All the normal disclaimers apply.

Pairing: 1x2x1
Rating: NC-17ish
Warnings for angst, citrus, short chapter, and dysfunctional relationships.
All feedback appreciated--positive, negative, flip me the finger, whatever.

Author's Notes: This is still a bit rough, but I wanted to post it before I left for yaoicon. I apologize for any mistakes--point them out and I'll fix them as soon as I get back.

Bitter Waning
Chapter Four
by Saro

It was bound to happen. Duo couldn't find it in himself to be surprised when Ted called him into his office and delivered the news. The smell of nervousness had prickled his nose when he met the man, sour in a way that made the hairs on the back of his neck want to stand up, his ears shift forward. He'd swallowed back his response, keeping the anxious rumble in his chest from turning into a growl. He had hoped that perhaps, just perhaps, he was wrong. He wasn't though, and he knew it when his boss had told him that he had signed an agreement with their company promising to disclose any potentially communicable diseases. Failure to do so could legally lead to termination.

"I've given you plenty of time to get this shit straightened out on your own, kid," Ted told him, voice tight. "You had months to tell me 'bout this, and you didn't. You haven't visited a doctor, either. You can come in next week and pick you your last paycheck."

"That's it?" Duo had asked, feeling pole-axed even though he had seen it coming. There was no anger. Not yet. That came later.

"That's it. Sorry it came to this."

There was a long, silent moment when Duo got back to his apartment. He looked around, and didn't know how he was going to pay rent, or where he was going to get another job. It was small, but it was his. His tiny kitchenette. His shitty view of another tenement building. It was his, damn it, and he wanted the keep it.

He remembered the looks he'd gotten as he left, and knew that they knew. Everyone he passed knew. Some of them watched him go. Some of them pointedly didn't glance his way. He'd been aware of them as he passed, smelling and hearing and responding in a way that too obviously wasn't human.

The door slammed shut behind Duo with enough force to shake the windows and send a framed poster crashing to the floor. The sound rang in his ears. It wasn't enough. It was a start, though.

He threw his keys onto the counter. They hit the tile with a jangle. It still wasn't enough.

Briefly, he considered upending his futon. That might be better. Bigger, and heavy enough to make him work at to lift it; he pictured the wooden frame coming apart, making an awkward pile on the floor. He could imagine the noise it would make, and the effort it would take to flip the piece of furniture. Grinding his teeth, Duo pushed aside the urge. He would probably break his futon, and having to fix it later wouldn't make his night any better. He told himself that, like he told himself that if he threw his table lamp out the window, he'd only end up having to replace both, and he told himself that punching the wall would cost him his deposit and hurt his hand.

He wanted to break something, damn it, but he couldn't, or he shouldn't. Sighing, he told himself that being angry wouldn't do him any good. He could start looking for a new job tomorrow, but for tonight, it was out of his hands.

For the moment, he was helpless, and that knowledge, more than anything, burned at him.

Duo forced his hands to unclench, and stalked into the kitchen. He didn't know why he went to the fridge when his stomach felt lined with lead, but he did. The weak, white refrigerator light spilled out, making him realize that the apartment had been dark. He hadn't even noticed. Rubbing one eye unconsciously, he studied the food before him without appetite. There was orange juice, and half a jug of milk, but he wasn't thirsty. He let his weight drag at the hand on the refrigerator door, slouching into the cold. There were leftovers from last night's dinner: the kind of macaroni and cheese that didn't come in a box. There was a Cool Whip container full of brownie batter which he eyed speculatively before deciding he wasn't in the mood for sweets.

After a moment, he closed the door and moved to the cupboards. Peanut butter, but there was no jam to go with it and he was out of bread. A opened bag of sour cream and onion potato chips. Pasta. A bag of flour tortillas that he didn't immediately remember buying; it came to him a moment later. Heero had brought them over to make quesadillas a few days earlier, and left them behind because he rarely cooked. He pulled out the tortilla shells, half considering making himself a burrito just to have something to do, and noticed that the bag hadn't been closed all the way.

Heero had left him stale fucking tortillas.

His jaw clenched. Was it so hard to make sure a bag was closed?

Duo snorted. That's a stupid question, he thought, shaking his head.No harder to close a bag than it is to change your goddamn sheets, or toss out molding leftovers. It's not that it's too much work, it's just that it doesn't fucking matter to him.

Duo ran his fingers through his bangs, biting his lower lip even though he wanted to curse. His other hand closed convulsively on the bag, then he threw it. The bag slapped against the wall before sliding to the floor, thoroughly unsatisfying.

A glass that had been left out, ring of milk drying at the bottom, crashed into the sink. The chunks of glass spun and skittered for a moment, jagged edges bright. Duo braced himself against the counter top, flexing his arms and back. It still didn't help. The drying rack caught his eye. There were a couple of dishes in it, a coffee mug and some flatware. His hands tightened on the counter a moment, then he reached out and yanked the rack. It tumbled to the floor with a clatter of metal and cracking ceramic.

He thought of the house, with its mildewing shower and loud pipes, its thin walls and many occupants, its brown lawn and empty cement patio. He thought of the way dust motes puffed up when you sat down, or dropped something to the carpet. Heero had been trying to get him to move in with them. Under the circumstances, it didn't seem like he would avoid it.

Duo leaned forward. This was more than half his own fault, he told himself. He'd known it was a possibility when he'd started seeing a werewolf. He wasn't stupid enough to believe that it couldn't have happened to him. In high school, they included it in the STD portion of the curriculum, another one of the potential evils that came with unprotected sex. At the time, he'd laughed and joked along with everyone else. When he was dealing with it in his own life, though, he had remembered. They'd used protection. They'd avoided oral, because there was always that chance of a split lip or bitten tongue boosting the pathogen count in saliva to contagious levels, and he didn't like going down on a condom.

Shit lot of good it had done them. Duo still wasn't sure how he'd caught the disease. Short nails ground against the tile counter top. His mouth tightened into a hard line. He didn't want to blame Heero, or himself, he tried to tell himself not to. It was done. He tried not to think that he'd made a mistake. The effort left a bitter taste in his mouth.

A sound drew his attention out, surprising him. When it came again, he identified the phone. He looked at it, hanging on its wall mount, and considered ignoring it. When the phone rang a third time, he considered hanging up, or ripping out the cord, but a strange little thread of worry tugged at him. Exhaling heavily, he crossed the kitchen and answered.

"Duo?" The voice on the other end questioned.

Duo pinched the bridge of his nose. Hell. "Yeah. Hi, Heero."

"Are you alright?"

Duo nearly laughed at the question. "Oh, just fine and fucking dandy. What do you want?"

Heero ignored the prompt, asking instead, "What happened?"

"Heero..." he began, not wanting to finish. Then he sighed. "I lost my goddamn job." Saying it aloud hit him with a hopeless finality. It was done. There was no going back. Soon, everyone would know.

"I'll be there as soon as I can," Heero said, then hung up. After a moment of staring uselessly at the phone, Duo set it gently back in its cradle. All the energy went out of him in a black wash.

This was it. This was what he got: some broken dishes, a noisy futon, and stale fucking tortillas. Dazedly, he crossed the room and flopped down on the futon. The wood creaked as it took his weight, a tired, useless protest. His hand groped blindly for the remote, found it under the edge of the cushion. Numb fingers turned on the small television perched on the other side of the room. Bluish light flickered against the walls.

The first station he found was an infomercial, and the second. The third was news, the voices droning wordlessly in his ears. He hit the button again and again, surfing through channels without stopping long enough to see what was on. Faces blurred on the screen, blinking past before they settled.

Duo squeezed his eyes shut as he realized what he was doing, and set the remote aside. It didn't matter what station was on, really, he just needed something to fill the quiet.

It was another infomercial. A man with an orange tan and a white smile was explaining how people could get money from the government. Grants and loans to be had. Go back to school. Write a novel. Get out of a dead end job.

"Oh, fuck you," Duo muttered, but didn't change the channel. Minutes passed in a useless jumble, one slipping into the next, and filled with the infomercial host's assertive voice. He screwed his eyes shut and didn't pay attention to it, tried to pretend he couldn't hear the television, even though he didn't want to turn it off, pretended he didn't hear the clock ticking on the wall.

After a while, the door opened, startling him upright.

Heero stood quietly in the entry way, light from the television catching one side of his face and his eyes. Duo blinked.

"You're here quick," he said.

"I borrowed Trowa's truck," Heero told him flatly, but Duo thought he caught a hint of concern. Maybe it was in the set of his eyebrows, or the way he held his shoulders slumped just a little. "I'd have been here quicker if Quatre was home. It took five minutes to start that piece of shit."

Duo chuckled, shaking his head and watching as Heero crossed the room without commenting on the picture on the floor. There was a bottle in his hand. From where he sat, Duo couldn't read the label, but he could guess what it was. He stopped in front of the other werewolf, offering the half-full fifth of rum.

Duo's eyes shifted between the rum and Heero's solemn face. It was all there, so damn plain; he worried, but he didn't get it. He tried to help, but the best he could come up with was getting a little trashed.

Dear god.

After a moment, Duo took the bottle from him, unscrewed the cap, and took a long drink. The burn of the alcohol hit, nearly making him sputter, but he controlled the reflex, swallowing hard.

"If you want, I can talk to Roz down at the docks, see if we need any more help. Or Trowa could ask Joaquin. Howard might be able to get you some more days at the garage..."

"Howard doesn't need any more people. I wouldn't ask him to cut someone else's hours for me." He met Heero's gaze for a long minute, still that faded blue. Then his attention dropped to the floor.

Heero sighed. "You could talk to Shea."

"I'm not selling bad weed to high schoolers, Heero." Duo took a deep breath, let it out slowly. He hated feeling this powerless, hated the way Heero was trying to help him. He could smell Heero, strong and close, and inches away from his nose. The smells of sweat and diesel exhaust tingled in his nose, not good or bad, but known. He hated his own reaction. "I don't want to think about it now," he told him finally. "I'll deal with it tomorrow."

He set the bottle down. He breathed in, leaning forward into the scent--his nose pressed against the front of Heero's jeans. The smell changed. Heero started to take a step back, surprised, but Duo caught his belt and held him there. He asked a question, but Duo ignored it, not wanting to hear it, or think about the answer.

Heero made a confused sound that turned into half a groan as Duo rubbed his cheek against the other's crotch, his fingers quick with the belt buckle and the fly. Heero's hand caught his shoulder, but didn't stop him as he pulled his pants down around his thighs, followed by his underwear. He licked Heero's hardening cock, the taste familiar on his tongue. Heero's fingers tightened.

He didn't waste time. He didn't nuzzle Heero's stomach, didn't kiss the ticklish spots on his ribs, or bother playing with his nipples. He didn't stretch it out. Instead, he stroked Heero's balls--they were sensitive enough that Heero didn't normally like them played with. He said it ended things to quickly, and he didn't really like it. The darker werewolf hissed at the touch, almost trying to pull away while his hips pushed involuntarily forward.

Duo let his breath trace Heero's growing erection, watched it respond, delaying briefly before he took it in his mouth and sucked.

He watched Heero's face through his bangs while he worked, watched as he grimaced with pleasure, as he grit his teeth. His hand clenched, squeezed hard before relaxing again as Duo pulled back so only the head of his cock was in his mouth. When he took it in again, he heard Heero moan in his throat. He watched as the muscles in his boyfriend's thighs twitched, as his abs bunched through his shirt. The smell grew muskier. He could feel the big vein pulse steadily under his tongue. When Heero tried to thrust into his mouth, he grabbed his hips tightly and let him feel teeth.

He buried himself in it. The way Heero reacted. The way he tried to move, to slow it down or take control. The feel of his skin, and the coarse, oil texture of pubic hair. It was something to get lost in.

Amber seeped into Heero's narrowed eyes just before he came.

Duo swallowed what he could. The rest rolled down his chin, hot, but quickly cooling in the air. He looked up at Heero, panting over him; looked at his pants around his knees and his cock wet and softening. He met fading yellow eyes.

This was it. This was what he got.

"Why?" Heero asked, letting his legs give out and drop him on the couch beside Duo.

Duo shook his head, ignoring the question again. He picked up the bottle from where he'd set it on the floor. "Looks like you'll be getting your wish, Heero," he said before taking a drink. "I'll move in."

The rum burned his throat, but it didn't take the taste out of his mouth.

to be continued

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