18-April-2002

Title: Half-Time
Series: Games
Sequel to: Evening the Score
Authors: DaMoyre and Stephanie
Archive: GWAddiction, and if she chooses, Steelsong (www.steelsong.com)
Pairings: Those established in the series.
Rating: R (for language!)
Warnings: angst, language, hints of yaoi and shonen-ai
Disclaimer: We don't own GW. You know the drill.
Feedback: Always welcome!

Half-Time by DaMoyre and Stephanie

Weeks had passed since that first casual encounter with Heero and Trowa. That night seemed now so far away, so remote, yet so palpable. That night that had marked the beginning of something, something that would not go away. It could have, perhaps, if Duo had not been so obsessed with repeating the experience. If he had kept himself from interfering between Heero and Trowa, if he had only let go...

But Duo Maxwell did not know how to let go. Not when he felt himself used. Not when he felt himself cheated. And no matter how hard he'd tried to take the situation lightly, the truth was, he felt the sting.

He had been determined to even the score of this game that Heero and Trowa had started. And so he had...or so he thought. He'd managed to seduce Heero, and in the past few weeks, their sexual encounters had increased in frequency, and if he was honest, they had also increased in intensity. But Trowa had not joined them again, not after that second time.

Over the last few weeks, Trowa had become more distant and detached - if that was even possible. Duo couldn't figure out what had changed, and why all of a sudden Trowa seemed to be playing by a different set of rules.

It didn't really matter.

With, or without Trowa, sex with Heero was the best kind he'd ever had. He couldn't lie to himself. This little game of seduction had gone a little further than he'd have liked. It was not merely about the physical experience. He felt a connection with Heero. Perhaps it was the fact that they were both Gundam pilots, that they both knew about war, and and about death. It was only logical that they would find what little solace they could in each other's arms.

So why then, wasn't he at peace? Why couldn't he enjoy Heero's company without feeling a heavy weight on his chest?

It was certainly more than he'd have expected at the beginning of this little charade. The fact that Trowa and Heero were still very much a couple didn't really bother him. What *really* got to him was Trowa's indifference, his silence and cold demeanor, the way he carried himself, with that ever-present aura of perfection that enervated him to no end.

And it wasn't like he hadn't tried to get closer to Trowa. He had tried what he could. Friendly conversation. Not so friendly confrontations. He had even tried seduction, but nothing seemed to work to break down Trowa's ice barrier. It was beginning to get very uncomfortable being around him.

Trowa would not bother with him, and it was almost as if Trowa was 'permitting' Heero to use Duo as a side entertainment when he wasn't available. Duo hated the idea, and whenever he thought about it, he realized that he was trapped in a no-win situation.

Who had really thought that anyone could come out of this game as a victor?

As much as Duo would have liked to send Trowa very far away, he knew that was impossible. Sometimes they even had to work together, although he avoided being partnered with him.

On those rare occasions, Duo had tried pushing a little, hoping to get a positive response from the taller pilot. Nothing worked.

Fine.

It was Trowa's choice, after all, and Duo had stopped trying to get closer to him. Instead, he'd opted to antagonize him whenever possible.

Just a new phase of their game.


Duo sneered as Trowa walked ahead of him. His gait was swift and graceful, despite the roots, and branches that covered the forest floor. One could barely hear him as he walked. He seemed as agile as a deer leaping through the underbrush. In contrast, Duo made as much noise as possible without having cymbals tied to his knees. He had taken to crunching over twigs and kicking up dried leaves as a means to pass the time. Almost an hour had passed before Trowa decided to halt his pace and turn to look at Duo. His eyes narrowed on him in irritation.

"Oh, finally!" Duo's voice carried an edge of sarcasm as Trowa finally acknowledged him. "I thought you would never notice that I was still here." He sighed softly and stretched his arms behind his back. "We've been walking for a while. I think we should stop here."

Trowa turned back to whatever path he had paved in his own mind's eyes and continued his brisk pace. "No. A little further ahead. And stop making noise."

"A little further ahead?" Duo rolled his eyes and ran to catch up with him. "What's the difference, Trowa? We're in the middle of nowhere! Just trees and trees everywhere! And I'm not going to stop making noise! Do you realize you have not said a word for the past THREE hours!"

"Ninety minutes," Trowa corrected. "There is a river up ahead. We can trap some fish." He stopped again and regarded Duo for a moment "Then if you're still intent on making noise, we can just radio Oz with the location of our camp."

Duo glared at Trowa and shook his head slowly in disgust. "Maybe I *should* radio Oz with our location! They might at least have *something* to say!" He pushed Trowa aside, this time walking ahead of him. "I hope this river is close by and that you actually know where you're going." He trudged onward, muttering under his breath, "It's only my fucking luck that I'd be stuck with this guy again..."

"We wouldn't be here if I didn't know the area." Trowa said, glancing back at Duo for a moment. He had somehow gotten ahead again and Duo made a mental note to keep a better eye on him. "I've been assessing our surroundings and our next move." He paused for a moment as though considering his words. "I haven't had time to talk."

"You never have time to talk." Duo shrugged. "So, how far are we from this river?"

Trowa said nothing for a minute, seeming to be caught up with some noise in the distance. Only when he seemed satisfied that nothing had followed them, turned his attention back to Duo. "Not far," he said.

"Not far..." Duo repeated softly. "Well, that's really helpful!"

They continued on for fifteen minutes, in silence once again, until Trowa finally pointed out a small clearing to Duo. The river was only a few feet beyond it. "There. We can rest there for a while."

"All right," Duo nodded in agreement, "that sounds good." He tiredly made his way to the clearing, dragging his feet the rest of the way. He let his knapsack fall from his back as he sat on the ground. "So how come you know your way around here?"

Trowa sat down next to him and crossed his legs. "I scanned the area as we flew over it and memorized the flight map. I spent a lot of time camping in forests before I left for L3."

"You *memorized* the flight map..." Duo smiled a little and shook his head. "I should've known! Very impressive, Trowa! I guess we could just throw away our compass now, huh?"

Trowa had obviously missed the joke, as he replied, "I don't think that would be wise."

"Well, I meant with the map in your head..." Duo tried to explain, only to be countered with Trowa's blank stare. "Forget it, wasn't important." He took his cap off and brushed his bangs back to wipe the sweat from his forehead. "I still don't know why you chose to spend the night in the woods! We should have just hidden the Gundams and gone back to the town for the night."

"The town is occupied, it was too risky." Trowa unlaced his boots and dumped out a few rocks that had managed to lodge themselves inside.

"Not if we didn't attract attention to ourselves," Duo countered. "But whatever. I just want it to be tomorrow and get this mission over with."

Trowa pulled his bag over and began taking out a few supplies. "Think about the moment, and not about what hasn't happened yet."

"The moment... oh yeah!" Duo lay back on the ground and rolled his head from side to side. "At the moment I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere...and all I really want is a nice meal and a place to sleep."

Trowa gave him a cursory glance as he put together a small fish trap. "War is seldom comfortable, Duo."

"No kidding! But you seem to like making it even *more* uncomfortable!" Duo shot up and gave Trowa an accusatory glare. "We could be in town and get rested for tomorrow...but instead we're here."

"It's an unnecessary risk, Duo." Trowa set the netting down and looked out over the river. "We'll find food and rest here."

"I suppose it could always be worse," Duo mused. He opened his backpack and pulled out a few crackers. "Want some?" he offered as he nibbled on one.

Trowa shook his head. "Later." He stood and took the fish trap over to the riverbank and began to set it up.

Duo watched Trowa attentively, as he had never seen anyone set a fish trap that way. "Have you actually caught fish with that before?"

Trowa turned to him. "Yeah. Why?"

"Just curious," Duo shrugged and continued nibbling on his cracker. "I never fished before."

Trowa finished setting the trap and sat back down next to Duo. "They don't have artificial lakes in the L2 colonies?"

"Oh, they do," Duo told him, "but you probably wouldn't want to eat anything that lives in there..."

Trowa nodded. "I've heard about the conditions on L2."

"Yeah." Duo sighed. "It's pretty bad. If you accidentally fell in one of those lakes, your body would probably start to rot. So no fish in L2."

Trowa became silent for a long time. He pulled his knees to his chest and once again seemed to gaze out over the river, his thoughts seeming as elusive as the running water. He suddenly asked, "Will you stay on the Earth when the war is over?"

"Hmmm..." Duo stirred, jarred out of his own musings by the question. He ate the last piece of cracker and shook the crumbs from his hands. "Maybe. It's nice here. It's probably even nicer in peaceful times..."

Trowa nodded. He turned his gaze back to the forest, seeming to survey the area around him as though he heard a noise again.

"It's just birds, Trowa," Duo said quietly.

Trowa lied back against the ground, tucking his knapsack under his head. "I've never known it to be peaceful."

Duo looked up at the sky and sighed softly. "When the war is over, it will be better...even if it's not completely peaceful. It will be better..."

Trowa stared up at the trees, and as was his growing habit during this trip, he remained silent for long while before answering. "Perhaps."

Duo studied Trowa as they lay there, it wasn't often one had a chance to observe Trowa in a reflective moment. If he wasn't giving an order, Trowa either ignored you or stared at you blankly. But now, Trowa was thinking. And he almost seemed... peaceful. He didn't seem so edgy and cold when he was like that. In fact, at that very moment, Trowa was almost likable. Duo wondered what he was thinking about... the fish, the mission, or Heero?

Heero.

Duo felt himself tense only thinking of him. And it was there, that bitter taste in his mouth that was becoming so familiar. He could not let his guard down and be distracted by Trowa's facade. They were now fighting two wars. One together, the other against each other.

It was a war game... and he would not be the one to fall in combat.

Duo shook his head, clearing the thoughts from his mind. Whatever Trowa's game, he wouldn't let it get the best of him. He already had Heero, didn't he? The Perfect Soldier.

Trowa's shell couldn't be so much harder. He was certainly colder... but harder? Soon he would have to give in... or give up.

"So," Duo cleared his throat, "how long do you think it will take before we catch some fish?" he asked, making his voice sound as casual as possible.

Trowa closed his eyes. "Not long. We've probably caught some already."

Duo sat up on his elbows and looked over to where Trowa set the traps. "So... why don't we get them out?"

"I'm tired, Duo," Trowa said, and then he turned over on his side. "We just hiked for nearly two hours after a mission. The fish aren't going anywhere."

Tired? So Trowa *did* get tired. But it was time to eat, so the manifestation of Trowa's human side was rather poorly timed. "I'm tired too... but I'm also hungry! Aren't you?"

Trowa opened his eyes and sat up. "No. Go bring the trap back if you're hungry. You can start cleaning the fish."

"All right." Duo got up and wiped his hands on his pants. "But you have to show me how to clean these. I never fished before, remember? Are you going to make a fire? Or are we eating sushi tonight?" he grinned.

"I don't know," Trowa looked up again. The habit was beginning to make Duo nervous. "I saw a few Aries flying overhead about an hour ago. A fire would not be a good idea right now."

Duo grimaced and sat back down. "Forget it then. I'm not eating raw fish." He pulled his backpack over to him and rummaged for more crackers.

"It's not bad once it's cleaned, Duo," Trowa said in some poor attempt to convince him that eating half-dead, bacteria-infected, slimy fish was a *good* thing.

"Ha!" Duo laughed and made a face. "You *are* joking, right?"

"No." Trowa shook his head. "I've done it before, when there's been nothing else to eat and the wood is too wet to build a fire. You just have to be extra careful when you clean them."

"Yeah, and remember to pack a shit load of wasabi! Uh-uh...no way! It won't be the first time I skip dinner. The crackers will do for me." Duo hurried through his bag looking for anything better than what Trowa offered. He knew he had a half eaten stick of beef jerky *somewhere*. "You can eat as many raw fish as you like," he shuddered as he said it. "I can't believe I followed you here! I should have stayed in town..."

"I wouldn't have let you."

Duo blinked. "What did you just say? You wouldn't have *let me*!" Duo threw his head back and laughed, finding Trowa's statement as amusing as it was infuriating. "Trowa... I think you're hallucinating, buddy! You wouldn't have 'let met'! The next mission is tomorrow, and for your information, what I do between now and the time of the assignment is *none* of your business."

Trowa stared blankly at him. "You know the location of my Gundam," he said. "You know what direction I left in. Leaving you to wander the town alone is also..." he hesitated for a moment and regarded Duo carefully, "an unnecessary risk."

"Unnecessary risk..." Duo mimicked. "Just stop right there okay! It's not like I was going to get myself caught! Do you seriously think that only your plans are infallible!"

Trowa folded his arms over his knees and rested his head over them. He seemed so casual, as though he were discussing nothing more important than sports or a book. It was unnerving. "You can't guarantee that you would not get caught." He spoke softly in his toneless voice, which somehow also managed to sound lyrical. Did everything about him have to be accented with a touch of that infuriating superior grace of his? "You've been caught before. We can't risk it. You're here now, so stop complaining about it."

Duo sighed, exasperated by this recent round with Trowa. He was impossible! Worse than Heero in so many ways. "I'm not the only one who has been caught, in case you don't remember! It must be that none of us is as *perfect* as you!" he spat.

Trowa turned his head away. "Stop it."

"Next time, remind me to trade assignments with Quatre or Wufei. I never want to be stuck with you again!" Duo crossed his arms and scowled at Trowa, who turned back to face him.

Trowa extended his long slender hand toward the river. "Wufei would have dumped you in there by now."

Duo glared at Trowa and bit his lower lip. "Whatever." He lay back and covered his face with his cap. He was seething. And he was hating himself for letting Trowa get the best of him yet again. He could keep his cool...show Trowa he wasn't the only cold bastard in the group.

Duo took a deep breath and kept his eyes shut. It was only a few more hours till he could get away from this. All he had to do was survive this overnight in the woods, and in the morning, they would accomplish their mission and it would all be over.

He swore to himself he would *never*, under any circumstances, be partnered with Trowa again. If he had to intercept mission assignments, or even murder Dr. G, he would gladly do so. But never again!

Trowa was a self-serving, arrogant, bastard who always thought himself superior. Duo still remembered what Trowa had done to his Gundam, and he also remembered that heavy punch he'd given him back in the Oz cell. This wasn't just a silly little game. This was war.

How the hell could he have thought that Trowa might be an okay guy? Why in the world had he even tried getting close to him? Christ, why had he even *fucked* this guy! He was the coldest son of a bitch he'd ever met!

What the hell was wrong with Heero that he could be with this guy?

Heero...

Duo felt his heart bolt inside his chest. It was that name...it always came to Heero.

A soft rustle of dry leaves made Duo shot up, grabbing his gun and trying not to panic that they had been discovered.

But it was just Trowa. Duo hadn't heard him leave, but now he was coming back with his arm loaded with branches. Duo blinked a few times and put his gun away. "What are you doing? I thought you said we weren't going to make a fire."

Trowa set the twigs down and began to arrange a small fire pit. "We have an hour before nightfall. Go get the fish."

Duo stared at him for a minute, not sure how to take this new turn of events. Maybe Trowa was offering a sign of peace between them for now. Trowa was always practical, and it wouldn't do for his partner to hate him before flying a mission. But whatever the case, he was offering cooked food, and Duo was hungry.

He stood up and walked over to the fish traps and pulled them out. They wiggled and squirmed in the netting, gasping for breath...or rather water. He understood their plight, in this game he found himself in, Duo felt the same way.

He knelt down next to Trowa and pulled out a pocketknife. "You caught quite a few here. Let's see if I can figure out how to clean them." He stared at them for while, waiting until they stopped moving to do anything.

Trowa placed his hand over Duo's and took the pocketknife from him. "Watch over the fire and keep it going. I'll gut and clean them."

Duo nodded and let go of the knife. He had never done this before, and Trowa would be much faster. Trowa took the fish from Duo and swiftly sliced them, dumping the guts, tails and heads out on the ground. He bundled the edible remains up in a handkerchief and took them to the river to wash. When he was done, he placed the fish in front of Duo, who watched intently everything that he did. "You can cook them," Trowa said.

Duo looked at them for a moment, deciding on the best way in which to cook the fish. He picked up a long stick and inserted it through the open end, which used to be the head, until it poked through where the tail once was. He looked at Trowa to see if he was doing it right, but Trowa said nothing. When he was satisfied with his own method, he repeated the job for each fish. He held one of them over the fire for himself and handed one of them to Trowa, who took it and did the same.

They ate in silence.


End Part 1

to be continued...

DaMoyre and Stephanie