Author: June
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 11

11a. Duo

I put a piece of paper and a pencil under my pillow
And when I could not sleep, I wrote in the dark

- H.D. Thoreau

Duo watched Wufei disappear into his bedroom. The door closed and he was alone, stalled by the front door. His mouth had been open to say something, anything, to assuage the anguish and loathing twisting his gut. But Wufei had not looked back once; he'd just disappeared. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, he'd beg forgiveness.

Duo shuffled to the bathroom to brush his teeth. He kept his eyes squeezed shut, not yet ready to face his own reflection. He hurried through his nighttime rituals, most of them already done since he'd showered at Ralph's place.

Ralph. Charming, smiling, slippery snake... twisted fuck. Baldly calling him unclean, a whore. Duo growled and gripped the sink tighter, wishing he could crack the thick enamel with his bare hands. He might feel better then. Usually, he could just shake it off, laugh it off; the job didn't faze him. He didn't hate it like he knew Heero did. This was his life and he accepted it. But what he'd done to Wufei was unforgivable.

He walked to his bedroom, stripping as he went. He never wanted to see these clothes again. He should burn them. But, if he burned every piece of clothing associated with a crap job, he wouldn't have anything to wear within... well, it wouldn't take long. Washing and drying was the best he could do. He slid silently into his room, careful to keep his movements slow and easy. He really didn't want Heero involved right now. He climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to his chin. Then he rolled onto his side and pulled his knees up to his chest.

How would he even look at Wufei tomorrow? How could they exist in the same place? He took a few deep breaths and tried to clear his head, but all he could think about was Wufei's face, twisted in pain, body arched toward him, voice breaking in his ear. "Finish it." Damnit, he'd kill Ralph himself before Wufei had the chance. They should have killed him where he sat in that fucking armchair. It would have been easy and he never would have had to injure his friend, betray his trust... But, no, he'd done everything that fucker told him to. And he'd liked it -- their bodies pressed together, harsh breathing, bruising ribs and shoulders. With Wufei in his arms like that, at that moment, he'd never wanted anyone so much in his life. It had swept over him in a swift and dizzying tide, nearly choking him. He'd held Wufei as tight as he could, the need to give comfort in a time of distress hardwired into him. And then, somehow through the pain, his partner had finished. Duo flushed all over again at the feeling of Wufei shuddering beneath him, body flexing and bending in its release.

But he was wrong to feel good about that! He was wrong! How could he have allowed it to-

"Duo, stop."

Heero's voice cut through his bitter self-recrimination and before he could curb his admittedly touchy reflexes, he held Lola in steady fingers, eyes darting around the room, looking for the threat.

But it was just Heero, his partner and friend, sitting up in bed. He took a deep breath and lowered the knife. "Jesus, Ro, don't startle a guy like that... a guy like me like that." His best friend only grunted before getting out of bed and coming over to kneel by Duo's side. Then he realized what Heero had said. "Stop what?"

"Making that sound in the back of your throat." Duo frowned. He hadn't been making- "I don't think you do it consciously. But I haven't heard it since we first started hustling over a year ago."

Oh, right, that noise. The hoarse, frustrated scream of a scared child smothered and controlled to a strangled choking sound. It had always woken Heero up, had always brought him to Duo's bedside.

"Bad job?"

"The worst."

He could hear the hesitation in Heero's next question. "Do you... want to talk about it?"

"No. Thanks, Ro, I just want to forget about it."

"You won't be able to," Heero said bluntly, and Duo had to smile. "You won't sleep. And then you'll be impossible in the morning, worse than Chang; which would be an accomplishment."

Duo knew when he was being baited, just as he knew that Heero thought he'd feel better once he got what was bothering him off his chest. His best friend was only trying to help. So, he took the bait.

"I'll hold the title, easy, 'cause I don't think Chang'll be living here much longer."

Heero tensed. "Why? Where's he going?"

"To kill, Ralph. And that'll get him killed, which is, I think, his goal."

"Wufei wants to die?"

Heero wouldn't stop with the questions, now, so there was no point in trying to keep the events of the evening to himself. Slowly, jerkily, the story came out of him.

"I think so. Ralph violated every scrap of honor that Wufei had been clinging to since he landed in this town. He stepped on it, spat on it."

"How do you know?" Heero asked quietly.

Duo barked a harsh humorless laugh. "I was there. I saw it. And... he made me do it. I didn't want to... but I didn't have any choice. We can't fight Gael like that. We can't just... refuse to do the job. How can we say no? We're in too deep. I had to do it..."

Heero laid cool fingers on Duo's bare shoulder. "Do what, Duo?"

He groaned and barely managed to say it aloud. "We slept together."

"You and Ralph?"

"Me and Wufei. Ralph made it sound like Gael recommended it, to 'take him down a few notches.'"

"You mean you-"

"Yes, Heero,” he snapped. “I had sex with Wufei. We fucked. I nailed him to the bed; I hurt him. There was blood. And he- Ralph he just sat there, loving Wufei's pain, the proud warrior brought down, broken by the cheap whore. I laid him low, taught him a valuable lesson." The self-loathing and mockery in his voice was thick and heavy and he couldn't stop now that he'd started. "He let me do it, too -- let me hurt him. You know Wu, he could have killed me with his pinky finger at any point that evening. But he didn't; he just let it happen." He could feel Heero tensing up with every word they spoke. He was angry, and normally Duo knew better then to tempt Heero's rarely seen but rather infamous temper; however, tonight, he craved it. Wufei had not been angry with him; Wufei had disappeared.

"Have you talked to him?" Heero asked stiffly.

Momentarily confused, Duo stared. “Talked to who?”

“To Wufei, genius.”

Duo shook his head and looked down at his hands. "I tried, when we were cleaning up in the bathroom, but he said 'later,' and he wouldn't look at me the whole ride home. Heero, he... he cut off his hair." Heero's eyes widened in surprise. "I mean, that's a, like a symbol for something, right? That means something bad."

"It's a symbolic death, a severance of ties, mourning."

"That's what I thought. Christ, Heero, what kind of person does that to one of their best friends? Why didn't I just kill the guy where he sat in that fucking armchair? I had my wire; it doesn't ever come out of my braid. I could have done it in less than ten seconds. I let him just... I did whatever he wanted. I basically helped my friend kill himself. I'm as sick as-"

"Duo, stop," Heero said sharply. "You're doing it again. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't you who made him cut his hair; it was Gael and it was that john. And, in the end, it was Wufei's choice to do it at all. He was lucky that..." Heero quickly spit out the rest, the words awkward in his mouth. “He was lucky it was you and not them. And I bet he knows that."

Duo blinked. He looked confused and then skeptical. "You're saying I did him a favor, that at least if he was gonna be taken, it should be by someone who cares about him?"

"Yes," Heero answered simply. "What more could we ask for in this business?"

"That our friends not hurt us, not betray our honor, our trust."

Heero shook his head. "You have to talk to him before you make the assumption that you've betrayed him." He took a deep breath. "And now you need to sleep. You'll feel better in the morning."

Well, so much for Heero's infamous temper. Duo looked down at his hands. "I can't sleep. My brain won't shut up."

About a year ago, they'd slept in the same bed on many occasions, too distraught and disgusted to ever fall asleep alone with their thoughts. As soon as the job had come easier, they'd stopped, stopped all physical contact, really; both assuming that the other neither wanted nor needed that comfort anymore. Without question, Duo needed it now. Heero gently shoved his best friend and business partner toward the far side of the bed and slid under the covers beside him. Duo did not protest, did not say anything, only accepted the gesture of friendship. They lay facing each other for several minutes, searching for any expression in the darkness.

Finally, "Do you want to know what I think?" Heero's voice puffed warmly on Duo's cheek.

"What."

"I think you were set up. I think that job was designed to mess with us."

"What makes you say that?"

Duo watched him gather his thoughts. Heero rarely spoke quickly and he never spoke without first considering his words.

"Gael knows us, knows how we relate to each other. He knows how prideful Wufei is, how careful you are around him, and how... protective I am of you. He knows what to do to upset that balance. And I think he wanted to."

"But why do that?" Duo's voice was almost childlike. He yawned and rubbed his nose, his brain finally slowing down into fuzzy, pre-sleep mode. "We've worked for him for years and never given him any trouble. What would be the point of screwing with us?"

"I don't know why he would try to undermine our dynamic. He was the one who put it together in the first place," Heero murmured.

"Well, we can't let it happen, Ro," Duo mumbled. "We've gotta stick together."

Heero nodded and Duo heard stubble whisper against his sheets. He'd always liked Heero's five o'clock shadow, though it was clearly not enough to grow into a full beard. "I imagine it will only get worse from here," Heero muttered.

"Couldn't get much worse than tonight."

"We'll be prepared for the next time."

Duo snorted softly and smiled, on the verge of sleep. "How will we 'prepare?' Make out on the couch? Jerk each other off just to see if we can? Interesting form of practice." He could almost feel Heero's cheeks warm. “Ha. Made you blush, Heero.”

"Go to sleep, Duo. You're rambling."

"Okay." Then he rolled over and was out.


11b. Wufei

Once more before the law judges over all of us
Cos in this place you'll see me
Brace yourself, this goes deep
I'll show you the secrets the sky and the birds
Actions speak louder than words
Stand by me my apprentice
Be brave, clench fists

- "Turn the Page"

Wufei lay on his back staring up at the ceiling. The clock read three in the morning. They'd been home for two hours. He'd gone straight to bed, not talking to any of his flat-mates; not even looking at them. He knew that Duo was worried about it him. He should have assured his friend that he was all right, but he just hadn't been up for it, and until about now he hadn't been sure that he was all right. They'd talk about it tomorrow.

For the first hour or so, Wufei could hear Heero and Duo talking, their voices muffled and almost inaudible. He wondered what Duo would say, whether he'd tell Heero about everything that passed between them, or whether he'd keep a few details to himself.

The house was quiet now. He ran his hands through what was left of his hair. He missed it already, but was simultaneously relieved to have it gone. Maybe some day he'd grow it back. When he felt he could.

Going back over the events of the evening, Wufei decided that his prediction had been a bit off. Chang Wufei had not died after he and Duo had sex. Part of him certainly had, but which part? He still felt essentially like himself. He didn't feel like a dirty crawling insect or a rodent, or even a whore for that matter. And he was instantly ashamed that he would even think that sort of transformation would occur. Duo, Heero and Trowa all had sex with men and they were the three strongest people he knew. What was his problem anyway? His body was tired and he hurt. But he, himself, Wufei, felt alive and focused and fierce and a little tingly. Having sex in front of Ralph, at Ralph's behest, had been humiliating and degrading. Ralph would die for that some day. But having sex with Duo, the act itself, didn't bother him like he thought it would. He was not ashamed, didn't feel compromised or broken. He felt stripped down, scoured and cleaned out.

The voice of his clan remained silent throughout his reflection. And that's when he realized where the death had occurred. The Dragon Clan had died along with all its baggage. Cutting off his hair had been their symbolic death, an act of despair, a severance of ties with a clan he had no right to be a part of. At least that's what he thought at the time. But now he knew the actual death took place on that bed with Duo, when all his pride and anguish had been pounded out of him.

So where did this put him now? Where did he fit in? Gael probably thought tonight would break him, that he'd either be dead or a complete waste by morning. Gael probably thought he would turn against Duo, feel betrayed, never trust him again. The Boss had made a tactical error if that had been his plan. Wufei knew he wouldn't have as much trouble with his jobs now. They were just that -- jobs, props occupying his time. Of more concern was the way his stomach did flips every time he thought about kissing Duo, every time he thought about that noise Duo had made in the back of his throat, every time he thought about the feel of Duo's body flush against his. Of more concern was Heero's reaction to all this.

[part 10] [part 12] [back to Singles a-k]