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The lions are being finicky.

Trowa is silent with them, as he always is, as he generally is even when he's not with them, but it is to no avail; something has them spooked. After an hour of his silence being matched breath for breath by Brazil and Swana's antics, Trowa throws them each a treat and gives up. If he's lucky, they'll take whatever's eating at them out on each other and in the morning, everything will be back to normal. If not, he hopes they're as well trained as he's always telling the circus master they are. The town they're in is too big for screw-ups.

Catherine is waiting for him outside the training area, face neatly inscrutable, eyes concerned. Trowa thinks maybe that whole exercise wasn't about the lions at all. "Cath."

"You have a visitor. I suspect he was going for the surprise route, so maybe it's best if you didn't tell about this little heads up."

Trowa runs a hand through his hair in a gesture that he has picked up sometime post-G. That's how he thinks of the after war period. "Quatre?" Unlikely, as Quatre is unfailingly polite and always calls before a visit. Even more so since their break up.

"Would I even bother warning you?"

No, Trowa'd have Will, Catherine's boyfriend and The Man Who Could Not Keep A Secret To Save His Life, to thank for that. "The Inseparable Odd Couple?"

"No, although Duo did call, but I was screening and he left a message, so I figured I'd let you get around to it when you could. Didn't sound urgent."

They never are, not with Duo. Trowa does his best to sound put upon when conversing with Duo on a regular basis, but is really kind of glad that he bothers to call, since, if it was left up to Heero, Trowa knows he'd have to interface through Quatre to learn anything about what those two are up to. It strikes Trowa that unless something truly odd is going on, this leaves him one option. He frowns. "Wufei?"

"Got it in three, genius." Catherine's tone conveys her doubt that he truly deserves this label.

Trowa's unconcerned. He begins walking toward their car, slowing immediately so that she can match his pace. "Last Quatre told me, Wufei was supposed to be reorganizing the Preventers unit up on L5." Well, L5 - Take Two, as all the pilots call it when Wufei isn't around.

"All I know is that he's sitting in our kitchen, drinking Oolong straight and glaring at my rather sweet and unassuming boyfriend."

Trowa throws her an apologetic smile but says, "You're the one who left Will there with a known terrorist."

"Retired terrorist," she says pointedly. It's more for Trowa's sake than Wufei's and they both know it.

Trowa shrugs. "I was heading back anyway. I'll see what I can do."


"Really, I'll take care of it."

"No, I meant. Look, if he needs to, he can stay."

Trowa stops walking, tugging Catherine's arm gently to halt her as well. "It's crowded."

"We did it before, with Heero."

There are whole layers of implications in that statement and Trowa pauses to decide if she intends them or not. "There wasn't Will."

"Will does have a car of his own to go to if he gets fed up. And honestly, what's the harm in one more person at this point?"

Trowa's officially worried. He loves Catherine and she has the biggest heart in the known world, a heart that rivals even Quatre's, but her and Will are new and rocky and possibly perfect. They are not something she would risk out of hand. "Is he hurt, Cath, is that it?"

Catherine tucks a hair that doesn't need tucking behind her ear. "Not where I can see it."

Trowa understands that doesn't make things any better. Shit. "Okay. Look, you wanna take Will on a walk, or something?"

She snorts, but it's small and distracted. "Or something is right."


Will's holding his own better than Trowa would've expected when he reaches the car. He's poured the both of them coffee and is calmly explaining the early stages of trapeze training to Wufei. In Trowa's experience, it's a lot like being trained for a war: learn to understand fear as an irrelevant emotion, learn to perform feats most humans can't. Wufei is positively entranced.

Will looks up as Trowa comes in the door. "Cath?"

"Outside, waiting for you."

Will stands, nodding at Wufei. "Nice making your acquaintance." He puts a hand briefly to Trowa's shoulder on his way out and is gone. Trowa takes the seat Will has evacuated and sips at the equally abandoned coffee. It's too sweet, but Trowa's not feeling picky at the moment.

"I'm sorry to intrude." Wufei sounds like he means it, which is novel. Trowa can count the times when Wufei has apologized with any sort of sincerity to him on one hand. It would take more digits than he and all the people he knows possess to count all the times Wufei probably should have done so.

Trowa's not really one to harp on things, though. "You and Une fighting again?"

"We've fought. In a final way." Wufei makes a vague gesture with his hand. "We were not well conceived to begin with. Two people mourning over the same person does not a good romantic pairing make."

Trowa blinks at this condemnation of a relationship that has spanned over two years. "It was more than that."

"Perhaps." Wufei's aquiesance seems born more of exhaustion than true agreement.

"Wufei. Why are you here? Why not Q's?" Quatre is a good person to go to when things fall apart. He doesn't say much and when he does say things, they're always the right ones. Trowa can understand not going to Heero and Duo even if, in his heart of hearts, Trowa can acknowledge the fact that Duo knows how to heal every bit as well as Quatre, if in a drastically different way.

"Because this was where I went."

It's a frightening statement from Wufei, who, even more than Heero, has always been in control. "You can stay," Trowa says, just in case that hasn't been made clear.

"Should I?"

Trowa's already tried (and failed) at soothing two beasts today. He doesn't feel up to a third. "I said you could stay, not that I'd work through all your shit for you."

Wufei's look in response to that is sharp, but it dulls after a few seconds. "For that, I'll stay."

Trowa suddenly wishes he hadn't adapted to the haircut Quatre had him get after the war, the one that allows both his eyes to be visible. This isn't the first time he's ever missed the security of that escape, but it's among the most cutting. "You can only provoke me so far."

Wufei shakes his head. "No. It's just that…you're not a healer. I don’t need a healer."

"You don’t know what you need."

"You're wrong." Wufei's tone is as even -- and familiar -- as it has been all afternoon. "I need a friend."


Wufei snarls at Catherine when she asks him something at dinner and Trowa stands, takes Wufei's plate from him and says, "My invitation has just been retracted."

It's the first thing Trowa has said since Catherine and Will came back, poking their heads in to make sure their presence wouldn't upset anything. Wufei meets Catherine's eyes. "Forgive my lapse of manners. I had been on L5, but I was transferred to Earth early this year. There was a shortage of trained and experienced personnel."

Trowa sets the plate back down as though nothing has happened and returns to his dinner. Wufei helps him clean the dishes afterward when Trowa brushes Catherine out the door with a simple, "Go practice. I prefer myself without gaping knife wounds."

Wufei asks, "What is it like, living with a woman who is not yours?" and Trowa laughs.

"Women are never ours."

"Une was-"

"I'm beginning to see just how many problems there were with that particular liaison," is Trowa's assessment of whatever Wufei was about to misinterpret.

"Meiran was," Wufei says sharply.

Trowa pares down the edge of the comment with a gentle, "Meiran was a girl. And you were a boy. Two entirely different nouns than man and woman."

Persistent, Wufei asks, "What's it like?"

When Trowa is being most honest with himself, the answer to this question is always, "Like living with Quatre." Which is a huge part of why he left. Quatre is more a brother to him than any flesh connection could have ever made them, and Trowa would have tried anything to make him happy. Quatre knows people, though, Trowa best of all perhaps and he knew when to say, "For fuck's sake, go find someone that doesn't make your skin crawl."

Which made Trowa protest, "It's not like that."

And Quatre respond, "I know, but in my head, that's how it feels. Get out." Then, after a few seconds, "I'll call you. It's okay."

It wasn't, not for almost a year, but then Quatre did call and said, "I'm dating the CEO of a rival company and it's like some really bad romantic comedy only probably without the obligatory happy ending and you were the first person I wanted to tell."

Trowa, who had been waiting for the call day-by-day, hour-by-hour said, "What did you first notice about him?"

Quatre was right about that relationship, and the one after it with the ridiculously good looking actor, and even the one after that with the long lost childhood friend. He is currently in between relationships and regularly calls Trowa to moan about this. Trowa, for his part, stays safely and happily single, and lives vicariously through his best friend.

Wufei dries the last dish and stacks it atop the others. "Quatre is…"

"Quatre," Trowa sums up for him. "And Catherine is Catherine."

Wufei mutters, "Une was most probably Treize. Except that she wasn't. She says I should have noticed sooner."

Trowa knows that there are some times when there is nothing that can lessen pain, nothing that can change what has been and what will be. Wufei hefts the dishes into their packing crate. "I think I did notice. I just didn't know it. I think. Perhaps I was in love with her."

Une is fierce and when Trowa looks at her, he sees too much of the war to understand her as a woman, a human, a sexual object, a friend. All the same, Wufei obviously has, and for some time. "There's no going back?"

"When I was learning to fly Nataku, the doctor told me that some things, no matter how big they may seem at the time, are meant only as lessons, as footnotes to later events. Une has moved on and I have no desire to upend her existence again. I'm relatively sure I owe her that. The only way I can understand where I am is to think that I'm meant to have learned something from her."

Trowa notices that Wufei has learned how to apologize and how to listen but he doesn't think either of these skills are what Wufei needs to feel he's acquired. "It will come clear."

"I don’t remember you being an optimist."

Trowa has always thought himself an optimist, he's lived through too much with the expectation of surviving not to. He can see how his attitude might be misconceived, however. "Catherine and Quatre's influence."

Wufei nods knowingly without knowing anything at all.


The problem between Trowa and Une, is that they knew each other as somebody else for far too long and sometimes, they forget that each other are not the people they remember. Trowa avoids the issue by rarely communicating with Une. It is way up high on his list of reasons why joining the Preventers is not the ideal career choice for him.

Trowa's loyalty to Wufei, be it smaller than his loyalty to all the other pilots, trumps his issues with Une, and he puts in a call. It takes him four people, nearly an hour of holding time and a few well-placed threats to actually get a hold of her and his first question is, "Do you have a private extension?"

"Who is this?"

Right. "My apologies. It's Trowa Barton."

Une laughs. "Didn't believe you when you told them that, did they?"

The state of his and the other pilots's somewhat young legendary status isn't something Trowa wants to discuss. "Wufei is here."

"He couldn't remember my personal extension?"

"He doesn't know I'm calling."

There is a pause and her, "How's he doing?" is casual, complete water cooler conversation material.

Une, though, isn't a casual person, and it is this slip that gives away just how much Wufei isn't telling Trowa. "He's…here."

"Right." The one word is a testament to how well she knows him. "He has to stay there."

"Do you say that because you can't take him back or because he needs to be here?"

"The two are not mutually exclusive. Since you ask, though, I can't take him back. He's no good for me and I'm certainly not much good for him. You are, though."

"It's not-"

"I meant as a friend. Whatever else is between the two of you I'll let it stay there. I have to stop feeling like I was never enough at some point and thinking about that isn't going to help."

Because Une has become real at a moment wherein Trowa was looking the other way, he offers, "He's so much better now."

"And I am perhaps worse. No doubt our fates are deserved."

"He loved you."

A sharp hiss of air streams through the line. "He loved the person he thought I could be."

"That's how he loves."

"I'm glad someone understands it."

Trowa isn't really that someone, but he acknowledges the sentiment. "I just thought you might," want to know, have some insight, need to say things, "be interested as to his whereabouts."

"I appreciate the call. If you need something." She makes the fragment an entire thought.

"Give me your personal extension. It might be too late by the time I get through."

She throws off the numbers like yesterday's news.


Trowa doesn't trust often, but he trusts hard. He knows that most of the circus troupe thinks he has a death wish, letting Catherine throw her knives at him, but he doesn't. He just trusts that she won’t hit him.

It's a little Zen, being strapped to the board, the sound of the crowd around him but of no import since really, he doesn't have to do anything. The decisions are made, the responsibility is out of his hands and while that's not generally something he's into, with Catherine, it’s just fine.

He's almost disappointed every time he feels the touch of her hands at the ties, letting him go for yet another evening. He bows, she curtsies, they exit and there's always a performance high pouring from her, so powerful that if Trowa could harness it he'd be the richest man alive. Will's like that too. If Trowa can get them to wait on running off and sexing it up within an inch of both their lives, they're both great fun on show nights.

He doesn’t bother tonight. Wufei's sitting in front of the lion cages, but it's obvious he's been watching from the disapproving glint in his eyes. Trowa's too relaxed to care, but he'll be damned if he lets Wufei ruin any of Catherine's high. He kisses her cheek, "Go find yourself a good lay."

She laughs, "You're such a bitch," and flounces off.

Wufei doesn't waste time. "You lived through over a year of terrorism and war only to regularly risk yourself for the entertainment of the masses? You're a fool, Barton."

Pointedly, Trowa sticks his hand through the bars on the lion cage and pets Brazil's mane. "I'm neither a fool, nor a Barton."

Wufei watches Trowa with only a trace of nervousness. "My apologies. How could I mistake someone who lets knives be thrown at him and plays with deadly predators as someone lacking in common sense?"

"Brazil, Swana and Cath are my friends. As such, I trust them. They are no more or less dangerous than most of the other people I call friends."

Wufei blanches. His apology goes a little something like, "You earned that name."

As apologies go, it's actually one of the better ones Trowa has ever received. "No, I didn't. I stole it. Perhaps I have earned a name, but not that one."

"Why do you keep it, if you hate it?"

Swana comes over to growl jealously at all the attention Brazil's getting. Trowa has no sympathy. "Sit close to the bars and I'll pet you too, princess."

She sits. Trowa comes through for her. "Because it's how people know me."

"People must have known you as something else before they knew you as Trowa Barton."

Trowa deliberately keeps his fingers loose. "Nanashi. And nobody who mattered ever knew me then."

Wufei's voice sounds far away, as though the ground is well below Trowa's feet. "If you wanted to be called something else, we would- I would-"


Wufei repeats the question as though it is the oddest thing he's ever been asked. "Why?"

Trowa figures two and a half days of playing host has given him the right to cut into the issue before them. "We aren't friends, Wufei. We fought on the same side of a war, and I say even that with reservations. We fought with the same weapons for a cause that was similar. I'm not sure anyone in that situation fought on anyone else's side. Basically I'm just a guy you met during a high stress time period of your life. If that's why you're here, fine, but there's no reason for you to do me favors like getting used to a new, self-designated name."

Wufei stands. He looks into the cage but doesn't dare reach out. "You have Catherine and Quatre and Duo and Heero and your lions. They're your friends. I have four people I fought with and a woman that I fought against and maybe loved who left me. I find myself in doubt that it is your fault we are not something more than what we are."

Swana has gently taken Trowa's arm in her mouth and isn't letting go. "I can't teach you how to be a friend. It's not even something I consciously know how to do."

All Wufei says is, "If you could have any name in the world, what would it be?"

Trowa remembers sneaking away from the mercenary camp, past the ticket takers into the first traveling circus he ever saw. He remembers the posters advertising the lion master. He remembers the lion, the first one he ever laid eyes on, gorgeous and gold and majestic. "Orion."

"The hunter," Wufei says.

Trowa smiles. "Something like that." Hunter, protector, friend, performer.

"It's a good name."

Trowa doesn't need Wufei's approval, but he's willing to admit privately that it feels good anyway. "Thanks."

Obviously, Wufei's grasp of friendship hasn’t extended to the point where he realizes that the correct response in this situation is, "You're welcome."


It's a two day trip between this city and the next. Trowa tells Catherine, "I've got the night driving if you can do morning through afternoon."

Catherine agrees because this is how they always do it. She's more than willing to leave it at a standing deal, but Trowa always checks to make sure. They start out at seven in the morning. Trowa comes and steals her out of the driver's position at seven that evening.

At three in the morning, Wufei climbs into the passenger seat. "You still sometimes feel like night and day are all the same?"

It was part of the war, never really knowing what the time was. Missions could come any time and sleep needed to be taken at any time, so actual hours were irrelevant. "Not exactly. It's more that I adjust to different schedules better than she does."

"Driving's better at this time," Wufei says with the confidence of someone who knows.

"Spend a lot of time on the road?"

Wufei shakes his head. "Not like you. But it was the Preventers, things came up."

Trowa remembers that type of uncertainty as to where the next need for him might lie. Trowa loves traveling from town to town, the settled feeling of the car versus the unsettled feeling of the open road. Despite this, he likes knowing a week ahead of time where they'll be playing next. He likes marking the routes on the maps that he finds in the glove compartment and on the kitchen table. He suspects that Catherine buys the new maps as he destroys the old ones with his lines and scribbled directions. She never says a thing. "Do you miss it?"

"The job?"

Trowa just wants to hear Wufei talk in general, he can define Trowa's pronouns anyway he so chooses. The road is quiet with Catherine asleep in the back and while Trowa recognizes the need for and often values quiet, everything gets excessive after a while. "Yeah."

"When there's a sense of accomplishment, that's something I miss. Right now I'm feeling a bit…at ends. I don’t miss the structure or the long periods of mind-numbing frustration. I don't miss all the fights with Une."

Trowa notices how he specifies what he doesn't miss about Une but stays silent on the matter. "I would miss this. Almost all of it. More pros than cons, is what Cath says."

"I'm not unhappy in the job."

"You're just not happy," Trowa agrees.

"Not everything in life is about instant gratification."

Trowa doesn't dignify that with a response.

Wufei says, "I'm turning on some music," and spends an hour trying to find a channel that isn't preaching or screeching at them.


Wufei disappears for several hours when they pull into the next town. As far as Trowa can tell there aren't any cars missing, and nobody seems to be frantically looking for their moped/bicycle/scooter/alternate form of transportation. Even the horses are safely locked up.

Nonetheless, Wufei returns with two armfuls of groceries and not a hint of sweat. Trowa thinks about asking but doesn't. He's always liked a bit of a mystery. Wufei sets the brown paper bags on the counter in the kitchen area of the car. "Thought I'd make dinner."

Wufei's living in his space, so Trowa isn't about to put up a fight. "What are we eating?"

"Chicken with black bean seasoning." Despite this description, the items Wufei is unloading look more like broccoli, carrots, and a box of cracked bulgur. Trowa knows about Wufei's health-food neuroses. When things settled down after the war and Quatre would insist on get-togethers, Wufei and Heero would have knock-down fights over nutrition. Heero, having eaten healthy by force for most of his child and teenage years, has been on a junk fest ever since. Duo is no help, since he'll eat whatever is placed in front of him, too aware of the precious nature of available food to be picky.

"Why do you care what Heero eats?"

Wufei's hand falters ever so slightly as he pulls the cran-apple juice out of the bag. "I don't. I just don't want to be forced to eat the swill he puts in his own body."

Trowa's unconvinced but not really spoiling for a fight. "He'll grow out of it. Duo'll grow out of the need to constantly over eat. I'll grow out of hiding food, just in case. You'll probably grow out of your compulsive tendencies."

Wufei's smile is small, and Trowa can tell he's trying to hide it. "Flattering."

Trowa steals the bag of uncooked almonds for which Wufei is trying to find a place. He opens it, taking a few out and resealing the bag. He finds a nook for it in the small pantry, alongside the canola oil. "Gonna come to the show tomorrow night?"

"Is there anything else to do in this town?"

"Seeing as how you were the one who made the trip into town, I'll assume that's a rhetorical question."

Wufei unhooks a large sautéing pan from the hook above the sink. "Do you want me to come?"

Trowa is glad Wufei's back is turned, because his eyes are rolling of their own accord. "I could give a flying fuck less what you do."

"Then why ask?"

The obvious assumption that he's asking to make conversation grates on Trowa, as anybody who knows him knows he doesn't bother with small talk. "I thought you'd wanna know there's a well, VIP section, quote unquote. Since you were sitting in the nosebleeds last time."

Wufei pours a dash of sesame oil into the already heated pan and there's a sizzle that precipitates the release of a pleasant aroma. "You could see me?"

"I'm good at finding things."

Wufei unlatches the small window above the sink so that the car will not grow too smoky. "Where's this section?"

Trowa gives him directions.


Trowa thinks it may have been a miscalculation, inviting Wufei to the show, allowing him into Trowa's world. Sometimes, not every show, but often enough, the edge of danger that is working with feral animals, allowing a person to throw deadly weapons at him, turns him on. It's more the fact that he's so unafraid that gets under his skin, into his bloodstream, the fact that he knows Swana and Brazil and Catherine won't hurt him, than anything else. Regardless of reason, though, it happens.

It's not unusual on nights when it does for Trowa to disappear into the city; to find someone who looks good and is up for a little fun as well. He can't tonight, though, not with Wufei making his way out of the VIP seats no sooner than Trowa has finished, worming through the crowd to get to him.

Despite the fact that Trowa knows nothing has changed, Wufei has never looked so good. Trowa tells him, "I'm gonna go shower."

It's not an unreasonable idea, Trowa always showers after performing, the smell of tired lions and sawdust and human sweat not one that he enjoys wearing. Tonight he turns the water on so cold that it only takes one blast to have his torso going numb. It works enough, luckily, and when Trowa settles down at the kitchen table, hair still drying, feet bare, pajama pants and top hanging from his still-thin frame, he's no longer planning on seducing Wufei regardless of consequence.

Wufei has made green tea while Trowa was busy getting control of himself. He offers a cup to Trowa who takes it, swallowing carefully so as to warm up but not burn himself. Wufei says, "Some show."

Trowa smiles. Like him, Wufei doesn't find words to be his friends. Trowa can interpret the, "I'm impressed," without it being spelled out. "People pay a lot of money to see us."

"Have you seen Will's part?"

Trowa nods. The trapeze portion used to be one of his favorites. The familiar danger of it called to him. He still enjoys dropping in on a practice every once in awhile, watching the new flips the one-upmanship that each of the artists has with each other, even amidst their utter companionship and trust.

"No wonder Catherine keeps him in her bed."

Trowa chokes on his tea.

Wufei affects innocence and it's scary, because Trowa's not entirely sure it's affected so much as, well, an honest expression of his feelings. "I mean, you must have noticed what he can do with his body."

"She's like a sister to me." Trowa wonders if Wufei actually has some type of blood vengeance on him and has just waited until now to try and drive him to pick his brains out with a melon-baller.

"He's not exactly like a brother."

He's not and Trowa's never going to get over the guilt of at one time finding Will more attractive than Quatre due to this fact. "Why are we having this conversation?"

Wufei just shakes his head. Normally it's a gesture that Trowa would be able to read, but he's not sure that he can this time. "Is there something you want to know?"

"You dated Quatre." It's a statement, not a question.

Nonetheless, Trowa says, "Of course I did."

"But then…"

Ah. Trowa explains, "It was more friends, less mm mm." He would try for more eloquence, but he doesn't think Wufei cares and he knows it'll get his point across.

"Are all of us like that for you?"

"I haven't thought about it." He hasn't. He tries not to examine moot points.

"It was more mm mm and less friends with Une."

"Just because we're both looking for a balance doesn’t mean we'll find it in each other."

Wufei doesn't answer. Trowa knows he sometimes does that when he doesn't necessarily want to acknowledge the truth of something.


Catherine is watching the lions when Trowa shows up to feed them. They're not doing anything so far as he can tell but she's watching like they're putting on a cabaret, complete with line kicks. He puts a hand on her shoulder. "'Morning."

"Hey. Feeding time?"

Trowa smirks because suddenly, Brazil and Swana are sitting up, staring at him intently, on their best behavior. He swings himself up onto the car where the latch to the cage is, and lets himself in. He throws the meat to them before they decide he looks more appetizing and climbs back out, locking up behind him. "I thought you and Will were going out last night." By which he means, what are you doing up?

"We did. I just couldn't sleep." Catherine grew up in the circus. She can sleep through anything.

"There's a doughnut place a couple of minutes ride from here. Will's bike available?" Will keeps a moped for getting around once they're inside the towns.

Catherine nods. "He gave me open ended permission."

"When's the wedding?"

Catherine's smile isn't so ready as it should be. Trowa pulls her toward the moped. She undoes the combination lock and twists it around Will's car. "Think I should leave a note?"

"We'll probably be back before he's up, and even if we're not, the good condition of the lock should make it clear that it wasn't stolen."

Catherine climbs on first. "You're driving."

That's fine with Trowa. He enjoys driving. He seats himself in front of her and ignores how comfortable it is for her to wrap her arms around his waist. The pilots and Catherine were the first people in a long time that Trowa let touch him. He knows now that he can't go back to the absence of touch, even casual touch. Most of the time he pretends not to have anxiety over this issue.

The drive to the doughnut shop is brief. Trowa activates the alarm on the moped. It's loud as hell and plays circus music and has never once failed to discourage people from trying to steal the vehicle.

Meanwhile Catherine orders them both coffee, his with a little cinnamon in it and two doughnuts a piece, one plain glaze each, an applesauce for her and a raspberry jelly filled for him. Trowa thinks maybe he should branch out, try the cream-filled, but he loves that she knows exactly what he wants and is afraid to tinker with it.

He takes a bite of the glaze. "You're scared he's gonna move on."

She blows over the surface of her coffee, cooling it. "He came, he'll leave."

Most circus performers aren't quite as "stationary" as Trowa and Catherine. The majority contract out to the highest bidder for a season and then move on when someone offers them more. "We stay. It happens."

She nods, but there's no change in the level of expectation on her face. "Someone else'll come."

"Forever? It'll always just be the next person?" It's cruel and the second he's said it, Trowa regrets it. He's tired of seeing Catherine get hurt.

"Says the boy who can't even bother to try with the next person."

"Wufei's not." To his surprise, Trowa feels a little sad about that.

"If it's not one of them, babe, it’s not gonna be anybody. I don’t date outside the circuit for a reason."

Trowa knows there was a time when Catherine would only date people who weren't circus folk in an attempt to avoid drama. He also knows her decision to quit dating anyone non-circus stemmed from a good reason. "So it's not gonna be anybody. I do all right."

"Sure, but-"

"That's not what he came here for."

Catherine throws her hands up. "Who the fuck cares, Trowa? What we need is rarely ever what we want and what we want is rarely ever what we get."

"You're telling me to take advantage of what might be my only option. Flattering."

Catherine tears off a bite of the applesauce and chews frantically. She's calmer by the time she swallows. "I'm telling you that regardless of what he says, he looks at you. I'm telling you that he came here instead of other places for a reason. I'm telling you to quit being stubborn and scared and take a fucking chance. You owe me that much."

He does. She's taken chances on him that he's pretty sure have never paid off only to turn around and teach him that sometimes it's just taking the chance that is the reward. "He's not Q. If it doesn’t…afterward, I mean, it won't be." Trowa stops himself, frustrated.

"I don’t know, the five of you, there are things that can't be separated, even by pain."

"I'm not sure I want to find out."

Catherine reaches across the table, takes his sticky hand in her equally sugar-ridden one. "I know, but sometimes you have to."

It hurts to peel their hands apart.


Kissing Wufei is hot. He kisses the way he fights, with the same focus and intensity and Trowa's never thought of Wufei as anything but formulaic, but the tongue in his mouth is proving differently. Wufei pushes him back after a few seconds, panting in the alley behind the main tent where Trowa has chosen to molest him. "What the hell?"

Trowa can't find a good way to tell Wufei the kiss was an experiment. "Something Cath said."

"It involved groping me in filthy, ill-lit alleyways?"

"She's a lady," Trowa warns, but he knows Wufei's just shocked.

It's several moments before Wufei asks, "Mm mm?"

Trowa fingers the corner of his mouth. "Yeah. For me."

Wufei mutters, "Shit," and descends on Trowa again.

It could be three minutes or several hours before Cora, the elephant trainer, finds them there. "Barton, your lions are gonna eat someone if you don't go feed 'em."

Trowa breaks away from Wufei and looks at Cora without flinching. "All right." He follows Cora into the backstage tent, hooking his hand into Wufei's and diligently not letting go. If Wufei wants to escape, he's going to have to work for it. Evidently, that's not in the plans because when Trowa lets go, needing both hands to work with Swana and Brazil, Wufei settles himself outside the cage, watching.

Trowa takes his time with the cats, who are annoyed with him, both because he's late with their food and (he suspects) because he smells like someone else. He waits until Swana butts her head against his thigh in the international lion signal for, "Shoo," to leave.

Trowa says, "I think Cath and Will are in the car."

They find the closest thing they're going to get to privacy in the corner of the big tent. It's been cleared out and will be taken down early tomorrow. It's unlikely anybody will come back to it tonight. They kiss against the rough canvas of the wall, Wufei's fingers hooked in Trowa's belt buckles, Trowa's hands curving around the bottom of Wufei's ass. Eventually Wufei's fingers move. He fumbles with Trowa's button and zipper at the same time that he says, "It's been awhile, with guys. It might be bad."

Trowa doubts it. "Wouldn't be the first time." Sex with Quatre, despite the other man's gentle nature and eagerness to please, had been awkward and unarousing. Sex with the merc who had mentored him had generally been consensual only in the sense that he wouldn't say no for fear of where it would land him.

Wufei isn't gentle as he pulls Trowa's jeans down. They catch on his cock and he moans, after which Wufei takes a little more care. Then Wufei's mouth is enveloping the head of his cock. There's almost no finesse and quite a bit of hesitation and none of it matters because, "DamnfuckFeiOhmy-" Trowa's incoherence is cut off only by his straining his head so far back that his vocal chords are rendered useless.

Wufei wraps his hand around the base of the cock and Trowa nearly passes out. He doesn't, he manages to stay conscious and even upright, orgasming into Wufei's mouth. The whole thing is quick and he would be embarrassed, but it's been a while period for him. When the spots clear from his eyes he tugs Wufei up, crumbling down in front of him. He tugs the tie on Wufei's pants loose, carefully lifts the shorts up over his cock and goes to town.

Unlike Wufei, Trowa's not worried about his sexual finesse. He was taught to do this at ten years old and has never had a good chance to forget it. Above him, Wufei swears, softly and with meaning. Trowa relaxes his throat muscles and swallows until there's nothing left to take in. Wufei's hands dig into his shoulders. It's painful, but kind of nice, Wufei holding on like that. Trowa pulls back, dragging his tongue along the underside of the cock before plunging back down. He's barely gotten it all down when Wufei shoots.

Trowa waits until he's done, letting go somewhat reluctantly. It's odd, before now blowjobs have always just seemed like something that goes along with sex or can be substituted for intercourse. Now he wants to keep Wufei on his tongue despite the fact that he knows it will be too much, that Wufei is too sensitive at the moment.

Instead he slides back, off of his knees and looks up, keenly pleased with himself. Wufei folds easily, nearly on top of Trowa. "A warning would have been nice."

"I like surprises."

"Orion," Wufei whispers.

It takes Trowa a second to understand. "Yeah?"

"Nothing. Just." Wufei's hand finds it's way to the damp skin of Trowa's stomach. "Nothing."


Wufei doesn't stay with him at night. Trowa doesn't ask it of him. That way it's easier for them both to hide and pretend this doesn't change anything without either of them having to take responsibility.

Wufei does other things. He fixes the leaky faucet in the sink that's been driving Catherine crazy. If it's mechanical, Trowa can fix any problem in three seconds flat with his bare hands. Plumbing isn't really his thing though, so they've just been putting up with it until one of them found someone to take of it.

He throws Trowa's clothes into the wash when he does his own. Somebody a little more feminine than a gang of mercenaries obviously raised Wufei, since Trowa can smell and feel Catherine's softener by just putting his hand on the pile of still-warm, neatly folded clothes. He hopes Wufei asks if he can use it.

He makes oatmeal cookies, which has Trowa curving his eyebrows in surprise until Wufei hastily explains, "They're made with brown sugar and rice flower and applesauce."

Despite this, they're sweet and cakey and good. Trowa locks the door to the car so that he can reward Wufei. By the time he's finished, Catherine's sitting on the steps. Trowa unlocks the door. "Sorry."

Catherine waves a hand. "What smells so good?"

Trowa feels a trill of shock. Luckily, Wufei is more self-contained. "Cookies. I made some earlier."

He extends the plate to her. She takes one and nibbles on it. "Shit, these are really good. Can I take some to Will?"

Wufei puts the plate back on the counter. "Just leave a few for us."

Catherine laughs. "He's not that good a boyfriend, dear."

Trowa doesn't think much of the pet name, Catherine calls nearly everyone in the circus by dear or honey or sweetheart or sugar. Wufei looks out the window, away from where either of them can see his face. Trowa approaches him from behind, slides the palms of his hands from the center of Wufei's lower back to the center of his abdomen. "It's just a word."

Trowa can feel Catherine behind him, stationary and worried.

Wufei says, "Une's word was babe. That I miss. She was very…human at times."

Which had most likely been a welcome break from him and Heero. "Most people are."

"I wasn't expecting that part. It was more than I wanted."

It's not any more, if it was Trowa knows they wouldn't be munching on cookies. He also knows it's sheer cruelty to try and force that out of Wufei. "Things change."

"Sometimes too fast."

Trowa's not sure he believes that. He finds it far more likely that people, himself included, just aren't paying enough attention. He bends his head, pressing his lips to the curve where Wufei's right shoulder meets with his neck. "You're here. That's the same for now."

"I don't know where to go from here."

"Why anywhere at the moment? Cath likes your cookies. I like your plumber's crack."

There's a small spasm in Wufei's stomach muscles. Trowa assumes it's laughter. He hopes it is. "I don't want things to change on me suddenly."

"We'll tell you- I'll tell you if they're going to."

"Ahead of time?"

"Days and hours and minutes."

That time frame evidently meets with Wufei's approval, as he slumps slightly against Trowa's taller frame. "Thanks babe."

It doesn’t match the situation and rolls off of Wufei's tongue like an uneven boulder down a rocky mountainside. Trowa gives him another kiss. Catherine sneaks out the door with her pilfered cookies.


Duo calls. "Tell me you've got Wufei with you because I just realized we'd been assuming that you did for two weeks now and if you don't he's missing in a big way and we need to look before we find out that he's been trapped by remnants of Federation-allied forces and made to-"

Trowa cuts him off, not really wanting to know where this train of thought is headed. "He's here."

"Oh," Duo sounds a bit deflated, "well, that's good. I mean, that's good, right?"

"Yes," Trowa says simply. He means it enough to know that he's not ready to talk about it yet, not without some warm-up. "How's Heero?"

"Fucking insane. He's decided that we need a mammoth jungle gym to teach our children reflexes early on and that he's the man to build it."

Trowa's pretty certain he's missed something. "Children?"

"I convinced him to adopt." Duo is talking quickly, and Trowa knows this was the main reason for the call.


"I'm too used to looking after oth-. After kids. I've never really gotten used to the feeling of not doing it. And, you know, there's like bunches of unwanted ones on L2."

Trowa knows Duo's probably fidgeting, looking away from the phone regardless of the fact that Trowa can't see though it. "So you're gonna… Wow. That's…good." Excellent, even, but Trowa's not known for his verbal effusiveness.

"Quatre's all excited. He tell you about his new boyfriend? He probably did. You'd probably've even known before me except that I introduced them. He's way more stand up than the last however many have been. We met at an engineering convention, he's actually in sales, runs a small company that manufactures that new gadget, the one that's revolutionizing navigation technique? I told you about it. Anyway, so yeah, they're cute as fuck together."

Trowa listens pretty well when he and Duo talk, so he knows all about the gadgets and Duo's conventions. He knows he would know about this new boyfriend if he hadn't purposely not returned Quatre's phone calls for two weeks now, at first not knowing what was going on and then not knowing what to say. He's pretty sure he's the worst friend on the planet and beyond. "Nice to have a second opinion."

Duo's quiet for a second. "Reprieve's up."

Trowa considers playing dense, but Duo plays dirty. "Wufei and I are sleeping together."

"No shit. Everyone from Quatre to my grandmother's dog's been predicting that. I didn't ask if he was there for my health."

"You know about Quatre and me."

"It's not like you to be egotistic, man. He's over it."

"I feel…" like a bad friend, a bad person, awkward, unsure of how to proceed, scared of losing him, "odd."

"He'd want to know from you. And if you haven't talked, he's probably fucking dying to tell you about Corrin."

Probably. Quatre does girl talk better than anyone Trowa's ever met and that includes legions of circus women, who probably coined the phrase. "I'll call him."

"I mean it, Trowa, and tell him you're sorry, seriously. You're such an asshole sometimes." Duo makes it sound like praise.

"I know."

"We're gonna catch up with you, as soon as I finish the job I'm contracted for and Heero gets some time from Relena. See if you can get Wufei to stay till then, yeah? Maybe we can even convince Quatre to drop in. Full-scale reunion before the kiddies come along and make it even harder than we do ourselves."

Trowa smiles. "Just tell me when to be looking."

"Definitely. Give Wufei a proxy hug. Two if you can manage, but I won't hold out."

Trowa thinks that for all Duo knows, he's completely wrong about this, about Wufei. "Later."

"Yeah, then."


Trowa's just thanked whatever divine power is supplying that nobody's around to watch his hand shake as he dials when Wufei walks through the door. Wufei is nice enough, or more likely in tune enough not to say anything about Trowa's vibration factor. He wraps himself around Trowa from the back and says, "Yeah?"

Trowa says, "Yeah," even though he thinks Wufei probably shouldn't be here for this conversation. He dials. First the code to get off planet, as Quatre bothered to rebuild L4 and go back there. Next the code for L4 and then the code for the proper landmass on the colony. The actual number follows all of these codes. Luckily, there's no extension, as the number Trowa always tries first is a mobile phone.

It's risky to call it this time, Trowa knows, since it means that Quatre will be able to see who is calling him before picking up. Calling directly to his work, being that Trowa has the extension to his office, will mean direct, blind access. It's the second step Trowa plans, if he gets ignored on this first one.

He doesn't, but Quatre's opening, "Nice of you to bother," isn't particularly encouraging.

"I'm sorry," Trowa says, because Quatre will know that he means it. "I'm a coward."

Quatre sighs. "Why do you always deny me my righteous indignation? Why?"

Trowa's a pretty nice guy, so he offers, "I could call back and start again."

Quatre laughs. "Fuckhead."

Secretly, Trowa agrees. "Wufei's here."

"I know, I'm not stupid."

"No, I meant here here. Because I was freaking out and he saw it so he stayed."

Quatre makes a "tsk" sound. "When was the last time I didn't forgive you for being an asshole?"

Trowa senses this is a trick question, as obviously there can't be a last time. They're still best friends. "Corrin?"

"Oh no. I'm neither cheap nor easy, especially not right after you've done your bestest to piss me right off."

"Tell me what you want."


Trowa realizes he should have seen that coming. Quatre's sweet, but the whole pushover image is just that -- image. It's useful to him to be seen that way, particularly in business where most of his clients and associates never see where he's coming from until it's too late. Trowa tightens in Wufei's arms and suddenly the phone isn't in his hand anymore.

From behind him he hears, "Tell me then."

Trowa can't hear what Quatre says, but it's something. Trowa isn't surprised, Wufei hasn't let Quatre down and what's more, there's no reason for Quatre to hold Wufei in as high of expectations as he himself is held by the other man. Wufei says, "I'm staying," and then, after a few more murmurings from the other end, "it's good," and hands the phone back.

Trowa, being a proponent of fair play if not a big one, says, "Cath thinks it has to be one of us."

Quatre finishes, "And you think it has to be him."

There's no need for Trowa to answer, but he's still feeling a bit guilty. "Probably, yes."

Corrin, as described by Quatre, is sweet but hardly unassuming, brilliant and refreshingly unaware of it, beautiful and, best of all, honest. He's away too much for Quatre's taste and his willingness to try new things, particularly in a culinary sense is a bit underdeveloped, but Quatre knows that everything takes a bit of work.

Trowa signs off with, "Duo's trying to get us all together."

"Before they fucking adopt children. What is that?" Quatre laughs.

A recipe for lots of disaster and probably even more happiness. "You'll come."

"Name your time and your place."

Knowing he hasn't said it to Wufei, knowing that it's not the same, knowing that all this could be interpreted incorrectly, Trowa tells Quatre what he always tells him. "I love you."

"Show it. Call me back."

Trowa grunts.

"Yeah, yeah, hon, you too."


"Fixed?" Wufei sounds odd. It takes Trowa a while to place the emotion. Wufei's worried.

Trowa turns in Wufei's arms and kisses him. He pulls back. "We're never that broken."

Wufei moves his arm up, hooking his fingers around the back of Trowa's neck. "Okay."

Trowa says, without thinking, "Duo suggested that they come so they could see us."

"We weren't, we aren't," Wufei kisses Trowa, "friends."

"No. You've never bothered to try, that doesn't mean the possibility isn't there." Trowa pulls away. "That is what you came here for, isn't it? To try?"

Wufei folds his arms over his chest. "I came here because you weren't likely to ask me for much."

Trowa flinches. Wufei shakes his head, barely, but enough. "I mean, that's what I thought."

"Not saying much isn't the same as not wanting much. It's not like you're a talker."

"Not like that. You saved Heero when he self-destructed."

Trowa sighs. "Me and Cath." Heero doesn't forget things like that, so Wufei's just editing. "When the hell did you and the Boy Wonder talk?"

"I think Une called the two of them when I disappeared. He found me."

Trowa's eyes widen marginally. "He told you to come here?"

Whatever Wufei hears in that, it's enough to make him meet Trowa's eyes and say, "No, that was me. I came and stayed and, well. That was me." Wufei breathes deeply. "I just probably wouldn't have thought about it if he hadn't mentioned that. The going around with him, doing stuff to get him back where we needed. That."

Trowa rubs at his temples. "Friends do things like that. Tell their friends things they need to know."

"I told you Une called them. She's hard to resist."

Trowa fights the impulse to yell. "I know all the people in this scenario. Heero doesn't do a fucking thing he doesn't want to. I didn't think you did either, but I'm beginning to wonder."

Wufei's fingers tighten around his own arms. "Don't."

Trowa reaches out to loosen the death grip. "Okay."

"Too easy."

"Stay until they show, at least. Then we'll talk again."

"And until then?"

Trowa lifts his shoulder. "The one second at a time thing is working so far, isn't it?"

Wufei laughs softly, once. "I guess you could look at it that way."


The circus makes its once yearly trip into the thriving metropolis that Relena has made Sank about a week after Wufei agrees to stick around for the reunion festivities. Duo hasn't specified where and when they'll meet up, but Trowa expects this is probably the place. Heero commutes into Sank, but they only live about thirty minutes out, and it's the easiest place on Earth's surface for Quatre to fly into.

Sure enough, Trowa gets a call from gate security -- a fancy name for whoever gets unlucky enough to have to sit at the gate and make sure nobody steals into the caravan -- late in the day that they arrive. Sergio, one of the clowns, who's large and menacing looking and would be a good choice for gate security if he weren't such a soft touch, says, "There's a couple of guys here to see you. Expecting anyone?"

"One of 'em have a braid?"

"Down to his ass."

"Let 'em in. I'll be over to meet them in a second." Trowa's glad it's the laid back Sergio rather than high-strung Aidan, one of the acrobats, who's pulling gate duty today. Aidan has a tendency to pick fights with people who want to come in, just for the hell of it, and neither Heero nor Duo is a good guy with whom to pick a fight. At least, not if the fighter desires to walk away from it.

Trowa finds Wufei out front helping Will clean up the moped, talking about possible adaptations to make it faster. He bites down on a smile. "The terrible twins are here."

Wufei waxes one spot on the bike several more times than strictly necessary. He throws the cloth up to Will, who catches it, and stands. "I'm filthy."

"They won't care." Trowa's not in the mood for excuses. "C'mon."

Wufei trudges after him, graceful even in his reluctance. Halfway there, Trowa reaches back, takes his hand and tugs him up to his side. Trowa can see Duo's grin at a distance, and despite himself, he matches it. He signals to Sergio that it's fine to let them in, and Duo comes bounding toward them so fast that Wufei drops back out of caution. Duo hits Trowa running and it's probably a good thing that Wufei is slightly behind him, or he's pretty sure he'd be lying in the gravel.

Trowa regains enough sense to clasp Duo in a return hug. Eventually, Heero gets impatient and tugs Duo off in order to sneak in for a quick hug of his own, as though if he does it quickly, it won't count. Duo turns to Wufei and dives in for a sneak attack that Trowa thinks Wufei really should have expected, but evidently did not. Wufei doesn't hug back, but he doesn't push Duo off him either, which is progress. Heero peels Duo off and shakes Wufei's hand.

Trowa asks, "When's Q coming?"

Duo looks confused. "He didn't tell you?"

"I think he was respecting the surprise nature of your surprise," Trowa tells him.

Heero frowns. "We told you we were coming."

"But not when or where," Wufei says.

Heero glares amusedly at Duo who says, "Um, oops."

Trowa snorts. "Fine. When's he supposed to get here?"

"This afternoon," Duo says, "and we expect comp tickets to watch you put yourself in mortal peril."

"Buy us dinner and we'll think about it," Wufei says.

There's a moment of silence wherein Duo and Heero decide how to interpret this. Heero's lips quirk. "Sure, I've heard there's a really good burger place in town."

Wufei groans, but there's the acknowledgment of an excellent comeback contained in the sound. Duo laughs, wedges himself between Trowa and Wufei, throws his arms around their shoulders and starts catching them up on all the news unfit to print.


Quatre hugs Trowa upon his arrival. "You've got be kidding, are you growing?"

Quatre's not exactly tiny, it's just that Trowa was always tall and only got taller after the end of the war. He didn't stop growing completely until very recently. "It's possible, I guess."

Quatre forces a hug on Wufei. "Hot, isn't it, miles of legs?"

Wufei blinks, but Quatre doesn't really want an answer, moving quickly to hug Heero and then Duo, who swings Quatre around and scolds, "It's been fucking forever."

Heero and Wufei settle on a restaurant wherein all kinds of foods, healthy and ridiculously not so, can be obtained. Heero and Duo have had the foresight to bring their car that fits five, so they are able to drive into town together.

Trowa orders before excusing himself to go wash his hands. He's not surprised when seconds after he starts running the water, Quatre's beside him, soaping up. Quatre says, "You were good when I had you, but man, you must've improved."

Trowa hasn't really been with much of anyone since Quatre, nobody of note at least. "I don't know when or how I would've gotten that way."

"I suppose there's always the possibility that Une was really bad."

Both of them are silent, Quatre tilting his head to think. Their eyes meet at the same moment. "Probably not, huh?" Quatre says.

"Probably not," Trowa agrees, pretty fervently.

"He looks like he woke up and remembered that he's alive. He feels like it too. I don't even know him, I don't think. It's almost unsettling but it's so much better that I'm having a hard time working up the energy to be bothered."

Trowa turns off the water and shakes his hands a bit. "He doesn't even know that he's gonna stay. I convinced him to be here for you guys, I thought it might be good, starting over a bit. I mean, not exactly, but something like that."

Quatre twists his own faucets to off and snags paper towels for the both of them. "T, babe, he's staying. He even knows it, he's just too chicken shit to say, and that's because he thinks that he might be encroaching on your space. Both of you suck at communicating. Duo and I are going to spend the rest of our time in this existence narrating for the two of you."

Trowa balls up the paper and shoots into the waste basket. It slides in easily. "We're not asking-"

Quatre kicks him, lightly. "Shut up. We're offering. Gladly, really."

Trowa takes Quatre's trash from him and tosses it in as well. "I'm a little bit- He's really- This may be what I didn't know I was waiting for."

Quatre gets up on his tiptoes and lightly kisses Trowa's lips. "I hope it is, babe."

"I'm sorry it-"

"So am I, but it makes it better that this is working. I wouldn't want you with just anybody."

"But you're-"

"The most functional and able to step outside of us. It all works out. I've found me a sweetie. Maybe he's the one or maybe he's not, but there'll be another if that's the case. You're different. Wufei's different. So yeah, I would've loved to have kept you to myself for the rest of time immemorial, but not at the expense of your and his happiness."

Trowa finds Quatre's hand with his own and squeezes. "We should go back before they send a search party."

Quatre's evidently willing to go, but hell if he's giving up possession of Trowa's hand.


Wufei finds Trowa with the tigers after the show. He comes to the bars, too close for Trowa's comfort and says, "They won't hurt me."

It's only after Wufei says this that Trowa realizes how much he has tensed up, and how suddenly. "They're wild."

Wufei says, "You're theirs."

Trowa isn't used to people who don't work with dangerous animals understanding that. Trowa isn't used to being understood. He tries not to let it scare him. "Sorry it's taking so long, Swana's a little…on edge."

"They can wait." Wufei stays right where he is.

"There's nothing you can do here."

"I'm going to stay, it will only waste both our time for you to push me away."

Swana yawns. Trowa runs a hand over her back in sympathy. He's exhausted too. "I swear I'll be there in a minute-"


Wufei sounds impatient and Trowa runs the conversation through his head again. "Wait. Really?"

"I was planning on talking to your boss tomorrow, seeing if there's work that I can do. Perhaps technical. I can afford a trailer of my own."

Trowa thinks about protesting that Wufei can stay, but he knows Wufei is right; separate space is sometimes necessary, for anyone, but perhaps particularly for the two of them. "It won’t be very stimulating after the Preventers."

"Heero said that if you got what you wanted you would try to convince me to change my mind."

Trowa blinks. "Heero said that?"

"Well, Duo. But he was translating Heero's incomprehensible silence."

It's almost too much for Trowa that Heero has evidently grown insightful and Wufei playful all in the space of a few minutes. "I just. You should be happy, that's all."

"I want to stay. It's not like I can't leave. I can. I just don't want to."

Trowa reaches his hand out through the bars of the cage. Wufei takes it between both of his. Swana eyes both of them sleepily before shutting her eyes. Brazil stalks over to settle practically on top of his mate and gives the two humans a once over much like hers before similarly drifting off.

Trowa whispers. "They seem to think you're theirs as well."

"Can only mean one thing."

Trowa knows that it could mean millions of things, but for now, only one is important. He pulls his hand out of Wufei's and crawls out of the cage, where nothing keeps them apart.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile