Authors: TB and Marsh
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Code of Silence + Part Five

Addison stood and came around his table, buttoning his jacket as he walked the way lawyers on television always did. "Agent Maxwell," he said. "The prosecution has argued that the nine murders you have been accused of committing are all linked by the fact of the victims being criminals under investigation by various departments of the Preventer Corps. But only two of these criminals were within the jurisdiction of your department, Narcotics?"

Duo nodded. "Yes, sir." His microphone fuzzed a little, and Duo's hand shot up to adjust it. "Father Jose Benito and Rene Vasquez," he finished weakly.

"And you had a connection to both cases?"

"I was on the team investigating Vasquez's organisation, but I only became involved with the Benito case after it reached Homicide."

"Meaning after he was killed." Addison lifted several poster-sized cards from his table onto an easel and uncovered the first, revealing a picture of the burnt car where Benito had been found. "Why were the Preventers called to this case at all? Shouldn't this have been a case for the local police?"

"Benito had already been accused of child molestation, abuse, trafficking, and kidnapping when he was murdered." Duo shifted on his seat. "The Preventers caught the case because of the nature of the homicide. Any case which might involve acts of terrorism is in the purview of the Corps. I was asked to join the investigation when agents on the scene discovered the remains of an amateur methamphetamines laboratory in the trunk of the car where Benito's body was found."

"They like him."

Trowa turned from the one-way window. The mock-trial going on in the faux court-room next door had been going for almost five hours, and they were on their third run. Trowa had watched all three from this spot in the offices of Strawn and Virbach Legal. He thought he'd met all the lawyers on Duo's case by now, but the woman who joined him at the window was new to him. Older, the kind of thin that came with obsessive dieting, a smart black suit that probably cost a month's salary and slick little palm unit that people carried when they wanted to look important. She put out a hand, and Trowa took it as briefly as possible. "Ruth Kiplis," she introduced herself briefly. "I'm one of the partners of the firm." She nodded at the window. "I've been working trial prep for sixteen years," she told him. "That jury likes Maxwell. Clean, good-looking man, radiating honesty and sincerity."

Trowa favoured her with the look he reserved for idiots too dangerous to go on breathing. He said, "You're a shitty liar."

"They do like him. They want to believe him." She pointed to a woman in the front row. Trowa watched a strand of ginger hair fall out of her bun as she moved, then followed her finger to the fat lady crammed into too-small chair in the trial room. "She looks at him and sees her son," the lawyer told him. "The man to her left, he sees the good cop who makes sure the schools are protected."

"But?"

Kiplis sighed. "But he looks like he's lying."

"But he's not lying."

"He keeps rubbing his hands. He can't focus his eyes in one place." She glanced at Trowa. "He looks nervous."

"He's got an alibi."

"He needs nine."

"Maybe they'll materialise." Duo was fingering the knot of his tie. He hated wearing ties. He needed to pull himself the fuck together. Trowa looked back at the lawyer, trying to concentrate on her. "Have you asked him?"

"He's had a little trouble remembering all of them." Kiplis tapped her palm unit against her collarbone. Trowa wondered if it was supposed to draw attention to her breasts, and then caught himself looking. "It's possible we'll want you to testify you were with him," she continued. "Those times that you were with him, obviously."

Trowa shrugged. "Sure. But at this point, he's only on trial for one murder. Do your job and make sure the jury remembers that."

Kiplis put up a pregnant pause at that. She didn't like his tone or what he'd said, he guessed; maybe she just didn't like him. She said, "We'll run your testimony tomorrow, if you have time. We want to see whether it's better to have you up there as the boyfriend, or worse."

"Worse? How is it worse?"

"In trials where the defendant's sex life comes into play, we lose forty percent."

"Found?" Addison prompted Duo. "Then it wasn't Benito's car?"

"No, sir. Father Benito drove a Volvo. This was an old Chevy, probably abandoned." Duo paused to sip from his water glass, his face uncomfortable. All the jurors had score cards in front of them, and three of them started marking while Duo fidgeted. It made Trowa tense just watching. Duo continued, his voice a little hoarse. "As far as we could tell, Benito had no connection to any drug suppliers or buyers. The meth lab could've been in the boot of the car for six months before it burned with Benito."

"And when you determined this, you returned the case to Homicide?"

"Yes."

"To your knowledge, was Father Benito's murder ever solved?"

"Not to my knowledge."

"He's not out," Trowa said. He faced the woman. "I don't care if you fucking make me look like the killer. Don't screw up his reputation."

"We're not in the business of spinning evidence," she retorted seriously. "Duo's got plenty on his side. He's innocent, and he'll look it." She gestured to the window, and the mock trial. "That's why we practice. We run a good show here, and our guys walk out tall."

She didn't get it, Trowa knew. And it wouldn't matter to her anyway if Duo caught hell at work because he'd been outed at his own trial. The Preventers had protected Duo for a few years, back when they were still young enough to be recognised occasionally as colonists, as Gundam Pilots. Duo'd made an effort to lose his accent -- Trowa still heard it, especially on the cusses, but for most Duo sounded like a California native these days. Because it was important to Duo, to always move on, to always have it together, to not have to defend himself against people who didn't know, hadn't fought, hadn't had the life that Duo had had in the worst of the colonies. Survivor's guilt, and a big wonky case of it, but that was Duo all over, making like the gaping hole over his heart was just a flipping papercut.

"Thank you." Addison set down the picture of the car and replaced it with one of a dim apartment. There was a big splotch of blood on the wall in the photo. "Do you recognise this, Agent?"

Duo nodded. "That's Vasquez's apartment. The crime scene."

"You said you were with the team investigating Vasquez. How many agents are on that team?"

"It varies. We all have a number of open cases. I was investigating the deaths of two confidential informants in 208. I believed that Vasquez may have ordered their murder. But that was part of a greater case that implicates many high-level associates of various gangs that crosses international boundaries."

"It sounds complex."

Duo shrugged awkwardly. "Open cases in Narcotics usually run for two to five years, and we work a lot with other departments. A lot of cases start and end with drugs."

"Why did you go to Rene Vasquez's apartment that night?"

"I received a call from someone who sometimes passed me information. He said something big was going to happen that night at Vasquez's. So I went there."

"Alone?"

"I don't have a partner, and I didn't have a lot of time. My informant made it sound urgent."

Trowa took his hands out of his pockets and rubbed the back of his neck. He was getting a headache, and the slightly metallic background to the speakers wasn't helping. "Just tell me what time to be there," he told Kiplis.

She touched the stylus to the face of her palm pilot, and it beeped. Her eyes roved as she read the screen, and then she looked up. "Can you be here at ten?"

"Sure."

"All right." She smiled professionally -- how could women do that? "Do you own a suit?"

Yeah, including the one Duo was wearing at present. They'd taped the cuffs of the pants up that morning in the car. "Several," Trowa said. "Tell me what you want."

Kiplis took his shoulders lightly, and Trowa let her side-step him over to the bright circle of lamplight on the nearest desk. She looked him over so closely that Trowa was tempted to cross his eyes at her, or do something lewd, just to shake her attitude a little. It took a certain amount of restraint to stop himself once the idea occurred.

"Something in a light grey," she decided finally. "Medium blue shirt. And a solid tie."

"Shoes?" He wasn't quite sarcastic. That took restraint, too. He was going to use his weekly supply on this woman.

Who wasn't amused. She waited a moment before answering, and her tone was deliberately even. "Black, and a low heel. You're a little tall."

"I can handle that." Trowa looked back into the mock trial room. Addison had up a blown-up blueprint of Vasquez's apartment, and Duo was saying something about procedure on entering a crime scene. Trowa rubbed the back of his neck again. "He went to some kind of conference in November last year," he said suddenly, like he'd just remembered. He looked back at her, catching her eyes. "If that helps. I was supposed to go with him, but I couldn't at the last minute."

Kiplis's eyebrows went up a half-inch. But she picked up a pad of paper from the desk they stood at, and she wrote it down. "It might help," she acknowledged. "Is there any proof? Receipts, programmes, ticket stubs?"

Trowa lifted his shoulders and let them fall. "There's usually all kinds of documentation. I bet his supervisor even signed off on it."

"Duo didn't mention it." She added a note. "We'll track it down. Thanks."

"Yeah, sure."

He couldn't tell if she'd bought it. He should have timed it better, dropped it more casually. Well, if it was too convenient, he might as well be blunt. He said, "If you prove it was impossible for him to have done even one or two of the murders, the whole case should come down like a house of cards. Don't you think?"

Kiplis met his eyes. "I think you should let us worry about the trial, and you just worry about Duo. That's a nice division of labour, don't you agree?"

A little bitchy. He could appreciate that. "Only if I think you're doing it right," he returned.

"Between all of us at the firm, we have two hundred and nineteen years of trial experience. We're very good, Trowa. We're excellent."

And she was probably already plotting to have some junior partner babysit him for the trial. "I know Quatre doesn't hire hacks," he admitted, or made it sound like he was admitting. "Yeah."

She sat on the edge of the desk, leaning toward him. It created an air of confidentiality, of friendliness, that was about as real as the mock trial going on next door. Trowa inhaled the subtle smell of her perfume and wondered whether her hair colour was natural. Her fingers came down over his wrist, and Trowa let her touch him. It was a good act, probably honed over many years, the perfect combination of femininity and authority, matronly and experienced. It almost made him enjoy being played.

"Reasonable doubt is not the best defence," she explained. "It's the defence you choose if you can't make it stick on someone else. We will show his alibis. We'll show his good character and his history in the Preventers. We'll show that he was doing his job, tracking the real killer, and we'll show that the DA has a vendetta for pursuing a weak case against a good man. If we start pointing fingers at other people, if we start talking about how many other suspects there could be, we'll look desperate. The jury will think of that on their own, and it'll be better coming from them than it could ever be coming from us." She smiled. "That's the plan of attack."

Trowa leaned in, too. "So everybody wins except the DA and the cops who rushed to arrest him."

"That's the general idea."

Trowa plopped his butt on the desk, pushing a plastic in-box out of the way. "Just tell me what you want, and I'll give it to you."

Kiplis put her hand on his shoulder, squeezing lightly. "I want you to wear a grey suit and show up at ten. We'll practice your testimony together, and then we'll run it by the jury. We'll treat you to a good lunch."

"Ooh, and ice cream too?"

Her smile stayed natural. She was, Trowa admitted, good. She slid off the desk and waved her pad and palm unit. "I'll go get started on this," she told him. "I think Duo's just about ready for a break, anyway."

"Mind if I wait for him?"

"Sure. Pick a chair."

It didn't take long. The mock jury left first, handing over their score cards to Addison as they filed out. Duo slumped down in his chair, laying his head on his arms in exhaustion. Addison stepped over to rub Duo's shoulder. And that was when Trowa decided chairs were for dummies whose boyfriends were securely attached. That well- paid bottom-dweller had no business making that nice to Duo -- they were practically strangers -- and what was with Duo not ripping the asshole's arm right out of his damn shoulder? Well, fuck. Trowa took the door that led him into the trial room. And made enough noise that both men were looking when he got there. He smiled at Duo, only Duo, and went to sit next to him.

"Hey," he said. "You look hungry. Let's get out of here."

+

Trowa turned off his mobile, and slipped it into his back pocket. "He said he's off the highway," he reported to Duo. "He'll be here in five minutes."

"Cool." Duo shook a handful of basil into Trowa's food processor, and began to drizzle olive oil in after it. Which made Trowa wonder when he'd got olive oil. Or basil. Or a food processor.

No, the food processor was from before. It had just been in a box under the sink with the juicer and other shit Trowa never used.

"Don't say anything," he said abruptly. "I know. Be nice to him."

Duo looked back over his shoulder, his thumb coming off the button so that the processor slowed and stopped. "Huh?"

"Do we even have linen napkins?"

Duo turned. "Did you stick your finger in the socket again?"

"I'll go wait for him."

Duo reached out, and grabbed Trowa's hand. "Don't freak out. He already likes you. Here, finish the pesto for me. I'm gonna get dressed."

Trowa obeyed, taking over the button-pressing and watching the green stuff turn into paste in the plastic bowl. It didn't look all that appetizing, but it smelled nice enough. Trowa poked a finger in to taste it just as the door buzzer went off. "He's here," Trowa called back to Duo, licking his hand clean and heading for the front door.

Quatre's face transformed into a bright smile when he opened the door. "Hello, Trowa," he said warmly.

Trowa stared at Quatre's hand, clasped tightly around someone else's. "Hi, Quatre." He looked up, and added flatly, "And guest."

Relena Peacecraft's smile wasn't quite as large as Quatre's. "Hello," she answered courteously. "It's so nice to see you again."

"Yeah," Trowa said. He released the door and turned his back on them. "Come on in. Duo's getting ready."

"He's right here," Duo said, emerging from their bedroom. He got Relena to let go of Quatre's hand long enough to pull her off her feet into a hug. "Now this is a nice surprise," he added into her hair.

Relena clung a little too hard. "I'm sorry this is happening to you," she said. Trowa nudged the door shut with his foot. Quatre was looking at him, so Trowa managed a little smile. He still had that little cowlick, just a little whiter than the rest of his hair.

Duo set Relena back on her pumps and kissed her cheek. "Thanks for your support," he said diplomatically. "You look fabulous, by the way."

She beamed at him, and twirled her skirt girlishly. "Why, thank you. I just bought this."

Trowa rolled his eyes, but Quatre and Duo were grinning like idiots at her little act. "God, you have hot legs," Duo told her.

Quatre had taken her hand again. Was looking at her, with this stupid moony thing happening in his eyes. "You look all right, considering," he told Duo. "Trowa must be taking good care of you."

Trowa was feeling peeved, was what he was. He said, "So, are you and Relena fucking or something now?" Duo's head whipped about, and Quatre's face went blank with shock. "Funny," Trowa said, dropping down on his couch. "I always thought you were gay."

"Dude, shut up," Duo snapped.

Quatre turned sunburnt-red from hairline to collar. "Excuse me?" he stammered.

And then Relena moved. She circled her little hands around Quatre's arm, smiling up at him. "Quatre," she asked innocently, "am I your beard?"

The man looked like he could sink through the floor in humiliation. "No! No, of course you're not."

Score one for you, Trowa thought silently. Relena's gaze was smack on Quatre, like they were the only two people in the room, like she hadn't just won that round with a sniper attack. He'd always wondered how much steel was hiding under that designer wardrobe. "Touche, princess," he admitted. He shrugged, and propped his boots on the coffee table next to the tray of nuts and crap Duo had put there. "Sorry, Quat. Relena. I'm being an ass." He smiled.

"Yes, you are," Quatre said. The red had fallen out of his face and he looked pale now except for two splotches on his cheeks. God, was he always going to look fifteen when he was upset?

Duo made a grab for Relena, too, and got a hand on Quatre's shoulder by stepping physically in front of Trowa. "You joining us for lunch, Relena?" he asked. "We can catch up."

"Thank you. I'd love that." Relena let herself be separated from Quatre. "I thought I smelled fresh basil." She turned back to artfully accept a kiss from Quatre, and then followed Duo into the kitchen.

She was good. Trowa picked up some kind of pineapple thing on a toothpick off Duo's tray, and stuck it between his teeth. Still a skank, but she knew how to play hard.

"You gonna yell at me?" he asked Quatre.

"What was that, Trowa?"

"I don't know. Apparently you don't like my sense of humour."

Quatre stripped off his coat and dropped it onto the recliner. There was a sheen of sweat on his neck. "You weren't joking."

"Yeah, Quatre. I was." He went for another of the pineapple things, and decided the white dip stuff was for that. "Relax, will you?"

"No, stop it. Just stop." Quatre's voice was low, but furious. He pushed Trowa's feet off the table. "I know you better than that. But even for you, that was low."

"Okay, fine. Why's she here?" Cause, yeah, like Relena flipping Peacecraft had ever been part of *them*. At the very best she'd been a distraction, even a danger, like flying her damn plane to Siberia to interrupt the duel between Zechs and Heero. She wasn't a pilot, she wasn't even someone's girlfriend --

"Because we're together."

What the fuck? "Together," he repeated.

"Yes. Together." Quatre gathered himself the way he did before he went on camera, the public face, the brave front. "I want to marry her," he said softly.

He actually laughed at that. "You're gay," he retorted, pushing to his feet. "I should know."

"*No*," Quatre exclaimed. "No, Trowa, I'm not."

"Yeah?" Trowa went to his desk and pulled out his diary, flipping ostentatiously through the pages and grabbing a pen. "Since when? Maybe I missed the memo."

Quatre grabbed the diary out his hand and threw it to the floor. "Since always."

They were standing only inches apart. Trowa eliminated even that distance by curling his hand about the back of Quatre's neck. Quatre stumbled into his chest, and a second later, Trowa mashed their mouths together as viciously as he could. He caught Quatre's arm by the biceps when it raised to hit him, forcing Quatre back against the desk to hold him in place.

Then Quatre ducked his shoulder and thrust with his hip, and Trowa found himself bent over the desk with his arm twisted behind his back. He dropped his forehead to a spill of pens and breathed carefully around the strain.

Quatre exhaled shakily, and let him go. "You didn't have to do that."

"We all do what we have to," Trowa said. He straightened and turned, pulling his shirt back into place and cracking his wrist. "We just have different prods. Try to figure out what yours is, because you may need it."

Quatre wiped his mouth. His hand shook just a little, and Trowa swallowed hard. "Sorry," he murmured. "I never wanted to hurt you."

He could tell that Quatre didn't believe him. It was all there in how tightly he was holding himself, in the unconscious way he wiped his mouth again where they'd kissed. "Hey," he whispered. He touched Quatre, gently this time, almost as he would have pet a wounded animal. "I *never* wanted to hurt you." Quatre's eyes came up to his. So blue, like the rim of ozone over the earth.

"Maybe," Quatre said. He blinked slowly, and looked down. "But it doesn't stop you from being stupid. Duo's standing right in the kitchen there, even if you can't bring yourself to care about me and Relena."

Trowa closed his eyes, and waited. Waited long enough to not feel so pressured, waited long enough to remember that Quatre was right, waited long enough to remember that he was sorry. When he spoke again, he did it genuinely. "It just took me off-guard," he explained quietly. "You didn't say anything about bringing Relena along."

Quatre hesitated. "I'm sorry. I guess I wanted it to be a surprise."

"I'm happy for you."

Small smile that was just a little bitter, and it didn't suit him. "Are you really?"

Trowa nodded. "I really am." He licked his lips, and picked up a pen to fidget with. "She'd be stupid to say no." Clicked it on, and off, on off.

"I could love her. She lets me in, Trowa. She makes room for me."

"Yeah. That's rare." He was properly admonished now, and wished he could rewind and give Quatre directions to the mall instead of his house. "You'll be good together."

And if they were still fifteen, Quatre would have reached for his hand, would have given him one of those easy forgiving embraces that had used to come so naturally, would have laughed the -- bright laugh with the shining eyes thing, but they weren't fifteen. And the Quatre standing in front of him all grown up and rescuing the princess looked at him upset and unsure and said in a little voice, "I want you to approve."

God. Not a little request. He'd been confused for a while now, but this was just icing. "Why, Quatre?" he asked. "Why's that so important?"

"Because you're my friend."

"Yeah, I'm your friend. A shitty friend, but you keep me anyway." He dredged up a smile from somewhere, and brushed his fingers over Quatre's arm. "I approve."

And hoped to fuck he didn't have to be the best man.

Quatre was the one to step away. He went back to the couch, but he didn't sit. He faced Trowa, or at least turned in his direction, and asked, "So, are you back with Duo?"

"Hell if I know." Then, in an uncharacteristic burst of honesty, he admitted, "Yeah."

"That's good." Quatre smiled, bolstered enough that it didn't look horribly forced. "You were always better together than not."

"Yeah." That was certainly true.

"It'll help if you tell him that."

"Yeah, probably."

"Well... " Quatre cleared his throat, and picked up a briefcase Trowa hadn't even noticed him bringing in. "I brought something for you. This was intended to be a gift, but now I'm not entirely sure you don't already know what's in it." He drew a folder from it, and held it out at arm's length. Trowa left his position at the desk, took it and resumed his seat on the couch. Quatre sat too -- on the table, not the couch -- but near enough. Trowa opened the folder, and looked down at faxed copies of the reports Heero and Wufei had showed him weeks ago. He flipped past those, and saw more copies -- pages out of schedules, post-its with Duo's handwriting, receipts from restaurants. A conference handbook and a name tag.

"Do the lawyers have this?" he asked.

"Yes." Quatre picked up a pineapple piece, too, but he didn't eat it. "I did what you wanted me to do. I passed it on."

Trowa checked the rest of the folder, and closed it. "Thanks."

"When did you do it? I have to admit, you can move awfully fast."

Trowa touched the side of his nose. "Day after he called."

Quatre sighed, and put back the pineapple. "So let me see. First, you must have called someone inside the Preventers. Someone who knew what murders they were going to charge with. And then you must have searched Duo's apartment -- I could have sworn he made you give back your key -- found date books, calendars, reconstructed his movements for two whole years. Not a mean feat, considering you were separated for more than one of those. And then you had to plant everything. How long did it take?"

Trowa smiled a deprecating smile, though Quatre already knew and was only making a point. "I don't sleep much," he said. He bumped Quatre's knee with his. "Look, I keep track of people. You. Him. Friends. It wasn't hard, just expensive."

"Oh, well, that makes me feel better."

It ought to. Trowa had made a lot of uh-ohs disappear in ten years. "Glad to hear it," he said. "Just make sure the legal team has it. They don't even need to believe in it as long as they use it effectively."

"You really don't get it," Quatre said. "Everything that he's going through right in front of you, and you still think that he wants you to run about behind his back building his freedom on lies."

"He's under suspicion based on lies," Trowa retorted. "His lies, because he'd rather go to hell than let... someone else he loves go there."

He'd let that hang on purpose, and Quatre did his part by playing along. "You think you know who it is."

"Yeah."

Quatre waited, impatiently. "And?"

"And I'm deciding." Quatre was getting frustrated. He looked away, running nervous fingers through his hair. And that was when Trowa realised. He leant forward, and said, "Tell me you don't know too." He did. Or at least suspected. Trowa was sure of it. "Tell me you don't have alibis for the other murders already in progress," he pressed. "And not just for Duo."

Quatre's face had gone still. He said, "Unlike you, I don't feel the need to show off."

"I'm not showing off. I'm getting the fucking job done, Quatre. Something you didn't always shrink from either."

"I resent that. This is about you and your massive trust issues. I can't blame you for not trusting the legal system, but trusting us? Trusting Duo?"

He kept his voice down, though Quatre's was starting to rise again. "He said he was innocent and hell no, I don't trust the legal system. I've got reason. We all do. Duo wanted a way out that didn't implicate anyone. He knew better than to ask you because your integrity would get in the way. So maybe instead of giving me a guilt trip about it, you should start thinking about what we're going to do when they realise they have the wrong pilot."

Quatre rode right over his last words. "Shut up," he commanded, reaching for Trowa's knee and squeezing hard. "Just shut up. We do not do this. We do not *do* this to each other."

"Yeah, Quatre," he retaliated. "We do."

And when he said that, he was remembering shooting Deathscythe down. Quatre shooting *him* down. Heero knocking Duo out and leaving him behind. Wufei joining the Barton Rebellion without telling anyone. Really, the only one of them who'd never betrayed the others was Duo.

Well, shit howdy.

They must have been silent for too long, because Duo poked his head out of the kitchen. "You two done?" he asked softly.

Trowa looked at him, and found a little smile. Duo was holding a kitchen knife at mock-ready, and he brandished it playfully. "Yeah," Trowa answered. "I said sorry, and he forgave me. You'd be proud, Dad."

"Good." Relena came out from behind Duo, and Duo slung an arm over her shoulders as he grinned at Trowa. "You know I hate having to spank you."

Trowa rose, and tucked Quatre's folder into a drawer at his desk. "Ah, fuck," he complained. "I always liked that part."

Relena laughed. "You two."

Quatre rose as well, and Relena came to him, taking his hand again. "The fun part is trying to figure out which part's serious and which is... less serious," he explained.

"Is there a serious part?" she asked, her eyes going to Trowa.

"Only on Thursdays," he told her.

+

Duo turned down the duvet, and pulled his shirt off over his head. "Quite a stunt you pulled today," he said casually.

Trowa shucked his jeans, and when Duo pointed to the hamper, made the trip to put them in it. Duo looked tired. All the weird trial preparation every day, testifying over and over to new crowds of people and getting judged on everything from the length of his hair to the shoes on his feet. And yeah, lunch hadn't been exactly a relaxing get-together between old friends. But Trowa hadn't had his ass handed to him yet, and this late at night, he didn't think he was in much danger of it.

It was starting to feel comfortable again. Of course that had been the tone of their relationship pretty much from the get-go. Only comfortable was -- starting to feel pale and bland and he couldn't really put his finger on why. Before, it was always enough to be not uncomfortable.

He lay down first, while Duo flossed in front of the mirror. "So I don't get to be surprised?" he asked, plumping the pillow behind his head. "You can't tell me you saw that coming."

Duo dropped the used floss into the trash bin, and turned off the light. "Sure I did," he answered. The mattress dipped as he sat on his side of the bed. "It's not like he dates around."

"Yeah. Well." He found Duo's bare arm, and stroked his cool skin. "He's not the slightest bit in love with me any more now, is he?"

Duo said sourly, "And I bet you cut your leg off when your toe hurts, too."

"I got the job done." Duo lay facing him, and Trowa transferred his hand to Duo's bare stomach, tracing a circle around his navel. "He's probably looking at her right now and asking himself what he could ever have wanted from me." Because Quatre would always have wondered, otherwise.

"I think he started asking himself that a long time ago. Sorry to bust this impressive swelling of ego, but the loss of you is not that earth-shaking."

He'd always wonder no matter what. Because not being in love was not the same as never having been in love.

"Yeah, okay." Trowa wondered if Duo was tired enough to want sex. They'd gone a few days without, days where Duo had had the energy to resist on principle. "You're right, and I'm a vain asshole."

"Truer words were never spoken."

Duo took his fingers when they drifted near his mouth. Trowa closed his eyes when Duo's tongue flicked over them. "That's settled then," he murmured.

"You're so full of it." Duo's breath was moist and just warm enough against his palm. "You insinuated to the man's girlfriend that you slept with him and therefore he was never gonna love her. And all this was altruistic? Cause you're such a great friend."

"I didn't imply we'd slept together, only that I thought he was gay."

"I'm sure that will be soothing when their marriage is rocky because she can never quite convince herself that he really wants to be with her."

He pulled, and Duo rolled on top of him, tickling his toes against Trowa's calves and resting on his elbows. Trowa tugged on Duo's fringe. "Okay, so that was shitty of me, but I apologised to Quatre, and Relena's not stupid. She knows I'm a prick and have always been a prick, and she probably won't believe a thing I said after the wedding night." He made a path down Duo's spine, up then back down, counting the vertebrae he could identify. There was just enough light in the room to reflect off Duo's eyes, looking down at him from above. "He said he could love her."

Duo's hand curved tenderly against his cheek. "Yeah. He will."

"Do you think she's in love with him?"

"I think they'll be happy."

That wasn't an answer. And it pissed him off. "She'd be an ass not to."

Duo laughed softly. "You gonna threaten her now?"

He shook his head. "You'd kill me. Or cut me off." He cupped Duo's ass cheeks and gave them a squeeze. "That would be worse."

Duo's lips made their own trail along his jaw. "Let him live his own life," he advised.

"I intend to."

"So. We're back together, huh?" Duo shifted up on his elbows again, his expression inscrutable in the dark. "I have better hearing than Relena does."

Well, shit. Busted. "Aren't we?" he asked. Duo didn't answer very quickly -- at all -- was just looking at him. "Aren't we?" he asked again, a little less coolly than he wanted to sound.

They kissed. Duo's lips tasted like toothpaste. He could feel Duo getting hard, and God knew he was. A shiver hit him when Duo went down his jaw again, down his neck, with this little nip of his teeth right in the sweet spot.

"Aren't we?" he whispered.

Duo stopped moving, and his head rested against Trowa's shoulder. His voice vibrated just a little where their chests touched. "Honestly... I don't know yet. I don't know if this is leftover from trying before or if it's the start of trying again. Do you?"

Fuck. Fuck. Trowa drew a deep breath, and offered, and hated himself, "We don't have to if you don't want it."

"Trowa, I know you have opinions. I'm asking directly for one."

"It can be whatever you want it to be, Duo."

Duo climbed off him, dropping face-down onto his pillow. Trowa stared up at the dark blot of the ceiling.

"I want you here," he said.

And a minute later, "We're back together. That's what I want."

Still nothing. There was a little more pleading in his voice than he'd known he had in him when he added, "I sleep better with you here."

Duo's face finally turned toward him. He brushed Trowa's hair back from his forehead. "I know." He kissed Trowa's temple. "Go to sleep, honey."

"Can't baby steps be enough for you, Duo?" he whispered.

"Two years ago, yeah."

"Oh."

He knew when Duo went to sleep an hour later, but somehow, he couldn't close his eyes.

[part 4] [part 6] [back to TB and Marsh's fiction]