Disclaimer: See all the others; status unchanged.

This is a sequel to 'Over The Edge'
Pairing: 1+2(+1)
Rating: R
1213 words
Warnings: Shounen Ai, Alcohol abuse, some angst, Heero POV

AN: Part #51 of the 'Road to Recovery' microseries. Written for [ gw500 ] challenge #109 - 'nutshell'/'Howard', and challenge #110 - 'temptation'/'Fire'. Thus, double length (yes, am again cheating to catch up).

by kebzero

There are some days you just know the universe hates you.

Still, I made Duo a promise, and come what may, I try to see my promises true.

Scattered across the kitchen floor in more than a dozen parts, the dishwasher was inclined to make it difficult. I'd picked it apart and put it together many times over, but whatever kept it from actually working, eluded me. Wing had a far more understandable make-up. Hell, even the Zero System made more sense.

The make was old, but that only meant we had more access to second hand spare parts. Some, we even found at the yard. Through Duo's contacts - usually Howard - we managed to get a hold of nearly all the rest of the bits and pieces we thought needed replacing. In the end, only two bolts and the internal utensils basket remained of unoriginal manufacture.

And even then, the damn thing refused to work.

I was growing tired of mopping and cleaning the kitchen floor with every other failure, never mind the regular clean-up after each botched repair attempt. Close to growling, I tossed my screwdriver into the toolbox - only to have it and three cousins bounce out, with just enough force to knock the nearby grease can over.

It was a good thing Duo and Hilde had decided to see Trowa off at the spaceport; it let me be shamelessly more creative with abusive language.

It was starting to dawn on me why Duo hated the machine - a sentiment I was growing to appreciate.

I was loathe to admit it, but it had me defeated. Feeling vengeful, I wanted nothing more than ally with Hilde and replace it - if only so I could take this quarrelsome carcass out back and kiss it with a sledgehammer, repeatedly and with great enthusiasm.

I crashed on one of the kitchen chairs, arms lax, eyes at the ceiling before they closed. Why did I even bother?

The answer was obvious; for Duo. I'd told him I'd best him, and I knew he'd never let me hear the end of it if I failed.

Sometimes, I hate being right.

Gritting my teeth, I thought back to the night prior. At least the couch had been more cooperative.

That hadn't stopped me from blurting out a question without thinking - one that had shaped and reshaped at the back of my head ever since Trowa struggled to say goodbye to Quatre, using more terms of endearment - and some I could only presume to be - than I'd ever heard. Love doesn't just make blind; it makes you crazy.

Sanity seems overrated, anyway.

"When did you know you loved Quatre?" I'd finally asked. I suppose I wanted to know the secret, the catalyst, whatever mystery Duo and I lacked.

He'd given me an eye at first, then started to smile subtly. It was tough to face him while fighting back the heat in my cheeks. "...I'm not really sure," Trowa answered at length. "But it was before he told me he loved me - and after that, it didn't really matter. We've only grown closer since then."

I jammed a white corner down the side of a cushion. "...but you were friends first, right?"

His brow lifted slightly, and I knew he was putting two and one together. The way his smile grew added to the suspicion. "Yes," he said with a nod.

"What made the difference?"

He put on a thoughtful mien, cradled an elbow in one hand, his chin in the other. "...I guess the first time I kissed him sort of pushed us out of the 'just friends' bracket," he finally stated, grinning at the apparent memory. Then, he looked at me, expecting a follow-up.

"...were you afraid?"

He let his lanky arms go and went to tuck his side of the sheets in. "Terrified," he admitted. "But I figured it was worth it, even if it would just be that one time." He broke out smirking. "I lucked out. It's like they say, Heero - nothing ventured, nothing gained. Gambling can make you rich, but it can also bankrupt you."

I fell silent after that, and thankfully, he didn't go anywhere close to the topic, either. I think it was enough for him just to know.

I don't know what he thought, but I couldn't tell him I'd already confessed my feelings to Duo only to have them neglected. Hell, I'd all but thrown myself at him, and still I was rebuffed. What possible shock factor could a simple kiss have after that?

That was the heart of the matter, of course. I thought I loved him. He didn't think he loved me - and I couldn't come up with a way to change his mind. We were getting nowhere fast. Why would Duo want me, anyway?

Another memory from last night surfaced; Duo's thumb across the back of my palm. There were so many things I wanted to read into that, but the truth was he was simply being a friend - a good friend, but still just a friend.

I don't even know when I brought it out - the next thing I knew, I was staring at the tiny bottle in my hand, resting there like a detonator; tightly clutched, me thumbing the cap.

Why did the kitchen suddenly feel so small?

I looked away, caught sight of the damn dishwasher and gave it my best scowl. It was hopeless. After all that work, I still wasn't able to figure out why it wasn't working, what could be missing - what was broken, other than me. Closing my palm around it, I encased the bottle with gauze wrap. It hurt. I didn't care.

Some obstacles just aren't meant to be overcome, I decided. Wiping my eyes with the back of my free hand, I got to my feet again. I gave a wrench a soft kick, sending it skidding across the floor. Again, I stared at the bottle, then clutched it beyond the point of pain and raised my trembling fist, intent of slamming one problem into another, as if they'd null each other out.

I couldn't. For minutes, I stood there, my arm acting like a birch branch during a storm.

It was hopeless.

I sat back down, ignoring my moist cheeks. I'd always known I couldn't have all I wanted - and I couldn't have both the things I wanted most; the ground rules Duo had laid out saw to that.

It didn't look like I could have Duo.

Swearing again, I glared at the bottle, hard, long... and before I could regret it, I broke the seal, uncapped it and downed the contents, throwing my head back.

It burned like a trickle of fire down my throat; the sooth of purgatory; a taste I'd been without for several months.

But it was only a slight reprieve. I craved more, far more. I couldn't drown my sorrows and regrets in something less than what a shot glass could hold; they were far too big for that.

I wished I had a bottle of Scotch tucked away somewhere beyond their sight.

Because, after I'd emptied it, I could crawl down into it and hide.


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