+ Part 3 (cont)
The embarrassment threatened
to choke Trowa to death. He extricated himself from her embrace gently
but quickly, keeping his eyes down as he exited the trailer, heading determinedly
into the direction his head was pointing as he walked out the door.
He could hear Duo calling out goodbyes, but he wasn't waiting for the
other man. He watched the grass under his feet as he moved away from them,
Kat's words haunting him. The smell of blood taunted him, and he felt
a little lightheaded. The sunlight seemed unnaturally bright, reminding
him of his blood soaking into his hair as he stared in to the bare bulb
over the mirror over the sink.
"Hey! Hey, Trowa!" Duo ran to catch up to Trowa, scowling. "Trowa, damn
it, where the hell are you going?"
Trowa stopped so abruptly that Duo passed him before he was able to stop.
He kept his eyes down. The grass was thick and a deep, healthy green,
but it had been trampled enough already that it was limp. Trowa imagined
what it would be like after all the people visiting the circus were done
stomping over it. He preferred it when the circus visited the colonies;
the grass in the colonies was engineered to be more resilient than the
naturally occurring grass on Earth.
"Mind if I have a smoke while you brood?" Duo sounded irritated, which
Trowa would have felt guilty about if he could have.
Duo pulled out the cigarettes from his back pocket, tapping the packet
impatiently against his thigh for a minute. He expertly pulled out a cigarette
with his teeth, shoving the pack away quickly as he fished for his lighter.
In the wide-open space of the great outdoors, the smell of cloves was
so diluted that Trowa could only detect the trace of it. Duo sucked on
the end of the cigarette like he was taking the first breath in open air
after coming in from a space walk. He blew the air out slowly through
his teeth, and the trails of smoke lingered and wound around each other
as they wafted away.
It was calming even to watch it.
"Sorry." Trowa didn't sound the least bit apologetic, which was only natural,
given he didn't feel the least bit apologetic, but he thought it was the
proper place to start.
"Right." Duo rolled his eyes, taking another long drag. "Never mind. I
know how you feel."
Trowa watched Duo as the other man pointedly didn't look at him for a
moment, analyzing the veracity of his statement coldly. All the tension
had bled out of Duo's body, and he seemed so disconnected to anything
around him that Trowa had a hard time not believing him.
"Anyway, no harm done." Duo took another drag, a short one, and met Trowa's
eyes. "Your friends are nice."
Trowa nodded slowly, feeling his agreement seep through his skin.
Duo grinned. "Vic is kinda hot, in an old guy sorta way."
Trowa's _expression lightened humorously, shaking his head. "He used to
be a woman."
Duo actually did a double take. "No! Not seriously!"
Trowa nodded emphatically, grinning cryptically from under his bangs.
"Damn! Those surgeries get better and better all the time!"
Trowa barked a quick laugh, finding Duo's shock soothing. "Yeah. Well."
He indicated with his chin the direction of the main tent. "Shall we?"
Duo made an exaggerated gesture of gentlemanly deferment, allowing Trowa
to precede him. They walked to the main tent unhurriedly, and for the
first time that day, the sunshine didn't aggravate Trowa.
Entering the main tent of the circus was the closest thing Trowa had to
understanding a religious experience. The sunlight, filtered through the
thick canvass of the tent, was ethereal, and the dust in the air and the
sawdust on the ground was like incense. Trowa's eyes were immediately
drawn to the center of the tent, and the two large poles holding up the
tent, in between which was the rig for the trapeze. The landing for the
trapeze was over sixty feet in the air, and the wires and the swings were
like gossamer threads in the air, like the beginning of a spider web.
Duo whistled low, shoving his hands into his pocket as he walked around
in ever-larger circles. "Wow. This is so much bigger from here than it
is from the stands, isn't it?"
"Yeah." Trowa would have been surprised at his tone of voice, except he
wasn't paying attention.
"How did you ever learn to do this stuff?" Duo watched Trowa, smirking
despite himself. Trowa shrugged.
"Didn't. Just... did it." Trowa walked slowly to the ladder leading up
to the trapeze. The soft crush of loose dirt and sawdust under his feet
was so achingly familiar, he felt like he had been transported back in
time. He regarded the ladder benevolently.
Duo came to stand next to him, not encroaching upon Trowa's space, but
quietly questioning Trowa discreetly.
Trowa turned to face Duo, a small smirk hiding on his lips. "Want to fly?"
Duo watched Trowa start climbing up that ladder, just watching for a moment
as Trowa gracefully went from one rung to the next. Trowa was aware of
the moment when Duo started to heft his way up as well, but he kept his
eyes up. He could feel it crawling up his spine, the thrill of being in
the air, of being free, and he clamped down on the feeling, trying to
hold it, trying to stop it.
The sound of Duo behind him only added to the tickle of thrill. He was
glad that they had both dressed casually; it wasn't the same as being
in tights, but given that they both had training and experience in extreme
situation, Trowa didn't think it would be a problem.
He stood on the platform solidly, and the feeling that he was trying to
hold onto slipped away, and filled him. He could feel the blood slushing
through his veins, his heart pumping in his chest, his diaphragm heaving...
He felt more alive in this moment than he could remember feeling in a
long time, and the terror that trickled under his fingers only heightened
the sensation. It was a long fall from here, and he didn't want to fly
The only time Quatre had come to visit him in the circus, between the
wars, Trowa had tried to convince him to join him in the air. Quatre had
actually laughed at the idea, before expressing disgust when he realized
that Trowa was serious.
Trowa picked up the bag of chalk, and rolled it around in his hand. The
routine of it soothed his jangled nerves as he mentally charted out what
he was going to do up here.
"You know, Tro, when you asked me if I wanted to fly, I had something
else entirely in mind. It's not nice to tease, you know." Duo winked as
he got his bearing on the platform, finding it awkward to share the space.
Trowa squeezed the bag in his hand, rolling it so it was like a ball.
"I know that, but I didn't realize you did."
"Ha. Wow, how far up are we, anyway?" Duo stared down at the ground, mesmerized
by the vertigo.
"Fifty feet," Trowa replied calmly, "but the net is twenty-five feet down."
"Then I can't get hurt, huh?" Duo peered down, looking for the net.
Trowa shrugged. "You could easily dislocate a limb." He and Duo stared
at each other for a moment. "Just stay loose, and if you fall, relax.
Also... don't push it. If it's close, just let yourself fall. The net
is safer than trying to hang on when the momentum is carrying you away."
Duo swallowed hard as Trowa slipped the bar off its hook. Trowa toed off
his shoes, and pulled his socks off by pressing his heel onto some of
the slack at his toes. Duo quickly followed suit, slipping off his denim
shirt at the same time.
"It's simple, really. You'll probably wonder why you were so nervous when
we're done. You swing out on this bar," Trowa held up the bar in his hand,
"to the bar in the middle, called the fly bar. Now, usually there's a
catcher to swing you around, but it's just the two of us, playing around.
I'll go out first, get the bars swinging. You catch this bar when it comes
back, and when I give the signal, you come out. And we'll just swing around
until one of us... well, you... falls. Ok?"
Duo nodded slowly, obviously controlling his breathing as he stared off
the edge of the platform. "Ok. You swing out, I catch the bar when it
comes back, you give me the signal, and we have fun. Got it." Duo turned
to face Trowa smirking. "So, you're gonna be my catcher, huh Tro?"
Trowa's lips twitched. "Don't count on it."
Abruptly, Trowa leaped off the platform, gracefully swinging out to the
fly bar. Duo patiently waited on the platform, admiring Trowa's form as
he moved through the air. When the bar came back, he caught it with both
hands, clutching it nervously. He inched out to the edge of the platform,
the bar held firmly in the palms of his hands, as he waited.
Trowa could see him at all times, a skill that was essential for any acrobatic
act. Duo looked small, standing with his toes carefully lined up at the
edge of the platform. Trowa wasn't thinking about Duo too much, though.
The air was whooshing around him, heightening the sensation of speed as
It was all about speed. Momentum, speed, and timing. It was the purest
thing that Trowa had ever experienced. The jangle of the wires as they
started their pendulum dance, the feel of the air over his body, the way
everything blurred around him until the only thing that was solid was
the bar he was reaching for, it all coalesced in Trowa's perceptions to
create the whole that was this moment, this pure, adrenaline-fueled moment
When the swinging was just right, he gave the signal. He could feel it
as much as he could see it; Duo swung out with a lot of power, and was
coming in fast. He let go instinctively at the perfect moment, at the
top of his swing, and was heading for the fly bar. Trowa caught the bar,
and then quickly repositioned so he was hanging from his knees. Reaching
out, he found Duo was in just the right place, just the right time, at
just the right speed.
The slap of flesh against flesh was deafening. Trowa smiled, his eyes
blazing as he met Duo's wild eyes.
They swung back, and when Trowa felt them reach the highest point of the
swing, he released Duo gently, letting him fly away. They swung back and
forth once more, and Duo actually winked at him when Trowa caught him.
Trowa was in the middle of a flip when he heard it. It was a small noise,
but unmistakable. The burning slip of flesh over the bar, and the scream
of air over a falling body.
He repositioned himself on the bar as soon as he could, quickly checking
Duo's position. He could hear it before he saw it; Duo was falling fast,
his braid just a streak behind him as he fell to the tent at top speed.
"Duo!" Trowa jumped off the bar he was on, diving leisurely to the net.
Duo was making a noise, and at the speed Trowa was at, he couldn't distinguish
what kind of noise it was exactly. His brain was working even faster than
his body; he imagined Duo hitting the net at high speed, dislocating his
shoulder, maybe even dislocating a vertebrae.
As soon as Trowa hit the net, he tried to move in it, getting to Duo as
quickly as possible. It was hard to move in the net; the only way to do
it, really, was to crawl. The net was bouncing too, swinging up and down
like the tide. It felt like it was taking forever to get there, and the
sound of Duo's cries invigorated his muscles to push faster and harder.
When he got to Duo, though, his whole body relaxed as he realized that
Duo was actually laughing.
Duo's eyes were closed as he laughed, his arms around his waist, he was
laughing so hard. His hair was all in frazzles around his face, his braid
messily hanging down a hole in the net. Trowa continued to crawl to Duo's
side, the *fear* draining out of him, leaving him feeling blessedly empty.
Trowa got to Duo's side, and he placed one hand on the net next to Duo's
shoulder, and his other hand on the net on the other side of Duo's chest,
looking down on Duo, carefully assessing, making sure that Duo was, in
Duo was too damn fucking gorgeous for his own good.
His face was bright, his cheeks glowing as he laughed harder and harder.
Trowa wanted to put his body down over Duo's, to feel Duo's humor and
heat, to press his face against Duo's neck, to feel Duo against him everywhere.
Trowa gently brushed the stray hair out of Duo's face, letting his fingertips
run over the edge of Duo's face lightly and slowly.
Duo's eyes opened slowly, and he looked up at Trowa with absolute delight.
"That was so much fun! We have to do that again!"
Trowa didn't move for a moment, just hovering over Duo, smiling gently
down at the other man. He was painfully cognizant of how close they were
to each other. The memory of Duo's kiss lingered on his lips teasingly.
Pulling himself away, Trowa reached out a hand. "Let's go."
Duo seemed much more sober now, and they bungled their way to the safety
wire at the edge of the net slowly, holding hands.
For the next three hours, they swung like monkeys from one bar to the
other, falling every so often. Duo would laugh and jump in the net each
time, until Trowa was actually chucking a little too. By the end of their
session, Trowa had even taught Duo how to catch, successfully grabbing
Trowa twice before they fell again.
The fifteenth time they fell, Vic and Kat were waiting for them at the
edge of the center ring.
"Damn, I'm gonna have to call Catherine and tell her she's been replaced!"
Kat winked at Trowa, throwing her arm around Duo's shoulders. "Please
tell me you've done this before. Please tell me there aren't more like
that one out there!"
Duo chuckled, ducking his head down to hide his blush from Kat. "Oh, I
was born in a tree, dontcha know? And Cathy can't get too upset with me...
at least I don't throw knives at him." He winked at Kat, wiggling his
Vic shook his head. "Tro, I'm sorry, but the Totania's need to practice,
Trowa shrugged, picking up their shoes and socks, which they had fortunately
remembered to bring down during one of their many trips back and forth.
"No problem, Vic. Thanks for letting us fly; I know it's an insurance
Vic waved his hands in the air dismissively. "Bah! I know you better than
that! I'm just glad you had a good time."
Kat shook Duo as they walked together. "Now, we're trusting you to keep
an eye on that boy, Mr. Maxwell. He's a trouble maker and a nuisance and
a conversational dead weight, but he's the only one we've got so we'd
like to keep him."
"No prob, Kat. I personally think he's got a couple of handy household
uses, anyway." Duo winked as he spoke, but he was obviously a little embarrassed
to be continuing the misperception of the nature of their relationship.
Trowa smirked, a little unreasonably happy that Duo was willing to deceive
Kat and Vic.
They were back on the expressway very shortly afterwards, and Trowa was
a little surprised at how late it was. He hadn't much noticed the sun
going down while he and Duo were flying. There was a suspension of something
in the air between them that he couldn't place, and he wished the road
would just stretch out and go on forever, so they could stay in this comfortable
silence and be together in the car forever.
He nearly sighed when Duo exited the expressway.
There was a need for speech as they got closer and closer to Trowa's building,
and it irritated Trowa immensely. He picked through over a dozen possibly
phrases before getting bored of it, deciding to just say something instead.
"Thanks for coming with."
Duo turned to him with a smile that would have blinded him if he were
looking directly at Duo's eyes. "Naw, thank you! Today was awesome,
man. I've never done anything like that before... It was so cool!"
Trowa nodded, smiling loosely. "Next best thing to being in a Gundam."
"You can say that again," Duo whistled low, the depth of his agreement
evident. "That moment when you first jump off, and the ropes are still
slack, and then there's the pull, and you're moving like lightening...
Damn, that's just fuckin' awesome."
Trowa nodded in agreement, settling in comfortably against the smooth
leather of the seat. "Do you... would you like help returning the car?"
"Nah," Duo shook his head, sounding a bit regretful. "It's kinda... a
one-man job, ya know? But thanks. And really..." He turned the corner
to pull up in front of Trowa's building. "Thanks. Today was great."
The car slowed to a stop, and Trowa reluctantly unbuckled, getting ready
to get out. When he turned to say goodbye to Duo, the other man was clearly
thinking of saying something. "Well..." Trowa waited, hoping Duo was going
to spit it out, because he wasn't sure how to ask him what was on his
Duo's brow was furrowed. His mouth opened to speak slowly. "I'll... see
you tomorrow, right, for lunch?"
Trowa nodded, almost happily.
Duo grinned. "Tell me Tro. Why didn't you kiss me?"
Trowa didn't have to ask what Duo meant. He considered the question for
the first time. "I suppose I didn't want to spoil a great moment."
Duo smiled, his eyes turning inward. "Ah. Well." He leaned across the
seat, and kissed Trowa on the cheek. "That would have been a shame." He
winked at Trowa.
"'Night." Trowa opened the door and got out, waiting at the curb until
Duo successfully pulled away.
All night long, as he watched the alley, he remembered the afternoon,
pouring over every last detail in minutia, mentally reliving it until
it was sealed permanently in memory.
It had been a long morning. Monday mornings always dragged on like they
were being physically pulled out of the hole of the weekend, but this
morning, Trowa would have preferred a refreshing bout of bloody torture
to break up the tedium.
Also, his game of minesweeper was defying his dominance, and that was
only making it all worse.
So, when Duo called him at 11:15 to ask him if he wanted to go to lunch,
he was out of his chair before he had even hung up the phone.
They met at the corner closest to Trowa. Duo was there first, just lighting
his cigarette, needing to huddle against the wind to get it lit. He sucked
hard on the end of the cigarette, looking like he needed it to survive.
Trowa smiled a little before he got to Duo; it was good to know that it
wasn't just his morning that was dragging.
Duo's cheeks were pinked a little, from the wind and chill most likely,
but the tiny splotches of color in the center of his cheeks highlighted
the structure of his face, and Trowa was immediately struck that someone
who grew up on some of the meanest streets there are in the whole of the
Earthsphere was so fine. He was distracted enough by his wonder that he
appeared totally unaffected when he got to Duo's elbow.
Duo grinned at him, holding his cigarette over his mouth as he did. "Heya
Tro. How's it going?"
Trowa made a gesture that didn't mean anything at all. "Where do you want
Duo took a slow, satisfying drag, and half shrugged. "Dunno. The Abbey?"
Trowa nodded. The Abbey was a small Irish pub near the headquarters that
almost no one ever went to for lunch, even though the food was distinctly
non-Irish, because it was considered more of a night place. They walked
together amiably, pacing together without difficulty. The sun was still
out, but in the downtown area, it wasn't as oppressive, reflected off
the steel and concrete. Trowa found that the sunshine in the city was
actually enjoyable. That, in addition to the bite of the wind and the
sensation of closeness to Duo, made it seem like the morning was over
and the day was just beginning.
It wasn't a feeling Trowa was at all used to, so he stuffed his hands
in his pockets and tried to ignore it.
They seated themselves in a dark corner of the bar, and Duo handed Trowa
one of the small menus in a dirty plastic sheath from the holder at the
end of the table. Trowa stared at it for long moments before he recognized
the markings on the paper as words.
"Mind if I have a drink?" Duo's question seemed completely fatuous, since
Trowa had assumed that Duo picked a bar for lunch so that he could drink.
Since Duo didn't appear to even remember that he had asked a question,
Trowa didn't feel any need to answer.