By : Sunhawk

Conversations (cont)

It was just... so hard. They all reminded me of everything I had lost. Everything that had been taken from me.

I shivered again; the engine was starting to cool. Shifting, I pulled my legs up to my chest and settled my forehead on my knees, listening for the sounds of that tug coming back down the line with a ship in tow.


There are days that I...

A long time ago, I'd had dreams. I'd always believed that as long as you could dream, as long as you could see where you wanted to be... that somehow, you'd get there. It wouldn't always be quite what you thought it would be when you saw if from a distance... but you'd get there.

I didn't really have any dreams anymore. When I looked to the future... all I saw was more of today. Which shouldn't have been an altogether bad thing, but somehow it was... frightening. I mean... I had Heero, I had a roof over my head, I had a job. These were all good things. But I didn't have that dream. I wasn't working toward anything. I was just... existing.

Somehow that seemed kind of sad.

I heard the sound of a car coming down the access road about the same time I heard the whine of the tug engines, straining with the load, pulling a ship out of its hanger. I didn't bother to raise my head until I realized the car was slowing.

I gave very serious consideration to screaming.

The car stopped. Trowa got out. Rashid pulled away. I blinked stupidly.

Trowa stopped for a minute to survey the area, looking out across the field, looking at me. Then he walked calmly over and sat down on my hood next to me.

"You forgot your jacket," he said quietly and handed the thing to me without really looking my way. It took me a second, but I reached out and took it, slipping it on. It was deliciously warm from being in their car and it made me shiver almost violently. Trowa didn't comment, just nodded his head toward the ship trundling slowly across the field. "Is that a TH model or one of the XL's?"

I squinted across the way. "An XL-50," I told him. "Looks like the 'Star Shark' from the markings. Buck Kruger runs a kind of luxury passenger transport out to the colonies. For the rich and elite who think first class on a commercial flight isn't good enough. We all laughed at him when he came up with the idea, but he's making a fortune." I smiled faintly, remembering the argument we'd all had the night he'd announced it over at McMurphy's. I'd lost ten credits a month later when he had to start putting people on a waiting list. I didn't feel too bad about it though, Smitty had lost fifty.

We sat watching the ship make its slow way down the field in silence for a minute, then Trowa off-handedly said. "I brought the med-kit, when you're ready to do your hands."

I looked at him, but he just sat there, keeping his eyes on the tug and its burden.

"I'm so sorry I screwed up Quatre's party," I blurted.

Trowa snorted and grinned widely, sparing me a quick glance. "You certainly know how to liven things up, that's for sure."

I dropped my head back down on my knees, to hide it when I flushed darkly. "I feel like such a fucking moron," I groaned.

He dropped a hand on my shoulder and squeezed tight for a second. "Duo... it's not like anyone is mad at you. Just worried."

I rocked my head to the side, to peek out at him over my arm. "And that's better?"

He laughed, shifting to pull his legs up and sit cross-legged, dropping the afore-mentioned med-kit into his lap. "I suppose not," he agreed amiably.

"I hate that, Trowa," I told him, not sure what prompted me to. "All those people staring at me. Feeling sorry for me. I... just hate it."

His smile faded and he looked out across the field again. "I know, but it's the price you pay for having people care."

It was quiet for a bit then, his eyes tracking that tug, mine stealing covert glances at him. I really didn't know what to say to that.

"Can I call them?" he suddenly asked. "Just to ease their minds? I don't have to tell them where we are."

It rather surprised me, his asking first. And I realized with a start that if I said no, he wouldn't make the call at all.

"Yeah," I grudgingly agreed. "But... I'm not sure I'm ready to talk to anybody yet."

He nodded and slipped his hand into his coat pocket for his cell phone. I raised my head from my knees then, just staring at nothing while he dialed.

"Yeah," he said to the thing after an incredibly short number of rings. "It's me... I found him. Everything is... Quatre? Quatre.....? Yuy? What the hell...? He's fine. No, you may not. He is fine. He is with me. We'll be... Shut up, Yuy. We'll be back in a while. Hold on a minute..." He turned to me then, and said, "You want to go back to our place later, or the apartment?"

I almost groaned, thinking about going back home with him, wondering who all might still be there. I couldn't face all those damn people, but I wasn't sure how that would sound. I just looked at him, trying to formulate the words and he grinned.

"We'll go back to the apartment..." he said into the phone and I couldn't help the sigh of relief. "No, I will not... Shut up, Yuy. When we're damn good and ready, that's when. Goodbye." He hung up and shoved the phone back in his pocket.

I gaped at him for a minute and then started to laugh, it had that edge to it and I turned away from the look on his face to stare at nothing while I tried to push it down. A weight settled on my shoulders, but he didn't speak, just waited it out until I got it choked off.

"Pissed off, huh?" I managed after a bit.

"Scared, is more like it," he told me gently and his arm slipped away. I was sorry to lose the little bit of warmth that his closeness had offered. I hunched back into myself and looked out across the field to realize the tug had disappeared. The Shark should be just about on the launch ramp by now.

"Duo," Trowa said after a minute of watching me watch nothing. "I'm freezing my ass off, can we at least sit in the car?"

I knew he'd felt me shivering when he had touched me and that remark was mostly for my benefit, but cold as I was, I wasn't quite ready. "In a minute," I told him distractedly, hearing the roar of a ship's engines in the distance.

I could hear it, at first, and then as they came to full power, I could feel it vibrating up through the seat of my pants. I slid off the hood and dropped to the ground and then I could really feel it, throbbing through me. I closed my eyes, able to tell just what was going on from the sound and the feel. I felt the thrusters kick in and knew the Shark was almost at the end of its countdown. I could hear the whine as she fought against the launch ramp, eager to fly free... eager to return to her place between the stars. Then there was that unmistakable sound as she was boosted, ramp and thrusters working in tandem and... I snapped my eyes open to see her as she left the end of the ramp, riding skyward on a painfully bright tail of pure Hell fire. I lost the vibration first, and then the sound, and finally I lost the sight of her. But I just stood and stared at the place where the ship had disappeared and I imagined the things that came next. Imagined that moment when gravity gives way and you break free. That moment when you return... home.

I was completely shocked to feel the cold ice of tears freezing on my face. Just as shocked to find that Trowa was standing close behind me, hands on my shoulders, body shielding me from the wind.

"Come on," he said softly, and gave me a little nudge toward the car. I hesitated, feeling my body talking to me, and fished the car keys out of my pocket. I dangled them in front of him and he wordlessly took them from me, giving me a little nod in return. I walked somewhat unsteadily around to the passenger door and he let me go by myself, getting himself into the driver's seat, starting the car and adjusting the heat.

He had the med-kit in his hands and I didn't fight him, just turned to sit sideways to make it easier for him to work.

"I can get it," I told him, thinking about all the times I'd had to deal with it on my own. Your brain does not immediately understand that it has lost an input where input has always been. Remembering that you cannot feel heat or cold, that you can cut and not know it, is a learned skill. I had been with the Sweepers off and on while I had gone through that learning curve, and could still hear Kurt's voice echoing warningly in the back of my head whenever I made one of these little blunders, 'Duo! Hands!'

"I know you can," Trowa replied. "But I'm here... no reason I can't help."

I was shivering so much that he had a little trouble on the first hand, before the heat finally kicked in and I started to warm up. He didn't comment on it anymore than he had spoken of my bawling like a baby out there just watching a stupid ship launch. Somehow... it just felt like he didn't need to ask. It felt like he understood.

"So," he ventured, while he was still working on my right hand and we didn't have to look at each other. "Feel like telling me what it was you originally came into the kitchen looking to castrate Yuy about?"

I couldn't help a tiny grin at that mental image, but had to think about it for a minute. I suppose there was no harm in talking about it; I had obviously been prepared to air that particular piece of dirty laundry right there in the middle of the Winner kitchen to begin with. Then I had to wonder about something.

"Were you aware that Heero forbid Relena to come and visit him at the hospital?" I blurted and watched him closely. There was no mistaking the shock and confusion on his face.

"No he didn't," he countered reasonably. "She was there... I saw her."

"You saw her while I was away," I replied. "Did you ever see her after I got back from L3?"

He wanted to refute that too, but I saw him thinking about it, and I saw when he realized he couldn't. "No... you're right. Now that I think about it, I remember thinking it was odd, but I just assumed that she had to leave the city for some reason. But what makes you think..."

"Because I ran into Relena at the party," I ground out, remembering that confrontation. "She was so pissed off at me I thought she was going to shove me down the stairs! She thought that I'd made Heero send her away! She thought it was all my doing! She would hardly even speak to me!"

I caught a slightly bemused look on Trowa's face and started to get really flaming mad. I opened my mouth to launch into him for thinking this was funny when he held his hand out.

"Duo," he said calmly. "I wasn't done. Can I have your hand back?"

I realized I'd been gesturing wildly, trailing gauze in the air, and had to grin sheepishly. "Sorry," I muttered. "It just really ticks me off."

He lost his little smile and frowned down at my hand as he bent back to work. 'It should,' he informed me. "I can't believe Heero would do something that stupid."

"God, Trowa," I told him, and felt a little guilty for dumping this all on him. "She was so hurt. I thought she was going to cry standing right there in the middle of your damn stairway. I don't know what reasoning he gave her, but he obviously didn't explain things very well. And I was the one she was ready to behead! She thought I told him to do it!"

Dear God, but it was so good to have someone to talk to. Someone to validate that I wasn't completely nuts, that I did indeed have the right to be angry. It was nice, even if it was just this one thing, to be able to open up and spill my guts and not have to worry about everything getting repeated back to Heero.

"I've been thinking about that," Trowa said softly and I blinked at the top of his bent head in confusion. "The rest of us have come to a place where we've found total honesty to truly be the best policy. But that doesn't give us the right to shove that down your throat. You need someone to talk to sometimes. I wish, for both your sakes, that person could be Heero. But if you're not ready for that, we can't force it. I want you to feel free to talk to me. If you tell me something is just between the two of us... it will stay that way."

I think I probably turned what Toria would have termed, 'an interesting shade of red'. Then I did my carp routine while I figured out that I had said that last part... out loud. Shit.

He stopped wrapping fingers and looked up at me, first in confusion and then in dawning understanding. "You didn't mean to say that... did you?"

My interesting color must have gotten down right fascinating. "Uhmm... no," I told him. "When I get particularly upset I have this tendency to... blurt shit out. Which is one of the major reasons that it isn't always a good idea for me to be around Heero when I'm really upset."

We stared at each other for a long couple of minutes, until I started to feel really damn uncomfortable with him sitting there just holding my hand. Then he went back to bandaging fingers.

"I guess I can understand that," he said quietly and there was something strange in his eyes.

"Come on, Trowa," I found myself saying. "You guys make me feel like some kind of... of pathological liar! Don't you ever keep anything to yourselves?"

He didn't look up, just finished with the last pieces of tape, and finally let go of me. I inspected the job while he packed the med-kit up. "Thanks," I murmured and then waited. He was working on something and I just let him.

He gave me a searching look then, his eyes asking me if he could trust me in turn, and I nodded gravely. "Sometimes," he told me, his voice lowering unconsciously. "I get... kind of overwhelmed in Quatre's... world. I have to get away for a little while. I just feel like I'm going to forget who I am. I tell him I'm going to go visit Catherine, and I do... I just take some extra time to be by myself along the way."

He looked a little shamefaced, a little guilty. But he looked a little hopeful too, like he thought I might be someone who understood.

I gave him a lopsided, sad little grin. "Like pressure's building up and you just have to get the hell out before your head explodes?"

He grinned back, with that same wistful air. "Yeah... kind of like that," he agreed.

It felt good that he had confided in me, though I suspected it had been at least partly to encourage me to open up in return. "I always wondered how you dealt with living with all those servants hovering all over the place." I mused. "It makes me crazy and I always thought it would drive you just as nuts."

He chuckled. "It can be... awkward. The worst part was learning to let other people handle my things. Do my laundry. Clean up my messes." He shook his head in remembrance.

The car was starting to get almost comfortable and I felt the ache of muscles that had been tense too long. I could feel that strange 'wobbly' feeling too, deep down in my gut, that told me quite firmly that my body had been through a bit of an ordeal, even if my head hadn't been told about it at the time.

"I think I'm almost ready to go home," I told him, surprised at how tired it came out.

"Almost?" he teased, looking across at me.

"Yeah... almost," I affirmed. "I'm getting... kind of tired."

He frowned a little, looking me over. "You all right?"

"Yeah," I smiled, letting my eyes close. "Just been a rough couple of days, I guess."

He chuckled, then was quiet for a minute before asking, "Heero said you've been... upset about something all weekend. You want to talk about it?"

I opened my eyes and grinned at him. "You trying to trick me into spilling my secrets while I'm all groggy?"

A corner of his mouth went up in a wry little smirk. "No, just trying to get done with this conversation before you fall asleep on me."

I laughed lightly, while my mind ran around in circles trying to decide if I could do that. Talk to him about... that. Francis appeared and shoved his repress banner up my nose, but behind him, on the dash, George stood madly waving a sign twice his height that said 'YES' in flaming red letters. Guess George had more time in.

I turned in the seat until I was completely facing Trowa and I could see his face take on a serious _expression. I could tell from his eyes, from the set of his jaw, that he knew I was going to tell him something that was, at least to me, important.

"You swear to God, Trowa Barton," I glared at him. "Just between you and me. Not even Quatre, because he'd just try and fix things."

"I swear to you Duo," he reassured, solemn as a churchyard. "Just between us."

I took a deep breath, but still found it hard to push the words out past the defenses I'd erected in my head. "I found... a house," I blurted, knowing that once I got started, even if I faltered, he'd work the rest out of me. I wanted it worked out. I wanted to dump this shit out of my head and maybe he could help me get past it. Help me put it behind me.

He raised an eyebrow, just to let me know how bizarre that had sounded, but waited for me. I raised a hand to rub it across my eyes, but saw the bandages and put it back down. "It's perfect. It's wonderful. It's everything I wanted even before I knew what the hell it was I wanted."

He couldn't stop a little smile. "That's not a bad thing, Duo."

I sighed, found the fingers on my right hand picking at the bandages on my left and forced myself to stop. "But Heero doesn't like it," I explained, looking up at him with what I knew must have been a truly pained _expression, because I saw his smile fade and sympathy come into those eyes of his. "I overheard him talking to the realtor... he doesn't want it."

"Ah," he said, in some small understanding. "Did you talk to Heero about this?"

"No!" I exclaimed. "You know Heero... if he realized I wanted it, we'd be moved in tomorrow whether he hated it or not. I can't do that to him. I know what it's like to be where you don't feel at home."

He looked vary damn sad then, and there was true appreciation in his face, for what I was saying. I felt badly and thought maybe I should just shut up, afraid that I'd echoed too close to an issue of his own, but he wouldn't let me.

"You're sure of what you heard?" he prompted, and there wasn't any trace in his voice of what I thought I'd seen on his face.

"Yeah," I sighed. "He told Miss Montoya that the place was too run down, that he didn't want to have to do that much restoration."

He frowned in confusion, looking a little harder at me. "The house is in bad shape?"

"Not all that bad!" I blurted. "It's completely livable, but its been empty for years and years and needs a lot of attention! You should see it... there's a huge front porch with this great porch swing. The fireplace in the living room is just massive! You remember the one at that safe house, where Heero and I had... that big fight? It's bigger than that one, and the most fantastic..." He was looking at me with the strangest, almost tender _expression and I had to stop. "What?" I prompted, blinking at him.

"That's as excited as I've seen you in... a long time," he said gently.

I flushed darkly and looked down at my hands, looking really weird with the gauze wrapped around them. "Yeah, I think I could really get excited about that house, Trowa. It's old. It's got a heart to it, if that makes sense. Not like those new houses where the whole street looks the same and people have to put weird crap out on their lawns just to find their way home at night."

"The geese with the clothes and the flamingos?" he chuckled and I had to laugh.

"Yeah... like that. I wish you could..." Then I thought of something and reached for the glove box. Yes, the flyer was still in there. "Here... look."

He took the paper from my hands and looked it over, studied the picture, reading the description. "It's kind of big, just for the two of you, isn't it."

"A little," I grudgingly admitted and pointed at the little floor plan. "But look, this room at the back would make the most perfect studio. There's windows all along the back and..." I trailed off, realizing that I was just getting myself worked up about it again. I sighed. "I guess I'm just having trouble getting it switched to the 'can't have' side of the ledger."

He didn't answer me immediately, looking at the floor plan, and I turned to sit frontward again with a dark sigh.

"Heero would give his right arm to see the look on your face that I just saw," He told me very carefully, sounding as though he had weighed every one of those words one by one. It caught me so by surprise, I didn't even blush. I think I was just too shocked. It took me a long damn couple of minutes to get my tongue working again.

"But I can't do that to him, can't you see that?" I asked, my voice coming out all breathless and kind of pathetic. "What kind of home would it be for him?"

"I suspect that wherever you are, will forever be home for Heero," he said, and then gave me an odd little look. "Duo... I admire the hell out of your altruistic tendencies, but sometimes you have to worry about your own happiness and let the rest of the chips fall where they may."

I snorted softly, and went out on a limb. "Wise council, Mr. Barton... you practice it much yourself?"

He looked at me rather sharply and for a minute I thought I'd crossed the line, but then he threw back his head and laughed. "Touché, Mr. Maxwell."

"You as tired of sitting here as I am?" I drawled then, desperately ready to change the topic, to stop delving quite so deep into the waters we'd been fishing in.

"Yeah, I think I'm done," he agreed, and turned to put the car in gear.

It was a relatively quiet drive back, though not uncomfortable. I think we both had more than enough to think about.

Of course, the closer we got to our destination, the more I could think about just one thing; how upset Heero was going to be. How upset Heero already was.

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