By: Sintari
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Tangled Up in Blue + Part 2
Ways to Bleed

The tradition of the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.
­ Karl Marx

Thump. Thump. Duo groggily opened his eyes. The trick from the night before ­ what was it? Matt? Todd? was naked beside him and drooling on his 800 thread count sheets. Disgusting.

Thump. Thump. Somebody was knocking, no pounding, on his door on a Saturday morning. Fuck! Alright already. He pulled on the same pair of black jeans from the night before, buttoning them haphazardly. Todd, that was it, his mouth still wide open against the pillow, snored loudly but didn't wake. Duo smoothed his bangs down with one hand and absently tightened the tie on the end of his braid. Then he straightened out the cheap silver cross pendant that Quatre had given him back when the religious symbol still held some meaning for both of them. The chain always managed to get tangled up in the hair at the nape of his neck while he slept, but he never took it off.

At last, peering sleepily through his peephole, Duo's violet eyes narrowed at the sight on the other end.

With a grimace, he threw the door open wide.

"Mother."

"Duo." Miriam Maxwell McNally's make-up was immaculate as usual. She wore a dove-gray suit with a strand of pearls at her throat. Her blonde-with-a-little-help hair was teased into a severe style he had never seen before but was certain had originally appeared on the head of another, more senior, Senator's wife. Mrs. Capitol Hill, 2004.

Two matching sets of violet eyes sized each other up. Under that critical gaze, Duo had to quash the urge to re-button his pants appropriately, and then go put on a shirt. And tuck it in. Instead he stretched, ending with his arms behind his head. His mother's eyes widened and for a moment he thought his small display of yoga was causing her to choke on her own tongue. 'Maybe she's finally kicking off...'

A startled yelp from behind him clued him in to the real reason for his mother's alarm. A stark naked Todd was retreating, hands in the air, back to Duo's bedroom.

"Mother, Todd. Todd, Mother," Duo remembered his all-important etiquette as his mother visibly whitened.

She opened her mouth to speak, shut it, and then opened it up again. "It's not enough that you choose this lifestyle..." She measured out each word, biting off the ends. "You have to flaunt it in front of me. What if Bayard had been with me?"

"You're the one who showed up without calling," he pointed out matter-of-factly, matching her cold tone. "And The Senator wouldn't dare be seen here. He's made that perfectly clear."

They took each other in for another long minute. Miriam cracked first. Her words were meant to offer comfort, her cold tone was not. "Duo, you're not happy like this. If you would just accept Jesus Christ into your heart..."

"What the fuck do you care if I'm happy?" It wasn't like Duo Maxwell to lose his cool like this, but Miriam Maxwell was one of the few people who knew what buttons to push. "What are you here for anyway? A god damned campaign contribution? I'll get my checkbook." He stomped over the hardwood floor.

His mother sagged against the doorway, as if her muscles had turned to water. "Your father would be so disappointed. You're not acting like a man..." She seemed to realize she had said too much, and stopped.

Duo froze. Then he turned around. Ever. So. Slowly. His eyes focused on the woman in the doorway with a singularity that left room for nothing else.

"Get. Out."

"Duo..."

"Get out!" he shouted, his voice ragged with emotion.

When Miriam McNalley's shadow darkened the door no longer, a now dressed Todd tentatively stepped out of the bedroom. "You, too." Duo jerked his thumb toward the door.

Todd scooted out without asking if they could see one another again. Good. Duo would have said no. He always said no. He was legendary for saying no. But it didn't stop people from trying. The more optimistic among his one night stands lay face down on the mattress beneath him and called it love. They shouldn't have. It felt good to sate his lust inside a different man each night. It did. But underlying the moans, and the screams, and the thrusts was always that same lilting mantra. Fuck you, Dad. Fuck you, Mother. Fuck you, Bayard. Fuck you all. And in that sweat-slicked moment when his lust came to fruition, he could believe for one crystal-clear second that all the pain of the past would go away, seeping out of him like blood from a freshly opened vein. In that one second, he was free.

Duo Maxwell lived for that second.

The huge apartment empty now, Duo fumbled with the phone, hitting #1 on the speed dial. It rang once and then he heard his best friend's voice on the other end.

"Quatre..." was all he could bring himself to say.

A deep breath on the other end of the line. "Your mother's been there, hasn't she? Don't move. I'll be right there."

Quatre didn't bother to offer Otto any coffee before he left.

+

Quatre let himself in to Duo's apartment with his copy of the key. The light in the front room was on but Duo wasn't there, nor was he on the spacious leather couch or in the spotless stainless steel and glass kitchen. Quatre's eyes fell on the 3x5 photograph of Mitch Maxwell that hung oddly in one corner of the living room. If you weren't familiar with the room, you might miss it. And it was not like Duo to keep such sentimental objects. There rest of the décor was perfectly matched, with geometrically shaped knick-knacks and objects d'art that had come as a set with the expensive furniture. The place was a showpiece. But if you tried to find a touch of Duo in the art hanging on the walls or the whimsical placement of a chair, you wouldn't. Except the 3x5 in it's dollar-store frame. Quatre remembered it sitting on Duo's bedside table at the rent-controlled flea-trap where Miriam and Duo had lived when they first moved to Solomon. And in the same spot in Duo's room at Bayard McNalley's Victorian in downtown Solomon, it's cheap frame and its contents like an imperfection on the antique furniture. The few times Quatre had gone to visit Duo's college dorm, he remembered the picture perched precariously on the corner of his tiny desk. And it had been one of the first things to go up on the wall when Quatre and Duo had moved him into this huge uptown apartment. Quatre paused a moment to really look at the picture for the first time in years. It was so ever-present it had become a part of the background, like the plant in the corner that you don't see until it wilts.

It could have been Duo standing there, leaning against the tail gate of an old pickup truck, Quatre realized for the first time. Only instead of the long braid, Duo's father wore his hair in a 70's shag. Mitch Maxwell was brandishing a dark brown beer bottle, his head was thrown back and he was looking off camera, as if toasting someone. His face bore the exact same smug grin that Duo's often did. That look that said, "I've got you right where I want you." Obviously not well off, the man in the picture wore a flannel work shirt and tight blue jeans that were worn out at the knees and pockets. Quatre realized for a moment that he had been running his eyes over the muscles in Mitch Maxwell's thighs and gave a shudder at the thought of being attracted to such a man, even for a moment. No matter how much he looked like Duo.

The real Duo was in his bedroom, flung across the bed. He held a bottle of Jim Beam in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other in what, if it hadn't been Duo, would have seemed like a caricature of misery. Quatre gently lifted the bottle out of one hand, and put the cigarette out in an ash tray on the nightstand. Then he climbed into the bed with his friend and snaked an arm around his shoulder, careful to adjust the braid so that it didn't pull.

Duo nuzzled his face into Quatre's neck. For a moment, Quatre thought his friend was being playful, until he felt the wetness glide down his neck and pool in the hollow between his neck and collar bone.

"Take it like a man, son" he heard Duo mutter, hot breath skating along his shoulder. And so he knew what Duo was remembering. And now there was nothing to do but wait. They sat there in the dark room for hours.

Clinging together for dear life.

+

That night at Tangle, when Duo hadn't shown up and Wufei asked him, for what must have been the thousandth time, why he let Duo treat him this way, Quatre just shrugged, thought back to the sting of Duo's tears as they trickled down his neck, and couldn't think of a thing to reply.

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