowa took the seat to Heero's left. Duo poured Trowa a glass of milk, and set a glass of water in front of Heero. He poured himself a tumbler of cheap scotch.

Heero's hand swept out to slow the flow of alcohol. "Don't get drunk. I'm going to want you functioning."

Duo glared at Heero, and poured until the glass was filled.

It was not a pleasant dinner.

Trowa pushed his macaroni around his plate despondently. He felt the need to help put the carrot out of its misery, but the tomato slices looked like too much work to bother.

Duo sat rigidly in his chair, anger rolling off of him in waves, and he stared at the table or his glass.

Heero pretended to be at ease, eating large forkfuls at a time.

Duo stabbed his plate enough times to be sick of the silence. He looked at the edge of Heero's plate disgustedly. "So. How's Relena?"

"I thought you had your shrink appointment today. What were you doing with Trowa?" Heero asked, as if he were chastising a wayward teen.

Throwing back a long pull of scotch, Duo glared at Heero. "Trowa and I are going to sessions together now." Each word felt like it had been dragged out of Duo.

"Oh yeah?" Heero turned a feral grin to Trowa. "So, what's wrong with you? Got lonely in the shadows?"

Trowa swallowed a bite of carrot, pushing down any reaction to Heero's words with it. "Necrophilia."

Duo laughed. Heero turned to watch Duo with a look that could only be interpreted as revulsion. Trowa smiled just a little, his head bent down so he could swirl his dinner around on his plate.

"It's not polite to ask people about their therapy, Heero." Duo's words were edged.

Heero picked up his and Duo's plates, even though neither were half finished. "People shouldn't be so sensitive about their derangements."

Trowa got up to clear his plate, leaving Duo alone to gulp down his scotch. Just as Trowa was getting to the garbage can, Heero turned abruptly into him, turning the plate over, hitting Trowa in the stomach.

"Trowa!" Duo leapt to his feet, grabbing the washcloth as he moved to Trowa's side. There was a large yellowish orange stain where the macaroni and cheese had hit him. Duo patiently scrapped Trowa's shirt clean, scowling. "Damn it, Heero, you are such a fucking disaster. Can't you watch where you're going?"

Heero dumped the last of Duo's glass of scotch down the sink. "I didn't see anything," he replied coolly.

"God damn mother fucking son of a..." Duo spoke under his breath, still trying to make Trowa clean with the magic of wiping.

Trowa sighed. "I'm going to wash my hands."

"I'm sure you know where the bathroom is." Heero threw the left over tomato and carrot slices away, and cleared Trowa's mostly full milk glass.

Duo hissed, but Trowa just walked away calmly.

Duo's bathroom was decorated with pale green wallpaper that had a mottled appearance. The washbasin was wide, and the towels were next to it on a silver towel rack. It was surprisingly clean, with the milk glass light fixtures all but gleaming. The mirror was not cracked, and Trowa found that that made it hard to look into it. Instead, he looked at Duo's clear plastic shower curtain, watching the way the light made prisms on the surface of it.

He could hear the sounds of dishwashing in the kitchen, and loud, angry voices. Duo sounded like he was snarling, and Heero just growled. Trowa thought about Heero hitting Duo, and he remembered when Dr. Clarkson had asked Duo something about his lover abusing him.

There was something intrinsically wrong with the idea of Duo being abused. Duo was thin, and beautiful, and he had pretty eyes that changed colors, and long hair in a heavy braid. None of that was consistent with being hit.

Trowa wasn't sure what he would do to intervene if Heero *was* hurting Duo. He let the water get hotter and hotter, and watched his hands pink under the flow, the lather from the soap long gone.

He wasn't sure that he would do anything. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.

He walked quietly back toward the kitchen, listening closely.

"...you just act like such a dick!"

"Speaking of which... I came here for a quick fuck, and so far, I've just gotten a pain in my ass."

Trowa stood next to the door of the kitchen. Duo was rinsing dishes, sticking them violently into his small dishwasher. Heero was behind Duo, his chest against Duo's back, his hand between Duo's legs.

Trowa's stomach churned. Hours ago, his hand had gently rested just on the fringe of the area Heero was roughly groping.

"God *damn* it, Heero! I have a guest! I'm sorry, but I can't drop everything for your booty calls!" Duo was scowling and screaming, but his back was pushed against Heero, his round ass moving against Heero's groin as he bent to put the dishes away.

Heero's eyes flicked to the door. "Trowa's a smart boy. He knows when it's time to leave." Heero wrapped his hand around Duo's braid, jerking Duo's head back to bite Duo's neck.

Trowa stepped forward calmly, still not sure what was right. He didn't like to see Heero using Duo's braid like that, though.

"Fuck off, Yuy!" Duo shoved his elbow into Heero's gut, using the small distraction to step away, moving toward Trowa.

"Duo..." Trowa began, though he had no idea what he could say.

"I've waited long enough." Heero glared at Trowa. "It's time I got what I came here for. Say goodbye to Trowa and let's get going."

Trowa narrowed his eyes, his hands already in fists. He took a step forward, but Duo stopped him, taking his arm and leading him to the living room.

"I'm sorry, Trowa." Duo sighed, shaking his head. "This didn't go at all as planned."

Trowa looked at Duo. The other man's chin was trembling with anger, and his eyes looked focused and small. "We can still go back to my place." It seemed like the best solution. Heero was angry, and even though Duo could handle himself, it was probably best not to push his luck.

Duo sighed. "It's ok." He led Trowa to the door, handing him his coat. "It's... complicated. It's probably best if you did leave, though. I'm sorry." Duo smiled tightly, obviously disappointed.

Trowa blinked. Heero smirked from the other side of the room. It wasn't right.

Duo opened the door, and Trowa stepped out. He stood in the hallway, his head resting near the door. He could hear inside Duo's apartment. He could hear sounds like a fight, and Duo screaming out. It was half a cry of rage, and half a cry of passion.

Trowa slipped his coat on and walked away. He walked all the way back to his apartment. He thought about Heero slapping Duo across the face. He thought about Heero pushing Duo to the ground and fucking him raw. With each step, his imagination leaped off into darker and darker realms of fantasy, and in each, he could see Duo's smooth, pale skin being bruised and beaten, and Heero's stormy eyes and muscular arms.

His legs got so tired, he could feel them burn, but it was cold outside, and he felt the cold on his skin and under his bones, so he ignored the heat, and the tingle in his lungs, and even the chill, and he just kept walking, each step taking him deeper into a fantasy of Duo being raped and murdered and raped again.

He walked past his mailbox when he entered his building, and when he got inside his apartment, he went straight to his bathroom. He didn't even take off his coat before he vomited into the toilet. When his teeth felt raw, he flushed the toilet, and closed the lip. He rinsed his mouth out with mouthwash, and sat down on the toilet seat.

He stared at the tile for ages. He thought about Duo's skin, and the way Duo had tasted, and how the taste of Duo was gone now, replaced with bile, and he opened the drawer in the bathroom cabinet quickly.

He kept a pair of scissors to cut his hair in there. They were kept in a plastic sheath, and they had black rubber coating the handles. They were well oiled, and very sharp.

He stared at the edge of the scissors, tilting them so the light caught the line where the metal cut away.

Opening the scissors, Trowa touched the middle of his fingers to the flat edge of the blade. He barely moved his hand over it, marveling at the slight sting. When he pulled the scissors away, there were tiny threads of red, which beaded tiny drops of red. Trowa watched the blood gather, pulling the edge of the blade over his skin again. The four fingers of his left hand got crisscrossed over their middle sections, the tiny threads of red forming a web.

He brought his fingers to his face, smelling the scent of Duo's hand soap and his blood mixed.

He stared at his hand until it felt cold and isolated from his body.

He played with the edge of the blade some more, until he felt tired and weak. His blood barely covered his hand, but its scent was strong, and brought back memories of sensations that left Trowa exhausted. He sat on the toilet seat, and stared at the tiles on the wall, and counted until he reached 1,268,721.

Before he left for work, he had to change his clothes, and put band aides over his fingers.

~*~

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