Holy thundermuffins. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer number of reviews for the last chapter. Actually, stunned might be a better word for it. All I can say is this: THANK YOU. I will give this story my best!

Warnings: shounen ai, slight cursing

Control Freak Part XIII?

Duo stood utterly still beneath Heero's lips, his posture akin to that of a Buckingham Palace guard and his face just as emotionless. He shifted infinitesimally as Heero moved back a step, his shoulders twitching beneath the older boy's hands. He didn't blink as Heero began spewing off a convoluted and mangled monologue that attempted to explain his actions, but did nothing so much as antagonize the English language and Duo's ears, He floundered futilely in pursuit of reason, spouting words and making gestures that Duo wouldn't know how to respond to even under normal circumstances, trying to illicit a reaction that would end god knows where, but surely someplace better than where they stood, somewhere between hilarity and hysteria. He asked Duo questions and issued challenges and spun explanations and made declarations and Duo stood stoically through the onslaught, not out of apathy, but out of ignorance of the territory. And when Heero's galumphing words finally bumbled to an end and he dropped his arms to his sides, releasing Duo from his grasp, his hands falling lifeless to his sides even as his shoulders heaved with emotion, still he remained frozen and unresponsive, caught within a self-imposed exile of bewildered disconnection.

Heero had kissed him.

He allowed the silence to stretch on to putrefying lengths, his hand involuntarily latching claw-like around the doorknob he had insanely never lost hold of.

"Duo?" Heero said suddenly, looking unbalanced and distressed, staring not at him, but at his hand, his white-knuckled caricature of calm. "Are you mad?" he asked inanely, posing a question that he knew the answer to, could see the answer to, and yet had asked anyway, thus denying Duo the dignity of at least making that pronouncement on his own.

That, that final intrusion and degradation, that he knew how to respond to.

He smiled his sweetest smile, the one that made teachers run for cover and challengers abruptly revoke their complaints. Heero smiled tentatively back, not knowing him well enough to understand that this particular expression forecast very undesirably consequences.

Heero had kissed him and he didn't even understand the simplest things about him, the things that common thugs on the street knew intrinsically.

It didn't matter to Duo that he had, in an off-handed, purely scientific sort of way, imagined this, not a kiss per say, but a deeper, closer relationship. He had let the possibility of it cross his mind on more than one occasion, had calculated the odds of its ever happening, had taken bets out with himself and would, if he hadn't drowned his romantic inclinations in a bottle of Jack several years earlier, have even daydreamed about it. But his suppositions and extrapolations now didn't matter in the least because Heero had taken matters into his own hands, had done this of his own accord, had forced his will upon him, had turned things into something that was not about them, not about compromise, not even about equality, but rather desperation and fear and selfishness. Heero had acted at a time when Duo wasn't even sure he wanted to be friends with him any longer, let alone something more. He had acted, Duo thought, as he had indeed throughout the course of their acquaintanceship; namely, without deference to anyone's feelings but his own.

Duo redoubled his saccharine smile, consciously loosening his grip on the doorknob. The longer he smiled, the more relaxed Heero became until, finally, his shoulders lost their tension and his face became less pinched and his eyes grew less desperate. It was then, in that exact moment when he began to believe that things were okay, that he hadn't just made a cataclysmic mistake, that he was free and clear and forgiven and even welcomed, it was in that moment that Duo slammed the door on his face.

Systematically and precisely, he secured all five locks and then, without any more ado than turning out the lamp, he went to bed.

On the other side of the door, Heero remained gratifyingly silent.


Trowa stood with his ear pressed to the door, although the pose was more for effect than functionality. The proceedings in the hallway were more than loud enough to be heard through the cheap plywood, could, in fact, have probably been heard through solid steel and concrete. Nonetheless, he adopted the stereotypical eavesdropper's stance and would stubbornly remain in it as long as it was obvious that there was cause –and probably even when there wasn't.

Wufei slouched bonelessly on his couch, disgruntled and with eyes more than a little bleary. He wore boxer shorts and nothing else, yet sweated even in the chill air of his apartment. He was musing lazily about which annoyance plagued him more at the moment: the heat or having been torn out of a comfortable sleep to listen to a private discussion between two obviously irrational adolescents. He couldn't decide on an answer. The plucky air conditioner was chugging determinedly away at the window, wafting heroic quantities of coldness, and he watched as Trowa shivered convulsively, dimly realizing that it was not for dramatic effect. He wondered who's internal thermometer needed recalibration and suspected it was his own.

The noise outside petered to a halt and all was silent for a few sublime moments. Wufei sighed in relief and leaned forward on the couch, anticipating his return to bed.

"Are you satisfied now, Trowa?" he asked a bit petulantly. "Can I go to sleep now?"

But Trowa didn't move and Wufei sat back on the couch with an exhalation of air that was half yawn, half harrumph. It seemed that things had progressed to a quieter plane of existence. How titillating. Wufei's interest was not at all piqued and he was starting to doze off when the needlessly loud slamming of a door jerked him back into awareness.

"I guess that's his final answer," he muttered, not without satisfaction. He hadn't liked Heero from the start. It would be better for Duo if he avoided all contact with rich boys; they made for bumpy roads.

It was quiet again and he began drifting off in spite of himself, fantasizing a bit about roads with speed bumps made of rich boys.

It was a subtler noise that brought him to wakefulness the second time, a noise he did not often hear: the sound of Trowa moving with uncertainty. Jarred and a bit concerned, he opened his eyes and watched as the lanky young man crossed the room and sagged down next to him, looking at him with sad eyes.

"I don't know what you expected," Wufei offered half-heartedly, knowing his words weren't going to make a lick of difference, but willing to try anyway.

Trowa stared at him impassively.

"I thought it actually went rather well," he continued with a stifled yawn. "No one broke anything. Not yet, anyway."

Trowa didn't respond, all his attention now focused on the door. "It's been twenty minutes and he hasn't left," he said musingly. "He's still out there." He paused. "We should let him in."

"Why?" Wufei asked begrudgingly.

"He's lonely. He's hurting. He's sad. He needs a little kindness right now."

"We're strangers, Tro," he pointed out. "I'm sure he has plenty of other people to turn to."

"Then why is he still here?" Trowa said earnestly and Wufei knew all hope of sleep was lost. "He's here, so we should let him in."

This was somewhat nebulous logic in Wufei's point of view, but there was no arguing with Trowa, never had been and never would be. Still, for propriety's sake he made the token effort. "I fail to see why," he muttered grumpily. "If even Duo doesn't find him fit company, I know I certainly won't."

But Trowa had already opened the door and was attempting to coax an obviously distraught Heero inside. Wufei allowed himself one heavy sigh and then dragged himself to his feet, heading to the bedroom to put on a shirt of some sort. Propriety and all.

By the time he'd donned the loosest, most threadbare and thereby coolest top in his possession and returned to the living room, Trowa had ensconced Heero on the couch, fetched a round of sodas and made a bucket of popcorn. He was currently engaged with tearing open a package of M&M's which he would then, Wufei knew from long experience, pour into the liberally salted popcorn to make what he deemed a delectable snack and what Wufei deemed unfit for human consumption: Trowa added enough salt to kill an army of slugs.

As he passed the coffee table, he snagged one of the sodas, nodded in acknowledgement of Heero's presence, and continued on to the kitchen. Once there he exchanged the can for a bottle of water. He returned to the living room, placed the water where Heero could easily reach it, sat down in the armchair, and pointedly ignored Trowa's offering of the newly mixed M&popcorn.

"So, Heero," he said cordially, or at least as cordially as Wufei could be at three o'clock in the morning on an ungodly hot summer's night. "How was your evening?"

Heero, somewhat surprisingly, laughed. "Oh, just splendid," he sputtered. "Life couldn't be better!"

"If you're expecting sympathy, you're not going to get it," Trowa said coldly and abruptly, looking at him with hard eyes. "I didn't ask you in because I like you, you know, or even because I care what happens to you. I asked you in because I felt sorry for you, the same way I would feel sorry for a dog that had gotten lost or a cat that was hit by a car."

His words conquered up visions of rich kid speed bumps and Wufei had to stifle an over-tired chuckle.

"You feel sorry for me," Heero repeated. It was unclear whether or not it was meant as a question and as such Trowa reacted appropriately.

"Did I say that?" he innocently replied, stuffing a handful of popcorn into his mouth. He subsequently emitted a muffled crunching sound and a distinctly satisfied expression spread across his face.

"I thought you hated me." Heero shifted uncomfortably on the couch, the type of movement one might make if a cushion were maladjusted or if one was voluntarily slipping his head into the noose.

"Hate is such a strong word," Trowa mumbled around a gooey wad of... stuff. Wufei tactfully averted his eyes.

"So, what? You strongly dislike me?"

"More like begrudge you every breath of air you take," Trowa cheerfully responded, digging into the bowl once more. The heat of the popcorn had caused the candy to melt slightly and rainbow colors dotted his fingertips. Wufei would have to make sure he washed his hands before touching anything.

"I really don't understand where this is going," Heero said, beginning to sound a smidge angry. Wufei could commiserate; so far as he could tell this discussion was nothing more than a sadistic exercise in torture on Trowa's part.

"Trowa, do you have a point to all this?" Wufei sighed, more for his own sake than for Heero's.

"Of course I do! We're going to tell a round robin story! Everyone loves stories!" Trowa proclaimed brightly and out of the blue. "I'll start! Once upon a time-"

"Trowa, please. It's too late for this," Wufei objected, annoyed.

"ONCE UPON A TIME," Trowa repeated, shooting Wufei a truly evil look, "there was a little boy with very wonderful parents and they were all very happy. But the parents soon died a horrible death and left the boy all alone. No one wanted him, but the boy went to live with his aunt and uncle. The aunt was stingy and the uncle was neglectful and the boy was very unhappy. So he ran away and they didn't even try to find him." He stopped abruptly. "Wufei, your turn!"

"He isn't going to like this, you know. I don't like it, either. This is his business and it's not our place to be-"

"Please," Trowa said quietly and Wufei sighed.

"The boy ran for a long time. He didn't know that his aunt and uncle weren't searching for him and he was afraid of being caught. He ran as far and long as he could and learned a great deal about life in the process. Eventually he came to a small city, a very diverse place with lots of different people, from many different places and with many different backgrounds. There he finally stopped, for he could run no longer. And there he found some friends, who took him in and gave him a home and came to care a great deal about him. They did their best to watch out for him and gave him all they could. And the boy worked very hard to repay his friends for what they had done for him even though they insisted it was unnecessary. Then one day the boy came home with a cracked skull and a new friend."

He stopped. "I believe it is Heero's turn now. Is that correct, Trowa?"

Trowa nodded and picked some popcorn from his teeth.

Heero was staring at them, an expression of trepidation and bewilderment on his face. "What about the aunt and uncle?"

"That isn't how the story goes," Trowa chided, pointing an orange, blue and green finger in accusation.

Heero cleared his throat. "Uh. Okay. I had become Duo's tutor-"

"We're not talking about Duo," Trowa said long-sufferingly. "We're telling a story. In the third person, I might add."

If possible, Heero looked even more confused, but valiantly struggled onwards anyway. "The friend had never met anyone like Duo, uh, the boy, and he was confused by him. The boy was not what he had expected. He was somehow… different from everyone around him. At first the friend thought this was a negative trait, but soon he grew to respect it."

As he spoke Heero grew more enthusiastic to the task, possibly forgetting who he was talking to or perhaps throwing caution to the wind. Wufei suspected he was a bit worked-up and had lost his normal compunction. Certainly Duo had never described him as being verbose.

"The friend had never met anyone who was so volatile and yet so irrevocably likeable," Heero continued. "The boy's appearance completely belied who he really was and the friend was captivated. He was also angry. He had never met someone he didn't understand before. He didn't quite know what to do. He wanted to spend more time with the boy, to get to know him better and figure out who he was. Despite himself, he was drawn to the boy and he didn't know why. He had to find out.

"Yet things always seemed to go wrong. The two seemed to clash cataclysmically every time they were together. But they both kept trying and even when it became apparent that things between them weren't working out, they kept trying anyway. Then things started to go well and they both were happy. Then things turned bad just as quickly and they both were sad… at least the friend was. They had an argument and it seemed that that would be the end.

"Angry, the friend returned home and there he received some very bad news. He became very upset. He wasn't thinking clearly. He went to the boy's house and did something very… impetuous, yet very honest. And this made the friend happy, because he had finally figured out why the boy was so fascinating, but it also made the boy very angry. And that made the friend confused because he thought the boy would be happy. The friend tried to explain what he felt, but the boy wouldn't listen. The friend was then right back where he'd started: angry, confused, and alone."

Heero snatched a can of soda off the table and popped it open with a vicious gesture. He chugged down its contents and crushed the can with one hand. Unimpressed, Trowa surreptitiously wiped his fingers on the couch cushion and Wufei pretended not to notice.

"So, what happens next?" he asked Trowa, resisting the urge to remove the can from Heero's grasp before he sliced himself open, thus adding an emergency room trip to their smorgasbord o fun.

The slender boy shrugged. "The boy's friends had a feast and indulged their cannibalistic tendencies?"

"I don't think that's a viable option."

"Okay, then. The boy's friends laughed at the idiocy of others and went to bed safe in the knowledge that their friend's virtue was most definitely not in danger?"

"I liked the part about going to bed."

"What do you mean, the idiocy of others?" Heero interjected sharply, his eyes more than a little wild.

Wufei smiled serenely, confident in the knowledge that he kept a baseball bat in the closet not five feet away. "I mean, oh learned one, that an idiot who doesn't even know he's an idiot is the biggest fool of them all."

"Okey-doke, Heero. Time to go!" Trowa announced at the tail end of that scintillating statement, standing and attempting to pull Heero along with him.

"But why am I an idiot?" Heero insisted, doing his best to resist, but being drawn inexorably towards the door anyway.

"Can he really be this stupid?" Wufei asked in disgust.

"Looks like it," Trowa replied cheerfully.

"Make sure you lock the door," Wufei instructed. "Use the dead bolt."

"Most assuredly," Trowa agreed.

"But why am I an idiot?" Heero demanded, leaning heavily against the door in an effort to hold it ajar.

"The answer, grasshopper, is blowing in the wind," Trowa said sagely. Then he, too, slammed the door in Heero's face.

After all, there was something about Heero that made doing so immensely enjoyable.

-end part viii?-