All the standard disclaimers apply.

Past 1x2 Rated R for language.
Feedback is always appreciated, positive and negative.

Author's Note: With help from Merith and Merellia I managed to come up with a title I rather liked for very silly, pretentiously artistic reasons. An interlude chapter for my werewolf story. And this time, I was having a good day.

Bitter Waning
by Saro

"I'm in the basement!" Duo yelled, the screen door crashing shut behind him. He paused in the diningroom long enough to toss his keys on the table and his jacket over the back of a chair before going down stairs. If Howard responded, he didn't hear it, and really, he didn't want to. He wanted to find the asshole from work the other day and pound him into a smear, but that wouldn't have gone over well with his case worker.

Snorting, he tossed down his gym bag and started fishing through it in search of tape. Even though it was the last thing he'd put in the bag, it was still at the bottom. Never failed.

The basement was almost empty. A washer and dryer set in harvest gold took one corner; otherwise the only features were a weight bench, and a heavy bag hanging from an exposed ceiling beam. A thin workout mat padded the floor in parts while the rest was bare cement. Light filtering in through narrow ground-level windows took the edge off the illumination of a pair of naked fluorescent tubes.

Since he couldn't go to the goddamn gym, this was the second best thing. He grabbed the tape with a discontent huff and sat down on the weight bench to wrap his hands. A distant second it might be, but it was better than nothing.

He could still hear his doctor's voice from his second to last visit loud and clear. "You know, you have a beautiful twenty-sixth day acute peak in your biorhythm," he had said, grinning. "It's absolutely text book. Unfortunately, it's making your blood contaminants spike nearly to thirteen hundred." He'd gone on after that, talking about FDA approvals and dosages, but that was all Duo had heard. Thirteen hundred was still contagious.

Duo caught himself before he slammed his fist onto the bench beside him, and tore off the tape. He made a fist, then shook his hand out. Not too tight.

Thirteen-fucking-hundred. He just couldn't get a break, could he? For the love of Christ -- he'd gone to the doctor, talked to the nice, Prozac-popping case worker; he'd gotten the financial aid, and job placement, but he still couldn't do half of what he should be able to because Heero happened to pass along some monster strain of lycanthropy. Yeah, instead of the regular old barn yard variety.

As if he really needed help getting mad at Heero.

He finished his other hand, stood, and started an abbreviated version of his normal stretching routine. Right arm across his chest, two, three, four, then over his head. The movements were familiar, lending focus more than they calmed him down. It gave him a chance to move so that his body would shut up long enough to hear himself think.

He'd missed Wufei at school. The guy could be a prick, but he navigated Duo's moods better than Hilde could. She meant well, but sometimes a friendly ear didn't solve shit. Sometimes someone willing to argue with you a little, or make you pull your own head out of your ass was more helpful. "You have my number, if you need to talk or something, right?" Nodding, he'd assured her he was fine for the umpteenth time.

He laced his fingers together over his head and arched his back until his spine popped. It was the good kind of pop, loosening a knot he hadn't known was there until it was gone.

I'm not fine, am I?

Nope. But I'll live.

Always seemed to.

He leaned forward, laying his hands flat against the floor mat. A snide voice in the back of his mind said, Assume the position. It was one of those weeks -- fucked in all the worst senses of the word.

First the full moon, then school, then Heero... at least Heero hadn't pressed the issue. Yet. With Heero, it was definitely a matter of yet. Duo supposed it was probably his fault, too. But what the hell was he supposed to do?

That was enough stretching. He straightened, pushed his braid back over his shoulder, and approached the heavy bag.

Heero. Heero, he could deal with. It wasn't fun, but he would manage. After Heero was his case meeting. The woman he had to meet with was like a doll with a pull string or something. Perfect, painted on smile, and she said the same things over and over again. If he heard the words "well adjusted" one more time, he was going to hurt someone.

His fist hit the bag for the first time, a satisfying shock of sensation traveling up his arm. Maybe werewolves really were violent, or maybe it was just him. It seemed like he'd always been destructive when his temper was up. The only difference since he became a werewolf was that the desire was more physical. Blasting the shit out of something with an air rifle just wasn't the same as throwing it against the wall. Balancing his weight on the balls of his feet, he punched the bag again.

He didn't care about being well adjusted. He didn't want to be well adjusted. To hell with being well adjusted. He just didn't want to be stuck in the fucking barrio. It was shallow, but love wasn't everything. Being in a relationship could make you pretty miserable, and whatever his feelings for Heero were, he couldn't live like that. Not again.

Being shallow, he could deal with.

He grimaced, but kept moving.

He was through with his case meeting now, though. There'd be another one, sure, but he'd deal with that when it came up, just like he always did. He'd be perfectly fucking charming. Look at me: I'm a good boy. I'm taking my meds. I'm not doing drugs or drinking. My teachers like me. My doctor's a psychopath, but hey, I haven't missed a visit with him or you yet.

Sweat started to bead on his skin. Same old stuff.


No one liked their job anyway, right?

A left, followed by a hard right, his fists connected with the synthetic leather. If he'd hit a person like that, they'd probably be down for the count. Except Heero. He had a jaw like a fucking rock. Not that he'd ever punched Heero. No. But he'd wanted to a few times.

Another solid hit.

In the back of his head, he could feel his bonded. He was worried.

Heero worried too much.

At least work wasn't too bad that evening. That had come up later.

So his coworkers knew he was a lycanthrope. No big deal. Most of them were pretty cool with it. And they knew he'd got his job because of government incentives. So what? Wasn't like it had cost them their jobs. There was one guy who was bent out of shape about it, but he usually worked a different shift.

But when customers refused to deal with him...

How the hell had that asshole known, anyway...?

He thought his eyes weren't turning yellow on him anymore.

Did it matter?

Probably not.

He was starting to get tired, but he didn't want to slow down. With an effort, Duo kept his punches from turning wild, kept off his heels. The bag swayed back placidly, unaffected by his anger. He hit it again, harder, and the chain creaked on its fixture. Sweat rolled off his nose and wet his hair, soaked into the tank top he wore to work out.

Yesterday was his doctor's appointment. He just loved all the blood tests and prying personal questions. And who didn't like having their medication changed, so they could look forward to a week of mood swings and generally feeling like shit? It just made his whole fucking day.

Duo's foot slid on the mat.

"Are you still having problems with your temper?"

A strong right thudded dully against the bag. It was his better arm.

"I wouldn't call it a problem, doc."

He growled in his throat at the memory. If his eyes still turned yellow, they were probably flashing like the sun now. And he didn't give a flying fuck.

"I'd still like to try moving you onto Erynol. We've had pretty good luck using that on cases who've had anger management problems."

Fuck anger management. He was managing just fine.

"Will this lower my blood contaminant count?" Can't blame a guy for being hopeful.

"Eventually, I think so, yes."

"But you said the stuff I'm on now would bring it down by next month...?"

"Probably, but I still think this is the better prescription for you."

"You're the doctor."

Panting, Duo stepped back and flexed burning shoulders. His heart was pounding in his throat, the blood loud in his ears. He opened and closed his hands, which threatened to cramp up.

"Feeling better?" Howard asked. Duo turned toward him, surprised. He hadn't heard his stepfather come down. The lycanthrope's eyes fell on the bottle of water Howard was carrying, and the towel.

"Some." Duo answered honestly and caught the bottle the other threw him. Screwing off the top, he took a long, greedy swallow. When he finished, he added, "Good enough to get through tomorrow."

"What about the day after that?"

Duo sighed heavily and took another drink before he answered. God, he could feel his pulse in his teeth. That probably wasn't a good sign.

"I guess I'll deal with it when I get there."

"Does that work?" He sat down on the second step. When Duo put down the water bottle, he tossed him the towel.

"It's better. It's the best plan I have at the moment." A wry grin lined Howard's face at that answer. Patting off the back of his neck, Duo tried not to notice how old his stepfather was starting to look.

After a moment, he pushed his sunglasses up his nose. It was a nervous habit. "I got a phone call the other day from Heero."

Duo paused. When he spoke, he couldn't quite keep the bitterness out of his tone. "Oh?"

"Oh." Howard repeated, and Duo knew he was rolling his eyes behind his glasses. "Is that all you're going to say? Oh?"

"What should I say?"

"A month ago, you would have said, ‘what does that bastard want?' I'd be offended if I were him. Now he just gets an ‘Oh?'" Howard laughed; it wasn't a very funny sound. "You two need to talk."

"We don't have anything to talk about," the younger man said firmly.

"He doesn't seem to think that."

Duo snapped. "Then he isn't listening."

Howard shook his head ruefully, leaning back on the stairs. "Do you want some advice from an old fart?"

"Not particularly."

"Didn't think so." He smiled again, opening fans of crows feet wide enough to see around the frames of his glasses. "Should I tell him anything if he calls again?"

The lycanthrope thought about that. "Yeah," he answered finally. "Tell him I wasn't kidding."

Whether or not he understood, Howard nodded. Duo couldn't help but feel a little bad for him. After all, it must have sucked to find himself the sole caregiver for a teenager when he was already passed fifty. And then that teenager up and got himself infected with lycanthropy. Duo closed his eyes, swallowing hard.

"I'm gonna jog around the block a couple times. Cool down a bit."

Opening his eyes, he saw Howard nod again. "You do that.

on to chapter three

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