Rattlesnakes + Part 4 (cont)

Duo just smiled falsely. "Hello, Heero. Good to see you. How've you been? Oh, I hope you don't mind, but I invited Trowa to come along, too."

Heero gritted his teeth. "I suppose you like to keep a john ready as a backup, hm?"

Sighing contentedly in an obvious fashion, Duo stretched his arms out. "Nice day for a fest, huh? I'm looking forward to some good eats! So, where's her majesty, eh?"

Heero blew air out his mouth to push his bangs from his eyes. "She's going to be late. She's got important things to tend to; she doesn't have time to spend all day here."

"That's too bad." Duo's head tipped to the side as he spoke, and it was clear that he really did think it was a shame. "She works too hard. If you really cared about her, you'd make her take a break."

Heero stared at Duo like he had six heads sticking out of his ears.

Duo rolled his eyes. "In any case, she should be able to be young sometime before she starts sprouting gray hairs. Wanna go in?"

Duo didn't wait for either man to respond, and Heero and Trowa ended up walking nearly shoulder to shoulder as they tried to stay close to Duo. They each paid for their own entry, and by the time that Trowa got his hand stamped to get in, Duo was already rocking on his feet, biting his bottom lip with excitement as he took in the lay of the land. The workings of his mind were visible in his eyes, as if a map with x's and check marks was imprinted in the lines of his blue-purple irises.

Heero went to Duo's right, so Trowa stayed on Duo's left. Duo wanted to go to the section of the shops devoted to the colonies right away. There were flags of every nation and colony strung out in lines overhead, and there were lights and music everywhere.

Trowa found it all annoyingly overdone, but Duo was so excited by everything that Trowa managed to find amusement where he could. Mostly, he found amusement in watching Heero sulk as Duo directed all of his comments to Trowa, and bounced around almost too haphazardly to be matched.

Duo bought a model of L2, and also one of L3 for Trowa. He showed Heero the model of L1, but Heero scoffed that he wasn't actually a native of the colony. Duo shrugged and went to the next kiosk.

Trowa bought hot dogs made from organic material produced on L4, which Heero scowled at as if they were chemical weapons. Trowa wasn't sure that he was wrong when he was eating them, but Duo was happy enough with the food that he ignored the taste and the feeling of the food filling his mouth and grating over his tongue.

Trowa listened to Duo chatter with only half his attention. The way that Heero would respond to Duo with barbs and taunts that Duo would ignore sharpened Trowa's nerves. He didn't like the way that Heero was talking to Duo, but he wasn't going to confront Heero right there. He knew an opportunity would arise. He would take advantage of a moment that was coming, and he would get Duo alone.

He liked to be alone with Duo. He liked the way that Duo didn't force himself to smile around him, and the way that Duo would laugh when he was really amused. He watched carefully, staying close to Duo and keeping alert to Heero's every movement as he waited for the moment.

They ate fried confections from the American kiosk, and éclairs from the French kiosk, and pork buns from the Japanese kiosk, and when they got to the kiosk from Morocco, they had no room for the treats available there.

Heero got progressively more and more rigid with each teasing glance or wink from Duo trained at Trowa. When Trowa pointed aimlessly at the face painting booth, manned by a ridiculous clown, Heero took possession of Duo's braid and pulled him forcibly in the opposite direction.

Trowa narrowed his eyes, and followed decisively.

"Hey! Hey!! Heero, lay of the braid, willya?" Duo's shout caught the attention of many bystanders, and several people shied away from the trio of men distrustfully.

Heero glared at everything that had the misfortune of being in the line of his sight. "We're going to miss Relena's speech."

"Oh, man... aren't you supposed to be on the stage with her? You are her fiancé. Ow! Damn it, man, get your hands off the hair!" Duo grabbed a hold of his braid with both hands half way down, and stopped abruptly.

Trowa nearly walked into Duo, and he put his hands on Duo's shoulders as he came up behind him. Heero glared furiously at Trowa's hands on Duo, and then looked at Trowa with hate pouring out of him.

Trowa smirked at Heero.

Heero snarled, and went to grab Duo by the waist. "Let's go."

Duo had no choice but to keep up with Heero as Heero dragged him to the main tent in the middle of the park, but Trowa had to walk with long, fast strides to stay with the other two. The tent was filling fast, but Heero kept to the right aisle, and went half way up to the stage. There was a tent pole there, with a few chairs around it that were unoccupied. Trowa had to go back to the back of the tent to find a chair, and by the time he brought it back up to the where they were, Heero had Duo's chair backed up against the tent pole, and his next to Duo. There wasn't even any room next to Heero, as he would have been blocking the aisle, so the only place left for Trowa to put his chair was behind the other two.

Duo tried to turn around to apologize to Trowa, but Heero had his arm over the back of Duo's chair and was leaning over to talk into Duo's ear. They appeared to be having something of an argument, though the way that Duo's eyes blazed and his cheeks flushed, Trowa almost thought that they were engaging in some verbal foreplay.

He would have been disgusted to be pushed aside so that they could flirt and play, but the MC was trying to get the attention of the audience, and it was clear that Relena would be speaking soon. It was inevitable that Trowa would get a chance to get Duo alone. If he had his chance, and he failed to achieve his goal, than it would be Duo's choice. Trowa was determined to give Duo the choice.

Everyone quieted, and Heero pulled his arm away from Duo, holding his elbows in his palms as he leveled his glare at the stage. Trowa watched Duo surreptitiously pull out a cigarette as the mc went through the opening greetings.

Heero made a face when he smelled Duo's clove cigarettes, but he didn't say anything or move.

There were several politicals talking, from every level of government, before Relena finally came to the podium. Trowa hadn't seen her since just after the wars, so he wasn't prepared for how different she looked in person. A photograph or a news video didn't do her justice. She had grown up, and it was more than the physical changes or style changes that were only natural given the time that had passed. It was more than the calm that fueled her speech as she stilled the crowd and filled the tent with her pleasant nonwords.

It was the indefinable something that separated an adult from a child. Trowa was happily surprised to see that she had transformed so well.

She got a standing ovation when she was done, and it was only as Trowa got to his feet that he realized that Duo was pointedly not looking at Relena, his body taut and his leg bouncing nervously.

Heero wasn't looking at Duo or at Relena, and he looked just as sullen as a child who was told he had to sit still while the grown ups talked.

Trowa clapped louder for Relena as he entertained the notion of Heero as a spoiled child.

The crowd dispersed slowly after the speeches. Duo had a skill for maneuvering through the obstacle course of humanity, but Heero was dogging Duo's heels, and Trowa had a hard time following the path behind them. When they got out of the tent, they slipped and dodged through the knots of people until they were able to find a place by the fence on the fringe to talk. Heero stood perpendicular to Duo, whose back was against the chain links, and Heero's arm was over Duo's shoulder. The posture was so territorial that Trowa almost laughed as he stepped around Heero's elbow to stand next to Duo on his other side.

If Duo was aware of any tension between the other two men, he was obviously enjoying ignoring it. Turning to Heero, he asked, "When and where are you supposed to meet up with Relena?"

Heero scowled, his fingers clenching the fence over Duo's shoulder with enough force to bend the thin metal slightly. "She's going to call. You're going to come to dinner with us, right." That was phrased as if it were a question, but it was obvious from his tone and expression that Heero was not allowing any uncertainty.

Duo looked away pointedly, forcing an expression that would have appeared comical to anyone who didn't know him. "Oh, was that her majesty's command? Far be it from me to disappoint a queen."

"Don't be such an ass." Heero blew his hair out of his eyes with all the annoyance he could muster, the hair fleeing from his ire wisely.

"But Heero, my ass is the only thing you like about me. If I lose that, then maybe, gasp! You might leave me!" Duo affected the drama with his voice, but his eyes were pure sarcasm.

Trowa smiled, brushing lint off of his sleeve distractedly. His eyes drifted over the crowd passively, as he lazily cataloged all the people as he was trained to do as a mercenary. He was amused when he noticed that there was no one there that he would even have to break a sweat over to pummel, and for a moment he wished that the small group of college-aged frat boy types would start some trouble, because it looked like it would be fun to beat them senseless.

Heero eyed Duo with the same intensity he would give a bug before stomping on it. "Can you *try* to be a little less like the gutter trash you are for an hour? Relena's not used to mucking through sewers."

"Well," Duo drawled conversationally, "she's used to putting up with your attitude, so maybe a stroll through a sewer would be a welcome change of pace for her."

Heero's focus narrowed until it was clear that all his senses were pinpointed on Duo, and Trowa was more than a little afraid that, public venue or not, Heero was going to belt Duo across the face. Duo calmly stood there, looking at Heero with satisfied anticipation.

Trowa put his hand on Duo's shoulder, close to his neck, and pointed with his other hand to the cotton candy vendor down the way. "Have you ever had that stuff?"

Duo blinked six times. His eyes shifted from Heero to Trowa and then to the vendor slowly and deliberately. He considered the question carefully before he committed himself to an answer. "Sure. Haven't you? You've lived in a circus; I refuse to believe you've never had cotton candy."

Trowa shrugged, noncommittally. "I know how it's made." That seemed to be answer enough for all three of them.

Heero folded his arms over his chest, pensively glaring at the vendor. "It looks disgusting."

"It is," Duo replied cheerfully. "It's actually sweet enough to rot your teeth while you eat it. Your teeth fall out as you bite into it. It was invented as part of a dental conspiracy to drum up business."

Heero looked appalled, probably more at the notion that Duo might actually believe that, but before he could speak, his phone rang. He took two steps away from Duo and Trowa, but only after he gave Trowa a look that was undoubtedly supposed to be intimidating. He spoke to Relena in clipped tones, his voice edgy, as if he was putting himself out to speak to her at all.

Trowa realized when Heero turned away that he still had his hand on Duo. Duo seemed to be comfortably aware of this fact already, and his body was leaning ever so slightly in Trowa's direction. A warmth filled Trowa's blood as he thought about touching Duo, and having his body leaning into Duo's. His plans for the evening seemed to crystallize, and for a shining moment, he knew that he would be successful.

"Having fun?" Duo smiled up at Trowa hopefully.

Trowa brushed his thumb over Duo's skin idly. Duo looked good in the weak artificial light of the park, his skin bright and his eyes looking electric at that moment. Trowa shook his head quickly, and shrugged uselessly. "Whatever."

Duo grinned. "Ah, a classic Trowa response. Don't tell me the concept of fun is so irrelevant to you?"

"I like to have fun," Trowa said, proud of the flirtation he was able to thread into his words, "but I prefer it to be more one on one."

Duo had raised his eyebrow in wonder, the corner of his lip turning up with intrigue. Before he could speak, Heero grabbed his braid.

"Let's go. Relena has to meet with some people, so we have some time before she can meet us." Heero walked away with purpose, his hand still holding Duo's braid as he started off, letting it fall from his grasp.

Duo and Trowa had to rush a little to keep up with him. Duo asked him what the hurry was, but Heero completely ignored him. They made their way back to the street with all the kiosks, and Heero went to the section that sold Japanese items.

Taking Duo's arm and pulling Duo next to him, Heero pointed to the hair ornaments laid out on velvet. "Help me pick something for Relena." His voice made the request sound like an order.

There was only so much room under the tiny umbrella of the kiosk, so Heero and Duo stood with their sides touching, and Trowa was left outside.

Trowa wasn't concerned, as he took the chance to look over Duo's backside, and the way the braid trailed down and rested just at the place Duo's cheeks met.

After Heero had paid for the item that Duo had picked but Trowa had not been able to see, Heero took off again. Duo grabbed his hand to ask where they were going, but Heero just glared and grunted something about a restaurant.

Duo smiled at Trowa apologetically. "I guess that's where we're going to meet Relena."

Heero was two steps ahead of them, and there was a small enclave just there where the vendors had set up a banner.

This was his chance.

Trowa took Duo's hand, and pulled him behind the banner. Duo followed obediently, but his confusion was etched over his face. He was about to speak when Trowa reached out to brush Duo's bangs out of his face. "I'm not hungry."

"Oh," Duo looked in the direction Heero had been heading, "well, me neither, really, but Relena..."

Trowa leaned in and kissed Duo. At first, it was hard, and forceful, but as Duo recovered from the shock, it softened and deepened. Trowa slipped his arms around Duo, and he could feel Duo's hands slipping up his arms, stopping just short of his shoulders.

There was an excitement in Trowa's body, as he felt he was right there on the precipice of the rest of the night.

When they broke apart, Duo's lips stayed parted, his cheeks flushed slightly, and it turned Trowa on just a little, to see him like that. "Trowa?" Duo asked, his eyes conveying mirth as he spoke in surprised delight.

Trowa shrugged with a grin. "I got tired of waiting for the next therapy session."

Duo blinked, before a smile slowly spread over his face, like the sun peaking through the clouds on a rainy day. Trowa had just enough time to begin to grin before Duo's mouth touched his again, and he was busy pulling Duo closer to his body while mentally calculating how long it would take Heero to realize that he was alone.

Duo let his lips brush against Trowa's for a moment after they separated. "Ya know... it is kinda nicer with out some pervy old man watching."

Trowa drawled with his usual dry humor, "Well, there is that guy at the table over there."

Duo laughed out loud, leaning against Trowa as if he didn't have the strength to steady himself.

Trowa felt the anticipation in his toes, as he flexed them inside his boots. "Maybe we could try it with some privacy. Might be fun."

There was humor and excitement in Duo's eyes, but he worried looked over his shoulder. "Oh, yeah... but, Heero..."

"Has Relena." Trowa spoke firmly, and if he couldn't keep all the bitterness out of his voice, then it wasn't entirely his fault.

Duo looked over his shoulder for only a beat longer, before he beamed at Trowa. "My place is closer."

Trowa nodded with relief, and they walked together out of the festival limits, back to Duo's place.

They walked side-by-side, close enough so that their hands would occasionally brush against each other. Trowa's skin seemed to be hypersensitive at the point where Duo's hand would touch him, and it made Trowa's heart pound to think of having Duo naked with him. They didn't speak, but then, they rarely did when they walked together. Trowa found himself wondering what Duo was thinking right now. It was a disconnected thought, as he had long ago accepted that it was impossible to ever know anyone else's thoughts or feelings.

Trowa wanted to hear Duo's voice right now, though, because he didn't want to be alone. He had a small knot of ice in his belly as he tried not to think about how things had ended with Quatre, and where that had left him. He remembered the feeling of being physically close to someone, and not even knowing their name, and the feeling of touching someone he cared about, and then being left behind.

He inched a little closer, letting his knuckles rub against Duo's. He needed Duo right now. He could have turned to look at Duo, but his head was fixed at staring straight ahead.

They got to Duo's building, and into Duo's apartment all too quickly. Everything seemed too normal, and as Duo randomly walked around, turning on and off lights, putting in a cd, then changing his mind, switching to the radio, then turning it off, Trowa realized that Duo was nervous.

It calmed him enough to walk into Duo's bedroom and sit down on the edge of the bed without waiting for Duo to follow.

Duo wandered in after Trowa, looking like he wasn't sure which direction he should have been going. He smiled nervously at Trowa, his hand almost unconsciously going to the back of his head.

It was quiet. Trowa wasn't sure if he should say something or not, so he took his shirt off.

Duo's eyes seemed to be drawn to Trowa's naked chest. He moved toward Trowa without thinking about it. His fine, elegant hands fluttered around the bottom of his shirt, uncertainly.

"I... I guess I should..." Duo made a motion like he was going to take his shirt off, but his hands weren't in contact with the cloth. He licked his lips as his eyes stayed fixed on Trowa's bare chest.

Trowa stood up, shucking off his shoes as he took the three steps to stand in front of Duo. "Let me." Trowa spoke quietly, so quietly that if there had been any other noise in the room, Duo wouldn't have been able to hear him.

Duo reacted to the sound of Trowa's voice without sound or movement.

Trowa's mouth was watering, and his brain was slowly switching to stimulus/response mode. He put his hands on Duo, closing his fingers around Duo's slim waist, and he felt his spine get hot. Leaning in, Duo reached up to kiss him gently, in what would have been a purely platonic motion were Trowa's hands not snaking under Duo's clothes. Trowa pulled Duo's shirt up slowly, letting his hands rest flatly against Duo's skin as he moved his hands up. He passed over Duo's nipples, which he was overly pleased to realize were peaked.

Duo raised his arms to let Trowa pull his shirt off, and then Trowa just tossed it aside so that he could brush Duo's hair away from his face in tiny movements. Trowa leaned in closer, stepping in so that his toes were right in front of Duo's toes, and their bodies were only inches apart, and then Trowa's lips were touching Duo's skin, over his eyes and under his jaw and right next to his ear. Trowa was enthralled by the smell of Duo's hair, and the way Duo's hands touched him tentatively, and then way Duo was breathing so heavily he could feel the air from Duo's lungs against his skin.

Trowa spoke softly. "Do you have lube? Condoms?"

"Yes." Duo leaned in and kissed Trowa's neck, pulling himself against Trowa by hooking his hands around Trowa's shoulders. Their chests touched, and Trowa could feel Duo from his neck down to his waist.

Trowa sighed, feeling perfectly alive. He ran his hand down the line of Duo's spine, feeling Duo tingle under him.

"Should I..." Duo licked his lips. "Should I turn on the light?"

Trowa shrugged. "There's enough light from the hall."

Duo nodded, and Trowa slowly got to his knees, keeping his lips on Duo's skin as he slid down. Trowa placed his mouth on Duo's stomach with something that would have been reverence if he were capable of it. Duo put his hands on top of Trowa's head, and made some sort of noise that Trowa wasn't wasting time to interpret. He put his fingers on the button of Duo's jeans, and opened them up with extreme care, like he was defusing a bomb.

Duo seemed to be struggling to breathe, his fingers digging into Trowa's scalp somewhat uncomfortably. "You... you don't have to be so careful."

Trowa did respond. He peeled back the jeans a little, revealing Duo's plain white boxers. Trowa kissed Duo's skin along the line of the top of Duo's boxers. Trowa's fingers slipped under the elastic of Duo's boxers slowly, and he began to slide Duo's jeans and boxers down. Duo helpfully stepped out of his pants, and Trowa pulled off Duo's socks as he did. Once all of the clothing had been pushed aside, Trowa rested back on his haunches as he looked up at Duo, completely nude.

[back] [cont]