Author: The Manwell
Pairings: 2x3x2 (but it's complicated)
Warnings: bad language, innuendo, citrus (male/male sex), angst, and mission stuff
Summary:After the war, life went on for everyone except the five Gundam pilots. Deemed a danger to society, they bought their lives but not their freedom. Duo has a plan to change that and while marriage is part of the plan, falling in love isnot.Canon-compliant through the series, Endless Waltz has not happened... yet.
Notes: Duo POV (I've been heavily influenced by Sunhawk's Ion Arc and Avarice's Appearances Series.)
Notes II:Chapter titles and subheadings are from the album,Infinity on High,by Fall Out Boy.
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys, the Gundams, the copyrights, or the patents. But the snappy one-liners are mine, all mine. (^__~)
Theme Music: Infinity on High by Fall Out Boy (just everything on that album... yeah)

Two out of Three
Chapter 1: Long Live the Car Crash Hearts

Sometimes we take chances, sometimes we take pills...

"Good morning, Mr. Maxwell."

"Hey, Bret," I said, flashing a grin at the security guard manning the lobby reception station. "Get any bites last weekend?"

"Nah," the middle-aged man replied. "Caught a couple of monster logs, though."

I barked out a laugh even as my fingers twitched mindlessly towards the noose around my neck. I freakin' hated neckties and starched, buttoned collars. You'd think, after all this time, that I'd have gotten used to ‘em, though. "You and your fishing stories, man," I teased Bret, the only guy in this whole building with a Taser and a sense of humor. "I'm pretty sure you're pullin' my leg."

He grinned.

"I'm gonna wanna see photos of those monster logs, pal."

"I'll see what I can do," he promised and I sauntered my way over to the elevators. I didn't have to wait for the lift what with the lobby being deserted; I was late again and screw you to anybody who decided to call me on it. I had nuthin' but time and, really, what were they gonna do to me? Write me up? Cut my weekly allowance? Fire me?

Christ. I wish.

The elevator announced itself with a serene ping! and I stepped in, punched the button for my floor, and waved goodbye to Bret Anders. The instant the doors closed, my grin evaporated. Hell, I didn't just frown, I freakin' scowled at the shiny metal doors.

Elevators didn't used to put me in a pisser of a mood. Given my experience with them over the last four years, though, it was kinda inevitable that I'd come to despise the fuckers. I watched the light blink through the floors: First Floor – reception, motor pool and various escape opportunities that remained elusive; Second Floor – supplies storage and evil security bastards; Third Floor – the IT and network overlords; Fourth Floor – R&D (I was pretty sure they sat around playing with Lincoln Logs and Legos in there); Fifth Floor – Sales and Marketing (oh, how I envied them the tether to the outside world their jobs provided)... I could only imagine what life must be like on those other floors. My pass card only let me through a total of six doors in all the universe, one of which was coming right up: Winner Enterprises Incorporated, eighth floor and home to the Administration Department of soul sucking, everlasting doom.

I took a deep breath to settle the upsurge of disgust churning in my gut, pasted a puke-worthy chipper smile on my face, and forced myself to leave the elevator when the doors whispered open. Sure, I was tempted to ride it back down to the lobby and smile and wave at Bret again... and again... and again, but security had kinda disapproved when I'd spent the better part of a morning doing just that a couple months after I'd been sucked into the paper-pushing assembly line that is Winner Enterprises. After that, the IT nerds had tweaked the pass card system and now I was only allowed up the elevator once in the morning and down once in the evening. Jesus. Where the hell did they stash the Sense of Humor Department, I'd like to know!

Stretching the legs of my sudden mischievous mood, I meandered over to a seemingly random cubicle, grinning. The grin was necessary. If I didn't grin, I figured I'd start flinging vid phones across the meticulously regimented office space... for the second time in the past six months. Vid phones were expensive, I'd been told. My grin stretched a bit more at the thought.

"Maxwell, you're late."

I paused and leaned over the edge of the cubicle on my right. I grinned cockily down at the man scowling at his computer screen. "Aw, you noticed!"

Wufei glared up at me. It was a sad, sad commentary on my life that irritating him in passing was probably going to be the highlight of my day. "Get to work."

Make me, I almost said, but I didn't really feel up to another wrestling match with the humorless security shitheads. Maybe after lunch.

"I am working," I told him, then proceeded to give him a thorough once over as if he were Heero's old Gundam, Wing, and I was planning to dissect him for parts.

Wufei growled, "I am not one of your charity cases."

I snickered. "Wake up and smell the incarceration, Chang. We're all charity cases."

He looked up and I winked just because I knew it would piss him off. I sauntered onward before he could snarl a comeback.

I took the scenic route to my desk, banging my knuckles on the maintenance room door as I passed, shaking my ass and doing a little dance in my polished "regulation" dress shoes... which I loathed with every beat of my heart.

The door opened and I smirked at the janitor. From the depths of the little clutter closet, I could hear water dripping into what sounded like a full bucket. Or maybe I was just imagining it: a drop of Duo sarcasm in the enormous ocean of no fucking hope whatsoever. "Yo, Tro. I made a rhyme."

He blinked at me. Once.

I grinned wider.

"Oh, was that it?" he deadpanned.

I barked out a laugh. "Are you hip deep already in another glorious day of shit-shoveling?"

"I'm not the one who works in PR," he retorted softly, the one green eye I could see around his fall of hair sparkling with momentary mirth.

"What's that stand for anyway?" I mused, leaning against the wall as if I had no place better to be. Which, in my opinion, was precisely the case. "Propaganda rehearsal?"

"You'd know," he challenged instead of ordering me to get to work like others who shall remain nameless.

"Actually, my vote's on ‘plastic rhinestones,'" I confided after showily glancing up and down the walkway. Of course everyone could hear every freakin' word I said; they were sitting just an arm's length away in their spiffy little grey cubicles.

"Pretty ridiculous," he muttered.

"Positively rank," I agreed.

He snorted softly and then reached for the mop and bucket cart. "Please retreat," he continued, wheeling the thing out through the open doorway.

"Ooh, you and your sexy mop. I have envy," I drawled.

"You should. It's all wood.” With that, the corner of his mouth quirked up and he squeaky-wheeled away to get started on the break room floor.

I stared after him for a moment, a laugh caught in my chest. Whoa. A sexual innuendo from the Tro-bot. Who'dathunk it? Not me, anyway. Never in a million years.

The day was lookin' up – I hadn't actually been forced to sit down at my desk yet or even check the company's electronic mail inbox – so, of course, the mood was bound to crash and crash hard. I tried not to look, I really did, but it was like a train wreck. Utterly , stomach-rollingly mesmerizing.

As I passed by the open doorway to the CEO's office, I glanced up. Behind the huge desk, Quatre had his elbows braced on the ink blotter, his hands in his hair. A massive report appeared to be laid out before him, but I don't think he was reading it. More like drowning in it. I didn't have to wait for him to look up to know that there were dark shadows under his bloodshot eyes. Yes, I was spared that delightful view, but skewered by another.

"What are you doing over here?"

My feet stopped moving as I gave Quatre's personal assistant a once-over. "Just sayin' hi," I muttered lamely. You'd think that saving the Earth from massive chunks of plummeting space debris would have won him some bonus points with the War Tribunal. Yeah, well, if you did, you'd be wrong. He was here just like the rest of us, serving our sentence.

Heero stared at me. There wasn't any heat of irritation in his gaze like with Wufei's, nor was there a sparkle of camaraderie like from Trowa's. There was... nothing.

I nearly puked right there on the threshold of Quatre's office.

"Get to work."

"Or what? You're gonna get the trolls in HR to write me up?"

Heero sighed and repeated woodenly, "Get to work, Duo.” It wasn't an order. That, at least, would have been something. No, it was resignation. Pure resignation. Heero Yuy had given up.

Shit.

"Heero..." I began, not really sure what I could say to bring a spark of life back into him, not really sure that anything could save him from that nothingness.

"Just shut up, Duo." He pointedly turned back to his computer. "We did this," he reminded me.

I didn't hang around for a second pearl of wisdom. It was bad enough I'd had the first foisted on me. Sails windless and parade rained-out, I scuffed my way over to my cubicle. I ignored the glare from my supervisor and plunked my ass down in my chair.

I hated my life.

No, wait up; I hated life. Period.

I tried hard not to blame Quatre. He'd done his best, after all. Mostly, I blamed the self-righteous bastards who sat their fat, pompous asses in the War Tribunal's plush, lumbar-support chairs. I didn't have a plush chair and lumbar-support was a joke and a half around here. I was just lucky I didn't have any springs poking me in the ass. But, then again, all my springs were metaphorical.

Sighing loudly and in great length, I turned on my computer and tried not to look at the number of messages awaiting my perusal.

257.

Fuck. Y'know, it's hard to lead a meaningful life when your biggest daily contribution is clicking a frickin' mouse button.

That morning – or, what was left of it anyway – I was pretty much on autopilot. (Speaking of which, God... piloting! What I felt at the thought wasn't so much an ache as an agony. Like watching your own leg getting sawed off without the use of anesthetics.) I clicked through the endless and infinite inbox, forwarding legitimate requests for charitable donations off to Legal Affairs for background checks. Sometimes I had my chin in my hand and sometimes I'd squeakily lean back in my chair, put my feet up on the desk and continue my clickity-clicks. I was pretty sure I looked like I was half asleep so when I scanned email number eighty-three and blinked a couple of times, whoever might have been watching probably figured I was fighting drowsiness.

I wasn't. I was suppressing a shout of pure glee.

I scanned the email and did my damnedest to keep the grin off my face despite how badly it tickled. The code words jumped out at me and I knew he'd finally done it. My ol' buddy Howard had found me – us – a golden opportunity. It'd only taken him nigh on four years to do it.

When I spotted Trowa heading down the cubicle aisle with his trash cart, I grabbed the scrap of paper I'd been doodling on, wadded it up, spun around in my chair and freehanded it into the passing bin.

"Nice shot," Trowa commented.

"One in a million," I replied.

I sensed his gaze – probably a brief glance through that fall of hair – but he didn't slow down and I didn't watch him continue at funeral procession pace.

I did, however, entertain myself imagining it. In addition to mop envy, I apparently also had a burgeoning case of khaki pants envy. I also had a hell of an idea that I could not wait to share.

I kept those thoughts to myself. Instead, I wondered if I could rig a mouse pad on the floor and click with my toes without my eyes-of-a-hawk boss catching on. I filed that away for later and focused on not looking too hopeful and perky, at least not until it was almost quitting time. It wouldn't do to arouse suspicion.

I suffered until lunch break. I agonized until coffee time. I practically writhed in my stupid squeaky chair until the big 5-double-oh of quitting time. Despite the pain of keeping the news to myself, it had the lovely side-effect of forcing me to refine my plans, boiling them down until I took myself up to the roof of the neighboring condo building with two words for companions.

Yeah, they were just two words, but I was pretty sure they were about to change my life. Hell, they were gonna change the lives of all five of us, not that I expected to get any thanks for it. Quatre had never seemed to chafe under the weight he bore. In fact, he seemed to relish it in a perverse way. Wufei had taken a bit longer to be cowed, but eventually his sense of justice had bruised and bloodied his spirit until it had slunk off to lick its wounds in another postal code. When he'd finally snapped out of it, the fire in his eyes had been directed at himself and I'd known he was lost; in order to move on, he'd had to blame himself. I sometimes envied him that. Hell, if I could find it in me to feel guilty, I might have been more... docile about this whole thing. Still, I never expected that Heero would be next. It seemed he'd taken the same weekend seminar as Wufei.

"We did this."

I frowned at the memory. God how I'd wanted to argue with him. I still did, but my hopes weren't very high that anything would come of it. He was perfectly stubborn, the bastard. No, I knew what – and who – my best and only shot was now. All I had to do was make contact, set out the bait, and reel him in.

I sat right where I was, letting the wind whip at me and the setting sun bake me to a nice golden brown as I waited. And as I waited, I considered the phrase that had the potential to kick some serious ass.

Two words. I probably wouldn't have thought of them at all if Trowa hadn't bragged about his wood today and gotten me thinking. I thought about the spark of humor in his eyes and the lithe grace he still retained. Maybe it was an acrobat thing.

With two words, I could find out. If I dared. But that was a no-brainer. Of course I dared. Even now, old, unused plans which had grown dusty and rusty from moldering in the back of my mind for so long were suddenly seeing the light of day thanks to Howard's long-awaited, little message. I grinned as I ran through the sequence of my mission again, looking for weaknesses and liabilities. Hm, there was nothing there that a partner couldn't handle, I was sure.

Hot damn. I – we – actually had a shot now. Well, maybe. It would all depend on the one guy I never figured I'd end up partnering.

He didn't approach me from behind. No, the damn show-off strolled over to me, walking silently along the raised ledge of the building's roof. He paused not eight inches from me and sat down in a fluid, confident motion. Definitely an acrobat thing.

He mirrored my pose, dangling his feet out over the abyss between the office building across the driveway and the residential condo beneath our asses. Each building was only a piddly eight stories tall, but this was the closest I could get to being airborne. Well, without flinging myself over the edge. How pathetic.

I didn't comment on Trowa's presence. He was here, so he must've gotten the doodle-message I'd tossed into his scow of infinite holding.

"Heero's given up," I remarked as those two aforementioned words continued to chime in the back of my skull, ringing, ringing, ringing like bells. I almost laughed aloud at that but this was not the moment for it.

Trowa nodded, either unsurprised or already having figured out Heero's defection from our brotherhood of underdog rebels for himself.

It's just you and me now, I didn't comment. Trowa would have just agreed with that, too. Observations were useful little things but only up to a point. Instead, I glanced at my wristwatch. He was early; the evening news was just wrapping up.

"You're missing the weather report," I remarked.

Trowa shrugged. "It's not like either of us have much use for it."

Too true.

"So, what's new and exciting in the world?" I asked, working up to the offer I was planning on making him. I'd skipped the evening news broadcast today. I knew I shouldn't have, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to concentrate on it. I guess the scent of freedom made me antsy. Or something.

Trowa took a deep breath and said, "The L5 colony reconstruction started today. They're playing the speech again."

The Speech. I snorted softly. "Say it with capital letters, man," I retorted. God, that fucking speech. I wouldn't have been able to stomach it, either. Never mind that it had been the only thing that had kept our asses from being locked away in solitary confinement for the rest of our natural lives, I still couldn't find even a grain of thankfulness in me. Hell, most days, I wished our friend Relena, the Vice Foreign Minister, hadn't butted the hell in when the War Tribunal had started seriously considering executing the five of us. Oh, excuse me: not execution; it was euthanasia. See, we're all civilized now.

Whatever.

It was still one hell of a bitter fuckin' shock to know that it had been Quatre who'd literally bought us our futures... such as they were. Shit, all I had to do was let myself recall that press conference and I'd hear Q's voice again, soft with resignation but firm with conviction:

"... there's nothing any of us can do to change the past, but it is our duty to rebuild and contribute to the future of peace between the Earth and the colonies. To that end, all five of us have chosen to dedicate our lives to righting whatever wrongs we can with the aid of the full range of resources which Winner Enterprises is capable of providing..."

I'd stood back, head bowed with contrition as Quatre had offered up his family's company – a previously privately owned mega-conglomerate – in exchange for our lives. He'd promised to serve the peace by turning over all profits from WEI to the new United Government. Now we worked until our brains atrophied so those politico bastards could have their comfy office chairs. Oh, I guess some good has come of this: the colony in L5 that had self-destructed during the war was being rebuilt. Mostly, though, I just hated my servitude. None of us got a salary, a car, or a life. We were stuck here on this compound for the rest of our pathetic lives. Here, where we could be useful instead of sucking up taxpayers' money in some prison cell somewhere. I almost wished I were sitting on my ass in a concrete cell; I wished I could draw just a little bit of blood from the hypocritical bastards who'd condemned us all. We'd fucking saved the Earth and the colonies and yet somehow that had made us all too dangerous to be allowed basic human rights and freedoms. I'd always known that life wasn't fair, but that really took the frickin' cake. Even now I felt like screaming. Hell, I'd felt like screaming ever since Quatre had delivered The Speech.

"If I see that Goddamn thing one more time, I'll put my fist through the vid screen," I predicted darkly.

"Me first," Trowa retorted flatly.

This can't go on, I didn't say. I didn't have to. I said instead, "This won't last forever.” My tone was soft but final. Certain. It was the best I could do to let Trowa know that there really was a light at the end of this tunnel and I could see it.

Trowa shifted beside me and drew a wad of notebook paper out of his pocket. I recognized it as the scrap on which I'd sketched a picture of the two of us, sitting here at sunset.

"Tell me," he urged and I relaxed. Yeah, he knew I had a plan. During the war, Trowa's plans had always been pretty good, hinging on his chameleon-like personality. I'd never been sure where he actually stood until the shit hit the fan. Only then would he risk sacrificing his cover for the success of the mission and the sake of the colonies.

He'd relied on blatant infiltration, sometimes under a false identity and sometimes as himself. He'd always been a master at being the guy who was right in front of your nose but utterly invisible in his mundaneness. Me? I came in two flavors: undetectable and sleight-of-hand. I figured our range of skills alone could make us a pretty good team. And besides, him being a former acrobat and me being a former thief were lovely bonuses. Ours was a match made in—er, well, not heaven exactly, but out of necessity. Especially since we'd recently lost our last wingman.

The two words that had come to me earlier chimed at me again. Grinning wryly, I glanced Trowa's way, studying him, wondering if he'd go for it. If not, I was pretty sure it'd take more than an arm wrestling match to convince him. Still, I figured I had a good chance. After all, Trowa had done a helluvalot for the sake of the mission before. Well, I was pretty sure that sucking up to Une was significantly worse than what I was about to suggest.

Speaking of which, it was time for me to spit it out before Trowa started getting irritated with me for yanking his chain.

So I said those two words softly but very much aloud: "Spousal privilege."

The wind puffed at his hair and I caught a glimpse of a speculative green gaze. I wasn't sure what surprised me more: that he wasn't shocked or that he seemed to be seriously considering it. "Are you proposing?" he murmured.

"Yup," I returned brightly. "Marry me and it's all yours."

"It?" he probed, turning to face me and I watched him study me from scalp to sole.

I grinned. "C'mon, Tro. I can't just give it away."

His mouth twitched as if he might actually smile. "And I'm known for taking leaps of faith?"

"You are the acrobat."

"And you're the thief."

I didn't deny it. Instead, I said, "I still don't lie.” And that included marriage vows.

He didn't remind me that he had no such compulsion. I knew he could screw me six ways to Sunday. I didn't need a reminder of all the times during the war when he'd played his role for the enemy just a little too convincingly.

I gave him a toothy grin. "It'll work," I promised. Howard's email had been totally confident and I knew the old man wouldn't be so cruel as to give me false hope. "Are you gonna turn me down?"

He studied me for a long moment. I might have tried to sweeten the deal – yes, dammit, I needed him that damn badly in order for this to work – but the wind stirred again and I glimpsed a hungry shimmer in his eyes. He wanted his freedom just as badly as I did. I could see it.

Perhaps because I had seen it, he didn't try to deny it. "When?"

"Soon," I replied, deliberately thrumming my fingers against the ledge between us and tapping five times with my thumb. Today was Tuesday. I meant to have us hitched on Sunday, five days from now.

"Hm" was all he said. "Are we going to keep this to ourselves?"

"We could," I admitted. "Public record should be enough...” I shrugged. I wasn't about to ask the guy to come on to me at the office. Not that I'd ever seen any indication that he had a limit when it came to his assignments during the war, but still...

Warm fingers brushed against mine. I startled a bit, doing a double-take at the feel of his calluses. I'd long since lost mine but it appeared that maintenance work had allowed Trowa to keep his. Maybe that was why his spirit hadn't been beaten like Heero's had; Trowa still had physical evidence of what he used to be capable of.

"Duo," he said firmly and the tone of his voice was another shock. I looked up, my chin lifting automatically and I found myself nose-to-nose with him. The wind stirred, revealing and concealing his eyes. And then he leaned forward and kissed me.

It wasn't my first kiss, not technically. But, in a way, it was. The last time I'd been kissed had been back on my home colony, back before I'd become Shinigami. I'd been just a kid then and so had the girl. But now... now I was a grown man and I was being kissed by another man. I forced myself not to tense up, and when Trowa let his eyes drift closed, I followed suit.

The kiss consisted of just a gentle press of warm lips against mine. A simple touch. I could handle this, I soothed myself, struggling against the mortified flush I could feel slowly boiling me from within. And then he moved, brushing his mouth against mine. The friction sent my heart racing and I felt my mouth open either in helpless reaction or burgeoning protestation: I wasn't sure which. Suddenly, we were mingling our breaths together. I leaned toward him, my mind huddling and quaking in its figurative boots somewhere in the asteroid belt. I tried not to think about what I was doing – about what we were doing. The ohfuckohfuckohfuck was there, though, lurking in the back of my mind waiting for its turn to make an appearance.

And the kiss changed yet again. Trowa nibbled insistently at my lips, but it wasn't until he drew my lower lip into his mouth that the building heat rocketed southward and I gasped. My eyes flew open at the feel of soft suction and then he slowly leaned back.

I braced myself for the delayed reaction I knew was coming. I figured I had about two seconds before I started wigging out over kissing another man and maybe-sorta liking it. In this day and age, same sex couples weren't all that rare, I just never thought I'd enjoy... er, that is, I'd always assumed I'd prefer to kiss, y'know, women.

Maybe I still did.

With that thought came blessed relief. I was twenty years old, give or take, and I hadn't kissed anyone since I was a kid, hadn't been touched intimately at all in my short life. Funny how revenge, mobile suit training, fighting a war, and then serving a glorified prison sentence got in the way of shit like that. So this... this whatever I was feeling was just a hormonal response to interacting with another warm body. It didn't mean anything deep and profound. So what if Trowa had turned me on. Shit, I'd probably have the same reaction to being touched by anyone I trusted. I couldn't help it.

Somewhat calm again, I let my lashes flutter open. It was time to face the music.

Trowa's eyes, when I could see them thanks to the breeze, were dark and heavy-lidded. Beneath my hand, which was fisted in the front of his shirt although I couldn't tell you when I'd done that, his heart was beating steadily. He gazed back at me, panting a bit as he stared at my mouth.

Shit.

I guess I wasn't the only one having a hormonal moment.

It didn't even occur to me that I ought to flinch when he reached forward and pressed a knuckle against the underside of my chin, coaxing me to close my still-gaping mouth. I was tempted to give myself a shake but no. No, if we were going to pull this off, it had to look genuine.

I felt myself start to blush and I went with it. Fuck it. If anyone had eyes on us, it would only make the kiss look genuine. The thought of the security dicks watching us jolted me back to the here and now. My fingers twitched and I realized I was still clutching his shirt. I felt nervous and jittery, but I deliberately did not jerk my hand away. I released the fabric and, before I could decide what to do with myself next, Trowa's other hand came up and he pressed my palm against his chest.

He was still cradling my chin so I didn't jump out of my skin when he feathered his thumb over my lower lip. It was a near thing, though. It kinda rankled that he had no problem with this pretense and I was all but freaking out. Shit. Again.

But I guess I'd passed the test; his mouth twitched into a satisfied smile. "Yes," he told me and, God help me, I couldn't even remember what the original question had been.

"Yes?" I squeaked.

He leaned forward until his mouth was beside my ear. "I'll marry you."

Well, fuck.

I should have been thrilled – this was what I'd been going for after all – but I just felt... stupefied. And yeah, there was a good sprinkling of panic thrown in. I strangled it back down and forcibly molded it into anticipation. I had a partner now. Trowa had my back and I had his. My plan was going to work.

"You won't regret it," I promised and he shivered. I felt it against my palm which he still held firmly to his solid chest.

He made no move to pull away so I raised my free hand and tentatively slid my fingers into his hair, holding him. The wind swirled around us, but I could feel his warm breaths against my cheek.

Holy shit, what was I getting us into?

Freedom, I reminded myself and that grounded me. I could play house with Trowa in order to see this through. There were five lives – five futures – riding on this crap shoot. It was time to get serious.

I turned toward Trowa's ear and nuzzled it. I was a little surprised by how nice he smelled, like soap and warm, smooth skin. Like strength and patience. If those things could be a smell at all. "You can waylay me tomorrow when I stop by to say hi," I rasped.

"My pleasure," he just about purred, his fingers stirring over my hand, and I had to wonder at his acting abilities. The man deserved a freakin' Oscar.

"I'm sure," I drawled. Taking a deep breath, I leaned away and he let me go. Well, mostly. He dropped his hand from my chin and released mine from where it was still pressed against his chest but his fingers caught mine upon the bit of ledge between our thighs. I found it oddly comforting that he didn't trap my hand. Instead, my hand rested atop his.

Yeah, I'd made a good choice with Trowa. Wufei never would have gone along with my plan; he'd probably accuse me of trying to cheat justice. Quatre honestly believed we deserved to be treated like white collar slaves. Heero might have agreed to the act before he'd resigned himself to his fate, but he would have insisted on micromanaging the entire mission. With Trowa, I didn't have to worry about any of that. He still had his spirit, still craved freedom, and he was willing to follow my lead to get it. He might end up making a patsy outta me like he had when he'd infiltrated OZ, but, by God, he would not deny me my role in this. Somehow, I just knew it.

Yes, God dammit, this was going to work!

I gave Trowa a grin which, to my unending shock, he reciprocated. Damn, I don't think I'd ever seen the man produce an honest-to-goodness smile in the five years I'd known him. I didn't really know what to make of it.

"C'mon," I said, swinging my legs over the ledge and standing up on the roof of the building. "I'll walk you down to your place. It's gettin' cold."

His lips twitched into a playful smile as he stood. He didn't try to pull his hand from mine and I couldn't bring myself to release it. It would be awkward as hell if I did.

"I'm pretty sure I can find my front door by myself," he teased.

"Yeah," I replied, "but lots of things are more fun with two."

He gave me a sideways glance and damn if it wasn't teasing. "I'll hold you to that."

And boy did he. Five minutes later, I found myself pressing him back against his still-locked front door, kissing him right there in plain view of any and everyone who might have been wandering in the hall. It was deserted, but still!

I did the nibbling this time, the nudging and the nuzzling. His rumbling sigh made me tingle in the base of my spine. I decided that was OK. I'd treat all these moments like they were a dream and dreams didn't have to make sense. I went with the flow.

So did Trowa. His hands ghosted up the front of the black T-shirt I was wearing and l felt his fingers interlace at the nape of my neck. His thumbs moved into my bound hair and massaged behind my ears.

I braced myself against the door with one hand and daringly placed the other on his hip. He pulled away, leaned his head back against the door and looked at me through his lashes. Trowa is significantly taller than me, broader in the shoulders, too, but I knew submission when I saw it. It still shocked the hell outta me.

"Are you coming in?" he asked, his tone huskier than I'd ever heard it before.

I gently pulled against his hip, drawing him closer as I shook my head. "No," I whispered as he bent his head back toward me so I could press a chaste kiss to the corner of his mouth. "A good catholic boy like me would never...!" I teased.

Trowa gave me a skeptical look. His right hand smoothed down over my chest until his fingers could pluck at the cross I still wore beneath my shirt. "A very good catholic boy," he returned, his lips quirking into a smirk that made me want to retaliate.

Grinning wickedly, I slid my hand daringly into his back pocket. He inhaled sharply, his hips shifting toward me, but I didn't linger. My fingers closed around my intended target and I mutely lifted Trowa's pass card up for him to see.

He grunted. "Tease."

"You better believe it."

He shoved good-naturedly at my shoulders before turning to press his palm to the scanner beside his door. I stood behind him, not touching but I could still feel the heat rising off of him. Damn.

Trowa glanced at me over his shoulder, his gaze intense, patient, and freakin' predatory. Swallowing, I slid his pass card through the reader. The light blinked on and the door whispered open. I slipped the card back into his pocket as he crossed the threshold, tugging playfully on the neck strap of the thing before releasing it.

He pivoted sharply, braced himself on upraised arms in the doorway, and stared at me. "Do that again and I'll assume you mean it," he growled.

"I'll keep that in mind," I replied, rising up on the balls of my feet to give him a fast, biting kiss. "Good night, Trowa."

"I'll see you tomorrow, Duo.” And it was a good thing I could trust Trowa with some degree of certainty because that sounded a helluvalot like a threat.

I didn't sleep well. But, hey, I figured that was pretty much a given. I was still kinda freaked out that Trowa had kissed me in the first place. Sure, maybe he'd been testing my resolve, pushing to see if I was really prepared for my own mission, giving me the chance to test drive the idea of being in a relationship with him before I fucked up and got us both killed.

I could rationalize that. No problem.

What was keeping me from my beauty sleep was far more disturbing. I kept wondering why I'd come on to him at his door. Fuck, the memory of it was making me tingle again and, with an exasperated huff, I crossed my arms above my head, stuffing my hands beneath my pillow to keep from adjusting things further south. I was not going to jack off to thoughts of his surrender, his damned purr and freakin' smell.

Not going to happen.

It might make my life easier if I just gave into it, yeah, but... dammit, I couldn't. I am not the chameleon Trowa is. I could not afford to start lying to myself, convincing myself that I wanted him. The mission was top priority. I needed to get my head on straight and clean out all the compartments I'd be using in the coming weeks: infiltration, hacking, destruction, and a partnership that looked like a normal marriage. I wouldn't have bothered with the latter at all if I'd thought I could count on Heero, Quatre, and Wufei to have my back, to play the game. I silently damned Howard for waiting until today to freakin' send that email.

I sighed. At least he'd sent it. Now all I had to do was drag three guys, who would be kicking and screaming the whole way, into accepting absolution. Fun.

Well, none of it was going to happen at all if I couldn't keep myself rested, so I locked away all my thoughts of Trowa, missions, and a specific region in my pants which seemed to be miraculously zero G... and just freakin' shut my eyes. Eventually, I'd fall asleep and when that joyous event occurred, I'd be ready for it.

------------

NOTES:

"Tro-bot" is from the third installment of Avarice's Appearances series titled Armchair Psychology

"A good catholic boy" is a nod to Lone Wolf's AU 1x2 fic of the same name.

The fishing metaphor brings to mind "The Right Bait" by Shenlong & "Just My Luck" by Kwycksylver.

Let me know if you have any questions about my references to the series and/or pre-pilot days of the characters. I'm trying to stay in the realm of canon, here.

[ ch. 2 ] [ back to The Manwell's fic ]