Authors: TB and Marsh
Notes: Post-EW. Takes place three months after the end of Code
of Conduct +
Duo started on the house stuff
by leaving brochures in strategic places around their apartment.
He ignored them at first. There was always clutter around the apartment,
mostly his, and Duo would clean it when Duo had the time or was angry
enough. There were magazines about house decorating in the bathroom next
to the toilet, but he assumed it was some kind of new hobby, new time-passer,
that Duo had gotten queerer over the years. The pristine steel doors of
the fridge acquired exactly one ornament--a business card for a real estate
agent. But Trowa had his dense moments, or moments where he wished he
was dense enough to be oblivious. With a little studious effort, he managed
to ignore it long enough to get out on a real excuse. Duo could be passive-aggressive
to his heart's content while Trowa was in Cancun.
It was good in theory. Like most theories, it flopped on execution.
Une had been passing him shorter missions, lately, but the size of the
explosion was still Trowa's problem. He was beat and he was pissy, it
was raining and he hadn't remembered to get new wiper blades before he'd
left four weeks ago, but he sat in the car anyway, the windows steaming
up slowly, wondering if he had it in him to go inside or if he ought to
do the smart thing and get a motel room before Duo knew he was there.
They'd made promises.
Like--no stalling. No lying.
Not that Duo really expected him to keep to that last one. It was more
a standard procedure. A diplomatic contract between parties.
Trowa shot at diplomats for a living, anyway. He knew how much a contract
Against his better judgement, he went inside.
He more or less recognised the floorplan. The couch was moved away from
the wall to the middle of the room. There were four patches of paint where
the couch had used to be, four different shades of brown or orange or
something Trowa would never have dreamed of putting on a wall. But it
wasn't horrible. Once he'd come back and thought he was in the wrong unit.
He hung his coat on the peg and he put his gun in the safe on the desk,
and all that time there was no Duo. He made it all the way to the kitchen
for a beer before Duo came out of the bedroom.
"Hey," Trowa said. "I'm tired. Don't talk my ear off yet."
Duo's face went tight. "Hey," he said, after a pause long enough for Trowa's
nerves to grate, even if Duo was just doing what he was asked. Brilliant
"Hey," Trowa repeated. He flopped onto his spot on the couch and put his
feet on the table. Duo's hands were stuck deep in his pockets, and Trowa
did that anyway, hard enough for dirt to fall out of the treads onto the
bare wood. He drank half the beer in three swallows, and dragged a handful
of estate listings to the edge of the table to use as a coaster.
Duo tugged at his braid behind his neck, and turned his back. He looked
good. He was Duo, so he always looked good, but seeing him was enough
for Trowa to lose the edge, at least, of his mood, to remember there was
the occasional benefit to a live-in boyfriend. Like the sweet ass straining
the black jeans for a moment as Duo bent to unplug the big fan from the
alcove. Now there was a good theory.
"You want to eat or you need a minute?" Duo asked.
"Not yet, but I could."
Trowa sipped slow enough to actually taste the beer this time. "C'mere."
Duo obeyed, not a good sign. He was only tractable when he was spoiling
for a fight. Well, Trowa was too, and he didn't need Duo's shit on top
of his own.
"So you want a house now?" he said.
Duo blinked once, fairly naturally. "I'd like to at least talk about someplace
bigger. There're some nicer apartments in there." He looked deliberately
at Trowa's coaster.
"Uh-huh." The jeans felt thinner than they looked, warm from Duo's skin
underneath, a little stretchy. Trowa curled his fingers into Duo's inseam.
"You don't want an apartment."
"It's called compromise."
"Neither one of us knows what that means."
Duo resisted frowning, but his eyebrows came together a bit.
"You already talk to an agent?" He tipped his head back for the last foamy
swallow of beer. He picked up the printouts, and put the bottle on the
table in their place. Duo's eyes flicked to follow his hands.
"No," he said. "Except to ask what areas of the city have good markets
right now." It took ten seconds after that. Duo left the couch to get
a real coaster from the kitchen.
"Make an appointment," Trowa replied. He flipped the corner of the packet
to count the pages. A dozen, maybe, with fifteen listings on each page.
Little pixellated pictures.
"Are you okay with it?"
He shrugged. "Why not?"
"Because you've lived here since you moved to the city and I get the impression
you're pretty attached."
"It's an apartment." Duo was frowning, now, and it was not his most attractive
expression, even if it did resemble the face he made when he was coming.
"Sure, I like it, and the neighbourhood, but I've lived lots of places."
Duo couldn't tell if he was lying. That was the look, the narrowed eyes.
It was gratifying to know he still had some secrets.
"You want pasta?" Duo asked finally. "We have pasta or maybe strip steak."
"We could order in."
"Sure. Fine." Trowa watched him bend over the desk, this time, and if
he didn't know Duo was getting peeved he'd wonder if Duo was doing it
on purpose, putting ideas in his head. There were menus in his hand when
he came back to the couch, held crotch-height, until he shoved them out
under Trowa's nose. "How did the job go?"
"Shitty." He bent back a page, and showed it to Duo. "I like this one."
Duo leant over the back of the couch to look at it. "It's nice," he agreed,
cautiously. "You like the ranch style?"
"I guess. I don't know. I like how this looks." It was an awkward try,
reaching backward over his shoulder, he had to switch hands to do it.
He cupped his palm to Duo's cheek, and Duo relaxed, at least, into a smile.
Even stooped down to kiss him, finally, which Trowa supposed he could
have had at any time if he hadn't come in on the attack. Duo's lips were
warm, like his tongue, even if Trowa almost choked himself licking it.
"I'm not scared about this, okay?" He tugged the silky tips of Duo's fringe.
"If you want a house, we'll get one."
"I know you're not scared, but I want it to be something we both do, not
that you do for me."
"When you're happy, I'm happy. That's how it works."
Duo screwed his lips to the side. "Look at the rest of them," he suggested.
"I put some in the bathroom, too." He kissed Trowa firmly, and went back
to the kitchen. "You want another beer?"
"Yeah." He dropped his head to the cushions. A house. Sure. Get out of
the city. Live in the desert like Joe and Beau Nobody. Then they'd get
a dog, like that yappy-ass thing next door, fifteen brainless pounds of
fluff. And then, hell. When you had a house and a dog, there was only
one thing left, although that left the question of whether Duo had a uterus
to go along with that bitch. If Trowa'd wanted to sleep with a woman,
he would have.
Duo's voice floated back with the sound of a cap popping off the bottle.
"I can hear you thinking, and you're a jerk." He appeared back in the
den. "You come in here in a mood and now is when you want to talk
about moving. No. I don't want to do it right now. I want to wait until
you're relaxed, at least." He put the beer in Trowa's hand. "Take a shower.
You'll feel better."
"Come with me."
Duo made him wait for the answer. And that, it turned out, was the spark
onto the tinder.
"You know?" Trowa shoved himself to his feet and past Duo. He slammed
the bathroom door, and he locked it, too. "Forget it," he said to the
mirror, and drank his beer.
[part 1] [back to TB and