Rattlesnakes + Part 4 (cont)

He thought about his friendship with Quatre, and when those dark thoughts began to make his skin tingle, he thought about how his friendship with Duo had grown so quickly.

It was circumstances, entirely, but then everything was the product of the convergence of chance, so that was nothing to dwell upon. Duo had life in him, and vibrancy, which was what Trowa craved so much. It was in Duo's skin, and his smell, the way he smiled and laughed, and the way he found a way to get past life's hassles. It never would have occurred to Trowa to even test if the psychiatrist was a pervert, much less take advantage of it.

And Duo's hair was so beautiful. He hadn't taken much notice of it during the war, except to think perhaps that it was functionally arranged. But the temptation of it haunted Trowa now. He could imagine the hair spread out over his skin, and it made the blood rush through him.

Trowa shifted in his place on the floor. He wasn't accustomed to taking such liberties with reality; he had no use for daydreams or fancies. He held his hands in front of him, spreading his fingers out.

Why Quatre was so disturbed by Duo eluded Trowa, but it irked him. There were times when Quatre was so mired in his own troubles that he failed to see how they paled in comparison to the troubles of the average person. Undoubtedly, he looked down on Duo for being a drug addict, but Trowa didn't see how it was that bad, really.

He and Duo were complimentary in their obsessions - he chose pain, while Duo sought out pleasure. Trowa knew that Duo was as disgusted with himself as Trowa was for the choices they had made, but that didn't mean that either one of them should be tossed aside. Wasn't Duo the same person he had been in the war, when he and Quatre had been friends? Didn't Quatre understand that some things were difficult to leave behind, especially when the people you cared about had left you behind?

Trowa frowned, picking as his nails nervously. He didn't know why, exactly, Duo had started using drugs, but there were enough reasons in the world such that another person should be able to understand.

What would be worse than Quatre's disgust was his jealousy.

After the wars had ended, and all the Gundams had been destroyed, Trowa had returned to the circus, and waited for Quatre to call him. Trowa waited a long time, and when Quatre did call, it was with the excited news that he was getting married.

That somehow, though, did not prevent Quatre from making a pass at Trowa when he did visit at the circus, or from offering Trowa a cushy job and a house owned by WEI, so that he and Trowa could stay in 'contact.'

Quatre knew that money and power could get him many things that he desired, but he was essentially too earnest and kind to be any good at seduction. The whole conversation had left Trowa feeling empty and sick, and it tainted his memory of his friendship with Quatre, and their innocent fumbling advances into something more than a platonic relationship, as he sifted through the past looking for the early indications that Quatre only intended to use him.

He tore himself from the inside out, looking for ways in which he should have known, feeling as if he had been abandoned by the person he had thought Quatre was, and then, he tore himself from the outside in, bleeding out the pain.

Trowa's thoughts were in enough of a jumble that he wasn't sure where they were leading him. When he thought about getting up, his eyes tracked to the bathroom, and his legs felt suddenly leaden.

He thought about the way that Duo's eyes had hardened after he saw the band aides on Trowa's fingers from when he gave himself the shallow cuts, and Trowa wrapped his arms around himself, holding his elbows in his palms.

He wanted to call Duo, but perhaps Heero was with him. Trowa hoped that Heero wasn't with Duo. Heero wouldn't lay his hands on Duo's flesh, and let the warmth of Duo's skin seep into his blood. He wouldn't touch his lips to Duo's nipples, or run his hands up Duo's lean flanks, or let his tongue taste Duo's navel.

He wouldn't take the time to appreciate Duo's nude body, stretched out for him like a feast begging to be eaten. He wouldn't lavish Duo's erection with long, lingering licks, tasting the tip with teasing touches.

Heero didn't deserve access to Duo's body.

If Duo thought that there was something that Heero could offer him, that was all well and good, but there was a question of the flesh and blood that Duo was too careless with; if Trowa had Duo's body for his pleasure, he would enjoy it. He would let his hands slip over Duo's skin, and he would press his chest against Duo's back as they rested together, heaving as their bodies began to cool, and Duo's heartbeat would steady his own.

The 'phone rang.

Trowa had no idea what time it was. The room was completely dark, but it would be that at nine pm as much as it would at three am. It could be Quatre, checking up on him.

He quickly realized that he had another problem. He had an erection large enough to be troublesome. He frowned at the offending flesh, scolding it mentally into retreating, but it defied him obstinately. He briefly considered touching it, but the thought held no appeal to him. He pushed the towel that was half-heartedly wrapped around his waist away, and pressed the button to connect the call.

"Trowa?" Duo didn't sound as confident as he normally did. He also sounded very tired.

"I'm here." Trowa wasn't sure exactly how to manage this; Duo didn't like to talk to him when Trowa wasn't in range of the camera, but at the same time, Trowa was naked, and hard.

Duo sighed. "Well."

Trowa got to his knees, and moved over so he was in the sight of the camera. "Yeah."

Duo furrowed his brow, which emphasized how tired he looked. "Trowa... are you naked?"

Trowa titled his head to one side. "Yeah."

Duo grinned, animating his face. "Oh? And how naked are you?"

Trowa shrugged, and stood up. Duo gasped, and Trowa shrugged again.

"Damn, Tro! That is one impressive hard on you got there! What have you been doing?" Duo was openly leering at him, and it made Trowa grin a little.

He knew then that Duo wanted him. Shrugging, Trowa sighed. "Thinking."

"Thinking, huh? I hesitate to ask... Well, what were you planning on doing about that?" Duo leaned forward, so that his face nearly filled the screen. His eyes were awake, and fixed on Trowa's erection.

Trowa looked down at the flesh between his legs, sticking straight up to his stomach. "I'm not sure. I think if I ignore it, it will go away."

Duo laughed, and the sound inspired Trowa to grin a little more. "Well, that's true, I guess... Hey, I'd offer to help you out, but... over the 'phone deals creep me out a little." Duo shrugged apologetically, still smiling wickedly.

Trowa sat down on the arm of his couch, rubbing his neck a little self-consciously. He was deeply aware of Duo's eyes on him, and right now, with the blood pumping fast through him, and the slight endorphin rush of arousal, he was certain that he would know Duo entirely soon. "So. What time is it?"

Duo looked surprised for a second, then laughed shortly. "It's a bit after two. Don't you have any clocks?"

Trowa looked around, as if to be sure before he spoke. "None that I'm aware of."

Duo smiled, shaking his head. "Well. Hope you don't mind that I called. I... didn't feel like going to bed, so I thought, well, Trowa's probably still up..."

Trowa nodded, encouraging. He didn't think about the fact that Duo had likely had Heero over. It wasn't relevant to this conversation.

"So, what do you want to talk about?" Duo leaned back, relaxing.

Trowa blinked. "You called me. Shouldn't you want to talk?" Trowa was certain of the logic in that.

Duo smiled. "Ok. Sure. I was thinking about getting a tattoo."

Trowa leaned forward, interested. "Where?"

Duo blinked, a little surprised at Trowa's eagerness. "Um, I'm not really sure... I was just thinking about that while... Well. Before I called."

Trowa nodded slowly. "On your arm? Or leg?"

Duo considered. "No, I would want it to be more... private. I mean, it wouldn't be something that I'd want just anyone to see."

Trowa agreed. Duo was more modest that he appeared. "On your back. At the small of the back."

Duo tilted his head to the side as he pondered it, and his braid swung behind him. "Hm... well, maybe... but that seems sorta, I don't know... sexual. Or something. Mm, what about between my shoulder blades?"

"Ah, where your angel wings go." Trowa ducked his head down a little to hide his smile. "That's where a powerful chakra is, you know. It's a region of yang energy, connected to the will."

Duo's eyes were perfectly clear as he regarded Trowa. "That sounds about right."

"What do you want to get?" Trowa spoke softly, but he knew that Duo could hear him.

Duo grinned, then cleared his throat. "I dunno. I hate to plan. Maybe I could just pull something off the wall of the place, if that's not too lame?" Duo laughed at himself unselfconsciously.

Trowa felt like laughing, too. "I know a place that's open 24 hours."

Duo started. "Tro! I didn't mean I was gonna do it tonight!" Duo laughed happily, and it made Trowa grin.

"Chicken."

Duo laughed harder.

"Not like you were gonna go to sleep anyway..." Trowa reasoned, petulantly.

Duo was smiling as he thought about it. "Well, that's true..."

Trowa sensed the near-capitulation in Duo's voice, and he smirked internally. "It could be fun. We could meet there... and I could watch."

Somehow, he had managed to pitch the tone and timber of his voice so that it sounded suggestive, but not flirtatious.

Duo grinned, nodding his head slowly. "Well... all right. Where is this place... and how do you know about it?"

Trowa shrugged with one shoulder. "Sometimes I take walks at night." He gave Duo directions to the place, which was only ten blocks from Trowa's apartment, roughly.

Duo uh-huh'd and nodded his way through Trowa's directions, but Trowa was certain that Duo knew exactly where it was.

Just as Trowa was about to disconnect the line, Duo winked, leaning close, and said, "Don't forget to get dressed, sexy."

Trowa blinked at the screen until it went blue. Snorting lightly, Trowa switched the screen off and wandered into the bedroom, opening the drawers to his dresser without turning on the light. He pulled out a turtleneck, but he couldn't tell if it was blue or black, so he grabbed the brown pants first, then he thought he would wear jeans, then he thought he would wear the dark cords, and then he decided to wear a t-shirt and jeans, with a corduroy shirt as a jacket.

He was pleased with himself for being able to pick an outfit when he realized that he needed underwear, too. This annoyed him, and he tossed all of his underwear out of their drawer and onto the floor so he could pick a pair at random.

He left the apartment feeling rushed, because he wasn't sure how long it had been since he'd disconnected from Duo. He wondered if Duo would mind waiting for him in the tattoo parlor. Trowa didn't want to miss watching it get done.

He should have worn a jacket. He came to that conclusion quickly. Instead of the pleasant coldness of the morning, now Trowa was just annoyed.

The parlor was called Lazy Eye Tattoo, and the front was painted electric blue. It was bright, even though nothing else around looked open. Trowa pushed his way in a bit reluctantly. He was hoping that Duo was already there.

Duo was there, and was cheerfully chatting with the overweight, short, heavily tattooed man who was clearly the one who would be inflicting his art on Duo's body. The guy was showing Duo some of the designs available from a book, looking over Duo's frame as he flipped through the pages.

Trowa wasn't worried that the guy was interested in Duo, but it did cross his mind that the guy might think that Duo was an addict. Not that Trowa could blame him, but since he was talking to Duo, Trowa figured that the guy would do Duo's tat anyway.

Duo smiled brightly at Trowa as soon as the door jingled, and Trowa thought that most people would have been forgiven if they thought that it was weird that Duo was so chipper at this hour of the morning.

"Hey, Tro, come look at these... What do you think of a Celtic design?" Duo was pointing to a page in the book.

Trowa noticed that his braid was much looser than normal, and had a lot of loose ends sticking out. He wondered if it always looked like that after it had been slept on; he wondered if Duo ever needed help fixing it. "Cool."

Duo bit his lip. "Ah... I don't wanna rush into this, but... mm, lessee... There are these cool knots... And this thing, this is called the devil's eye, or something..." Duo pointed to a knot that was formed around what looked like a red jewel. "And then there's these animal ones... I kinda like the lion... hm..."

Something caught Trowa's eye. "What about this one?"

Duo wrinkled his nose a little. "It kinda looks like a butterfly, doesn't it?"

"Well," Trowa replied, "take out these lines at the top... It's called Tribal Flight."

Duo looked it over more closely, his expression slowly warming. The design in question was all black, with bold swashes forming two top-heavy wings, with swirls in the middle and at the ends. With the two thinner lines in the middle removed, it looked quite stunning.

Duo grinned at the tattoo guy. "Is that ok? Can you do it without these lines?"

The guy nodded quickly. "Sure, whatever ya want, I can do. Ready?"

Duo turned to Trowa, raising his eyebrows slightly. "I can't believe you talked me into this... What about you, you want one?"

Trowa looked around vaguely. "I don't think... I should indulge my enjoyment of needles." He spoke so that Duo could hear him, but the guy couldn't. He didn't want to be misinterpreted.

Duo rolled his eyes. Muttering under his breath, "Right, right, that's your excuse for everything... I'm suicidal, I can't play with sharp things or I might off myself... Whatever, Tro." Speaking up, "Ok! Let's go!"

There were a quick form for Duo to fill out, and then there was the process of preparing the skin. Mostly, given where it was, that just meant that it was cleaned, but it seemed to take the artist a long time to wash his hands and get his needles and ink ready. Everything had to be kept sterile, so the artist wore latex gloves, and kept everything else on clean paper towels and plastic.

Duo was on his belly on the table, his shirt off and his braid swinging over his shoulder. Trowa picked up the bottom of the braid, and played with the hair. Duo grinned up at him with a wink.

The whirl of the tattoo needle started up, and Duo gasped just a little, his eyes widening. Trowa didn't know if the pain was bad, or good, but he stroked Duo's cheek gently, gaining another wink.

When it was done, the tat was glistening brightly between Duo's shoulder blades, the raised scab brighter and more distinct that the final tat would be. The artist snapped a quick picture of his work, and Duo paid him, giving him a decent tip for his efforts.

They walked back to Trowa's apartment together, slowly. Duo was breathing a little heavily, and would occasionally roll his arms around their sockets. They didn't speak, and Trowa avoided looking at Duo too much.

He didn't like the way his flesh felt hot from watching Duo being marked.

Duo took a nap on Trowa's couch, sleeping on his belly so he wouldn't aggravate the wound.

When they left for work at the same time hours later, Duo teased Trowa about being a voyeur, but he stopped when Trowa only smiled serenely in response. Just as they were getting to the corner where they would separate for the day, Trowa brushed Duo's hair around his ear, and smiled at him.

"I like your tat, Duo."

Grinning, Duo leaned up and kissed Trowa's chin. "Thanks. Me too."

~*~

Trowa leaned up against the back of the elevator as he and Duo left their latest session. He was thoroughly annoyed with himself; he had let himself get way too involved, and become aroused. More than that, Dr. Clarkson's questions beforehand kept niggling in the back of his head as he put his hands over Duo's skin.

He wanted to take Duo right there on the couch. He wanted to use Duo, to pour his frustration and loneliness and fear and sorrow into Duo's body, and let Duo absorb everything bad about him and leave him empty and clean.

He felt like Heero.

"Hey, you doin' anything tomorrow?"

Trowa glared at Duo from behind his bangs, but Duo just regarded him blandly, waiting for a response. Trowa shook his head in negation once, quickly.

Duo ginned. "Wanna go to the International Fest tomorrow? It should be interesting... lots of good food, good music, good fun. What do ya say?"

Trowa watched Duo, just standing in front of the elevator buttons, casual and relaxed. He wondered if Duo wanted him to use him. He wondered if Duo even cared.

Duo rolled his eyes exaggeratedly and sighed audibly, for effect. "C'mon, Tro! The weather is supposed to be good this weekend. It could be the last chance this year to wander around outside and pretend to be social. Let's go!"

His head bent down a little, obscuring his face from view marginally. He didn't want to go. He wanted to stay home and do nothing, maybe do some laundry. Maybe clean the bathroom.

Shivering, Trowa looked up, his chin jutting forward so his hair appeared to stick straight out from his head. "All right."

Duo grinned. "Great! It's closer to me, so howzabout you come by my place tomorrow at about seven?"

Trowa nodded, just a little.

When they got out to the sidewalk, Trowa waited for Duo to light his cigarette, but neither of them spoke. They separated wordlessly, with only a small wave from Duo to signify the parting. Trowa went home, and sat on his couch. He thought about going to get a paper, so that he could read up on the festival tomorrow, but he didn't care that much.

He was sure Duo would plan everything anyway.

He put his head down on the arm of the couch, and stared at the wall as the night got darker. He felt ambivalent, which was enough of an improvement to the way he had been feeling that he decided to rest and enjoy it.

~*~

Trowa spent an hour sitting on his bed in front of the closet deciding what to wear. It wasn't that he was trying to achieve a certain 'look' or that he was being picky about his clothes. He actually should have done his laundry yesterday and he didn't want to get up to find things that were both clean and matched. He ended up wearing a plain white oxford shirt and jeans.

He also spent fifteen minutes brushing his hair because the repetitive motion of the brush over his scalp was soothing. He imagined that he was brushing Duo's hair, holding it in his hands as he smoothed out the bottom of Duo's long, thick locks. It was enjoyable enough to merit time thinking about it.

He planned to walk to Duo's, so that he would be tired before they even got to the fest, but then he was so late he decided to get a cab. He called the only place he knew the number for, and ended up waiting nearly a half an hour for it to come. He was already ten minutes past the time Duo had told him to show up before he even got into the back of the cab but he didn't think about calling Duo as he assumed the other man could figure out that he was running late without being told.

The drive to Duo's went by too fast for Trowa's liking. He couldn't properly watch the buildings as he passed them. There were a lot of people walking around that night, and it unsettled him slightly. He tapped his fingers on the plastic of the door. He had an annoying amount of anticipation buzzing his nerves, and he wanted to calm down, maybe be alone.

It took him the length of the taxi ride to realize that the reason he was so anxious was because he didn't want to be in public with Duo. It was natural to go out with a friend. When people took the next step in a relationship, a date was the usual place to start. It was the proper progression of events.

Trowa was not accustomed to relationships or social mores. He knew about them, but he had little personal experience with them. The idea of 'dating' Duo did not appeal to Trowa at all; he didn't think that Duo would want to 'date' either. They were friends - that had been clearly established. If they wanted to become physically involved, they just needed to be alone.

The rest was a waste of time.

Trowa paid the cabbie with single bills, leaving him with only larger bills. He walked up to Duo's building. He had never come here to visit without Duo to get the doors. Trowa wasn't sure what kind of security the building had, or how he was supposed to contact Duo. Fortunately, the question was moot anyway, because just as he was about to get to the building's front door, Duo stepped out, grinning from ear to ear.

"Hey! I just decided I would wait for you down here, and here you are! Talk about timing, huh?" Duo pulled out a cigarette as he spoke, stopping only for a beat before Trowa before turning and heading off in the direction of the fest. "So, how goes it?"

Trowa shrugged, even though Duo was a half step ahead of him and therefore couldn't see. "Sorry I'm late."

Duo shrugged, looking over his shoulder to smirk at Trowa. "Forget it. I barely noticed. What's twenty minutes between friends? Anyway, there's no schedule."

Trowa ambled behind Duo just a step, his hands in his pockets as Duo smoked and jauntily walked with a little too much energy. Trowa got a funny vision of Duo strung out on coke and it scared him. He was almost glad that heroin had been Duo's drug of choice. He wasn't sure why Duo was pretending to be so exuberant, but it bothered him just a little. Duo's behavior was only exacerbating his own anxiety.

Duo's braid swung back and forth. The end of it was tied off with a thick black holder, which was twisted around the end of his braid at least seven or eight times. Trowa had to resist the urge to reach out and grab the braid. That gave him the funny mental picture of walking Duo like a dog using the braid as a leash.

Trowa decided that he shouldn't have mental pictures anymore.

The festival was being held in a sidewalk-shopping district that ended in a park. There were band tents set up, as well as beer tents, and the whole street was filled with people and kiosks and stores with their door flung open, people walking in and out of them as if they were merely rooms in a house.

The road and the entrances to the park were cordoned off, and you had to pay to get in. Duo walked past two entrances as he led Trowa in a circuit around the whole festival area.

Trowa was about to make a joke of some sort or another, when he saw the reason for the scenic route. He stopped dead in his tracks as soon as he saw the sullen frame of Heero Yuy, and Duo stopped short too, though his back was still to Trowa.

Turning with an apologetic grin, Duo shrugged his shoulders. "Ah, look, I should have said something earlier, but... Well, obviously, Heero is here, too. Sorry. But, well, he had told me about this months ago, see, Relena is supposed to make some sort of speech or something later on tonight, and he needs to be here with her, so he had asked me to come, and when I asked you, I had sorta forgotten that Heero was gonna be here too, but it's no big deal cuz he's really here with Relena and all anyway."

Somehow, Duo had managed to say all of that without sounding rushed or apologetic. Trowa blinked in awe of Duo's auditory skill.

He took one half-glance at the near murderous glint in Heero's eye, and Trowa decided that this would be the night that he had sex with Duo.

He didn't let his thoughts drift to seduction as he and Duo made their way to Heero's side. He shored up his defenses as he prepared to meet the ire in Heero's glare.

"What's he doing here?" Heero kept his eyes on Duo alone, exhaling through his nose loudly like a bull ready to charge.

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