"I finally figured it out."
I glance up at the sudden voice, not letting it show on my face that his silent entrance went unnoticed.
"...What?" I demand shortly. Most people will leave when they're ignored. They'll repeat themselves once, maybe twice. Then comes the awkward silence; then finally, the retreat.
"Most people" isn't Duo Maxwell. And I have learned from experience that the only way to shut him up is to enter the conversation and manuever it to a quick end. I continue with my work, only half listening, keeping one ear perked for any inquiring inflections to his voice that will require me to give some sign that I'm actually paying attention. Duo gets irritated when people ignore him. An irritated Duo is not a good thing.
"You," he stresses. "I've figured it out. What you are."
"...I'm a spy, Duo," I remind him a little drolly, setting aside the dirty rag and reaching for the wrench.
"Don't get cute." The bench against the wall creaks as he dumps his weight on it. He's close to the open garage door, but the moonlight does little to illuminate him. He sticks to the shadows out of habit, and his dark clothes make him nearly invisible. Only the whites of his eyes show as he stares steadily at me, watching me work.
"I went to a shrink," he says abruptly. "Just for shits and giggles, I guess. Do you know what that kook doctor called me?" He leans forward, and for a moment I get a glimpse of white teeth, bared in a wide grin. "Sociopath," he murmurs, drawing out the word as if he can taste it on his tongue.
I don't bother to look his way. "Even Heero thinks you're a little mad, Duo," I point out.
He gives a bark of laughter, leaning back and getting lost in the shadows once more. "Yeah, well... maybe just a little. But like I said, the guy's a quack. When I got home, I looked it up. Guess what the literal definition is?"
"Hm." I pause to wipe a bit of sweat off my brow and go back to attacking the stubborn screw.
"An aggressively antisocial psychopath," he quotes, sounding greatly amused. "Is that a hoot or what? Me, antisocial."
"So I figure the guy's smokin' crack or something. Then I get online and look up 'symptoms of sociopaths'. Y'know... to see where the fuck he got that from."
"And you found out he was right," I guess, just to hurry him along. It's getting late, and I have to be on the road soon. The screw twists at last, and I turn it free, dropping it on the rag and going after its brother.
"No. Well, see what's weird is, the symptoms online didn't really match up with the dictionary's definition of the word." Paper rustles, and a moment later he starts smacking a piece of gum. The noise begins to prickle on my nerves, but I don't let it show, and he keeps on talking. "I only remember some of 'em," he admits. "Things like... 'lack of conscience', 'sees things and people around them as objects to use for their goals', 'manipulative', they 'believe they are doing what is best for society', they tend to draw people in close, flatter and use them, then toss them aside and find another..... Stuff like that." He chuckles a little darkly. "Bizarre shit, huh? And like I told ya-- it's not me. Guess the old fart was just grasping at straws." He gets to his feet and steps a little closer, hands in his pockets, head cocked as he watches me work. "It did make me think, though. I mean, something about that essay rang a bell. Then I realized that I know one."
I toss the wrench aside and wipe my hands on the rag, offering him a brief, impassive look. "One what?"
"Sociopath," he drawls, grinning like a demon, his breath smelling like mint. "Tell me, man, I was always curious... Did you enjoy it? Wrapping Colonel Une around your little finger? Exploiting her, flattering her? A tough nut to crack, that one. Real crazy bitch. She's the one who should see a head doctor, not me. I bet you just loved the challenge. Did you sleep with her? Get her to blab some juicy intel in your pillow talk? Did you tell Quatre--?"
It's not the words so much that bother me-- though his quiet taunts do touch a nerve. It's the sound of him chewing on that damn gum-- smacksmacksmack --that does it. I am on my feet with my fingers around his throat before he can finish his question.
He stumbles back and bumps into the dirt bike I've been working on all afternoon. My small suitcase tumbles from the basket in front and lands on the hard floor with a loud thump. Then he gasps, and I know he's inhaled the gum even before his eyes bulge and he begins to claw at my fingers.
They're all the same in the end, I find myself thinking with a slight twinge of disappointment. Even the self-proclaimed "God of Death". Once your time comes, it doesn't matter if you think you're prepared or not. You fight it-- instinctively and savagely. You fight against Death's cold grip around your heart.
But Duo, I remember, is still a useful ally to have. The war may be over, but there is always the need for a good thief or "locksmith". Especially in my line of work.
So I release his throat, spin him around, and give him a hefty thump between the shoulder blades.
The gum pops free, and he draws in a great whoop of air. He leans over the bike, coughing harshly as the blue tinge in his face fades away. His hand creeps for the knife in his belt-- as I said, an irritated Duo is not a pleasant one --but seems to think better of it and concentrates on getting his breathing under control instead.
I settle my fallen luggage back into the basket and wait silently for him to compose himself.
Finally he turns his head to offer me a weak scowl. "And just how long were you gonna let me choke?" he rasps. I know he doesn't really expect an answer-- and doesn't want to hear mine anyway --so I just stare back at him calmly.
"All right," he growls, waving a hand. "So the Quatre remark was a bit much. Don't bring up the ex, right?" He steps back and glances at the bike and luggage as if just noticing it. "So, leaving again? You move around too much. Though that's another symptom, y'know..."
That's Duo Maxwell for you. The walking example of the phrase "takes a licking and keeps on ticking".
"How did you find me this time?" I demand.
He ignores the question, strolling towards the door as if he wasn't just fighting for his life a minute ago. "Don't goo too far underground this time, 'kay? You're a pain in the ass to find, Tro."
"You could stop looking for me," I suggest bluntly.
"Nah." He flashes me a cheeky grin over his shoulder. "Even nutjobs like us need friends." His braid follows him out the door, and I am alone once more.
I go back to my work, a tiny smile twitching at my lips for just a moment. "I'm mad, you're mad," I murmur to the cold walls. "We're all mad here..."
Author's Notes: I don't know where this came from. Just jotted it down one day after work. It probably stemmed from a convo me and firetwit had one day about psychotics.
Oh, and the quote at the end is from "Through the Looking Glass", for any that didn't know.
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