Series: Appearances 5
Spoilers: post Endless Waltz
Summary: How will Duo's guitar-playing measure up against the combined might of Trowa and Quatre's musical talent?
Word Count: 3853
Date First Posted: 17-02-2009
Date Revised: 29-05-2011
Awards: Fanworkrecs fic rec, Defying The Stereotype fic rec.
Notes: Duo POV. I hate it when all characters are perfect at everything. Duo is not good at guitar, and it's fun. I'm sure he'll get better, though. Sanchez is my friend Amy's parrot, too. He's a nut.
Feedback: always welcome, as is constructive criticism.
Also Archived At: LJ | FFN
You know what's posh? Cobblestone pathways. Well, that's what I think, anyway.
It's the sort of thing that abounds in the Middle East or Europe, places that've been settled by people for hundreds or thousands of years. They line old streets and rich palatial estates, and it's just the sort path you'd expect on the lead-up to Quatre's place.
The actual path to Quatre's apartment is slightly weathered concrete, with one or two chips in it. Also, there's a little lip at the door just before you get inside that I always -- and I mean always -- trip over.
Trowa and I make our way up the path in relative silence. He drove his restored Chevy as I've currently only got my cycle, Widowmaker, and that's a bit of a tight squeeze.
It's a quiet night, but I suppose Saturday night shenanigans usually start later than dusk. I know mine do. I have a guitar case strapped to my back and Trowa's carrying a small, black flute case as well as a bottle of sparkling white wine.
Tonight, we are gonna jam.
Trowa surprised me during the week by telling me he'd mentioned our desire to play music together to Quatre during a vid call. Thinking it was a brilliant idea -- if I do say so myself -- he asked to join in, offering his pad as a location.
It did turn out to be pretty good; the only other locations we might've had would've been either Trowa's or my room back at HQ. Do-able, but not that comfortable. Besides, I'm not really very good yet, and the idea of either of our neighbours listening to my pathetic strumming efforts through the paper-thin walls doesn't exactly thrill me.
That's where the inimitable Mister Winner comes to the rescue. Plus, it gives us a chance to catch up, something we haven't been able to do for a while.
The concrete path winds a little the closer we get to the doors, flanked by some lily pilly's badly in need of watering. Don't ask me how I know that. Duo Maxwell, master of useless information. And horticulture, apparently.
Quatre's apartment is in a nice part of town. It's not the best part, nor is it the slums. There are six residences in all in the three-floored block, two to a floor. He shares his level with a couple that have no kids but two dogs -- Heckle and Jeckle.
Those dogs are the fucking funniest animals I've ever met. They think they're people. Either that or everyone else around them is a dog, I forget which. Sometimes Quatre dog-sits and he calls me to help -- apparently I'm fluent in hyperactive Dachshund.
Trowa walks slightly ahead as we get to the top of the path, going straight to the control panel on the right-hand side of the door. He punches at the 4th button, and it makes a faint buzzing noise. After a few moments, a familiar voice greets us with 'hello'.
"It's us," Trowa says simply. I don't bother saying or doing anything, save to wink at the security camera mounted up near the top of the door.
"Hey guys, come on in." There's a louder buzzing from the door, and an audible 'ka-chunk' as the door unlocks. Trowa gestures to me to enter, and I do, almost face first.
Damn stupid fucking path. Every. Time.
It's ok, though, I recover; all I really do is stumble a few steps. The door stops me from going any further. I hear some light, tinny laughter coming through the speakers. "Pick up your feet, Duo," Quatre admonishes.
"This is why you don't carry the wine," Trowa says, a smile playing on his lips.
"You both suck," I tell them matter-of-factly, flicking some choice fingers at the camera as I keep the door open for Trowa.
I swear the path is sentient and it wants to embarrass me. I glare down at the grey cement. This'd never happen if you were a classy old-school cobblestone pathway.
One quick elevator ride to the second floor and we're at our destination. I give a staccato rap on the door of #4. "Honey, we're ho~ome," I singsong.
"Door's open," Quatre says from inside. I push open the door and Trowa and I enter. Quatre is clearing away a few mountains of papers from his kitchen table. When he hears the door, he stops what he's doing and looks up, giving us both a massive smile.
"Hey granddad," I say as Quatre comes over to give me a hug.
"Oh, shut it," he says with an arm around my shoulder, taking off the pair of what I like to call 'Brainy Specs' from the bridge of his nose. They're little and oval, the kind at home on the end of octogenarian's noses. He turns to Trowa who, like me, is just as powerless to evade a Quatre hug.
Let me just say, if ever Quatre Raberba Winner is approaching you with intent to give you a hug, there is nowhere on Earth or the colonies you could go to avoid it. And hot damn he squeezes tight. For his part, Trowa tends to look mildly embarrassed as Quatre gets up on his tiptoes to embrace him, but still reciprocates with an arm around his shoulder.
He steps back and gives us both a brief, appraising once-over. "You're looking good."
"Well, you know, I moisturise," I quip. Trowa snorts.
He glances over Quatre's shoulder at the abandoned pile of paperwork. "Are you busy?"
Quatre folds his glasses and puts them in his front pocket. "Yes, but in dire need of a break." He looks at the wine and reaches out for it. "I'll get an ice bucket, make yourselves at home."
I wander over alone to his comfy couch, put the guitar case down and flop onto the cushions. Being in Quatre's place is homey, but also kind of bittersweet for me, knowing I could have had what he has.
Out of the Eve Wars, with the destruction of our Gundams, the five of us didn't really know what to do with ourselves. Heero and Trowa got on board with the Preventers as field agents immediately. Wufei joined up, too, firstly as a field agent before moving on to a more administrative role. Amongst other hoighty-toighty jobs he often travels the Earth and colonies as an ambassador for the Preventers.
I gleefully and continuously cause him no end of grief by suggesting to him his official title is 'mascot'.
This left Quatre and I. Quatre was itching for a change. He didn't want to be a corporate figurehead, and he didn't want to go into law enforcement. At the time, I think he said 'I want to fight for people without having to carry a firearm." It made sense to me too, not that heading a multi-billion dollar corporation was one of my options.
That's when he began to study law.
At the time I was looking for a change, too. I was getting a little tired of the salvage business and he actually -- bless his little cotton socks -- encouraged me to take up law, too. Said I had the gift of the gab and could make an amazing lawyer. Even offered to pay for my tuition and fees.
I seriously considered it for a while before he told me how much that was going to cost. And it's stupid, but I couldn't let him pay for me to attend school. What if I didn't stick it out? It seemed like a good idea at the time, but he was far more passionate about it than I was. I would have hated for him to be so kind, only for me to get itchy feet after a few years.
That's all providing I even passed the Bar... pessimism, I dub thee Maxwell.
It would come as no surprise to anyone who knows him that Quatre passed, and makes an excellent lawyer. He deals primarily in human rights and amnesty issues, and has consulted for the Preventers a few times.
And me, I ended up with the Preventers after all. It's been a good match, though, and I don't regret my decision. But when I see Quatre as a self-made man, in his own place that he's bought with the money he's earned -- no dipping into the good ol' trust fund for him -- I do feel a little wistful. Massively happy for him, but wistful.
Missed opportunities and all that.
I sit on one of his sofas with my hands interlaced on my stomach, head resting on the backrest. Quatre joins me, bringing over an ice bucket with the wine in it, and three glasses. He sets them on the table in front of us and the cushions dip as he slumps next to me.
"How's work?" he asks.
I shrug, giving him the generic answer. "Same old same old. Foiling international espionage wherever it rears its ugly-ass head. You?"
"Drowning in case files," he sighs, but it's a happy sigh. The little punk loves what he does. My eyes slip shut and I'm about to call him out on it when there's a stinging slap to my thigh.
Hello, wake up call. "Jesus, what was that for?!" Quatre's looking at me all angry-like. Sometimes he's just pure, blonde, insanity. S'why he makes such a good lawyer.
"You should call me more often, you're so bad at keeping in touch. Trowa's the only one that does."
My face displays a little surprise. "He does?"
Quatre leans his elbow on the back of the sofa and faces me. "Every fortnight or so."
Wow, I didn't know. I guess it's not all that surprising, though. Trowa's not really close to a lot of people that I'm aware of, and I suppose he doesn't want to lose track of those he is close to. That's my undocumented assumption, anyway. I've known for ages that he thinks the world of Quatre and vice versa.
Hell, so do I. He's really hard to dislike.
Ah, it's my own fault, and Quatre's right to be a little pissy at me. I consider the guy one of my best friends in the world and I forget to call. I guess the fact that I don't see him on a regular basis makes it just slip my mind.
"I'm sorry I don't call more often..." I hold my hands up in a 'surrender' gesture. "Crappy excuse, I know, but I promise I'll do better. Time gets away from me a little... speaking of which..." I look around curiously. "Where is Trowa?"
Quatre looks around, not seeing him either. Then there's shrill sound that comes from Quatre's bedroom, and he shakes his head. "I should have guessed."
Trowa emerges from the small hall next to the kitchen, whistling. On his shoulder is a small green ring-necked parrot, whistling back happily.
Of course. The goddamned bird.
Quatre has a pet parrot named Sanchez. Or rather, Sanchez the parrot has a former Gundam pilot as a pet.
The bird is a terror, and some days his owner lets him get away with blue murder. He's also, in a word, snobby. Sanchez loves Quatre, perching on his finger and squawking away. He fucking adores Trowa, sitting on his shoulder, rubbing that smarmy little orange beak all over his cheek.
Me, he likes to dive-bomb. Last time I was around he landed on my head and chattered away, I thought he was finally warming up to me... only to feel a really sharp yank as he pulled a few hairs out of my head and flying back to his cage. "It means he likes you," I remember Quatre saying. Yeah, right.
"Oh no," I tell Trowa, looking into those beady little black eyes and covering my head with a pillow. "No way, I've already taken a beating from Quatre, I am not about to donate human hair as well."
Trowa lifts his eyebrow up and gives Quatre a questioning look. Quatre shrugs. "I did this," he says, and smacks me sharply on the leg again.
Sanchez starts whistling excitedly in Trowa's ear. For his part, Trowa just looks at me. "Harden up, Duo," he says. Quatre chuckles a little. So much for sympathy.
"Three against one are odds I don't much care for," I stand and tell them all with what I think passes for a pretty damned good serious face. "I'll take my bat and ball and, er, guitar and go home."
Sanchez chirps and flies off Trowa's shoulder to Quatre's front door, landing on the doorknob. He chirps excitedly again.
Damn stupid intelligent bird.
Trowa and Quatre laugh. Ok, it is a little funny... Funni-er if it wasn't at my expense, but kind of amusing nonetheless. I flop back down on the sofa, and Quatre pats my leg in a conciliatory manner. The bird called my bluff.
We make chitchat for a while about our lives, having a drink as we do. I gotta say, Quatre and I do most of the talking, but Trowa definitely contributes. He tells Quatre about helping me rebuild Widowmaker's engine, and the last time he saw Cathy, amongst other stuff.
When he talks about his sister, he glances over at me for a fleeting second, kind of self-consciously. I have the feeling that since we're only really 'new' friends, he might not yet be ok with talking in front of me about those personal details that he tends to play close to his chest. He still talks, though, and I think that the fact he doesn't stop on my account is a good thing. I guess he is ok with me hearing it.
Trowa seems really relaxed here, and it's a nice change. He tends to look wary in places he's not familiar with, crossing his arms in a really standoffish way. Oh, and he refuses to sit. But here, he's slouching a little, hands by his sides resting on the couch, palms up. Slouching is the benchmark by which I measure everyone's comfort levels.
By this time I've actually slipped down to lie on the sofa, feet just about on Quatre's lap. If slouching is considered comfortable, I must be damn near comatose.
Maybe the wine's helping a little.
Eventually we do break out the musical instruments. As Quatre and I continue to chat, we become aware of the musical undercurrent to our conversation. Trowa had assembled his flute and had begun to play this peppy little song. Sanchez is having a ball, trilling madly and hopping from one foot to the other, bobbing his head back and forth. He wants to fly up and perch on the flute, but that's a little too distracting. Quatre shoos him away to his special perch in the centre of the living room.
With Sanchez gone, the peppy tune stops too. As Quatre leaves the room to get his violin, I close my eyes and Trowa begins a new song. It's slow, but not sad, and has a soaring, uplifting melody. I don't recognise the tune, but it's flat-out beautiful. A minute later, there are some little noises as a bow comes into contact with strings, testing them. Then the sounds of Quatre's violin join in, and my eyes slip shut.
It's amazing how the two instruments just slot together like that. The violin goes low, adding depth, and the flute stays high, giving the music shape. Listen to me, I sound like I'm some kind of expert.
My eyes creak open and I watch Trowa and Quatre play. Quatre watches Trowa's hands carefully, changing his notes when Trowa makes a move to change. I guess Trowa's leading this particular dance.
For his part, Trowa has his eyes downcast, almost closed. He seems really at peace this way, like all the crap and baggage of normal life can't touch him in the music. Quatre, too. He has a blissful expression when playing, and he sways in time with the melody.
I feel kind of stupid, just sitting there, so I get my guitar out of its case.
And I sit there.
And sit there.
Realistically, what am I going to play? I have no idea what they're doing, I think they're making it up and I am woefully inadequate to even attempt to join in. For Christ’s sake, I am still playing songs out of beginner books.
As I berate myself nicely, I notice the music slows, and then stops. Trowa gives his hair a bit of a toss, getting it out of his eyes, and just stares at me. Quatre pulls the violin away from his shoulder and looks at me curiously.
"Duo, why didn't you join in?"
"You're kidding, right?" I hold my hands up helplessly. "I don't even know what song that was."
"It wasn't really a song," Trowa tells me, "I just started playing."
I look at Quatre. "Then how did you know what to play?"
Quatre gives Trowa a brief glance. "I don't know, I just kept watching for Trowa's changes."
"Oh great," I mutter. "You're just making it up as you go along. I can't compete with that."
It kind of pisses me off. Not them, me. I don't like not being good at something. This jam session idea really was stupid. Maybe I should have said no. Quatre and Trowa both frown at each other as I pluck stupidly at the guitar strings.
The couch dips as Trowa sits next to me. Not too close, but nor is he right at the other end.
"It's not a competition," he tells me in a calm voice, "but we shouldn't have gone on ahead without you."
"It was your idea, after all," Quatre nods sagely.
It's at this point that Sanchez takes it upon himself to start screeching madly. We all wince, and Quatre storms over to the perch. He begins to give his pet a scolding, and from the look of it, Sanchez is back chatting.
"I'm sorry," he apologises, giving Sanchez a withering glare. "I promised he could stay out as long as he behaves. Now that has run its course, it's time for someone," he says pointedly, "to go to bed."
He gets a pissy looking little parrot onto his finger (but not before being nipped at) and takes him back into his bedroom for nigh-nighs.
It's hard not to have at least a little bit of a chuckle. Lord knows how he's going to be when he has human children.
I turn back to Trowa, who's staring at me. Again, the staring in such close quarters is a little off-putting, but I don't back down. I do, however, fidget.
"What's the best song you can play without looking at your book?" he asks me quite suddenly.
"I er..." I don't really want to answer, it's too embarrassing. I scratch the top of my head. My scalp's been tingling ever since I thought about Sanchez relieving me of some hairs. At least, I hope it's that and not some kind of paralysing tick.
Trowa waits patiently for my answer. I can tell he's not going to drop it; his jaw is set all determined-like.
I sigh. "Fine. It's 'She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain'," I tell him. I wait for him to laugh at me or smile smugly or something. Hell, if it were anyone else they probably would.
But I forget, I'm talking to Trowa.
He cocks his head to the side, hair slipping so I can see a little more of his face. "Play it for me?" his face and voice are completely devoid of any mockery or humour.
I shrug. "Your eardrums' funeral." I'd tuned the guitar before I left, so it's all ready to go. There's a little plastic Fender pick -- Fender, like having a name brand pick is somehow going to make me sound better -- threaded in the strings of the guitar which I grab.
My fingers go to the fret board and I put them in the formation that'll give me a 'G'. I turn the pick over and over a few times in my right hand before I start.
G is a good note, got a nice sound to it. The rest is just getting the rhythm right. I mouth the words along with my playing so I don't lose my place. There're only 2 chords in the whole first verse so it's not too much of a stretch.
As I come to the edge of the verse, I look up at Trowa and he nods encouragingly.
"Keep going," he tells me, so I start the second verse. I'm not to the point yet where I can take my eyes too far away from what my hands are doing. While I'm looking down at the strings, making sure the digits are doing the right thing, I hear the flute.
I spare a quick glance up, and he's lifted the flute to his lips to play the melody. It fits, oddly enough; much in the same way the violin complimented his playing earlier, my guitar playing helps give the tune some body. He doesn't do anything complicated, just the simple, straightforward melody.
We continue on for about four verses until I start to mess up and decide to finish with a flourish. Trowa finishes too, taking the flute away from his lips and giving me a good smile, eyes crinkling at the corners a little.
As I contemplate that, I hear applause. Quatre stands at the edge of the room, clapping his hands together.
"That sounded terrific!" he tells me, perfect white teeth in a large smile.
And as hard as I can be on myself, I have to admit, it did sound good. For a beginner, at least. I stand up and do something between a dramatic curtsey and a flamboyant bow, before clapping in Trowa's direction. He stands up as well and bows stiffly, much like I imagine some hotshot in an orchestra would do.
Quatre comes over and picks up his violin once again and we all sit. This time, I'm next to Trowa and Quatre's on the other sofa.
"What else can you play?" Trowa asks me.
"Well... I can play a bit of a mean 'Yankee Doodle Dandy'..."
Quatre makes an approving noise and holds the violin up in position. "I like that one. Can you start us off?"
I scrunch up my face a little. "Guys, I'm not as fast as you--"
Trowa reaches across and briefly rests his left hand over my right, where it rests against the strings, effectively shutting me up. "Play whatever speed you can; we'll keep up with you."
I look into the heartening faces of my friends and take up the pick once again.
"'Yankee Doodle' it is." I get my fingers into first position, and watch Trowa lift up the flute ready.
Maybe I'll make it as a rock star yet... with a little help from my friends.