author: trixie
see part 1 for notes, disclaimers, etc.
notes: er, the usual. *snuggles for my mistress*

Rattlesnakes + Part 8

Relena was wearing a soft pink pantsuit with a string of pearls around her neck. She looked every bit the world leader that she was, but more than that she really looked like an adult, in a way that Trowa had never considered. They had gone to have their breakfast in a small nook off from the room where the breakfast buffet had been set up, so that they would have privacy. The room was essentially a large window with a table before it, looking out over the exquisitely trimmed garden maze.

Trowa placed his plate on the table reservedly. He had not intended to actually eat this food; he had gotten it for Duo. He had not intended, in fact, to speak to anyone. He had the perfect excuse to get away from any social obligations that might have reared their ugly heads. After all, someone had to take care of Duo.

There was something so confident in Relena's demeanor, he felt drawn along almost magnetically. Even the suggestion that she might be able to shed light on Duo's behavior was enough to entice Trowa to pretend to eat breakfast.

Relena smiled at Trowa, presumably to set him at ease, but it only made him clench his teeth. He didn't have anything to say to her, and he thought that maybe she was waiting for him to speak.

"I'll be blunt with you, Trowa, since we don't know each other that well. I know you've had problems with depression in the past, so I hope you won't be offended if I ask how you and Duo are doing?" Relena politely sliced her sausage into small bites. Trowa found himself fascinated by the gentile dissection.

"What is it that you know about Duo?" Trowa pushed some eggs around on his plate, sorting the crumbles of scrambled eggs into three distinct piles.

Relena sighed nearly imperceptibly, and ate a piece of sausage. "I suppose the main question is, how much do you know about Duo? But I won't ask you that... I just. I would really like to know. How is he doing? Is he still clean?"

Her eyes were so perfectly clear, like crystals floating in milk. Her face was blank and expressionless. The only emotion she conveyed was the tightly reigned concern in her voice.

Trowa found himself caving to it instantly.

Delaying the inevitable, he contemplated a danish. "He drinks. Smokes. Goes out. Takes E... maybe more, I don't know that much about drugs."

Relena's shoulder's slumped in a way that could only be described as regal. "I see."

Trowa examined her face carefully for signs of judgment. After a moment, he nodded, and looked down at his coffee. It was black in way that he found disturbingly soothing.

Relena took a sip of her tea carefully, as if it were too hot. "I had hoped... Does Duo still... Do he and Heero still...?"

"Not since he moved in with me." Trowa was amazed at the sound of his own voice. He didn't even sound upset.

"Well, that's good. I had hoped..." Relena's eyes drifted, her gaze turning to the garden vista. There was a wistfulness to her tone that made Trowa stop and look at her.

She really was an effective leader. She just had an unconscious ability to make people pay attention to her.

"I had hoped that things would have been... different... between them. I had hoped..." Relena sighed, and put her hands in her lap. "It seemed like they were such a good match."

Trowa didn't respond. He turned to look outside as well, somewhat disgusted by the excess of sunshine that was just beaming around everywhere. Just the idea of Duo and Heero together made his stomach clench.

"I had thought that maybe they could, I don't know, help each other... Well, that's not the way things turned out, is it? They aren't exactly good for each other." Relena's eyes fell to her hands in her lap, her voice strained.

Trowa narrowed his eyes, directing his ire at a garden gargoyle. "No. I thought *you* were interested in him."

Relena turned her attention back to the table, straightening as she tried to laugh it off. "Oh, well... A girl can be forgiven for her childish infatuations, can't she? At any rate, I knew... I knew as soon as I saw Heero's eyes after he recovered from his injuries from the Barton incident. He and I... just aren't compatible."

She seemed willing to move on, but something vindictive in Trowa made him press the issue. "But you are engaged."

Relena blushed right down to her roots. "Ah, yes, well... He is doing me a favor. It is... generous of him, I suppose, but it is also, in a way, no more than he owes me."

Trowa hid his intrigue jealously. "He owes you?"

She joined her hands, tenting her arms and resting her chin on her knuckles. Smiling coyly, she sighed. "That's part of a long story. But tell me... You and Duo are in therapy together, right? Has he talked to you, or in sessions, about his past, about how his troubles started?"

"Troubles?" Trowa's eyes pierced into Relena's relentlessly. "I think those began when he was orphaned as a toddler on the streets of L2."

Relena flushed again, which caused her to lose the look of authority and maturity. "I meant... well, obviously, but I was referring... Oh, dear, I'm doing this all wrong, aren't I?" She shifted in her seat and rearranged her napkin on her lap. "Let me start over again.

"It began five years ago. There was a movement in the colonies to resurrect White Fang, at least politically. It was called True Justice. They believed that the accords that were signed after the war and the Barton incident were nothing more than continued efforts on the part of the governments of Earth to enslave the colonies. They wanted to continue the work my brother had done in White Fang, and gain the rights of self-determination for the colonies." Her voice was steady and direct, her eyes unblinking. Trowa had the uncomfortable sense that she was telling him something that was very important.

"Of course, the UESA Colonial Accords of AC 202 pretty much made the whole issue moot as it gave each colony all the rights and privileges of any nation. But, even though their goals had been accomplished, and the party disbanded, there was still funding being funneled into the organization. Commander Une decided to launch an investigation, which discovered that..." Relena's eyes became distant, and her hands moved absently over the tablecloth. "The political party was just a front so that they could get information.

"It was actually a cabal, a would-be triumvirate of men who had been leaders in White Fang. The man who was at the center, the instigator, was called Fabian Lestarte. He had been in White Fang, and before that, he had worked under my brother in Oz." Relena sighed just a little, her eyes shifting downward in some form of modesty.

Trowa nodded, his lips curling into a smile of understanding. "Your brother does have a habit of inspiring fanaticism."

This seemed to depress Relena, but Trowa could hardly be bothered with feeling guilty over telling the truth. "That is certainly true. This man Lestarte, he was conceivably the only person in the known universe who *actually* believed that my brother to be dead." Trowa could not help smiling at that, and bolstered by the effectiveness of her little joke, Relena plowed onward with more energy. "He got together with two of his closest comrades from White Fang, a man named Julius Crane and another man named Crandall Desmond, and he plotted revenge for my brother's death. Naturally, he blamed *me* for my brother's actions, and Commander Une's investigation found evidence that the cabal was planning on attacking me.

"Now, there are plenty of people out there who want me dead, and the Preventors are keeping an eye on all of them, but Lestarte was found to have obtained from various sources the makings of a dirty bomb, which he was keeping in New New York, where the Peace Summit Meetings were to be held to celebrate the Colonial Accords and help integrate the colonial governments into the UESA. Une decided that they could not wait for any judicial process.

"She signed an order for assassination." Relena sighed with acceptance, and she picked up her tea, draining the cup quickly. "She had no choice. There were just too many innocent lives in danger to worry about details. I suppose... If my brother had not been out of transmission range, he could have been called in, but... As I said, there were too many people in danger to be bothered with details.

"Heero was called in. He was an assassination expert. He was supposed to be the best for the job." Relena smiled, and Trowa was struck by how strange it was to see Relena being sardonic. "And he did his job well. He tracked them down, found their hideout, tracked and recorded their movements... He was ready for the kill. He had them in his sights, and he was ready to take them all down in three quick shots, Lestarte first. But..."

Trowa absently ate a forkful of eggs. More than the story, the tone of her voice and the way her eyes drifted over the table entranced him. She had become so mature, but she was still the same girl he had known in the war. There was a trace of disillusionment in her voice, and Trowa felt an unaccountable kinship with her. He had once had Heero Yuy on a pedestal as well.

Relena's eyes were distant, a small warmth making her cheeks plump as she spoke. "He had sworn that Mariemaia was the last person he was ever going to kill, and he couldn't bring himself to kill again, even though he knew it was necessary. He couldn't stop himself, though, before he pulled the trigger, so instead he jerked the gun so that he would miss the target. He didn't kill anyone.

"But he did alert them to his presence." Relena sighed heavily. "After that, they became impossible to find. They had bunkered themselves in their hideout, and there was no way to get to them without going in.

"The Preventors' needed an expert in infiltration and execution, someone who could slip in unseen and get past some of the best security in the world."

Relena's voice got slower, betraying a weariness that suggested a sense of guilt. Trowa felt something dark eating at his gut.

"Duo often did jobs for the Preventors, often ones that were completely top secret. Given his past, he was the most logical choice. Chang Wu Fei was never good at stealth, and no one else would was 100% reliable was available." Relena took a deep breath, and smiled wryly. "He was perfect.

"And he did the job, perfectly. Within four days of being assigned, and two days before the Peace Summit Meetings, he was able to bring down all three of the conspirators, and he took down their headquarters, which was an abandoned office complex in a run down section of town."

Relena seemed to be holding back tears, which puzzled Trowa, though not enough to actually try to comfort her or speak. He waited patiently for Relena to compose herself, while slowly eating more eggs.

"Afterwards, though, he seemed to be in shock. It was an unpleasant mission, and he had had to kill three people in cold blood..." She cleared her throat, and shook her head, a small smile turning up the corner of her lips. "He was so... heroic. But the toll... the toll had been great. He became withdrawn, he refused to talk about his mission in any detail, and he was alternately hostile and defensive. It was at this time that he and Heero met again for the first time since the end of the last war. At first, I had hopes that the two of them could heal the wounds the wars and their lives had left them with, but... Heero was so angry, with himself for failing in his mission, and with Duo, for completing the mission. And Duo... Duo seemed to *want* to be punished."

She made a girlish show of dabbing at her eyes with her lace handkerchief. Trowa swallowed down his disgust with some cold toast. An unreasonable anger bubbled inside of his chest. She had caused Duo pain, and made Duo the man he was today. Unwittingly, of course, but that didn't excuse her. Oh, it had been that terrorist, of course, but it had been protecting *her* that got Duo into trouble. It was always about her protection, and Trowa couldn't help but feel that if she were less feeble, a lot of trouble could have been spared.

"They... they became involved, but there was obviously... obviously something wrong. And the longer they were together, the... the worse it seemed to get. And then it became clear that Duo was using." Relena sighed, her shoulders shaking as if she were holding in sobs.

Trowa tossed his napkin down on the table, sick of listening to her babble.

"I pushed Une to offer him a permanent position with the Preventors once Hilde fired Duo for losing his license. There was... an accident. So, you see, I'm responsible for the troubles Duo has had recently, and I want you to know... I want *him* to know... anything I can do, anything at all, to help, please, all either of you have to do is ask. He's my hero, you know?"

She tried to smile at him, but Trowa's eyes were narrowed dangerously. "He's your hero, is he? I suppose a good pacifist needs someone like him, a garbage collector, as it were, to take care of the unpleasant things in life. Doesn't really matter what he's gone through to ensure your safety, as long as you and your powerful friends can lead a peaceful life, the torment of the people who built that peace is secondary, right?" Trowa's voice was unusually lively, and he felt like he was unwinding a bit as he spoke. He closed his mouth into a tight line when he had his peace, unwilling to let go any more.

"Oh!" Relena's eyes widened, and her hand drifted to her mouth, her shock evident. "No, that's not what I meant at all!" She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, her actions erratic. "No, no, that's not what I meant at all! I meant, he *knew*, you see? He *knew* what he was getting into, what it would cost him, and he did it anyway. He didn't do it for me, he did it for *peace*, for the people... because someone had to, and he didn't want anyone else to have to suffer. *That's* why he's my hero, because he's just so... so... *noble*. I mean, really noble. I'm sorry, I'm not being very coherent..."

Trowa struggled for a moment, looking to the ceiling as he resisted the inevitable. "No, I'm sorry. I made an unfounded assumption."

Relena's whole body bled relief. "I don't know if there is anything I can do, but please, remember, if there *is* anything, just... just ask, all right?"

Trowa spared a moment to look her in the eye. She was desperate, begging him. He sighed. "I can't promise you anything. I don't know... I don't know if he wants anyone to *help*."

"I know. But if something comes up, anything at all...?" She leaned forward in her seat, pushing her stomach against the edge of the table so that her chest was practically in her plate.

Trowa looked away, annoyed. "We'll see."

Relena smiled brightly, as if he had just promised to grant her all her wishes for the next fifty years. "Thank you! Here, let me give you my card...I'll write my private number so that you can reach me at any time at all...Here." She wrote down the number quickly, and then handed him the card with a grin.

He took it resignedly. "Thank you."

She stood up, and walked around the table to kiss Trowa on the cheek.

Trowa was so stunned, he remained seated for the whole procedure.

"Thank you, Trowa. I really hope... Well, I hope that you and Duo are both happy. I think..." She blushed, her cheeks like apples as she smiled. "I think you two are very sexy together." She winked at him, and then rushed out of the breakfast nook, moving quickly as she chuckled to herself.

Trowa just sat there, stupefied.

Scowling, he stood up and gathered up what remained of Duo's bagel and danish. This morning had not gone as he had planned.

He kept to the shadows and walked quickly through the halls, hoping not to be caught again. Relena had confused him, and he needed time to process.

There had been a mission, and Duo had succeeded where Heero had failed. That explained a lot. Duo had gone into some sort of shock afterward, and had become a junkie. That explained less, although Trowa supposed that other people might be less blasť about murder than he was.

Relena considered Duo a hero.

Trowa found himself not disagreeing with that.

When he opened the door to their room, he found that there was an odd tingling beneath his skin. He needed to touch Duo, to hold him, and to fuck him madly.

The room was full of filtered sunshine, the thin curtains still drawn, though the thick brocades had been pulled back. Duo was flat on his stomach on the bed, just as Trowa had left him, his messy braid trailing like a snake losing its skin over his back. At the sound of the door opening, Duo groaned, and shifted as if he were trying to turn over, but not quite making it.

Trowa put the rolls down on the table next to the bed, and crawled over Duo, flopping on the other side of the bed with relish, stretching his legs out in front of him. Leaning on his elbow, he looked down at Duo, lightly running his fingers around Duo's hairline, pushing the thick braid off to the side.

One sleepy eye cracked open, and Duo grinned up at Trowa with half his face. "Took you long enough. Didja bake those danishes yourself? Didja hafta track down real Danish people?"

Trowa smiled gently, suddenly very fully aware of Duo's nudity, and his scarred beauty. His fingers moved to trace Duo's tattoo, and he watched with abject wonder.

Duo sighed sleepily. "Are you trying to seduce me, Mr. Barton?"

Trowa did not respond verbally. He let his hands drift down the skin of Duo's flanks, and he tasted the skin over Duo's spine with a long, wet lick.

Duo woke up with a groan. "Oh, you *better* be seducing me..."

"Now, why would I want to do that?" Trowa put his hands on Duo's hips, and opened his mouth, putting his tongue and his teeth on Duo's ass, sucking gently on a large mouthful.

Duo nearly flipped over, except for Trowa's control of him. "Now you damn well *better* be seducing me!"

Trowa rested on his side, grinning at Duo as he lazily ran his hands over Duo's ass. "Don't you think we should get dressed? I think there were planned activities on the agenda."

"The only planned activity on your agenda is screwing me, boy." Duo sat up, grabbing for Trowa's wrists. "And you are way too overdressed as it is."

Trowa wrestled with Duo, slipping out of his grip and pinning flipping him over, pinning him to the bed as he held Duo's hands above his head. Duo squirmed under him, arching his back to push his erection into Trowa's pants. "Please, Trowa."

Trowa looked down into Duo's eyes, wide and vibrantly colored. Duo's skin was flushed, begging to be touched and tasted and kissed and sucked. Duo's hair trailed off the bed, wildly out of place. Duo's long, slim neck was arched, the lines of his trachea visible, his Adam's apple bouncing as he swallowed hard. Duo's nipples were peaked and bright pink. Duo's legs were attempting to wrap around his waist, wriggling like the tentacles of an octopus as they enveloped him. Trowa kissed Duo's arms beneath the wrist, kissed the inside of his elbows, kissed his shoulders, along his collarbone, up his neck, his chin, and then his mouth, sucking on Duo's lips and tongue. "I am very pleased, yes." Trowa's voice was unrecognizably throaty, and his body shook with his emotion.

Duo laughed, a manic, breathy sound. He arched and thrashed in Trowa's hands. "Oh, yeah, baby, please, please, please, let go, let me take your clothes off..."

Trowa grinned. "No." He pushed his tongue in Duo's mouth, and lay his body down on Duo's naked flesh. Duo groaned, and ground himself against Trowa's body. Trowa ran one hand down Duo's flank, and in between Duo's legs.

Duo screamed as Trowa took a hold of his balls gently, and then Duo dug the top of his head into the mattress as he arched his hips even higher up into Trowa's hips. Trowa pushed his hand back, and circled Duo's anus with his thumb.

"Do you want me?" Trowa spoke into Duo's ear, keeping his voice as level as he could.

"*Please*, damn it, Trowa, fuck!" Duo writhed, throwing his leg around Trowa's waist, digging his heel into the small of Trowa's back.

"Fuck, Duo?" Trowa pulled up, groaning, and used his free hand to open his pants. He pulled Duo up, flush against his chest, and threw Duo's arms around his neck. Duo helpfully began to chew on his neck, which did incite Trowa into sitting up on his knees, pulling Duo's hips against him.

"Lube?" Duo panted, opening the buttons on Trowa's shirt quickly.

Trowa grunted, and leaned back long enough for Duo to finish opening his shirt and for him to grab the lube and condoms off the nightstand. Trowa pushed his shoulder blades against the wall above the headboard, and he pushed his pants down to his knees. Duo put his knees on the pillows, straddling Trowa's waist, and quickly lubed up Trowa's cock and his anus.

Trowa pushed into Duo, and Duo pushed down into Trowa. There was sound, and heat, and sensation. Trowa dug his fingers into Duo's hips, and opened his mouth to scream, though no sound came out. He thrust against Duo's body, and his brain prickled with the perfection of the friction.

Duo moved like a wild man. Trowa's eyes were closed tightly, but he could feel Duo's panicked movements. He could taste Duo's sweat. He pushed into Duo's body, and he felt like Duo was seeping into his own.

When he came, he made a noise like a balloon deflating slowly. It was a pristine moment.

He opened his eyes.

Duo was draped over his chest, his sweaty hair sticking to Trowa in thin threads. Duo was heaving, unable to suck enough air into his lungs, his hands on Trowa's arms weakly.

"I'm awake now, Tro."

"Good."

"Kinda hungry for breakfast now."

"It's there on the table."

"Yeah."

"Duo?"

"Uh-huh?"

"I talked to Relena. That's what took so long."

"Oh?" Duo tensed minutely. "What'd ya talk about?"

Trowa sighed, letting the bad air drain out of him. "I think she thinks about us naked."

Duo smiled, and then he started to laugh.

Trowa closed his eyes, and slept.

~*~

[cont]