Author: The Manwell
Notes
: 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.

The following chapter is rated M+ for sexual situations (which are somewhat more graphic than I've previously posted in this story). If you would prefer to read a less-explicit version, please do so here on fanfiction.net:Two out of Three, Chapter 17

Two out of Three
Chapter 17: Sweet Avalanche

I'm addicted to the way I feel when I think of you...

I slammed Wufei's office door behind me, fuming and furious with myself. Why had I said I'd be there in a week? A whole Goddamn week! What the hell did I think I needed all that freakin' time for? So I could swim across the fucking North Atlantic and hitchhike cross-country to our house? Trim my Goddamn hair one strand at a frickin' time? The hell!

But, when I stopped ranting about it, I knew damn well why I'd set the date for a week from now. I wanted Trowa to have at least that much warning, at least that much time to figure out what he wanted now that I was finally ready to lay my cards on the table. If he took me back impulsively (although, yeah, it was kinda hard to imagine Trowa doing much of anything impulsively) and then came to regret it later, I was pretty sure it would break me.

As I rode the elevator up to the administrative floor of Preventers HQ, I leaned against the wall and sighed. Damn, it was frickin' terrifying to contemplate how badly Trowa could hurt me. I'd never wanted anyone to have that kind of control over me, but... this was Trowa. I was perversely fascinated by the fact that he was the one who could either shelter or damn me. Maybe it was because he had such a great track record dealing with other caged and cornered wild things.

Speaking of wild things, it kind of short-circuited my brain that a mere six hours of train-time ago, I'd been nestled in a little country town, enjoying my last breakfast as a guest of Guillaume and Pierra. Just looking at this damn building from the outside and imagining a nearby desk with my name on it had made my skin itch and crawl. I don't think I was ever gonna be cut out for office life, even if it was an actual office-of-four-walls like Wufei's. I couldn't do that again. It would drive me completely apeshit with a double serving of bugfuck.

It was tempting to give in to the niggling distrust that Une still inspired and just say to hell with it. I could find a job somewhere else – hell, hadn't I just proved that in Smallville? – but then there was the ominous threat of an appearance before the War Tribunal looming on the horizon. And it wasn't just my future hanging in the balance. If I was serious about being with Trowa, then I had to keep my ass out of trouble. Well, within reason. So I was kinda obligated to avoid a hearing if I could.

With that in mind, I'd set aside my ingrained suspicion of government organizations and used my time on the train back to Brussels by cracking open the introduction packet that Une had included in my file. And, after going over everything, I'd concluded that joining the Preventers really was a decent option for me. If I could stay away from those damn desks.

It was obvious that the state of pure freedom I'd worked for wasn't gonna happen. Not now, at least. Still, the contract clauses were very clear. After our initial three years were up, we'd have more options in the private sector. So I had more hope – realistic hope and not grandiose, daydreaming hope – now that our freedom would happen eventually than I'd ever entertained before.

I was tempted to just get it the hell over with: just tell Une to sign me up for training and, if I were single, I'd go ahead and do that. But I wasn't and I didn't wanna be which meant I wasn't just talking about my life, here. Which meant that Trowa was gonna be the first person I'd discuss my future career with. Not Une.

I still had to look in on her office and say hello before I hunted down Hilde and asked about that promised transport to the house. Despite Wufei's line about Une appreciating what I'd done, I figured the director would have a couple of official-type-things to say to me about the appropriation of her evidence, but we all knew that I had a strong case in my favor. I'd gladly take a reprimand about my lack of confidence in her people over the risk of my suit's detonation sequence being triggered.

Thinking it'd be best to just face the obligatory argument head on, I made the director's office my next stop. I was not exactly thrilled to learn that Une was in, but they say that progress is not a comfortable experience. Whoo boy are they right.

So, we had it out (behind closed doors, thank God). She accused me of irresponsibility – "You broke the chain of evidence!" – and I obligingly did the same – "You were risking people's lives by keeping it here!"

I answered her rally of "Then you should have come to me about moving Deathscythe to a secure location!" with "And just how long would that have taken?"

A bit more was said and implied and possibly shouted before Une's narrowed eyes finally flashed with victory. "You really do care about the lives of the agents and civilians here."

"Of course I do." Why had she thought I'd taken Deathscythe down to Earth in the first place all those years ago? It was inconceivable to me that someone could fight a war for the sake of power alone, but then that was more or less precisely what Une's attitude had been back then. I decided it was in my best interest not to bring that up.

Perhaps she sensed my deliberate omission. Relaxing back into her seat, she nodded. "Thank you for stopping by, Mr. Cross. If you need to arrange transport somewhere, I'm sure Agent Schbeiker can assist you."

"Thank you, ma'am," I replied and got my ass the hell outta there.

"Look who's here!" Hilde crowed happily in greeting when I poked my head into her cramped and overflowing work den.

Believing the situation unlikely to erupt into violence, I entered the room. As soon as I was within range, Hilde punched me in the shoulder.

"Ow!" I complained.

"You butt!" she accused. "What were you thinking?"

Had she added a little more disbelief right after the "what", she could have sounded just like Wufei. Creepy.

"Hey, I've already been over this with Une. Did you wanna work here with a freakin' bomb under your ass?"

She was not amused. "I wasn't talking about Deathscythe," she retorted, giving me that grumpy cat look all women can pull off from the moment of their birth. "Although that was pretty dumb. Still! How could you just leave—!"

I held up a hand. I was pretty sure I knew what she was gonna say next and, while there was nothing I could do about the past, I was here to see what I could salvage of the future. She'd appreciate that. The salvage aspect, I mean.

"We're gonna meet and work it out, Hil. Relax."

"Relax. Right," she harrumphed. "You didn't see the look on his face after you charged out of here."

No, I hadn't. She was right about that. I guess I could see it, though...

Guilt waddled into the room, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce.

"Should I?" I asked after a beat of heavy silence. All it'd take was a visit to the security mainframe (and given what I knew about the average government installation, I could make a damn good guess on where to find it) and a three second search through the meeting room video logs. That easily, I could see just what my panic and selfishness had done to my husband.

Hilde considered it for a moment. "No," she finally said, and that disturbed me even more than the presence of Guilt which was coiled and ready to strike. She didn't say it, but the way she wouldn't meet my gaze told me that Trowa wouldn't want me to see him that way. However he'd looked after I'd just walked out on him.

Damn. I was starting to think it'd be easier to just cut out my heart, add some garnish, and offer it up flambé style.

I cleared my throat. "I'm meeting him at our house next week. Can you get me on a flight by then? And set up a rental car?"

"Sure," she answered and, this time, when she reached toward my shoulder, she gave it a reassuring squeeze. "How soon do you want to leave?"

That was the question, wasn't it? Did I wanna hang around here and make Wufei babysit me? (Tempting...) Maybe let Heero rub in the fact that he'd likely already started up with his training so he was always gonna outrank me? (Oh, I knew he wouldn't say anything. He wouldn't have to. He'd use the Heero Yuy "But You Can Call Me ‘Sir'" Look of Superiority.) Or maybe I could hang out with Quatre and try to keep him from developing a caffeine addiction as he transitioned from anonymous-paper-pusher to man-with-meaningful-life-ahead-of-him?

Nah. I'd pass, thanks.

"Is there an evening flight?"

She gave me a look that told me if there was, then my ass was gonna be on it. As she moved back to her desk (although, how she could even locate the seat of her chair under all those memos and files, I had no freakin' clue), she asked, "What are you going to do in the meantime?"

Good question. "Uh..."

"There's a barber shop just down the street," she volunteered with a wink. "Two hundred meters to the south."

"Uh huh."

"Just in case you're interested."

If she were a man, I'd have had a very colorful name to call her. I had to content myself with rolling my eyes as I fought my way free into the corridor. Still, she had a point; it was time to give the ball cap a rest. I didn't think I was gonna wanna make it a permanent look.

Before fashion, though, something a little more... responsible was in order. I turned in the direction of the elevators and, gritting my teeth, marched inside. I pushed the button for Medical and wondered if it was futile to hope that today was Sally's day off.

The doors opened on the in-house clinic lobby and I peeked out.

"Mr. Cross!" Sally called happily, looking up from a computer at the reception desk.

Dammit. Of course I couldn't be that lucky. As tempting as it was to excuse my visit as a wrong-button incident, I knew I wasn't going to. I had to do this. I sighed and moved into the lobby before Shinigami could drop kick my ass outta the elevator.

"Hey," I greeted.

"What brings you by? Pre-training physical?"

"Um, not exactly." When I told her what I needed, she didn't give me a speech or any funny looks. Actually, all she said was, "All right. Follow me."

Twenty minutes later, I was reconnoitering the barber shop Hilde had mentioned. I mean, hell, I had time to kill before my test results came back, so.

Obviously, I've never been a big fan of haircuts, but it was time to start fresh. I took a deep breath and pushed open the door. The bell chimed and the resident barber looked up from his golf magazine. Our gazes met. His wandered away first, zeroing in on the ragged ends of my shoulder-length hair. He blinked. I grinned ruefully. Oh yeah. I was pretty sure I was gonna end up being another one of the horror stories the guy shared with his regular customers in between chatting about the dog's most recent trip to the vet and the wife's latest shopping trip.

I took off my hat and let him get a good look at just what he was gonna be dealing with. He looked the monster in the eye, so to speak, and didn't run away screaming, so I had to give him points for that.

"Have a seat," the guy said, looking a little shell shocked.

"An inch off the front," I muttered, sliding into the chair. "I'm gonna start wearing the back in a ponytail, so..."

"Hm. I'll see what I can do."

Eventually, he warmed up to me and it turned out that he had two black cats (no dog) and his wife had a compulsive need to knit doilies. He pointed to a pile next to the magazine rack by the door. "Help yourself."

Heh. No thanks. Hell, I had to squeeze my eyes shut and clamp my lips together to keep from guffawing at the thought of Trowa and I having doilies in our house. If, y'know, it was still our house this time next week.

Right. There was no point in thinking about that until I heard Trowa tell me to fuck off, eat shit, and die. And I was not masochistic enough to dwell on it. So I asked about doilies instead and learned more than I'd ever need to know about their various patterns and materials.

I kinda pitied the guy, to tell ya the truth.

As I paid and tipped my barber, he asked if I was going to start my training soon. I waved my "Trainee" baseball cap back and forth. "Eh, it's not set yet. Maybe next month."

"You take care, JC," Jean-Robert the barber said. "Peaceful times take a lot of work and sacrifice."

"Don't I know it."

Before he could ask, the bell over the door chimed. I glanced over and there was Hilde grinning from ear to ear. "Something told me I might find you here."

"Psychic intuition?" I guessed.

"I just followed the horrified expressions of the people on the street. They led me straight over."

"Well, that's not gonna work a second time!" I turned my head this way and that so she could admire the smooth (if stubby) ponytail I was now sporting. "Classy, huh?"

She shook her head, smiling wryly. "Come on, Prince Charming. Let's get some lunch."

There was more than lunch involved, as it turned out. She passed me my ticket for a late afternoon flight—

"Hey, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were tryin' to get rid of me," I joked.

"As if it would be this easy," she retorted gamely.

—she also handed me a sealed envelope from Medical—

"Thanks for not asking," I said with a smirk as I tucked it into my jacket pocket.

She held up her hands in the classic hands-off gesture. "I don't want to know how your colonoscopy went," she quipped. Just to see me wince at the thought of what that kind of procedure must entail, I'm sure. Sadistic female.

—and presented me with a shiny, new credit card.

"We'll get the bill here and you're on the grid, so every time you buy a pack of gum..."

"Somebody gets buzzed with an update. I got it." I grinned at her. "Why didn't you just tell me not to use it for porn?"

"JC, I do not want to think about you and that at the same time. Ever."

I chuckled.

As we worked our way through our sandwiches and coffee, I tried to get her to spill the beans on this significant other of hers, but until I acquired sufficiently embarrassing blackmail material to use as leverage, my curiosity was gonna remain unsatisfied. She wasn't talking.

She was, however, glowing. Freakin' luminous. And I instantly despised her for it.

My sense of humor linked arms with my patience and boosted a transport shuttle. In less than a tenth of second, they roared off over the horizon. Without their stabilizing force, I snapped. "Don't you have some incident reports to file or something?"

She blinked at me, probably experiencing conversation whiplash. "No, but I do have a couple of travel expense requests to send to admin."

OK. Point. I should probably not be chomping away at the hand that's passing out airline tickets and rental car reservations. It wasn't a good enough reason to stop clinging to my resentment, though. "So, are you gonna gimme a lift to the airport or shall I start walking now?"

Hilde gave me that pissy cat look again. "If I thought it'd do any good, I'd tell you to get a move on."

I rolled my eyes. Yeah, I was being a bastard. I couldn't summon enough indignation to care.

"Here's hoping your mood improves," she said, standing. "I'm parked in the garage across the street and your stuff from WEI is already in the trunk. Let's go."

Even though she was pissed at me (and I completely deserved it for being such a shit), she still gave me a hug at the airport security check.

"The next time you see me, I'm gonna be myself again," I impulsively promised, feeling the first flutterings of shame. Yeah, my conscience would be smacking me over this until it smarted later.

"You'd better."

The flight wasn't long and the time difference was only a measly hour. With daylight left to burn, I set a direct course for the transport desk to see a bored rent-a-car clerk about a vehicle. I braved the streets of Dublin that first day. After cursing the tenth Goddamn round-about (the frickin' things existed to turn you into the equivalent of a dog chasing its own freakin' tail), I gave up on getting a feel for the place while cruising the streets and found a centrally-located hotel from which I could prowl the town on foot.

Nightfall came as I strolled past restaurants, pubs, and assorted neon lights. It sounded like the Saturday night it was – everyone was loud and doing their obnoxious best to air out their wild side after a week of repressing it. Once upon a time, I would've jumped right in and joined the party. Now, it all seemed kinda crass and empty. Like spending the last hour of your life sorting through jelly beans by color. In short, it was a lonely and absolute waste of my time. I hunched my shoulders. Suddenly, I really, really missed-wanted-craved the weight and warmth of Trowa's arm across my back. I turned around and went the hell back to the hotel to order overpriced room service.

I battled my way out of Dublin the very next morning.

The round-abouts lessened in frequency the further I ventured into the countryside, but the wandering sheep took up the torch of tormenting motorists. I laughed out loud at the posted speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour in areas where flocks of spray-paint-spotted sheep regularly trotted across the road, blithely daring drivers to hit them and invite a lawsuit from their owners. Christ.

I decided to do the majority of my driving at night. The sheep would probably be asleep then. Or at least more reflective in the headlights of the car.

After that first full day, I took my time touring the island, circling ever closer to my final destination. I saw sights, browsed through souvenir shops, sampled and decided that soda bread was an acquired taste that I had zero interest in acquiring. The land, though, was awe-inspiring. My first impression of the country was that it was very green, but also rocky, and gorgeous. My second impression was that I'd probably be able to appreciate it better if I weren't seeing it all on my lonesome.

I didn't so much drive as I meditated on what I was gonna say to Trowa. I was pretty sure that profuse apologies and a good deal of begging would be involved. By the end of the week, I was so sick of going over and over and over it, that I was actually looking forward to just having it out. Like ripping off a Band-aid, it'd be best to just get it the hell over with instead of poking and picking at it.

Little by little, I neared a small touristy town called Clifden in Connemara. The landscape rolled gently but dramatically with the Twelve Bens and dived to a climatic and craggy finish into the ocean. The land ended up revealing itself as the closest thing to paradise I'd ever seen – and given the villa where Quatre and I had hidden out during the war, that was really saying something – but I was too damn worn out to be anything other than relieved when the sun rose on the final day and I could abandon my aimless wandering. I didn't even stop to toss out all the neatly bundled convenience store bags of food wrappers and drink boxes in the backseat of the car. All I cared about was the fact that I had three-quarters of a tank of gas and something like twenty kilometers of asphalt to tackle. The sheep exhibited an uncharacteristic sense of self-preservation and stayed the hell outta my way.

It was still very early morning when I pulled into the drive of the little house I'd seen for the first time three months ago in a photograph. Mine was the only vehicle in sight, but that didn't mean anything. Maybe Trowa was here already and he'd put his in the garage. The rolling door was closed, so I couldn't tell.

I nervously turned my attention back to the house. As I put the car in park and turned off the engine, my nerves were momentarily soothed by awe and I marveled: Joseph Cross and Tristan Armstrong owned this place together.

JC and Tris.

I wondered (a bit randomly) if he was gonna give me the chance to get used to calling him "Tris" in public.

Damn. Stupid, little irrelevant thoughts like that weren't supposed to gut you, but that's exactly what the frickin' thing did.

My hands tightened on the wheel. I didn't want to go in that house. I didn't want to face The End, if that was what was waiting for me. But I'd set up this meeting and when – if – Trowa showed up, did I want him to see me sitting out here in the damn driveway whimpering? With a reminder to myself that I was too young to be worrying that the strange twinges in my chest were a symptom of an oncoming heart attack, I reached for the door handle.

I pried myself out of the car and, somehow, I got my too-stiff, too-gangly limb-tangled self up the stone steps of the front porch. Christ. I'd never felt this awkward as a teenager. The hell. I could only hope that I didn't look half as clumsy as I thought I did.

Mouth dry and heart pounding, I lifted a hand and rapped on the wooden door. No one answered. I peeked in through the nearest window but detected no motion inside. Huh. I guess I really had gotten here first, then.

Digging the key (which had until this morning been taped to the inside of my file folder) out of my jeans pocket, I shouldered open the door and ventured inside. The place was furnished, but I couldn't really tell with what. All the chairs and stuff were covered and the air was close and dusty. If Une's Preventers had ever used this as a safe house or anything, then it'd been a looong time ago.

I left the front door ajar and meandered through the small living room, taking note of the fireplace. I didn't see any buttons or switches near it, so I assumed it was wood-burning. Damn. I didn't know the first thing about how to operate the thing. If I was lucky, we'd get Internet access so I could look it up.

A hall branched off of the living room, running along the center of the house lengthwise. I saved investigating those rooms for later, stayed my course, and ended up in the kitchen. The back door was solid wood – a definite plus for a paranoid guy like me – and someone had gone to the trouble of putting in storm windows. I crossed the room to poke around in the drawers.

Something – a change in air pressure or a small sound, maybe – alerted me to the fact that either I wasn't alone or the wind had picked up outside. Since all of the trees that I could see through the kitchen windows were perfectly still, I was betting on the former. Heart pounding and throat dry, I back tracked a step and looked over the rustic, kitchen table, through the archway and into the living room.

I was right. I wasn't alone. Trowa was standing in the doorway.

My chest just imploded at the sight of him: so grim, so still. He looked paler, thinner, like he hadn't been sleeping well or eating much. And his face... I think all it would take would be a twitch of his lips for his entire being to crack right down the middle in one jagged line.

I'd done this to him. Well, maybe not me directly or intentionally. I hadn't been hiding his food or making noise all damn night, but my willful ignorance and uncertainty had done this. Damn, but I'd kill to see him smile that genuine, carefree smile he'd given me on our wedding day when... when he'd been happy. Honestly happy.

It all kind of hit me then that he hadn't been acting, not for one damn moment of it. Our whirlwind courtship and brief stint as a married couple – none of it had been make-believe for him. And, what's more, the others had known it.

Wufei had hinted at it: "Life is very fragile. Take care of each other."

Quatre had implied it: "I've never seen Trowa so happy!"

Heero had damn well tried to smack me in the face with it: "I have a problem with people getting married under false pretenses."

That was more than enough to make my hands tremble with reaction and aimless anger, but there was more: that morning when I'd stopped by Quatre's office to ask for backup before tackling the change of residence forms... it hadn't been me he and Heero had been talking about. They hadn't been referring to the mission. They'd been talking about Trowa!

"I told him to follow his emotions, not let them lead him around by the nose."

"Even if that's so, it's his choice."

Oh, my God. They had known. They had all known. I just hadn't wanted to see it. Trowa wasn't the type to voluntarily (and flagrantly) express his emotions – especially on missions – but I could see now that he'd been bombarding me with them from Day One. I'd just been so busy selling myself on the line that it was all an act that I'd never considered any other option at all.

Goddamn, I was an ass.

I took a deep breath, stuck my hands in my pants pockets, and scuffed my way around to the side of the table. Trowa shut the door behind him and strode toward me, pausing on the kitchen threshold.

"It's a nice house," I began awkwardly just as he told me, "I heard what you said to Wufei."

OK, his topic totally trumped mine. "Er... what?"

"He called me before you arrived at his office. I was on the line, listening."

"Um. Oh. OK." Damn but the last time I'd felt this off-balance I was trying to dodge a swarm of mobile dolls in a damaged Leo suit as I endeavored to break into OZ's Lunar Base. "Uh... so, can I come home?"

"Have you sorted it out?" he whispered, his voice tight.

Dammit, if I'd handled this conversation like I'd planned and rehearsed and obsessed over, he wouldn't still be so painfully uncertain of me. I felt Shame crush my pride in its fist; I shouldn't have made Trowa ask that question in the first place.

I looked into his eyes and said, "Yes."

He gave me a long, measuring look. Finally, he replied, "All right."

"All right?" I repeated, flabbergasted. "That's all? You're not angry with me for taking off?"

"You had a valid reason."

"Yeah, but..."

"You didn't tell me about the mission details. I didn't tell you I couldn't be objective."

"Yeah, OK. As far as stupid goes, we're one all, but what I mean is..." Shit. I was botching this. "I didn't watch the recording you sent me before I... Hell, I just walked away and—"

"And now you're here."

Yeah. I was here, but he was a meter and a half away over there and it was somehow so damn hard to talk to him with this distance between us. I floundered. Pulling my right hand out of my pocket and pushing my bangs out of my eyes with a gusty sigh, I rasped, "God, I'm dying here, babe. Are you gonna kiss me or kick my—?"

And just like that, there was no distance between us. He was around the table and I was wrapping him up in my arms before I'd even finished complaining. Our mouths crashed together and melded and, oh man, it was good to be home. Our hands were all over each other like we'd just escaped from some mad scientist's sensory deprivation chamber.

"God, I missed you," I panted into his ear when we broke for breath.

"Your own fault," he rumbled, placing a sucking kiss on my neck. His hands delved past the waistband of my jeans and dug my shirt out from where I'd haphazardly tucked it in. I rocked on the balls of my feet as he pulled the garment free and his hands moved hotly toward the fly of my pants.

Yes yes yes yes—!

Trowa popped the button free as his mouth returned to mine and – oh God – you have no idea how badly I just wanted to go with it, but there was more that had to be said and – oh please! – he deserved more than the half-assed apology I'd given him. Besides, I still didn't know—

"Whoa, whoa, hold up, baby. What do you want?" I panted, trying to keep my voice light although I feared that we were, in fact, setting the tone for our entire marriage.

He backed off immediately, his desire giving ground to caution. "You don't want—?"

What I didn't want was to hear him finish that sentence with something unforgivably stupid.

"I don't know what I want," I clarified. "I—dammit—you're my first and I—"

And just like that he was looming over me, volatile as hell and twice as sexy for it. "You spent three months seeing other people and you're telling me you didn't—!"

"The hell! I didn't spend three months seeing other people!" I hissed, offended and furious that he'd even think I'd do something like that to him. "I spent ninety-four days trying to figure out if I had anything to offer—" I cut myself off right there. If I finished that sentence, I'd feel vindicated but Guilt would be slobbering all over Trowa. That was not how I wanted this meeting to go.

I took a deep breath, fisting my left hand in the back of his shirt, and admitted, "OK. The truth. I spent the majority of the time working myself to the point of exhaustion so I didn't have to face the fact that there was only one person I did want. Do want. You." I took a deep breath and admitted the rest of it. "And I spent the last week kicking myself for being such a dumbass and hoping like hell you'd take me back."

Trowa blinked at me. "You...?" For a minute he just looked kinda puzzled.

I clarified, "There was no kissing, dating, touching... no action of any kind." Except for that wet dream, but since it'd been about him anyway, I didn't think it counted.

"You didn't do any... experimenting in all that time?" He didn't sound disbelieving. He sounded hopeful.

"I'm a married man," I answered softly. As far as I was concerned, that was all that mattered. "And... I wanna stay that way."

Trowa wetted his lips, shifting toward me as if in response to some kind of gravitational force. I was so there, ready to meet him. His hands tightened on my hips like he was gonna pull me close again... and then they fisted. He seemed to make himself take a step back. He dropped his hands and glanced at the nearest window, frowning.

I stuck my hands back in my pockets. Yeah, we had to be smart about this. Getting hot ‘n' heavy without being clear as to why we were getting hot ‘n' heavy in the first place was kinda what had gotten us in this mess to begin with.

I watched as Trowa's eyes narrowed in thought and speculation. I braced myself for the ultimatum I just knew was coming.

"Are you sure?" he probed, turning back to me, scanning for weaknesses. "You want to be married. To me?"

"Yes," I rasped, my voice cracking like I was frickin' thirteen years old again and awkward as hell.

Trowa accepted my assertion with a decisive nod.

Oh, shit. Here it comes...

"Then you have to stop running from me, hiding from what you feel, ignoring the truth." He took a small step in my direction and, when I refused to back up, we were all but embracing. "When I touch you, when you like how I touch you... Don't hold out on me again."

Suddenly, I knew exactly what he was talking about: the evening before Howard had shown up, the time I'd convinced myself was just and only for Trowa, not for me. I was ashamed of myself when I remembered it. Trowa had come that evening, but I'd chosen not to. At the time, I'd thought he hadn't noticed. Yeah. Right.

That was for Trowa, I could remember thinking as I'd tried to will myself to sleep. Even though I'd wanted that time to be all for him, all about him, it'd still been about me hiding from the fact that I'd liked it when another man had touched me, had brought me off. I hadn't wanted to face the truth.

Trowa persisted, "No more hiding from me, from us, from this."

If there had been any strength left in me to resist, I might have trembled, but there was none. I laid it on the line: "I'm done with hiding. I'm home. I choose you."

He inhaled sharply, but I wasn't done yet. "I choose you for missions, for companionship, for friendship, for life. I'd marry you all over again." To illustrate this, I reached deeper in my jeans pocket with my right hand and pulled out a small, velvet jewelry bag. I presented it to him in expectant silence.

It wasn't much, just something I'd picked up at one of those local crafts shops along the road on the way here, and it was either going to be the nail in my coffin or the enduring symbol of hope for the future. So, no pressure, right?

Trowa glanced from me to the pouch before upending it into his palm. We both looked down at the silver band that tumbled out.

"It's not gold." I had enough cash left over from my job at the garage and with the work crew for a pair of gold rings, but I liked the pure shine of silver. Even white gold didn't come close. Polished silver looked like starlight, like the light of truth. And it was a strong metal, something you could trust. "They had gold ones, but I figured... silver's stronger and..." I gave up trying to explain my fanciful logic and finally pulled my left hand out of my pocket, letting him see the identical ring that was already on my finger. "I'm yours if you want me," I told him. "And the sex stuff... we'll figure it out, yeah? I mean, we've got time and each other. Is that... is that OK?"

He made a fist with his hand, clutching the ring I'd bought for him securely in his grasp as he leaned down and kissed me gently. He stepped toward me again and, when I leaned back against the sturdy, oak table, his hips fit to the cradle of mine with a surging motion and we both gasped.

"Yes, Duo... Yes," he whispered against my lips. It was like hearing our wedding vows all over again.

I do... I do... I do... I do...

"Don't ever ask me to watch you walk away again," he breathed in my ear after his mouth trailed over my cheek in a hot rush of breath. "I can't. I can't."

"Hey," I soothed. "You're stuck with me now."

"Promise?" he mouthed and this time I had no reservations about answering.

"I promise, baby. I promise." And with that, I reached for his fisted hand, coaxed his fingers to uncurl, and – with a reverence that had my throat pretzeling around my Adam's apple – slid the silver ring onto his finger.

For a moment, neither of us moved. I held his hand in both of mine, our rings glinting in the morning light. When I looked up again and met his gaze, a depthless warmth filled me to bursting and then solidified into something malleable yet immutable, supple yet strong.

I loved him.

And I intended to show him how much. Starting now. I reached for him and the spell broke.

Our coming together was messy and rough. Fabric was stretched out of shape and torn. Buttons popped off and scattered. With a slight lift from Trowa, I was sitting on the kitchen table, my jeans tangled around my still laced boots. He stepped over my ankles, bringing our half-naked bodies into explosive contact.

There were tears and sobs and sometimes one or both of us thrust too hard. It was uncomfortable but our clutching hands didn't loosen. I hooked my knees over his hips and he buried his face in my neck and we just rocked together right there on the damn kitchen table. It was hot and sweaty and urgent. We'd have bruises all over the place I was sure, but I didn't care. I was mesmerized by the sensual and sexy-as-hell thrusting of his hips. His long fingers alternately grasped my bare thighs, clenched on my hips, cradled my head. We were unstoppable. He was the fire and I was the phoenix.

This was it. He was consuming me, burning me up, tearing me down and there would be no going back after this.

And then, with a series of slightly erratic and shallow thrusts, he came, spilling over my length and belly, gasping my name so softly in my ear, "Duo—Duo—Duo—!"

I groaned. "Oh, God. Trowa..." And then I was clutching him tightly, rolling my hips against him and the slickness of his release and I—!

I held on to him tightly as I came, back bowed and eyes closed, teeth clenched and heart bursting. Oh, Christ. When the tidal force released me, I lowered my head to his shoulder and just freakin' existed. When I could think again, the first thought that came to me was how I was never gonna be able to let him go.

"I dunno about you," I murmured when I could breathe again, "but I could do that every day for the rest of our lives."

"Do you think this table can take that kind of abuse?" He rapped his knuckles on the surface. Knock on wood.

"Hah! Wanna find out?"

He chuckled. "I'd like to find our bed."

That sounded nice, so I hummed agreeably. "I figure it's gonna take a lot more effort to break a bed than it will a table." Seeing as how beds were kinda designed with that sort of thing in mind.

Trowa snorted softly and leaned in for a kiss, which I gladly gave him.

"Promises, promises," he teased when he leaned back and started smoothing wayward strands of hair away from my face. His soft smile was back and I thrilled at the sight of it. Now all I had to do was make sure it stayed there.

Ninmu ryokai.

I hopped off the table and accepted the grey T-shirt Trowa handed me (which I'd ripped off of him about ten minutes prior) and cleaned up. Trowa pulled his jeans up over his hips but didn't bother to button or zip. A promising sign if there ever was one.

"I hope you brought something else to wear," I said as I free-throw-shot'ed the now-goopy-rag into the kitchen sink.

Trowa was still grinning as I bent down to pull up my shorts and pants. "Do I need something else to wear?" he asked.

That made me pause. I grinned. Widely. "Not as far as I'm concerned." I reached out and smoothed a palm over his chest. The muscle and skin beneath my fingers responded to my touch, warming, firming, tightening. Ah, God. Just touching him was my new damn hobby.

"Hm," I appreciated, stumbling an inch closer when Trowa's hands dived into the back pockets of my sagging jeans, bringing us together. I took a breath to ask about the bedroom that was supposed to be around here somewhere—

"What's this?"

I blinked, noticing the quizzical look on Trowa's face as he withdrew a hand, a familiar-looking paper held in his grasp.

"What's it look like?" I answered, wondering if I should be concerned. If so, I wasn't sure I'd be able to manage it. I was post-orgasmic and riding the smooth waves of lassitude.

Trowa shook open the page in his hand. "It looks like blood test results," he informed me, studying the crumpled paper more thoroughly. "Why...? If you haven't been with anyone else...?"

"Trowa," I said softly, reaching for his wrist. I was a little startled by his reaction. He actually looked a little lost, this weird mix of hope and fear, like some little kid who was working up the courage to reach under his bed in the dark to grope for his dropped teddy bear. My heart throbbed. "Baby, we're married. That means we take care of each other, doesn't it?"

His fingers tightened around the printout.

"I did this for us. So you'd know I was serious."

He swallowed thickly. "I never thought I'd hear you say that."

"What!? I'm serious about a shitload of things!" I exclaimed, trying to lighten the mood with a joke or two before we both drowned.

"No," he answered, reaching for his own pocket. He pulled a neatly folded sheet of paper out of his billfold and offered it to me. "I never thought you'd say you were serious about... us. Me."

I took it and opened it up; that was bound to be easier that looking into his eyes right then. Trowa's own blood work results stared back at me. I glanced at the date and nearly bit my tongue in half to keep the expletive from booming out. Trowa had gotten tested the day before our wedding. The day before. Not after. Not twelve fuckin' weeks after!

I was such an ass. Such. An. Ass.

"Hey," Trowa said, reaching for my wrist this time. "It's fine."

"It's not fine. Why the hell do you put up with my shit?" The words, born of my bafflement and self-directed frustration, popped out before I could grit my teeth.

"Can't you guess?" he asked, leaning toward me and pressing a kiss to my jaw, which was now clenched, and then nipping at my earlobe.

"How many do I get?" I asked, blowing out a breath and letting the knot of tension in my chest unwind a bit.

"How many what?" he asked, sounding like he was genuinely curious.

It kinda hit me then that I could ask for anything – houses, fake names, felonies – and he'd give them to me. No questions asked. Damn. He really did love me. He really, really did.

"Guesses," I rasped.

"How many do you want?"

How many. That was all he wanted to know because he'd give them all – he'd give me everything I ever asked for – if he could. I could hear that. Trust that. Know it to be true.

I reached out and pulled myself closer to him. I tilted my chin up and touched my lips to his. "Just one." And I wasn't talking about guesses anymore, either. "Bedroom," I demanded softly, pushing us both away from the table.

"Hmm," Trowa agreed, gesturing for me to lead the way.

There were four doors off the hall and I was tempted to stop after the first one (which revealed a small bedroom beyond), but made myself look in on the bathroom (where Trowa grabbed a couple hand towels from the linen cupboard), the utility closet (the washing machine would come in handy eventually), and finally the master bedroom.

Bingo.

I plopped down on the bed, my fingers clawing at my shoelaces until my boots could be kicked off and my pants wiggled out of. Trowa joined me, climbing onto the bed and over me, as bare as I was. I wrapped my arms around his waist as he settled his weight against me, his lips already nudging mine.

There was no reason – no reason at all – for me to think we were headed for Round Two so soon. Hell, I figured we'd doze off in the middle of fooling around. Trowa surprised me, though, straddling my hips and moving against me with inspiring purpose until I shivered with arousal. Oh, Christ. I wanted him again. More slowly this time. I wanted to savor him. He certainly seemed to be savoring me. He braced himself on one hand but the other was taking its sweet time mapping my chest. The teasing kisses deepened until I was clutching at him, wordlessly demanding more.

When I thrust back against him and our lengths bumped and rubbed together, he paused.

"Tell me what I need to know," he murmured urgently, looking at me. Despite the blood that had to be roaring through his veins, he was giving me his undivided attention.

"Uh..." I tried to rally my thoughts. I knew I had an opinion about this; I just couldn't remember what it was.

"Nothing invasive?" Trowa checked and I blinked.

"Do you want that?" I wasn't in any hurry to explore it, but I was willing to try it eventually. What was more important was making sure I wasn't putting off something Trowa wanted, needed, was perhaps even asking me for.

His expression softened as I petted the molded-to-muscle skin over his ribs. "Not today," he answered. "But someday." He inhaled and his eyes darkened as his thoughts turned in that direction. "You, in me," he clarified and then wet his lips.

With a look of such sensual hunger on his face, I wasn't capable of turning him down. "Anything you want, baby."

Trowa shuddered. "A taste," he requested on a rasp, rubbing his hips against mine.

I remembered he'd headed in that direction once when we'd been in bed together. I'd stopped him then and for what I'd believed to be a damn good reason. That kind of power and subjugation didn't belong in our bed with us. But my only frame of reference was what I'd seen and overheard on the streets as a kid and I'd checked the past at the door when I'd walked into this house today. If this was what Trowa wanted, I'd give it to him.

"I should take a shower," I warned him, making a move to roll away.

Trowa leaned down and rubbed his chest against mine, nuzzling my neck and inhaling deeply. "No," he replied as he dined on my scent. I ran my hands over his back and let him. He knew what he wanted and if he wanted me like this, I wasn't gonna argue.

It was nerve-wracking knowing his final destination ahead of time and having to endure his progress as he quested down my body. He lingered on my throat, savored my chest, tasted my belly with breathy licks, and then his hands were on my hips and I watched – panting helplessly – as he pressed a kiss to my length.

"Ah!" I breathed, trying not to twitch my hips in response. My fingers curled into the blanket beneath me as I tracked his every motion. His green eyes were nearly closed, glittering hotly as he pressed his cheek against me and rubbed. My eyes slid shut. I moaned, my thighs shifted open, and I felt Trowa settle there. And then I felt his breath, his lips, his tongue.

Oh God!

I cried out, shouted. I think I said his name as I was overwhelmed and my brain was blasted into another dimension. My feet gravitated toward him and I felt his hips shifting, thrusting against the surface of the bed. I forced my eyes open even as he opened his mouth over me and I watched him. I watched a part of me disappear between his lips as he rolled his hips, seeking friction against the bedcovers. He was incredible.

"Trowa, baby," I moaned.

He hummed, moving down a little, and then applied his unparalleled talent for sucking my lower lip to that portion of my anatomy just to make me scream. I could only imagine the kind of swear words that were coming out of my mouth. I was probably begging, too. I didn't care. I couldn't hear myself over the roaring of my pulse. Hell, I couldn't even keep track of time. Trowa moved his mouth over me once, twice, three times (I lost count after that) and then – with a final caress of his tongue – he looked up.

His hair was mussed, his lips reddened, his eyelids drooping. I reached for him, pulling him up and rolling him beneath me. My urgency probably made me rough but damn I was so hard. Achingly hard. Darker than day-old bruises hard. I was not capable of restraint. I worshipped his mouth – oh, that mouth! – and impatiently mapped his skin with my hands, seeking his sweaty length. He gasped as I spread the moisture leaking from the tip over him, rubbing and grasping, twisting and brushing. He set the rhythm and I joined in, aligning our hips, guiding both of us into full contact as best I could with one hand as we rocked together.

I felt his hands in my hair. An instant later, the band tumbled off and the strands spilled over the sides of my neck. Trowa's fingers clenched in the locks, and then grasped at my shoulders. "Duo," he rasped, asking for more, faster, NOW!

"Yes, baby," I agreed, needed, urged! His long legs unwound from around my hips and, with his feet braced on the bed, we got serious. Brain function – what little still remained – evaporated. I had no idea why I'd thought I could go slow – I vaguely remembered entertaining the notion earlier – but it was laughable now. I nipped his chin instead, lust rolling over humor like an armored tank squashes a compact car.

"Want it so bad, baby," I told him as the telltale tingling pressure started out in my belly, zoomed to the base of my spine, and ricocheted along my length. "OK?" I had the presence of mind to ask. If it wasn't, we were in trouble because this train didn't have an emergency brake.

"I want to watch," he rumbled and just the sound of his voice was enough.

I guess you could say I jumped the tracks. Derailed. I crashed into him like a locomotive smashing through a platform. At which point, I was totally out of service.

I came back to myself with a gasp, noticing my trembling arms first – I was still bracing myself above him – and taking note of the very slippery slide of his length against my belly second. I opened my eyes and looked into his. He was still watching me. I groaned. I could not take this kind of torture and torment. I was married to the sexiest man in the whole damn universe and I was gonna be spending the rest of my life trying to get him to wear bulky turtleneck sweaters with eye-wateringly bright, dorky patterns so that no one ever suspected what sheer virility lay beneath.

"Hmm," he purred in approval and his hips began to move against me with more purpose. I glanced down and – holy hell! – he'd waited for me, just to watch me come all over the both of us, and now he was rocking up into me, his length so damn hard and dark with the blush of arousal that it looked like it ought to be frickin' steaming with heat.

"Can I?" I wheezed, lifting a hand from the bed to his thigh.

He arched his neck by way of answer and the invitation actually gave me a little jolt. I smoothed my palm over his skin, wrapped my fingers around his slick length and pulled.

"Fuck!" he hissed, his hands flying to my hips and his fingers curling, digging into the flesh of my ass. I pumped him for just a minute – one too-short minute – and then he was swelling in my grasp. Close. So close.

I wondered, given what he'd said earlier, if he'd want... more.

Before I could talk myself out of it, I sat back, ran the fingers of my other hand through the mess coating his belly, and reached down, brushing over his drawn-taut sac, and rubbed my lubricated fingertips over his entrance.

He choked on a shout of pleasure, his fingers clenching hard enough to leave bruises.

This time, I watched him. And, oh Christ, he was beautiful. Wearing only my ring and the necklace I'd given him, he gave himself over to the inevitable and it hit with such power that traces splattered my chest all the way up to my collarbone.

Damn.

We were gonna be going through a lot of towels.

Smiling, I leaned down and pressed kisses to his heaving chest. I didn't ask if he was OK, if we were OK. I just snagged one of the hand towels and started mopping up.

"Duo?" he whispered.

"Yeah, baby?" I asked, finishing up and chucking the terry cloth over the edge of the bed.

When I turned toward him, he had this look on his face like he wasn't sure if any of this was real. I reached for his left hand and lifted it so he could see the ring on his finger before I kissed the inside of his wrist, nuzzled his palm, and nipped the pad of his ring finger. He shivered in response.

"You're going to be here when I wake up?" he checked.

"Yeah," I promised with a smile. "You can even use me as a body pillow if you want." I flopped down on my back accommodatingly.

He chuckled. "You're gonna live to regret that offer," he told me, curling around me and settling his pointy chin against my shoulder.

"Hah," I scoffed, grinning. "We'll just see about that." And, the most amazing thing about it was that we would. We had a future to fill with days and nights and botched breakfasts and rushed showers and, yes, even Duo the Body Pillow. There was lots to see and do and try.

I lay there not-sleeping for a long time, my eyes tearing up in the late morning light as Trowa tickled my neck with his measured breaths. His long limbs were wound around me and his body heat was making me sweat. I lay there and just marveled at how damn lucky I was.

Just... yeah. I had it all. We had it all.

End of story.

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

NOTES:

I've driven around the Irish countryside before (yup, in Connemara... and the Burren, both of which are on the west coast of the island) so I know all about those spray-painted sheep and 100 km/hr speed limit road signs on hairpin curves. Totally. And I know all about the round-abouts. Evil things. Evil, evil, evil.

And I believe Sunhawk mentions doilies in one of her marvelous 1x2 arcs. What is it about Gundam boys and doilies? I dunno, but it tickles my funny bone.

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