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

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 21
Rooftop Interlude

21. Duo

We slip through the streets
While everyone sleeps
Getting bigger and sleeker
And wider and brighter
We bite and scratch and scream all night
Let's go and throw
All the songs we know...
Into the sea
You and me

- "Lovecats" The Cure

Their feet made very little sound as they hit the ground, just soft rubber striking pavement and a minute shifting of gravel. It wasn't a race, but they kept the pace brisk and the kilometers fell away under the steady rhythm of their track shoes. Duo admired Wufei's stride -- even and sure, smooth and effortless. He didn't doubt that the kid could probably go like that forever. He made it look so easy. Duo loved everything about running: how easy it looked and how hard it actually was to keep a good pace, the sweat, the pain and the pleasure he felt when he hit his stride and his legs just went. Duo knew he was a bit of a geek when it came to running. He wondered if Wufei felt anything like that.

He wondered if Wufei had run track back in high school. Every now and again, Duo thought about what it would have been like attending school, if Heero and he could have been normal kids. Duo knew they'd both have been extremely competitive. Soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, track in the spring. Art classes, literature and writing. It could have been great. Of course school would have also meant math and science and hall passes and cafeterias and shit heads who gave him grief for his braid. He'd suffer the occasional beating for being a fag, too. On second thought, school would have sucked; way over-rated.

"What are you thinking about, Maxwell?" Wufei's voice jerked him out of his daze, and he almost tripped on a crack in the sidewalk. "Because I can hear the wheels turning."

"Bite me, Chang."

"You would be so lucky" They turned in to the park and headed toward the pond, lengthening their stride down the hill.

"I was just thinkin' about you in high school, actually. I bet you were a brat."

Wufei snorted. "You are not wrong."

Duo grinned and shot a glance at his friend. "Really?"

"I barely talked to anyone. I was too wrapped up in my studies, my martial arts and my running."

"Ha! I knew it!"

"That I was a brat? Shouldn't that have been obvious?"

"That you were a runner. I can just tell these things."

"I know you can, and it disturbs me to no end."

"You don't like the fact that I'm perceptive?"

"I don't like that you use those skills thinking at any great length about me. Makes me uncomfortable."

Duo suddenly realized they'd crossed over into potentially dangerous territory. "Why?"

"You know why, Duo."

And he did. The degree to which he paid attention to Wufei -- his moods, mannerisms and his body -- made the dragon uncomfortable. He didn't think he deserved the time spent on such idle observation. Duo disagreed. Watching Wufei, especially now they were... more involved than before, was one of his favorite things to do. Since he was hardly ever able to get Wufei alone, observation and fantasizing was about all he could get. Plus, of course, memories of their few encounters in Wufei's room, in the library bathroom, in the empty Pets isle at the grocery store, up against the... Duo forced his brain to blank, and focused his body on the task of sprinting up the hill.

Their eyes narrowed, arms fiercely pumping, legs churning in the soft earth. Duo's legs were longer, but Wufei was faster, so they reached the crest at almost the same time, both gasping for breath, Duo's grin wide and slightly predatory. "Beat you."

"Did not," Wufei responded, bent over, hands on his knees.

"Did too."

"In your dreams, Maxwell. I was clearly ahead of you."

"Not from my angle, you weren't"

"And what angle was-"

"I think I deserve a victory prize. What do I get?" He watched the dragon straighten, a retort on his lips, but then he realized how close Duo stood and onyx eyes grew wide in surprise. Duo inhaled deeply, catching the scent of pines, mud from the pond at the bottom of the hill and Wufei's fresh sweat. They stood face-to-face, silent and unsure.

"You didn't win," Wufei finally said.

Duo looked down at his feet and took another step closer, the dragon reflexively stepping back. He looked back up into wary and slightly suspicious eyes. "Will you just say I did and let me pick my prize?"

The dragon swallowed, resolve clearly weakening. "No, because you didn't win."

"How 'bout a tie?" Duo took another step closer, reaching out and laying his hand flat on the damp fabric directly over Wufei's heart. He could hear the muscle beating frantically against ribs.

"Y-you know you never answered my question."

"What question."

"From Winner's mansion, in the closet, that day."

"That was a fun day: theft, a fight and 30 minutes locked in a small dark space with you. Just about the perfect day, actually." They were slowly backing up into a grove of trees, Duo's view of the park changing to large oaks all around him and a sweating, glowing Wufei in front of him.

"I said... I'd feel better if you had a reason for wanting... and you said you'd think about it. But you haven't really said anything since then, even though we've been together a few times since..."

Duo removed his hand from Wufei's chest, momentarily uncomfortable. "Oh, right. That." He looked away up into the trees and tried to sort out thought from instinct. He wanted to push Wufei up against one of these conveniently located trees and run his hands along as much of that coppery skin as he could. He didn't want to have to explain why he wanted to do it. He didn't want to delve into the reasons for wanting intimate contact with his loyal friend, flat-mate and coworker. He just...

"I don't want to talk about it," he said finally, watching Wufei quickly bury his initial hurt at those words. "I just... there's no need for a 'why' right now, is there?" He reached tentative fingers around Wufei's waist, touching his stomach and hip bone. The dragon shivered. "Wufei... it's you. What more of an explanation do you need?"

Duo was rewarded with a rare smile, and he took another small step forward. This time, Wufei did not back away, but drew their bodies together. Duo's senses were suddenly overloaded with slick skin, the sharp tang of sweat and the soft, warm breath of his dragon lover. He didn't particularly know what Wufei wanted from him and he sure as hell didn't know what he wanted from Wufei, but... this was good. How much could they logically ask for, anyway? They were hustlers, for god's sake. A real relationship, whatever that was, would only bring disappointment and hurt for both of them. And Duo didn't want to see that in Wufei's eyes. They had to keep this casual. No strings.

He dropped to his knees in front of his friend, reaching up to tug on the waistband of Wufei's track pants. He started to pull down, but strong hands took hold of his and stilled them.

"Duo-"

"Come on, Wu."

"I-"

"You know it'll be good."

"You don't have to do that for me."

Duo looked down at his knees, suddenly embarrassed. Couldn't he do anything right? What were they supposed to do as lovers if not this? Those strong hands pulled him to his feet and he looked into expressive obsidian eyes. Those eyes examined him closely, without hesitation, until Duo flushed and had to look away. Those eyes wanted...

"Would you kiss me again?" Wufei asked quietly. Duo laughed nervously and nodded, feeling oddly relieved. Resting his elbow on Wufei's shoulder, he pushed the dragon's knit cap off his head and leaned in to nip at his earlobe. He took in another breath of his lover's scent and licked the sweat from his neck. Wufei's arm went around his waist and pulled him closer, against wiry muscle and smooth skin. Duo smiled into their kiss.

So... no strings. He wondered just what counted as a string, anyway.

[part 20] [part 22] [back to Singles a-k]