Pairings: 2+3, mentioned 1x2x1 and 3x4x3
Summary: Sometimes running is all you can do to stay. Post EW.
Warnings: Some bad words, and an unhappy and lost Duo.
Disclaimer: The Gundam Wing characters and the world they live in are
the property of Bandai, Sunrise, Sotsu Agency and related parties. I own
nothing. No profit is gained from this story, and no copyright infringement
is intended or implied.
[ note: third
in my hallowed tradition of angst for x-mas
The soft tones
from the radio almost drown in the growl of the engine and the rumble
of tires against black asphalt. It's late, the witching hour has come
and gone, and the houses we're passing are dark. All normal people are
sleeping by now. But you and me, Trowa, we're not. We're not sleeping.
And we're certainly not normal.
We're in our usual places, you hunched behind the wheel, me curled up
against the passenger door, and it's comforting in a strange way. Comforting,
because this is something we share, and strange, because we were never
close, at least not in the way most people define close. But close or
not, here we are, joined in battle just like before.
Only this time it's different. This time there are no Gundams, no explosions,
no missions, no bullets whistling around our ears. This time it's all
about surviving without those things, trying to steer away from the destruction
that was our path for so long. And above all, it's about resisting the
urge to get up and start walking and never, ever come back.
The voices in my head beg for it; they plead for space and speed and all
things far away from here, and I've found myself at the spaceport, standing
by the big windows unsure how I ended up there. I stay there for hours
and watch the runways, the ground crews, the shuttles taking off, and
there's an ache in me to put on my best smile and scam my way through
security (would be easy enough) and simply go. Anywhere. North, south,
east, west. It wouldn't matter as long as that anywhere isn't here.
But in the end I never do. I know it's the same for you, Trowa. We both
have ties to this dreary place that are stronger than our need to move
on. So we do what we must to stay sane. Sane-ish. These nightly drives
of ours dull the sharpest edges, soothe the most aching restlessness.
But it's never enough in the long run.
A steady pulse of street lamps passes in the darkness outside, caressing
us both without touch. It's a poor substitute for the touch I want, the
touch I need, but in the absence of the real thing I close my eyes and
pretend. I pretend his fingers are touching my face, my lips, moving slowly
down my neck, curling around the braid. I pretend we're alone and he's
pressing up against me, warm, so warm, easing the chill inside a little.
I hardly remember what started the fight this time. Some insignificant
little detail, I'm sure. Lately it's been real hard to explain even to
myself why the hell we still stick together, me and Heero. But when I
get some distance from it all, from the fighting, the unjustified anger,
the corrosive little circles my mind gets stuck in, I still see why. I
see that we're right in this. I see that what we have is still worth holding
on to. Even if it drives us both insane sometimes.
I had hoped we'd get our lives straightened out after we sent the Gundams
into the sun. We haven't. If possible things are even worse now. There's
nothing to blow up to get rid of latent aggressions, for one. Sometimes
it hits me, am I freaking out because I've never known consistency before?
Safety used to be constant movement. Safety used to be never trusting
anyone. Not even yourself.
It was a crazy time, but despite the madness that was our life back then
things were easier. At least between me and Heero. Not easy. Nothing is
ever easy with him. But easier. More straightforward. It was simply a
way to bleed off tension, a way to get rid of all the biochemical crap
that still swamped your blood stream when the mission was over and done
with. We used each other.
We rarely spoke a word when we got together back then. Barely even touched.
That's just how it was; time and energy were precious things. It was quick
and desperate and all about the physical, and that was okay. I wasn't
really looking for something else. No promises. No complications. Easy.
But as I've found out the hard way, life doesn't do easy. And somewhere
along the line I realized I was aching for something more. But I know
bad timing when I see it, so when he'd come, silently, always silently,
wrapping his fingers in my hair so tightly it hurt, I'd bite down on the
words that wanted to escape. And they were words all about want and need
and impossible things I couldn't have.
I kept a low profile, didn't do anything to change what we had. But things
changed anyway, slowly, unnoticeably, and I'd like to think he was the
one who led the way. It went from a matter of physical gratification to
something else, something more, something worth holding on to. Something
infinitely more complicated. And these days it's all about that, complications.
I'm no breeze to live with, I know that, and Heero has about a million
issues of his own to deal with. And the bottom line is: I don't know what
hell we're doing. I get scared sometimes when it hits me that maybe we're
still doing the same old thing. Still just using each other.
Heero changed after the war. We all changed in different ways, some good,
some maybe not so good, and some outright bad. But I guess outliving what
people have drummed into you to be the sole reason for your existence
would seriously fuck with anyone's head. He didn't fall apart, no, but
suddenly it was up to me to take charge, to lead and find the way for
us both. For a while there I thought I could do it. For a while I thought
it would work out, that things would settle down and we'd find a balance.
But guess what, Heero is still who he is, and I'm still who I am, and
we fight our pasts everyday. He tries to shed the soldier persona, to
find his way back to himself. And I try to survive in a world where none
of the people I used to be are welcome any longer.
I uncurl myself and stretch in the cramped space. Reaching over I dial
through the radio frequencies, more out of habit than from some real wish
to change the station. Muted voices, music, hissing white noise roll past.
I settle for another melancholic tune and lean back again. It's the only
thing that plays this time of night. I should know, I've spent my share
of sleepless nights with the radio as my only comfort.
I didn't have nightmares back then. I mean, sure, it happened, but they
were pretty rare. These days I can't close my eyes without seeing reruns
of my bloodiest deeds in goddamn Technicolor. I know I'm fucked up. Even
if people didn't keep telling me that, I'd still know. PTSD and a mild
case of manic-depression have been suggested to me, and yeah, I can see
how it might look like that. Now, more than ever, I bounce between extremes,
pushing and pulling at everyone and everything. But I've lived with that
for as long as I can remember, and I've already survived several trips
to hell and back without chewing down mood-altering pills, so I'm not
about to start now.
I find the crumpled cigarette pack in my pocket and shake one out. The
ritual of lighting it is executed per automation. I offer one to you,
but you just shake your head without taking your eyes off the road. The
smoke is raw as I inhale the first breath and hold it. Quatre looked at
me with those wide, surprised eyes of his when he first saw me with a
cigarette. Big fucking deal, Q, I've smoked since I was seven, and it
was often stuff lots heavier than this, don't look so damn shocked.
I hate it when I get crude with him, but lately I just can't help it.
I lash out at everyone. Heero and Wufei bite back with equal ferocity,
as do you, Trowa, my man. Sometimes, in the rare moments of clarity, I
see that we're like animals, going after each other's throats for the
smallest infraction. Quatre's the only one who doesn't. His eyes will
skitter a little before he looks away, and then he'll change the subject
to the weather or something. He always manages to make me feel like I've
just kicked a puppy or something. Dammit, I wish he'd just tell me to
go fuck myself when I get in his face. I know he's got it in him, he's
no little angel. There's just as much blood on his hands as there is on
mine. If he'd at least get mad at me from time to time I wouldn't feel
so bad. Actually, I take that back, I'd still feel like crap, I know I
I rest the side of my head against the cold window and watch the glass
fog up as my breath ghosts over it. I've tried to figure things out, tried
real hard for real long to find a way to repair things between me and
the rest of the world. But I can't seem to fix anything, and all I'm left
with is an ever-dwindling number of friends and the fact that the one
person who has grounded me in sanity for the past few years is drifting
away from me.
A flash of harsh, cold brightness suddenly lights up the darkness and
time fractures a little. White-hot heat rolls over my face, and echoes
of desperate, broken-up radio transmissions float through my head. The
heavy smell of ozone closes in, and it's a split-second trip to hell and
back until my mind registers the image of the lone truck that rumbled
past us in the opposite direction.
I wet my dry lips and try to force my heart rate to slow down. I hate
this. Hate that my head betrays me, hate that I've completely lost any
ability to screen sensory inputs. I keep going to red alert on threats
that aren't real. I close my eyes again and try to find my center in the
one-note song of the engine, but sounds and thoughts keep interfering,
keep getting in the way. I used to be good at this. Used to be able to
grab the slightest opportunity of rest and just let go of every thought.
But that has changed. Everything has changed. I bury both hands in my
hair, and tug. Just hard enough to feel the dull sting in my scalp. Sometimes
I wonder if I'm the only one who feels lost. Totally. Fucking. Lost.
I never had any real plans about what I wanted to do after the war. Mainly
because I was pretty sure I wouldn't be alive by then. But even when I
made myself think about what might be, I always figured I'd find something.
I'd find a nice job, or go to school and get a degree, and try to make
something of my life. Try to forget what I learned and who I became.
Lord knows I've tried. I've tried for the past fifteen months to learn
how to live without a gun in my hand and a bounty on my head. I've tried
to figure out how to be a normal person. I never made it to school, but
if life were a class, I'd say I was looking at a resounding F. Rationally
I know I'm not the only one. Heero is just as messed up as me, but he
deals with it by burying himself in work and hedging away from the past
whenever it comes up. Sometimes I think that's part of our problem. We
simply remind each other too much of things we'd rather not remember.
Wufei seems to be doing a little better; he's back in school, working
part-time for some security company. But maybe he just appears okay because
I don't see him too often these days. He's the one who has drifted the
furthest. Not in terms of distance, he lives six blocks down, but in every
other possible way.
I take another long drag on the cigarette and watch the smoke rise through
half-closed eyes. Quatre is the one who tries to keep in touch with all
of us. He seems okay too. Guess all those shrink sessions are paying off.
I tried that, took Q's advice and went to see one of those counselors,
but I gave up after a few times. How the hell can anyone who wasn't there
possibly know what I'm talking about?
I shift and try to find an even remotely comfortable position, but it's
hard. After hours of immobility my body is itching to move. I finally
settle down with my shoulder propped up against the door, halfway turned
towards you. You, Trowa, you know what it's all about.
Your military surplus jacket is too large, the worn sleeves fall over
your hands. In the flickering light I see that the game face you wear
for the world to see has slipped away, and you're... here. A foot and
a half away. As long as I've known you, you've always had this distance
thing going to keep people out of your space. Even us, and I think you
consider us your friends. It feels strange to see you without that. Like
maybe I'm not supposed to.
I think you suddenly feel my eyes on you, because you frown and your right
hand comes up, pulling absently at your hair. You cut it a few months
ago, short, real short, and it looks to me like you're still not used
We don't talk much, you and me, not about the things that matter. But
I've tried to tell you how I envy you and Q. You just snort and cut me
off. But I do. Life hasn't been easy for you, and with all that's going
on in your head I think you top even yours truly in the complexity category,
my friend. But you keep trying, and what you two have is awkward and intense
and desperate, and too much and not enough all at the same time. It's
powerful in all its imperfection.
I love Heero as much as I know how to, but I don't think it's enough to
keep us from falling apart any longer. All this other crap has come in
The need to get out of the car comes out of nowhere.
"Pull over." My voice is hoarse after hours of silence.
You don't question it, just pull off to the side of the road, and as the
car rolls to a stop you kill the engine. The silence that closes in around
us is compact, much like when we would cut the power to our Gundams after
combat. I cram the cigarette pack back into my inner pocket, and my mind
still registers the absence of my gun. Not having it makes me feel edgy,
vulnerable, incomplete. I flash a joyless grin at nothing in particular.
Some kids have safety blankies. Me, I had an automatic. I push the door
The night air wastes no time invading the warm car. It's sharp like a
knife, making me shiver almost immediately. I curse under my breath and
pull the jacket closer around me. People ask what the deal is with me
and being cold. A street kid like me should be used to it, right? Yeah,
I was used to it. But you get unused to it real fast, and why the hell
shouldn't I hate it? I've frozen my ass off more times that I care to
remember, thank you very much.
I get out of the car not at all gracefully and stretch my stiff back.
I busted it real good during a re-entry, just before the end of the war.
The forward stabilizer system failed and I was thrown around like a damn
rag doll, cracked a couple of ribs, and was bruised black and blue. A
few weeks later I was back in business, and my back was fine. But now
it hurts all the time.
I flick the cigarette away, and it burns an amber trace through the darkness.
We've been out longer tonight than we usually are, and I bet certain people
are concerned. If I had gone alone, I'm pretty sure they would've been
out looking for me by now. Some misguided sense of responsibility. I want
to tell them not to worry, that the razor blades don't call to me like
they used to, but somehow I don't think they'd believe me, so I tell them
nothing at all.
Shoving my hands deep in my pockets I make a slow lap around the car.
The night is rich with the smell of rain and decomposing vegetation, and
it's dark out here. Dark and silent and cold. You have settled against
the hood, rubbing your hands together, trying to breathe some warmth into
them as I pass. I see you eyeing me, and I know you're playing that damn
mind game you do from time to time. You're picking me apart and putting
me back together, just to see if all the pieces are there. I think you'll
find the result pretty much the same as last time, Trowa. The pieces are
all there, it just feels like none of them are in the right place any
I come up around the car again. You're staring at the faint, distant lights
of yet another unknown city as I move past you, and I can tell your attention
has left me and turned inwards. Seems your mission tonight isn't to get
me to talk. I feel like a coward when relief washes over me. Yeah, believe
it or not, I actually prefer to keep my mouth shut from time to time.
Especially when the subject is moi. See, talking for the sake of other
people is simple, piece of cake, I just put my mouth on autopilot, and
tag along for the ride. I do it all the time. But talking for me? No,
that's not quite that simple.
I keep walking and time takes on the quicksilver feel that only comes
with the small hours, and I don't know how many times I've circled the
car when a tiny trace of fire, a meteorite, catches my eye, as it burns
across the black sky. I track it until it blinks out. You once told me
how you used to wish on falling stars when you were a kid, so I close
my eyes for a second, my feet still finding their way over the frosty
asphalt. Star light, star bright...
I wish I could find my way back to myself. I don't like the person I've
A hand comes out and grabs the sleeve of my jacket. My eyes fly open as
I stumble a little. "You're making me dizzy, walking in circles like
that," you say. Your voice is very quiet.
I shrug out of the grip; I can't stand being constrained these days. I
flash a quick, apologetic grin at you, but it dies on my lips when your
eyes meet mine. There's a bright, brittle shine in your eyes that startles
me. I've never seen you cry, Trowa. Not even during the terrible years.
We saw death and destruction and grief and pain and things so bad no one
should have to live with the memory, but I never saw you cry. I hate myself
for feeling a little comforted deep down that you're as miserable as I
am. Somehow it makes me feel like I'm not alone in the world.
Behind you, the horizon is shifting, and false dawn, the silent harbinger
of the new day, is gaining ground. I wait for you to say something, anything,
but you don't. You just keep looking at me, your breath a cloud of ragged
mist in the frigid air between us.
What are you looking for, Trowa? You should know by now that I have no
You pat the hood next to you, once. The warmth from the engine seeps through
my clothes as I slowly climb up on the hood. I pull one leg up under me
and start digging for the pack of cigarettes again. This time you hold
out your hand and ask silently for one. As you return the lighter, without
looking at me, your fingers brush against mine. They're cold as ice. You
scoot up and lean back against the windshield, burrowing down into your
You're biting your lip. I can see it quiver. The hand lifting the cigarette
to your lips is shaking too. Should I ask? Maybe that's what you want
Before I can make up my mind, you open your mouth and start to talk. You
don't look at me, and your words are hesitant at first, stumbling and
hushed, almost like you're scouting my reaction. I suppose I'm doing something
right, because you, the most close-mouthed person I've ever known, keep
talking. The morning closes in all around us, and I say nothing as you
finally tell me how you long for the road, how you mourn the past, and
fear the future, and how the guilt is slowly killing you. You tell me
how you can't function with Q, how you can't function without him, and
how you feel like you're losing your mind, losing yourself. You tell me
all this and it's like listening to myself.
I know you're not expecting me to hand you a happily-ever-after solution,
because we both know there is none.
We sit side by side; you talking, me listening, and eventually the first
pale rays of light find their way across the fields that spread around
us. Nothing has really changed from a few hours ago, but as the traffic
around us slowly picks up I realize it's time for me to go home. I know
things will be exactly as I left them, that nothing in my life is perfect,
but it's all I have. I just need to find a way to make it work. I want
to. I'm done running this time around.
But you're not. Not yet. Pulling my jacket closer around me in the rising
light I settle in for the wait. I will wait for as long as it takes, until
your demons are neatly boxed in and you've locked the pad lock and hidden
the key. Just like you have waited for me on numerous occasions.
We'll go home soon, but I know we'll be out here again. It's just a matter
of time. We both seem to need this running, this hiding to cope with ourselves,
but I'll be the first one to admit it terrifies me. Because what if. What
if this is as good as it will ever get? What if we're all are damaged
What if next time the road doesn't lead back home again?
© December 2003
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