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

Code of Silence + Part Seven

He had the mobile on vibrate. Wufei took it out of his pocket, annoyed, and dropped it into the cupholder on the dash. The ID flashed bright blue, cutting the darkness inside his car.

Across the street, a light came on above the garage. A moment later, a man emerged from a screen door, carrying bags of garbage to the street. A woman waited, silhouetted by the doorframe, yelling hoarsely.

His phone fell silent as it went to voicemail. Wufei shifted in his seat, resting his wrists over the edge of the wheel. He watched the man go back up the drive, watched the argument that followed. He was too far away to hear specifics, but the screeching tones were clear enough.

The mobile began to buzz again, rattling in place. Wufei flicked it open with his thumb and lifted to his ear. "What's up?"

Heero's voice was quiet and familiar. "Wondering where you are."

"I went for a ride," Wufei said. "Just to clear my head. It's nice out. Cold." The woman was agitated, her fists waving through the air. Wufei watched closely, waiting to see if it came to blows; but they calmed soon enough.

"Oh." Heero's exhale was gentle. "Rather come out for a drink?"

"Yeah. Okay." He pushed his key into the ignition, but didn't turn it. "Where?"

"Sheridan's is still open."

"I can be there --" He licked his lips, and turned on the car. The air that blasted from the vents wasn't yet hot, and he curled his fingers in the sleeves of his coat. "When?"

"I'm already there."

"Give me ten minutes."

"See you there. Thanks."

+

"You don't have to talk to me, but you do have to eat," Trowa said. The television cast a blueish glow over the duvet, over Duo's bare stomach. Trowa stared at it to keep the dark from creeping in on the edges of his vision.

"I don't fucking want to. I want to just go to sleep, please."

There was no intimacy of eye-contact, not in the dark.

"Brought a drink."

"Christ, stop trying to feed me! You don't always have to fucking feed me in a crisis."

He set the pasta bowl on the bureau, swigged his beer, and walked out. "Fuck you, Duo," he said in the living room. When the door slammed behind him, he faced it, and added, "Fuck the fucking door too!"

From the other side, Duo hit the wood. Then there was a staccato of punches and kicks, hollow thumps against the cheap door. And then silence.

Walking into Trowa's world of half-hiding. Depriving Trowa of seeing him clearly, because he was mad. Or maybe Trowa was just noticing it now, just assuming there were reasons for the obvious.

He finished his beer slowly, knowing that if he went in now, shit was going to break. He finished his beer, and another one. He stood leaning his forehead against the wall. "Damnit, Duo," he said. "Let me in."

+

Heero had a booth in the back right corner, out of the light, his back to the wall. Wufei waved off the hostess and a menu and picked a path through the tables on the floor. A raucous cheer went up from the bar as he manoeuvred through the crowd; there was a sports game on the flat screens hanging from the ceiling. Wufei spared it only a glance.

"You started without me," he observed, nudging Heero's half-empty glass as he took the open bench. It left his back open, and he didn't like it, but it wasn't worth cajoling Heero into moving.

"Sorry," Heero said. "That kind of day. Night."

"What's going on?"

A waitress had noticed his entrance, and joined them, interrupting with the casual rudeness of poorly-trained staff. "You been here before, honey? Specials are on the board, or I can show you our menu."

"Iced tea," he said. "Non-alcoholic. That's all."

Heero had a third of his glass left, rolling slowly between his square hands. "You give Duo the log?" he asked.

Heero had been the one to find it, while Wufei manned the getaway car. Heero had declined to read it, too. "Yes," Wufei answered briefly. "It didn't make him happy."

Heero lifted his beer, and sipped. "I thought Duo might call one of us."

Meaning Heero. "He's got to work this out on his own. It's how he operates." The waitress returned with his tea, placing it for him without asking if he wanted anything else, and darting away before he could have asked her even if he did. The glass left a wet ring on the polished tabletop. Wufei blotted it with a napkin, and added, "He'll call eventually."

"Do you think he'll break up with Trowa again?"

"He should, but he won't." He studied the down-turned curve of Heero's gaze. "He won't forgive either of us for a while."

Heero drank again, at that. He wasn't looking at Wufei, possibly not even thinking about his partner.

"You let that window close a long time ago, Heero."

"What?" Heero glanced at him, and downed another swallow.

"Duo."

"He's not a window," Heero said.

Wufei sprung a smile at that. "Don't be an ass."

Heero caught the eye of their waitress and silently motioned for a new drink. Wufei suspected it wasn't the first one; Heero was a lightweight, unused even to casual drinking. "Where were you when I called?" Heero asked him abruptly. "I tried your place first."

"I already told you that. Just a ride." He turned to look, and saw the waitress at the tap filling a glass with amber and foam. "Did you drive here?"

"I came earlier with Stenson. Car's still at HQ."

"Stenson left?" That more or less made up his mind about taking Heero home. He was drunk, or at least determined to be. A scan of the bar showed a few olive shirts with the logo stretched across the back, but they weren't anyone Wufei knew.

"Do you think it's that he's sick?"

The non-sequitur threw him. "Pardon?"

Heero's dark blue eyes were finally meeting his. "Trowa," he said. "Do you think he's like that because he's sick?"

He had his misgivings about Trowa. And he would have loved to talk to Heero about it, but Heero had a blind spot when it came to Duo, and the blind spot came with baggage about Duo's chosen mate. He didn't precisely want to defend Trowa, but saw that he was going to have to. "I think..." He searched cautiously for the right words, the minimal words. "He's like that because he's thorough."

Heero didn't accept that, but didn't challenge it, either. "We put people in jail for writing things like he wrote," he said, his expression indecipherable in the low light.

"He hasn't done anything wrong, Heero. He's made no threats. He -- hell -- this is normal for him." Wufei shrugged weakly. "You know that. All of us do odd things."

"Maybe that just makes all of us sick."

"Yeah."

If Heero reached for the new drink, Wufei would stop him, he decided. This was going no-where healthy, no-where productive.

"We're too -- "

"Say it," Wufei encouraged.

"Too wrapped up in each other's lives," he finished softly.

"I think that's what friends are supposed to do."

"Not as we do." Wufei watched, concerned, as Heero rotated the cup between his palms again, staring into the dregs of his drink like meaning resided there. "Every time we start to pull away, there's a crisis. Every time we get too close, it... it gets so messy."

"We're not special in that, Heero. It happens every day." He hesitated, and determined it was time to ask a very impertinent question. Quietly, hoping to alleviate the sting, he asked, "Are you in love with him?"

To his surprise, Heero merely shrugged, and finished the beer in a long swallow. "I wouldn't know if I were."

Wufei slid the new drink away before Heero could think to reach for it. "You don't have to confide in me."

Heero almost smiled, but the expression didn't last. "Are you in love with anyone?"

He was instantly nervous, terribly disquieted. "No," he said shortly. "I'm not good at those kinds of things."

Heero seemed to lose interest. "I guess none of us are."

"Come on," Wufei murmured. "I'll take you home."

Heero didn't stand when he did. He hunched over the table, tracing the outer edges of a coaster. "Are you going to be there during the trial?"

"Whenever I'm not on duty, yes." Wufei slowly resumed his seat. "Aren't you?"

"Do you think he wants us to?"

That question seemed wildly baseless. "I think he'd appreciate the support." Never mind that they'd put him there. He felt sure from his brief visit with Duo the day before that Duo needed the reminder; he needed his friends, all of them, around him.

"He hasn't talked to me at all."

Wufei drew and exhaled a cleansing breath, and sipped from his tea for the first time. "Have you talked to him, Heero?" he returned. "Have you even tried?" Knowing already that Heero had not. It was one thing to worry that Duo was angry at him; it was another to avoid the topic altogether, until the blame began to rest on the one person who couldn't be expected to open the door.

Heero leant back in his seat, his wrists slipping from the table to his lap. "Did you ever throw out those old climbing boots?"

Wufei only looked at him, and blinked first. "I don't think I have them any more. Going hiking?" He made a show of stretching his arms to look at his wristwatch. "We should go."

Heero wore a low blush, but his mouth was sad. "All right," he agreed.

Wufei rose, sure they were actually going to leave this time, and buttoned his fatigues against the winter cold. "We can talk more in the car," he promised, and trusted he didn't sound as reluctant as he felt. "Okay?"

"I might just doze, if you don't mind."

+

"There was like a year's worth of stuff in there." Duo's voice was muffled, but Trowa heard it. He slid to the floor, to put his ear to where the sound originated, head-height on a sitting man. "From after we broke up."

"And that makes me a psycho," he said. The door was cool against his cheek, and thin, cheap, not smoothed even with the glister of maplewood stain. "I know. Because you really didn't give me a choice when you ran out on me. Did you?"

"Oh, fucking get off your high horse about that. You knew I was going and where." Duo shifted, and Trowa imagined them touching, hands clenched to fists and touching the same spot. "It's not like I ran off into the night and you never heard from me again. You helped me move my fucking couch!"

"Yeah, fine. So what's your problem with this then? That I didn't tell you I cared enough about you to keep track of your movements?"

"Keep track? You're a fucking stalking creep."

That was moderately venomous. Trowa had to resist correcting him -- that's a fucking, stalking prick -- and did resist, because Duo was already on a roll, and he was tired. So instead, he said, "Open the damn door, Duo."

"Jesus frigging Christ." He heard Duo scramble to his feet, and rose just in time as it wrenched open. If they were going to argue, and God, they were going to argue, he didn't want to do it through a door, in the doorway, like some kind of metaphoric threshold. Duo was faster, but Trowa was stronger, and he manhandled Duo across the room to the couch, threw him at it. Duo went down in a sprawl without catching himself, and Trowa stood over him, and if it felt disturbing, then maybe it was only fair that both of them be disturbed at the same time.

"What do you want from me here, Duo," he said. "Because I'm not sure what your objection is. There are half a dozen prove-able alibis in those logs. Proofs that might get you an acquittal without implicating anyone. Just like you wanted. And none of them are lies."

"You know why I don't like the packaging," Duo spat at him. "You know exactly why!"

"No. I really don't." It was too much effort to maintain the tatters of his calm. He didn't like Duo's temper. It made him feel cornered; he'd never quite been comfortable fighting back.

Duo rolled on the couch, sitting up, his legs splayed and his arms at sharp angles. "Yeah, well, maybe that's true. Cause that journal -- fucking hell." His eyes were dark, half-tired, half-crazy, slanted up at Trowa. "You know what I'd think if I read something like that at work? Normal people don't do this."

"We're not normal people." A beat passed, and the argument might have passed, too, except he added, "Normal people don't need a parade of shrinks to figure this shit out."

He knew he deserved the whispered "bastard" that greeted that. It was that kind of night. They were neither of them being kind.

+

The roads were not busy, but their luck with the lights was bad, and they were stopped frequently on the way to Heero's apartment complex. Sheridan's was closer to Wufei's than it was to Heero's, but with the heat warming them to a sleepy lassitude and the dark glow outside the windows interrupting nothing, the drive wasn't a poor one. Except that every time he glanced sideways, he saw Heero not-dozing, staring out his window with his closed fists the outward evidence of his internal conflict.

"They really don't have anything," he offered near the half-way point. His voice sounded loud against the quiet they'd let build up between them, too abrupt perhaps to be the comfort he'd almost meant for it to be. "They could dig up as much on either of us that might suggest guilt."

Heero's head turned toward him, and his hands unclenched, just slightly. "How do you reckon?"

A left turn brought them out of downtown and toward the residentials. "We all have access to the same files, war records that border on terrorism." Wufei wet his lips, and thumbed down the AC to defrost his windscreen. "The sensibility of a killer."

Heero took up his staring again. "I think that's a matter of choice, not opportunity. "

"All of us have chosen to kill when the decision wasn't forced."

"When you found him there, why did you think it was him? Why did you immediately think he was responsible for all nine?"

The words were an accusation, even if the tone was only curious. "You thought so, too," Wufei protested uncertainly.

"I know. I'm asking why you did."

"Maybe because he was standing over the body?"

He heard more than saw the slight shake of Heero's head. "Why really?"

"He was there," Wufei snapped, suddenly agitated. "Why are you persisting in this?"

"He shot me. The first time he saw me."

He was beginning to be frustrated, and reminded himself sharply that Heero had drunk too much, enough to earn the consideration of being ignored if he crossed too many unwritten lines. "All right, then," he said stiffly.

"I've spent ten years thinking I didn't really care about it. But that's what I thought, when we found him. He was willing to shoot a stranger."

His anger melted into confusion. "You think he's guilty?"

"No." Heero sat turned away from him, and Wufei didn't have the imagination just then to know what his face would look like. "But I see how he could be."

It occurred to him that they'd arrived at the same argument, even if they meant different things. Wufei turned onto 42nd, and found himself at a red again. "Would you do your best to get him off even if you believed he was?"

It was, after all, essentially what Heero had asked him, the morning after arresting their friend. He didn't expect to be surprised by the answer, and he wasn't.

"I don't think there's anyone qualified to judge him," Heero said. 'But us' hovered unspoken, so many years ingrained it didn't even require voice.

"So would I," Wufei answered. "No matter which one of us it was. If it were any of us."

"Yeah," Heero said briefly.

+

"So were you lying?" Duo asked, and, hilariously, probably really wanted to know.

"Lying about which part?" They were on the couch together now, a process achieved during one the black silences. There was pasta in the bedroom, achieved during an earlier cease-fire and useless since Duo hadn't followed him in. There was beer on the table, beer Duo wouldn't drink and Trowa had drunk too much of, accomplishing only a lack of inhibition that was bound to be unhealthy.

"About every part in your little book where you complained about my job. About all the looks you used to give me when I'd say I have to go away for a while."

"The rules are different for you and me," Trowa said.

"Why?"

"Because you're worth more."

Duo breathed in deeply on that. He asked, "Who decided that?" and his voice was getting scratchy with how many times they'd come near to this and missed.

"I did." Trowa checked, and found all the bottles empty and sticky- smelling. "You're free to differ, but that's my take on it."

"Yeah? Your take is wrong-headed and irresponsible, so fuck you."

He hadn't expected Duo to agree, even if they'd been calm -- sober -- not fighting. And he was getting used to hearing the `fuck you' bit. And Duo had always undervalued himself, sold himself off like it was going out of style, tolerated that aching hunger in himself like it was fate that did it, not life. Maybe it was time to steer Duo to bed.

"What exactly is your problem here? That you were fooled? It was critical that you were." Duo's face turned away, and Trowa exhaled. "Sorry that offends you."

"You're not fucking sorry! You're never fucking sorry about anything!"

"One of the many reasons you're worth more than I am."

Oh, Duo was furious. "So it was always academic, pointing out how stupid it was for me to work for them after the war?"

"No, Duo, I meant it. It was stupid for me to work for them too." He wanted another beer, but he wasn't a funny drunk and knew it. "Who recruited you?"

He must have jumped tracks, and Duo hovered hesitating for a minute. "Some guy named Derek," he responded slowly.

"Derek. And what'd he offer?"

"I don't know, I don't remember. Company car and health benefits."

"Une recruited me." That, to him, should carry some weight. "She offered not to investigate what I did before and right after the war too closely."

"You've never been scared of Preventers finding out --" Scoffing, but stopping short then when he realised just why Trowa had never been scared of it.

He looked at Duo, a long, steady look. "I'm not a victim," he said. "I'm just explaining."

He watched Duo absorb it like poison through the skin, watched him compare what he'd known and what Trowa called fact in the honest inky dark. Duo took longer about it than he had to, and Trowa wondered what avalanche was coming, what new combustion was being hidden by the sudden reasonableness. The longer it went on, he thought about Une forcing him into meeting her, thought about her laying it all out like she'd just crushed him under her heel and didn't give a damn whether he agreed or not, thought about the probability that he was going to see that side of her again, as soon as she got through deciding whether to let him swing or dump him down a dark hole before he could fuck up the operation.

"Were you ever asked by anyone to keep an eye on me?"

Not formally, and he'd declined anyway. "No," he said, and wondered if Duo believed him. "I did that because I needed to." Duo held up a hand between them. "You asked."

The hand hovered anyway for a minute. Trowa wondered if he was crying. He could never tell from Duo's voice; Duo was that good at masking his emotions, if he didn't like them. And he wondered when Duo had become like that, because he hadn't been that way when they were fifteen.

"Do you respect what I do?" Duo asked finally.

"Yeah, Duo. I always have."

"I've never felt like you did." Duo rubbed at his forehead, pulled a thread of hair loose with twitching fingers. "I felt like you respected my reasons but that you always thought I was -- I don't know. Being duped or something."

"I never thought you were stupid." The way Duo's mind worked and sometimes didn't work left him frustrated. He wrapped his fingers around Duo's wrist and held on when Duo pulled away, forcing Duo to offer up his pulse. "Maybe you cared too much, but you aren't stupid."

"Cared too much?" Duo's voice was thin, his blood jumping under Trowa's thumb. "That's what you thought while you were keeping your book updated, huh?"

"What do you think I thought?"

"I don't know, Trowa. I don't know how people who do what you did think. I don't know what's going on in your head that you think it's acceptable, that it's okay to spend your time following me around and cleaning up my messes like you've got a flipping mandate from God."

"That's the part that drives you nuts, isn't it? Not that I kept that log, or joined the Preventers, but that I haven't confessed every fucking thought and reason. And that you can't figure it out on your own. I did those things for the same reason I do everything. I wanted to."

"That's not good enough. It's not a good enough reason."

"It's all I've got. It's how I operate." He let Duo go, because he'd forgotten the reason for holding on in the first place. "I'm just not that complex."

"It's not fucking good enough, you can't just walk around doing whatever you want to do! You can't just -- walk around doing whatever you want, it's not right to do that. That's not what people do!"

"It's not what you do."

"Damn right!"

"I do. Okay? I do what I want. It's just not that hard to get. And you used to get it, Duo. When'd you stop?"

Duo sat staring at him, and Trowa thought very hard about moving, pouncing on him, kicking him to the floor and fucking him through it. He even half started it, putting his hand on the side of Duo's neck to make him shiver, and he moved closer with full intentions of kissing him, and Duo was surprised enough, pissed off enough to let him get the jump, and he got as far as the brush of their lips before he knew he wasn't going to do it. Couldn't do it to Duo right now. Even if it saved them from the rest of this argument, it would end everything else.

Duo's breath was warm and small on his cheek. "I thought you'd grow out of it," he whispered, brittle and breaking.

He pressed his nose into Duo's temple. "I know what you hoped."

"I don't mean to be a moralising asshole."

"You're allowed. It's not your nature to accept --" He struggled for the right way to frame it. "Complacency, " he said shortly, not liking what it said about him, not sure if it was true.

"I'm not worth more than you."

"If you say so."

"Fucking hell, Trowa."

Fucking hell was right. Because Duo thought he got to argue both sides at once, because Duo argued just to air his issues, to fill a void Trowa hadn't put there and wasn't responsible for fixing. When Duo moved, so did Trowa; grabbed Duo by the arm and wrenched him down before he even got anywhere. He was just drunk enough to voluntarily let go of his patience, be a little brutal holding Duo down. Duo went tense and outraged and weirdly pliant, and Trowa knew it was wrong and did it anyway. He didn't care and didn't want to, was sick of Duo walking out on him, was sick of Duo picking fights and running from the words. He wanted Duo to find some fucking stomach, and he said as much, and this time he did kiss Duo, mashing their mouths together and pinching his jaw in place hard enough to raise white skin.

"Let's admit what this is really about," he said directly. Duo all but vibrated against him and Trowa thought about Heero hitting Duo and didn't let go. "It's not that I'm some kind of fucked-up stalker. It's that you think this means I think you're incompetent. You need me to cover your ass because you sure as hell can't, right? Okay, so if that's such a shitty position to be in, why'd you call me when you got arrested? And what was the first thing you said? Something about needing me, wasn't it?" Duo pushed to free himself, but didn't resist long when Trowa refused. "Don't go because you're mad. Don't go because you're fucking mad at me."

Duo's eyes closed. "There are a lot of reasons in the air to go, Trowa, and mad isn't even top of the list."

"Are there any reasons left to stay?"

"I love you," Duo said, very readily, and looked up to say it, met his eyes squarely. "I just... am not sure how much I really know about you. And that's more important suddenly than it used to be."

Whatever violence he was feeling wasn't going away. Trowa sat up, and finally let Duo go. He wasn't surprised when Duo fled for the bedroom, but he sure was pissed. He followed, got hung up at the doorway before remembering he owned the whole fucking condo. The pasta on the bureau was cold and abandoned, stomach-turning. Trowa pushed it to the side. "You know the important things about me," he persisted. "When you're not being a son of a bitch."

"No. I didn't. So I have to ask what else I don't know."

Trowa wrenched open the top drawer of the bureau and pulled out a roll of black socks. "You fold them wrong," he said, and pulled the roll apart to fold them in half. "It drives me nuts. The rest you should already know."

Duo looked skyward. It wasn't meant to be dramatic, but it was, and Trowa threw the socks at him. "The important things are fucking apparent, Duo."

"You say that. You've said that over and over lately. But they're not, Tro. I've spent years digging and digging on you, and I still don't know what you're thinking, what you're feeling. I swear to God I'm not lying when I tell you that I don't know."

He turned his back with an effort and stared a death-wish at the pasta. "If I tell you now you'll wonder if it was another lie."

"That can't be your excuse for the rest of your life."

"Was there ever a time when you wouldn't have thought it was a lie?"

They were fucking over, and this was fucking pointless.

Duo's voice was quiet, almost gone. "There was never a time when I thought you could mean it."

"So what's the point of hammering this into the ground?"

"Good question, I guess." He heard Duo's shaky exhale. "You know what makes me feel like total shit? That I thought something good was finally happening. That we were starting to -- that everything was crap except this, and this was finally going right, going the way it should have gone all along."

He clenched his hands into fists on the smooth top of the bureau, halfway to beating it in and thinking he'd probably enjoy it. "I guess I don't get how that's changed, except for I'm a cop and not a criminal."

"You all but stalk me and bitch and moan in your little book about how dangerous my job is? I can't tell you how guilty I felt every time I came home and you had that face on, like I'd done this on purpose, like I didn't value what we had here because I'd risk it like that. Giving me shit about the establishment and my martyr complex and giving what I don't owe, and the whole fucking time you're lying to me."

"The only thing I ever lied to you about was who cut my fucking paycheque. Well, I guess I'm not the only one clinging to double standards, am I?" He wasn't drunk enough for this. Maybe there was no way to be drunk enough. He was tired. He was just as damn tired as Duo was, and he was going through all of it too, he'd stood there with Duo from almost the start and shouldered all of it voluntarily and Duo didn't want to accept that it meant what it did when there was always more to be squeezed out.

The next sound he heard was Duo getting the suitcase from under the bed. "I'm going home," he said. "I need to go back to my apartment, I need to think."

Trowa picked up the pasta bowl and threw it through the window. The crash of breaking glass was horrendous, brilliant like a lightning strike, and then it was silent.

"Okay," Trowa said.

Duo's eyes were as wide as they'd ever been, still in his shock as if he'd been frozen.

The drawer protested as he tried to open it. He found the jumper hiding in the back, buried under things he wore more often, all organised to Duo's particular symptoms. Duo flinched, just slightly, when Trowa approached him with it, but let Trowa stuff his bare arms into the sleeves, pull the warm cashmere over his head. His waist was chilled when Trowa brushed it with his knuckles, quivered on an inhale when he flattened his palms to Duo's ribs under the fabric. "It's cold in here," he explained briefly.

Duo's hands shook as he pushed his hair out of his face. Then he did it again, and his hands stayed there, shaking. Trowa bent to peer into his eyes, and said, "If you run again, you won't come back."

"You make me have to go!" Duo cried.

"I guess I deserve it then."

He wasn't entirely expecting Duo to wail off on him. Duo's fists slammed into his chest, and he stumbled back, just barely keeping hold of the smaller man. "You didn't have to lie to me," Duo snarled at him, pounding him frenetically. "You didn't have to lie to me!"

"Same as you didn't have to hide whoever you're protecting from me." He caught Duo's wrists in one hand and pulled him in tightly with the other. Duo was cold all over, shivering in the freezing air from the broken window. He pressed his lips to Duo's hair. "And before you argue that neither of us follows orders all of the time, look; it had to be this way. And I'm sorry. I always knew that if you ever found out it would kill us. I guess it was stupid of me to think this wasn't inevitable."

Duo took a last limp punch, practically pinned to Trowa's chest, and surrendered. Trowa wrapped both arms around him, and held him close.

"Tell me what to do," he whispered.

+

Heero's parking lot was full but for one spot, and Wufei aimed his car at it before realising it was Heero's anyway, reserved the building supervisor. He idled for a moment, then changed his mind and shut off the engine.

"Come inside," Heero said.

The building had that empty feel that complexes got, bedded down for the night and lit only by lonely yellowish lamps hidden behind pruned hedges half-dead from the season. They passed under shadow before entering the lobby, and Heero let him in first while unlocking his door. Wufei started to shrug free from his coat, and jumped when Heero moved behind him to help. He couldn't quite summon up a comment about it, and settled for removing his shoes while Heero hung their jackets beside the door.

"You should have some tea," Wufei decided. "You'll sleep better. No caffeine --" Heero was still standing there, lost in his own home, a little tipsy and a lot uncertain. Wufei reached for equilibrium, and found it distressingly hard to reach.

"Tea," Heero repeated eventually.

"I'm going to go home." He side-stepped Heero, and took down his coat, slipping into it quickly and foregoing the buttons for the short walk to the car. "You'll be -- this is the worst time in the world to take a risk with you."

Their mouths touched hesitantly. Heero was stiff with surprise, and Wufei was stiff with something like fear, or bitter anyway. He pulled back before Heero could either -- catch fire or shove him off, and stuttered through "I'll pick you up at eight for work," before dodging to the door. He waited long enough for Heero to nod, and then he left, hurrying to his vehicle as fast as he could do without looking like he was running.

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