see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Toothpicks! + Part 2
The rain was still warm, as
it never truly did cool down much, particularly in August. There was more
of a wind than before, and it started cooling things down by a few degrees,
which was more than fine with Duo as he leapt off the top stair of his
front porch, sprinted across the wet grass and into the street. There
was just something about being able to run in the rain in the middle of
the night that always put him at ease when nothing else could and for
a long time, he thought there was nothing better. Then, he discovered
After sneaking through the Nelson's yard to the alley, he stooped to pick
up a small handful of large pebbles from the gravel area outside a small
fenced yard. Taking careful aim, he threw one at the window, bouncing
it hard off the screen. The result was a soft, yet audible tap against
the glass behind it. He waited a few moments, then repeated the process.
Five rocks later, the window flew open, and Chang WuFei glared down at
the back yard, and his friend. "What?"
"C'mon out!" Duo called to him.
"Are you" the Chinese teen began, then dropped his voice dramatically,
refusing to wake his parents and disturb the neighbors, unlike Duo. "Are
you insane? It's pouring out there."
Duo grinned and spread his arms wide, tilting his head back and executing
a slow twirl in the sodden grass. "I know! Isn't it great?"
"Would you keep it down? There are people trying to sleep," WuFei scowled.
Duo still had yet to learn that not everyone stayed up until all hours
of the night, and therefore, he wasn't the most considerate of people
Duo's response was a wicked grin. "Then come play with me, Wu!" he demanded
"Keep it down! I'm serious!"
"Come out with me, then!"
There was an exaspirated sigh from the upstairs window and it shut abruptly.
The blue-eyed teen grinned to himself and padded over to the back porch,
waiting with an expectant smile. Sure enough, the door was yanked open
moment later by a rather unhappy looking WuFei. "And for the last fucking
time, Duo, would you quit calling me `Wu'?" he hissed quietly, sitting
down on the porch to pull on his shoes.
"I only tease you because I love you," Duo flirted shamelessly. He knew
that WuFei didn't take him seriously on the subject, so he couldn't resist
using it to his advantage every now and again. "Ne, why are you putting
those on?" He reached down and plucked the runners from the other boy's
hands and tossed them back into the house, wincing slightly when they
thudded heavily against the hallway wall.
"Duo! What the--" WuFei objected as he was pulled to his feet and out
into the rain.
"Come on!" the braided teen urged, tugging his friend out into the alley,
heedless of the rocks in the small gravel driveway.
"Ouch! Dammit, Maxwell... " WuFei cursed, picking his way over the sharp
rocks. The other thing his friend hadn't quite grasped was the fact that
most people wore shoes, and consequently didn't have thick callouses on
the soles of their feet.
"Don't be a pussy," Duo snickered, half-dragging WuFei behind him onto
the side street and up to the next, where there certainly wasn't any traffic,
particularly not so late at night.
"What?!" WuFei hated it when Duo read Stephen King; he started using old
slang and got wild ideas about following the train tracks that ran parallel
to their streets, several blocks up. Thankfully, there was a shortage
of dead bodies, or God only knows what the long-haired maniac would come
up with. It was bad enough when he spent hours holed up in his upstairs
bedroom with Quatre, plotting out wild ideas that would make most grown
men whimper in fear.
"You heard me," Duo cackled. "Pussy."
"I'm going to burn that book of yours," WuFei threatened for the umpteenth
"Of course you will," the American laughed. That was impossible; WuFei
loved books as much as he did. "Now get ready!"
Duo rolled his eyes. For someone as smart as WuFei was, there were times
he could be so incredibly dense. "Race you to school," he quipped with
a wink, turned and began running down the warm asphalt in the middle of
"Duo! You little shit!" WuFei yelped, immediately giving chase after the
laughing idiot that was already half a block away. He should have known.
The next few minutes were spent with Duo laughing like a kid, splashing
in the rain, kicking up gouts of water at his much better dressed friend,
and WuFei making grabs at Duo's rope of hair, threatening to strangle
the loudmouth with it. There was no real reason to worry about waking
anyone on the street; most everyone was used to the roaring thunder that
shook entire houses, so not much ever woke them at all. They were neck
and neck with each other when they finally hit the grounds of the local
high school and with a final burst of energy, WuFei leapt and tackled
his friend, both of them landing in the muddy grass with a squish.
Duo landed first with a surprised "oof!", followed by a monosylable grunt
as WuFei's weight thudded down on him a moment later. WuFei smirked and
planted a kiss on his nose before rolling away and sprinted off to the
usual place they hung out under some eves on a large platform of sandstone
near one of the wing doors of the building.
In turn, the longhaired boy twitched and watched WuFei run off. For someone
who spent the majority of his time being so incredibly serious, there
were brief moments when the Chinese teen would display the strangest sense
of humor. It was those times when Duo never knew what to think of his
friend; no one else had ever seemed to have seen this side of the other
boy and the fact both pleased and disturbed him at the same time.
"Well, that was just fucking weird of you," the braided teen remarked,
sitting next to his friend with a soggy thud.
"Mm?" WuFei glanced out of the corner of his eye at Duo.
"You kissed me on the nose," he complained, shoving at the stronger boy.
WuFei turned fully, face deadpan, black eyes boring into the widened blue
of his friend's. "What, you want me to try again and kiss lower?" he asked.
"I... " Duo stammered, blushing furiously. "That's not funny, dude."
He shrugged. "I just thought you'd want me to, is all," the Chinese boy
responded. "If I'm wrong, I appologize."
"Wha... who told you?!" the paler boy demanded.
"I told her to keep her mouth shut," he swore.
"Well, you know Hilde," WuFei said with another shrug.
Duo nodded miserably. He'd known the dark-haired girl for most of his
life and knew that on top of being a romantic, she was also a ruthless
matchmaker. He wouldn't have even let her know, but she had known him
all-too-well from the years they spent together and she knew just what
questions to ask, so as to find out any secret from him. Sometimes he
cursed his inablility to lie, since it normally ended in Hilde knowing
some pretty interesting things about him.
They sat in companionable silence for a while before WuFei turned and
pulled a brick out of the wall behind them, pulled out a pack of cigarettes,
lit two and handed one to the brooding boy beside him. "Don't be too pissed
at her," he commented, smoke dancing around him in blue-gray wisps before
disappearing in the updrafts above them. "She just thought that I had
the right to know."
"Well, she shouldn't have said anything!" Duo snapped, taking a long drag
off the Kamel. "I told her not to tell you and I thought she'd keep her
word on that."
"So you thought I shouldn't have the right to know when my best friend
has feelings for me?" the other boy asked in an infuriatingly calm voice
that grated on Duo's nerves. "My best male friend, at that?"
"Yeah, so now you're totally grossed out and you're gonna tell me that
shit doesn't fly with you so I'd better get out of your sight," he retorted,
"I didn't say that," WuFei informed him. "You always jump to conclusions."
"And I'm damn near always right," Duo hissed.
"Well this time, all you're doing is getting yourself worked up over words
you put in my mouth, and I don't appreciate it," the dark-haired boy stated
"No, but I don't appreciate being ignored and avoided for three days,
either," he railed, exhaling sharply. "That was when she told you, wasn't
it? When we were all hanging out at Trowa's roleplaying."
"Yes," he replied simply. "Duo, you have always been honest with me and
I feel it is only fair that I be honest with you."
Duo swallowed hard. He knew that he would be rejected, which is why he
had never made any moves on WuFei or indicated in any way that he felt
differently for the Chinese boy than any of their other friends. He knew
that WuFei would try to be tactful as he could about it, but it was still
going to hurt. He nodded and wished that he was at home where he could
try and swipe some liquor without his parents noticing. Granted, they
probably would, but it would be worth the questioning and possible punishment
WuFei finished his cigarette, gathering his thoughts. He'd spent the last
three days pondering how he was going to deal with the information he'd
been given after a marathon session of the game they were testing for
Trowa before he attempted to submit it to a few companies. The admission
had shocked him and he had felt rather uncomfortable with the knowledge
at first. He told Duo that, being careful to monitor his friend's reactions
from the corner of his vision.
"It just seemed rather odd to me, since I had never considered the possibility,"
he clarified, shaking his head. "I wasn't aware anyone would have been
interested at any time."
"But you always tell me about girls like Sally that you kinda like...
"Please don't interupt, Duo." It was hard for him to talk about his feelings,
particularly when the subject of the pretty upperclassman was brought
up. He'd had a crush on Sally Po for a while, although he knew that she
was very much not interested in anyone but her boyfriend of five years,
Abdul. "What I am trying to say is that I think perhaps I was more shocked
by the knowledge that someone liked *me*, rather than who, although *that*
was certainly a kick in the teeth."
Duo fidgeted slightly. It was true that neither of them were very popular
at all in school, but certainly he wasn't the only one that had noticed
the athletic sloe-eyed boy beside him! There was so much to see there;
intelligence, a quick wit and sarcastic sense of humor that boardered
on pure cynicism, a talent for music and written word, the ability to
listen and understand without explanation. He was a calming effect to
Duo's reckless energy and the American admitted many times that it was
purely WuFei alone that kept him grounded some days. He was one of the
only people that Duo felt completely safe with in silence and conversation
both; conversations about things he would never tell another soul, living
"You never treated me any differently than the others and even when we
were alone, you never gave me any indication," WuFei continued. "If I
thought about it, I would very probably be angry with you for lying to
me that way. You have told me everything else that has crossed your mind
since we were ten years old, whether I wanted to hear it or not. Christ,
you told me all about your seventh grade physical! In excruciating detail!"
"That nurse's hands were freezing!" Duo defended. After all these years,
it still gave him the heebie jeebies to think about people in latex gloves
with cold hands feeling around down *there*, inspecting his boys.
"So I began to wonder," WuFei continued, as though he hadn't heard his
friend's interuption. "Why you wouldn't tell me something this important.
I have never turned you away for any observation in the past and I couldn't
understand why you felt you couldn't tell me this little thing. And the
only conclusion I can come to bothers me." Here, he turned his head to
look Duo in the eyes. "Duo... are you afraid of me?"
He had to stop and think about that. Was he afraid of WuFei? Physically,
he knew that the slightly shorter boy could overpower him through sheer
muscle and martial arts prowess. And there were things they spoke of together;
things that other people wouldn't understand. Thoughts and speculations
that stepped over the line of dark into disturbing. Would either of them
truly be capable of the things they spoke of in hushed tones? Was he really,
honestly afraid of his best friend?
"Wu... WuFei," Duo began, trying to hide the tremor in his voice. "There's
not an easy answer to that. Sure, you can kick my ass and all that, but
I don't think that's the kind of fear I feel. I don't even think that
I would ever have to worry about you purposely hurting me, ever. But what
I am afraid of... "
He took a breath. It was now or never. "What I'm scared of, `Fei, is the
thought that you won't be my friend anymore. I'm terrified of losing you."
He looked down to the platform, evidence of snubbed out tobacco streaking
the pockmarked stone beneath them. "I really don't know what I'd do without
you. I mean, half the time, I want nothing to change at all... but sometimes,
I just want to hold you and not let go." His breath hitched in his chest
and he tried to still it. The last thing he needed was to do something
stupid like cry.
"I never knew you felt that way," WuFei told him simply. That was something
that he was going to need to process. "I don't know how to respond to
that at all. I wish I did."
Duo shook his head. "Don't worry about it, man. We can just forget all
"No." WuFei crawled onto his hands and knees, leaning toward his friend.
"No, we can't forget all about it. Maybe you can, but *I* can't."
"I can't either and that's the problem!" the blue-eyed teen cried. "I
can't just put you out of my mind. I always thought that I liked girls...
I'm supposed to like girls and I do... but I like you, too. I want to
know what it's like to hold you, to be held, and fall asleep."
"You do know," WuFei pointed out quietly.
Duo blinked and remembered the night when WuFei had been spending the
night shortly after they had started spending time together. Mr and Mrs.
Chang had been out of town for a conference and the Maxwells had opened
their doors to the quiet boy for the weekend. In the middle of the night,
Duo had woken to the sound of sobbing and found his friend curled in a
corner of the large bed they were sharing, wrapped around a pillow, trying
to muffle his sobs. Duo crawled over to ask what was wrong and had found
himself clung to by the other boy as the tale of why he left the private
school rushed out between uneven gulps of air and tears.
>>He had been walking away from Sylvia Noventa after an argument
over the project their class was doing for a local art show and from nowhere,
an old primer-colored Thunderbird roared around the corner near the school,
going far over the twenty-mile an hour speed limit for the area. Windows
had been rolled down previously and all he saw was two men in ski masks
leaning out above the doors with semiautomatic weapons. They began firing
and the strange sounds echoed everywhere. Other children began screaming
and some hit the ground immediately. Others ran while teachers tried desperately
to control the situation. All he could do was stand there, terrified.
He remembered the sharp smell of earth; the smell of fear.
The blond girl fell quickly, as she couldn't do much against the bullets
as the ripped her clothing apart, spattering blood everywhere, covering
his left side. When she fell to the ground, a few last rounds had been
fired and there was a loud ping nearby. The ricochet off the monkey bars
should have hit him. It nearly did hit him. But instead, Ron Meiran hit
him first, pushing him to the ground. He felt the sharp sting of skin
ripping on his palms, gravel embedding itself into his hands and knees,
ripping his pants. The shock of hitting the ground on four points alone
sent shocks of pain into his arms and legs and he turned to yell at her
for pushing him.
She was a bully and had always enjoyed teasing him, but this time, he
was angry enough that he really was going to tell her that was enough.
But when he turned, she fell on him, her dark eyes wide. He reflexively
caught her and lowered her to her knees beside him. Her small hands clutched
at the front of his ruined white dress shirt and her mouth worked soundlessly,
a strange gurgling sound coming from her throat. She coughed and a bubble
of blood exploded on her lips, spraying his face and getting in his eyes.
He cried out and pushed her away, trying to blink the foreign substance
from his vision and was suddenly moved away from her by the kindergarten
teacher, Mrs. Darlian as his own teacher, Mr. Otto tried to help Sylvia.
He watched as the blonde woman attempted to get any response from Meiran,
but it was too late. Even CPR was useless to a dead child, no matter how
badly he wanted it to be a lie. Kids just didn't die. It wasn't real in
his mind at the moment. Not until the ambulance came and the Emergency
Medical Technicians tried to move the still body of the pigtailed girl
away and they couldn't without cutting away part of his shirt, because
they couldn't get Meiran's fist to open.
He asked why... he remembered asking why over and over. When they told
him she was dead, he refused to believe it. He just knew it was one of
her tricks. She was always playing them and adults always believed her.
He pushed at her, then yelled, then actually slapped her to get her to
let go, even though he was probably going to get detention for it, or
worse, and his parents would certianly have grounded him for hitting a
girl. But when his hand laid across her cheek and he realized just how
cold her skin was, he looked closer. Her eyes were glassy and hadn't been
closed, so they patially stared up at the impossibly blue sky, although
they were slightly rolled up into the sockets, giving an eerie appearance
that disturbed him. Her lips were a strange shade of purple-blue, particularly
at the corners and they hung open, slack and she wasn't moving. She truly
wasn't moving. She wasn't breathing. She wasn't blinking, or breaking
out into a smile, or responding to his verbal abuse then finally his acquiesence
of her self-proclaimed nickname he always told her was so stupid. If calling
her Nataku would get her to stop, he would call her that. Anything to
make her stop scaring him.
But in the end, he merely sat there, Mrs. Darlian wrapping him in her
blazer after his shirt had been left in shreds from being cut apart. He
tried calling after her... Nataku ... she had to answer him... but she
never did and he finally sank back against the sobbing woman who held
him close, stroking his baby fine black hair, rocking him slightly. That
was the last thing he remembered before waking in his bed three days later.
And then, months later, he woke again with that strange feeling of loss
and fear and helplessness cutting off his breathing in a strange house,
his parents miles away. He tried desperately to make his heart stop hammering
so loudly, since he just knew it was going to wake up Duo and he didn't
want the other boy to tease him for being a crybaby. But apparently he
wasn't quiet enough, because he felt the other boy crawl up behind him
and ask what was wrong. He couldn't answer; his throat was closed off
by tears and snot and all he could do was turn and cling to his friend,
trying desperately to hold himself together.
In the end, Duo merely put his own arms around the terrified boy, laying
down next to him. WuFei had been absolutely certain that it had been the
smaller, skinnier boy that had actually kept him from breaking into a
thousand pieces caused by the shrapnel from his own heart and he slowly
succumbed to sleep, safe in the arms of someone who didn't laugh. From
that moment, he realized that Duo would never laugh. And he never had.<<
"That was different," Duo said, shaking his head again. "We were kids
and I didn't feel that way about anyone. You were hurting and scared.
There was nothing remotely attraction-based there. You needed me and I
"Then that shouldn't change if you did it again now," WuFei told him matter-of-factly.
"But this time, you need me and I'll be here." Before Duo could say more,
WuFei crawled closer, sat beside his friend and gathered the braided boy
into his arms.
Duo struggeld slightly against the stronger teen and pushed against WuFei's
chest. "No! You don't understand! This is different! This time, I do feel
attracted to you."
"How is it that different? There is comfort to be had and if I can offer
it to you, then I will," the Chinese boy argued. "I don't have a problem
with you being this close to me; I never have. And if that's what you
want, then I can do that for you."
"Could you really?" The American's voice was bitter. "I don't think you
could possibly give me what I really want, `Fei and that's the problem.
You aren't understanding what I need from you."
WuFei hauled Duo up so they could look one another in the eyes. "Then
make me understand. Talk to me and tell me what you want. Tell me what
you need." Duo shuddered slightly and he glanced up at the sky. There
was no sign of the rain letting up and the wind was picking up more. "Let's
go to your house and get you dried off. You can tell me everything there,
okay?" He stood and pulled the reluctant boy to his feet.
"Bring the cigarettes with," Duo requested. "I'm almost out and we'll
"What about the carton in your desk?" WuFei asked, carefully wrapping
the pack in a sandwich bag and placing in back in the deep hole they'd
found by accident one night months before. Technically, there was no tobacco
allowed on school grounds, but what wasn't known wouldn't hurt anyone.
Not too many people even bothered with the area under the lighted eves.
Most weren't small enough and the few that were didn't tend to want to
crawl up into a place that was likely near impossible to get to in the
"Forgot about that," the chestnut-haired boy admitted, crouching on his
feet, crawling over to the edge and lowering himself off the ledge. "Never
WuFei nodded and climbed down after him, and they made their way through
the sheets of warm rain, not speaking. The silence was still comfortable
and although Duo felt his guts knotting, he knew that all he could do
was get home, dried off and then ready to explain everything to the beautiful
teen beside him.
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