author: trixie
see part 1 for notes, disclaimers, etc.
notes: take place about ten years after the end...

Rattlesnakes + Epilogue

He went through the back alley, even though it took longer. There was less traffic, and this way, he could stop and feed the feral cats. He stuffed his pockets with dry cat food, and as he went down the alley behind the houses, he dropped small handfuls wherever he spotted evidence of the feral cats. There were about six that he knew of, although there might be more if the litter from earlier this year was larger than he had estimated.

If their neighbors knew that he was feeding the feral cats in the neighborhood, they would have them evicted. Duo would never let him hear the last of it, so he had to be sure to clean out his pockets before he got home.

Fortunately, he was the one who did the laundry in the household, so he didn't have to worry about Duo accidentally finding his pockets full of cat food dust.

Their house was dark from the back, which either meant that Duo wasn't home yet, or he was in the basement. Trowa hoped that Duo wasn't still at school; he worked too hard.

He had to open the door slowly. He could hear all the ruckus behind the door before he even got the key in the lock. Duo either had already let out the husky, and then generously let him back in again, or poor Mounty hadn't been out yet. His great, furry paws were hitting the door with muffled thumps. Trowa slipped in quickly, making sure that no one got out, and patiently endured the dog's pleasure at his return to the homestead.

They had four dogs, six cats, three birds, which Duo had absolutely insisted be kept in a cage outside, two lizards, which Duo took sole care of, eighteen mice (at last count), three hamsters, two ferrets, and a snake. Their home was a matter of horror for all their neighbors, but the area children loved to come by and play with their animals, and hear horror stories about the war, most of which were partial exaggerations.

Trowa liked to hear Duo tell stories of the past, colored by their own take on how things went.

He had just gotten to his knee to pet their oldest kitty, Sasha, when the lights from the living room snapped on, causing him to jump back a little, to Sasha's disgust.

"God damn it, Barton!" Duo was storming through to greet him. "Get them the hell out of my hair!"

Trowa smirked. Duo turned his back to Trowa, his long braid swinging slowly behind him, weighed down by three kittens who were clinging for dear life. "You have kitten hair again!"

Duo growled. "Stop acting like it's cute and get them the hell off!"

Trowa bit his tongue so that he wouldn't laugh out loud, and proceeded to gently unhook the bottom kitten from his roost. It was the little orange tabby, and as soon as she hit the ground, her legs all splayed out, she ran under the couch.

"We have too damn many animals in this house," Duo grumbled, even though he knew perfectly well that he would rather live with kittens in his hair all the time than put any of their charges out into the cold. "Why do they always go for my hair?"

"Well, you tease us with it, don't you?" Trowa archly suggested, cradling the little grey kitten as he put him down. "You just taunt us with it, letting it get all long so that it swings around behind you, so inviting..."

Duo glared at Trowa from over his shoulder. "If I remember correctly, I'm the one who wants to cut it, and you're the one who insists on it being this long. Can't you train them to leave the braid alone?"

Trowa worked on getting the last kitten out of Duo's braid. It was the little black kitty with the white belly and feet. He was chewing on Duo's hair, something Trowa decided that Duo really didn't need to know, and he had his little bottom paw stuck into the folds of the braid. He resisted being removed with all the force and will he could muster up into his little kitten body, which was a surprising large amount. "I did tell you how to keep them from getting into things."

"I'm not soaking my hair in sour apple!"

Trowa sighed, finally extricating the little black kitty, who was desperately trying to get back into the braid. He kissed the kitty on the top of his head, feeling a certain kinship with the animal who was equally drawn to Duo's hair. "Well, then, I can't be held responsible."

Duo glared at him, hitching his braid over his shoulder. "Brat."

Trowa sighed, leaning forward to get a kiss. "Naturally."

Duo rolled his eyes in mock exasperation, and went to the kitchen, walking with a conscious sense that Trowa was right behind him. "How was the clinic?"

"Pretty good. Kinda busy." Trowa rubbed the back of his neck, feeling the tension over his vertebrae absently. "Had to put down a pit bull that had bit a neighbor boy."

Duo made a sympathetic noise. "Sorry. That sucks. Was it a nasty dog?"

"No," Trowa shook his head sadly, "but the neighbor parents were horrible. They actually went with to watch the dog being put down, and then they were laughing about it afterwards. I don't think they cared that much about their kid getting bitten, at least not as much as they cared about getting rid of the dog."

"People suck," Duo declared, ripping open the fridge door to assess the interior. "Uh. Lasagna?"

Trowa shrugged, getting the dishcloth wet to wash down the table. "Whatever. How was your day?"

Duo shrugged as he started to pull together the leftovers from two nights ago, and the makings of a salad. "Eh. I think I got that internship. The guy from the office was there in class today. My teacher was pissed, though, because I made him look like an idiot twice. He's kinda of a dick, but he does usually know his shit. He's just more of a design person, than an engineering person. But that guy from my class, Richard, he told me that he knew someone in Baxter and Clemits, and that there was probably going to be a second internship opening up, because the colony is going to redevelop sector 19B, so they're going to have a busy summer."

Trowa nodded along, finishing washing the table, then picking up the various bowls to feed their menagerie. Duo had worked in colony maintenance all through veterinary school, slowly chipping away at their debt as he also kept them in house and home. Trowa had wanted to be able to support Duo in the same way, as soon as he had developed an interest in colonial architecture, but a vet just didn't make that much. Duo had a lot of talent, though, and he already had made some plans that had been accepted by the largest architecture firm in the colonies. He had only another year of school before he could be licensed and certified, at which point, he would be able to start making some serious money.

Trowa didn't tell him that it didn't matter how many positions there were open at the firm, that there was no way that Duo wouldn't be the one to get it. It didn't matter to Duo how high his grades were, or how much better he was at it than anyone else in his class, he was still sure that he would be found out as a fraud at any moment. Trowa indulged him, and pretended to be surprised with every success.

"Oh! And Fei called," Duo shoved the leftover lasagna into the oven with a little more force than either the lasagna or the oven deserved. "He had about seven trillion 'details' to 'mention,' but the long and the short of it, I'm going to need a tux." Duo made a face, and started to tear up the lettuce. "Basically, I need red as the color, although he said it didn't matter too much what kind of tux and accessories I got, since I was going to be the only one, and he was going to be in the traditional gown thing. Whatever." Duo sighed.

"We should go get you fitted this weekend, then," Trowa suggested. "Did you feed the lizards and the snake?"

"Fed the snake this morning. Lizards are good. This whole thing is such a pain in the ass." Duo took more pleasure than he should have cutting up the carrots. "It's their damn wedding, why do I have to be so involved?"

Trowa had his suspicions, but he kept them neatly to himself. "It's not everyday that two of your closest friends gets married."

Duo looked disgusted. "I don't get it. They've been together for over a year! What's the big deal about a wedding? If they have to get married, and I really don't think that they do, they should just go off to their local circuit courthouse, and fill out the paperwork. Ba-da bing, ba-da boom. Done. Making such a spectacle of themselves... We've been together for a helluva lot longer, and we've never made all our friends dress up like waiters and buy us presents. We should do that. Out of spite."

Trowa wanted to laugh, but he knew better. "It was probably Hilde's idea. Girls... want weddings." Trowa was not able to elucidate his opinion on the topic any clearer than that. He was still reeling from Catherine's wedding, and the fourteen-month circus of horrors that came before that, and that was two years ago.

Duo snorted. "Fei lets that girl get away with too damn much. She always tried to walk all over me, but I never let her string me up and bounce me around like some damn puppet."

Trowa winked at him. "But you weren't dependent on her for sex."

"Ha! Another good reason to be a good colony boy... Women have too damn many hurdles."

Trowa put down the last bowl of water, stepping carefully over cats, kittens, and dogs to make his way to Duo's side. He put his hands on Duo's hips, and his chin on Duo's shoulder. "I certainly prefer things the way they are."

That earned him a kiss and a smile.

He was going to start setting the table, but Duo was wearing a t-shirt with a wide neck, and the desire to dig his fingers into Duo's flesh was great. He was surprised how tense Duo was. His neck felt like it was made of metal. After a minute of making Duo groan as he massaged him, Trowa noticed a few other small things. He narrowed his eyes. Speaking very softly, he asked, "Bad day?"

Duo rolled his shoulders, sighing. "Nah. Not really. Just... a little long."

Trowa put his arms around Duo's waist, and kissed his neck. "Anything you wanna talk about?"

Duo snorted, but he didn't pull away. "There's... there's nothing really to talk about."

Trowa said nothing, but he didn't move.

"It's just... Damn, I feel stupid. Fei heard from Heero yesterday."

~~

He kept low, so that he wouldn't be seen. The long rope of hair swung back and forth. He knew what was his.

He didn't begrudge the other one for being there, or for touching what was his. Not any more. But still, he had his prey in sight.

He let it slip from his grasp, but he would always come back for more.

~~

Trowa held onto Duo, not really sure where things were going to go from here.

"Heero RSVP'd. For two. He got married in November."

Trowa couldn't help being shocked. He stood up straight, almost entirely losing contact with Duo. It took him a moment just to process the words, much less the tone of voice. "I wasn't aware he was seeing anyone."

Duo shrugged. "I guess no one was. Not that Heero keeps in such great contact. Anyone, it's some girl he met at work. She's a programmer, too, and she's from the colonies. Fei said that he sounded... happy. Fuckin' 'ey, I'm pretty damn sure that I've never heard Heero sounding happy."

Duo moodily yanked himself out of Trowa's arms, and went to plunk the salad on the table. Trowa blinked, and followed by getting the plates, cutlery, and napkins. Duo poured their drinks, setting the jug of filtered water on the table when he was done. Trowa got the oven mitts, and took the lasagna out. It was still likely a little cool in places, but neither of them would care that much. He watched Duo cut up the lasagna, cataloging every gesture and expression. "Are you jealous?"

Trowa's guarded voice did not betray his feelings at all, which made him proud, and made Duo nervous. It had the effect of pulling Duo out of the reverie of his thoughts. "No! God, no, not... jealous. Just... I dunno, Tro." Duo plopped down in his chair bonelessly. "I have no idea what's going on in my crazy head sometimes."

Trowa neatly cut off a piece of lasagna with his fork, and lifted it to his lips. "I didn't mean to imply that you wanted to be with him. But you do love him. It's only natural."

Trowa did not want to see that guilty expression on Duo's face. Before he could retract his words, Duo slipped out of his chair, and into Trowa's lap. "No, Tro... Yeah, I mean, I guess I still love him. Always will, I'm afraid. And yeah, there's still no one else I'd rather be with." He leaned down to slowly kiss Trowa's lips, sucking gently on Trowa's bottom lip before letting go. "I sure as hell wouldn't put up with this zoo for anyone else."

Duo's eyes were sparkling, and Trowa couldn't help but smile.

"I don't know, I just felt... melancholy, hearing that. I don't know why. I spent so damn much time doing anything I could, just to make him happy... I guess he just needed someone else. Which is stupid, because of course I needed someone else, so why wouldn't he? But still..." Duo trailed off, his face turned so that he wasn't looking at Trowa.

Trowa put his hand on Duo's chin, turning his face back, and he took Duo's mouth in a consuming kiss. Duo's hands were enmeshed in his hair when he broke away to breathe, and he was very aware of Duo's tight body in his lap.

Duo grinned at him, whispering against his lips, "I'm being stupid. Tell me I'm being stupid."

Trowa shook his head, brushing his lips against Duo's. "You're never stupid. It's only natural. It's ok. It'll pass."

Duo nodded, and pressed down for another kiss.

Dinner was soon forgotten.

~~

There were times when he could barely stand to stay back. When he just needed too much to press in between them, and keep what was his away from the other one. But it would be futile, which was why he kept in position, ready to pounce. He would get his opportunity, oh yes, but before then, he just needed to bide his time, and let them have their way.

They couldn't deny what was true for very long.

~~

They left the dishes in the sink, fully knowing that some animal would climb up there and get to them. It didn't matter right then.

They went to the bedroom, and Trowa sat down on the side of the bed, ritualistically. He pulled on Duo's hand, leading Duo to stand between his legs. He undressed Duo slowly, letting his fingertips graze but not touch Duo's skin as he did. He needed Duo to lean over so that he could pull his t-shirt off, and then Duo was unclothed.

He turned Duo around, letting his palms linger on Duo's hips, and he ran his hand down the length of Duo's braid. He lifted the end up with awe, his breathing hitching as he started to undo the braid. It didn't matter how many times he did this, when he touched this sacred hair, it was always overwhelming.

Right now, Duo's braid reached his knees, so that when it was unwound, it actually rested on the floor. He knew that it was extravagant, but he loved it, every inch of it.

Duo spoke quietly, so as not to break the mood. "I'm going to have to have it cut, you know."

Trowa winced, but did not deny the words. "Just make sure I'm not around when you do it."

Duo's eyes were sparkling. "I'll probably get it cut to my shoulders. I'm getting too old for hair this long... Anyway, it'll look better for the wedding."

Trowa growled.

Duo shook his head, his hair spilling over his shoulders tantalizingly. He turned to kneel in front of Trowa. "Don't get upset. It always grows back."

Trowa took Duo's face in his hands, and kissed him hard. There was no more romance left in their actions. The time for that was over now.

Duo tore Trowa's clothes off as they wrestled on top of the bed. Trowa pushed Duo down, his hand running down the inside of Duo's thigh. Ten years was a long time to be with one person. After ten years, he got to know the Duo's skin like he knew his own, so that when he touched Duo, he could almost feel what Duo felt in the tips of his fingers.

He knew that Duo felt the same way, because of the way that Duo lingered on him in the ways that he liked the best.

There were no more surprises, but that was more of a relief than a let down. They didn't need to surprise each other any more; they had enough surprises in their memories.

Trowa put his hand on Duo's shoulder, and he watched as Duo let his head fall off the edge of the bed, his hair pooling on the floor.

They knew this dance by heart, but they still had to change the sheets every morning.

~~

He would not wait a second longer. With a Herculean effort, the little black kitten launched himself into the pile of long, perfect hair.

It was the best time, even though it was more his insatiable need for the hair that had informed his choice, and not the situation. They were up on the bed, moving and playing, but he was rolling in the hair, the best hair, the most perfect hair.

It was where he belonged. It was his home. The other one understood. The other one felt the same way. At first, he had been jealous of the time that the other one had with the hair, but that was just silly.

The other one was his ally in the quest for the hair. He came to see that.

He reveled in his moment, spreading his paws out into the hair, and clawing at the tangled mass of perfect hair. These times were all too fleeting, but they made his existence worthwhile.

~~

Trowa felt no need to mention the kitten that had been playing in Duo's hair while they had made love. He had Duo nestled in his arms, and that was all that really mattered. Later, they would get up and shower, maybe watching some television before going to bed for real. But right now, they were together.

Duo had his leg thrown over Trowa's body, and his face was tucked against Trowa's shoulder. They had the fit down just right.

They had stopped worrying about that mythical day when they would grow tired of each other; after everything they had been through in the last ten years, getting bored with each other would have been the exact same thing as getting bored with themselves, and would have had the same solution.

"Tro?" Duo asked drowsily.

"Yeah?"

"Why do you think that Fei picked me to be his best man?" There was incredulous wonder in Duo's voice, and Trowa knew that Duo would give up his vaunted position in a second to just be free of this responsibility.

It was not the first time Duo had asked the question, and Trowa had no better answer now than the any previous time; at least, he had no better answer that Duo would accept. Instead of answering, he just kissed Duo's head, and ran his fingers loosely through Duo's hair, closing his eyes and letting his mind drift off aimlessly into the pseudosleep of daydreaming.

He always imagined himself in exactly the position that he was in when he drifted, and it was always a relief to find himself where he belonged when he awoke.

~*~

END

credits:
well, it's done. *happy sigh* started this 'little' fic on January 5, 2003, at 11:33pm, and finished it October 27th. it's 1136KB, 291 pages (a bit longer than i'd hoped...), and 159,289 words. (this includes the chapter headers, which i am too lazy to cut out. meh.)

whoosh!

but ya don't finish something like this on your own... there are people you keep going for, and people who keep eggin' ya on. so, i' going to take a quick moment to say thanks...

as always, i start with my lovely mistress rithy, without whom there would likely be very little, if any, fic. *snuggles*

to all the kind people who host this monstrosity on their sites... Dacia, who was the first. ^_~ Sonny and Aya for always wanting more! Netta j who was always so kind. n1k1ta, that saucy monkey ^_~ and cyn who simply rocks. and finally, Anria who is all of the niftyness. you guys rock. ^_^

to everyone who has shown an interest in this fic, people who would have hosted the fic if i didn't have issues, and people who have rec'd it, and people who commented, and people who have read it at all... i would mention some by name but my brain is flooey and i would forget someone, so just assume that if you fit in any of the above categories, i'm talking about you. *cuddles*

in this fandom, alternative pairings are a bit 'taboo,' so i'm grateful for every like-minded fan who thinks that duo and tro look so nice together, and for every 1x2x1 fan who took a chance on my fic.

thanks!!!

my blog lives here

my livejournal is here

and i live in a happy land of my own making.

~*~

[part 14] [back to Singles l - z]