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

Rattlesnakes + Part 4

Duo's boots were blocking a small corner of the screen. Trowa leaned over so that his chin was tickled by the fluffy hair on top of Duo's head.

Duo had insisted that they go see this movie. Trowa had no particular objection, and Duo had seemed so eager, Trowa almost relished the idea of going out on a Friday night. The theater was showing a classic animated feature. Trowa was not the sort of person to get invested in animated stories, but there was sufficient artistry in this to keep him captivated.

They had gotten to the theater in plenty of time, and purchased two soft drinks, and a small cup of popcorn. Duo had picked the seats, way up in the stadium-seating theater, slouching down in his chair so that he could put his feet up in the space between the seats in front of him. He had wiggled in his chair, getting comfortable, and when he found that elusive perfect position, he had put his face down on Trowa's arm, and promptly fell asleep.

Duo looked blank when he was asleep, all the personality drained from his features. Only his nose retained any character, as it made little bunny-nose movements every few minutes. Trowa watched him unabashedly, until the lights went down, and then he divided his attention between the screen and Duo's face washed weakly in the reflected, flashing light from the screen.

It was a wholly pleasant way to spend the evening; the relaxed intimacy Duo had assumed effecting a soothing warmth through Trowa's circulatory system.

Duo had claimed that they couldn't pass up the chance to see a classic in animation in the theater, and with Duo's head on his shoulder, Trowa was loath to argue with the sentiment. There was a charming quality to the characters that made Trowa wish he believed in magic and spirits.

He waited until the blue screen with the movie's ratings came up, and the lights were turned on again, before he moved his arm, gently telling Duo's hair, "The movie's over."

Duo blinked twice, his body stiffening in alertness, before recognition slide into relaxation again. Stretching his arms above his head as he pulled his feet down, he grinned at Trowa. "See? Wasn't that a great movie?"

"You didn't see it." Trowa's voice was flat and even, but his eyes betrayed his mirth.

Duo winked at him. "Not this time, no, but I *have* seen it before. It's one of my favorites."

Trowa shook his head, shrugging as he stood up. "I liked it. It had good music."

"Yeah," Duo agreed hazily. He started to loaf off in the direction of the aisle. "There's nothing like sleeping in a theater. Man, I had the weirdest dream! You were there, but you hadn't been born yet. It was weird. Catherine was walking around with a belly the size of an elephant, screeching 'Trowa wants' this, and 'Trowa wants' that, and Heero was playing a videogame, and he looked like the was five years old, but he kept cursing like a sailor, and Hilde was my shrink, kept telling me that I needed to focus, there were too many distractions in my life."

Trowa was reasonably certain that most of Duo's dream recollections were fanciful, but it was an interesting panorama, anyway. Also, Trowa felt an unreasonable sense of pride from the only partially validated assumption that Duo did not normally sleep well, but that he had with Trowa.

They exited the theater side by side, walking into the crowds on the sidewalk, which parted before them as if they were royalty.

In truth, it was more likely the air of promised danger they carried with them. Trowa had been raised by mercenaries, and mercenaries knew how to impress potential clients with intimidation Whether or not they got a contract was 90% the way they carried themselves when they came to the negotiating table. Trowa had learned unconsciously from them, and so even when he wasn't trying to, he walked as if he was ready to rip out throats.

Duo was not so rigorously raised, but growing up on the streets, you survived because you learned that there were only two kinds of people in the world - the prey and the predators. Duo schooled himself in predatory arts since he was old enough to school.

Together, they sent off signals that everyone around them picked up on, whether or not they were aware of it.

Trowa's eyes stayed straight ahead. It was different in the daytime. People were less apt to act according to their instincts when the sun was shining. At night, he and Duo owned the streets.

Duo kept his hands in his pockets as he walked, and he shook out the kinks in his neck loosely. Duo's expression gave the impression of smiling, as if he were happy. It was a carefully modulated version of his natural expression, and Trowa admired how easily Duo ingratiated himself with others.

It took him a moment to appreciate the irony - that was the exact reason he had disliked Duo so much during the war.

"Wanna go get a drink?" Duo didn't look at him as he spoke, but his voice was carefully pitched so that Trowa was utterly certain that he was the one for whom the invitation was being issued.

"Sure," Trowa shrugged. He hooked his thumbs in the belt loops of his pants.

Duo pointed with his chin to the right. "There's a place over there with good music. Usually."

Duo led them to a place called Nemo's, which was dark and loud. There were red couches lining the walls, and a bar in the center, lacquered black, with a mirrored surface. The bartenders were all in black, and they looked extremely bored.

"What's your poison?" Duo had to lean in close to Trowa's ear to be heard. His breath on Trowa's neck tickled.

Trowa had never been a drinker. He had, over the course of his life, perhaps had six drinks total. He hadn't liked any of them. "Gin and tonic." He didn't like gin, or tonic, or the way they tasted when combined, but it was the first thing he thought of, and it was easier to go with that than to think of something else.

Duo nodded. He pointed to a couch in the corner, and went for the bar. Trowa assumed that he knew what Duo meant, so he slipped over to the empty couch, and occupied it.

There were enough people in the bar to make it seem like a good place to be on a Friday night. It was still fairly early, so the gaps in the crowd could be forgiven. Despite the fact that Trowa disliked the company of his fellow men intensely, there was a sense of accomplishment that came with doing something that would appear worthwhile to the average person.

Duo came to the couch holding two drinks, neither of which was a gin and tonic.

He sat down, and handed Trowa a tall, slim glass of something red and clear. He leaned in closely to speak again, although in this corner was probably possible to talk without such proximity. "I know you ordered a gin and tonic, but you don't strike me as the g 'n' t type, so I got you a vodka and cranberry, um, what do they call 'em, a Cape Cod. Try it, it's juicy."

Trowa idly observed the glass, wondering how the bar washed their glassware before deciding that it didn't matter that much. He just touched his lips to the glass, sipping delicately. The drink was light, with a sharp tang to it. He had to admit, it was better than what he thought it would be.

He looked over to Duo, who was taking a long pull of his drink. Duo was drinking something Trowa didn't recognize as his eyes scanned the crowd. It wasn't clear to Trowa whether Duo was being cautious, or if he was looking for something.

"What are you drinking?" Trowa leaned in to ask the question, and when he did, his nose brushed aside the hair framing Duo's ear.

Duo smiled, but didn't turn. "It's a whiskey sour. Wanna taste?"

Trowa had once had a whiskey sour, and didn't like it, but he took Duo's offer anyway, leaning forward and letting Duo handle the glass as he took a minuscule sip, putting his lips where Duo's lips had been.

He nodded shortly as he leaned back.

Duo's eyes tracked the bar for a minute longer before he sat back as well, taking another long pull of his drink as he did. He curled his legs up under him, putting his arm behind him on the back of the couch, so that he could face Trowa. Grinning, he leaned in, speaking softly into Trowa's ear, "I used to meet a dealer here. He only sold little bits, for 'recreational use.' I don't see him now, though. I think he might have been arrested."

Trowa felt his nerves tingle as he considered what Duo had said. There was an illicit touch of danger to the air as he looked around now. He imagined Duo making a deal here; he saw a slim, short girl at the bar talking to a thin man with long, slick hair falling over his face. He imagined that their quick touches were masking their true intentions. Trowa took a large gulp of his drink as he thought of Duo play-flirting with a dealer. "How did you meet him?"

Duo shrugged, his eyes unfocused and his face turned away from Trowa. "It's never hard to get what you want when you know what it is."

Trowa tasted and swallowed that information slowly, like it were a delicacy to be savored until it was nearly losing its flavor, thus ensuring that the maximum pleasure was being extracted. With the patient slowness of a man very sure of himself, Trowa turned toward Duo and put his arm on the back of the couch behind Duo, drawing himself into Duo's personal space.

There was an odd moment of absurdity, when Trowa felt as if they were displaced in space and time. They normally skirted these intimacies in therapy, under the watchful eye of a single man, but now they were on a couch in public, and granted far more privacy than Dr. Clarkson's office could ever hope to give them.

Duo relaxed against Trowa's arm, and smiled at him as he took another drink, finishing off his glass. Trowa became aware of how they appeared from an outsider's perspective, something that he had been noting tangentially ever since they had left the theater. He wasn't sure how to interpret their body language, at least not in the context of an ordinary person's life, nor could he guess at how anyone rated their match. Would the girl with the ostentatious feather boa, desperate for the attention she was eschewing, think that Duo was more beautiful than he? Would the man in the tight, ribbed, black turtleneck think that Trowa was the dominant partner, or the submissive? Would the trio of overly made-up girls who looked like they wished something more exciting were happening think that it was a shame that they were together, instead of both available?

But Duo and he exuded the sort of energy that couples had. The sort of blended syncopation in their disjointed movements that was the earmark of any couple.

They behaved exactly as if they had been sleeping together for months.

While Duo went up to get his drink fixed, Trowa pondered the appropriate reaction to that.

Duo came back, and the small amount of space that had separated them shrunk. Trowa allowed Duo to ingratiate himself into Trowa's personal space easily, the slight rushed daze from the alcohol burning away any desire to analyze the night.

Trowa put his hand on Duo's neck, and leaned in to talk. "Is this the first time you've been here clean?"

Duo sipped his drink, another whiskey sour, as he nodded in time to the music absently. "I think so."

"Is that...?"

"Not really." Duo took another sip, smiling at Trowa privately. "Though, if I had enough money, I'd be looking for the new guy in the bar." Duo winked, and shrugged with a small, unheard laugh, as if he were mocking himself.

Trowa considered it. "What is it like, then? Better than an orgasm, right?"

Duo tensed slightly, and Trowa rubbed Duo's neck between his thumb and forefinger. "I don't know how to describe how it feels. I... I don't know the words. It's... nothing like an orgasm. It's more..."

The sentence trailed off and got lost, and Trowa leaned closer, his eyes closing as his face became close enough to Duo's skin to make the notion of kissing it plausible. He didn't feel buzzed from a half a vodka and cranberry juice, nor did the atmosphere make him dizzy, nor did the proximity to Duo overwhelm his senses, but the combination was working an alchemy over Trowa's blood, which moved thickly through his veins, casting a haze over his thoughts.

Trowa felt a desire for cruelty wash over him, which he was too apathetic to resist.

"Do you miss it?"

Duo was visibly shaken, but he turned his face away so Trowa couldn't see his eyes. "Of course."

"Why did you stop? Did you overdose, or was it just because of work?" Trowa slid his hand down so that his palm was over the place where Duo's neck met his shoulders.

"It wasn't because of work." Duo spoke clearly, but he was turned away, so his voice was being washed out and made transparent by the music. "I have... I have overdosed. It was a lot of things, actually."

"Such as." Trowa leaned in, and his lips were touching the back of Duo's neck as he spoke.

"A lot of things." Duo's voice was practically drowned in the pulsing beat of the music.

Trowa put his other hand on Duo's thigh. "Does it bother you that Heero thinks we're fucking?"

Duo blinked, a motion Trowa only just barely registered. "Why would that bother me?"

"Does it make him angry?"

Duo turned, his eyes meeting Trowa's, and Trowa found himself reflected in the blackness of their wide pupils. "Why does Heero bother you so much?"

"We are friends, aren't we." Trowa narrowed his eyes in concentration.

Duo's nose twitched in humor. "Mind if I have a cigarette?" He pulled out his pack and lighter before Trowa could even dismiss the question. "We are friends, Trowa, but I don't think that's why he bothers you."

"Wouldn't you be bothered if a friend of yours was being..." Trowa watched Duo's agile fingers as he pulled out and lit a cigarette, his lips holding the narrow stick in place.

"I'm not being abused, Trowa. I'm not some weak little victim, begging my oppressor for more." Duo's voice was brittle, but his lips were forming a careless smile.

Trowa finished his drink, annoyed. "Forget I said anything, then."

Duo blew smoke out the corner of his mouth further away from Trowa, thoughtfully looking the other man over. "No, you said it for a reason. You wanna know if it bothers me that Heero, and really, everyone, thinks we're fucking? Then, no, it doesn't." Duo took a long drag off his cigarette, his eyes joking with Trowa. "You're kinda damned sexy, Tro. It only makes me look good, to have people think we're together."

Trowa blinked four times. "That works for everyone but Heero."

Duo cocked his head to the side in surprise. "Hm. Well, I could say that it works for Heero best of all... But really, I don't give a damn what he thinks about me 'n' you. It's none of his god damned business."

Trowa's eyes went blank as he considered it. "Is he good?" Duo pretended not to comprehend, or at least, to be too surprised by the question to answer, so Trowa elaborated. "He must be pretty good, for you to put up with him."

Duo laughed, loudly enough for Trowa to hear him clearly. "He could stand to use more lube." He waited for the laugh to finish, and for his expression to settle, before he spoke again. "I told you before, Tro. There are things that he can give me."

Trowa placed his chin on Duo's shoulder, the one opposite from him, so that he had to lean across Duo's back, thus resulting in a half-embrace. "What he gives you... Did you start getting that after you went clean, or before?"

Duo did not answer right away, and Trowa felt like being patient.

When Duo did speak, he sighed first, his shoulders heaving, moving Trowa up and down. "Before."

Trowa almost spoke again. He almost asked if Duo really felt like he was clean, since he was still smoking and drinking and using Heero, but he suddenly got very tired of talking. He was lazily filled with desire for Duo, abstractly. He wanted, at that moment, to already know Duo in every sense, but he had little ambition for obtaining the knowledge at this juncture.

After a moment, Duo got up to get them more drinks, and Trowa had one more and Duo had three more before they left.

They got a cab together, although they lived apart, and Trowa insisted on dropping Duo first, and picking up the tab, since Duo had gotten the drinks.

In the cab to Duo's apartment, they sat on opposite ends of the cab, their fingertips touching in the middle as they stared out different windows.

~*~

It was raining. Trowa watched the water sluice down the window. He sat, watching the alley getting wet. The water was running in a small river down the alley on both sides, falling into the gutters. The pavement, wet and reflecting the light from the lights over the garages lining the alley, looked almost pristine.

It was almost eight, and Trowa hadn't even gotten dressed yet. He spent the night on his back in bed, staring thoughtlessly at the ceiling, perhaps dozing from time to time, and when he got up, it was raining, so he sat down to watch. That was nearly two and a half hours ago, but it was still going strong.

He wanted to call in sick today, but no one believed you if you called in sick when it was raining, and anyway, no one ever believed him when he said he was sick. Most likely, they would think that he had cut himself last night, and needed time to heal.

He was getting cold sitting in the window for so long in only his boxers, but it was a pleasant chill that seeped into his bones and came in waves. He liked it.

It was hard to get dressed when his body was already so satisfactorily arranged. Pulling the cloth over his skin was like rubbing itchy wool over the cheek of a baby. Trowa wanted to spend the day in his boxers in the darkness of his own apartment, and watch the rain. He was in a very bad mood because the universe wasn't letting him do the perfectly reasonable thing he wanted to do.

He didn't bother getting an umbrella when he left his apartment, so by the time he reached the office, he was soaking. He didn't mind, though, because it made people step aside as he walked down the hallways of his workplace.

All day long, people spoke with hushed voices around him, and he was certain that his boss was going to give him a lecture on attitude, or proper working attire, or good hygiene and health practices, or on how not to show up your boss as a lazy, incompetent nitwit ten times before lunch, but miraculously, he never got called in; he found out shortly before five that his boss was away at on off-site meeting.

He walked home, wishing that it were still raining. It misted from time to time, but he didn't get that much wetter. The first thing he did once he closed and locked the door was to strip, trailing clothes behind him, as he headed for the shower. He didn't wash, just let the lukewarm water pour over him. He amused himself by letting the water weigh his hair down so that his face was covered with his bangs. He got out of the shower, and wrapped a towel around his waist, but he didn't bother to dry his body or his hair.

He went to the window to watch the alley, but it was just wet, and not raining anymore. He had missed the best part.

He went to the kitchen and listlessly poured himself a glass of milk. He was oddly hungry, though he didn't want to actually eat anything, so he made himself a peanut butter sandwich by slathering a good knife-full of peanut butter over a slice of bread. He went out to the living room to eat, thinking that he would put in a dvd, but when he sat down before doing so, he figured that it simply was not meant to be.

He ate the peanut butter sandwich warily. He didn't relish the idea of cleaning up after any wayward peanut butter. He defeated the sandwich handily, though.

He had been staring at the ceiling for long enough to have started to think that perhaps he should do something, when the 'phone rang. He continued to stare at the ceiling, his brow furrowed in frustration, until he came to the conclusion that he had to get up to answer it.

Trowa was thinking that it might be Duo, and so he stepped right in front of the vidphone, but then he saw the caller id tag, and so he stepped aside before he initiated the call.

"Quatre."

"Trowa. It's good to hear your voice again! How are you?"

"Tired." Trowa wasn't in the mood to listen to Quatre tonight. "I think I may be getting a cold." He contemplated coughing for Quatre's benefit, but then he decided that it wasn't going to matter anyway.

"Oh, what you need to do than is to drink plenty of fluids, preferably tea. Something medicinal would be best. And, soup, perhaps something with leeks. Oh, and don't forget to get plenty of sleep. You do sleep well, don't you, Trowa? My oldest had a cold last week. She drove the nanny crazy! I kept getting all these messages.... I sent some tea along, and apparently that helped. Would you like some?"

Trowa frowned. He didn't like hearing about Quatre's children, for several reasons. "I can get my own tea."

"Oh, but if you are sick, you shouldn't be going out unnecessarily. I can have it sent over, it could be there tonight." Quatre sounded as if he was asking a question, and he was very hopeful that the answer would be positive.

Trowa sighed audibly. "If I didn't want to go out, I could ask Duo to bring me over some tea." He knew his voice was irritated, and he tried to make it sound more so, on the off chance that Quatre would just get annoyed with him.

There was a long pause, the quiet making the room seem darker.

"You're still seeing Duo?" Quatre sounded stiff and disapproving.

Trowa narrowed his eyes at the light on the carpet. "Is that any of your concern?"

"Your concerns are my concerns, Trowa." Quatre sounded so patronizing, like a tired teacher telling his slowest pupil the same lesson for the fiftieth time.

Trowa cleared his throat. "That only goes so far."

"It would go as far as you would let it, you know." The affection in Quatre's voice was spoiled by the ineffectual seductive undertone, and Trowa felt a little nauseous thinking that he had once been attracted to Quatre's sensitivity.

"I'm going to bed now." Trowa cut off the line, sliding to the ground to sit on the carpet. He felt remarkably tired, and he let his chin droop until it was nearly touching his chest, his thoughts murkily slipping this way and that.

[cont]