Authors: TB and Marsh
Pairing: previous 3x2
Notes: post-EW; character death (not a deathfic)
Seconds To Gone +
Duo crawled into his sleeping
bag one night. Twelve years later, Duo's son sneaked backstage after the
seven o'clock showing.
The kid said, 'You're Trowa Barton?' and must have already known the answer,
because he went right on to the next business. 'My dad always said if
I was in trouble I should find you. Well, he said I should find Quatre
Winner or Heero Yuy or Wufei Chang, but if I couldn't find any of them,
I should find you.'
'Don't I feel special.' Trowa was greasepaint from neck to belly, and
the cats were especially restless, prowling their small cages furiously.
The kid stared at them with wide eyes that were that familiar shade of
purple-blue. Trowa lobbed big raw steaks through the bars and wiped his
hands on his cotton undershorts. 'What are you doing on L3?'
'I don't mean to be a bother, but do you have food anywhere?' He looked
so hopeful, all four feet of him. Then, reluctantly, he added, 'I guess
I could work for it.'
'You guess.' There were two dozen stands out in the carnival selling anything
fried you could dream of. So the kid didn't have money, which argued Duo
didn't know where the kid was, or the kid--Trowa honestly couldn't remember
his name--had run away and done it without any planning. If he was stupid,
Trowa didn't want anything to do with him.
But he jumped at loud noises. And his skin was dry and flushed, which
suggested dehydration, and there were holes, for Chrissakes, in his jeans
and elbows, and scrapes all up his knuckles. Whatever he'd run from had
fought back. If he'd been just a kid on the street, maybe Trowa could
have walked by without looking back, but he wasn't just a kid, was he?
He was Duo's kid.
Even if he wasn't Duo's mirror image, the way he ate solidified it. Kathy
was in love by the third helping. She all but glowed as she threw open
the trailer for a guest, all but emptied the contents of their refrigerator
into the kid's apparently bottomless gullet. Even in the green silk costume
and glitter still shimmering all over her curls she bustled in the little
kitchenette like a born mother, even bringing out the faded placemats
and napkins. 'Finally,' she told Trowa. 'Someone who eats what I cook
'Gotta be starved, then.' The kid had gone right through a three-day old
roast that had been dry to start, and was deep into a bowl of beef stew.
Slurping it, actually. 'Oh,' he said around a mouthful of shrivelled carrot.
'Oh, it's real good. Dad couldn't ever cook for beans, unless it was beans,
so we ate a lot of take-away and freezer meals.'
It was as good an opening as he could expect. If nothing else, Trowa could
probably outrun the kid, now that he'd eaten his own body weight. 'Where's
your dad, anyway?' he asked.
The spoon actually hesitated mid-air. 'Oh,' he said a third time. 'Well.
He got murdered last week.'
Trowa couldn't have been more shocked with a blow to the head. Kathy froze
with the milk carton, staring at him. Trowa only just remembered to breathe,
and then his heart went nuts, deafening him.
Kathy. Blessed Kathy. She put her hand on the kid's shoulder, very gentle,
her hand on his hair, the way women could. 'Why don't you tell us what
happened,' she murmured, stroking lightly with her bright red nails.
It worked the same charm it had on Trowa, when he was barely older than
that boy. The kid looked up at her, and the look she gave back was sympathetic,
and it promised to believe.
The kid fell right into it. Glanced at Trowa, first, but fell right into
it. 'Dad was talking to these two men at the shop,' he said. 'Got real
heated. He came home that night and was locking everything down, which
he hasn't done since my mom left all that ways back. He told me to stay
inside. We have a workshop in the basement. Stay in there.'
Trowa had to clear his throat. 'But you didn't, did you?'
'Men came by.' The soft scritch of Kathy's nails was the only sound for
a moment. 'Dad wouldn't open the door. Said he was calling the police.
Except he didn't. He went and got his gun and then he went out the back.'
His voice went slow. His face was sombre. Too young to have such an adult
look like that, but he did.
'Did you know them?' Kathy asked. 'Had they been to see your dad before?'
'I didn't know them. But I only started helping at the shop last year
'You're sure he's dead?' Trowa interrupted.
Short pause. Trowa filled it wondering why he couldn't imagine what it
would look like. He'd seen a thousand dead bodies. Just couldn't put Duo's
face on any of them. Hadn't seen Duo's face, maybe that was the problem,
in longer than this little boy had been alive. Duo's boy.
Who nodded, a quick little jerk of the head.
The confirmation shook him. It was Kathy, again, who took over, tender
as a lamb. 'You're a witness?' she asked.
'I didn't see it happen. I heard a lot of shots outside. I was--' The
kid sucked in a deep breath and admitted it, face frozen. 'I was scared.
I went into the workshop and I hid for a long time. All night.'
'It's all right,' Kathy said. She hugged the boy about the shoulders.
'You did the right thing. You stayed safe like he wanted.'
Safe. 'You're safe here,' Trowa said. 'This… can be a good place to hide.'
'Thank you,' the kid said. 'I'm sorry. I don't mean to be a bother. I'm
not sure you even knew about me.'
'Course I knew about you. Your dad loved you a lot. Showed you off all
the time.' He would have said it whether it was true or not. It helped
it was true. It didn't that it left a lot unspoken, but no-one under twelve
and related needed to know.
God. Duo was dead.
The kid wiped his nose on his sleeve. 'I can sleep on the floor and everything.
And help your lady with cleaning. Or with the circus animals. I like animals,'
he added, that hopefulness back like a lightness to the eyes. It didn't
look like the desperation it was. Go to the others first, he'd said, Quatre
or Wufei or anyone but Trowa Barton. Had he tried first? A week in the
dark, running scared.
'You're not sleeping on the floor,' Kathy objected.
'Or outside. That's fine too.'
Trowa rubbed his mouth. 'What's your name, kid?'
'Rupert.' It was Kathy who supplied it. 'You remember, after Hilde's uncle.'
'Mom's grandpop, actually.' Kid made a face. 'She's the only one who ever
called me that. Everyone else calls me Six.'
'Six.' Trowa reached for the milk, just to wet his throat. Kathy didn't
stop him drinking from the carton, for once. 'And that works for you?'
'Six seconds into trouble, and six seconds out of it.' He caught himself.
'But I'll be real good while I'm here. I mean, I'm always real good, sir,
it's just a thing my dad would say.'
Trowa spasmed out a smile. 'Sounds like something Duo would say. It's
Trowa. Okay? None of this "sir" bullshit.'
'Okay.' The first sign of shyness. It was hard to remember ever being
'I'll make up the couch,' Kathy said.
'I'll be quiet as a mouse, you'll never know I'm here, Trowa, Miss. I
don't snore or anything even.'
'Relax,' Trowa said. 'Don't promise shit you can't keep. And if you're
anything like your dad, you won't be quiet as a…'
Duo had come crawling into his sleeping bag, the night they'd blown up
their Gundams in Argentina. They'd pitched tents at the cliff edge right
over the wreckage. Duo had gone off to piss, clumping like a herd of something
over the grass and every breakable stick in a mile's radius, and when
he'd come back he'd come into Trowa's tent.
'Just don't be so loud Quatre hears,' he'd said. 'I don't want him jerking
off thinking about us.'
Not quiet, no. But he'd had a great laugh.
Rupert--Six--was swiping angrily at his face. Tears barely had time to
track, but his eyes were bright and red. 'Sorry. I'm sorry. One thing
I'm never is stupid.'
'It's not stupid to miss him,' Trowa said.
'It's just been kind of--scary, without him.'
Trowa forced himself to smile as reassuringly as possible. It felt fake
from the inside out. But Six relaxed, seeing it, so Trowa held it up there.
'I'll take care of you,' he promised.
[part 1] [back to TB and